BUSD Waiting Lists, Appeals & The Second Lottery

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions


Any experience with the King waiting list? 

May 2016

We were just informed that my son is number 7 on the King waiting list for the 16-17 school year. Other than the fact that there are 6 people before him, I have absolutely no idea what this means. Does anybody have any experience with the King waiting list and can give me some context? (Yes, I know that Willard is awesome, that's not what I'm asking). Thanks! Jill


My experience isn't with King but with waiting lists in general. My son was #4 on the waiting list last year for second grade at a different school. I called a few times over the summer and was told that there was no room for him. Then we got a call on the third day of school saying that there was a spot for him. He started at his new school on the fourth day of school. It was very stressful to start him at a different school, arrange after-school care, meet the teacher, and then move him and start all over. But that's kind of the way it is. People don't show up on the first day of school because they've moved, gone to private school, etc. and then the school starts taking people from the waiting list. You need to decide if you can handle the stress and uncertainty of waiting. I didn't enjoy it but the school he was wait listed for was much closer to our house and rated higher so we did it. I would bet that you'll get a spot at some point during the year and you'll need to decide what to do. Hard one
 


 

BUSD Kinder 2013 lottery - did you get 1st choice?

March 2013

We got our 1st choice in NorthWest zone, and feel happy. This is in stark contrast to 3 years ago, when we got our 3rd choice, felt gutted, but were lucky to wait list our way into 2nd choice. Curious to take an informal poll here on BPN for people who went through kindergarten lottery this year, across all zones, did you get your 1st choice? 2nd choice? 3rd choice? BUSD claims somewhere around 80% of families get 1st choice, but I don't really believe that based on friend's experiences. It also seems to happen more often in the Central and South zones than in NW. Thank you for indulging this curiosity. Curious on ''the real'' stats in town


We're in the Central Zone and didn't get any of our 3 choices. It was disappointing, but the school we're assigned to is fine. The number I was given by admissions is 70% for 1st choice. They didn't mention anything about 2nd, 3rd, or no choice percentages. It is a pretty comprehensive formula:http://www.berkeleyschools.net/departments/berkeley-school-admissions/2156-2/ jess


We did not get our first choice. Actually didn't get any of our choices. We are in the central zone. We were assigned to the elementary school that is actually the furthest away from us than any other school--regardless of zone. So yes, we're disappointed. Central Zone parent


We participated in the NW lottery for K, and did not get our first (or second) choice. From what I heard from friends, no one in the NW zone who lives in the hills seems to get the schools closest to them. Personally I think the main criterion used in the lottery is the census tract data that loosely predicts income. We also tried the lottery again after moving to the Central zone, to get into one of the two schools that are within 3 or 4 blocks of our house, and failed at this as well. Sarah


Aaaaargh, my favorite topic right now! Central zone, we live in the hills, and we didn't get any of our 3 choices. Instead got Washington. Disgruntled


I hope you realize that any ad-hoc poll on an internet-based newsletter is not going to be at all reliable, and I'm not sure why you don't trust BUSD's statistics. I'm sure if you wanted more detail, you can request data from their office under open information rules.

I might respond to you that I did get my first choice, but actually, I don't even have a kindergartener, and you would never know. Or, I might respond to you twice. You also are not going to get any responses from all the people in Berkeley who don't subscribe to BPN, don't read it, and/or don't even have internet access. You won't get responses from Berkeley residents who don't speak english as a first language. You won't get responses from people who have three jobs and don't have any time to read message boards on the internet. -- your methods are probably more biased than any that BUSD might use.


We are in the central zone and did not get into our 1st, 2nd or 3rd choice. David


Fwiw I got my second choice but my 3 friends all got their first. Personally I think my diversity ranking might've worked against me, but I guess that's where the randomness comes in, so I don't know for sure! Waitlisting


Help! Recent wait list experience in Berkeley?

Aug 2012

Hello, we recently relocated to Berkeley (South zone) and because our son is entering first grade, we did not get any of our three school choices. We are currently number 3 on the wait list for John Muir and Emerson and number 5 on the wait list for Malcolm X. We live in the John Muir/ Emerson zip code (our top two choices) and I understand this may be a disadvantage due to the need for diversity in the classroom. There has not been any change in the waiting list since June, it's been challenging to get information from the admissions office ( after 5 weeks of calling weekly had to go to the office in person to get a response!), and we were told that no spots will be filled after the first 2 weeks of school because it's too disruptive for the teachers. My questions: does anyone have recent experience being accepted from the wait list? Is there any chance we will be accepted to a school of our choice? Should we visit the schools directly? Are there exceptions to the no transfer after first 2 weeks rule? Any thoughts are appreciated. I am disturbed by how disorganized the admissions office has been and I am concerned that they are not filling openings past the first 2 weeks of school. After such a huge transition we are hoping to have some stability for our son, and school is just weeks away! Nervous Mama


We had a similar experience several years back, and learned that that wait list doesn't generally move until right before or after school starts, but then it moves a LOT. There are families that enroll but then decide to pull their children out and into private school, and they don't always bother to tell the district until the last minute.

So while it's really nerve-wracking, I am guessing that you'll get into one of the schools that you like. We live in the South district too and have been really impressed at the quality of the schools here!

Oh, and here's a tip that worked for us. You might want to go to the district office once a day on the week before school starts, to ask if there are any developments. If they see you there then you won't get lost in the pile. a formerly wait-listed family


Unfortunately the BUSD admissions office is not a well run shop, and they seem overwhelmed with people who do not live in Berkeley, but are willing to lie about their addresses to get their kids a spot at the schools. At this point, you probably need to go where they send you and then visit the school you want after the year starts to see if there is a place available. Visit our project blog for some recent data on why the surge in BUSD kindergarten enrollment does not jibe with the city's demographics (flat or downward numbers). http://berkeley.accountableschools.com/blog/2012/05/19/kindergarten-enrollments-up-27/


We're on the waiting list for 4 schools - advice?

May 2010

We recently moved to Berkeley and entered our daughter, who will be entering first grade next fall, into the lottery for the Berkeley Unified School District. We were unhappy with the lottery results (were offered our bottom choice) and decided to have her name put on the waiting list for several nearby elementary schools.

Right now we are anywhere between #2 and #4 on the waiting lists for Malcolm X, Emerson, Washington and John Muir. I'm just looking to hear about the experiences of other Berkeley parents who have been on waiting lists in recent years. Would you say our chances of getting into one of these schools are good, poor, depends on the size of the school? Waiting with baited breath


Sorry to hear you got your last choice of school! Sounds like there's been a lot of that this year, probably because of overcrowding in the Northwest & Central Zones.

That said, I'd guess you have a good chance of getting a different school, if only because your number on the waiting list is pretty high! Here are my other thoughts:

- If you're in the Southeast Zone you have almost no chance of getting in to Washington, which is a Central Zone school and is considered to be impacted by the overcrowding. Conversely, if you're in the Central Zone you have a better than would be expected chance of getting into a Southeast Zone school since there is not overcrowding there.

- Kids are assigned off the waiting list depending on what diversity index is needed to maintain a balance in the school, not just the number on the list.

- Malcolm X is a ''dual zone'' school this year to help with the overcrowding. This resulted in BUSD assigning almost entirely Central Zone families to Malcolm X, whether they wanted to go there or not. It's unclear what this will mean for the waiting list.

- First grade assignments are probably trickier than kindergarten assignments since there's already an established class. Obviously, there may be only a few spaces available for assignments, particularly in the smaller schools.

- I think there are a few ''waves'' of assignments off the waiting list. One right about now when they find out who actually enrolled. One mid-summer when they've done the second round of lottery. And another at the beginning of the school year when they see who actually shows up.

Good luck! BUSD parent


The wait list system is unfair

Dec 2009

We got our third choice in the central zone. we then followed all the instructions and wait listed for our top 2 choices. we wrote a letter and persisted with the admissions office. We got nowhere. we moved 1 spot on one of the waitlists, which in my opinion is a bit suspicious. we felt completely powerless.

We declined the one private school we applied for, because we wanted to give BUSD a chance and we thought we might get somewhere on the wait lists, as we weren't very far on them.

After the first month of school, the head of BUSD admissions informed me that they no longer go by the wait list. and i also found out that one of the 2 schools we wanted was not full. so incoming kids 1 month after the school year starts were getting into the school we wanted. after we had followed the district's instructions, waited patiently, (paid a ridiculous amount of property taxes to own a home in Berkeley:)), to find out someone else could just waltz in midyear and get a coveted space we were waiting so patiently for. honestly, it just makes me sick.

Of note, i just read that BUSD has the worst learning gap between white and African American races in all of California. I do question whether busing kids all over the city, forcing people who live in the flats into schools in the hills and vice versa, and completely denying our kids any sense of a neighborhood school is worth it, because it isn't narrowing the gap.

Now we are reapplying to the private school for first grade. anon


What are my chances in the 2nd lottery round?

Feb 2009

Hi, I had missed the first deadline for the Berkeley school lottery, so I am planning to submit my papers for the 2nd round. Does anyone know what are my chances to get into the elementary school that I like? Thank you, kiki


I wouldn't worry about it too much. 4 years ago when I picked my daughter's school I wasn't even in the district. I checked one box and got into the school I wanted, even though parents I spoke with told me that I wouldn't the school.

The worse that will happen is that you get the school you don't want. But there is hope! As soon as you find out the school you have been assigned, all you do is go to the district and tell them what has happened. That you would prefer to be switched to the school you wanted. You have to do this right away. They will put you on the wait list. Parents usually decided after they get the letter their other choices. There are allot of switching around before the year starts, parents leave the Bay Area, because plans changed for them, or they move to a different local city, and some decide to go with private school they wanted instead. There is hope yet! But you have to be proactive.

Now this will be different if you applied for the immersion program as the waiting list is VERY long. I also know parents that were able to get into the program at the last minute, because they were proactive, and didn't give up. School assignments change between start of school year. Parents take a moment to register (fill out the paperwork) at the school they were assigned. Until all the parents are registered at the actual school, it is hard to tell. It takes a moment for the district to figure it all out. Some parents don't register until the first day of school. Switching can happen as late as the first week of October. So you see there is hope. I've never heard of the district turning parentsm away because they want a different school; I truly believe they make an effort to accommodate.

No matter what school you get. If you need the afterschool program, make sure you sign up RIGHT AWAY to get a spot. As if you change your mind down the road it will be harder to get an opening. The wait list is always VERY long after kindergarten.

I hope this helps. You'll get the school you want. Good Luck. Duffy


BUSD kindergarten appeal process

March 2008

hi all - just received our KG assignment and are not sure how to proceed. We were assigned to our third choice school which was our third choice because it is the farthest from our house and has the lowest scores/percentage of parents who attended college etc. There were also many nice things so we're not devastated but we want to know how the appeals/waitlist process works and anyone's experiences. Our daughter has a younger sister so this school could be ours for the next 10 years and we would like it to be the best fit! Thanks in advance for your insight and advice! -lottery loser


Don't worry, you will probably get into another school. Just go now to the school district admin building and get on the waiting list for both your top choice and your second top choice. It will mean filling out a form for each.

In a month or so they will announce what your place on the wait list is.

In the mean time, if you have any compelling reason why your child should given first priority admittance to one of the other schools (aka he has a disability where he can't ride the bus or something like that) then write a letter to that affect and you will usually get put at the top of the list. But hopefully, your child doesn't have a disability.

Most people I know who appealed ended up being offered a spot at another school. before the beginning of the school year. Others got offered a spot at a better school a week or two into the year. -got my first choice thru appealing


There are two questions about waitlists in BUSD. My understanding is that waitlists for Kindergarten offer real hope, as many people will put their kids into private schools. For older kids, I can share our experience. We were put into our fourth choice school, placed our kids on waitlists. Even though children were placed into those schools in those grades, our kids did not move up the waitlist. Some BUSD folks will tell you there are multiple waitlists, and you have to wait until those from your ''demographic'' profile leave the school. Others deny it. We tried entering the lottery the second time, and got nowhere once again.

My daughter was pushed down the stairs, hit repeatedly, and got a concussion at school, we filed paperwork asking that she be moved for safety reasons and the BUSD never even bothered to contact us much less move her, even though it would seem this was a liability issue for them.

There are great principals and teachers out there,but the central administrative staff that you need for enrollment purposes is a total nightmare. The give you the run around, you get different answers based upon who you talk to, and the waitlists do not work the way they are supposed to.

-Mystified in Berkeley


If you really want to call yourself a ''lottery loser you can, but I don't recommend it. As you heard, each elemenetary school in the BUSD has great qualities, so I don't think the term ''loser'' really fits.

Anyhow. You should bring a letter to the office where you brought your kindergarten choice form earlier this year. THe letter should say that you'd like to be placed on the waiting list for a certain school or certain schools. You should date stamp and photocopy the letter. Call the office and find out the deadline for submitting such wait list request letters. Ask the office what the current process is for the wait list generation and notification. Ask them when you should call back to find out where you are on the list, when they will start to move people off the list (likely after the registration deadline passes.

Also, if it were me, I'd submit my registration info to the school we did get into, even if we hope for a transfer, otherwise you will not have your 3rd choice to fall back on.

And of course (as I'm sure you would anyway) please remember to be civil to the folks at the assignment office and at the school you are trying to transfer from. They all have very challenging jobs this time of year.

Welcome to the BUSD. Hope you have a fabulous time no matter where your kindergartener lands! So many great teachers and great families and great kids. We love it. BUSD Mom


Lottery Round Two

Oct 2007

Does anyone have experience with re-entering the school lottery for Berkeley public school assignments? We moved here over the summer and my children were placed in a school we are not thrilled about for a number of reasons. What are our chances of getting into one of our other two choices if we reenter the lottery during the first round next year? New to Berkeley


We have not done this ourselves, but in the past, my kid's BUSD school has receive new students part way through the year. They have also received new students, of course, at the beginning of the year.

I don't know if BUSD does mid-year transfers within the district. If this is something you may be interested in, you should ask Francisco at the BUSD placement office. If it is possible, then it may be easier to switch mid year, than at the beginning of the year - however, you'll need to figure out the potential impact on your child. You may also want to give BUSD a letter saying you are interested in a a mid-year transfer, and keep in touch with them monthly, or so, to see if there are openings at the school(s) you'd like your child to move to.

If you are only interested in end of year transfers, then you should still make sure Francisco and his office know that. You may want to ask your friends at the other school(s), how full the particluar grade you are interested in is. They can also give you a reality check on the strengths and challenges for their school(s), since, as you know, no school is perfect. BUSD Parent


Berkeley school assignment distance from home - are you satisfied?

June 2007

As a new parent looking forward to the school situation, I am concerned about the potential distance that my child may have to travel to get to an elementary school. The goals of the school district are laudable, but I wonder if the actual impact of a 1/2 hour trip each way to get to school (admittedly a worse case) is a tangible negative impact for very young children over the more intangible social impacts of school integration. I just wonder if there is any research about the benefits of limiting travel time for children, and if this factor should be considered in the school assignment criteria. How can a parent get involved in a discussion of the school assignment criteria? I believe this issue becomes less important as the child get older; my primary concern is during elementary school ages. A new parent in Berkeley


In a word, NO. We are not satisfied. we went thru the lottery system this year and got our last choice, the school that is the farthest from our house. Our child will not be attending school with any children on our street. There is another school 1 block from our house. And out of 20 families we know who went thru the lottery, no one is happy with their assignment (except for one who got into Cragmont Spanish emersion)

I agree with you about the travel time issue. Sending my child on the bus instead of being able to walk to school seems very burdensome and frankly, a waste of gasoline.

It also raises another issue for me, What about the detrimental effects of this lottery on the sense of community in a neighborhood? I remember growing up in a neighborhood when all the parents went to the PTA meeting together. They'd knock on each others doors reminding them to go. If I had known what school my children were attending ahead of time, I would have been supporting that school since the children were infants. Instead we get assigned to a school I have never even seen because its so far from our house.

I would also like to know how to get into a discussion about this issue as well. It seems like if you express any negativity toward it, you are stigmatized as almost racist. In the school we got assigned to, the 5th graders had a writing assignment up on the wall about the school assignment system. One child said, ''White families in Berkeley have teamed up with George Bush to try to go to school with only other white families...'' or something like that re: some past lawsuit to reverse the lottery system. So if this is the propaganda the schools are actually spreading to the children, no wonder it is so un-PC to bring it up.

I don't know one family who is happy with their assignment. I know a lot of families who are either moving away or choosing private schools. Its a shame. Berkeley really needs to think about the needs of their families and their neighborhoods. And if the point of all this is to increase diversity, that is great, but the fact is that we chose to live in a really diverse neighborhood. So if we all got to go to the neighborhood school, it would still be diverse. So if there are any organizations of parents trying to reverse the school assignment system. I'd love to find out about it and join up immediately. just don't get it


I have two kids who attend a BUSD elem school in our zone, and travel approimately 40 minutes by BUSD bus to school each morning. I don't have any official research stats to quote, but can offer you some anecdotal information. My kids enjoy riding the bus. It is safe, orderly, and bus driver is attentive and friendly. My kids are entertained by the stories he tells on the bus. It's also fun for them to see their school friends get on the bus at stops after theirs. In a way, the 40-minute ride to school is a *part* of their school day; one that provides some positive socializiation for them.

Also anecdotally, my observation is that VERY FEW kids in Berkeley actually live close enough to the schools they attend, public or private, such that travel time is less than 30 minutes one way, walking, driving, or by bike. If you live near a neighborhood school and can go there, great. But often, in ''school choice'', the school that's best for your kids is not necessarily the closest one. There's a private school in my neighborhood that doesn't provide transportation to the school, so I know parents, some driving from Oakland or further away, are in the car more than 30 minutes delivering their kids to school. They are choosing to do this. Most kids have been doing this type of commute since preschool-age. Actually, I find that it's hard to go much anywhere in the Bay Area where door-to-door travel time is 30 minutes or less, even within the boundaries of Berkeley. Maybe it's just me, but it sounds like your concern about travel time is a veiled concern about something else--kind of like bringing Al Capone to justice on tax evasion because he couldn't be caught for racketeering? If you have issue with the relative un/fairness of the BUSD school assignment process, there's plenty of advice in the BPN archives regarding whom to contact and how to address this directly with the district. BUSD parent


I'm happy with our assignment, and I live in the central zone hills. In our zone, it seems all the schools are fairly close to each other so MANY people who go to any of the schools must be travelling a fair distance, especially someone who lives in west berkeley and has to go to cragmont. When I was a kid I went to a magnet school where kids from all over town went and I actually had to transfer buses, making the trip close to an hour. But I never thought it was a burden, and actually enjoyed the social time. I felt sorry for my friends whose parents picked them up because they missed out. It was almost like another recess. I wouldn't worry about it. dc


We are very satisfied with our BUSD placement for kindergarten next year. We live in the South Zone and spent a lot of time in the winter visiting all the schools in the zone- both during the school day and the evening presentations. We wound up very excited about all the schools but one, which happened to be the closest to our house. We got the one school we didn't want in the lottery- it wasn't even listed in the 3 choices we could put down. I got very anxious and we spent time meeting with Francisco and finding out our options. We put our son on waitlists for the 3 other schools in the zone and got a place in one of them in late May.

I'm very impressed by the ability of the school system to create balanced student bodies at the schools and think that the way it's done is actually fairly good. I'm not sure how they could make everyone happy by giving first choices without segregating the schools by race/income.

I'm not sure what we would have done had we not gotten a different placement. All the other families we know in our zone are happy with their assignments.

We wrote a note to the superintendant about the system- we thought that families who got their last choices should be given a higher number on the wait list than those who may have gotten their 2nd choices. The office read the letter and called us back to say they would try to alter the process in the future. happy with busd process


Assigned to a kindergarten that wasn't on our list. Waitlist?

March 2007

We just received our child's Berkeley kindergarten selection and it's a school that we did not preference at all. Has anyone had experience with waitlisting their child for another school in the district? Is there anything one can do to increase the chances of getting into a different school? Thanks. Berkeley Parent


Our daughter is a BUSD Kindergartener this year (2006/2007). Last year we entered the lottery, and she initially got into our third choice. We put ourselves on the waiting list immediately and then never followed up. Not one phone call, no letters, nothing. We attended welcoming events at the third choice school and accepted that she'd be attending there.

In May we received a call that she had made it into the second choice school. We had to debate whether that was actually better than the third choice we were already in. We decided to make the move. When I called back to let them know, they told me a slot was open in choice #1 if we were still interested.

We're very pleased that she attends our #1 choice school, as it's very close to our home. However, we were really pleasantly surprised at how much we liked #3 once we got used to the idea.

Hope this helps, and good luck to you. happy K mom


Yes I have experience with K waitlists in Berkeley. Write a letter and fill out your paperwork for being put on a waiting list for the school or schools you'd prefer. Photocopy your materials and hand carry them down to the office and hand them in. Don't wait until the last day to do this as the office will be busy and the folks there will be more rushed. Ask when they will be pulling the kids' names out of the hats) for the wait list so that you can call and find out where your child is on the list(s. This will give you some feel for how likely your child will be to get in to a given school. Then ask when they will star placing kids on the wait lists in the schools. Call periodically to check in on waitlist movement (but don't pester - find that balancing point). If you do not get in before school starts, let them know if you are still interested in moving to the other schools even after school begins or any time later that year or in first grade. Keep the stress of this stuff away from your child as much as possible. There is nothing you can do to increase your chances at getting into a specific school. The principals don't have a say. Francisco is (thankfully) not corruptable - not that I ever tried, but that's what I hear.) I hope you land in a Berkeley school that works well for your child and your family and you. There are some hidden gems in Berkeley public schools that deserve more credit than they get, and the new principals and strong family communities are really shining. That said, it is worth trying for your favorite school. BUSD Mom


We also did not get our first choice elementary school. The only thing that increased our chances was to apply to Cragmont's bilingual program and the regular elementary program for the waitlist. We placed #3 on the waitlist for the bilingual program and 17 for the regular program. Had we chosen to go on, we probably would've gotten into the bilingual program. However, we had to make choices about private schools before we found out.

You should get on the waiting list right away and check frequently to see how you rank. If you have extenuating circumstances, you can sometimes make the case that your child needs to attend a particular school because of hours, location, etc. tiara


Can I get on more than one school waiting lists?

March 2005

My son was put into a school that I am not happy with (not any of my three choices). [A letter from the district] says that I can get up on a waiting list. My question is can I get on several different school waiting lists and hope that one opens up, or do I just have one chance? Has anyone done this? What is the possibility of actually getting in through the waiting list? upset mama


The same thing happened to me with my daughter. I wrote to BUSD saying I would like any one of several other schools, and they wrote back saying that they would put her on 3 waiting lists. This was automatic, I didn't request it - just said which schools I would prefer.


Three years ago my daughter did not get our #1 choice, so I put her on the waiting list. I don't know what the process is now, but this is how it worked 3 years ago (check with Francisco): We wrote a letter to the district asking her to be put on the waiting list for the school we wanted (At that time you could be put on a waiting list for more than one school plus an emersion program, probably still can). We photocopied the dated letter and gave it to Francisco's office. I don't recall if we had to fill out more paperwork. I asked Francisco on what date the names would be randomly pulled out of a hat to be placed in order on the waiting list. I called him two weeks after that date to see where my child was on the list. I asked him when children would begin to be taken off the list and assigned to the school, and he gave me his best guess on the date. Of course, this date depends mostly on the deadline for kids to register at their assigned school (is it April or May?), as this is the point when the district knows if the first batch of kids all want to got there or not (So if any of you families out there know you won't need that school spot, please let Francisco and his staff know ASAP - you will make another family's life MUCH less stressful!).

My child was #3 on her school's list. She got in before the end of May that year. A classmate of hers was #12 and he got in in July, I think. OF course it varies from year to year, as to when Francisco's office informs families. I think he tries to inform us as soon as possible. From what I hear over and over again, in past years folks who have stayed on the waiting list have gotten their first choice eventually. Most got it that summer. One or two started in their assigned school and then in the first week of classes got offered a place at their first chioce school. This may seem intense to us, but the kids all did fine with it. They weren't yet settled in, and considering the 6 years that they may be at the school, it's a wash. So, yes, get on those waiting lists for the schools you want and for dual immersion, too (if you want that). My last bit of advice is to please be patient and respectful of Francisco and his staff. They don't have an easy job, and in my experience, they have always been respectful and fair. Best of luck. We love our Berkeley school, and many of our friends love their kid's Berkeley schools, too. - staisfied berkeley school mom


My daughter didn't get into any of our 1st three choices for kindergarten two years ago. I am not sure about the answer to the question about many different waiting lists but the people in the school district office were very helpful. I put her on the waiting list at our preferred school (which was out of zone but close to my office and the afterschool program it made sense for her to go to because her brother went to preschool there). I also wrote a note as to why logistically she needed to attend this school. I did have to enroll her in the other school to make sure she had a spot. I called once a week during the summer and spoke with Francisco (I am not sure if he is still there). As the summer went on, and I am sure they were getting deluged with a high volume of calls, I walked into the office to talk to them face-to-face. About a week before school, on an in-person visit, they looked at the list, and lo and behold a space had opened up. They gave me the transfer papers right then and there. I came back with a box of cookies for the whole office (they looked rather stressed at the time).

There was an incredible amount of shuffling that first week of school and many more openings...I know of a few people who got their children into their preferred choice (different schools) that 1st week classes started. Hang in there. They definitely tried to accomodate me - I was always civil, polite and non-panicky but no doubt very persistant. Good luck. Persistant Mom


I don't know how many different school waiting lists you can be put on but I do know that for each school, there are actually 3 waiting lists, one for each of the ''diversity categories'' to which you have been assigned. You are assigned to one of the diversity categories depending on where you live: Category One is basically West Berkeley, Category Two is basically the Flats, Category Three is basically the Hills. Someone from your category must transfer out for you to transfer in.

These ''composite attributed diversity categories'', as they are called by the BUSD, were made based on 2000 US Census data and take into account your neighboorhood racial composition, your average neighborhood income, and your average neighborhood education level. The school assignments are done to balance the number of students from each category in each school. Parents can request changes but changes will only be made if they maintain the desired balance of categories. For more information about how all this works, please contact Francisco Martinez, the Manager of Admission and Attendence (644- 6504, Francisco_Martinez AT berkeley.k12.ca.us), and Michele Lawrence, the BUSD Superintendent (644-8764, mlawrence AT berkeley.k12.ca.us). Ask for the BUSD Policy for Student Assignment and for the BUSD policies that described how transfers and waitlists are handled. If you are a parent with a child either entering kindergarten or already enrolled in the Berkeley Unified School District and you think that the BUSD school assignment policy that is based partially on race violates the Prop. 209 anti-discrimination provisions (Prop. 209 prohibits the use of race as a factor in admissions/assignments in California schools), and/or if you think that your child has not been assigned to the school of your choice in part because of her/his race (whether it is white, black, or any other), please contact the Paul Beard at the Pacific Legal Foundation (pjb [at] pacificlegal.org). The Pacific Legal Foundation is interested (at their own expense) in mounting another legal challenge to the BUSD policies and is looking for a group of parents to represent. If you are interested in getting a copy of the BUSD School Assignment Policy, contact the BUSD Public Information Office at publicinfo AT berkeley.k12.ca.us or call 644-6320. -I'll remain anonymous since this is such a non-politically- correct position to have in Berkeley! anon


BUSD school assignment policy challenge

April 2005

If you are a parent with a child either entering kindergarten or already enrolled in the Berkeley Unified School District and you think that the BUSD school assignment policy that is based partially on race violates the Prop. 209 anti-discrimination provisions (Prop. 209 prohibits the use of race as a factor in admissions/assignments in California schools), and/or if you think that your child has not been assigned to the school of your choice in part because of her/his race (whether it is white, black, or any other), please contact the Paul Beard at the Pacific Legal Foundation (pjb [at] pacificlegal.org). The Pacific Legal Foundation is interested (at their own expense) in mounting another legal challenge to the BUSD policies and is looking for a group of parents to represent. If you are interested in getting a copy of the BUSD School Assignment Policy, contact the BUSD Public Information Office at publicinfo AT berkeley.k12.ca.us or call 644-6320. -I'll remain anonymous since this is such a non-politically- correct position to have in Berkeley! anon


I am a Berkeley resident and my first child currently attends a BUSD school. My youngest child will be entering kindergarten this fall also at BUSD. I've been through the assignment program twice now and it worked fine for us.

BUSD has the very difficult assignment of trying to balance the educational needs of a very diverse community. They simply can't afford to spend additional money defending themselves from lawsuits aimed at the assignment policy. Money is in short supply and I'd rather see money spent educating the children of Berkeley instead of paying attorney fees. If anyone has issues with the assignment policy maybe they should go to a board meeting and voice their opinion directly instead of costly litigation. Ian


REgarding the recent post here soliciting folks who might be willing to be litigants against BUSD regarding their school assignment policy and the poster's anxiety about being politically correct in Berkeley, forget about political corectness. Since when is it ethically correct to solicit clients to sue a school district in order to allege racial discrimination? Not to mention that such lawsuits cost the district MILLIONS of dollars that could otherwise be spent inside the classroom. Who benefits? Only the lawyers. BUSD parent


I am a Berkeley resident and parent of a child entering kindergarten. And, no, we didn't get any of our 3 choices for elementary school. So we've been assigned to a school across town though we are close to two great schools. It is unfortunate that matters like this will probably go to litigation and cost the school district a lot of money. Are there other ways (besides litigation) to improve the system ? Would going to the school board meetings really make any difference (I'm skeptical) ? I have no objection to the original poster letting people know that litigation is in the works. It's information that may be unpopular but it is information all the same. - anon


To the poster who said the BUSD school assignment '' worked fine for me therefore don't waste BUSD dollars on a lawsuit'' : Well, it may work for you, but it doesn't work for others. That's the point. If the BUSD is potentially doing something illegal in its assignment policy, then it should be challenged to make it fair for EVERYONE not just for you. And people have already tried to voice their opinions on this matter to the school board.

To the poster who thought that it was unethical to legally challenge racial discrimination, please let us all know what you think would be a better way to stop racial discrimination in our schools. If the BUSD doesn't want to waste money on a lawsuit, they could simply stop using race-based polices. Also, think of all the money that the BUSD is wasting on its ridiculously complicated assignment policy! -another angry BUSD parent


I'd like to comment on the idea that a legal challenge to the BUSD's school assignment policy is bad because it costs money that the district sorely needs. I think we are being penny wise and pound foolish. I'm not participating in this legal challenge and I don't plan to, but I think if it's successful, it will actually have the result of bringing much more money into the disctrict than it will end up costing. In my opinion, the BUSD school assignment policy is what's really costing the district money, and the sooner we stop doing it, the better off we'll be.

Here's why I think that: the current policy is driving families away from the BUSD in large numbers. I hear the same story over and over again: ''We applied for our neighborhood school, and we'd have been happy with #2 that's a little further away, but we didn't get any of our top 3 choices so we're going to private school instead.'' Or, ''we're home schooling instead''. These are people who REALLY SUPPORT the public schools but they don't want to be driving their child across town. In my neighborhood, it's actually easier to get your child on to a bus to one of the private schools than to cart them across town to their assigned school. I haven't met anyone in my neighborhood yet whose kids were assigned to the public school in our neighborhood.

It used to be that the argument against private schools was ''but at private school their schoolmates are from all over the East Bay. It's so much better for them to go to the same school as all the other kids in the neighborhood.'' We can't make that appeal anymore. I think it's really costing our district.

Not only are we losing our per-student money from the state from all these kids going to private school and home-schooling, but we are also losing the families in Berkeley that have the money to make our schools really great. Without those affluent families, we have no after-school programs and extra-curricular activities. My Berkeley public school got a new playground because parents paid for it. The K and 1 teachers all had assistants because parents paid for them. There were language classes, movement classes, and music classes because the parents paid for them. I wasn't one of the families that could afford to do that. The families that can afford to write out a check for a new playground are the families that are being driven away by the current policy.

I know that the assignment policy is well-intended and I do understand the great divide of wealth in Berkeley and the reason behind the policy. But there's got to be a better way. How can we improve our schools in the less affluent neighborhoods without taking neighborhood schools away? I'm worried we are ruining our schools for ALL our kids, rich AND poor. How come with so many smart people in Berkeley, we can't do better than a policy that drives so many families away? Is a law suit the ONLY way to fix it? BUSD parent


I would just like to second the BUSD parent who expressed the notion ''there has got to be a better way.'' I am one of those parents who would LIKE to be committed to public school. I spent alot of time talking with parents of kids at our neighborhood school, researching the scores, talking to the PTA, etc. in anticipation of my son entering kindergarten. However, when my son didn't get into our neighborhood school that is 4 blocks away but was assigned one across town, the main reasons for staying with public school--fostering community in the neighborhood, being able to walk to school, having classmates that are neighbors--was wiped away. We are planning to send our child to private school, and it is predictable that we will not want to change that situation once started and his yo! unger brother will also go to private school. What's most frustrating to me isn't the money involved, but the fact that I truly would like to be part of the solution to the public school crisis, rather than part of the problem, but despite this earnest sentiment, I am going to be, from the school district's point of view, part of the problem. If BUSD wants educated parents with resources to stay invested in the school system, the solution cannot be something that educated parents with resources are going to find, across the board, unacceptable. Bussing your child across town to a lower-performing school instead of going to the school 4 blocks away is simply going to be, and will always be, unacceptable to parents. The sooner BUSD figures this out, the faster they will get out of the crisis that they are in. another frustrated parent


We were one of those relatively ''wealthy'' parents who moved out of Berkeley for many reasons one of which was the school assignment question. We lived near two great elem. schools and were looking forward to the hopes of sending our children to either one of them. We were also lookin forward to Berkeley High in our children's future. In retrospect the likelyhood that we would have gotten one of the two schools within walking distance of our home was nill. Turns out that after we moved I have met so many people who did not get their first choice/neighborhood school, and people who have snuck into the Berkeley school system by lying about their address. Many of the ''boundry liars'' I have met are going to the ''desirable'' Berkeley elem. schools (John Muir, Emerson and Cragmant). Meanwhile, many legitimate Berkeley residents did not get their school choice. Why doesn't the school district crack down on this type of thing? It's not fair to Berkeley residents! Was sad to leave Berkeley


A few thoughts about the BUSD assignment policy. The goal IS to make the schools racially balanced, which I believe WILL improve all the schools. regarding the parents who didn't get into the neighborhood svhool of their choice, I know of MANY instances where parents continued going to the parent access office, talking to ! the school of their choice and the P Access office, and, by September, got into the school of their choice. It's, admittedly, hard having to be in limbo more or less over the summer, but it may be well worth it. And, yes, we want the invloved parents in the BUSD because, yes, they help improve on the programs and activities offered. I'm very happy in berkeley public elementary school so far. I've also heard of behavioral problems that seemed much more extreme then any we've had to deal with in some private schools ( a boy saying he's bringing a gun to school that's not being adressed, a lot of bullying, etc). Yes, we do need to hold the board of education accountable and help them focus their resources on paying their amazing teachers the top that they can pay, and keeping slaraies of administrators down, and going in force does make a difference in! my experience. public school parent


Im glad that so many people are so interested in the BUSD school assignment policy and I think its funny that the policy is being described as ''racial descrimination'' and that the policy is ''race based''. I may be wrong but I'm pretty sure the assignment policy does not state that if you are white, if you live in the hills or some other affluent neighborhood of Berkeley and if your combined income is within the top 5% income earners in the country...that your child will be forced to attend a school located in a neighborhood of not-so-white, underprivledged, less well-to-do people. My children are from the hills, they are white, we probably make more money than most people in this fine country of ours and my kids got assigned to one of the schools in our district which is close to our house. I guess the question for me is...''would I be upset as these other parents if my kids were forced to attend school across town at Washington or Rosa Parks or where ever''? I would answer no for a couple reasons..

1)BUSD is trying to do a noble thing and attempt to distribute parent resources throughout the district. This means that yes...some people in Berkeley have more resources to contribute to the educational system than others...some of us make more money, have more flexible schedules, don't have to work on weekends...whatever...its a FACT that some of us have more to give than others. So why not make this your way of giving back to society...sacrifice and let your kids go to one of these schools across town from your house. If you've got money you can help out some kids who may not have as much as you and teach you kids that there is more to life like relating to people from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds...they can get some of that critically acclaimed REAL WORLD experience...something not offered in private schools.

2)At my kids school we have lots of kids from all over Berkeley ..kids of different races...kids of different neighborhoods...kids of different income levels...some get bussed in...some walk and some have their parents drive them. Many of these kids are not attending a school in their own neighborhood. They have to travel across town to a school way up in the hills. It seems to me that everyone who attends this school is getting the same treatment regardless of their race, economic situation or location. I don't see the racial discrimnation of the assignment policy at least at my kids school.

3) I grew up in the hills and I got bussed to Columbus (now Rosa Parks). A bunch of us from the hills all went to that fine school down by the freeway and it was no big deal. Later on I even got bussed to a better school... Kennedy High in Richmond (looks like San Quentin). I survived and I learned enough to get by. My point is we're a village and everyone needs to pitch in. You can make a difference and your child has opportunities regardless of whether your child goes to a school in your neighborhood or not. Yes I agree it may be a hassle to haul across town every day to drop your kid off at school. I know from personal experience. I spent many hours riding busses to and from school.

I would be happy if my kids went to a school that was on the other side of town as long as the teachers were good and the principal was on the ball. This is the case for any school my children would attend. In fact, there were two schools in our district and IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD that I was not satisfied with and didn't want my kids to attend. If we got assigned to them I would have had an issue because I didn't like the way the staff interacted with me. Our second pick was the furthest away and it was second only because it started at 8am. If it started at 9am I would have been there. Parents should focus their energy on the quality of the particular school, not its location. Any person can have a profound influence on the quality of the education at any school. Each school offers its own character and specialties regardless of location and that has to work for your child and you. Decisions shouldn't be based simply by location of the school...it should be the quality of the staff at a school...that's what you should fight for. Even our school in the hills has its daily issues with conflicts, class disruptions, shortages of materials and lack of support. Just because its in the hills and close to our house doesn't make it good. We are there like many other parents are..donating time and resources by helping out in class, giving money and supplying lots of support. This happens at all schools, not just in the hill! s. If you are choosing schools simply on location then the district isn't discriminating, you are. Ian


I just wanted to add a voice in favor of the current system. While it is confusing and stressful for families, it has great benefits. In addition, I question the claim that it is race based. I asked BUSD very specific questions about this a few months ago because our top choice school was one where we would tend to contribute to diversity. However, we live in a neighborhood that is already well represented at the school. I wanted to know if our son's race would be considered (in our favor, in this case). We were told that it is based on census tract only - ie, geographic location, and our son's race would not be used in how priority was assigned.

My son will enter kindergarten in the fall and we looked in depth at a number of schools in and out of our zone and I was pleased by what I saw. In addition to some great learning going on, evidence of the benefits of the diversity that results from the desegregation was abundant at all the schools we looked at. So benefit #1 is for my child and other children in Berkeley public schools.

The second benefit I'll mention goes beyond children to the entire community. Having a school assignment system organized by zone rather than by local school boundaries changes the local economics. We were able to consider buying our house anywhere in Berkeley, knowing that some or all schools in each zone would be of interest to us. This discourages the skyrocketing home values that result when just one or two schools are considered desirable and there is great pressure to buy in those boundaries. (not to say that prices aren't high enough...) This phenomenon of artifically inflated home prices based on a small number of desirable schools in a given district is thought to contribute to the high personal bankruptcy rate and general overuse of credit common today. See The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi for more detai! ls on this. One of the great things about living in Berkeley is that enough people usually vote to fund things that are important to families like schools and libraries - and this not only benefits me and my family directly, but also benefits the many very disadvantaged families within Berkeley's borders. Let's keep it that way. - desegregation fan


I just had to put in my two cents regarding the posting in defense of Berkeley's School assignment policy and bussing. The writer, with whom I agreed for the most part, described it as a ''sacrifice'' for a child to be bussed down the hill to Washington or Rosa Parks. I want to say that although I know little about the latter school, I can say it is no ''sacrifice'' to attend Washington School. The teaching staff is top-notch, the principal extremely bright, caring and accessible, the classrooms orderly. And there is an education to be had in diversity - the challenge you would face going there is that of not paying lip service to liberal ideals. A Washington first choice parent


The reason to complain is the sincere feeling that we have been dealt with unfairly by a system that purports to be fair. It is beyond simply school assignment: because we “failed” to get even our third choice and do not wish to fight, argue, persuade our way into the school of our desires which appears to be the implicit way of getting what you want, we are opting for private school. This means 1. we are paying taxes for Berkeley schools without the benefit of their programs; and 2. BUSD will not receive any of the considerable amount of money we are prepared to direct toward our child’s education. This is a lose-lose situation that should be apparent to anyone. The sense of things being unfair comes from the success of neighbors willing to argue vociferously to get what they want, conversations with others who accept the system as flawed but are willing to patiently indulge the BUSD to eventually reassign their children to the desired schools, too many stories of “technical errors” where kids were not assigned to their older siblings schools, having neighbors move eastward because of the schools, and then the egregious assignment of the Cragmont principal’s son to Cragmont (which is admittedly difficult to complain about; nevertheless we are four blocks away, they live outside the school zone, and we were denied a space, so we are suspicious, to be polite).

To remedy lose-lose, we want a reevaluation of a forty year old system. Why shouldn’t the standards of schools benefit from the obvious sums of money going to what are perceived to be more effective educational institutions, namely private schools? (We went to public school) When we arrived over eight years ago, even before thinking of having children, we heard again and again just how dismal the BUSD was, whether justified or not. Now with Governor Schwarzenegger further distressing the school system statewide, this is a time to think quickly about just what community minded schooling really means and further dispense with the idealism that in our view (maybe only ours – you tell me) does not promote the best local resources to educate our kids but instead remain splintered and disorganized.

The fruitful education of all children is a deeply held dream by everyone, right? It ! is an awesome problem. On the local level, we don’t think BUSD is handling assignments which have financial, neighborhood and educational implications in nearly the best way it could. There is simply too much intellectual firepower around for this to be happening. If you are in the system maybe you’re satisfied with the status quo; then again I am willing to support your child’s teachers’ welfare if I am given fair treatment by BUSD. I look forward to responses because this is only my perspective. What’s up out there? another parent


Some of us (many of color and/or more moderate income) in the Central Zone where Cragmount is located don't even HAVE a neigbhorhood school. Where I live in the southwest part of the Central Zone, we live far enough away from EVERY school choice that not a single school is within walking distance (busing is available). So, it is wrong to believe that only white and/or affluent kids are not able to attend schools in their neighborhood as part of ethnic/socio-economic integration. Having said that I support the current school choice system as being as good as it could probably be (with the caveat that smooth, kink-free implementation is a work in progress). Berkeley is quite geographically segregated by wealth and ethnicity. Without an integration plan, virtually all moderate to low income and students of color would be concentrated in a h! andful of schools (Berkeley's history placed only 4 schools: Rosa Parks, Washington, Malcom X elementary schools and Longfellow middle school, south of University and west of MLK). I do believe that it is important for all of our children to be successful being part of the diverse world we live in. Few white, relatively affluent children are going to be so sheltered in life that they will never have to work with (if not socialize with) folks not like themselves and if all you know are people just like yourself - you will be inadequately educated as well (different perspectives, whether cultural, socio-economic, learning style, life-experience, or talent-based, add to academic rigor). And, if you are of color and/or lower income, feeling comfortable and networking among whites/more affluent folks will certainly increase your ability to be successful in what is a world dominated by wealth and a nation dominated by wealthy whites ! - and being part of a diverse student body will help you with that. In terms of equity, the southwest Berkeley neighborhood schools would have fewer resources - both financial: (PTA/private funds are increasingly an important inequity factor between schools across the state/parents that can make donations and help do grant writing and leverage outside $) and in terms of parent involvement (reality is that many families would be lower income, service industry/paraprofessional single parent headed households, with less job flexibity than professional workers and more stretched in terms of time - many of the most active parents across the District are stay at home or part time working moms or those with very flexible jobs - other parents may volunteer to go on field trips or attend an event, things that directly impact their child and have specific time commitment, but find it difficult to deal with school wide, on-going time commitment). And, since lower income and kids of color are higher risk for academic failure for more reasons that I'll go into here - without integration we would have a concentration of high risk students in schools with the least resources (I won't even get into the likely high concentration of students with special needs or special circumstances, such as being in foster care). I daresay in those circumstances, it would be harder to attract and retain excellent teachers as well. Given this scenario, very many families that could opt out to private would - taking ADA $ from the District and taking their relatively greater financial/volunteer resources from southwest Berkeley neighborhood schools as well. And in terms of the $ that the District spent defending/is spending on implementing the current school choice plan - I have no doubt that the District would be facing serious legal challenge if the District decides to abandon having a volunteer integration plan.

So, while I'd love to have a neighborhood school for my children to attend, I see a bigger picture. And, I've come to see our across town school as being part of our family's community if not part of our neighborhood - and its a better community because of its diversity. part of the other perspective


My child is wait-listed at the school her sibling goes to

June 2004

I need some Berkeley public school advice...my child has a spot at Cragmont for kindergarten in the fall, while my older child was placed on the waiting list with a sibling priority for a third grade spot. She is second on the list. Parents Access office doesn't have any new information to give me, and as the summer progresses , I am feeling anxious about the uncertainty! Does anyone know of a second grader leaving Cragmont for another school? If so, could they kindly let the BUSD know so their spot would free up for another child (and nervous mother)? Any advice to give me from others who have gone through this? Much appreciated!


We went through exactly this scenario a couple of years ago, but at Jefferson. Son accepted for kindergarten, daughter wait- listed for third grade. I religiously called or visited the parent access office every other week throughout the summer. They said it would not make a difference, but I was afraid they would forget about her.

As of two weeks before school started, when we went on vacation, there was still no place for her at Jefferson, and she was slated to go to Washington. The office told me that there are almost always openings during the first two weeks of school, because some people who moved away have not told the district office. But they wait two weeks to see if they might show up (they said some people don't quite get the message that school starts before labor day and don't show up till after, and they don't want to give away their spots.) We didn't like the idea of moving our daughter to a new school during the third week. So we braced ourselves for having two kids in two different schools and started introducing her to the yard over at Washington.

The day they said they would post the class lists, my husband and I kept running over to check. Finally they were posted -- we were there and reading over the shoulder of the poor person taping them up! Not reading, actually, but counting. Our daughter's name was not there, but we counted each third grade class -- twice -- and one of them only listed 19 names. It was about 4:30 pm, and we sprinted home and called the parent access office to tell them there seemed to be room for her at Jefferson.

They said they would check and get back to us. You could hear the phones ringing off the hook over there. They called us the next day -- about three days before school began, I think -- to say that yes, she was in.

We spend the entire summer in an unsure state, and the anxiety got worse before it was resolved. But it did work out. People say that it's all done by computer and it doesn't matter what kind of communications efforts you make, but I don't believe it. Whatever you do, be really nice to the person at the parent access office. It's a hard job, and they get a lot of anger thrown at them. I always joked about taking her cookies. I never did, but always was friendly and nice -- ''just checking in to see if there is any new news.''

It will help to be very clear on your plan B. A third grader is old enough to understand that the first choice might not work out. Decide if you would be willing to move her after two weeks. And good luck to you. It is a screwed up system that has siblings sweating like this!

anne