Heartbreaking True Stories

cute-little-girl.jpg Instead of school choice we have this.

Nicole Barrett couldn’t breathe Tuesday as she waited for the lottery results. Her number would affect the future of her daughter’s education.

She thought her children would attend the same school where she taught. Those dreams became more real once she became a teacher at Buist Academy and after her daughter, Madison, was born.

But Madison doesn’t get treated any differently from the 226 other students who applied for one of 40 spots in the Buist Academy kindergarten class.

Buist is one of the best schools in the state. It’s often called the “private public school” by those familiar with its strong academic reputation. It’s a school so desirable that some say applicants have lied about where they live to better their children’s chances for acceptance.

On Tuesday, Barrett sat in a room with roughly 20 other parents and waited for fate to take its course. She can control so much of her daughter’s life, but not this, one of the most important decisions for Madison’s early years.

Madison’s name was on one list, the county-wide list, and all of the school’s 227 applicants were on that list. The school has four lists – students who live downtown, siblings of current students, students zoned to attend low-performing schools and students countywide – and it draws 24 students from each list to take its admissions test. It accepts the first 10 who pass the test from each list.

“Number 18,” said the woman announcing lottery results. “Madison Barrett.”

Her mother dissolved into tears and left the room.

“At least I know we have a chance,” she said as she smiled and wiped her eyes outside.

Inside the room, Bill Netherland listened to the results.

I wish I could thank Diette Courrage for having the moxy and talent to write this story; it’s Pulitzer-worthy.

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