BY JON CRONIN
Parents said they were panicked following an incident last week during which parochial school students with priority registration at Maspeth High School were not considered in the lottery.
A spokesman for the city’s Department of Education defended the school’s lottery process.
“Every student who should have received an offer at Maspeth High School according to its admissions priorities has received an offer,” DOE spokesman Will Mantel said.
But elected officials and community leaders said that students should be given their choice of high school.
“It is unacceptable that any student is denied the chance to go to the high school of their choice, whether they come from parochial, private or public education,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale). “When human error is responsible for excluding a group of students, someone must be held accountable. Policy must be put into place to ensure this does not happen again.”
But a spokesman for the DOE said that Maspeth High School “is a limited unscreened school—the school indicates that students receive priority if they attend an open house or sign in at its table at a high school fair. If the number of students with this priority exceeds the number of seats available, students are selected randomly. However, not all students with priority receive an offer.”
Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said that he had been receiving calls from upset parents in School District 24 whose children did not receive an offer from Maspeth High School. After nine calls from different parochial school parents, he realized that no students from parochial schools made the cut. He said that he spoke with Maspeth High School Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir and was told, “That’s not unusual.”
Holden said that he was told that parochial students pick schools, but then often don’t show up. Abdul-Mutakabbir said that he is then left with an empty seat that would cost the high school funding.
Moments before the Juniper Park Civic Association’s March 16 meeting, Holden said Abdul-Mutakabbir told him that the situation was due to a clerical error on the part of the school.
When Holden asked the principal how the error happened, he was told that parochial and public school students are separated during the lottery and was reassured that the problem would be fixed.
“An additional 207 students were marked for priority and 66 students received offers,” a DOE spokesman said to clarify the situation. “These are the students who would have received offers had they been correctly prioritized during the admissions process. Last week, we sent offer letters and made calls to the schools of these students. Of the 436 offers the school made—inclusive of the additional students—435 went to District 24 students or residents.”
Even after another lottery was held, Holden noted that students who didn’t attend the open houses or rank Maspeth High School as their top choice got in, whereas students who selected the school as their priority were not offered a slot.
“This stinks to high heaven,” said Holden. “A popular high school that has empty seats should have a waiting list.”
Holden, who believes that there should be an independent investigation of the incident, said he was warned by the principal not to speak to the press.
Crowley is introducing two pieces of legislation that would require the DOE to post the application process and disclose the number of applications and students admitted each school year. Lotteries should be conducted in a public setting where applicants can attend to witness the results, she said.
She has introduced another law to disclose on the DOE’s website the zip codes of admitted students to zoned high schools each year as well as the algorithm used to select high school students for admission.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.