No Lottery: How would this be True?
By Jim Mills
Our district, like virtually every other district, puts students in multiple priority levels when it comes to assigning them to schools. As Ms. Felicia Stucky-Smith explained on Nov 14th, those levels depend on such factors as the student’s home address, a caretaker’s address, whether the student moved after registration deadlines, locations of parents’ employment, whether a parent works for MDUSD etc. The top priority is for those students who have the school as their “residence school” (live nearby) or as their “assigned attendance school” — the terms for this “top level” priority seem to be used interchangably. When enrolling students from that level, districts generally take care not to appear to discriminate among students based upon arbitrary factors, because there can be legal repercussions.
Now, I have not seen anyone dispute the fact that all households in the Diablo View and Pine Hollow attendance areas may now designate NHS as their ASSIGNED HIGH SCHOOL when their student is in the 7th grade. That puts those families in the same “top priority level” as families in the previous, historical NHS assigned area. They no longer have to go through any transfer process, as they did before. Their priority is identical. Indeed, that was the board’s point in passing this motion.
When the number of students in that top priority level exceeds the capacity for that class at NHS, there must be a lottery, to keep the process fair and to enable the district to avoid litigation (assuming that even this lawyer-happy district likes to avoid legal expenses on occasion). Also, as Ms FSS understandably said, it’s the district’s standard practice in such situations.
Since I do not casually call people liars, I will point out the only circumstances under which Supe Meyer could believe her statement to be true:
1) CVCHS will continue to be successful in attracting 90-95% of the students in the former CVHS attendance area, and therefore will have minimal impact on NHS. Since the school currently turns away almost as many students as it can admit, due to capacity, that may continue to be the case (despite all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth by president Hansen and other determined opponents of the school). This, in my view, is a likely scenario, but it does leave NHS precariously dependent on the fortunes of CVCHS.
2) That even after allowing thousands of additional households to select NHS as their “assigned high school”, and avoiding the old often-unwieldy transfer process, there will be NO behavioral changes among people seeking a place to live. No one will choose to live more affordably in CV while still planning to attend NHS. That could be true — I would probably choose CVCHS if I lived there — but it can be risky to bet against such behavior.
3) The district is prepared to accept almost unlimited enrollment increases at NHS. Since the district uses different capacity numbers with different audiences — I won’t call those “lies”, because one of the numbers they use may be correct — this approach offers quite a bit of flexibility. Supe Meyer appears to believe that a much larger high school there could be a good thing. At the Nov 14th meeting, she said that a much larger school would offer “more choices” for students, and that an enrollment of 3,000 is not so unusual for a high school. This, to me, is the most troubling scenario, because we have seen how challenged the district has been in funding and executing significant construction programs in the past. Or maybe they just plan to create a “portable city” on some spare land. It may come down to MDUSD’s interpretation of what “suitable facilities” actually means, as opposed to, well, the definition used by everyone else.
So, employing some of the “critical thinking skills” that are to be promoted under our new state standards, I am laying out the three conditions under which Supe Meyer’s statement is true. Does anyone dispute any of this?