New Boston Super Dealing with School Assignment Nightmare


Boston Superintendent of Public Schools Tommy Chang apologized to parents and promised to do a better job after the late release of school assignment lists.

Thousands of parents were left not knowing where their kids would be attending school with only three weeks left before school officially begins. Chang pledged to have the assignments out sooner next year, writes Jack Encarnacao for the Boston Herald.

Chang, who is new to the position, still has 8,093 students remaining on wait lists according to school officials. Normally, parents are informed of the school which their children will attend, or at least where they stand on school waiting lists, in July, but just last week the district began to release updates.

Chang said the mix up was because of schools’ new software and explained that school employees had to manually sift through the software-generated assignments to ensure accuracy. The Aspen Student Information System, purchased for $256,000, provided questionable assignments when it was first put in place earlier this year.

“The technology and enrollment folks were literally double-checking everything by hand to make sure everything was correct,” Chang said. “I wish that we would have gotten this to parents earlier. If there’s any sort of concerns or issues that parents see with the wait lists, we are going to work with parents one on one to rectify any issues.”

The district is expecting a slight decrease in overall enrollment from 59,000 students to 57,000.

One mother, Theresa Cassidy of Dorchester, has been on a waiting list for a preferred pre-kindergarten for her 4-year-old son. She said it was stressful to think that the software situation could make a decision for him to go to a different school. She has made over $2,000 in payments to a Catholic preschool to reserve a spot for her son in case she was not able to enroll him in her chosen school.

“The whole process is so fraught with uncertainty and miscommunication and, honestly, errors,” said a Jamaican Plain mother, who asked that her name be withheld. “I’ve never in my life experienced this kind of stress as a parent. My children’s entire educational future is like a shot in the dark.”

Of the over 8,000 children still on wait lists, 6,223 have been assigned to a school — but not to their first choice of schools. Up to 97% of the 1,917 students still unassigned applied for prekindergarten seats, which are not only not guaranteed, but are also not required by state law, writes The Boston Globe’s Jeremy C. Fox.

On the positive side, only 59 students who applied for a kindergarten seat, which are required to be offered by law, are still waiting to find out their school assignments. Chang acknowledges that there is a great demand for pre-K seats in Boston, but the city does not have the space or funding to provide them.

Boston’s Citywide Parent Council member Kristin Johnson worries that parents who are new to the Boston Public School District are getting a bad first impression. But Chang reminds critics that bus routes have been set and schedules have been sent to parents — a big change from last year when buses showed up late or not at all. And, said Chang, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School students have their class schedules ahead of time compared to last year when some students actually had to wait for days to get their daily schedules.