Winning the Lottery: Independence Charter School

Independence Charter was the only school which explicitly told us, “Do not hover.  Do not contact us.  It makes no difference.”  Their incoming class is filled by random lottery on the first Friday of December.  The only exception is siblings of current students, who get first preference.  Sibling preference actually fills up quite a lot of the kindergarten class – this year there were about 26 openings for the lottery out of a total 44 spots.  So, about half of the incoming class is siblings.  There were about 200 applications, giving us about a 10% chance of getting our son into Kindergarten (or about what my chances were of getting into any particular medical school back in 2003).   The business manager assured us on the phone that the lottery was random, “We actually, literally, pull the names out of a hat.  Well, nowadays it’s a big box because there are so many kids applying.  You’re welcome to come view the process.”

And that’s exactly what we did this past December.  We dragged our two kids on a Friday night to the Independence Charter School cafeteria, where we munched popcorn.  The CEO (or principal) got on a microphone and said, “Unfortunately, this is not going to be a happy day for most of you, but we make it as fair as possible.”

They dumped little postcards with our kids’ names into a large US Postal box.  A youngish woman started pulling out names, which were read over the microphone by the CEO.   When the first name was read, a man up front shouted, “She’s a twin!  She’s a twin!”  Well, that means that her sibling gets preference, so the first two spots were gone.  Another name was read, and an older lady jumped up, clapped and scampered out of the cafeteria like we were playing “The Price is Right”.  A few more names. Another name and a woman started crying and giving hugs all around.  “How rude.”  I thought, “No consideration for the rest of us suckers sitting here without hearing our kids’ names.”  Finally number 26 was read and my son’s name had not been called.

My husband and I looked at each other.  I said, “We knew it was a long-shot.”  They invited parents to continue waiting to hear the waitlist (which is combined for both the immersion and enhanced programs), so we stayed.  “Anything after spot number 30 and there is very little chance of us moving that far down on the waitlist.”  Everyone quieted down, except the almost-kindergarteners who were at this point crawling under tables and chasing each other around the cafeteria.  Another name and then, my son’s name was called!  Number 2 on the waitlist!  My husband and I exchanged incredulous looks and jumped up, throwing our arms (and probably some popcorn) into the air.  Dancing a little, we skipped out into the hallway.  I almost hugged a woman next to me, but would have crushed our little one in the baby Bjorn.  I guess there are times in this process when it’s forgivable to be rude.

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