Never once did I have any clue that having a child in San Francisco would lead me down a road of such agony and disappointment. Please don't think for one instance that my son, who is amazingly sweet, radiant and utterly blameless, has anything to do with my agonizing dismay or that I'm at all unhappy with motherhood — quite the opposite, it's a highlight in my life. My defeat has all to do with the horribly broken, outrageous and utterly unfair preschool application process and school system in San Francisco. I kid you not that we were asked to attend open houses, tours and interviews (it was mandatory that both parents be present) all during the work day (I took many mornings and even a few days off work to accommodate these requests), write essays about how our child and our family are a good fit for each school, explain our toddler's behavior, temperament and unique qualities, write about our two year olds separation anxiety, explain our theories on structure and discipline, give a list of referrals that the schools could call to question, put forward our interest in fundraising and volunteering, attach a family photo and pay between a $50 and $200 fee per application (and we pay taxes for a subpar, lottery enrollment, public school system).
This afternoon we received all of our thin number ten envelopes with form letters rejecting our son from the preschools we'd applied to. They all say the same thing, "due to a large volume of applicants we are unable to offer your child a space. You are welcome to remain on our wait list in the event a space becomes available during the next calendar year" (one school even spelled it out that if you want to reapply next year you must pay the application fee and start over as though you had never applied in the past). So needless to reiterate it, but we are d-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d and absolutely disillusioned. I am, much more than my husband, also incredibly bitter. So yes, you can read this whole posting with that lens, or you could read this knowing that my family is in the majority. I was told that 300 plus families applied for anywhere from 30 to 45 spaces in each school. That leaves 255-270 families per school that received the same thin number ten envelopes that we did — doesn't make me feel better for more than a split second.
The schools we applied to put forth the criteria by which they select their students at each and every tour and open house we attended — they are seeking economic and racial diversity coupled with gender and age balance with priority given to siblings. A few schools give priority to neighbors in an effort to support their community, but NOT the one in our hood. I can only assume that our "smack in the middle" status, us being obviously white and having just enough to pay full tuition (but not enough to donate a wing), was used to eliminate us. Were I a journalist I'd be racing into my editor's office and pitching an undercover story like this: Let's do an expose revealing the difficulties, elitism, discrimination and prejudice facing new families in San Francisco as they embark on the school enrollment processes. I propose we follow and document four or more different families as they apply to five of the top preschools in San Francisco. We choose families whose scenarios are ones such as, gay ethnically diverse parents, a single mother, a family with one child of preschool age and another on the way or just born, an obviously recognizable wealthy family either famous or locally well-known, and a working middle class caucasian family (middle class in San Francisco being relative only to itself). We also get some hidden cameras in those school admission committee meetings so we can learn about their numbers games and hear candid remarks about how they size up families. Who knows even I might feel their pain as they cut child after child from their lists for whatever reasons. You see where I'm going with this, but I swear this story is worthy of 60 minutes, 20/20, or nightline and America, outside of New York (which I hear operates with the same or higher level of classism but supposedly doesn't pretend otherwise), would be interested to witness just how unfair, nepotistic, and painfully arbitrary the San Francisco private school acceptance criteria is. Frankly and obviously, I'm outrageously bias, but I'd really like to uncover the details of each family's experience.
Of course, as with all rejection, we are stumped, sitting here going around and around trying to understand how this could be? We have reviewed all of our unique and more than qualified characteristics as well as resigning ourselves to the utter lottery and gamble of it all. All of us are unique and have wonderful children worthy of being surrounded by a supportive and sensitive community and deserving of a good education. Ok, should I start looking into home schooling? (No! just going off the deep end)
My husband keeps the fires of optimism burning by assuring me that he will make the calls and fight the good fight to change our preschool fate. He really is a persistence wins believer, and I often benefit from it. I am thankful for this quality and for his positive thinking, it's kind and supportive. I on the other hand sit here stuck in reality, depressed and immobile, hating the San Francisco school system and elitist private institutions. I also can't help but think that blogging the whole thing will probably bite me in the ass too, but hell, I've already lost this round I may as well write and publish what I think and experienced. I sure hope it won't be held against me since I'm already wallowing in self pity from this grievous process — and I am left thinking that just being who we are has already been held against my innocent son. Ughhhh.
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