Wake County Schools

Wake student assignment plan splits siblings

Posted March 21, 2012
Updated March 22, 2012

— It's difficult to tell a rising kindergartner that he won't be getting to go to school with his older brother, but that's what Michael Thompson says he had to do last week when he found out his two boys won't be enrolled in the same Wake County school next year.

Now, Thompson says, he is struggling to find a way to fix it.

"I'm losing sleep, working 70 hours a week and trying to stay on task for providing for my family," Thompson said Wednesday. "I don't have time for it. It's their full-time job to fix it, not mine."

Thompson says he is frustrated with Wake County school administrators and the district's new student assignment plan, which gives parents more input in where their children go to school.

Brier Creek Elementary School in Raleigh is where his 7-year-old son, Ayden, is enrolled in second grade. Since Thompson had a chance to choose schools for 2012-13, he chose to send him to Sycamore Creek Elementary School, about 2 miles away from the Thompson home.

That's where he also chose to send 5-year-old Bailey, who will start kindergarten in the fall.

Last week, when the school district released student assignments for those who participated in the first round of choice selection, Thompson learned that only Ayden was assigned to Sycamore Creek Elementary. Bailey was assigned to Brier Creek Elementary – 7 miles away from home.

"Brier Creek starts at 9:15 a.m. and Sycamore at 8:15 a.m.," he said. "So, that would mean four car pools a day for my wife to pick up and drop off at two schools."

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School system administrators say the new assignment plan is meant to avoid dividing families, but they insist the Thompson case isn't a mistake. They say the reason for the split has to do with how the Thompsons decided to choose.

In an email to Thompson, the district's chief transformation officer, Judith Peppler, wrote:

"Because of the choice you made to select Sycamore Creek as your top choice, when your older child was pre-assigned to Brier Creek for next year, you lost your sibling priority under the plan (which was to Brier Creek) so the system didn't necessarily keep them together."

"They should just fix it," Thompson said.

Thompson said the reason doesn't make any sense to him. He said he followed the district's instructions.

In an email statement to WRAL News Wednesday, Peppler said she believes both children will ultimately be enrolled in the same school.

"We have been in contact with the Thompson family to explain their situation and discuss the options for getting both of their children at the same school," Peppler said. "We are confident that we will be able to do so by the end of the second choice round and appreciate the Thompsons' patience as we work through the rest of the process."

Right now, Bailey is eighth on a waiting list for Sycamore Creek Elementary. Thompson could know next week whether his son will be assigned there.

He's hoping that will be the case.

"I guess we have to wait until final selections to see how things play out, and it could come out to be great," Thompson said.

"But, as it's seen now and as I see it being handled now, it seems like a colossal disaster, because the people who have the knowledge and power to sell the concept to the public are failing to do so by saying, 'Just wait, it will probably work out.'"

Administrators say that the program has effectively assigned 19,048 students under the new student assignment plan and that parents who are unhappy with the results might be up against space shortages in their chosen schools or they didn't take advantage of options that would have raised their chances of getting the school they wanted.

Parents still have until April 9 to go online to rank their school choices. For those who don't, their children will automatically be assigned to a school next year.


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  • mandynae Mar 27, 2012

    I am incredibly frustrated. My 2 children are 2 of the 223 who are currently unassigned. According to the assignment website , we should have been contacted about this. "WCPSS will reach out to those families directly to explain their options". Based upon what I read last week, the magnet school placements were due out by the 23rd, and the other kids would be moved up on the waiting lists. I am really unsure what to do at this point and wish I had never participated in this proximity assignment plan. I would feel much better simply knowing where they would go to school next year.

  • Ilovemyboys Mar 23, 2012

    MamaBearNC - I'm glad everything worked out for you and I agree it is the responsibility of the parent to stay informed and make sure they are following the proper procedures. However, many of my friends are very intelligent, extremely involved with volunteering at the school and did follow the procedures but didn't get their 1st, 2nd or even 3rd choice in some cases. One was given her 3rd choice - a school that is the farthest from her home and one that her neighborhood has never been assigned. In fact, there will be buses going to her neighborhood for her 1st choice school until 2018 because of grandfathering and siblings. Her younger daughter will even be going to the 1st choice school due to her feeder pattern. How does any of this make sense? And yes, she attended meetings, read and followed the directions and had many conversations with some of the principals. The process has failed in many cases - but not due to ignorance on the part of the parents.

  • MamaBearNC Mar 23, 2012

    I did have issues with my son's school assignment and went into the wcpss office and applied for a transfer. They approved it even though it was past the transfer window. Now I applied to change schools for my youngest son and I only applied to the school that I was willing to give up his other schools seat-as stated in the instructvideoions. They even had video online explaining the process and information sessions you could attend as well as a phone number you could call. It is the parents responsibility to stay informed. Wcpss did put the resources out there. I work two jobs and still managed to figure it out. Ignorance is not an excuse to get upset. You can even talk to the principal and they are helpful.

  • chattycat Mar 23, 2012

    chattycat-It isn't that simple. Some neighborhoods are too big and the schools can't hold all the kids. Also, choice has been given because people keep complaining. No way to please everyone no matter what system is used. - taylor3297

    I would respectfully disagree with you. This type of mentality is what has created this problem. Making a complicated issue out of this has only generated more problems. It is all politics and the best interests of the children and the parents have long gone by the wayside. Placing children in the schools in their neighborhoods would decrease the need for buses, saving money and would also negate the need (or perceived need) to change bell schedules to accommodate the buses. As I said before, it is really simple, but the folks running the show have chosen to create a monster.

  • sue28 Mar 22, 2012

    I am concerned because our traditional middle school is no longer listed as a choice, so (per the fine print - I confirmed this with WCPSS too) my 2nd child will not be able to attend the same middle school as the older child with transportation once the older one grades up. The older one would sooner die than have to switch schools at this point. And I don't want the younger child to have to change schools after a year of middle school (as that is a difficult age to be switching schools), yet the only alternative is that he attend a different middle school with a different start/stop time, plus we have one on yet another schedule who is still in elementary. It seems crazy to have two kids who are both middle school age, in two different schools, but there is no way I could pick him up every day in the middle of the work day after his sibling goes to high school. Surely there must be a better way?!

  • taylor3297 Mar 22, 2012

    chattycat-It isn't that simple. Some neighborhoods are too big and the schools can't hold all the kids. Also, choice has been given because people keep complaining. No way to please everyone no matter what system is used.

    Also, I have talked to several parents who tried to "beat" the system by creating separate accounts for each child thinking that it would be seem like only one child needed a spot. Instead this made them lose the sibling link so kids were put in separate schools.

  • chattycat Mar 22, 2012

    I grew up in an area that had independent school districts for the citie/towns. Now this was many (many, many) yrs ago, but we had none of this garbage. This school board has created a huge problem and they can't dig themselves out of it. Why all the choices? Put the kids in the school closest to their home. Period. Resolve this issue of splitting siblings, don't give choices, and don't create more problems. It is really pretty simple.

  • babedan Mar 22, 2012

    Tcheuchter, learn who controls the board and the gripes before the last election. With a certain party now in control, the promise was diversity, not neighbor schools. Enhance your memory. WRAL has a history of distorting the facts to keep their party from looking bad.

  • DeM Mar 22, 2012

    The instructions were complicated, and he didn't read them thoroughly. Now he's blaming someone else, saying it's their job to fix it. I admit that this plan is not ideal, but it's what the whining voters wanted. Now the school system doesn't make assignments for you - you are responsible for doing so. But you need to read the materials that the WCPSS sent to do it correctly.

  • LambeauSouth Mar 22, 2012

    These kids probably don't even like each other, never liked my Brothers or Sisters growing up, anyone ask the kids?