A simple fact existed in the Pre-K drawing that was held at River Ridge Elementary School on March 22. Had I elected to make a paper airplane with my lottery ballot and thrown it into the lottery box from across the room, it would have been eligible to have been drawn during the lottery. Likewise, had the parent next to me chosen to make an origami swan and placed that in the box, it too would have been eligible
Those conducting the lottery drawing gave no instructions whatsoever about how cards were to be placed in the box. As a result, any card in the box was eligible to be drawn.
School officials initially conducted an investigation into the drawing that was "inconclusive" as to whether or not the principal and other staff had schemed to cheat the lottery. The decision to conduct a partial redrawing based on this investigation led me and at least one other parent to publicly question the justification for redrawing. We both were compelled to seek the truth through the media and through our local Board of Education.
When I spoke with my Board member, I explained that by redrawing any cards, the school system was admitting that its investigation revealed wrongdoing. While the superintendent's message to the Board last Friday stopped short of confirming wrongdoing, it certainly raised questions related to how school system personnel handled the whole situation from the beginning.
The redrawing was postponed to give parents an opportunity to speak publicly to the Board of Education on April 10. I was one of the eight parents who spoke. Every parent who spoke said the same thing: School officials gave no instruction, no one did anything wrong by folding their cards. ... No parent insisted that a redrawing occur.
As a parent who folded my child's entry card, I resent the "guilt by association" approach taken by the Columbia County school system. More than one school system representative told me that those who folded their cards must have been part of "something." They certainly believed that we had an "unfair" advantage. Unfair? No. Statistical? Yes. As noted, however, the lack of instruction left it up to each parent to decide what to do. Any parent could have folded his/her child's card.
My child's misfortune in this matter is that I and other innocent parents stumbled into a questionable lottery conducted by school officials. I agree with Board member Wayne Bridges in his assessment that those involved should have stopped the process and taken other actions from the beginning. Based on the superintendent's comments, those directly involved should have at least recused themselves from the drawing in the first place. I sincerely hope that the Board of Education finalizes its investigation into the matter and takes appropriate action based on the final outcome of their report.
For the record, in addition to not knowing any school officials involved, I also was not aware of any scheme related to drawing folded cards and I offered to sign an affidavit to that effect.
My 4-year old son is excited about starting school. Up until last week, I was excited, too. If my experiences in the last week are any indication of what I have to expect, I fear that his education will take a back-seat position to politics, bureaucratic bickering and attempts to cover up wrongdoing in the Columbia County school system. While I applaud the reconsideration of the redrawing and the Board's decision to leave the results alone, our Board of Education and our school system administration should be ashamed by how the drawing was conducted and the subsequent investigation was handled.
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