New school Wake Forest Charter Academy will redraw lottery

sbarr@newsobserver.comApril 7, 2014 

— A new charter school here will redo its student enrollment lottery because officials gave improper preference to some siblings in the original drawing.

After Wake Forest Charter Academy held its lottery last month, parents were quick to criticize what they viewed as an unfair process on social media and in calls to state officials.

The decision to redraw the lottery ends two weeks of waiting for families, both those who did not secure a spot and those who were admitted. On the school’s Facebook page, some parents had repeatedly asked for clarification and further information about what was happening.

After hearing parents’ complaints, school officials said a few days after the lottery that they would review the process. Charter schools hold admission lotteries when they have more applicants than seats available at the school.

During the original drawing, the lottery gave priority to the siblings of applicants whose name had been drawn and wait-listed, contrary to the board’s own rules.

Wake Forest Charter is expected to open this fall and is managed by National Heritage Academies, a Michigan-based company that operates schools in nine states.

In a statement, the company said it “sincerely apologizes for this error and the challenges this has created for families.”

The new lottery will be held April 11 at 4 p.m. at the Mill Room at The Factory at 1839 S. Main St., Wake Forest.

Kindergarteners who were accepted during the first lottery will keep their seats as will their siblings. All other seats will be redrawn, NHA said.

Hilda Parlér, the school’s founder and head of the board, said she thinks redrawing the lottery is the fairest resolution because it addresses the error at its root.

Parlér said she is grateful for parents’ concerns and hopes the mistake will not alter their perceptions of the school.

“I hope that they will still regard us as one of the best choices for their kids to be educated,” she said.

Joel Medley, director of the state’s Office of Charter Schools, heard from a number of parents about the lottery problem and was in touch with school officials while they decided what to do.

“I appreciate the fact that they've admitted their error and are taking steps to correct it,” he said.

Medley said mistakes do happen in the lottery process, especially when schools first open. In a few other cases, schools have had to redraw an entire lottery.

Wake Forest Charter will be located at a new building on Friendship Chapel Road near the Gateway Commons Shopping Center. In its first year, the school will have kindergarten through fifth-grade classes and will add a class each year, through eighth grade. Officials expect to open with 508 students enrolled.

Charter schools are public schools that are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow. Supporters of the schools say they give families more choices, while critics say they harm traditional public schools by pulling away students and resources.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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