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Changes Coming to Albany District Registration

October 17, 2014

by Molly-Kate Webster

Parents need to provide better documentation to the school district when they register their children, according to a discussion at the city’s Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

Much of what holds up the process is the parents not having the correct information they need to enroll their child, according to the school board.

Citizens listen at a meeting of the Board of Education Thursday/ Molly-Kate Webster

Citizens listen at a meeting of the Board of Education Thursday/ Molly-Kate Webster

Some 11,000 new students register each year  and one of the complications is that there are only three staff members working in the office to make sure that all of these potential students are addressed.  Issues mostly arise at the end of summer during the last week of August and the first week of September.

After registration moved to Sunshine Building in Lincoln Park, new school district residents had a hard time getting their children enrolled.  The old building was more centrally located so that low-income families did not have to travel far to register their kids for school. Now with the Sunshine Building there is less access for those who walk or have to take a bus because the bus does not go directly to the site.

Ken Lein, assistant superintendent for instruction, and Stanley Harper, director of pupil personal services. suggested moving the dates of the  pre-k lottery and kindergarten to a month earlier to avoid  problems. Changing registration dates would lessen the panic mode for school parents, Lein said.

At the meeting at the School of Arts and Humanities the board discussed the issues of centralize registration and school testing. About 30 people attended.

Board member Ginne Farrell said that she was unsure if the movement of the date sooner would cause even more frustration than before.

“There are some things that we can’t do anything about,” said Farrell in regards to New York State law on school registration. The law requires certain documents to be required at the point of registration for students, such as proper identification of parent and address verification. For Albany they only require two different proofs of residency where most districts require three.

Most of the frustration with the system is not with the process, but with the attitude of those who work in the office. Board member Rose Brandon said that most complaints about the school registration process is that the staff is not customer service oriented. Brandon also said that people are not going to want to come and enroll their children in a school that is not friendly.

“We are trying to draw folk, not discard them, ” said Brandon. Many of the points brought up on the matter of customer service said that the staff must be over worked with so many kids coming into the district and not enough help.

Contrary to the thoughts expressed by the board,  Kerri McManus, a mother,  said she has never had any personal issues with the central registration system.  She claims that most of the negativity comes from parents, not employees.n

Enrollment is still steadily increasing for the Albany School District and plans are being considered with how to change the registration process. With 700 of those students being Pre-K through Kindergarten, the district plans to speed up the process. The lottery for Pre-K is going to start on March 3rd, 2015 and the registration for Kindergarten beginning on April 20th, 2015.

One of the suggestions made to Lein and Harper were to try and move the registration process into being more online and easier to access. Identity verification would be a challenge with online registrations, they said.

Lein and Harper said they are still working on fine tuning aspects of central registration. They expect to present updates at the December board meeting.-30-

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