– Amid charges that a selective public high school excluded Catholic school students from admission, the principal insists it was due to a clerical error but still faces heavy criticism.
Maspeth High School, in the New York City borough of Queens, gives admission priority to students who live nearby and attend information sessions or open houses.
The school selected about 250 prospective students out of 1,000 applicants in its lottery.
However, the principal had failed to mark for priority status 207 students of Catholic schools who had attended an information session for Maspeth. Priority status would have placed them in the random lottery.
Instead, none of those 207 students were accepted, the New York Post reports.
Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir told parents the omission was due to a “clerical error.”
“There was an error. There was a problem,” the principal said at a March 16 meeting of the Juniper Park Civic Association, the Queens Chronicle reports. “So there is no vast conspiracy against any of the parochial schools. Some of our best students come from parochial schools.”
As controversy grew, New York City Department of Education officials then entered 207 of the applicants from parochial schools into a second lottery. It offered seats to 66 of these students, who would make up about 15 percent of the freshman class.
Critics of the system charge that it is vulnerable to abuse by principals who want to exclude or favor certain students.
The president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Bob Holden, told the New York Post that the principal had in a phone call described parochial schools as “a problem” because “many of the students opt out and don’t go to my school,” which costs the school funding.
Holden called for an investigation. Parents may ask the city to re-do the entire lottery for the high school.
Among the parents critical of the school was Jimmy Guarneri, whose son Michael was not accepted. “We’re very angry,” he told the New York Post.
His son will go to a Catholic high school, but only received a partial scholarship. “I’m working two jobs as it is,” he said.
The second lottery meant many students were rejected twice, including the son of Santo Vicino.
“I haven’t seen my son cry before and he’s cried twice this past week,” Vicino told the New York Post.
“I need this school for my son’s health, safety and well-being,” he added. “I’m demanding a seat. I want what’s right.”