Pre-K selection process under investigation

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April 10, 2007

COLUMBIA CTY, Ga.---There are only so many slots in River Ridge Elementary's Pre-K program to go around, so the county had to draw names for them. But the outcome has some parents claiming the results were rigged.

Because of the perception that something was done unfairly, Columbia County's school board says it's taking action to correct the matter. Tonight parents and board members get together to talk about possible solutions.

It was supposed to be a fair and easy way of choosing which four-year-olds would attend the Pre-K program at River Ridge Elementary, but something went wrong. Claims that the selection process, done by a lottery drawing, was "fixed" poured in from outraged parents.

Were some of the cards drawn specially folded? That's something the board will never know...but now they have to fix the problem.

"A parent called me and said something was not done right in the lottery," said board chairman Regina Buccafusco. "It's extremely disturbing. And with the questions you ask, sometimes it gets more disturbing."

"The implication from the school board that we're all guilty of something because we folded our cards, I find absurd," said parent Andy Crosson.

An investigation is already underway, and Superintendent Dr. Tommy Price says the investigation findings will determine which course of action the board takes to rectify the matter.

"They effectively called the whole drawing illegitimate, but only choose to punish nine kids," said parent Philip Plantamura.

"Were some of the cards folded innocently? I don't know," Dr. Price said. "That's very likely as well. I'm not trying to pass a judgment on that. I'm saying a folded card rose to the top and it gave preferential--I mean, it put it in a favored position."

"There is no best solution," Buccafusco said. "Everybody might have a different solution on how to do it, but I really don't think there's a best solution. You know, if you can't prove anything's gone wrong then you just go on."

"How much evidence is there?" she went on. "Is there enough to say that something went on that was not quite on the up and up?"

"We're clearly going to tighten this up," Dr. Price said.

"There were eight parents that spoke tonight," Crosson said. "All eight of those parents, either with folded cards or without folded cards, had the same message: no instruction was given, no one did anything wrong, and the school board needs to leave us alone and not redraw anything."

As for a redrawing, the superintendent says they are going to wait until the finding come back in the investigation, and then they will determine if another drawing is necessary.

Ironically, there was a motion put on table to completely dismiss the Pre-K program altogether for the 2008-2009 school year. That option was already being considered before the lottery issue came to light.

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