No redrawing in controversial Pre-K lottery

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April 13, 2007

The Columbia County school board says there will not be a redrawing for what's become a controversial Pre-K lottery.

The school board says that weeks before the drawing took place, teachers gave them a petition asking for preferential treatment for their kids applying to the Pre-K program.

But the state said that's against the law.

"There is no easy way out of this," said Columbia County BOE chairman Regina Buccafusco. "We got ourselves in a big hole, and we have to dig our way out, and someone's going to wind up with dirt on them."

Buccafusco agrees with the majority of the board. She doesn't think the March Pre-K lottery was fair, but she still doesn't want a new drawing, saying that would only create more problems.

Board member Mike Sleeper was the lone vote for a new drawing.

"I'm not sure about collusion, but there was a discussion of altering ballots," he said. "It was a deliberate discussion of altering the outcome, and that's not right."

This all comes after one parent complained there was preferential treatment taking place to those who folded their registration cards.

Superintendent Tommy Price showed the board those eleven cards. Some had simple creases down the middle. Others were much more manipulated, with folds on every corner.

Of the 20 cards selected for the initial pre-k roster.... Five were kids of school employees.

While the board says they take full responsibility for not telling anyone they couldn't fold the cards, they say it still doesn't make it okay.

"That was our fault. We never said 'you can't do this'," Sleeper said. "So there was a loophole here. But I've got a seven-year-old, and that's the same argument that he uses to me, you know, 'Well, Daddy, you never told me I couldn't.'"

This isn't over yet. Board members still have to decide if teachers involved in this will be punished for their actions. They also need to decide if the Pre-K program will be kept, scaled back, or done away with for good.

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