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Public schools eye lottery system for open enrollment


By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Pitt County Board of Education may implement a lottery system for open enrollment applications next year and increase the number of schools that allow open enrollment from 21 to 24.

The board came to an informal agreement on the lottery at its work session on Monday, moving away from a first-come, first-served policy it has used to assign a limited number of open slots. The nine-member board agreed selecting qualified students at random is more equitable way to choose students when applications for a school exceed available seats.

The board also agreed to add Belvoir Elementary and the kindergarten through eighth-grade G.R. Whitfield and Pactolus schools to the list of schools in 2018-19 that can accept students from outside their districts through the open enrollment process.

Though no formal action can be taken during work sessions, the consensus resulted on both items being added to the consent agenda, which will be voted on during the Feb. 5 regular Board of Education meeting. 

Superintendent Ethan Lenker presented the board on Monday with two options for accepting open enrollment applications.

One mirrored the current policy of developing a waiting list that would be determined by the order in which the application was received. The policy historically has prompted many eager parents to cue up outside central office on the first day of the application period.

The second option was for what Lenker described as a computer-generated lottery system that would randomly assign numbers to applicants to open enrollment schools such as D.H. Conley High School.

“We would take the list of kids that apply for Conley, for example, and if it’s 30 kids, they will run through a computer program which will randomly generate a number one through 30,” Lenker said. “If we decide we have eight slots, we’ll take the first eight names.”

After discussion, the board agreed the second option was the fairest and added it to the consent agenda where it will need to be approved in the next board meeting. 

“The odds are better for you if you’re working and can’t go stand in line,” board member Caroline Doherty said.

The revision also shortens the enrollment period from March 1 to June 1 to March 1 to March 15. 

Lenker also prompted a discussion about removing D.H. Conley snd Eastern Elementary School from the list of open enrollment schools.

He said Pitt County saw 250-300 new students this school year, bringing Conley to 1,663 and Eastern to 781 total students. 

Though both schools have very little room, some members said they should be on the list even if there were only one or two spaces.

“You’ve got all the other high schools up there, but they don’t have Conley?” board member Worth Forbes said. “Well, they may only have five slots, but I can explain to a parent, ‘Hey, I didn’t know how many slots we would end up with ... whatever we have, we have.’ We should treat it just like any other school.”

Member Benjie Forrest said the Early College High School program would draw 55 freshmen next year, potentially creating more room at a school like Conley. The district likely will not know exactly how many seats are available until May, after the open enrollment deadline, he said.

Members Betsy Flanagan and Melinda Fagundas initially were not in favor of including Conley and Eastern. They said it could be misleading to parents who think their child would have a good chance of getting into those schools. Only some grades have seats available at both schools. 

“I don’t want them on the list if that’s just a token,” Flanagan said. “If you’ve got one or two slots, it’s going to be misleading to people. They’re going to expect that there is a good chance that they’re going to get in that school.”

Fagundas and Doherty agreed that if the two schools were to stay on the list, parents would have to be aware of how many seats are available, which Lenker said could be an option moving forward. 

“I would feel better that if we keep all the schools up there, that we put all of the seats available,” Doherty said. 

The board ultimately came to a consensus to leave both Eastern and Conley on the list and add Belvoir, Pactolus and Whitfield, raising the total of open enrollment schools to 24.

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.


The proposed open enrollment policy reads:

“The registration period for open enrollment will be from March 1 at  a.m. to March 15 at 5 p.m., unless that day is a weekend, holiday or weather closure, in which case the end of the registration period shall be 5 p.m. of the next day school is in session. All students who submit an application during the registration period shall be deemed to have simultaneously submitted their application one second after the beginning of the registration period. At the close of the registration period, if there is not space available for all of the applicants for a particular program, class, or grade level, as determined by the superintendent, or designee, a lottery conducted by the superintendent, or designee, will determine which students are assigned to the particular program, class or grade level that does not have space available for all applications received during the registration period. If a lottery is necessary at the close of the registration period for a particular program, class or grade level, a waiting list will be created for those children not selected in the lottery, using the lottery to determine the order of assignment.”


Following is the list of schools proposed for open enrollment in 2018-19

High schools: Ayden-Grifton, D.H. Conley, Farmville Central, J.H. Rose, North Pitt, South Central.

Middle schools: Ayden, C.M.Eppes, Farmville, Wellcome

K-8 Schools: Bethel School, G.R. Whitfield, Pactolus, Stokes 

Elementary schools: Ayden, Belvoir, Eastern, Elmhurst, H.B. Sugg (K-2), Northwest, Sam D. Bundy (3-5), South Greenville, Wahl-Coates, W.H. Robinson.