MP Parents: DOE lottery a big scam

Board of Education officials deliberately stacked the deck to keep children out of a highly-prized local Morris Park middle school, a parent coordinator has charged.

Debbie Tinelli, a parent coordinator with P.S. 108, said that’s what District 11’s Enrollment Office admitted to her.

Tinelli said the Department of Education knowingly overenrolled P.S. 108 and P.S. 105 students into P.S./M.S. 498 -Van Nest Academy well before parents could appeal their child’s rejection into the school.

The DOE did not respond to Tinelli’s allegation by press time.

“We had hope in the appeal,” said Tinelli. “Now knowing all this, it was false hope.”

Parents first filed an Application for Admission to Middle School in December, allowing them two weeks to decide where they want to have their kids enrolled. Parents had a variety of schools to pick from, including the Van Nest Academy. Most within the community chose the school at 1640 Bronxdale Avenue.

Janie Fejarda of Pelham Parkway was among those parents.

Looking to get her son Ryan into the Van Nest Academy because of its proximity and reputation, Fejarda put the middle school down as her first pick.

But she was denied in May. Fejarda instead received two other options – Bronxworks and Pelham Gardens Middle School – two new institutions she refused to consider.

Learning she could appeal a second time, Fejarda jumped on the chance, sending her paperwork back to District 11’s Regional Office.

“I never got a second appeal letter,” she said.

Having no faith in the city school system, Fejarda is now considering a personal loan to enroll her son into private school.

Al D’Angelo, head of the Morris Park Community Association and a strong opponent of the DOE’s policy, called the appeal process a scam.

“It looked good on paper,” he said, “but in reality it didn’t do what it was supposed to do.”

Morris Park area parents are angry over a school lottery system, which despite DOE assurances of priority to local schools, sends children to distant schools within the district.

Of the 725 students who applied to the highly-rated Van Nest Academy, only 12% were admitted.

The issue has now created headaches for hundreds of families, concerned over sending their kids to remote schools.

In the past the DOE has claimed the issue involves a serious lack of middle schools in the Morris Park area, although a new school set to open in 2013 will be a public school.

“I just think we need some answers,” said D’Angelo.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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