I just heard from Andy Jacob at the DOE, who said he had explained many details about the nature of the pre-K admissions problems to reporters at the Times and the Post but that those details hadn't made it into print. The Daily News had a hint of the details, but I didn't see that article earlier this morning -- there, Jacob described problems with sibling verification that may have led some parents not to have received acceptance letters when they should have.
What happened, Jacob told me, was that the DOE's computers compared data for the older sibling claimed on the application with the data parents entered on the application. If the address in the attendance system for the older child didn't match the address as it was entered from the application, the system treated the applicant as a non-sibling. But in some cases, Jacob said, the address-matching excluded children erroneously, sometimes because of a minor difference in the way the addresses were formulated (with a typo in the DOE's attendance system, for example) and sometimes because families have moved since entering the school system.
Currently, OSEPO staff are finishing up looking at every single one of the applications of families who indicated they had a sibling already enrolled, Jacob said. He told me he anticipates that the number of families affected will be a "small minority" of the 9,000 families who indicated that they had a sibling in their school of choice, though the number will be "more than 4 or 5." After the scope of the problem is clear, the DOE will decide how to handle the cases, he said, and families will be notified then if there was a mistake in the way their application was treated. "There are some cases where the problem was on our end. ... When we hear about problems, we solve them," he told me.
Jacob said there may also be families who believe they were erroneously denied a seat who actually completed the application incorrectly, perhaps by listing the school in which the sibling is already enrolled as something other than their first choice. (Sibling priority only works for your first-choice school.)
Jacob advised me that the very best thing parents who believe the address-matching issue may be the root of their rejection should hold tight while the DOE decides how to solve the problem. I know that will be hard to do, but I have faith that the DOE is committed to addressing the issues, even though it might not know yet exactly how to. If you just can't wait, Jacob said the best number to call at OSEPO is 212-374-4948. That's also the number you should call if you have other issues or if you still haven't received a letter -- though we have heard from one father who just received a letter this morning.
As always, we'll keep you posted as we learn more, and please let us know what's happening on your end.