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Bingo Academy

Anxious parents gather to find out if their kids were lucky enough to get into a charter school.


Last Wednesday, hopeful parents of 414 kids crowded into Harlem Success Academy to see if they got one of 111 spots in the charter school. A projector flashed names that a computer had picked earlier, and the kids got a Willy Wonka–esque “Golden Ticket.” The academy, like all charter schools, operates semi-independently of the Department of Education bureaucracy, allowing it to be innovative. By law, charter schools have to pick students randomly, but making a spectacle of it is not required. But it seems the school, which stresses intensive parental involvement, wants the parents there from the beginning.

Etta DuBose, 52, Harlem. Stay-at-home mom.

Candidate: Her grandniece Chimarra Van, 4.
What do you think of the process? I think it’s fabulous. I think if I win, I’m going to cry.
What’s your opinion of public schools? You have to go to a lot of different schools. I did a lot of touring and applications.
Will the school be too demanding of parents? No, I volunteer at my baby’s day care. It makes me happy to be able to do that.
Result: No. 170 on the waiting list.

Jovan Woods, 28, East New York. Works at a law firm.

Candidate: His daughter Mia Woods, 5.
Why do you want her to come here? She’s very bright, so I want to give her as many opportunities as possible. They have a lot of options as far as karate or dance. She believes she’s a dancer, so why not?
What do you think of the process? It’s pretty good. If you were first to hear about it or last to hear about it, you’ve still got a chance.
How about public schools? None are like this.
Result: No. 41 on the waiting list.

Cynthia Burrell, 31, the Bronx. Administrator.

Candidate: Her son Reginald Burrell, 4.
Why do you want him to come here? I did some research, and being that it’s a public school, the classes are not so big.
What’s your opinion of public schools? Public schools are not the greatest.
What are you doing to improve your chances? I’ve applied to other schools, and we’ve been in the high hundreds on the wait lists. Positive thinking.
Result: Reginald got in.

Darlene Sumter, 35, the Bronx. Stay-at-home mom.

Candidate: Her son Joshua Reyes, 41/2.
Why do you want your kid to go here? Because I was told they are now working with special needs. My son has autism.
What do you think your chances are? I don’t know. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.
Is the school too demanding of parents? Oh, no. That won’t be a problem at all.
Are you doing anything to improve your odds? Yeah, I said my prayers before I left the house.
Result: No. 28 on the waiting list.

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