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Diverse approaches to admissions labyrinth on view at HS fair

Eighth-graders and their parents began queuing up outside Brooklyn Technical High School on Saturday an hour before the annual citywide high school fair’s start time, and by 9:45 a.m. a long line of families wrapped around the block. When the doors opened at 10 a.m., they poured into the stuffy building, some of the tens of thousands of families that passed through the fair this weekend.

Inside, Brooklyn Tech’s eight stories were something of a labyrinth — but no more so than the high school admissions process itself. Parents and students that we met outlined varying strategies for navigating the fair and the journey to high school.
Laura Napiza and her daughter Samantha tried traversing the hallways but seemed completely lost. “We just got here and it’s very overwhelming,” Laura Napiza said. “We’re looking for a high school with a strong academic program that also has something that she’d be interested in. Right now she wants to be a teacher.”

They said their goal was to visit the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts, and the Sciences and Maspeth High School — if they could find those tables. Saying they planned to inquire about graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios and extracurricular options, the mother and daughter disappeared into the melee.

Beverly Brailsford and her son Spencer Jackson came in with a clear plan of action: Head straight to the seventh floor and methodically work downwards, hitting only the schools with strong academic programs and track and field teams. First, though, the pair found a quiet hallway where they could sit down and prepare. With the high school directory in her lap, a pen in her hand, and a notebook turned to a fresh page, Brailsford took notes on schools such as Aviation High School and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School while Jackson played on his phone. “I think it’s more of a mom thing,” Brailsford said of the process. “As long as they have what he’s into, it works for him.”

Garfield Hall and his son, also named Garfield Hall, maneuvered their way around the tables of specialized high schools set up in Brooklyn Tech’s gymnasium. The younger Hall said he has already been recruited by high school baseball coaches — high schools are allowed to recruit eighth-graders, but not transfer students — but the schools they represent don’t meet his father’s academic standards. “He thinks he’s going to go to the MLB, but he’s not. So, he’s trying to get into a good school with a good academic program,” the older Hall said. His son feigned shock and smiled. He said he’s just interested in the baseball.

While masses of families swirled around them, Cindy Sapienza and her daughter Julia stood still in the center of the gymnasium, hovering over a high school directory. “We came last year so we understand the chaos,” Sapienza said. “We’re just trying to figure out what our options are.” Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School are frontrunners for the pair, along with the High School for Math, Science and Engineering, but they still have more questions that need to be answered: What AP courses are offered? What clubs and extracurriculars do you have? Are the teachers supportive of all students?

Robert Kibler and Tamra Thompson had arrived an hour early and staked out the second spot in line knowing they wanted to make a beeline for Edward R. Murrow High School, but couldn’t figure out how to find the school’s booth. After asking two volunteers for directions, the pair labored up seven flights of stairs to the floor of Brooklyn schools. As Thompson led the way, scanning for Murrow, her mother’s alma mater, Kibler tried pointing out other options.

“You want to go look at Lincoln?” Kibler asked. No.

“That’s not on the list?” he pressed. No.

Kibler tried again. “You should go to Automotive,” he said. “You can build me a hot rod.” No.

And again when he stopped to chat with representatives from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, his own alma mater. “Where do you want to go to school?” the FDR rep asked Thompson.

“Murrow,” she said, then offered an alternative for the first time: “Or LaGuardia.”

“Or FDR!” Kibler added.

As Kevin Ledlon made his way down the stairwell with his son Kieran, he reminisced about his time as a student at Brooklyn Tech, where he had to jump up the same stairs for track practice. Kieran, who plays clarinet and has dreams of becoming a doctor, wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and attend Brooklyn Tech. But he said he understands that admissions comes down to a single test. To help in the hunt for other schools where Kieran could pursue his musical and scientific interests, Ledlon armed himself with Clara Hemphill’s “New York City’s Best Public High Schools: A Parents’ Guide.” “I told him we’re not going to waste our time, we’re just going to go to these schools,” Ledlon said.

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