School Choice: The Kaminski Family

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This is the first in an occasional series of interviews with parents about the schools they send their children to, either by choice or by the randomness of the lottery system. If you’d like to be profiled, please get in touch.

Family: Natalie Kaminski, CEO, FinCode and Igor Kaminski, Network Engineer, parents of Nika, age 4
Neighborhood: Park Slope/Windsor Terrace
Zoned School: P.S. 154

Nika was at home until she was two and then we sent her to a Russian daycare in Borough Park. It’s called Mother’s Love. They take good care of kids. My goal was really for her to learn to speak Russian well and have the whole culture embedded with the books and the cartoons and the games. My husband and I are both Russian Israelis, we were born in Russia and grew up in Israel, so we speak Russian and Hebrew but our primary goal is to teach our daughter to speak Russian. I know that the moment she is in school she’ll start speaking English and it will be very difficult for me to keep the Russian going, hence the decision to put her in the Russian-speaking daycare.

Did you plan for her to stay there until she was old enough to enroll in Pre-K at P.S. 154?
Yes. Basically the Pre-K for me, I was looking at it as a way for her to start learning English.

Did you choose your neighborhood because of the school?
We didn’t come here for this particular school, but the fact that the school was here confirmed our decision.

Did you ever think to yourself that she wouldn’t get into your school’s Pre-K?
Not until I actually went in for the open house which was held sometime in the spring. Then I realized that we probably weren’t going to get in because of the amount of kids in the neighborhood. Our school was forced to cut down one of their Pre-K’s, in order to be able to accommodate for the Kindergarten classes. So we ended up having only one Pre-K class–which is 18 kids–and of course sibling priority comes first. (When you start applying to schools you realize the advantage of having siblings!) So when we applied I was told by people at the school that my chances of getting in were pretty slim.

Did you only apply to that one school?
We did. I looked at the other options which are P.S. 10 and P.S. 107 and the same situation was there as well. And I want her to end up in Kindergarten across the street, at 154. So my reasoning was: Ok, I know she is going to get into Kindergarten, because she is zoned for that school, so they have to take her. I don’t want her to spend Pre-K in one school and then have to transfer to another school. So I said, I’m going to try, and if she doesn’t get in I’ll keep her where she’s at because they also offer her a part-time Pre-K program.

Is it funded by the state?
Yep.

So you’re actually paying less this year.
Absolutely. We’re paying like $200 less a month.

Is she learning English there too?
The Pre-K program, when they teach it, they teach it in English. Immersion is the best way to learn a language, which isn’t what’s happening now. But I’m not so concerned with it.

Do you only speak Russian at home?
Yes, we do. I’m starting to teach her a bit of English. I mean she knows colors and numbers and basic words, but it’s the conversation that she really needs to start picking up. So little by little she’ll be Ok.

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