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Application process leads some to ask: Does Maritime Charter School "cherry-pick" kids?

Two issues brought Maritime Charter School to The Buffalo News' attention. First was its high attrition rate, which resulted in today's story. Second was concerns raised by certain district guidance counselors about Maritime's odd charter school application process.

Unlike most other Buffalo charter schools, which simply require parents to submit a one- or two-page application with the parents' and student's basic school and contact information, Maritime asks parents to submit a detailed five-page application, and asks parents to complete and turn in an additional 12 pages of information as expeditiously as possible.

Among the information the school asked prospective families to submit as part of the initial application was a copy of the prospective student's report card, medical records and any education plans for students needing special education services.

This naturally begged the question: Why would Maritime ask for all this academic and health-related information as part of an initial application if charter schools are not supposed to consider these factors as part of a "blind" application process?

Some wondered if the information was being sought to weed out low achievers and special education applicants. Exacerbating this concern is that fact that the standard nondiscrimination clause attached to all other charter school applications was notably absent from Maritime's application (though it is included in the school's Cadet Handbook).

We raised the concerns with Maritime. They said that they asked for extensive information to assist them in their planning for the following school year, but no children were weeded out or "cherry picked" as a result of the applications they submitted. As proof, they pointed out that in the history of the school, every application that has been submitted by the April 1 deadline has been accepted. No child was denied enrollment, and the school has never needed to hold a lottery. Anyone who submitted an application after April 1 was placed on a waiting list.

However, Maritime administrators recently realized that their cumbersome application process may be hindering prospective applicants from applying and doing a disservice to their recruitment efforts. A week ago, they updated and simplified their application so that it looks like other charter schools'.

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