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theschoolboards
08-11-2011, 08:16 AM
From WSJ.com (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576500653887399330.html) by Sophia Hollander:

Assembling diverse classes is an oft-stated goal among New York City private schools, with brochures featuring beaming multicultural students.

But this September Dalton will approach a rare benchmark: Nearly half of the incoming kindergarten class will be students of color.

Dalton will dramatically exceed the citywide average for kindergarten diversity at New York's private schools, which was 30% students of color last year, according to data from the National Association of Independent Schools.

It's a milestone in an aggressive campaign by the admissions director, Elisabeth "Babby" Krents, to broaden the school's reach since she assumed the position in 1996. The previous year, the kindergarten class was 6% diverse. This year, it will be 47% of the 97-member incoming class.

"Years ago, I think primarily kids [at Dalton] were from the Upper East Side and homogenous in lots of ways," said Ms. Krents, who graduated from Dalton in 1968. "We sat down to say, 'Let's see what we can do to widen that a bit.'"

Dalton isn't alone: Brearley will be 41% students of color next year, according to school officials, while its kindergarten class will be 45%. But it is a significant shift for Dalton, a school that had long been known as a neighborhood destination in the city's most exclusive East Side ZIP Codes.

The push has added to the mystique of Ms. Krents, who is known only by one name in some parenting circles—"Babby"—and whose every expression is scrutinized for the tiniest flicker of intent.

"I think she has a wonderful poker face in interviews and is very pleasant, but she's feared," said one admissions consultant. "She wields a lot of power."

Diversity has become one more factor to add to the obsessions of parents, fueling debates on websites such as Urbanbaby.com.

"People begrudge Dalton for emphasizing too much on diversity and not on brains (someone said)," wrote one poster in June. "Give me a break."

Ms. Krents said she was sympathetic, but not surprised.

"You just look for something to blame for why my child didn't get in," Ms. Krents said. "So I think it's inevitable that those comments are going to happen."

"It was our strong belief that having a school that was more heterogeneous in lots of different ways would be more like the world,'" Ms. Krents said. "It would be a better place for all children to learn."

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