She holds a book on her lap, but instead of 7th grade English, it is a child’s book about a spider and its web. “Quack, quack went the duck,” she reads out loud.
These days Shealani McGowan-Shipp attends day care with her four-year-old sister. She should be in school and that’s where she wants to be. “I was looking forward to meeting new friends and to see a new school,” she says.
But ten days into the new school year, the 11-year-old is 10 days behind her classmates, prevented from transferring to a new school in a new district because of a glitch in her paperwork. “She sees her brother going to school and she feels like nobody cares,” says her mother Laurie Latson.
Latson moved from the City of Rochester to Fairport in August. For a month now she has been trying to obtain her daughter’s transcripts. She has made phone calls, and has stacks of e-mails to document her quest. She has even enlisted the help of the president of the city school board.
As of Tuesday morning, no luck, and no explanation.
“It’s frustrating because when you walk in you get ‘Okay, I’m working on it.’ But it just feels like as soon as you turn your back and walk away it’s set aside.”
That’s when she called 13WHAM News. “I’ve come to this point because I’m not getting anywhere otherwise,” she explains. “Its just frustrating and I want my daughter to go to school. That’s all I want.”
The hold up appeared to be at School #16. The principal there explained he was never brought into the loop by his staff and until our phone calls had no idea there was a problem. “I do apologize,” says Matt Laniak adding “Somewhere we fell down.”
Laniak explained that school records are kept as paper, not electronic files. But once alerted to the problem the files were right where they belonged – the records were never lost or misplaced.
So what happened?
“I don’t know,” admits the principal. “It was obviously some kind of glitch in our office and I need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
The paperwork included immunization records and NY State law is clear without them a student cannot attend school. Fairport schools confirmed they are now in possession of all the proper materials and that Shealani can attend school tomorrow.
Laurie Latson is grateful to have the documents and to move forward. Yet both mother and daughter know their work is only now just beginning. “She is, at this point, almost three weeks behind her classmates,” says Latson.
“I am a slow learner and I think I might need a tutor because of how far behind I am,” says Shaelani. But she quickly adds she is excited to be starting at a new school.