Saturday, August 27, 2011

How my high school grad who graduated with distinction will not receive the Florida Bright Futures scholarship but his brother with a lower GPA did!

As you may recall Chewie and Nappy graduated on my birthday in June. Chewie graduated 'with distinction' and Nappy did not. Chewie finished high school with a weighted 3.4 GPA and Nappy with a 3.1 GPA. Pay attention to that - it will come in to play in a bit. Now you may be wondering why is Mrs. Oh regaling us with her kids' academic achievements. Well folks it is because I am going to tell you the truth that 1. Dunedin High School 2. Pinellas County Schools and 3. the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship folks don't want you to know. That it is possible and in this case fully realized that if you graduate with distinction and with a 3.4 GPA it does not guarantee that you will receive the Medallion Scholarship through Bright Futures.

If you are a regular reader here at the Half Empty Glass you know that Tobey and I have five children which includes two sets of twins. Because of this fact we knew early on that there would be no way we could afford to pay for all of those college educations. It was instilled in our children, while they were young, that school was the most important thing in their lives after God. I am very proud of each of our children and all of their accomplishments. We have had 4 Honor Graduates and I thought 5 scholarship recipients for the Florida Brights Scholarship.

On Tuesday while the boys were finishing registering for school Chewie notifies me that there is something wrong with his scholarship. His 100% scholarship to St. Petersburg College. "That must be a mistake," I thought. So I called the phone number listed on the scholarship web site where I was informed that Chewie did not qualify for the scholarship because his core GPA was a 2.8! Being the concerned Mom that I am I also checked on Nappy's scholarship and his was fine. How can this be? Chewie graduated with distinction. Chewie had a much higher GPA. Chewie took Honors classes all 4 years and Nappy didn't. There must be some mistake. Right? The scholarship representative told me to have the school re-transmit Chewie's transcript. Whew. Okay. There must be some sort of bookkeeping error or transmission error I thought to myself.

I immediately called the school and of course being the first day of school for the local high schools I was advised to send an e-mail to the records clerk I needed to speak with. I declined to do so - this is a major issue at least in our world and I wasn't going to handle this mess through e-mail. I asked to speak to the clerk and of course she didn't answer the call and my call went to voice mail. Well I am not going to handle this through voice mail either.

I packed up Chewie and Nappy and headed to the school. While we were waiting in the lobby to see said records clerk the principal Mr. H came out and greeted the boys. Chewie told him there was a mix-up in his transcript and that he was denied his scholarship. I informed him of how unhappy I was and he said they had things set up in the system to make sure this sort of thing didn't happen. Obviously that failed. However, I realize this isn't his particular fault so we waited to see the records clerk and Mr. H said he was going to expedite us getting in to see the clerk.

Finally we get called to the clerks's office and I explain to her what is going on. She pulls up Chewie's transcript and informs us that he has a 3.4 weighted GPA and a 3.1 unweighted GPA so there shouldn't be a problem. Thank God. I had her print the transcript and we ordered a sealed transcript for both boys just in case they may need them at a later date. I asked her to re-transmit Chewie's transcript to the scholarship program and she informed me that the schools don't transmit the transcripts that the County will have to do that. She called the County and got someone's voice mail box and she left a message.

You can not fathom how relieved I was.

Until the next day. The records clerk calls and informs me that she received a call from Pinellas County Schools. Seems they told her that Chewie did not qualify for the scholarship program as his core GPA was a 2.8. At this point I wanted to speak to Mr. H the principal. Now my children have the utmost respect for Mr. H and I have found him to be a very caring and learned man. So I explained to him everything I had been told. He said that he was looking at Chewie's transcript and his grades and 'this shouldn't be an issue'. He promised to look into the situation, talk with his counselor and call me back. This was at lunch time on Wednesday.

Friday morning I get a call and I don't know why I didn't hear the phone but it went to voicemail and I picked up a message from Mr. H. Gone was the caring and friendly man I had seen before and this message I received was all professional. Mr. H covered four points in his message. He informed me that Ben had met with his counselor once to review his transcript, once because his grades slipped during the play Aida (which Ben denies), once regarding his SAT and again at the Senior Seminar where Ben's Bright Futures Scholarship eligibility transcript was not picked up.

After playing phone tag I spoke with Mr. H. I informed him that I was always proud that I had all 5 of our children graduate from Dunedin High and that all 5 received the Bright Futures scholarship - opps I mean 4 out of 5. So then I asked him if he had the scholarship eligibility transcript with him. He said he did and that it said Chewie was ineligible. "Why," I asked. "Because he hadn't taken the SAT." Mr. H replied. That much I can understand - that paper was printed prior to Chewie taking the SAT so of course he would be ineligible until that was completed. I asked if it listed any other reason for ineligibility. He said it did not. I explained to Mr. H the fact that Chewie didn't pick up a paper stating what he already knew was moot and had nothing to do with our situation as Chewie DID take the SAT within the proper time frame and he scored higher than the scholarship required.

I then talked with Mr. H regarding his comment about Chewie looking at his transcript. I have his transcript too. Mr. H has his transcript. And that transcript is worthless when it comes to calculating your eligibility for the scholarship as no where does it list a 'core' GPA. I accept the responsibility for not knowing that the 'core' for Bright Futures is totally different than the 'core classes' that are required for graduation. But isn't that why we have counselors at our schools?

Mr. H replied that his counselors have been trained....and I cut him off. I told him that I can appreciate all that and I understand him sticking by his employees but someone dropped the ball here. And if I can't figure all of this out, if he looks at Chewie's transcript and says 'there shouldn't be an issue', if his clerk said he was good to go, if his counselor never mentioned this to Chewie and told him he was on track - how on earth is Chewie supposed to figure all of this out?

Mr. H said he questioned the counselor on how we can have two brothers and one received the scholarship and the other one didn't. He said the only thing they could come up with was that Nappy was more motivated to get the scholarship than Chewie. Now I have made no bones that I know that Nappy is the smartest child I own - he is also the laziest and was bored to tears at school. Nappy wasn't the one going to guidance making sure everything was good to go , Chewie was. Motivation was not the issue here and both I and Chewie are offended at the suggestion it was.

I informed Mr. H that I knew exactly why one brother qualified and the other didn't and it had to do with Honors classes. If you take an honors class and pass - it boosts your GPA. I had both boys - heck, all of our kids in fact, take Honors Classes to help solidify their chances to actually receive the scholarship. Nappy was having issues and he stopped taking them and I knew he was on the cusp of the requirements for the scholarship. Chewie continued on with the honors classes. The way I understand it to work is that an "A" is worth 4 points but if you get an "A" in a honors class you receive 5 points. B's are 3 points and so on. The bonus points your student receives for honors classes do NOT apply for the core GPA for Bright Futures because with those booster points Chewie has a 3.06 core and without the booster points he has the 2.8.

So what did I do? Being known as the "Spreadsheet Queen" at work. I put all of his info into a spreadsheet. Grades. GPAs. Core. Honors boosted grades etc. And the honors classes lifted his GPA so that on paper Chewie looks fabulous. But really it did nothing and it actually penalized him. So how did Nappy get the scholarship and Chewie didn't? Honors classes are harder of course. So for a few classes Chewie's grades were a little lower than his brothers but it didn't matter because of the +1 boost because it all equaled out right? Sure it did. Chewie has a worthless 3.4 GPA to Nappy's 3.1 and Nappy gets the scholarship and Chewie doesn't. If we would have known this - we would have let Chewie take the easier classes but as it stands he took a harder class got a lower score on paper than his brother but a higher score due to the boost and voila: no scholarship. Is it me or is there something inherently wrong with this?

And let me preface that Chewie didn't take wishy-washy classes. He took everything he was required to take. He didn't pad his classes or GPA. He was a member of chorus and drama and used those as his elective classes.

Anyways. Back to the call.

We didn't even discuss Mr. H's 3rd point about Chewie being counseled because his grades slipped during the play. Chewie denies this and really it wouldn't have mattered one way or another because according to the scholarship criteria Chewie didn't qualify anyways and why counsel someone who didn't actually qualify? Also somewhere along the line, someone and I can't recall who said that they didn't even know Chewie was going to use the Bright Futures Scholarship. IF that was the case then why are they counseling him because his grades dropped and why was there all the concern about Chewie not picking up the eligibility form from the Senior Seminar? They can't claim they didn't know he was going to use the scholarship and also claim that they were concerned he didn't qualify. This doesn't make sense and I hate to say it reeks of some serious butt-covering going on.

We also didn't discuss Chewie's meeting regarding the SAT. During the first call with Mr. H he asked if Chewie took the SAT or ACT. Considering he took it at the school I found this a little strange but since St. Pete College also did not receive notification of either of the boys SAT scores I just chalked it up to yet another snafu.

During our conversation I asked Mr. H exactly how many of his graduating seniors use the Bright Futures scholarship program. I guessed 40-50%. He didn't give me a number. I then went back to the core GPA issue with him. I asked him how a student is supposed to know what that magic number is if it isn't listed on their official transcript? If 50% need that information then why isn't it included? If the scholarship 'core' requirement is different from the Counties core - why isn't that mentioned? Aren't the schools governed by state and federal guidelines? Isn't the Florida Brights Scholarship administered by the state as well? Why aren't these two groups communicating and more over: Why aren't the guidance counselors giving students the correct information?

Of course now I find this listed on the County web site:
"Please be advised that the grade point average as shown on the high school student's report card, graduation check list and transcript may be different than the student's Florida Bright Futures GPA. Florida Bright Futures software uses a different method for calculating the weighting of the courses required to meet each of the Bright Futures scholarship criteria." With this little disclaimer as well "Keep in close touch with your school guidance counselor and with this web site for further updates as they come about." But why would I ever go to the County site to find this information out when I had confidence that my child was being properly counselled as all my other children were and when the counselor had told Chewie he was on track?

Mr. H began to end our call with a line I have used a million times on unruly customers - along the lines of there isn't anything I can say or do that is going to appease you Mrs. Oh. I hammered him again with he could answer my questions. Why isn't the core gpa information on our children's transcripts? Why wasn't Chewie ever informed his 'core' GPA was too low? Why wasn't Chewie informed that his unweighted GPA wasn't the 'core' GPA which we had assumed from the beginning. He said he was going to contact Bright Futures for more clarification for me and he would get back with me.

So now Chewie is running around trying to get a last minute loan and grants for college which has already started. Because he was getting the FBF scholarship I didn't have him apply for any other scholarships or student financing/loans as he wouldn't need them because he was going to a college where his scholarship paid 100% of his tuition. And I do not believe in getting scholarships and grants that you can't use or end up having an overage once everything is paid for because your overage means someone else who was in need isn't going to school because you were being greedy. And the far reaching ramifications of this besides the obvious is that if Chewie can't get a loan for his schooling then we can't carry him on our health insurance. So not only will he not be in school, he will not have health, dental, eye or life insurance.

Sure - Chewie wasn't motivated! How come it is so easy for the school to completely disavow any responsibility in this fiaco? For the record: Chewie was motivated and it is my opinion that it is far more likely that someone at the school didn't do their due diligence regarding counselling him correctly. So if you can explain to me how Chewie (who had a higher GPA than two of our other scholarship recipients) can be denied a scholarship that he was told he was on track for - I would appreciate it because it makes no sense to me how you can graduate with distinction and still not receive a scholarship while his twin brother who didn't graduate with distinction did receive.

~April



10 comments:

Recopied from previous post's comment section:
Hi.. I was in a situation with another high school in the district concerning my son, he is in 11th grade. The battle started the week after school ended last year. The school was trying to remove him from their program therefore, putting him back in our zoned school. Their reasons were all invalid and I proved it to them. They still denied him going to their school. It was only after the Principal had lied to me twice and I went to the School Board with this problem that my son was "allowed" to remain in the school. This battle continued all summer and even as of the first day of school, it still was not corrected. My son sat in the front office for 5 hours waiting for the problem to be fixed, which it was at 12:05 that day. My advice to you. contact the school board, do not let them get away with not doing what is best for the kids. I spoke with someone at the school board office who was very helpful, and her reply to me when I thanked her was, "Someone has to look out for the kids. " Your son should have been told what he was up against and he wasnt. The people working in these schools need to be doing their jobs for the kids. Good luck!

Thanks for the heads up. Since I have freshman and Junior in high school I will make it sure to double and triple check on "Bright Future's Core GPA". Don't you love the school system in Florida? Schools are filled with incompetent staffs, and snotty careless teachers. I am truly sorry that this happend to you. I hope that somebody will realize the importance of this matter and fix the outcome. As a parent I hate to see that a bright student has to go through a financial hardship becuase of someone's job security from our tax money. I wish you and your son the best.Good luck.

Okay, I'm starting to sweat right now! I have a senior and this whole core, weighted, non-weighted shit just stresses me out. I'm going to have to have a sit down with someone to make sure he is "on track"! That term is so lose it isn't even funny.
His counselor he's had from the beginning has suddenly retired and that in itself has made me nervous. They screwed up his schedule and he isn't in the class he wanted and had to drop a class and now gets out early. He is taking 2 online classes and he's in honors and AP classes. So he may have a false sense of security as well.

I know just how crappy it is to lose a scholarship. My middle son lost his, the HOPE from GA, and we were under the impression he could get it back once his grade went back up. He worked hard and they did. But it was too late for the scholarship! It could not get reinstated. I freaked out. He apparently lost it after the last window that allows you to get it back.
I hope you can get the loans you need to get him back in class.

Check your insurance policy. One of the provisions of the Obama Care law is that children can stay on insurance until age 26 even if they are married, don't live at home, etc. Your son would certainly qualify to continue on with your coverag. I know this won't solve all the problems but hopefully it will put that issue o rest. Good luck!

OMG, I would be standing on somebody's desk Monday morning bright and early. From your first comment, I would definitely start with the school board, then go up from there.

I would be furious. If I had posted this it would be in all caps.

Hi, me again! We went online to try to figure this all out for son #3. There is a website for checking on their GPA, FACTS.org. Did they use the .5 extra points for his honors classes to figure out his qualifications? It states: Weighting for more challenging, higher level courses is prescribed by law as .50 per course per year. You probably already saw that but I thought I'd mention it just in case.
We did see that he has not been given his half credit for band. Which we were told could be used for his PE credit for graduation purposes! So he needs to check on that. I'm still all nervous about it all being right!

Anita - every single class on his transcript is credited at .5 - Regular classes = .5 and so did the honors. They didn't weight his honors classes any higher than a regular class. I didn't know about the FACTS site until recently - but why would I go looking to double check his status when the school is saying he qualified.

I thought it meant that they would get .5 extra credits for their gpa for the scholarships. Like if they got an A in a regular class they would get 4 but if it was an honors class and got an A they would get a 4.5. But in school they would have gotten a 5 for an A. Did that make any sense at all?

You got it right Anita. I thought that it added the same weight to the scholarship core gpa as it does to his high school gpa. But it is only .5 instead of 1.0. I just talked with FBF and she actually said that if a student is in Honors and doesn't do well then their core gpa is penalized. By my calculations that is C grade and below.

Did you get this problem resolved?

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