Selling Fox Chase: One kindergarten open house in the era of school choice

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Robert Caroselli isn’t a button-up type of guy.

The principal at Fox Chase elementary, a K-5 school in Northeast Philadelphia, only wears a tie to work twice a year.

"The first time you’ll see me in a tie is today," he likes to tell parents. "And the next time you’ll see me is when your child graduates in six years."

The "today" he’s referencing is Fox Chase’s kindergarten open house, an annual showcase to attract the next generation of families. As the rare necktie indicates, Caroselli takes this task seriously. Since he arrived four years ago, the young principal has made it his mission to market this school of 490 to the middle-class communities that surrounds it

"The objective here is that parents can feel that this is a place that they want to send their children to," said Caroselli. "And not because they have to because it’s the neighborhood school."

Kindergarten pre-registration runs March through May in the School District of Philadelphia. And the mere mention of it brings two types of schools to mind.

There are the ultra desirable city schools — often located in tiny swaths of Center City — where families clamor to get through the doors. Then there are schools in the city’s declining pockets, where the ability (or inability) to lure new families may someday determine their survival.

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