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Orcutt Parent the Brains Behind Software for Charter School Lottery
Matt Barsotti didn’t think Orcutt Union School District administrator Ken Parker was kidding three years ago when he encouraged parents to come up with a simpler way to carry out its charter program lottery.
Back then, Parker, a founder of the Orcutt Academy charter program who has since retired, and staff were still manually picking pieces of paper with student names from a barrel and then taping them to the walls.
While watching that type of lottery was “highly entertaining,” Barsotti said, he took on the challenge to make things easier for staff and for other Orcutt parents who went through the nerve-wracking process of waiting to see whether their children got into the K-8 Casmalia campus or Orcutt Academy High School.
“Oh my gosh, this is so much work,” Barsotti told Noozhawk, remembering the only lottery he had to sit through before his 15-year-old daughter, Teresa, was accepted to the high school. “For that individual parent, that’s a big deal. ”
Barsotti, an independent contractor with software experience, went home after that February lottery and started writing code.
Three hundred hours of work later, Barsotti developed his own computer software program the district used the following year.
The program, which randomly selects names manually typed in, verbally announces a student’s name and places it either on a roster or a numbered waiting list.
Barsotti’s program also keeps track of an enrollment preference for children of members of the charter founder’s committee, children of district teaching staff and siblings of current students.
This week, Barsotti worked from his home office in Orcutt and talked about some of the other projects he’s been working on.
He’s a magnetic engineer for HP, and is working with a new Orcutt-based start-up company called TriCentric Engineering. The business at 1103 E. Clark Ave., Suite F1A is so new that it doesn’t have a finished website yet.
For the lottery software, Barsotti said, he drew on previous experience, including working for Applied Magnetics in Goleta before it closed.
Now a lottery that used to take three hours to pick 150 students takes less than 90 minutes.
“The fact that Matt made that software is just an example of the broad level of involvement that we have from moms, dads and students,” Parker said. “The first two years, the students from the Orcutt schools got their name put in the barrel twice. With a system like that, it presents multiple opportunities to mess up. I’m very thankful that there are folks who have that kind of engineering background.”
Parker said he’s been trying to get Barsotti to market the software, since there are at least 800 charter schools throughout the state.
Before that can happen, Barsotti said, he has to make the program web-based.
He makes changes to the program each year, and will have to do so again next fall to accommodate a new policy that gives enrollment preference to in-district students at Orcutt Academy High.
In the meantime, Barsotti will continue running the lottery every February to hopefully give parents the least stressful experience possible.
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