‘Nursery University’ Explores the NYC Preschool Admissions Process

by NYC Firm Schools on April 24, 2009

Photo Credit: Variance Films

Why would Marc Simon, a single guy in his early 30s (who is also an entertainment attorney at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP) want to make a film about the competitive environment of the NYC nursery school admissions process? As he recently stated in The Huffington Post, he wanted to make a film that

would explore the stories and emotions behind the school directors who are forced to reject many deserving families solely based on the schools’ lack of capacity. Equally important, the film would focus on the families and the children who are at the center of all the fuss, but who are always ignored amidst the tabloid fodder. The goal was to create a film that would be entertaining, but at the same time, through the transparency of the lens, would bring a clearer (and hopefully healthier) understanding of the nursery school admissions culture.


The film, Nursery University, which opens today in Manhattan, follows five families from different backgrounds and economic circumstances: Tony and Cynthia Pratofiorto and their daughter Juliana of the Upper East Side, Harlem residents Kim Ashton and Kris Rangooth and their son Kieron, Wyatt and Sneha Kapadia and their daughter Layla of Greenwich Village, Roddy and Heidi Moon and their son Jackson of the West Village, and Aleta St. James and her twins Gian and Francesca of the Upper West Side (Ms. St. James became the oldest mother in America to give birth to twins, just three days from her 57th birthday).

The film also features several nursery school directors, including Jean Rosenberg of the Chelsea Day School, Wendy Levey of the Epiphany School, and Gabriella Rowe of the Mandell School. Plus, you’ll also see some of the preschool experts who help guide parents through the admissions process: Victoria Goldman, Author of Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools, Roxanna Reid and Patti Wolman from Smart City Kids, and Amanda Uhry, a private school consultant (if you did not already know, some Manhattan parents pay more than $10,000 for individual consultations about the admissions process).

Here are the details on attending:
Manhattan: April 24-30: Phoenix Adlabs ImaginAsian Theater (239 E. 59th Street)
Brooklyn: May 1- Cobble Hill Cinemas (265 Court Street)
New Haven, CT: May 8- Criterion Cinemas (86 Temple Street)

For opening weekend in Manhattan, there will be a panel discussion and audience Q&A after each screening, featuring the filmmakers, the families from the film, and some of the school directors and experts. There will also be some “Mommy and Me” showings for opening weekend, which will baby or toddler friendly. Of course, advanced tickets are recommended (some shows have already sold out).

P.S. After seeing the film and attending the panel discussions, you might wonder, “if it’s this bad for nursery school, what do Manhattan parents (and their interview- and test-savvy preschoolers) then do for kindergarten?” “How can it get any worse?”

Wonder no more…if you haven’t seen it already, here’s a clip from Pamela French’s documentary Getting In….Kindergarten, which aired on TLC in 2007, about the NYC kindergarten admissions process.

If you are a New York City parent, we don’t recommend seeing both of these films in the same weekend though.

P.P.S. So, now if you’re wondering, “if it’s this bad for nursery school and kindergarten, then what must the competition be like in Manhattan for afterschool activities and summer camps?” No, there is no documentary yet, but we certainly can imagine one.

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