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The Grophear Family

New VideoClick to see the Grophear family's reaction to their school assignment

Family bio

Update Deborah Grophear was nervous when she approached the silver metal mailboxes in her apartment complex. She knew the letter was probably coming last weekend, but she was away and didn't have a chance to check the mail until last Monday after work.

Her heart sank when she saw her 5-year-old daughter, Xolani, didn't get her first choice, the Hernandez. Then she read that Xolani had a seat at the Jackson Mann in Allston -- and Grophear, in her agitation, momentarily forgot whether she had even listed that school.

Later, after looking at her files, she realized that Jackson Mann was her second choice -- and she was overall relieved. She likes the fact that the school is in a relatively safe neighborhood, and near the preschool that Xolani currently attends.

"A school is as good as the parents, so if I'm involved, that will be good," she said.

Deborah Grophear wants her only child to have the one thing she never had: A strong, stable education.

Grophear had spent much of her childhood in a Brazilian orphanage, and then at age 12 was adopted along with her siblings by a New Hampshire couple. But the adjustment did not go smoothly; over the next six years, the unhappy teenager became estranged from her new home and bounced around different schools, before obtaining her GED at age 18.

Now 29, Grophear is raising a 5-year-old daughter, Xolanim on her own. Grophear said the girl's father is in prison and the couple has divorced. But she had been able to provide for her family through a full-time job as an administrative assistant at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She and her daughter live in a two-bedroom apartment in the Mission Park complex, only blocks from her job.

She said that researching kindergarten slots for her daughter has been a logistical nightmare. She has had to take time off from work to investigate public and charter school options. She also encountered a lengthy delay when she learned she needed to convert her New Hampshire driver's license to a Massachusetts one to register her daughter for the Boston Public School lottery.

If her daughter fails to get into any of her top choices, Grophear is considering moving back to New Hampshire, possibly home-schooling her daughter. But that requires sacrificing a good job and home.

"I've come so far to let everything go," Grophear said. "That's why I struggle with the idea of moving."

But Grophear said she is prepared for that choice if she does not like her daughter's options. She hates the idea that her daughter's educational future "depends on luck." She also finds unbearable the prospect that her daughter, encountering a bad school, will become turned off to learning, as Grophear experienced in her own past.

"I don't want to have her dealing with feelings of struggling and not being able to get help," she said.

Videos by Darren Durlach, Scott LaPierre and Lauren Frohne/Globe Staff
Photos by Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
Additional video by Wendy Maeda and John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Click on the map to see the family's school choices
Mission Hill
Deborah Grophear, 29, an administrative assistant at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Family size
One child
Child entering BPS
Xolani, 4
bps zone
Schools selected
Top three schools
1. Hernandez
2. Jackson Mann
3. JF Kennedy
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