When Lucy Baker graduated from Washington's Spingarn High School last June, she was proud to be valedictorian. But her accomplishment was marred by a major disappointment.
Even though she had earned almost all As, she had not been admitted to the college she wanted to attend, Georgetown University.
The reason, a letter from the University said, had nothing to do with her academic record. In fact, the letter said, Georgetown didn't even know her record - the high school hadn't sent the university a transcript of her grade despite two requests that it do so.
Yesterday, after some help from D.C. School Supt. Vincent Reed, Lucy Baker was admitted to Georgetown with a promise of financial aid.
But it is now just two weeks before the start of fall classes, and Baker is only half-happy that things worked out her way.
"Of course, I wanted to go to Georgetown," she said, "so I'm kind of happy to be admitted. But I don't know why it didn't happen earlier. Now I missed the summer program (which provides six weeks of special classes to help minority students get ready for freshman work). I know I'm not the smartest person and I probably could have benefited from the summer program. But I'm glad I got in."
Supt. Reed, who received an honorary doctoral degree from Georgetown last spring, was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment. His secretary, Eleanor McQuaid, said Reed spoke to university officials about Lucy Baker's problem as soon as he found out about it from Lucy's brother on July 31.
"The school (Spingarn) didn't sent the records on time," McQuaid said, "which was unfortunate. He (Reed) was very upset about it, and that is why he intervened. It was an error on our part which affected a student so we tried hard to help her. (After Reed went on vacation) I was working tooth and toenail to accomplish it. All's well that ends well, you know."
Yesterday Baker said she sent her application to Georgetown University late last fall, and gave her guidance counselor a form from the university, asking the school to send a copy of her transcript.
About a week before the application deadline, Jan. 15, Baker said she received a letter saying that Georgetown still did not have her transcript. It also warned that if it wasn't received, she could not be considered for admission.
Baker said she took the letter to the counselor, Josephine Wade, and with Wade's permission, got a copy of the transcript herself and gave it to Wade to send to the university.
But in mid-April, she said, the university told her that she had not been considered for admission because a copy of her transcript had not been received.
Wade acknowledged in an interview yesterday that she had not sent the transcript, but added that she thought Baker would sent it herself.
Last year, Wade said, she was an acting assistant principal and worked as a counselor only part-time. "The kids wouldn't let go of me because I had been their counselor before," she said. "I had no clerical help . . . (Not sending the transcript) was just one of those things. I'm sorry, but that's what can happen when you try to do more things than you are supposed to do."
Wade said she took a copy of the transcript to Georgetown herself as soon as she found out that Baker had been rejected.
The university agreed to consider the student's application if there were any vacancies in the freshman class. But yesterday, Georgetown officials said there were no vacancies - in fact, about 50 more students said they plan to come than the college had planned to enroll.
Yesterday Charles Meng, an assistant to the Georgetown president the Rev. Timothy Healy, said the school agreed to admit Baker after Reed's appeal, even though its budget for scholarships also is overspent.
"We're over budget already." Meng said."We might as well be a little bit more over budget. It's a hard case."