Between Bak and a Hard Place

By Tara Cardoso - bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - How far will parents go to get their kids into a middle school?

If that school is Bak Middle School of the Arts -- it's as hard to get in as a top college like NYU -- parents will do everything they can to give their kid an advantage.

They're talented, and they know what they want: A chance to study communications, dance, music, theatre or visual arts at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

But, the competition for this public school program is fierce. "It really is an obsession," said one instructor. "That's how good it is."

Bak Middle School holds auditions every year, and, every year, kids start prepping early.

That's why Erin Coley, a former judge and teacher, runs "Standing Ovation", a private performing arts class that preps kids for the big day. "I get a lot of phone calls [from] parents saying, 'My child is auditioning in two weeks what do we do?'"

Parents want their kids to go here badly, but they can only get in if they pass the audition. Then, their name goes in a lottery.

This has nothing to do with grades and everything to do with raw talent.

The audition process is so secretive, the school wouldn't let us in or talk to us on camera about it because they didn't want to jeopardize the auditions or give anyone an advantage. "It's the ones that take the risk, and put it all out there, those that have it."

The school district won't yet tell us what the numbers look like for this year. But, last year, there were more than 2,000 auditions for only 450 spots in 6th grade. That breaks down to only about 22 percent of kids getting in.

That's a lot of pressure for your average 10 year old. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I might not get in. How am I supposed to do this?'"

The kids won't find out until May if they got in or not, but don't think you've seen the last of them. "I'd be pretty sad if I didn't get it, but I'd be glad I had the opportunity and try again next year."

"I'd feel pretty bad. I'd have to get over it. It's gonna be like that for the rest of my life. I'm not going to get everything I want."