Legendre, 42, had no idea what she was getting into.
She arrived last summer. Her son Jeffrey was 4, turning 5 in November. She assumed it would be easy, as it had been in Atlanta: She would fill out some forms and send him to pre-kindergarten.
"In Georgia, you go and find a school and enroll," she said. "I thought he should be able to start school in September."
Instead, Legendre learned for the first time about Boston's public school lottery. She learned that she had missed the deadlines, that no spots were left at the schools she had requested, and that her son would be placed on a waiting list.
Eventually, she enrolled Jeffrey in a Head Start program, but it bothered her that he was not in school. A college graduate who moved to the United States from Haiti to seek a better life in 1994, she was raised to prize education.
"Where I come from, it's all we can bank on," said Legendre, whose oldest son, Olivier, 12, attends a Catholic school on a scholarship and aspires to Harvard. "We don't have any other assets."
Unable to afford day care or find a spot in Head Start for her 3-year-old daughter, Alexa, Legendre has been unable to look for work. She saves money by sharing a Mattapan apartment with relatives and shopping at thrift stores, but she is running out of ways to stretch her savings.
Desperate for work, and determined to do everything right in this year's lottery, she waited in line for more than three hours on the first day families could register, because she thought it might improve her chances. She chose five schools for Jeffrey, picking the ones with the longest hours, because that would allow her to take a full-time job.
"To be frank, for now, I just want to get them into school," Legendre said. "Maybe later, when they're in the system, I will be picky ... But I'm putting my faith in the system, because the schools are supposed to be good."
Waiting to see whether the city will find a place for her children with the hours she needs, Legendre is sometimes overcome by worry.
"It is hard, but I'm a positive person," she said. "I have three kids, so I have to survive."JENNA RUSSELL