Forty-eight students attended District 13, District 24 and the Central High School District without residing in the districts between May and October, reported the Residency Advisory Committee at a Nov. 20 meeting. Eleven of the students were removed from the schools. The other 37 were homeless and thus were allowed to continue attending their home districts for one year, according to New York state law.
Of the 11 students, five came from the high school district, five from District 24 and one from District 13. District 30 was not included in these calculations because the district conducts its own investigations, which Superintendent Nicholas Stirling says is more cost-effective than to participate in the committee. Stirling told the Herald in May that they use public records to determine if a student still resides in the district and then visit the houses of students in question. Currently, the district is engaged in four investigations.
The number of students the high school district removed was “identical to the number from 2016 at the same time period,” according to Clifford Odell, the high school district’s assistant superintendent for personnel and administration.
The committee also determined that 25 students from five homeless families were attending the high school district, 10 from six homeless families were at District 13, and two from two homeless families were at District 24.
Investigations into nonresidents attending District 13, District 24 and the high school district begin when the committee receives a phone call on the residency hotline, or when a school official provides a tip. No one called the hotline between May and October, Odell said, but school officials may have provided the committee with tips about nonresident students.
At the start of an investigation, the committee searches for a student’s address and then observes the house for several months. Next, members sit down with the family and discuss options — either leaving the school or contacting the district’s liaison for homeless students. Parents may appeal the committee’s finding to the state commissioner of education, who rules whether the student can remain at the school or must leave. Each investigation costs the high school district about $15,000, and then Districts 24 and 13 are billed for their participation in the committee, according to Odell.
If, during the investigation, the committee determines that a family has falsified residential documents, the district could begin legal proceeding against the family. The district would need to prove to a judge that the family knowingly falsified materials, and then ask the judge to order the family to reimburse what they would otherwise pay for the student to attend, according to Christopher Shishko, an attorney from Farmingdale-based Guercio & Guercio. Shishko added that these proceedings are rare and that he has not litigated one.
The committee is limited in its authority to remove students living in one-family houses that have been converted to fit two families. “What people don’t understand is that if there’s an illegal housing issue, the village and town can take that on,” he said. “However, if it’s determined that the child is residing here, they are entitled to attend until the village or the town were to take action.”
The Village of Valley Stream started a program in January in which absentee landlords of single-family, two-family and townhouse properties (those with separate entrances) obtain rental permits from the building department that are valid for two years. This policy ensures that all residents are paying property taxes.
“Now that we got all the applications back — we received about 200 of them — some are illegal two families that they live in Florida and rent them out, and some are one families that they rent out also, so now we’ll start looking into the homeowners that did not register,” Tom McAleer, the village’s building superintendent, said.
The report comes as a number of parents claim that North and South High Schools are overcrowded, which they attribute to the district’s school-choice policy and to nonresidents attending the district. To address that issue, the high school district formed a Citizens Advisory Committee in August, comprised of Board of Education members, parents and teachers. It met on Oct. 26 and will meet again on Dec. 14.
“There was a discussion of residency, and it seemed the perception out there by some members of the committee that there’s a lot of people who are attending the schools who are not supposed to,” said Bill Stris, the president of the high school district’s Board of Education. “Years ago it was a big issue, [but] really it’s not, I don’t think, because we’re on top of it.”
He also encouraged members of the public to get involved. “If you know something, say something. We have a committee, we have a hotline and we pursue it,” he said.
The Residency Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet again on May 29 at 7 p.m. at the high school’s district office boardroom, at 1 Kent Road. At that meeting, they will present their report on how many nonresidents attended the districts illegally since May.