Forty-two students were removed from Valley Stream schools this year because they did not live in the districts whose schools they attended, according to the latest report from the Residency Advisory Committee.
The committee, which meets twice a year, is responsible for monitoring residency compliance in elementary districts 13 and 24, as well as the Central High School District. According to the committee’s report, nine of the 42 students attended District 13, 15 attended District 24, and 18 attended the high school district. The total is 12 fewer than the 54 who were found to be improperly attending the schools in the 2016-17 school year.
The nonresident students were discovered after investigations were conducted between May 2017 and April 2018. This school year, 34 investigations were carried out by private investigation firms, and 42 investigations were conducted by the district’s residency officer, Newville Roberts.
According to Clifford Odell, the Central High School District’s assistant superintendent for personnel and administration, who heads the RAC, each investigation costs about $25,000 and is funded by the district’s residency budget. That figure is roughly the same as district’s per-pupil cost, which is more than $24,600. Districts 13 and 24 are billed by the Central District for investigations of their students.
Investigations begin either when a district receives a call on the residency advisory hotline or when a school official provides committee members with a tip. At times, investigations are unnecessary because a number of non-resident students leave a district once a school official contacts them, Odell said.
This year, four people called the residency hotline, which resulted in two investigations, one unfounded and one that is still pending, Roberts said.
At the start of the process, an investigator searches for a student’s address and watches the house for several months. Next, school offiicials sit down with the student’s family and discuss options, which might include leaving the school or contacting the district’s liaison for homeless students. Parents can appeal the committee’s finding to the state education commissioner, who decides whether the student can remain at the school or must leave.
If an investigation reveals that a student does not live in a district, Valley Stream school officials ask the student’s parents or guardians to contact them. If the child is asked to leave the district, and the parents do not send the student to his or her rightful school, then Child Protective Services might be called, because the parents would effectively be denying the child an education. But, Odell noted, “we would certainly work with the families to start.”
According to Chistopher Shisko, an attorney with Farmingdale-based Guercio & Guercio, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has been scrutinizing districts’ residency decisions, and he warned members of the RAC that surveillance should take more than one to two months, and should take place “not only at the one location, but at the location you think the student lives at.”
During ongoing discussions on the district’s waiver policy, an ad hoc Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommended to the school board that students re-register each year to ensure that they still live in the district. The Board of Education left the decision up to the RAC, which did not discuss it at its meeting last month.
The RAC will hold its next meeting in the fall, at a date to be determined. The districts will also hold full-day registration and re-registration drives at each of the schools on June 11 and Aug. 15.
District 30 is not a member of the RAC, and instead conducts its own investigations, which Superintendent Nicholas Stirling said are more cost-effective than those of the RAC. The investigations cost $50 per hour, he said. District 30 taxpayers pay roughly $22,800 per pupil to educate children in the district, according to an Empire Center for Public Policy report, which tracks school spending throughout the state.
This year, District 30 officials removed two families that district officials determined were not residents. The district still has five cases pending for the school year, and residents who believe a potential non-resident student is attending school in the district should call their local schools.