A committee that polices student residency in districts 13, 24 and the Central High School district found that 54 non-residents were attending the schools this year.
“We are making sound decisions that I think everyone realizes are sound decisions,” said Clifford Odell, the high schools’ assistant superintendent for personnel and administration.
The Residency Advisory Committee, which meets periodically throughout the school year, met on May 30 to discuss the committee’s effectiveness. Ten of these non-resident students attended District 13, 11 attended District 24 and 33 attended the high school district. The number of non-residential students was slightly higher this year as compared to the 2015-16 period, in which 52 students were removed from the districts.
According to Odell, there are several reasons why a non-resident would try to attend a Valley Stream school. Some find the school district to be a more convenient location and others are former residents who continue to send their children to Valley Stream schools. But the main reason, he said, is due to the education that a child would receive from the school district. “It’s a high quality school district, so a lot of people want to go here,” Odell said, “but we have to make sure they’re residents before they do so.”
Of the 54 non-residents from these districts, which were discovered between May 2016 and April 2017, 16 were discovered through investigations, of which the committee conducted 29 last year. Students are allowed to remain in the district if investigations find that they are legal residents or that they recently became homeless.
The committee’s investigations begin either when they receive a phone call through the residency hotline, or when a school official provides the committee with a tip. Sometimes, however, Odell said, investigations aren’t necessary because non-residential students will leave the district once the committee contacts them.
This year, three people called the residency hotline — one of these tips resulted in a student being removed.
At the start of an investigation, the committee will search for a student’s address and will observe the house for several months.
These investigations have to be conducted quickly and accurately, according to Christopher Shishko, an attorney from Guerico & Guerico, particularly in situations that involve the divorce or separation of parents.
“It’s not enough to just watch one house, you actually have to go to both residences and see if the child is living at one or the other,” Shishko told the committee. “The information has to be reliable and up-to-date.” Parents have the right to appeal the committee’s decision to the commissioner of education, but Odell said that this does not often happen.
Each investigation costs nearly $15,000, Odell said, and about $42,000 was spent on them this year. The high school district includes the costs of these investigations into its annual budget, he said, and “then 24 and 13 are billed and they pay as we go.”
Tony Iadevaio, a District 24 Board of Education trustee and member of the committee, said that when the committee was formed nearly 30 years ago, their meetings were filled with residents who were concerned that people were going to the schools without paying taxes, but that attendance has declined steadily at regular meetings.
“When they saw that [the school district] was not easy to get into, they left,” he said.
District 30 does not participate in the Central High School District’s Residency Advisory Committee because the district conducts its own investigations. District 30 Superintendent Nicholas Stirling said that it has its own investigative unit, which is more cost-effective, that goes out into the community and uses public records to determine whether a student is a resident. Stirling said he makes home visits if necessary.
The Residency Advisory Committee will meet next in the fall, but a date has not yet been set. In the meantime, residents can share tips by calling (516) 872-5677. Calls can be taken anonymously. District 30 residents who would like to submit tips should contact their elementary school directly.