The topic of illegal students has become an especially thorny issue in school districts’ sides, one that many are addressing with employees or contractors – typically former investigators – dedicated to ferreting out families who place their children in districts in where they otherwise should not be enrolled.
Joe Wendling is one such investigator, working for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District in investigating that the child or family adheres to the residency requirements of the district.
There were a total of five cases brought before Wendling’s attention so far during the 2012-13 school year, with one student being removed from the district. Two of the cases are still being investigated and it was found that the remaining two fulfilled the district’s residency requirements.
During a meeting of the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Board of Education on November 26 at the Manor Oaks School, Wendling said that while he had put holds on his investigations due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, they had found that about 25 percent of cases were successful in warranting further investigation.
As a matter of policy, the district investigates all the addresses of its pre-k students since the district only has 55 spaces for its universal pre-k program.
“We want to make sure that everyone who got those seats was a legitimate case,” superintendent Robert Katulak said.
Tips also originate from the director of pupil personnel services, whom the public can contact if they are aware of any illegal residency situation. At the high school level, if the high school has dealt with families, they automatically notify the superintendent.
“We automatically look up to see whether any children attending our district are affected by their actions,” Wendling said of the high school. “There have been cases to where I’ve investigated and I have forwarded to them and they have taken appropriate action.”
During the 2011-12 school year, between 10-12 cases were referred to Wendling for follow up.
Wendling also noted that the Village of New Hyde Park is also cracking down on illegal one-family homes that may be housing multiple families, which may include small children attending the area schools. Situations may also exist where some families own two homes – for example, one home in Nassau and one in Queens – and when they register for school, they bring the utility bills (one of the documents required for registration) of the home in Nassau since the Long Island schools are for the most part higher ranked than those in New York City. The main criteria for determining a student’s residency is where they sleep at night.
Superintendent Robert Katulak said that the district might accept a tuition student on special circumstances, giving the hypothetical example where a student who had been in the district since the beginning of their academic career moved halfway through sixth grade but the parents wished for them to finish at the elementary level. In that case the district may accept tuition for the second half of the school year from January on.
If any resident has an issue that they might be aware of they may contact the director of pupil personnel services.