Copyright © 2014, Hartford Courant
By Peter Marteka
During the 2013-14 school year, officials investigated 243 of 677 students who registered GLASTONBURY — As a former Glastonbury police officer, Keith O’Brien knows the importance of a stakeout.
As the school system’s residency, emergency planning and security coordinator, he uses that experience when he’s investigating the residency of newly registered students. Some of those stakeouts in the 2013-14 school year led to the discovery that 61 students who were enrolled in the town’s nine schools or the regional magnet school did not live in town.
“Sometimes it takes five to 10 days of sitting there to establish whether they are living there or not,” he said. O’Brien said he has investigated 243 of the 677 new students who registered in the school district in the past school year.
“Ten days is a pretty good standard. If I do 10 days and they are not there, it gives me a little more [ammunition] because they can always say, ‘Well, I wasn’t home for a couple days.’ I can come back with, ‘Well, I’ve been here for 10 days.’ We can usually catch them not telling all the truth,” O’Brien said.
The town currently does not involve law enforcement in the cases in which a student is found to be a resident of another town; it simply asks that the student withdraw from local schools.
At an annual per-pupil cost of $13,000 in Glastonbury, the costs of educating those 61 nonresident students could have been $793,000. The residency investigations are done throughout the school year, so the actual length of attendance and total cost can vary.
Board of education member Douglas C. Foyle applauded O’Brien’s efforts, adding that the 61 students “are appropriately going somewhere else.”
“At the very least it is three classrooms, or $13,000 per student,” he said. “You can get up to $1 million real quickly. I always come at it from the perspective of someone who is working and sacrificing to live in Glastonbury and paying taxes. This honors their sacrifice by saying there’s not someone here taking part in the education and not paying taxes and living here.”
Superintendent Alan B. Bookman said that the non-resident students came from neighboring and area towns and cities including East Hartford, Hartford, Manchester, East Hampton, Wethersfield, West Hartford and South Windsor. He said that in many cases, families moved out of town, but parents wanted students to continue in Glastonbury schools. Students who were asked to leave the school were registered in grades kindergarten through Grade 12
Bookman said the town’s residency rules require students to live in town. The lone exception, he said, is if a student is a senior and his or her family moves out of town. That student would be allowed to finish the senior year, he said.
“I think it’s fair,” Bookman said. “We are following all the rules of the state. We want to be fair to the students and fair to everybody.”
Bookman said he does the initial legwork into student registrations, but if there are questions, O’Brien is called in to investigate. In the 2012-13 school year, of the 633 newly registered students, officials determined that 48 did not belong in local schools; in 2011-12, that number was 49 of 667; and in 2010-11, 42 students of 592 new registrants were determined not to be residents.
O’Brien said that a new streamlined, centralized online registration process has allowed him to verify residency in a “more timely fashion.” Parents and guardians may register students online and then go to the board of education offices to provide the necessary documentation, instead of going to the individual schools. He said that many registrations were verified online or by confirming leases with landlords.
O’Brien said that many of the 243 residency verifications in the 2013-14 school year required home visits, with many turning into lengthy investigations.
“They were cases that just didn’t feel right,” he said.
Copyright © 2014, Hartford Courant
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