July 30, 2008

Officials Cracking Down on Out-of-Town Pupils

By Ann DeMatteo

By Ann DeMatteo Assistant Metro Editor

School officials in Hamden and North Haven are continuing their quest to root out students whose parents don't pay taxes to the town.

In Hamden, parents or guardians have until Aug. 15 to return an "affidavit in support of student residency" to prove that their children actually live in Hamden.

The affidavit must be signed in the presence of a witness and returned to the school board at 60 Putnam Ave. in the stamped envelope provided no later than Aug. 15. Students whose parents or guardians do not return a completed affidavit by Aug. 15 will not be permitted to begin school on Aug. 28, Superintendent of Schools Frances M. Rabinowitz said. Only Rabinowitz can grant exceptions for good cause.

The North Haven Board of Education also has been working on residency issues, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Patricia K. Brozek. Starting in the spring, parents of third-, sixth- and ninth-graders were asked to verify their children's home addresses and re-register for school. About 65 parents did not comply by the end of June, and were told they could re-register at the school board office on Linsley Street, Brozek said. Those students in question did not receive teacher assignments and schedules. Up to 15 others who are in different grades are being investigated.

If school officials receive word that a child may not really live in North Haven, the matter is investigated, and the family has to provide a driver's license, mortgage statement, tax bill or utility bill, and also has to sign an affidavit. "We continue to be vigilant and we encourage people to give us information. The best way to crack down on residency is the information that comes from the public," she said.

"If an affidavit is signed, we believe that the information is forthright and honest. If it's not, there are fines up to $10,000," Brozek said.

In several cases when it was found that a student didn't really live in town, the student was allowed to finish the school year and then was told he or she had to register where they live for the coming school year. Most of the people who violate residency in North Haven schools really live in Hamden, New Haven or East Haven.

"With all due respect, we want to provide services for parents who are taxpayers," Brozek said.

In the last three years, Hamden schools withdrew more than 100 non-residents who were illegally attending Hamden schools, saving taxpayers more than $250,000, said school board Chairman Michael C. D'Agostino.

"The unfortunate fact is that the estimated cost to educate each student in Hamden now exceeds $12,000. Hamden residents simply cannot continue to bear that burden for non-resident students," D'Agostino said.

D'Agostino and board members Austin Cesare and Valarie Stone make up the Residency Committee, which recommended new directives and improvements in the registration process that were approved by the full Board of Education. The residency affidavits were part of that plan.

Staff at all schools will be reviewing information on all students to make sure that the required documentation is in their files. New students will have to complete affidavits as part of the registration process.

"It's a credit to the school district that so many students want to come here, but the affidavit provides the ability to have teeth in going after people who are defrauding us," Cesare said.

The affidavit will also be available in Spanish at 60 Putnam Ave. If such a translation is needed, call Wendy Ocone at 407-2202.

Hamden residents with questions should call the superintendent's office at 407-2090.

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