District wraps up residency issue

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 14, 2012

GROSSE POINTES — The Grosse Pointe Public School System is planning to send a letter to families by Dec. 1 to explain the district’s residency requirements, and it appears the matter has been put to rest at this time.

There have been heated discussions over the last few school board meetings, but the administration discussed the outcome of several months of conversation and planning during a board meeting late last month.

A document from the administration spells out the history of the residency discussions, what has been done to date and what is being looked at for the 2013-2014 school year.

Superintendent Thomas Harwood also mentioned that the district has experienced less than 1 percent of students each year having to be excluded from enrollment due to residency issues.

“There has been some theory that there’s 400 or 500 students that are somehow not residents of our school district,” Harwood said. “We don’t believe that, as an administration, to be true.” 

Currently, there are a number of things the district does to ensure residency rules are being complied with, like requiring all new students to verify enrollment and sign an affidavit verifying residency. Leases are verified as often as monthly, and the district follows up on suspicious incidents, like returned school mail.

For those who have reason to believe a student is attending the district illegally, the district has a way for residents to submit tips for investigation.

The district is working with local cities to help with a process for cross-checking residency. 

The district also can charge a prorated amount of up to $13,030 in tuition to the parents or guardians of students found in violation of the residency policy.

The administration is working on other enforcement ideas for next year. For instance, they are working on adding a couple of key groups of students for reverification.

“We would look at 100 percent of incoming sixth-graders, which are currently fifth-graders moving to sixth grade, and all incoming ninth-graders, which are eighth-graders moving to ninth grade, would be required to verify their residency,” Harwood said.

“We’d also do a 25 percent random audit (each year),” he said.

Those people would have to sign new affidavits and proof of residency.

Because the district is planning to send the letter to parents electronically, board Trustee Cindy Pangborn asked the administration to make sure the letter gets to parents who don’t have access to the Internet.

“They have lists of parents who do not have Internet access,” Pangborn said of the school principals. “We can get an actual letter in the mail to those parents.”

Diane Karabetsos, of Residents for Residency, a group of residents who have been fighting to get tougher on residency issues in the district, was one of a few residents who spoke at the latest meeting on the residency discussions.

She thanked the administration and the cities for their help and work on this.

“We’re all working together and I appreciate the cooperation with the school system and the cities,” Karabetsos said.

Because there had been comments previously that children had been followed home, Karabetsos wanted to clarify that it didn’t involve anyone from Residents for Residency, because they only turn in tips to the district.