Whether perception reflects reality, District 91 board members said it’s clear residents are concerned by reports of “border jumping,” in which children who do not live in Forest Park are illegally occupying desks in elementary and middle schools.
As a result, the board said at its Sept. 14 meeting that it will look into hiring someone whose job it will be to investigate student registrations. Superintendent Randolph Tinder has handled those inquiries since the last registration investigator resigned two years ago.
Tinder, who will retire at the end of this school year, said those investigations are time consuming and the board may prefer that the new superintendent not carry the responsibility.
“Of everything I do, this is the single largest amount of time,” Tinder said.
During the previous two school years a total of roughly 20 children were discovered to be non-residents, Tinder said, or about one-third of the referrals received by his office. In the years preceding the 2004-05 school year, the residency of more than twice as many students was regularly called into question with the same percentage of students being asked to leave.
With approximately 1,000 students in the district, Tinder said the problem is not terribly widespread, nor does it drastically affect state aide money. The state contributes roughly $460 per student to the district, Tinder said.
“We wouldn’t keep a kid to get that $460,” Tinder said. “By the same token, if we lose a kid that $460 isn’t going to make that big a difference.”
Glenn Garlisch, vice president of the district’s board of education, said one of his priorities as a school board member was to better understand the issue of student residency. Garlisch said he has personally staked out area el stations and bus stops to see if the village is getting an influx of non-residents.
“I don’t think registrations are a problem,” Garlisch said.
Board member Francis Mott said his family is sometimes frustrated with having to prove their children’s residency each year, and that it may be a small portion of residents spurring the issue.
“I think it’s a vocal minority that has an issue with the residency thing,” Mott said.
Garlisch and board member Sean Blaylock will solicit cost estimates from area investigators and present them to the board at a later date.