The District 91 school board decided last week to put off a decision on hiring a firm to conduct residency investigations of students who are suspected of living outside the district. For several months the board has been working with a pair of contractors bidding to provide the service, and has found their work to be lackluster.
“We didn’t have anybody we wanted to go with,” school board member Glenn Garlisch said.
Garlisch and board member Sean Blaylock comprise an ad hoc committee charged with recommending to the full board how the district might handle such investigations in the future. The responsibility was given last September when community members were up in arms over what they perceived as a problem with “border jumpers” occupying desks in District 91.
Superintendent Randolph Tinder has said that in a district with roughly 1,000 students, Forest Park has relatively few families sneaking their children into the classrooms. The board still plans to hire someone to take over the responsibility that Tinder himself has handled in recent years.
The two firms responding to the board’s original solicitation were National Investigations based in Frankfort, Ill., and E.F. Rice, a private investigation firm headed by Forest Park Review columnist John Rice.
Both firms bid a rate of $65 per hour to the district, according to Tinder’s executive assistant.
The two firms were each given a current outstanding case to work on as a trial run. But the board was not overwhelmed with the work of either firm. The investigations took too long, according to Tinder.
“There is no strong recommendation for either one of them,” Blaylock said.
The board tabled the issue and may take it up again over the summer.
Tinder said this year he investigated 15 cases in which students were suspected of illegally occupying classroom space. In 10 of those cases Tinder concluded the student was living within the district. Two students were removed from the district and three cases are still pending. In one of those three cases the student will not be attending District 91 next year.
According to Tinder, this year’s results are on par with recent years. Typically, in two-thirds of the cases referred to the district it is ultimately determined that the student is indeed living in the district. Tinder noted that in recent years the number of cases referred to him has decreased from around 60 cases a year. While some members of the community have suspected that significant numbers of out-of-district students are attending Forest Park schools, Tinder has repeatedly said the practice isn’t widespread.
Since the start of the current school year, Tinder estimated he has put in 80 hours on residency cases. He is retiring in June and the board would prefer the new superintendent, Louis Cavallo, not do the investigations himself. Prior to Tinder taking up the responsibility, the district employed a social worker to handle the inquiries.
“We didn’t want our new superintendent to conduct those residency investigations,” Garlisch said.
By putting off the decision the board may receive additional applications and will at least be able to include Cavallo in the selection process, Garlisch said.