Education Council Cries Out Against District-Hopping Students

Education Council Cries Out Against District-Hopping Students

Queens’ school district 24 is frustrated with the current lack of enforcement meant to prevent students from hopping district lines to get into schools of their choice.

Last month, District 24’s Community Education Council sent a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott expressing their discontent. The council asked for a clearer process and tighter enforcement in a system members say is full of holes and tangled in bureaucracy.

“I just constantly find it frustrating that the current DOE system is layered in so much red tape that if you can even get through it, it takes months and months and years and years to get things resolved,” said Peter Vercessi, vice president of Community Education Council 24.

District 24 covers Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst and Corona, and at CEC 24’s meeting last week Department of Education representatives called it the most overcrowded district in the city. They cited Corona specifically as busting at the seams.

So it makes sense that in the midst of rezoning a particularly packed school in Maspeth, parents have raised the issue.

At CEC 24’s last meeting on Nov. 22, multiple parents voiced their frustration with a zoning plan that’s already been thrown out once and is creeping toward a February deadline.

“I want to just make sure that when the bottom line comes, that what’s said and talked about when we’re not around is what’s the right thing for the children — and if it’s a difficult decision, what’s the right thing for the majority of children,” said T.J. Lydon, who has two daughters at PS/IS 49.

That school specifically has brought to the surface issues of parents hopping zones to get their kids into a school of their choice. At public meetings over the past two months, some parents have come forward with horror stories alleging that up to half the students in some classes in District 24 should be attending a different school.

Although they don’t have a formal tally, CEC members say this is a problem at PS/IS 49 and throughout the district.

“In unofficial discussions we know that dozens upon dozens of parents are falsifying addresses,” Vercessi said.

The problem may be systemic though because, apparently, it isn’t all that difficult. In a presentation he plans to give to the CEC, Vercessi says there’s an easily abused method to get around the system.

According to the Chancellor’s Regulations, the DOE requires two forms of documentation of a student’s address: A gas or electric bill, official documentation from a government agency, a lease/deed/mortgage, a property tax bill, a water bill, or official payroll documentation.

However, if a homeowner provides those two proofs and a signed affidavit from parents saying they rent at that location, anyone can claim they live at that address.

“It’s a form that basically a person can fill out that says I’m renting at this address,” Vercessi said. “That one is very, very easy to lie about.”

If the school suspects something fishy, they must initiate an investigation into the address within 30 days of any original complaint.

If the principal decides the student is in the wrong district, the case is then forwarded to the Integrated Services Center for that borough who provides an attendance expert to review the case.

The case is then forwarded to the Executive Director of Borough Enrollment who decides where the student should be transferred and when — but not before the principal sends a letter notifying the parents of the decision and their right to appeal the decision at the Integrated Services Center.

“It’s a complicated mess,” Vercessi said. “Parents could literally just block and block and block and deny and deny and deny and deny until this goes on for years.”

By Jeremiah Dobruck

Forum Newsgroup Photo By Jeremiah Dobruck



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