The time-honored perception in Everett Public Schools has been that many of the students in the classrooms don’t necessary live in the city.
It has been a rumor or innuendo for years upon years, and now the School Committee and City Administration are looking to bring in more stringent requirements for students to prove residency – as Everett is one of the most lenient in the area on the issue.
“There were times in the past when people would say they knew our star football player lives in Boston and they needed to be an investigation,” said School Committeeman Frank Parker. “They say that because they see him get on a bus going into Boston. It ends up he was homeless and going into the shelter at Youth Harbor. There is fact and there is perception. We need to operate on fact so there isn’t such perceptions out there.”
The plan proposed, which was suggested by the City Administration, was to create an official policy about how to prove residency so one can enroll or stay enrolled in the public schools. At this point, there is no official policy.
Upon enrolling in kindergarten or upon entry into a grade, one just has to show a utility bill. Once they show that one time, there is not additional follow up in Everett about residency.
In other communities, Parker said, they require two or three forms of proof. One community requires an affidavit from a landlord, and a cancelled check to prove that the family paid rent on the apartment.
“Right now our students are at the minimum, which is one form of verification,” he said. “What we might need to do is have two or three forms. We’re looking to expand the requirement for verification to understand who is coming in and who lives here and who doesn’t.”
Chair Tom Abbruzzese said this has been a long-time perception of the district, and maybe it is time to find out just how many students should not be in Everett.
“There is a feeling out there, whether it’s rumor, innuendo or maybe it’s truthful,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to find out is whether there are a lot of students in Everett that don’t live in Everett…When you think about it, a utility bill doesn’t really establish a lot. Anybody can get a bill and put an address on it.”
School Committeeman Lester MacLaughlin was skeptical, wondering if it was a big problem.
“Is this really a big problem we have, or is this a make work for people we hire problem?” he asked.
Parker said estimates are that there likely aren’t enough students to populate an entire school, but there might be enough to make a difference in some school populations.
MacLaughlin voted against the measure.
•SCHOOL COMMITTEE TO REVIEW BLUE RIBBON REPORT
The School Committee voted unanimously to accept the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force that was presented to a joint meeting of the School Committee and City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Many of the recommendations in the report were focused on the School Committee, and members said they are making progress on many of the recommendations.
In fact, Parker said they had already instituted two of the recommendations.
One of those focused on creating a Budget Committee made up of the entire Committee, which was accomplished during a sub-committee meeting Monday night.
The second dealt with conflict of interest, and warning the Committee members to be careful because two-thirds of the members have a family member on the School Department payroll.
Parker said they have held state-required trainings on the subject called ‘Charting the Course.’ They held one earlier this year, and will hold one early next year too.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky has made a bit of hay on the matter, making mention that the School Committee shouldn’t be running an employment agency.
Abbruzzese took exception to those comments on Monday.
“I contacted the State Ethics Commission, and I’m completely unaware of any non-compliance of anyone on this School Committee that has relatives in the School Department,” he said. “I’m happy to debate anyone on that, especially on particular gentleman that has a problem with this. I’m happy to debate it along the lines of the issue because I know there aren’t any issues.”