Source: Grosse Pointe News Online

Residency still hot-button issue

by A.J. Hakim

September 27, 2012

In the words of Strother Martin’s Captain, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” In the case of the Grosse Pointe Public School System central office, it’s regarding language in and implementation of a statement of residency affidavit.

Questions of residency and deterrence resurfaced Monday at the regular meeting of the GPPSS Board of Education. Members of the community group Residents for Residency, central office administration and members of the board voiced their displeasure in the continuing miscommunications between the groups.

“I think this issue of our position and progress is confusing,” board treasurer Brendan Walsh said. “And I think it’s important for people to understand, including me sitting here, where the hell we are. Because I don’t know where we are with this thing.”

At issue is a statement of residency affidavit, a one-page notarized document detailing the district’s intentions to pursue civil (up to $13,030 in tuition) and criminal action against anyone found in violation of residency. Noncompliance to the document’s assigned due date, according to document language, results in that student’s immediate removal. Residents for Residency wanted the affidavit available and distributed to the district’s 5,000-plus families before school started. That

hasn’t happened.

“I think people listening are confused,” resident Thomas Lizza said. “We were led to believe this affidavit was going to be in place immediately for all students. Not new students, not a pilot program, not to try it to see if we’ll like it, not if somebody doesn’t like it … You have thousands of people that are dissatisfied with your resident enforcement.”

According to superintendent Tom Harwood, a draft currently exists and administration plan on implementing the affidavit as a pilot in early December, giving parents about six weeks before the second semester starts to sign, notarize and return the document. They delayed implementation, Harwood said, due to timing and resulting potential disruptions to student learning and language calling for immediate removal of students whose parents fail to return the document.

He used an example of a 95 percent return rate, in a district of 8,373 students, meaning dismissing about 400 students.

“Telling 400 students to remove themselves, to not be allowed to come to our district, who’ve already pre-enrolled, I find offensive,” Harwood said. “We can put it out there, but nobody’s answering the question, be it the Residents for Residency group, ‘What do we do with the 400 kids, the 400 families that don’t fill it out?’ Do we tell them you just can’t come to school tomorrow? Or you can’t come the next day?

“If there’s confusion about where we’re at,” he continued, “we can be better at communicating that. But from our perspective, we’ve put in place the things that have come forth from Residents for Residency.”