The announcement made by Roselle Park School District (RPSD) school superintendent Pedro Garrido that 1½% of the student population has yet to completely re-register drew comments and questions from Board Of Education (BOE) members at last might’s meeting.
“As of today, there are 29 students that still have not completed the re-registration,” said Mr. Garrido, “They are still in the buildings. We will find out what our legal actions can be. We will work obviously with our attorneys.”
The school superintendent went on to state that currently, the matriculation of registered students is 2,049. This is just two less than what the student population was recorded in June of this year. This increase of over 70 children from previous years is in large part due to the introduction of full-day kindergarten.
Board member Loren Harms asked if there was anything that could be done presently, adding, “We’re into one month already. If it proceeds any longer, we’re not going to be able to throw them out. And we’ve been in that predicament where we procrastinate, we don’t follow through, and we end up paying, so our re-registration goes for naught.”
Mr. Garrido replied, “There is a law in New Jersey [that says] you have to, even if students do not have any documentation, they need to be registered and placed in the school building and there’s a 21-day law that we have to abide by . . . I will certainly work with our attorneys to find out legally what we can do.”
The actual law was not cited by Mr. Garrido nor the Board’s attorney but a review of NJSA 18A:38-1 and NJAC 6A:3-1.6, there is mention of a 21-day appeal period where a child shall not be removed from school during the 21-day period in which a guardian may contest a district’s decision. If an appeal is not filed or not successful, tuition may be assessed. No mention was made at the meeting whether a formal notification of ineligibility was made against the 29 students’ parents/guardians.
“So you might be saying that the law is going to tell us that we have to keep these 29 students?”, asked Mr. Harms.
“No,” said Mr. Garrido, “There are certain things we can do. Obviously, there are residential investigations that can be made. We can certainly have a Board hearing if we feel that certain members of the student body do not live in town. We have letters that come right from the state. Of course, they have the right to go to the Commission of Education and pursue that matter there. But we will pursue whatever legal system we have in our favor to try to get whatever documents or – if they don’t live in town – to make sure that they’re out of the district. There’s a procedure in place that we have to follow and we will do that as soon as the time comes.”
Mr. Harms stated, “It just bothers me that we spend the time, effort, and money to make sure that we are educating the students that have residence, that are domiciled in this particular borough, and now we have 29 students that are missing an insurance. What kind of insurance are they missing [that] they can’t get a form? I know they were just an example but if it’s that small of an issue, why wouldn’t they have it? I’m having a very difficult time understanding . . . That’s a lot of students because last year, if I remember, we only had a total of four that we found that did not reside in the borough. Well, right now I know that 29 might not reside in the borough . . . And I’m paying for 29, and the rest of audience and out there is paying for 29 people that don’t belong here.”
Rodric Bowman, another Board member entered the conversation, asking, “Mr. Garrido, just to clarify, there are 29 students that are not [re-]registered for various circumstances. Would it be like various situations that they may be missing certain documents?”
“I think a majority [are] missing one document or very few documents. I don’t have the numbers,” responded the school superintendent.
Mr. Bowman continued, “So you’re working with the attorneys to find an alternative to some of those. For example [with] bank statements, some people don’t have bank accounts, so there has to be some type of alternative for certain situations that still verifies that someone lives in the district.”
Board member Troy Gerten added, “Am I correct in assuming then it’s once we reach that threshold of the number of days in school, then it will be that normal residency investigation, residency analysis day-in as part of our operational policy in the district. So we have just not reached that threshold yet? If they don’t provide it, we are moving into that phase?”
“That, Mr. Gerten, correct me if I’m wrong, will be costing taxpayers money, correct?”, asked Mr. Harms, “It’s 29 students that aren’t registered, I’m going to say legally and I apologize for the word I use, so how many of the 29 might only need a bank account?”
Mr. Harms was concerned that a large number of those families might be missing more than a simple bank statement but a document that proves they live in the borough. He explained, “Now you know over the years we’ve had this where people think because they have homes or they have businesses in here that they pay taxes on those particular dwellings, that they’re allowed to attend our schools. That’s not the case. They have to be domiciled in the Borough of Roselle Park . . . I’m not apologizing for making a big stink but this is 29 students . . . and that’s going to start costing money because now we have to hire this investigator. Because they can’t produce, we pay. I’m not understanding that at all. Why should I have to pay or the taxpayers pay for somebody just because the law says that we have to do that? Maybe the law should come up here and start paying for their education until they’re proven that they are or not instead of having this. We’re having it difficult now with trying to keep our budgets tight and all that, now we’re going to be paying for 29 more students and you know where that’s going to go. We’ll be talking about this at the end of January or February next year.”
After the meeting, when asked, Mr. Harms wanted to express that he was not blaming nor punishing the students because he knows every child deserves an education but that public education is free in the place where a child is domiciled and if they do not live in Roselle Park, they should attend public schools where they live.
The next BOE meeting is scheduled for October 4th at 7 p.m. in the EJF/Aldene auditorium.