Sag Harbor School Board Updates Student Residency Policy

Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves, left, will have to be replaced when she retires in January. Christine Sampson photo

After rejecting an updated “age and residency” policy governing school admissions last fall, the Sag Harbor School Board revised and adopted a newer one on Monday.

In the interim, the new policy was transformed by school board members’ observations on the impact of housing conditions in the Sag Harbor area. It’s widely known that families often move and rent out their homes in the summer to make extra money, and that they frequently search for affordable, year-round housing.

According to board member Susan Lamontagne, it also happens that “some families come here, rent something to get their kids in the school system and then go back to their home, be it on Shelter Island, East Hampton and whatnot.”

Acting on her suggestion, the school board voted 6-0, with board member Susan Schaefer abstaining, to adopt a policy with a more specific requirement that parents or guardians “shall notify the district within 30 days” — instead of a simple “promptly notify” — of a change in address.

“I think it adds a little more teeth,” Ms. Lamontagne said.

She also asked the board to specify that the requirement applies to both renters and homeowners, but the board declined to act on that suggestion.

The updated policy specifies Social Security cards are not to be required during the registration process. It continues to require proof of age, such as a birth certificate, baptismal record, passport or other such document, as well as proof of immunizations.

Proof of a home address within the school district is also required, such as a mortgage, deed, lease, statement from a landlord, utility bill, pay stub, and income tax form. For those who do not speak English, the district will still be required to “meaningfully communicate” registration information. The policy will require families to verify information again when children are in the third, sixth and ninth grades. Tuition can be charged to families who are found to be in violation of the residency policy, and the superintendent can review each case for exceptions.

“The Board of Education is mindful that moving from one residence and school district to another causes disruption,” the policy reads. “Therefore, a student who moves out of the district is permitted to remain in his/her school for 45 days or through the end of the then-current term during which they switched residences, whichever is longer.”

Board member Chris Tice asked superintendent Katy Graves if tighter rules could be enacted, such as requiring at least two proofs of residency.

“I think we have to be extra diligent,” she said, out of fairness to the families outside of Sag Harbor paying tuition to attend school here.

Ms. Graves responded by saying the policy was based on the most current information handed down by the New York State Education Department.

“I have not worked this hard” on boosting out-of-district tuition “just to give our resources away,” she said.

Superintendent Search Firm Hired

The Sag Harbor School Board on Monday unanimously accepted superintendent Ms. Graves’s retirement letter, then voted to hire School Leadership LLC to manage the process of finding a new chief educational officer for Sag Harbor. The contract will not exceed $19,500, according to school board records.

Ms. Tice said of the four search firms the district interviewed, School Leadership “would best understand the DNA of our school district” because they have worked with Sag Harbor during its past three superintendent searches.

The board will kick off its search May 16 and pledged opportunities for community participation in the process.