LIVINGSTON, NJ - The registration of new students and the re-registration of students already in the district was a topic of concern for the Livingston Board of Education at its Monday meeting at Livingston High School.
The concern stemmed from other school districts, such as Millburn, reevaluating their registration procedures for students.
To attend a Livingston public school and receive an education in the district, students must meet several requirements. A student must live with a parent or guardian. The parent or guardian can be either a homeowner or renter, or must live with a family friend who is a Livingston homeowner or renter. Sufficient documentation must be provided to establish proof of residence.
(A full list of requirements can be found at http://www.livingston.org//site/Default.aspx?PageID=16716)
Proof of residence can be a complex issue that often involves many competing factors, according to District Business Administrator Steven Robinson. One example he cited was the case of children of divorced parents.
“If a child lives part-time with his father in Livingston and with his mother in West Orange, and they share joint custody, the child could attend school either district,” he said.
Board member Arthur Altman provided several examples of how extra students could prove detrimental to the education of current students while also providing an extra cost to taxpayers.
“Even a handful of students who don’t belong [in district] could prove to be a tipping point and cause hardship for students,” Altman said. He cited the possibility of a district student being excluded from classes if a non-district student filled their slot.
“A district’s resources are finite. Teacher time, administrator time -- those are finite things. It could affect athletic rosters or class sizes. If enough students sign up for a prospective class, the class would go into effect and we might have to find a teacher for that class.”
Various methods for improving the district’s registration procedures. Altman explained that the Millburn School District is considering experimenting with a new form of registration software.
“We could do a pilot program of re-registering one grade. If it turns out it isn’t a significant problem, we don’t have to spend the money to overhaul everything,” Altman said.
Board member Ronnie Konner cautioned against redirecting too many resources towards registration.
“If it turns out it’s an issue we should address it,” Konner said. “But we don’t want to distract from our curricular and academic goals.”
Superintendent James O’Neill related that in his past experience in other districts, stringent efforts to obtain proof of residence can have an alienating effect on residents.
“Residents might have one child in the school system for nine years or whatever, then when a sibling comes along, it’s annoying for them to have to go [through the proof of residence process],” O’Neill said. “Many involved and supportive community members can get frustrated and alienated if you keep demanding things from them.”
O’Neill also noted that many reports of non-residence will often come through word-of-mouth or resident tips. Student representative Dylan Camche warned against creating an environment of mistrust.
“I don’t think we want to foster a culture of investigating and reporting on your neighbors,” he said. “I think we should focus on other ways to address the problem.”