Tonawanda News

April 6, 2007

NT: Residency dispute forces child to be pulled from school

By Phil Dzikiy/dzikiyp@gnnewspaper.com

Gail Stone told the North Tonawanda School District she was moving.

Stone and her daughter, Samantha, moved from Kiel Street to Sommer Street, a move that’s practically around the block. She sent the district her new address and thought everything was taken care of for her fourth-grade daughter.

The move happened on Feb. 1. Almost two months passed, and the district sent Stone a letter stating she needed proof of residency, she said. The letter asked for numerous possible documents which proved her new residency, such as tax returns, Social Security or utility bills, Stone said.

Stone doesn’t have any of the items, she said. She doesn’t get Social Security, didn’t do her taxes yet and utilities are included in her rent.

She sent in mail delivered to her new home, pay stubs and a television bill, but it was not enough, she said.

“I sent them copies of everything I could,” Stone said. “That’s not good enough. I’m not hiding anything.”

And so, Stone pulled her daughter out of Gilmore Elementary School. Samantha Stone has now been out of school for two weeks, and with a solution nowhere insight, Gail Stone decided to home school her.

But the district wouldn’t let her do that, either, she said.

“I’m frustrated and angry,” Stone said. “I don’t know what they want from me. They know where I live. They’re sending me mail.”

Stone has talked to North Tonawanda Superintendent Vincent Vecchiarella and North Tonawanda Board of Education President Scott Schultz but has so far gotten nowhere, she said.

Multiple messages were left with secretaries at the North Tonawanda School District for Vecchiarella and interim assistant superintendent Patrick Holesko on Wednesday and Thursday. A 45-minute visit to the school administration building got no response.

Holesko was too busy to comment, he said. Vecchiarella did not return any messages.

School board president Scott Schultz has talked to Stone, he said. The issue of school residency usually only comes up when dealing with athletes. Schultz offered for an attorney to visit Stone’s home to verify the address, but Stone hung up on him, he said.

Stone is still waiting for the attorney to arrive and verify her residency, she said.

The issue is bureaucratic, but it shouldn’t be so hard to deal with, Schultz said.

“If you’re a resident of the district, you get to go to school here,” he said.

Schultz has not yet spoken to the district about the issue, he said.

Stone should soon have tax forms that she can turn in to prove her residency, Schultz said.

“I’m really trying here and I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “She’s upset.”

Part of the problem is that members of the district aren’t talking to one another, Stone said. Though Stone is fed up with the whole ordeal, there’s only one thing she wants.

“My kid needs to go back to school,” she said. “That’s all I’m looking for.”

Contact Phil Dzikiyat 693-1000, Ext. 114.