SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Just call her MaryEllen Herzog, bounty hunter.
In actuality, Herzog’s position with the Lakeland Central School District is assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services, but the administrator said her staff is cracking down on false residence claims within the district.
“If you live here, there’s really no stone we won’t leave unturned for your child to be successful,” Herzog said at Thursday night’s Lakeland Board of Education meeting. “But if you don’t live here, we’re going to find you.”
Since the start of the 2012-13 school year, Herzog has identified nine students in the district who were not Lakeland residents. Those students have since been enrolled in the correct districts, she said. Herzog believes the increase in discovering the false claims is due to a stricter proof of residency process.
“There have been folks who have come forward and claimed that they lived here, but through that registration process, that has been proven to not be accurate,” she said.
Herzog said much of the claims come from families that move out of the district to a surrounding community and simply decide to keep their child in Lakeland.
“Some of that, I don’t know if it’s ignorance about that because there have been people will say ‘but I don’t need a bus, I’m driving them from Somers, or wherever it might be. So what’s the problem?’” she said. “In reality, of course, that’s the problem. You don’t live in this district.”
Along with out-of-district students, Lakeland has also identified 42 students as homeless and provides needed services for those students. They are not considered non-residents.
“In terms of students that are doubled up with friends or family within the district, we have a different method for supporting those kids,” Herzog said. “As long as they’re not contributing to the income of that household, then they can be declared as homeless. We certainly have seen that increase in the district.”