The Komarek School District 94 board on July 12 voted to pursue collecting $3,800 from a family whose son attended the school last year despite living outside the district. This is the first time D94 has attempted to collect tuition from a non-resident family, said Superintendent Neil Pellicci.
The district has identified several families living outside the district in recent years, and has confronted them. Typically, said Pellicci, the families withdraw their children voluntarily. In this case, the mother of the seventh-grade student asked for a residency hearing before the school board.
“Our law firm feels we should pursue it because we have gone to this length,” said Pellicci. The district has invested approximately $1,500 in the investigation, he added.
According to Pellicci, the district began its investigation in March after the student began telling classmates he lived in Bellwood and not at the Broadview address the family had given as its address at registration.
After the investigation began, “it was clear the child was coming from Bellwood and that the family never established a residence in Broadview,” Pellicci said. “They claimed it was an aunt and uncle, but there was no blood relation. They never lived there at all.”
The district contacted the woman in April about their doubts. When the woman persisted in telling them she lived at the Broadview address, investigators continued to monitor the residence.
D94 uses a firm comprising four former police and FBI investigators to do its residency checks. It is the same firm employed by Riverside-Brookfield High School.
“There was evidence they were not coming to Broadview at all,” Pellicci said.
In May, Pellicci notified the family that the student could remain in school for the rest of the year, but that the family would be charged for tuition beginning with the start of the district’s investigation in March. The per-pupil cost to educate a student at Komarek for an entire school year is about $10,000, Pellicci said.
The student won’t be back for 2011-12. The student’s mother reportedly told Pellicci the family had moved to west suburban Berkeley.
“Our goal is to catch these at registration, but sometimes we don’t,” said Pellicci.
District officials do routinely prevent non-resident families from making it past the registration process, said Pellicci.
“We have at least 10 to 15 per registration period,” he said.