By Joe Anuta
A Middle Village principal echoed calls last Thursday to rein in parents who give false addresses in order to place their children in high-performing schools around the borough.
“The burden of proof for residency is not that difficult,” said Anthony Lombardi, principal of PS/IS 49 at 79-15 Penelope Ave.
Lombardi was speaking at a rezoning hearing held by Community Education Council District 24.
The meeting featured a plan by the city Department of Education to relieve overcrowding at the elementary school by making its school zone smaller, so prospective kindergarten students would instead go to either PS 87 or PS 58, two nearby institutions.
Lombardi’s school is bursting at the seams and rezoning is needed to grant him some relief, he said.
But the practice of giving false addresses contributes to swelling class sizes, he said.
It brings in children from outside of the zone and when the school reaches its breaking point, as PS/IS 49 has done this year, it is the parents who actually live in the school zone who get pushed to other schools.
Many of the parents use what is called an affidavit. They can get a letter signed by a landlord and notarized that indicates the child lives in the district. The school then has to take the child in.
Lombardi has sent attendance officers out to check on a handful of cases. Once he successfully outed parents who lied. In another case, though, the affidavit was accurate.
But the issue is that he had to send someone in the first place.
“I would like to see affidavits eliminated, frankly,” he said.
The DOE did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
There are several reasons why parents might want their children to attend PS/IS 49.
Parents at the meeting showered Lombardi with praise, and the facility was also recently renovated.
The school now offers grades K-8, which Lombardi said makes his elementary and middle school even more desirable.
The K-8 model offers an attractive alternative to parents who might otherwise send their children to parochial school, many of which are also K-8, he said. With the current economic environment, parents are even more likely to opt out of paying for private school and to place their children in one of Lombardi’s highly regarded classrooms.
And they apparently will lie to do so.
“In that sense, there is parental choice,” Lombardi said in an interview before the meeting.
But he said in an ideal school system, parents would be able to choose where their children attend school. The Bloomberg administration’s push for transparency has put a wealth of information on the Internet and has made parents savvy sleuths.
If they find out their neighborhood elementary school is performing poorly, Lombardi said he not surprised parents would do virtually anything to put their children elsewhere.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.