Jul 30, 2014

After Residency Tussle, Wainscott School District Pulls a 180

Two students will be staying in Wainscott School District after a ruling at a Tuesday hearing.

After Residency Tussle, Wainscott School District Pulls a 180

Elisha Osborn and Marianne Ward were telling them that their children "are not residents of the Wainscott School District and are, therefore, not entitled to attend the public schools of this District.”

On Tuesday, the district decided at a hearing the day before the coming school year that the students are, again, residents of the district.

"They decided to accept the kids in Wainscott School District," said Osborn on Tuesday. "There's actually quite a bit more to it than that. But the end result is that they took as proof of evidence that they are residents of Wainscott."

Osborn lives in Wainscott, and Ward in Sag Harbor. The couple has not determined a custodial parent, so when the couple found out last school year that their two children were not considered residents of Wainscott - and they could be charged with fraud should their kids continue attending classes in the district - it came as a shock, and according to Osborn, more of a misunderstanding.

In December, a letter went home in the kids’ school folders asking all parents to provide proof of residency. However, Ward and Osborn said that they never got that form. He said he later gave a document for a rental house in a rush, instead of the home he lives in — both of which are in Wainscott.

“They said, 'You handed in this tax bill that said that you lived on Osborn Farm Lane. You committed fraud.' And I said, I didn’t mean to commit fraud, I just did the easiest thing to do at the time. My arrogance was that everybody knew me.”

Osborn is a graduate of the Wainscott School and the Osborn family has lived in Wainscott for 12 generations. His mother, Iris, was a school board member last year, though

According to Tom Horn, an attorney hired to represent Osborn and Ward, a note came this weekend informing the couple of Tuesday's meeting. The parents had registered their children for school in Wainscott School District despite last year's ruling, and Horn said that should the district rule again this year that that their children were not Wainscott School District residents, an appeal to the State Department of Education would have been a more viable option than appealing last year. Because the students were allowed to finish the school year last spring, he said, an appeal likely could have been denied.

Tuesday's hearing lasted between 60 and 90 minutes, and Horn said that Superintendent Stuart Rachlin - legally acting as a designee for the school board - determined that the students were residents of the district.

Rachlin, who signed the letter last year stating that the students were not residents of the Wainscott School District, declined to comment for this story.

School board member David Egean — who was serving on the school board along with Nancy McCaffrey (his mother-in-law) last year when Iris Osborn resigned — forwarded a request for comment to Rachlin.

"I sensed there was some hard feelings," said Horn about Tuesday's meeting. "I'm not saying either side was creating them. It just seemed to be creating a split in the community. Maybe this will put an end to that."

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