Official rules on residency dispute

Christy Howell-Hoots - [email protected]

FRANKFORT — A ruling in the Bracken County and Augusta Independent school districts residency dispute has been handed down by Kentucky Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis.

The ruling is currently being appealed by both districts.

The dispute between the districts have been ongoing for some time. In June 2017, Bracken County Schools Superintendent Jeff Aulick asked the board to approve seeking subpoenas for parents of some students attending AIS.

At that time, Aulick said the subpoenas were being requested due to an ongoing investigation into the residences of several students who attended AIS and claimed to be living in Augusta.

In January, the Bracken County School District held a hearing for parents whose children were attending AIS, but were believed to be living in the county and not in Augusta. Once the hearings concluded, the findings were sent to the commissioner of education in order to receive a final ruling.

The findings handed down by Lewis said AIS “acted in bad faith and attempted to subvert the nonresident student agreements when it instructed parents of students who resided in the Bracken district that (powers of attorney) were an alternative to paying tuition to attend Augusta.”

According to Lewis, concerning POA forms for the 2018-19 school year, the letters should only be accepted with no changes to the standard language.

The school district will also be required to send a copy of every student’s POA letter to the Kentucky Department of Education by Sept. 1 of each school year, or within 15 days of receipt, if after Sept. 1, as well as a statement from the Director of Pupil Personnel and the superintendent, addressing each student and setting forth an explanation of why enrollment in AIS is warranted.

“The primary fact to be considered is where a student lies his or her head most nights, but additional supporting information must be provided to KDE to show how same was established,” Lewis said in his ruling.

AIS will also be subjected to an attendance review conducted by KDE at the conclusion at the 2018-19 school year to verify the accuracy of attendance records.

“If Augusta is found to be in compliance with the regulations regarding the nonresident students, and the terms of this agreement, then Augusta will be placed back in the normal rotation cycle for future attendance reviews,” Lewis said.

According to AIS Superintendent Lisa McCane, the AIS school district is appealing the ruling.

“Augusta believes the Final Order made an inaccurate finding of “bad faith” based on Augusta advising parents and guardians of the residency requirements established by Kentucky law. Augusta cannot contemplate how advising a parent or guardian of the residency requirements to have their child attend Augusta can be deemed as a “bad-faith” act,” she said. “Otherwise, any parents or guardians who wish to enroll their child at Augusta are left without guidance regarding what is necessary to be a resident of the district. Augusta has and will continue to follow the laws regulating residency requirements and regardless of the outcome, Augusta will continue its fervent dedication to its students and families in the community.”

While Aulick said he is pleased with most of the ruling, the district is also appealing a portion of it. The district is asking that AIS be subjected to financial penalties, including reimbursing a portion of incurred costs.

“Bracken County Board of Education is pleased that Kentucky’s commissioner of education found that (AIS) district acted in bad faith when it enrolled certain students in its schools who actually resided in Bracken County’s school district during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, contrary to written agreements between the two school districts,” Aulick said. “At present, both school districts have appealed certain aspects of the Order to the Kentucky Board of Education, that will review the appeals, and render a further decision. Bracken County’s appeal asks that (AIS) district be assessed certain financial penalties for its bad faith conduct, including reimbursing Bracken County for a portion of the costs it incurred to bring the initial challenge.”

Christy Howell-Hoots

[email protected]