Officials uphold residency ruling

Christy Howell-Hoots - [email protected]

FRANKFORT — An initial ruling regarding a residency dispute between the Bracken County and Augusta Independent school districts has been upheld by the Kentucky Board of Education.

Interim Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis handed down his ruling regarding a residency dispute between the districts in June.

The initial ruling by Lewis stated 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.

In July, both districts appealed the ruling and went before the Kentucky Board of Education to testify.

Recently, the KBE unanimously voted in favor of Lewis’ initial ruling, according to Kentucky Department of Education General Counsel Todd Allen.

The dispute between the districts has 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.

According to Allen, both districts have the right to appeal the KBE’s decision by doing so in the Franklin County Circuit Court.

AIS Superintendent Lisa McCane said she is disappointed with the ruling.

“Augusta Independent is disappointed with, but not surprised by, the State Board’s decision to adopt the commissioner’s order in full. Augusta Independent is evaluating all available legal avenues moving forward. In the interim, Augusta Independent is excited for the new school year and the opportunity to develop and inspire success in all our students,” she said.

Aulick said he was pleased with the decision.

“Bracken County Board of Education is pleased that the Kentucky Board of Education affirmed Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ final order, determining that (AIS) Board of Education wrongfully enrolled students who were legal residents of the Bracken County School District. We are committed to continuing to provide the best educational opportunities for our students, this year and in the future,” he said.

Christy Howell-Hoots

[email protected]