To the Editor: 

I write to explain my position that the Kearny school district should implement stronger residency checks of students. The district’s residency supervisor Donna Wagner-Nigro and Investigator Rob Wilson recently wrote to this newspaper questioning my knowledge of the district’s efforts.

Wagner and Wilson perform their jobs in an exemplary manner. But they are the entire residency office. In a district of 5,916 students, a residency office with just two employees, one of whom is part-time, can only investigate a small percentage of students.

I also believe the school district should re-register students on a more frequent basis. Registration is critical because a parent or guardian must present documents showing residency in Kearny. Currently, the vast majority of students need to register once when they enter the school district for the first time and then once more when beginning high school. For most, that equals just two residency checks in the 13 years from kindergarten to high school graduation.

That may be why from the 2004-05 school year to the present, enrollment in Kearny schools jumped 10.8%, increasing from 5,338 to 5,916 students. This is surprising because during the same time period, total enrollment in the state actually declined 1.5% and Kearny’s overall population was flat.

With total spending per pupil in the Kearny district at $15,184, out-of-town students in our schools impose an unfair burden on taxpayers and deprive worthy programs of tax resources. Other school districts like Nutley and Montclair have faced the same issue and have implemented more frequent re-registration requirements. Kearny should as well.

Daniel Esteves 

Former Kearny School Board Member 

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