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D-86 institutes more rigorous residency checks, seeks tuition reimbursements

Published: Monday, June 30, 2014 2:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:49 p.m. CDT

HINSDALE – Hinsdale Township High School District 86 is seeking to collect thousands of dollars owed from out-of-district students who fraudulently attended high school as district students.

In the past, the district had verified the residency of freshmen and transfer students only when registering for Hinsdale Central or Hinsdale South in the summer. Each building used its own forms and procedures, so there was no district oversight.

"Hopefully everybody here realizes residency checking and reporting have not been done in a state of the art way in the past," School Board President Richard Skoda said.

District 86 hired firms National Investigations and American Heritages to investigate and a determine the students who reside outside district boundaries, but were not paying out of district tuition, which costs $90 per day.

To verify residency of all students, the district and the firms compared property tax bills and electric bills to the student information that was in the district database.

Documentation was then requested from 107 unverified students – 41 from central and 65 students from south. Around this time, three students withdrew from school while one student dropped out of school. District officials would not speculate if this was a result of residency checks.

After reviewing documentation, letters were then mailed requesting tuition reimbursement for 17 students, totaling more than $275,000.

The residency check cost the district $26,000 – $16,767 paid to American Heritage and $7,296 to National Investigations – and letters to 17 students were mailed, asking that $16,000 from each student be recovered, according to Skoda.

"So basically spending $26,000 found a minimum of $280,000 in fraud," he said.

The district’s law firm also advised against investigating 26 of the initial 107 unverified students because the students in question were seniors and wouldn't be attending a district school in the fall.

Going forward, the district plans to verify all district 86 students residencies during the summer registration process. Before enrollment is complete, a third party will test every address using electronic databases to verify that the parent or guardian lives in the district at the time of registration.

School board vice president Ed Corcoran thanked Superintendent Bruce Law for spearheading the residency checks when he came in as just the interim superintendent.

Corcoran said it was "clearly" an area of Law's specialty, as this was "so important" to address in the district.

"We put in a significant number of hours both this year and then also trying to ramp up for the upcoming year," Law said.

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By the numbers:

• Letters mailed to families requesting additional residency documentation: 107

• Families who provided additional documentation: 48

• Seniors removed per attorney: 26

• Withdrew: 3

• Dropped out: 1

• Total students in question: 29

• Letters mailed requesting tuition reimbursement: 17

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