Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00
Residency Investigator Joseph Wendling was at the last Herricks School Board meeting and spoke to residents.
Prior to introducing him, superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth said, “You asked that Joseph Wendling be brought back to talk to the board. First, let me get you up to speed.
“We brought Joe over to the Town of North Hempstead and introduced him to the official that we have contacted. So, we have now established an official working relationship with them. We have taken him around to various organizations. He came to the administration meeting recently so they all know who he is so that if he is doing surveillance they don’t call 911 and have him carted away.
“We will also get him to various faculty meetings for the same reasons and we will be introducing him to the various PTA organizations in the district.
“Further, we have given him all of the paperwork on any investigations that were not completed before the end of the school year. So he is well under way, from our point of view. You asked that he come back, but obviously he can’t give you months and months of experience on the job.”
Dr. Bierwirth then called on Wendling who said, “Everything has gotten off to a great start. We sent one student to Sewanhaka and they sent one back to us.”
One resident wanted to know his job description. Wendling said, “It is to verify that every child in school fulfills the obligation of the district.”
The resident further said, “Well, what does that entail?”
Wendling said, “Making observations to make sure the child, based on his records, is not being dropped off. It could also verify that the child actually lives in the house by observing him going in and out of house.”
Dr. Bierwirth added, “Verifying that the child is a bonafide resident according to the state law.”
Jim Gournaris wanted to know about inspecting the home and Dr. Bierwrith said, “Yes, if that is part of it. We are allowed to inspect the home because when a child is registered at school, the parents or guardians sign a paper that states the home may be inspected.”
It was further asked, “Must the occupants give entry to the inspector?” Dr. Bierwirth said, “They should.” Wendling said, “We try to be polite. And I don’t tell them when I am going there.”
Trustee Gounaris said, “And, because of that document the school has different inspection rights than the town has?”
Bierwirth said, “The town has to go there for different reasons.”
Gournaris wanted to know if the town needed a court order and Dr. Bierwirth said, “they do not, but the resident doesn’t necessarily have to let them in. The town can get a court order if they believe there is some imminent danger in the house. One danger would be someone living in the basement and the danger of fire. Obviously, if the town felt there was a health danger they would have more cause to go into a house than if they had concern about something else.”
Bierwirth continued, “Most of it, to be honest, entails surveillance and detective work. Looking at license plates, following cars, and Joe has at his command other staff members in the district if we need multiple surveillances. I have left that up to Joe to contact staff members to ask for help. So, if we need to look at two different residents simultaneously and perhaps someone at school, we have staff to assist him.”
Wendling went on to discuss the case of extended families living in a home and how they have to present certain documents to the district at registration in order to verify.
Dr. Bierwirth, “In all of these cases there is always a chance that someone will present a false document. We hope that one way or another we will figure it out. Oddly enough, I think that most people end up tripping themselves up one way or another.”
A resident wanted to know if any resident in the district sees anything that is out of order in the district to email Mr. Wendling.
Dr. Bierwirth said to email either Wendling or himself “because it will all end up in the same place and we are all supporting each other. If anything comes in that is suspicious, district secretary Judy Miehling will pull all the registration forms together and we will pull together other documents we have, so we are leaving Joe to do what he does best.”
“Again, I stress, we follow up on every tip that we get. One way or another we track them down. This is one of the few areas that we accept anonymous tips. There are understandable reasons why someone does not want to identify themselves, but we will follow though on every tip. The way Joe can be most valuable is to give either of us any information.
“I know the story of busses going down Hillside Avenue and dropping people off. Maybe that was true at another time, but it is not true since I have been here. We do check that two or three times a year and it has never happened. We also had a story about a white van and we never had a white van drop anyone off. Everybody who is cheating the district has someone who lives in Herricks helping them.”
Gournaris said, “And, Mr. Wendling will be reporting to the board on a quarterly basis?”
Bierwirth said, “In an emergency, right away and then he will be reporting in executive session to the board and then we will have him reporting publicly on the first school board date in December, but let’s give him time to do his work. Obviously, he can’t discuss everything publicly but the board will be able to discuss.”
Gournaris added, “Our goal is not to go on a witch hunt or fishing expedition, but to focus on things that we really need everybody’s input in order to maintain the education integrity of the district and of the qualifications that will allow people to come and attend our great school district.”
Herricks board president Christine Turner announced that unfortunately it has been necessary to hire the Geese-Off organization once again. She said that it was decided due to the fact of the new track that so many students and residents use, the board did not want them to be bothered with geese droppings. She said she had hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to hire them again, but it has.
Dr. Bierwirth said that originally this program was slated not to go forward. However, he said, “Board president Turner brokered a deal between the Saturday Indo Program, who paid an increase in their fee to open the school and pay for the custodians for their program and that enabled the Saturday Recreation Program to be able to open at the same fee as last year at $96 per class and the same fee for the director as last year at a fee of $47.85 per hour and a fee of $30.85 for the instructors.”
Bierwirth added, “So that program is safe for at least one more year at no cost to the Herricks residents.”
Due to the change in dates of state tests, the calendar has been changed and the first contingency day has been moved from April 16 to April 4. Dr. Bierwirth said, “Due to this change all the concerts that were scheduled will have to be moved as well. After we meet with the principals we will post the changes on both the electronic board and on the website.”
The next board meeting is set for October 6 at 7 p.m. instead of 7:15 p.m. at the Herricks Community Center, 999 Herricks Road, New Hyde Park. At that meeting the board with meet with the New York State legislators and with Pappas and Co., the Internal Auditor for the district.