Saturday, December 13, 2008


Here is a story from the Lockport US&J about a residency problem for two students wanting to play for Roy-Hart's basketball team.....

Harringtons appealing to state, R-H board
Gasport man wants his daughters to return to school immediately

The fate of two Gasport student-athletes who have been refused residency and denied registration into the Royalton-Hartland School District may be in the hands of that district’s Board of Education, while an appeal is being launched with the state.

In a letter to the district board, dated Wednesday, Kevin Harrington of 7963 Telegraph Road, said he’s appealing to the New York Education Department in Albany to allow his twin daughters, Jenna and Kim, to attend nearby Roy-Hart High School.

“I have been informed by my attorney, Jay Pletcher, that the (R-H) school board has the power to enact their own stay, which will enable the twins to attend school immediately, pending the outcome of the appeal which I have initiated,” the letter states. “I am appealing to the board members to enact this stay so that my daughters will be allowed to enter school immediately. They have already missed 19 school days (and 27 days overall) and my concern is that this appeal could take weeks. I have also been informed by my attorney that no school board member can be held liable either individually or as a group, by initiating their own stay, pending the appeal process.”

The unusual and bitter dilemma has already taken its toll on the twin juniors, who have missed the last four-plus weeks of public school as a result. Harrington said he’s been trying to enroll his daughters at Roy-Hart since mid-November. However, their efforts at gaining admittance into Roy-Hart have hit one brick wall after another and they’re currently being tutored privately at their father’s expense.

School Superintendent Paul Bona said the issue is “primary residency” and whether or not the family has provided the documentation to prove it. “The issue is you have to demonstrate primary residency in the school district you are to attend. If you cannot demonstrate primary residency, you can pay tuition as an option and many people elect to do that — it depends on the avenue the family wants to take,” Bona said. “The district has retained the services of council to help make this determination. The issue is — and we won’t stray from that — is where is the primary residency — and by definition it’s your legal residence — where you pay your taxes.”

Kevin Harringtons is currently renting at his new residence and counters by saying if his girls are not eligible for enrollment at R-H because he does not pay R-H district school taxes, so is every other R-H student whose parents and/or guardians are renting.

And the frustrations over a matter that should have taken days instead of weeks to resolve have been mounting slowly, but surely over the past month. Two weeks ago, Bona asked Kevin Harrington to sign an agreement stating that his daughters — outstanding student-athletes at Lockport High School for the past several years — would be allowed into the Roy-Hart district only if they, “agree not to seek membership on this season’s Royalton-Hartland Central School District basketball team.” On the advice of his attorney, Kevin Harrington said he’s refused to sign such a document and adds that he’s complied with every residency requirement asked of him.

Bona said the case remains in the hands of attorneys on both sides.“I can’t litigate the case with you in the newspaper. Under rules of confidentiality, I can’t say anything because it’s in the hands of counsel,” Bona said.

Harrington said he’s further mystified by a morning visit paid to his home on Tuesday of this week by board vice president Dan Bragg and Bona. The twins were sleeping at the time of the visit, but were awaken by members of the family and talked briefly to Bragg. However, less than two hours after the board member talked to the girls and reportedly told them they might be back in school within days, the Harrington family received a letter in the mail from Roy-Hart school district attorneys Norton, Radin, Hoover and Freedman stating the girls are not entitled to attend Roy-Hart.

“If they knew we were going to be denied, what was the purpose of that visit?” Kevin Harrington asked.

Bona acknowledged he made a personal visit to the Harrington home on Telegraph Road, but said he remained in an automobile while Bragg entered the residence and added that he did not know the letter had been sent or that it stated the girls were denied enrollment. “I did not physically see the twins, but Mr. Bragg said he did,” Bona said. “He saw the girls, but they still have not determined primary residency. I had requested that a decision be made by our counsel as soon as possible. They said they would make a decision as quickly as possible and get it to the family,” Bona said. “He worked on it and got it out on Monday night’s mail. I was in administrative meetings and in the afternoon on Tuesday, yes, I did go over and ride by the house. I was doing things we need to do to provide information to counsel,” Bona said, adding that he will notify district lawyers that both girls were present at the residence when they visited.