Sep 1, 2013
06:34 AM
Education

After Residency Battle in Tiny Kent, Family Bruised, Student at Private School

After Residency Battle in Tiny Kent, Family Bruised, Student at Private School

The state sign announcing that drivers are entering Kent in Litchfield County.

Barbara and Clint Bishop have won their battle with the Kent Board of Education over whether they are legal residents of the community.

The state Department of Education decreed Aug. 23 that they do, indeed, live in Kent and that their son can be enrolled in the local elementary school. But, in another sense, they lost the war.

Emotionally bruised, they have withdrawn their 9-year-old child from Kent Center School and enrolled him in a nearby private school.

“Our family has been through a lot,” Mrs. Bishop said this week. “It has been extremely difficult for us. My son lost friends over it. He wasn’t invited to birthday parties—he really didn’t deserve any of it.”

The issue began in 2009 when the Bishops bought a property in the Macedonia section of Kent, which lies near the New York border. The Bishops own another house in Wassaic, N.Y., where Mr. Bishop has a contracting business. They expected to put up a modular house on the Kent property and to move into it quickly, but endless delays with getting land use permits slowed their progress to a snail’s pace. Meanwhile, the great recession that began in 2008 made it difficult to sell their other home.

As they waited to be able to move onto their Kent property, Mrs. Bishop said, she enrolled her son in late August 2009 in Kent Center School, stating falsely that the family residence was the undeveloped lot.

On Sept. 1, she rented some rooms in a private Kent residence for family use until they could move into their new house, but the young boy did not like the arrangement.

Instead, the family continued to live in New York state, where the boy “was comfortable,” according to the mother.

Mr. Bishop has since continued to live in New York because of his business interests there, and the family reunites in Wassaic each weekend and on holidays even now that the house has been built. They travel during the summer months when school is not in session.

Mrs. Bishop said that she made her situation known to former Kent Center School principal Rima McGeehan and that she paid partial tuition for the years before the house was built.

“We never claimed to be in the house during the summer,” she said.

The first intimation of trouble came when they returned from West Virginia at the end of the 2011 summer recess.

“I found a notice tied to the door saying my son was no longer enrolled at Kent Center School,” she said. “When he went to school all bright-eyed and ready to conquer the world there was no desk for him, his name wasn’t on the wall, there was no birthday listed for him. I was in the principal’s office trying to work it out when he came in and said his teacher had sent him there.”

She said she later learned that Superintendent of Schools for Region 1 Patricia Chamberlain had no right to expel the student without a hearing process.

Reportedly, the school district paid for an investigator to determine whether the Bishops were living in their house the preponderance of the time. Mrs. Bishop said she and her attorney have both requested copies of this report but that none has never been produced.

“What happened to the investigative report?” she asked. “I asked to see it. My attorney asked to see it. It was never produced during the hearing, and they didn’t refer it.”

“Under Connecticut law, to be entitled to free education you must be a resident of the town. She was provided with a letter from Patricia Chamberlain saying that a comprehensive investigation had determined they were not residents, but they never disclosed what the investigation was,” confirmed her attorney, Richard Padykula of the Law Offices of Leon M. Rosenblatt in West Hartford. “When a determination of non-residency has been made, the burden of proof then falls on the parents to prove they are actually residents."

See the full story at The Litchfield County Times online.

 

After Residency Battle in Tiny Kent, Family Bruised, Student at Private School

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