Decatur School system considers hiring ‘enrollment assistant’

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 7, 2015
A city schools of Decatur bus. Photo from CSD Facebook page.

A city schools of Decatur bus. Photo from CSD Facebook page.

As City Schools of Decatur’s enrollment has continued to increase so have questions about the residency of some students.

During the Oct. 13 School Board meeting, board members will consider approving the creation of a “Residency Enrollment Assistant” to deal with those questions.

“The residency process continues to grow as we enroll new families. This summer over 500 new families were enrolled for the first time into CSD,” a note attached to the meeting agenda says. “The Central Office receives concerns, which seem to grow as well, about families possibly living outside of Decatur.”

The enrollment assistant’s salary range would be $30,000 to $40,000. Current enrollment in City Schools of Decatur is 4,667 students, about 98 percent of the projected enrollment. The school system is projecting 6,527 students by 2020, and is asking voters to vote “yes” on Nov. 3 to allow CSD to borrow $75 million for school construction.

“During the spring and summer, staff is extremely busy on a full time basis, processing new enrollment. In addition, we are finding the school referrals and tips of possible concerns are on the rise,” the board agenda says. “The increase in student enrollment over the last eight years seems to be outstripping our current staff and proceed with the proper investigation when residency is called into question.”

CSD has tried to get a handle on its growing student population and weed out people who might be giving fraudulent residency information. The school system uses private investigators to delve deeper into where students live, and last year ended the practice of accepting tuition students from other school districts.

Students enrolled in CSD are required to provide a number of documents establishing proof of residence including leases, deeds, tax bills and utility bills.

The school system also checks residency as students progress through the system.

“If students are already enrolled, the system asks that residency information be provided at the transition points as they are moving up to grade 4, 6, and 9,” the Oct. 13 board agenda says. “This requires two pieces of documentation to show residency. A lease, a deed or a tax bill, as well as a current utility bill are required documents.”

The agenda also breaks down how CSD investigates residency concerns:

The administrative assistants, in addition to their regular duities and the registrars at DHS an RMS, follow this procedure for residency investigation.

– Record residency concerns in Infinite Campus

– Discuss residency concerns with the Principal

– Scan and attach residency documentation to the PLP (this may include returned mail, letters, etc)

– Investigate to find parent or guardian names for other known addresses

– Escalate to the Central Office if it seems that enough evidence exists to require additional investigation

Central Office Level:

– Once the referral has been made to the central office, this process is followed:
Review documents provided to prove residency and verify authenticity and accuracy

– Check to see if leases are valid, or if deed and other documents are authentic

– If it appears necessary, request additional documents

– Check updated school zone maps and new annexations received from the city

– Contact the parent or guardian with the concern

– Contact an outside investigator to check addresses provided and residency at the address

– Review all information to determine where the student resides

– Send appropriate notice to the parent/guardian if determined to be out of the city

Currently these duties are handled by the Chief Operating Officer’s Administrative Assistant, in addition to other job duties. According to the board agenda, new housing units and annexation of property into the city has added to the work load.

“Since January, the COO has received 141 notifications of additional property added to the city,” the board agenda says. “In some cases, addresses of vacant lots, homes for sale or even the address of the central office, 125 Electric Avenue, have been used to enroll. This will continue to be an issue as the reputation of the school system is one of quality and many people want their children to attend CSD.”

The Oct. 13 School Board meeting will be held at CSD’s central office, located at 125 Electric Avenue, beginning at 6:30 p.m. All meetings are open to the public.

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  • James Johnson

    This is how good school systems turn bad — instead of hiring another teacher or buying new classroom technology, you add a full-time salaried administrator to: (a) do a job currently within the scope of someone else’s duties; which (b) in this case, appears to involve nothing more complicated than verifying residency. We need to spend our money on teachers and students–not more administrators.

    • Depends on the numbers

      I have to admit that it seems excessive to hire someone just for policing enrollment but it depends on how bad the enrollment cheating problem is and how effective the position is. So, for example, if currently CSD is only detecting about 10 cheaters per year but, with the new position, the number of cheaters detected annually is doubled, then the savings is 10 X ~$12,000/yr per pupil expenditures = $120,000. The net gain to CSD is $80,000 ($120,000 savings – the $40,000 cost of the enrollment staffer) which is one teacher salary and benefits. But it’s a fair question to ask and I think CSD should have to justify the position with data–what is the magnitude of the current problem and what savings could be expected with a new staff position? Other systems which already have such a position perhaps can provide an estimate of expected savings.

      • Dec30030 Teacher

        Don’t forget the “outside investigator” is an expense, too. The math is not easily quantifiable and there is no guarantee anyone will actually withdraw as a result of an investigation.

        • Depends on the numbers

          Right, so maybe this should be a temporary, not permanent, position until it can be determined whether it “pays for itself”.

      • Marlbey

        Additionally, the position could deter fraudulent enrollments. If you think there’s a decent chance you’ll get caught, you’re less likely to even attempt the fraudulent enrollment, than if you know it’s not being policed at all. It’s hard to quantify those savings, but they could be significant.

      • Save Tucker!

        And what’s the incentive for the new hire to actually accomplish their job? Built into the job is the assumption that by weeding out those who do not belong, your position will no longer be needed.

    • Ben

      Um, sort of a knee jerk response? It’s easy to think this is not an effective use of resources, but the details are important to consider here. Why is residency verification not getting done currently, and what would it take to do so? Are there ways to streamline the verification process to make it easier to investigate? How much cheating do we think is going on- could the position “pay for” itself?

      • James Johnson

        Fair points, but I assume that if false enrollment was a significant problem (or at least one worthy of a full-time, salaried central office administrator), we would have heard about it by now. The agenda item announcing the potential creation of the “Residency Enrollment Assistant” position certainly does’t describe a large, ongoing problem.

        Also, based on the description above, it’s not as if one administrative assistant is handling the entire workflow of a false enrollment investigation. The legwork is done by administrators and registrars at the school level and elevated to the central office if necessary.

        Sorry if my comment seemed a little knee-jerk. My wife taught for DeKalb County Schools so I have a gut reaction to seemingly unnecessary administrative positions.

  • Dec30030 Teacher

    Can we please stop adding positions and promoting people until the new superintendent starts? I hope the board asks the staff to present the needs to him and then he will determine how best to respond.

  • decatur parent

    I know this is a much needed full time position. I have personally known of 4 of my child’s classmates that were cheating. Also, another 3 that I highly suspected. That’s just me personally. It is very much a problem that needs more attention.

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