Residency required?

written for The Argus Observer, published on March 20, 2015. This story is part of a sires of storys documenting the community’s discussion of the issue.

Several members of the Ontario Community are asking the Ontario School Board to require city  residency for all district administration and an incentive to be put in place for teachers to live within the district.

They are dubbed the Residency Requirement Group and they maintain that not having the requirement is hurting the district and the local economy in general.

Nearly half of Ontario School District employees, including the district superintendent, live outside the district’s boundaries, according to a petition opposing a residency requirement signed by over 80 area supporters from both sides of the river.

“We have an imbalance in the number of educators that live here and those who don’t,” said Ben Peterson, an Ontario dentist. “Our schools are a reflection of our community and our schools are struggling.”

Those who support the residency requirement have said educators who live outside of the community are less likely to attend district events and be involved in civic activities, like clubs and voting. They claim educators are leaders in the community and should be involved in Ontario outside the classroom.

“We’ve lost a lot of our educated voters,” said Bob Komoto. “If we continue to lose the voter base, it’s worse than not having good neighbors and you don’t have the voter base that you think you do.”

Not everyone, however, is in favor of residency being a requirement for district employment.

“Who is to say sell your house and move within district boundaries,” said Linda Hofmann. “I would rather have a qualified teacher who lives out of town than a teacher who comes through for a year and leaves because they don’t like the area.”

Hofmann said she also has concerns about the idea of offering incentives for teachers to move within district limits.

“I would be upset to see our district spend money to bring teachers to town when our students are in need,” Hofmann said. “Whether employees live in a district or not, there will be the movers and shakers and there will be the ones that do the bare minimum.”

The district’s board of directors decided to put the issue on the next work session agenda and address it at that time. The next work session is scheduled for April 16 at 6 p.m.

“I believe the board needs to address this issue,” said Board member Doug Iwasa. “I disagree that we need [administrators] to live in Ontario, but we need to create a policy dealing with the issue.”

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