A longtime Wainscott School Board member resigned last week after a review of residency status of the school’s students revealed that her own grandchildren were apparently attending the school illegally.
At a board meeting on Wednesday, March 7, Iris Osborn announced to the two other board members that she was stepping down effective immediately, handed them a letter of resignation and left. She had been on the board for 13 years.
Her resignation came after a survey of the families of the school’s 19 students in kindergarten through third grade revealed that Ms. Osborn’s two grandchildren—one a third-grader at the Wainscott School, the other a student at East Hampton Middle School in East Hampton School District, where Wainscott sends its matriculating students—do not officially live in the school district. The children’s parents, Elisha Osborn and Marianne Ward, are separated, and the children split their time between their father’s house, which is in the district, and their mother’s, which is not, making them ineligible to attend the Wainscott School or have their tuition paid by the district.
Board member David Eagan said this week that district officials found the legal technicality a hard one to swallow but were bound to uphold it on behalf of the district’s taxpayers. The student still attending the Wainscott School will be allowed to complete the school year.
“It’s extremely unfortunate for everyone involved,” Mr. Eagan said of the students, who will likely have to transfer away from their friends next year, and for the district, which has come under fire from other parents and residents who say the situation may warrant special consideration. “There are times when you have legal responsibilities conflicting with ethical concerns, and even though there is an element where as a neighbor you could look the other way, as a board member you just can’t,” he said.
According to district minutes, Ms. Osborn herself had championed instituting a policy of conducting annual residency surveys of students in September, after concerns had been raised about multiple families using the same address as their residence in the district.
The board has not yet discussed how it will fill Ms. Osborn’s seat for the remaining two years of her term. The board has the authority to appoint someone to the post immediately or it could simply put a measure on the ballot for the May budget and board vote and allow residents to elect a replacement to complete her term.