Superior Court Judge William E. Carnes Jr. has ruled against a couple who live in North Kingstown but used property they own in East Greenwich to enroll their child in EG schools.
Starting in 2007, William and Kimberly DiStefano enrolled their son, who has a disability, in East Greenwich schools. EGHS Principal Michael Podraza learned of the family's living arrangement in May 2012 and alerted the school department. The EGSD held a hearing on the matter in August 2012 and ruled against the DiStefanos, saying it did so because the child lives in the family's North Kingstown residence. Later that same month, the education commissioner supported the EGSD decision. The DiStephanos then appealed to Superior Court.
Among the evidence cited by the Superior Court ruling was testimony from William DiStefano, who said he was registered to vote in the Town of North Kingstown and had never been a registered voter of East Greenwich. He told the court he could not recall the last time he had slept at his EG property other than "earlier in the year." When asked where he lived, DiStefano told the judge, "I reside wherever I am."
He added, “I might tonight pick up and drive to New Hampshire and spend the night or two or three there if I want. I have three homes available to me at anytime, and I pick and choose when I stay in them. I think I have that right.”
In a decision issued Sept. 30, Judge Carnes wrote, "After review of the entire record, this Court finds that the Commissioner’s Decision is supported by the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence of record and is not clearly erroneous."
According to EG Supt. Victor Mercurio, there are only 1 to 3 cases of erroneous school registrations each year.
"We probably encounter 1 to 3 (3 is the really high end, indeed) cases per year that are brought to the district's attention via anonymous and/or identified tips," Mercurio said via email. "We investigate every case that's brought forth to this office as we have an obligation to make sure that the students who attend the schools paid for with East Greenwich tax dollars are, indeed, children of residents of the municipality."