After serving more than a dozen years on the Wainscott School Board, abruptly resigned Wednesday amid allegations by the school board that her grandchildren are illegally going to Wainscott schools.
"Unfortunately, I'm very, very upset," Osborn told board members Nancy McCaffrey and David Eagan, and Superintendent , at a special budget-related school board meeting on Wednesday. "I don't feel I can be a member of this board," she said before handing a letter of resignation to Rachlin and walking out.
Osborn’s exit stems from a letter her son Elisha Osborn and his former partner Marianne Ward received Feb. 29.
The hand-delivered letter written on Wainscott School District letterhead was addressed to both Ward and Elisha Osborn and signed by Rachlin. At issue was the residency status of the couple’s two children, who, according to the parents, divide their time between their mother’s home in Springs and their father’s Wainscott residence.
“Please take notice,” the letter read, “that, under the authority of Section 100.2(y) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education there has been a determination that your children, Maximillian Osborn and Gabriella Osborn, are not residents of the Wainscott School District and are, therefore, not entitled to attend the public schools of this District.”
Max Osborn is a student at , where Wainscott School District sends its students after fourth grade, and Gabby Osborn is in her last year at the .
The students can finish the school year.
The letter said keeping the students in the district if they are not residents could end up with the school either seeking tuition payments or taking legal action which could include charging the parents with fraud. They do have the right to appeal.
Sunday’s letter is the latest development in a dispute that, Ward and Osborn said, began in December when a letter went home in the kids’ school folders asking all parents to provide proof of residency. However, Ward and Osborn said that they never got that form.
“At the last minute,” Osborn said, “I had put in an old tax bill for a rental house because I had misunderstood what they were looking for. They said they were looking for a tax bill, so I gave them my tax bill. I own a rental house [on Osborn Farm Lane], but I live on Main Street."
Ward and Osborn submitted a letter explaining how the children’s time is divided and Osborn submitted additional utility bills. “And I apologized,” said Osborn, “They said, 'You handed in this tax bill that said that you lived on Osborn Farm Lane, you committed fraud.' And I said, I didn’t mean to commit fraud, I just did the easiest thing to do at the time. My arrogance was that everybody knew me.”
Osborn is a graduate of the Wainscott School and the Osborn family has lived in Wainscott for 12 generations.
Ward’s aunt, Sandi Kruel, a longtime member of the Sag Harbor School Board, said that the Wainscott School Board had, “no right to tell a parent, whose kids split their time with the parents evenly and deal with the day-to-day decisions of the kids, where the kids go to school.”
Kruel cited a section of the New York State School Law Book, pertaining to student residency that says: Where a child’s time is essentially divided between the household of divorced parents, with both parties assuming day-to-day responsibilities for the child, the determination of the child’s residence ultimately rests with the parents.
“We have kind of a unique circumstance,” said Osborn, “We haven’t set a custodial parent. New York State hasn’t and we haven’t, so we are wondering how the school is allowed to. The school is basically telling us who the custodial parent is.”
Both Osborn and Ward stressed that the children divide their time equally with both parents. “There are parents who will write affidavits to say that they drop their kids off to play with my kids,” said Osborn. “But they never asked for any more information,” said Ward.
Ward said that she had called and asked for the residency matter to be put on the school board agenda and the board’s response was that, “They did not discuss personal matters at school board meetings.”
“You can’t tell people that they’re liars and cheats, and tell them that you proved that they’re liars and cheats, and then expect them not want to air it in public,” said Osborn, referring to the use of the word “fraud” in Sunday’s letter.
Prior to Iris Osborn’s resignation, the Wainscott School Board had been comprised of three elected members: Nancy McCaffrey, president, her son-in-law, David Eagan, and Iris Osborn. Because she is the grandmother of the children in question, Iris Osborn had recused herself from the case.
“It’s not like we can talk to one without the other,” Elisha Osborn said, questioning the make-up of a two person school board, “because they’re mother-in-law and son-in-law. You’re not dealing with a school board anymore, you’re dealing with a family.”
“This whole matter is nothing but unfortunate,” said Eagan said following Osborne's resignation, adding, that the situation was "thrust upon us . . . It was nothing we looked for."
Eagan declined to discuss the situation further, saying the board had an obligation to the students' privacy.
When asked how the residency issue first came to the board’s attention, Ward seemed to agree. “From what we understand ... Rachlin himself said in his office that day that this came up when a parent who was interested in sending her kids to Sag Harbor said that our kids were not living in district.”
Rachlin also declined to comment for this story.