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Residency & Truancy Program Offers New Options to Schools

DonTruancyResidency and Truancy investigator Don Skewes, left, chatted recently with Voluntown Elementary School Principal Alicia Dawe.

A new, regional Residency and Truancy Pilot Program offers northeastern Connecticut school districts an affordable way to track and resolve student enrollment problems.

The new program, piloted since last fall by seven school districts and EASTCONN, provides the expertise of former law enforcement officer Don Skewes, as he investigates truancy and residency questions. [EDITOR'S UPDATE: The pilot program has proved to be so successful that Truancy and Residency Services have become a permanent fixture in the constellation of EASTCONN services.]

“It’s been fantastic,” said Voluntown Elementary School Principal Alicia Dawe. She said that Skewes’s assistance had saved her district “many manpower hours.”

“I think it’s a fabulous idea and I’m just thrilled to have access to it,” said Voluntown’s Special Education Director Elaine Lee.

“Don [Skewes] is absolutely a follow-through guy. He has helped me solve three cases since mid-November. He’s just very efficient.”

Lee continued, “The positive outcome is that we’re not taking in children that don’t live in our district, so we’re not using resources for students that aren’t ours. It’s very difficult for us to go out and figure out whether someone really lives here. Don helps us sort that out.”

Districts that have used the new program include Ashford, Columbia, Eastford, Region 11, Region 19, Sprague, Stafford and Voluntown, in addition to EASTCONN. 

“School districts are often forced to send out untrained staff to determine residency or handle truancy cases,” said EASTCONN’s Director of Education Services Thomas F. Cronin. “It’s complicated and takes time. Proving residency or following through on truancy-related issues poses a serious challenge, especially in resource-scarce communities.”  

 Since the fall, Skewes has handled  and resolved a total of 28 truancy and residency cases for northeastern Connecticut districts. His services are available for a modest, per-pupil charge, based on a district’s student population, Cronin said.

“My primary goal is to investigate and resolve these issues amicably by facilitating communication among students, families and schools,” Skewes said.

With 25 years’ experience as an officer and investigator for the Vernon and South Windsor police departments, Skewes was a crisis negotiator for the Capitol Region Emergency Service Team (CREST). 

To learn more, contact EASTCONN’s Thomas F. Cronin at 860-455-1512, or reach him at tcronin@eastconn.org.