Lower Merion School District (LMSD) is known to be one of the best school districts in Pennsylvania, despite the recent laptop-webcam scandal. I have toured two of the public elementary schools already and they seem to be amazing. It would seem like a no-brainer that I would want to move my family there for the schools if the decision was purely based on school quality. Of course, there are issues that are important to me beyond school quality (see the choice criteria tag plus personal issues like commute times and financial), but let me put them aside for the purposes of this post. Are there other reasons that LMSD is not the best choice?
Drawing the school districting lines for the Lower Merion School district last year was a contentious issue, involving loud town hall meetings, angry allegations of racism, lawsuits, and now a federal investigation. Should that controversy also be a factor? It is a challenging question. According to the sources I have read, all parties agree that redistricting was a necessity last year, given the shifting capacity of reconstructed schools and evolving demographics of the LMSD constituent communities. It was just how the redistricting played out that is contentious.
The Main Line Times writes
“Redistricting,” says Doug Young, the school district’s spokesman, “is an emotional process and at some level there’s going to be discord. I don’t think there’s ever been a redistricting plan that everyone loves.” But he calls it a necessary give and take. “When you look at the final plan, the key factors were enrollment balance, and trying to disrupt the fewest students based on the current feeder patterns. … The plan was not developed based on socioeconomic or racial balance.”
The whole affair is distasteful. However, there is a silver lining in my mind. In the Philadelphia School District, it takes school violence to create this kind of public outcry and news headlines. To me, the redistricting controversy is distasteful, but I understand why it was necessary. The outrage surrounding it is, to me, more of a sign that the parents in the LMSD community are passionate about their schools. Controversy in unfortunate but it does demonstrate that those parents are involved and vocal about making LMSD better for their kids, and by extension, better for my kids as well.
So ultimately this controversy and the laptop-webcam scandal does tarnish their image, but it only changes their status in my mind from a ‘no-brainer’ choice to a ‘top candidate’ in my school search, assuming like I do in my last post on LMSD that this spying controversy doesn’t spur radical changes to the district. The proposed tax hikes, for example, make the move that much less attractive.
- Battle Lines, Main Line Times, 3/2009
- Feuds: the Drama Club: Philadelphia Magazine, April 2009
- Federal Department of Education Investigates Allegations of Racism in Lower Merion School District, WHYY, March 27, 2009
- Parents file Civil-rights Suit vs. Lower Merion School District, Main Line Media News, May 2009