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Lower Merion School District

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Superintendent's remarks from 9/12 Board meeting

LMSD Superintendent Robert Copeland shared the following remarks in opening the September 12, 2016 Board of School Directors Education Meeting & Supplementary Regular Meeting. The remarks were delivered in response to recent litigation involving the District.

Thank you all for attending this evening, as I know the first full week of school is an exciting and challenging time for every family. I hope you all had a pleasant and peaceful summer; I can assure you we had no trouble staying very busy on all fronts, not the least of which – as you likely know – included dealing with one prominent legal matter: the lawsuit challenging among other things, the Board’s authority to levy a tax increase for this current school year.

Together with the Board, you’ll hear later about a proposal to address that matter while our lawyers continue to defend the actions through Pennsylvania’s court system. Following remarks from the administration, Board President and our solicitor, we will welcome audience comments. Your comments may also be directed to the Board via email at communitycomments@lmsd.org.

You’ve undoubtedly noticed a flurry of communications from us as we continue to keep the community current on the case, LMSD vs. Arthur Alan Wolk: we believe it is important that you receive accurate information in a timely fashion and that we make sure that all of your questions are addressed.

Some recent reports have told the story of this issue from the Plaintiff’s standpoint. That is in part because he was the one who filed the complaint and who asked for the injunction. In part it was because the Court believed that some of what we have done to fulfill our responsibility to you was instead a way to accumulate funds needlessly. This is my first opportunity since the ruling to tell you publicly and directly that we firmly believe that our Board, like the other boards in the 501 districts throughout the 67 counties of Pennsylvania – have the legal right and responsibility to comply with state statues and sound fiscal policy in levying taxes on behalf of their communities as they work to meet the educational needs of every child and taxpayer.

While we respect the right of critics to criticize – even to file lawsuits regardless of their merit – we fundamentally disagree that a Court of Common Pleas can decide that this school district or the Department of Education was wrong in following the law. It is particularly troubling that the Court is questioning an aspect of our stewardship that is integral to the Department’s discipline – the need to be responsible for tomorrow as well as today.

It is our view that this fundamental disagreement is worth fighting for and that preserving local authority is crucial to maintaining the fabric of the LMSD and public education in our state. The District will be sharing a comprehensive update with the community regarding our budget practices and fund balance tomorrow. In the meantime, we appreciate the opportunity to share an update and overview with you tonight.