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Lower Merion School District

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Board president's remarks at September 12 meeting

LMSD Board President Dr. Robin Vann Lynch 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.

On behalf of the Board of School Directors, I want to welcome everyone back to what is already shaping up to be another amazing year in Lower Merion School District. The beginning of a new school year often signals a more structured routine for many as well as new beginnings. Our children make new friends. Our staff welcome new colleagues. We look forward to the milestones and accomplishments and prepare ourselves for the challenges that await.

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending Harriton’s first home football game of the season to support my daughter who recently joined the Pep Band, at my urging as a former band member myself. As I am sure my Board colleagues can attest, our lens as Board Directors is always on. By that I mean as I cheered on the Rams and the Pep Band, I also looked around through my facilities and operations lens admiring the fields and appreciating the many resources that our school and larger community enjoy here in Lower Merion. As Board Directors we take great pride in the academic, co and extra-curricular experiences that make attending our schools special. From World Language in the Elementary Schools, to our International Baccalaureate program in the High School, to state of the art facilities, to some of the best teachers and administrators in the state, we have much to be proud of. And our children deserve the highest quality education we can provide for them. This is our commitment as your Board of School Directors.

Since February this commitment has come under attack and raised questions about our budgeting process and practices. And while you will hear from our Solicitor Mr. Roos momentarily, I will say that our Board was stunned with the County court’s opinion and ruling that we somehow consistently misled and took advantage of our taxpayers. That assertion is not supported by the facts, including Board record which documents six public budget meetings with extensive public comment. At the conclusion of these meetings presentations were promptly posted as well as a comprehensive Frequently Asked Question section to address questions raised throughout the various meetings.

Nonetheless, rather than discussing the Gifted Education Program as we did in Curriculum this past Tuesday, we find ourselves here this evening to provide you with a more contextualized perspective on our budgeting process and the overall use of district finances and respond to your questions and concerns. I want to state up front that not only has the Board been extremely transparent throughout the budgeting process, that in no way have we ever attempted to deceive you.

In my view, the Board today and previous Boards have been responsible, ethical, sound and professional stewards of taxpayer funds. Our certified auditors support this view, as do bond counsel and most importantly the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

We are grateful to serve such an engaged community of families, students, teachers and staff. We appreciate your many correspondences that support our efforts to deliver a high quality education for our children. This Board has acted with the utmost professionalism and integrity to preserve and protect Lower Merion School District.

In closing I want to welcome a respectful civil discourse around this incredibly important issue that has implications not just for Lower Merion but for all districts around the Commonwealth. We anticipate extensive public comment this evening and ask that if you would like to speak to please sign up now with Ms. LaPera as at some point we will need to close the list and we want to give everyone who is interested in speaking an opportunity to do so.

I will now turn the meeting over to our Superintendent Mr. Robert Copeland who will offer some remarks, followed by our Solicitor Mr. Ken Roos who will give us legal guidance this evening. Again thank you for your ongoing commitment to the Lower Merion School District.