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Lower Merion School District

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Update to the Community from Superintendent Copeland

Dear Community,

I hope this update finds you and your family well and that you had an enjoyable holiday season. I would like to take this opportunity to share the important updates below that have been happening in the District over the past few months.

Curriculum

The District's Strategic Plan continues to inform our practice in providing new and innovative experiences for students in and out of the classroom. The impact of this work is already being experienced by students across all levels through more engaging lessons and learning experiences. Several efforts are underway related to the implementation of the strategic plan. Some of these include:

  • Partnering with Challenge Success to systematically gather student input to assess middle and high school students' perspectives on homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, physical health, stress, parent expectations, academic engagement, academic integrity and teacher support.
  • Establishing a coherent K-12 writing portfolio system to include artifacts from multiple disciplines and multiple years. The portfolio will be digital so that it can include public speaking, visual and print artifacts.
  • Implementing a new middle school schedule that allows students increased voice and choice in their class schedules.
  • Revising and improving the elementary report card, which is being piloted this school year in the 4th grade. This new report card embeds the Habits of Mind and the District's Transformative Goals in addition to presenting an expanded and targeted narrative about each student by the teachers.
  • Adding 3D printers to each of our schools to support STEM and makerspace experiences.
  • Embedding coding and design challenges as a guaranteed experience for our elementary students.

The Strategic Plan's five pathways (Transformative Curriculum, Redefining Success, Student-Driven Schools, Commitment to Professional Learning and Spirit of Community) continue their subcommittee work to operationalize the tenets of the All Forward plan.

Enrollment Planning

Lower Merion and Narberth are amongst the most desirable communities to live and raise families. It should be no surprise then, to know that our school district's enrollment continues to grow. In just the last year, we grew from a District of 8,400 to 8,600 and the future shows that the growth is not going to slow for some time.

To help us plan for this growth the District has taken a number of proactive steps. For the second year, we have engaged two independent demographers to provide projected enrollments which helps to guide facility decisions. This fall the Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC) and Sundance Associates gave public presentations on their study. The overall takeaways from last year have not changed appreciably, so let me repeat them:

  • It is anticipated that the District will grow by approximately 1,000 students over the next ten years, with growth impacting high schools the most (almost 700 students added); middle schools will increase by around 345 over the same period.
  • In addition to the District remaining an attractive destination for young families, private school enrollment continues to decline and multi-family units continue to yield more students.
  • One area where the two studies differ is in their accounting of the impact of new and planned multi-family residential developments in Lower Merion.
  • Elementary school enrollment will stabilize, but some individual schools may have capacity issues. There is some variance between the studies at the individual elementary school level that will need to be carefully monitored.

The Board of School Directors has hosted (9) public work sessions to review possible options for addressing capacity concerns over the past two years. The next session will be February 5 at 7:00pm. During that session, I will update the community on our investigation of 1860 Montgomery Avenue (The Islamic Foundation); our efforts to look into the St. Charles Seminary property and any other properties being considered.

While no decision has been made, these properties are being viewed as middle school possibilities. Also of note, the Lower Merion School District completed a comprehensive Needs Assessment and I invite you view that and our "Enrollment Planning" on the District's website www.lmsd.org.

Audit Report & District Budget

The annual District audit by Rainer and Company confirmed that LMSD is in strong financial position and auditors reported no findings or concerns. The auditors stated that based on their experience, the District continues to do an excellent job budgeting and managing funds. They also reiterated the challenges of the school district budgeting process, namely trying to anticipate revenue and expenses more than a year in advance. They noted that it is important for school districts to budget conservatively so that obligations can be met over the short and long term.

This month, we enter the new budget planning cycle and presented our Initial 2018-19 Budget on January 22nd. Complete information about the budget process, including public meeting dates, is shared publicly and posted in the Budget section of our website. Here is a list of the upcoming meetings*:

-March 14 Finance Committee Meeting – Operations Budget Review @ 8:30 AM

-April 4 Finance Committee Meeting – Student Services Budget Review @ 8:30 AM

-April 25 Finance Committee Meeting – Staffing/IT Budget Review @ 8:30 AM

-May 16 Finance Committee Meeting – Curriculum & Instruction Budget Review @ 7:00 PM

*All meetings will be videotaped.

Awards & Achievements

The District has celebrated numerous achievements this school year. While most occur on a daily basis as seen in the consistent, outstanding efforts of our teachers and students, the following are a few highlights that reflect the excellence of our school community:

  • LMSD was named to the College Board's 8th annual AP District Honor Roll – a distinction recognizing school districts committed to increasing access to AP courses for underrepresented students while simultaneously increasing the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher. LMSD is one of only 43 districts in Pennsylvania to be awarded this distinction and is one of only 26 districts in Pennsylvania to receive this honor in multiple years.
  • LMSD hosted its 4th Annual Girls Empowerment Conference focusing on social justice issues as students explored their strengths, learned and practiced new skills to become more self-assured, and participated in conversations about opportunities and challenges for women in high school and beyond.
  • The Lower Merion and Harriton High School buildOn Trek Teams combined to raise more than $150,000 to construct a pair of schools in rural, impoverished villages in Haiti.
  • The Harriton High School girls varsity tennis team defeated Central League rival Conestoga en route to capturing their second consecutive District I AAA Championship.
  • Harriton High School chemistry teacher Brian Gauvin was recently selected as a 2017 Axalta All-Pro Teacher recognizing outstanding teachers in the tristate area for their contributions to their students, school and community.
  • Cynwyd Elementary School fifth grade students won the Grand Prize at the 5th Annual Citizenship Challenge Essay Contest sponsored by the Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics – a competition providing an opportunity for students to think critically and express themselves about a current issue facing our democracy.
  • Penn Wynne first grade students won the Northeast Region K-2 Division in this year's DreamBox Learning Math Challenge – a bi-annual competition where thousands of students throughout the United States and Canada compete to complete the most DreamBox math lessons.
  • Nine Penn Wynne Elementary School students were selected as recipients of the 2017 Young Heroes Award sponsored by the National Liberty Museum and TD Bank for their service project "Hats for Haiti."

I look forward to the remainder of the school year. Best wishes to the entire community for a very happy, healthy and successful 2018!

Sincerely,

Robert Copeland

Superintendent

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