As I read the superintendent’s letter, I had to wonder why he is not giving us the whole story. After all, isn’t information power? Doesn’t the public have the right to come to their own conclusions after hearing all of the information? Are he and the school board afraid that the citizens will come to the wrong conclusions? Read this reprint from the October 26, 2006 Main Line Times.
Many members of the community have expressed their displeasure with the content and tone of Superintendent Savedoff’s letter to the community that was posted on the District’s website, run in the local papers, sent home with children, emailed to residents, and broadcast on LMSDtv6. A detailed response was compiled on behalf of these members of the community who are concerned with the direction of the current Administration and Board. To maintain factual integrity, Superintendent Savedoff’s original words were kept alongside the response commentary. This made the document too large to print here. If you are interested in the whole story, please visit www.lmsd.info to review the reply in detail.
As I read the superintendent’s letter, I had to wonder why he is not giving us the whole story. After all, isn’t information power? Doesn’t the public have the right to come to their own conclusions after hearing all of the information? Are he and the school board afraid that the citizens will come to the wrong conclusions?
The latest and most public example of the District’s unwillingness to tell us everything has been their refusal to air the Act 34 Hearing for the new Harriton high school. For weeks, many citizens who were unable to attend the hearing requested via phone calls and emails that the district broadcast its tape of the hearing on TV. The Superintendent himself responded to an email from a vocal citizen by stating that it would not be aired, tauntingly adding “I guess that I will read about this in your weekly column.”
At last week’s business meeting, the school board became intolerant of the citizens’ request to air the hearing, lashing out at one resident who suggested that the Board’s decision not to air the meeting was a reflection on its character. In an effort to educate the public, THE ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION SOURCE offered a viewing of the hearing on its www.lmsd.info website.
Last night, with the expiration of the Act 34 comment period for Harriton high school having past, the Board reversed its previous decision by a unanimous vote! Before casting his “yes” vote, Board Member Joss Gelfand cautioned the audience that the 27 people who spoke out against the project were not representative of the general public, demonstrating the Board’s indifference to the hundreds of “concerned citizens” who have stated their opposition to what the Board is doing, and attempting to “spin” the factual content of a hearing that he did not attend. In calming the adverse reaction to Mr. Gelfand’s comment, Board President Larry Rosenwald stated “he is entitled to his opinion just as you are, right or wrong.” I am confident that Mr. Gelfand’s opinion is dead wrong.
The Board’s decision to now air the meeting is too little too late. When I asked the Board if they would also request that the PDE extend the comment period an additional 30 days to coincide with the airing, I was not given an answer. The fact is that this board has mishandled the entire “public” process, by withholding information until the last possible moment, and by designing these projects to avoid referendum instead of simply having held one. They now tell us that it’s simply too late. I couldn’t disagree more. But it will be too late after the quarter of a billion dollars is borrowed and spent.
I believe that the Lower Merion community is among the most educated in the country. Education is our power, and no information should be denied the public. THE ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION SOURCE at www.lmsd.info is committed to participating in the community education process by providing a source of additional information for the public to consider. The Lower Merion School Board is one of the most powerful elements of our local government, controlling a budget nearly four times that of the entire Lower Merion Township. But, that power does not give them the right to control the flow of information to the citizens. Recently, the District hired an issue advocacy firm to help it “sell” the capital program. But I think we need less advocacy and more raw data. Let the public decide what it wants. The public trust will be gained and strengthened in direct proportion to the level of transparency that this District exhibits. Presently, it is headed in the wrong direction.