This resident questions the board's promotional materials that were prepared by district staff at the expense of the public and handed out by students at the poles on Election Day (click here for district's flier). He is concerned about the welfare of the children and the express Act 1 prohibition of the use of public funds for political purposes (see page 44, paragraph m. of Act 1, click here to view the entire Act).
Emailed to the Board
November 22, 2006
Dear LMSD Board Members:
If you are able to make recent Board Meetings available for viewing on your website, please do so, thanks.
I am concerned about using students to promote your agenda. I am referring now specifically to having students hand out printed information at the polling places on November 7th. In how many instances did this happen, and were these students minors? Were all those doing this work minors?
If this action was not an actual violation of Act 1, with its ink barely dry, it gives the appearance of doing so. Moreover to me it seems abusive of children and very questionable behavior on your part. It was not for any educational purpose. And have you considered the potential liability issues in having minors do your bidding? Please confer with your solicitor and your insurance carrier so as to insure that the children, and their parents, are properly covered in the event of an accident. It may be against your grain but in doing so you would be also protecting the tax payer. Are students permitted by law and by LMSD regulations to engage in this type of promotion? Do you approve of your students being used in a political endeavor?
I also think that it is bad policy to have as a goal to “attract new residents” (per your flier); how much have you spent on this pursuit? This should not be part of the mission of any school district. I am a resident and a tax payer and I resent your trying to replace me with “new”.
I look forward to these questions being answered.
Very truly yours,
James J. Doran
From: Young, Douglas [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 4:28 PM
To: J&M Doran
Subject: RE: various
Dear Mr. Doran,
Thank you for your email and interest in Lower Merion School District. Your suggestion about posting Board meetings on the website is a good one and we are hoping to post more online video content on lmsd.org in the coming months. In the meantime, DVD and VHS copies of all Board meetings are available for pick-up at the administration building. They may be reserved in advance by emailing email@example.com and can be signed out for up to ten days.
Per your question about students distributing information; the District has active Field Experience and Community Service programs that enable our students to engage in activities such as the Election Day meet-and-greet. All students who participated on Election Day volunteered their time to engage with voters and answer questions about their personal experiences in the LMSD schools. The program was strictly voluntary and not political in nature; students were not allowed to participate if they were also working on a political campaign and were specifically advised not to engage in political conversation during their hours at the polls. The materials distributed offered informational updates to the public as well as recent district achievements and points of pride that may be of interest to residents.
The experience proved to be an outstanding learning opportunity and civics lesson for the students. Instead of spending their “off” day at home or at the mall, they shared meaningful conversation with the public about their educational experiences, had a first-hand look at election day activities and served as representatives of their schools and community. Many have inquired about other ways they can extend their school ties to the community. Drawing inspiration from the event, our student volunteers have offered to assist the new Education Foundation of Lower Merion and two students have discussed developing a program that would showcase student talents by scheduling young artists, performers and athletes to appear in community spaces. These are exactly the kinds of results that we as educators would seek from a collaborative, service-based learning experience; as a district we seek to foster connections, dialogue and civic responsibility among students that will benefit the entire community.
Finally, the public schools are an important reason why so many folks choose to live in Lower Merion. It is certainly not the intent of the Board or the administration to “replace” current residents, rather to ensure that the district provides an outstanding education for our children. Strong public education systems serve to retain residents and play an important role in attracting individuals and families who are seeking to relocate or purchase a new home.
If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact me anytime via email or by phone at (610) 645-1978.
Director of School & Community Relations
Lower Merion School District