The Other Shoe: LMSD Redistricting and Gladwyne

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xf14ae's picture
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In all the understandable outrage over the school redistricting-that-isn't-really that has managed to rip apart two of our most cohesive and historic communities, people may have noticed the other reason this redistricting plan is a complete failure that serves no one in the township except those wanting the 'status quo': The redistricting, done to equalize enrollment at Harriton High School and to offer equalized educational experiences - in other words, same opportunity at HHS as LMHS, doesn't accomplish this by a country mile. To put it plainly, Gladwyne got screwed too.

Consider that on the District's 'redistricting' home page, it says:

The Board also approved a set of "non-negotiables" to be utilized throughout the redistricting process. Non-negotiables are a limited set of parameters that must be a feature of any plan the Board will ultimately accept. The non-negotiables for LMSD redistricting include:

* The enrollment of the two high schools and two middle schools will be equalized.
* Elementary students will be assigned so that the schools are at or under the school capacity.
* The plan may not increase the number of buses required.
* At a minimum, the class of 2010 will have the choice to either follow the redistricting plan or stay at the high school of their previous year.
* Redistricting decisions will be based upon current and expected future needs and not based upon past redistricting outcomes or perceived past promises or agreements.

Plan 3 R does NOT in any way equalize enrollment of either the two high schools or the two middles - the primary reason that this redistricting was undertaken. Instead, we get a plan that looks like this per the District's Dec 15 presentation:

2008-09 LM 1470, HHS 798
2009-10 LM 1338, HHS 892
2010-11 LM 1225, HHS 941
2011-12 LM 1136, HHS 962
2012-13 LM 1110, HHS 1043
2013-14 LM 1074, HHS 1027

Now, this ASSUMES that IB will continue to draw students, at least 61 people from Merion, Penn Wynne, and Bala Cynwyd will continue to choose HHS over LMHS, and that a new, completely unvetted 'draw' program in conjunction with Penn State that's never been done anywhere before that the Curriculum Committee hasn't even seen yet or approved will also draw at least 10 students a year.

Wow. That's amazing. These numbers are about as solid as Bernie Madoffs', aren't they?

On top of it, now what the District is promising is "core curriculum parity" - meaning, both high schools will have the same core curriculum. Um, we have that now? Always have? The problem has always been in the electives and co-curriculars. Harriton does not have as many electives offered, nor to they have as many sections of an elective. For example, LMHS may have 5 sections of AP Chemistry, and 5 of AP Physics, Harriton will only have 1 section of AP Chemistry which is also offered at the same time as AP Physics. As a result, Harriton students don't get the opportunity to take both while LMHS students do.

The District refuses to promise this equality any longer, even though this was why we did this whole redistricting process to begin with. They've said they need a minimum 1000 students enrolled before they can guarantee elective and co-curricular parity, which this plan doesn't deliver for FIVE YEARS at best, assuming their Madoff numbers pan out.

So, at the end of the day, Harriton remains less academically rich than LMHS for at least five years, if not longer. There's no real incentive to fix the enrollment disparity before 2014 or ever b/c both buildings can easily hold 1600 students, meaning that if the 61+ students that the plan needs fail to show up there'll be plenty of room for them at LMHS.

Oh yeah, and the middle schools? The District has not presented updated enrollments - I think they want us to forget. They have changed their tune to insist only that neither Welsh Valley or Bala Cynwyd are 'over capacity'. By all estimates, BC though will have 150-175 more students than Welsh Valley. How is that equal?

It might not be so bad if the District had actually reached the objective it set out for - and has spent over $200 M creating facilities for. That they didn't is not only a failure of the public trust, it should be a crime. Our taxpayers, our residents and our children deserve far better. We must demand better than this.

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politeia's picture
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So, if I have this correct and I were to look at this from another angle, LMSD and the school board are busing African Americans from south Ardmore - where they can walk to Lower Merion High School - all the way to Harriton High School where they will have fewer opportunites at electives and co-curriculars - and thus the ability to achieve their true potential and also to get into the best possible college?

No need to answer. That's a rhetorical question.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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xf14ae's picture
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Not only that but because of the achievement gap issue, and because of the larger concentration of minorities who are the 'statistic' that drives that achievement gap, it can pretty easily be deduced that the students they're sending will be more likely to be in segregated special education classes (as they are at LMHS) and not in as large a number as non-minorities taking the AP classes - so demand for AP would likely not go up as much as it would had a less diverse non-minority group attending.

So what we're really doing is changing the domicile of some special-ed classes, further isolating ethnic minorities, failing to achieve significant mainstreamed classroom integration and not really creating nearly enough enrollment in AP or electives to justify adding more sections.

Meanwhile LMHS is losing some special ed students, freeing up classroom and educator space for potentially even more electives and enrichment opportunities for the mainstreamed and gifted population.

*sigh*

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"I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made new & whole for us all, one child at a time." - Brian Andreas

politeia's picture
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Well, I certainly don't have your knowledge of secondary school education in Lower Merion, but there seems to be a lot more to this than what we have read in the newspapers so far. The question in my mind now would be whether or not what has happened as you describe is a coincidence based on mismanagement of the process or a premeditated plan to make it this way. Perhaps a little bit of both? I certainly hope this was not all part of some master plan to benefit certain students at the expense of others - with those others happening to be minorities.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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el109's picture
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The Ardwood Civic Association will hold a meeting on Tuesday February 3rd at 715 PM. The topic of the evening will be the recent Lower Merion School District decision regarding redistricting and that decision's impact on the residents of our community.

The meeting will be held at the Household of Faith Deliverance Church at Linwood and Athens Avenues.

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