As the mother of two sons who have received an extraordinary education in the Lower Merion School District, I am dismayed to pick up the paper every morning and read another story dragging the district through the mud over the laptop controversy. Day after day, the district's official statements and investigative findings about its use of the laptops' Web cams are drowned out by rumors, hearsay, and wild innuendo.
Forgotten in the noise is that the district provided laptops to all its high school students in the interests of education. And in doing so, it set the standard for public schools.
My family moved to Lower Merion 20 years ago because of the school district's ability to provide the best possible education for our children. Our first son was a baby then, and everyone told us that Lower Merion was the region's best school district.
In one sense, it's easy to identify the best school districts: You can look up their test scores, find out how much they spend per student, and check for music, art, and after-school activities. On all those counts, Lower Merion comes out on top.
In another sense, though, we had to take the district's quality on faith, because we couldn't know what it would be like for our children to be inside its walls. Now, with that baby graduating from college in a few short weeks, it seems we did not go wrong.
Thinking back, I realize that the statistics, scores, and report cards don't tell you what else goes on at school for 12 years. It's something intangible and untestable. It's a culture that Lower Merion School District has managed to create - an environment in which excellence is expected and nurtured, self-expression is encouraged, and caring for others is the norm. It's a wonderful community - not perfect, but wonderful.
The district made some significant mistakes in its use of the Web cams, which were meant to protect both the children and the laptops. But now we need to have a meaningful dialogue, learn from these mistakes, and move forward with better policies in place. This is what we teach our children about mistakes, and this is the behavior we should model for them.
It's disheartening to see what we have instead: a media circus, complete with villains, victims, and sensationalistic reporting. The school district I know and respect has not been portrayed in the news. And I am not the only parent who's looking forward to the day when Lower Merion School District can stop being a news item and go back to concentrating on what it does best: providing a first-class education to our children.