The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Inside the boardroom

Board members balance community input and internal discussions to make decisions that impact the district.

The Lower Merion Board of School Directors is the pinnacle of our district. It is composed of nine prestigious members, including President Dr. Kerry Sautner, Vice President Melanie Schafmesiter, and Superintendent Dr. Steven Yanni. Members are elected at municipal elections every other year. Once they are elected, they serve four-year terms which begin on the first Monday in December following their election. LMSD states that “The major responsibility of the Board is to set policies that define the nature of public education from kindergarten through the 12th grade.” But how do these members decide what is to be changed and/or newly announced? How do they deal with the pressure from parents, students, and outside voices in general?

During meetings, the board members discuss both the good and the bad. For example, in the meeting that took place February 20, Yanni started off the meeting by noting how the community got involved with Black History Month. He then gave “shout-outs” to different schools in the district which included LM for having the Shades of Black event, Belmont Hills Elementary for their efforts to learn about Lunar New Year, and Harriton High School for hosting the PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) Orchestra Festival. He then progressed into the nitty-gritty, or less “happy” topics. He reiterated all the concerns that came from parents and students about the high school walk zone changing from one mile to 1.5 miles for next year. Although the board makes the true final decisions, the community plays a huge part in what goes and what does not. This is why the board strives to keep their plans on the low. Even a small leak of information could create an uproar too big to handle. This was seen when Yanni shared that, “more information regarding transportation changes and the walk zone for next year will be shared in March. Safety remains a top priority for the District.” They keep their speeches concise, while still reassuring the community that they are doing what they can to alleviate the problems we are facing.

Graphic by Angelina Lu ’26/Staff

After the Superintendent’s updates and presentation, committee reports are then shared to attendees of the meetings. These committees not only include adults, but students as well. The board wants to make sure they hear a range of voices from all types of citizens in our district. Some of the committees that report include the Policy Committee, the Equity and Anti-Race Committee, the Finance Committee and many more. While this is all immensely great, controversy still finds its ways into the boardroom. 

As the night continues, audience recognition is what occurs next. Audience members can either comment on a list of the main topics of discussion in person or through zoom, which has been utilized as another form of a viewing. This is a big help to parents with younger kids or those who are working late and can’t make the meetings in person. While most sharers are civilized, presenting genuine concern for their children, some comments are more harsh and/or heated. One person even shared their thoughts on Yanni, mentioning that “he was being a robot.” However, no matter the audacity of some, after the audience concludes their remarks, the board still works to answer the questions they have and give more information to diminish their worries. They serve as a middle ground, hoping to alleviate the tensions that emerge as the discussion continues.

Once this section of the meeting finishes, the next part arises, which is a bit more tedious. Field trip requests are passed, contracts are discussed, and other agreements are noted. Then, the board moves on to discussing updates on human resources, educational services, business office, facilities and operations and new/old business. They finish out the night by skimming over upcoming meeting dates, including committee meetings, which are more in-depth. 

While the school board can certainly acquire both positive and negative connotations, they work their best to do what they feel will benefit our district most. It is certainly not an easy task to take on, but their efforts are deeply appreciated by our community!


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