Come June of senior year, students are going to many different places after graduation. We picture a new daily schedule, new environment, new friends. But one thing that very few of us picture is running for a position on the LMSD School Board. Harrison Meyer, LM class of 2016 and former school president, did just that. The board makes a lot of important decisions and is held partly accountable for the success of schools, a task Meyer believed he was qualified for. Issues prioritized in Meyer’s campaign included giving the student body a larger voice in the community, pushing back school start times, and fixing the “achievement gap.”
Unfortunately for Meyers’s supporters, he did not receive a nomination in the primary. The primary election for school board took place May 16, with numerous candidates vying for a total of eight spots. Community voters demonstrated satisfaction with the status quo, supporting the incumbents, both Democratic and Republican. Meyer ran as an independent alongside David Yavil and Tannia Schreiber. Issues that the majority of these candidates spoke about were the use of taxpayer money, addressing litigation, and budget issues, to name a few.
Meyer stated that his experience as president of student government and passion for politics prompted him to run. He had always been interested in politics, participating in student government throughout his entire high school career. When asked if he believed people would root for him despite his age and lack of experience in the adult field of politics, Meyer expressed hope that people would appreciate that he is “in touch with the student body.” He went on to say, “I understand students and the struggles they go through because I was an LMSD student until very recently.” This concept—that Meyer has a unique perspective on the students—was a big aspect of his campaign.
LM sophomores, juniors, and seniors may remember a petition circulating LM’s hallways last year asking for a later start time at school. As a candidate, Meyer prioritized a later start to the school day as one of the biggest issues of current district policy. Another issue Meyer was particularly passionate about is what he referred to as the “achievement gap.” Meyer explained on his website that “LMSD has a history of segregation and we cannot take for granted an open and accepting learning environment. We need to stop segregating minority students from their peers and make sure all students have a track towards success open to them.” He promised to work with the board to create more paths out of remedial courses and ensure a fair and transparent adjudication of student performance before and during placement in remedial classes.
One worry that some local voters may have had is that Meyer would have been splitting his time between serving on the School Board and attending the University of Pennsylvania, where he is finishing his freshman year. Meyer responded to this worry by stating, “If given the choice between attending a class at Penn or going to a school board meeting at the same time, I would drop the class or skip it for the meeting. I value overseeing the education of hundreds of students in this district over simply my own.” Additionally, Meyer pointed out that since many members work full-time jobs as well as serve on the board, his situation wouldn’t have been much different.
A large part of the motivation behind Meyer’s campaign is his frustration with the current board. He claimed that his opponents—especially the incumbent members—have experienced several controversial events which he believes “reduce the capacity to effectively oversee the administration,” referring to lawsuits on racial bias in LM, the laptop scandal at Harriton in 2010, and a more recent lawsuit over high taxes in the district. Meyer strongly believes that the current members of the School Board have made mistakes that he hoped to turn around. Actman, an aforementioned board member, thinks Meyer’s criticism is unfounded. “I think running a school district is complex and sometimes big issues end up in litigation[…] but a board with strong leadership will be able to respond to these issues quickly, using their best judgment and valuing community.” Actman did compliment Meyer’s desire to run, “especially at such a young age.”
Some people saw Meyer’s youth as positive. For example, Davis Burton, a Harriton student who was, until recently, running for Mayor of Narberth, actively supported Meyer. He explained, “In an era of extreme polarization and general unpleasantry within our political discourse, nothing is more important than young individuals with a commitment to their community trying to improve the world around them.” Evidently, though, many didn’t see him as qualified for the position. Zack Slogoff ’18 voiced his opposition, saying “[Meyer] says he wants students’ voices to be heard, but I don’t think you can have a serious, time-consuming job like a School Board representative and be a college student at the same time. I just think realistically he’s underqualified.”
Although Meyer was unable to secure a nomination, it’s certainly noteworthy that a nineteen year old orchestrated a serious campaign for School Board. In many ways, Meyer’s campaign is indicative of the larger trend in the current political climate that anyone, regardless of previous experience or age, can run for office. While, Meyer did not win the primary elections for School Board, he says, “I couldn’t have lost a better way. Having expended every effort and spent all of my energy, having worked with hundreds of supporters and volunteers, having spoken to families all over Lower Merion and Narberth about important issues in our school district, I am undeterred. This loss is no reason to give up—it is a reason to keep going. Together, we can still change education for the better and deal with the ongoing crises facing our schools. I look forward to addressing these issues with all of you in the near future.”