“I have young kids,” she adds, “and you go to Sally’s Music Circle and Har Zion [preschool], and you look for the kids who are going to be your kids’ friends, and not knowing [which school] those kids are going to be at is weird. We’re all such control freaks, and not knowing is really hard.”
Schools are an amazingly touchy issue for any parent, and understandably so. But somehow, it seems that in Lower Merion, the issue’s even touchier. “It’s not just Lower Merion,” argues one school board source, who points to some of the region’s debilitating teachers’ strikes in recent years, and insists that all schools and parents, public or private, argue over one thing or another. That’s true, but you can’t help thinking: the Gladwyne cell-phone tower debacle in 2006, when neighbors despaired about a tower on Conshohocken State Road (despite endless complaining about dropped calls)? That was in Lower Merion. The fight over Ardmore’s downtown makeover? Lower Merion. Then there was the super-stink raised when Gladwyne Lunch, the snack shack across from the Guard House, lost its lease a few years ago and had to move 100 feet across the road to another shack (all in L.M., of course). There was blogging, there were tears, and there was a dead squirrel stuffed into a landlord’s mailbox. And that was about a luncheonette.
IN LOWER MERION, most everyone lives a charmed life. It’s beautiful, really, a leafy township full of history, pretty homes, upscale stores and lovely people. Anyone would count himself lucky to live there. (Having lived there myself until a few years ago, I can testify to its delightfulness.) But apparently, having kids in Lower Merion public schools can plunge one into a maze of snobbery, reverse snobbery and relative degrees of wealth. (The private schools are a whole other labyrinth.) Since being in a top-ranked school district (Harriton’s average total SAT score is 1752; Lower Merion High School’s is 1753) seems so great from the outside, it’s puzzling, if you and your kids aren’t in that cauldron, to understand how one figures out whether one’s kids are the Harriton type or the LMHS type. But then again, this is a place where literally everyone in the township — you know it’s true — is either a Hymie’s person or a Murray’s person. There is no gray area for lox here, much less for schools, where reputations have long since been set: Harriton is known as a haven for the rich, while LMHS’s students are more typical Main Line kids.