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Chester County Press

Lyons served the Avon Grove School District well

10/04/2016 01:00PM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Avon Grove school community lost a fine representative when Pattie Lyons passed away at the age of 64 on Sept. 2.

For more than 18 years, Lyons served as a school board member from Avon Grove's Region III, which includes London Grove Township, Avondale Borough, and parts of West Grove Borough. During that time, Lyons served her constituents well—she was a forthright and well-intentioned school board member who always prioritized the needs of the students. She also understood that it is imperative to deliver a quality education to students while simultaneously limiting the costs to taxpayers in the district. Avon Grove has regularly been recognized as a district that provides a high-quality education with comparably low per-pupil expenditures, and a lot of decisions, both big and small, enabled Avon Grove to keep a handle on spending when tax rates were soaring in neighboring districts. Lyons participated in many of those decisions during her long tenure on the school board.

During Lyons' first years on the school board, Avon Grove was grappling with some difficult decisions about how to handle surging enrollment, especially at the elementary school levels. At that time, the community was bitterly divided over the plans to replace two “neighborhood” elementary schools, Kemblesville Elementary and Avon Grove Elementary, with a new, larger elementary school—Avon Grove Intermediate School. The Avon Grove Elementary School, in particular, was in desperate need of repairs, and Kemblesville Elementary had its own issues, and the new school offered many advantages for students, so Lyons made up her mind to support the construction of Avon Grove Intermediate School. It was, she felt, the most cost-effective way of handling the increasing enrollment at the elementary school level. A fevered battle over the plans ensued. Many people in the community took sides. Three-hour public meetings became the norm. The discourse wasn't always polite or propitious. Eventually, the battles grew into a political war as opponents of the elementary school plan launched a campaign to unseat the school board members who voted to support it. Lyons initially ran for a seat on the school board to serve the Avon Grove community, not to become embroiled in a highly emotional political fight. Yet, she never wavered. She explained the reasons for all her decisions to voters and won reelection to the board. She would be elected to the school board a total of five times.

We couldn't even guess how many hundreds of hours Lyons dedicated to the school district or how many evenings she spent at school board meetings or committee meetings or at school events. As a graduate of Avon Grove High School herself, Lyons was very proud of the strong educational opportunities that the school district provides to its students. She was also always aware of the need to deliver these opportunities in the most economical way possible.

On Sept. 29, the Avon Grove School Board voted to fill the vacant seat that Lyons occupied for nearly two decades. We certainly wish new board member, Bill Wood, the best of luck on his new endeavor.

Wood doesn't need to serve the Avon Grove community for the next 18 years—that's a lot to ask. But we hope that Wood, like Lyons, will have the courage of his convictions, and will be a public servant who has the whole community's best interests at heart.