Lenape Regional BOE sees additional time from new bell schedule benefit students and staff

Superintendent Carol Birnbohm used the latest BOE meeting to detail ways students and staff have been using common planning time and community lunch and learn.

Lenape Regional High School District Superintendent Carol Birnbohm has been a big proponent of the district’s transition to the new bell schedule that began in 2015–2016 school year.

In particular, Birnbohm has repeatedly praised the “common planning time” staff now has to meet cooperatively during the day, as well as the additional time students have during the day’s singular lunch period known as “community lunch and learn.”

At the latest meeting of the Board of Education, Birnbohm spoke about just some of the recent benefits students and staff have experienced due to the new schedule.

At Lenape High School, Birnbohm said staff from several departments recently used common planning time to explore new student growth strategies and how they can be used to help students reach their full potential.

For students, Birnbohm said members of Lenape’s JROTC recently used their community lunch to meet with ROTC leaders from Rutgers University.

At Shawnee High School, Birnbohm detailed how driving education teachers used common planning to develop lessons where students could use driving simulators to experience driving with and without the influence of texting.

For Shawnee students, Birnbohm said the school’s new Random Acts of Kindness Club used time during community lunch and learn to make holiday cards for the residents of Medford Leas retirement community.

At Cherokee High School, teachers used their common time to keep several labs open during December, including biology, photography, web design and woodshop.

Birnbohm said students were also able to use their free time to meet with representatives from several colleges, universities and branches of the armed services.

For Seneca High School, Birnbohm said world culture teachers recently used their common planning time to create a database of videos, primary source documents and other visuals to help students learn about the war in Syria.

Birnbohm said choral students at Seneca were also able to used their community lunch and learn to attend an in-house workshop.

And for all schools in the district, Birnbohm said many students used their recent time during community lunch and learn to plan acts of service and charitable giving for the holidays.

“I’m just not sure people understand our teenagers’ capacity for giving and their ability to mobilize around these various causes,” Birnbohm said.

In other news:

• The board also recognized the passing of former board member and Medford representative Arabelle Pennypacker, who died on Dec. 31 at age 99.

Pennypacker served on the LRHSD BOE for a decade from 1985 to 1995.

Before her time on the board, Pennypacker also worked for the district, starting her career at Lenape High School as a librarian and eventually rising to the position of head librarian.

Pennypacker was the first woman to become head of a department at Lenape, and she eventually became the head librarian for the entire LRHSD until her retirement in 1984.

• The board honored the Lenape High School marching band for winning the 2016 USBands Group II Open New Jersey State Championship in the fall.

The win was Lenape’s third straight title win and the band’s seventh win in total of the last eight years.

Lenape’s winning show was entitled “Bon Appetit” to reflect a theme of eating and food. Performers donned clothing to appear as chefs and waiting staff while they performed selections such as “Food, Glorious Food,” “Be Our Guest” and “Mambo Italiano.”

• Birnbohm thanked the volunteers from the Burlington County School Crisis Response team who recently assisted Shawnee High School after the passing of biology teacher Nicole Spirit.

Spirit passed away on Dec. 27 at age 32 after suffering a severe brain injury following a car accident 10 days prior.

Spirit also served as advisor for the school’s Animal Welfare Club and Biology Club.