After growing up around educators and working in two other school districts as an administrator, Shaun Banin knows a thing or two about leadership.
He was part of a year of change, as the Tabernacle School District promoted him to superintendent/principal of the district on May 3, during a virtual board of education meeting.
Board members, former Interim Superintendent Tom Christensen and Business Administrator Jessica DeWysockie combined the positions to save compensation costs. The search continues for an assistant principal.
“I’m fortunate to be here and the staff, students and parents continue to prove themselves how amazing they are and how fortunate I am to serve this group. I’m elated,” Banin shared.
He previously served as a high school principal at Pinelands Regional High School and was an assistant principal and English teacher in Lacey Township.
Education has not been an extraordinary venture for Banin, as his family consists of educators. His mom, Sheryle, retired from Mt. Laurel School District last year. Banin called her a dedicated teacher who set a positive path for him as he made his way through the school system.
Positivity paid off well for Banin, as he now faces a year of changes for the district, whether in administration, staffing, the school budget or closure of schools from the pandemic.
“People are leaving, but we get to build upon a new team and work with teachers to figure out these problems, because they are impacting all of us,” Banin shared. “We’re going to try and make sure that we’re getting the best education possible for our students.”
Banin recalled that growing up, he never saw his schools’ superintendents unless it was for a major assembly or ceremonial purpose. He wants to be visible.
The halls of Kenneth Olson Middle School and Tabernacle Elementary School will likely be walked daily by Banin. Students and staff will learn his face, name and mannerisms.
Collaboration and student empowerment remain focal points for Banin, who suggests neglecting either principle would create an atmosphere that does not promote school growth.
“You can’t just say that one group is achieving or exceeding their expectations, therefore the district is successful,” he insisted. “You want everyone to be successful. That’s the biggest thing, that I want to make sure everyone has what they need.”
Banin has reminded himself that while he may be a superintendent, he will not know every minute detail, so his staff is a sounding board for ideas and growth.
Children ages 5 to 14 should be heard when rules or activities are being examined, he believes. Banin plans a continuation of former Principal Sue Grosser’s initiative to consult student leaders on what they believe needs to be changed.
Results from those consultations have included activities or events with the students as the focus, as well as a set of rules each student can follow and help one another grasp. Students have obtained leadership skills and representation.
Banin and the district share the perspective that a student should reveal what moved them to act in a certain way, and administrators should understand the student’s behavior and create an opportunity for improvement.
“Listening to them, finding out why they caused the problem and how you can help them,” Banin explained. “That is the whole goal here, especially where we’re serving a kindergarten population; these kids need to continually learn for high school and beyond.”
Students in Tabernacle usually enter the Lenape Regional High School District following eighth grade graduation. Banin sees that as an opportunity to collaborate with surrounding superintendents and create a regional culture where students have connections to one another when entering Seneca High School.
Seeing first-hand the passion students had to learn and teachers to educate made Banin excited to lead a district he described as amazing and goal focused. Daily virtual check-ins continue with teachers and students via Zoom or Google Classrooms to acquaint himself with all involved.
Banin’s family has been a support system as he sets examples for his sons that education, despite its stressors, is a rewarding venture for all.
“It was great because they (his sons) asked, ‘Are we superintendents?’ and I said ‘Not really, no,’” Banin recalled with a laugh. “They said, ‘I’m a superintendent, too, Dad.’
“I think that’s a big thing too, because everything about the job — yeah there is work to it, but be as positive as you can.”