Board member suggests need for a new academic society

Dilks seeks inclusion of NJHS in Tabernacle schools.

The sign outside of Olson Middle School is dark on Aug. 19, but will soon be illuminated as the first day of school nears in Tabernacle (Sept. 8) with Superintendent-Principal Shaun Banin submits finalized reopening plans to Burlington County and the state. Students will arrive to see signage on proper coughing etiquette, masks and social distancing while teachers craft lessons best for both in person and distance learning (Krystal Nurse/ The Sun).

Student success was highlighted this month as a board member pushed for the Tabernacle School District to join a more competitive and opportunistic academic society.

During the Sept. 21 board of education meeting, board member Dan Dilks, who has a child in the district, renewed his request for Superintendent-Principal Shaun Banin to reconsider joining the National Junior Honor Society and replacing Tabernacle’s own Olson Academic Leaders. The NJHS is offered in the other sending Seneca High School districts (Shamong, Southampton and Woodland townships).

It was suggested that students in OAL miss out on a wealth of scholarship opportunities that could either be applied to a private school or other higher education. Dilks said he sought the change in the best interests of the students and would retain the appointed staffers. Teachers Jeffrey Nutt and Maria Pote head the program.

All three of the aforementioned school districts are members of NJHS, a program separate from the larger National Honor Society. Membership in  the society is offered to all middle schools in the country, but a school would need to become a chapter for its students to officially join.

Membership in NJHS does not follow a student to the National Honor Society when he or she gets to high school. Interested students are required to submit a separate application to the NHS upon eligibility.

A transition from assistant principal to superintendent and the COVID-19 pandemic have occupied most of Banin’s time recently, Dilks said. But as teachers, the district and community at large get used to school during the pandemic, Dilks believes a review of OAL is necessary.

Critics say the current program does not offer enough community service or leadership opportunities to students, nor does it offer seminars or intercollegiate collaboration.

“I don’t think, it seems from my understanding, a new chapter of honor society is not a complicated process,” Banin added. “I just think we need to figure out exactly where the bylaws differ of the two entities to figure out the method and direction we’re going in with Junior NHS.”

The organization’s website explains that chapters benefit from joining NJHS because advisors and teachers can access content, offer nominations for the NJHS Outstanding Achievement Award and attend member-only summits, among other possibilities. Tabernacle would incur a yearly $385 fee to join; it is unknown how much is spent on OAL since after-school activities come under one lump sum in the district’s budget.

Dilks requested to formally sit down with Banin and discuss the new society and how it differs from OAL, and no action was taken during the board meeting discussion.

Board member Gail Corey said Tabernacle residents can inquire about the school district by contacting either Tabernacle Elementary or Olson Middle School. They would then be given the option to subscribe to updates via the district’s app. Updates are also shared on its social media accounts by searching Tabernacle Public Schools.

The board of education holds its next virtual meeting on Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. For meeting details, visit TabSchools.org.