New Pinelands Regional High School Principal Appointed

Report on Random Drug and Alcohol Testing Also Presented a Board Meeting
Sep 21, 2016

Pinelands Regional High School will soon have a new principal.

At its Sept. 14 meeting, the Pinelands Regional School District Board of Education appointed Shaun Banin to that position through June 30, 2017, pending successful completion of all pre-employment requirements and the criminal history record check process. His salary is set at $126,000.

Banin comes from Lacey Township High School, where he was an assistant principal. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Maryland; he has a master’s in administration from the University of Scranton.

According to Intermin Superintendent Maryann Banks, 35 applications for the job were received. Seven members of the district’s administrative team reviewed the resumes and cut down the list to a dozen candidates. Eight ended up being interviewed after the other four withdrew from the process with some having already landed jobs elsewhere.

Banin was the unanimous pick of the interview committee that consisted of Cheryl Stevenson, district director of curriculum and instruction, Pinelands Junior High School Principal Eric Pschorr Jr., Director of Guidance Karen Kenney, Mel Reid of the Pinelands Education Association and Banks.

“Mr. Banin was carefully vetted,” Banks told The SandPaper. “One of the central office administrators I spoke with in Lacey said she is ‘devastated’ that Shaun is leaving the district.”

Other items on the Sept. 14 meeting agenda included a report on the district’s random drug and alcohol testing policy that was introduced in the 2015-2016 school year and a presentation informing the board of a new physical education program at the junior high school.

High School Assistant Principal Michael Jay Tash presented the random testing report.

Seven hundred and twenty-three high school and ninth grade students were part of the program that requires any student participating in athletics and/or other extracurricular activity, plus those driving to school, to agree to submit to urine tests to detect the use of illicit drugs or alcohol. Those 723 came from a total enrollment of 1,066 students in grades nine through 12.

Two hundred and one students were randomly selected by the private company that performs the testing, Sports Safe, over the course of the school year. Seven, all male, tested positive for cannabis (marijuana). That was the only prohibited substance the testing program uncovered.

The program requires students with a positive result to be retested and three of the students with initial positive results tested positive again. One of those three tested positive a third time when they provided a third sample.

As per the program’s guidelines, all seven of the students received drug counseling from the district’s SAC (student assistance coordinator). The students testing positive subsequent times were aided in obtaining more intensive outside counseling.

Tash told the board that the 12 positive tests represented an approximate 6 percent positive rate, higher than that of most New Jersey schools with drug and alcohol random testing protocols where the positive rate was 4 to 4½ percent.

Board member Betti Anne McVey asked Tash if there had been a drop off in participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities because of the random testing policy.

“I haven’t seen that,” Tash replied.

Alison Laurence, a PRJHS physical education teacher, told the board about a new cycling program she was instituting at the school.

Laurence said the idea sprang out of her EBD (students with emotional and/or behavioral disabilities) class.

“It has had only five, six, seven kids,” she said, adding that with that small number options were limited. “They can’t play games.”

She thought about physical activities kids of that age group were interested in.

“I came up with skateboarding and bicycling – they’re always on their bikes.”

So she, with the assistance of Pschorr and special education teacher Scott Beaton (all three are cyclists to one degree or another), applied for a grant from the Specialized Bicycle Components’ Riding for Focus program.

The Specialized Foundation, said Laurence, uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic and social success. The CEO of Specialized Bikes, Mike Sinyard, suffered from poor focus as a child because of ADHD. He loved cycling and realized that after his rides his focus sharpened and the symptoms of ADHD lessoned. So he launched the program over the past year.

“He found,” said Laurence speaking about Sinyard, “that he was able to manage his symptoms better and did better in school. There was a pilot program in Utah which had the kids ride before math and science classes, and it was featured on the ‘Today Show.’ Their scores (on standardized tests) went up.”

Pinelands was one of 200 schools from across the country that applied for a grant.

“We had to prove that we had areas in which to ride and proper supervision,” said Laurence.

Pinelands was one of 10 schools selected as a participant in this year’s pilot-on-a-larger-scale roll-out, receiving a $15,000 grant that funded 30 bikes, which retail at about $450 each, 30 helmets, 175 water bottles, a mechanic’s kit and a curriculum. There is no cost to the district and the owner of Beachwood Bicycles volunteered to assemble the bikes and service them two times a year.

“We, the 10 schools, are kind of like the guinea pigs,” said the PE teacher.

Laurence had one of the bikes displayed for the board’s perusal.

“When I brought out the bikes for the kids today,” said Laurence, “you should have seen their faces!”

Students participating in the program will ride on various trails near the school such as the unimproved Bridge Road, several fire roads that run to the Bass River State Forest and one that connects to Little Egg Harbor’s Freedom Fields. In the future, the kids may even take field trips to Wells Mills County Park or Batsto Village.

The dates and times for public hearings concerning the district’s three, $53-million-in-total, referendum questions that will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot were also announced at the board meeting. The first will be tacked on to the board’s regular meeting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 12. The second will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

— Rick Mellerup

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