Horry County school board members will be taking a closer look at National Honor Society chapters and membership requirements at area schools after hearing complaints from students and parents about the current system.
Horry County Schools currently has 11 NHS chapters, one at each of the nine base high schools, as well as chapters at Scholars and Early College High School. NHS membership is based on scholarship, leadership, service and character, and academic requirements that vary from school to school, which is allowed by the national organization.
Madeline Moran and Katherine Edmonds, students at the Scholars Academy, took issue with the higher requirement of the Scholars chapter and being unable to join NHS at Conway High School, their base school. The two already are high-achievers by attending Scholars, which has a rigorous combination of Advanced Placement and college courses at Coastal Carolina University, but have fallen through the cracks when it comes to NHS membership.
The Scholars chapter requires a 4.25 on a 5-point scale, said Moran, who missed membership with a 4.241 grade point average, a score .09 shy of Scholars but well above the 3.75 requirement at Conway High. She is not eligible for membership at Conway since Scholars has its own chapter.
“When I started at Scholars, it was with the promise I could participate in anything at Conway High, but you don’t get the choice; Scholars made the requirement,” said Moran, a senior. “I have seven AP classes and over 40 credit hours at Coastal. It’s a little ridiculous they’re telling me I’m not good enough to be in the National Honor Society.”
The GPA requirement in the district ranges from 3.6 to 4.5, and Aynor High School has the highest GPA requirement for qualification, said Velna Allen, HCS executive director of high schools. Community service hours, ranging from 0 to 48 hours, are required to be considered as a candidate, and there are ongoing community service requirements once a student is a member.
Each school also requires leadership points for entrance, which can usually be gained by such things as being a captain of an athletic team, president of a club/organization or member of student council, Allen said. Schools usually limit the number of disciplinary infractions a student can have to meet the character component.
The board discussed NHS at a meeting last month and received some information about why membership requirements are so different across the district.
Faculty sponsors have made arguments for the differences based on the district’s various communities, geographic locations and opportunities for community service, Allen told the board. Inland schools especially are more limited in their community service options, and academic opportunities are not totally equal, such as the number of AP courses offered at some schools.
“We’ve always had that type of flexibility [in requirements] since the honor society was set up in 1921,” said David Cordts, associate director of the NHS, which was established by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “We don’t find it as successful if the school board or superintendent makes a requirement … We recommend they pull principals and advisers together to reach some consensus, which lends itself to the discussion of the innate differences between schools. When principals and advisers agree, we’re happy to support that decision at the local level.”
The board received more information on the Scholars chapter, which had its first induction in February 2011, as it is considering an NHS chapter for Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology, which is home to the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program. Students in STEM, as in Scholars, take classes away from their base schools all four years, and some STEM parents voiced support for a new chapter at the last board meeting.
Mary Daly’s daughter, a junior, is part of the district’s first STEM class but is at a disadvantage for joining NHS at her base school, Myrtle Beach High School, for the same reasons raised by Scholars parents who advocated for their chapter in 2009.
Students who attend these programs are rarely, if ever, at their base schools, increasing miscommunication about meeting times and activities, Daly said. Meetings sometimes conflict with classes and also can provide transportation challenges getting from one school to the other.
Students also must be recommended for membership by faculty members, who do not know them because they are not in their classes and cannot speak to their character, Daly said.
“My daughter went to St. Andrew [Catholic School], so she doesn’t even know most of the kids at her base school, and she misses those leadership opportunities,” Daly said. “I understand wanting them to keep the connections with a base school, but I think everybody wins [with their own chapter].”
The board will continue the discussion at its next board meeting, Sept. 16, according to Vice Chairman Neil James, who said he understands the challenges and believes the board can give some direction to the chapters.
“I think the whole board is concerned, but I don’t think we’ve had enough discussion,” James said. “There are multiple reasons why things happen, and you need to know as many of those as possible to make the right decision.”
Daly said she and other parents only want what will better serve all the students and said she trusts the board to make the right decision.
“I leave that up to them because I am so impressed with what the district has to offer our children,” Daly said. “There has been growth and opportunities here – no matter what your strengths are, there’s a place for you here.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.