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Honor system leaves one student frustrated

Whitnall senior does not know why honor society rejected him

Dec. 3, 2008

Kevin Stachowiak is looking forward to college, but he also finds himself looking back to high school with an unrealized academic goal.

While the Whitnall High School senior awaits word on his college applications, he is still trying to get into the WHS chapter of the National Honor Society.

Stachowiak, 17, is one of about 30 WHS juniors and seniors, out of 90 applicants, turned down last month. And he can only guess why.

“The rejection letter I got doesn’t really tell you much. You don’t know who the (NHS) teachers are and you don’t know the reason why,” Stachowiak said.

Honoring the rules

A panel of several WHS staff members decides who gets into the society, an organization founded in 1921 for recognizing middle and high school student achievement.

To be considered for admission, students usually must have at least a 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. At least four areas are considered for admission: scholarship, leadership, service and character.

School Board President Rick Kollauf said the announcement every fall of new NHS members sparks disappointment among students who are not accepted and their parents.

“Everybody feels their child is special, either talented or otherwise. There’s always a dispute regarding this and there’s always a gray area of where you draw the line,” said Kollauf, who added students can always appeal to the chapter and the principal.

A less-than-appealing process

Stachowiak said he has appealed his rejection, without success, to the WHS chapter as well as to Principal Joel Eul.

Stachowiak speculated his classroom outspokenness might have caused his rejection from the society.

“I think it’s an injustice because it’s just a lot of staff (members) holding grudges based on your opinions,” Stachowiak said. “I would just speak my mind. Not all teachers necessarily appreciate that.”

Kevin’s father, Tim Stachowiak, noted that his son, an Eagle Scout, recorded 3.79 GPA on his last report card. Those factors, combined with the little information he received in return, has left him wondering how his son could have been rejected for the honor.

“They’ve never communicated to me that my son had been disrespectful to his teachers,” Tim Stachowiak said. “It’s pretty much a mystery.”

Rejected, but unbowed

Tyler LeRoy, 17, another WHS senior passed over by the society, was recently accepted at the U.S. Military Academy. Reluctant to discuss why West Point felt he had the right stuff but the local chapter the National Honor Society did not, Tyler said he would not appeal.

“I’m just kind of fed up with it,” Tyler said. “Once I got my (presidential) appointment to West Point, I just realized it doesn’t matter too much any more.”

A need for change?

School Board Vice President Bill Osterndorf, whose daughter Laura, a WHS student, was recently admitted to the society, suggested the WHS chapter consider making the selection process for admission to the society more open next year.

“If part of the concern is ‘maybe we can have more transparency here,’ I think that goes with the idea that we should be transparent wherever we can,” Osterndorf said.

Eul did not return a reporter’s phone call as of deadline.

John Neville can be reached at (262) 446-6609.

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