May 17, 2013

District News

The confidence of a sixth grader

A notice of opportunity comes through the mail: "Please consider joining us and other staff to play in the grand finale number in this spring's sixth grade band concert!"

In the hallways between classes and over chicken nuggets at lunch the buzz continues. "I guess I will if you will."

Tarnished trombones and trumpets are resurrected from spare bedrooms and closets, and around our community through open windows sixth graders and their teachers and principals are heard practicing the middle school band classic "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

For dress rehearsal the day before the concert, the director assigns me to a marimba. With a reassuring smile and the words, "You can do it," she turns responsibility for me over to a sixth grade percussionist.

The baton comes down, the band begins, and I am full of confidence for a whole three measures. After rehearsal, I tell the middle school musical genius with whom I share the marimba, "I just need a little more practice... I will stay after school until I get it right." Without hesitation, she replies, "I can stay after to help you... I'll call my dad and mom."

I do stay after to practice. A few seventh graders show up to do the same, and one asks me what I am doing. I explain. She smiles and says, "In a sixth grade concert if you make a mistake no one will know!"

On the night of the concert we dress up in our best. One boy in our section beams in his first suit, acquired for the occasion. Before the curtain opens, the nearly one hundred students on stage are clearly nervous.

Then the conductor gives the signal, students stand tall, and the curtain opens. Applause. Band ready. The concert begins.

I remember how nervous my own daughter was at the same age while she prepared for a brief solo passage on her cello.

"I'm afraid I will make a mistake," she admitted.

"Just remember one thing when you play." I offered, trying to reassure her. "Dads can hear only the right notes. We never hear a wrong note." She smiled and relaxed.

How did this week's concert go? Just ask a dad.

Dr. Michael Lovett


Did You Know?


New District-wide hires and retirements

  • Gifted and Talented Coordinator - We are delighted welcome Jo Tate as the new WBLAS Gifted and Talented Coordinator. She comes with a strong background in gifted program development and has worked extensively with the cluster grouping model. Jo will work with the REACH teachers, cluster teachers, elementary principals and Ann Malwitz to implement the gifted program enhancements that were approved by the School Board in January 2013.
  • Community Education Director - The White Bear Lake Area School Board recently approved the appointment of Kristine Wehrkamp as director of community education. She will begin her work with WBLAS July 1. Longtime Community Education Director Dave Guenther, who has been with the district for 34 years, is retiring. Find a press release regarding Kristine's appointment here.
  • District Center Retiree Open House - Join us from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, June 5 to celebrate the retirement of seven District Center employees. Find the invitation here.

Community Services

The WBLAS Community Services and Recreation Department provides a wide range of services and opportunities that enhance the quality of life for all members of ISD 624.

The Community Services and Recreation Spring/Summer  2013 Catalog is now available online. Click here to register for upcoming courses.

Parent Notices:

  • Summer Extended Day Program - The District will offer a summer Extended Day Program from June 10 through August 16. This childcare program, for children entering kindergarten through those entering 6th grade, offers a variety of activities including camps, service projects and weekly field trips. Program locations are Willow Lane, Otter Lake and Oneka Elementary Schools. Click here for more information and registration materials.
  • Good News Bears Contest - All students in kindergarten through eighth grade are encouraged to enter the "Good News Bears" Writing Contest. Students can use this  form to submit their entries by May 20.
  • Fill the Heart Event - On May 22 at the Vadnais Heights Sports Center Leslie Sieleni will be hosting a Fill the Heart Community Event to show support for all individuals with intellectual disabilities. Many students, teachers, community members, school board members and Special Olympics athletes and staff will be in attendance. 
  • Tech Talk - Find the latest Assistive Technology Newsletter here.
  • Otter Lake All-Star Birthday Bash - Mark your calendars! Otter Lake Elementary will host an All-Star Birthday Bash from 5-8 p.m. on September 26 to celebrate the 25th birthday of the school. All current and former students, parents, teachers and staff are invited to attend.

Senior Program Updates:

The White Bear Area Senior Center is a program of the White Bear Lake Area Schools Community Services & Recreation Department.

  • Community Resources - The White Bear Lake Area offers many resources for older adults in the community. Click here to view a comprehensive list of programs and services.
  • Senior Activity Passes - It's not too late for spring activities Free Activity Passes are currently available for senior community members ages 65 and up. Those who would like a free pass and a 2012-13 Activities Calendar can contact Jody Reber at 651-407-7563 to request an application.
  • Fraud and Scam Prevention Event - Learn how to protect yourself against Fraud and Scams at this informational session 2-3:30 p.m. May 23 at the White Bear Lake Area Senior Center.

In Every Issue:

  • White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation - The White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation, Inc. (WBLAEF) is an independent, non-profit corporation promoting excellence in education in White Bear Lake Area School District 624 schools. Find the WBLAEF website here.
    • WBLAEF Newsletter - Find the most recent White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation's newsletter here. To sign-up for the electronic newsletter, please send a request to or call 651-407-7696.
  • Energy Efficiency Program - The Schools for Energy Efficiency® (SEE) is a comprehensive program for K-12 schools to save energy and money by changing behavior throughout the district. As the school year is rapidly coming to an end, find the latest update here to learn about saving energy during the summer months.


Support WBLAS Students:

  • Sunrise 5K - Lace up your tennis shoes for the 2013 Sunrise Park Middle School 5K Walk/Run for Fitnessbeginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 18. All proceeds go to the Sunrise Park Physical Education Program.
  • Farewell to Seniors Concert - Check out The Horn at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20 to view "Farewell to Seniors" concert live online.
  • SPED Advisory Council - We are looking for new volunteers to be a part of the Special Education Parent/Staff Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council is to act as an advisory body to the district on behalf of students receiving special education services. The committee will work towards the district mission of providing a high-quality educational experience for all learners as it applies to students with special needs and their families. Please contact Cindi Rulli in the Special Services for more information or to volunteer.
  • Aviation Program Fundraiser - The Patrick Marzitelli Science and Aviation Scholarship Fund Memorial Golf Tournament will take place May 18 at Manitou Ridge. Find a flyer here.
  • Musicworks Minnesota Fundraiser - A fundraiser to support Musicworks Minnesota's work with White Bear Lake Area Schools will take place May 18 at WBLAHS - South Campus. Find a flyer here.
  • Art Extravaganza - All are welcome to attend Central Middle School's Art Extravaganza from 4-6 p.m. on May 28 at Central Middle School.
  • Summer Workers - Are you an employer looking to hire summer workers? Consider a hard-working WBLAHS student. Send your job postings to and we will post your position on the WBLAHS job board.

Awards and Honors

  • Lynn Mielke Award - Congratulations to Lakeaires Elementary paraprofessional Kathy Wells, who was honored this morning by the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation with the Lynn Mielke Distinguished Educator Award. See a photo album from the event here. Send her a congratulations note here.
  • Activity Administrator of the Year - Congratulations to WBLAHS Activities Director Tim Hermann, who was recently was named Region 4AA Athletic/Activity Administrator of the Year by the Minnesota Athletic Administrators Association and Second Vice President of the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MNIAAA). Send him a congratulations note here.
  • Principal of the Year - Congratulations to WBLAHS - South Campus Principal Tim Wald, who was recently was named was named High School Principal of the Year for Capitol Division by Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals. See a press release here. Send him a congratulations note here.

Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7578) to submit District News, General Information, Opportunities or Awards & Honors for inclusion in future publications.

Working together

It is a special time for students at Willow Lane Elementary when they get to spend time with their reading buddies. Throughout the year, community members generously volunteer their time to become a buddy and the students love every minute! The young learners benefit from improved reading skills, increased confidence and one-on-one attention from a nurturing adult.

As a way to say thank you to more than 40 volunteers who have been a part of the program this year, Willow Lane hosted a Reading Buddy Gathering this morning. Pairs of students and community volunteers used today as a chance to say goodbye, reflect on their year together and share plans for the summer. As students thanked their buddies, many tears were shed, especially among buddies who have been paired together for the past three years. Many of the adult volunteers have become more than just reading partners; they have become friends and mentors.

Students also teamed up at Vadnais Heights Elementary this week to take part in a mapping extravaganza unit. Students were given many opportunities to look at different maps of the world, community and school. While looking at these maps, they were introduced to the various components of a map and even created their very own map of the Vadnais Heights playground. First and fourth grade students then worked in pairs to follow each map to a final, surprise destination. Students were ecstatic to finally get outside for a lesson. "Wow, we don't even need a jacket!" exclaimed one student in the hot sun. From the swings to the slide, the pairs enjoyed their playground adventures together.

Relaying the cause

This afternoon, students at Vadnais Heights Elementary partook in the school's third annual walk around the school to "relay" for cancer awareness and prevention. In each of the last three years, the school has raised approximately $500 for the American Cancer Society with this fundraiser.

This year's event will feature student athletes and cheerleaders from White Bear Lake Area High School, and special guests and cancer survivors, Phyllis Kedl and Keith Warner. Kedl often volunteers at Vadnais to read to students or listen to students read. Warner is a well known community member who has been very active with the American Cancer Society.

The relay is a culmination of a Spirit Week that has been celebrated by the students, with the following daily activities:

  • Monday: Hats Off to a Cure - Wear a hat to demonstrate sun safety
  • Tuesday: Sock it to Cancer - Wear crazy socks
  • Wednesday: Crazy for a Cure - Wear tacky and crazy clothes
  • Thursday: Show You Care - Wear something purple
  • Friday: Working as a Team to Fight Cancer - Wear PEACE shirts

Vadnais Heights Elementary was the first district school to host this event, which has now spread to Oneka Elementary School and Sunrise Park Middle School. In fact, the second annual Sunrise Relay Field Day event to benefit the American Cancer Society took place this morning. Special guest speaker, and breast cancer survivor, White Bear Lake Mayor Jo Emerson joined the students for the event and ceremony.

Chalk it up to a job well done

Students in the district are making good use of the sidewalks, which seem to have finally turned the corner from needing to be shoveled to providing a blank canvas for works of art.

Last week, students in the "Drawing and Painting" class at White Bear Lake Area High School - South Campus created a rendition of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers (1888). The aerial photo of the masterpiece is striking, and chances are pretty high that you'll do a double-take and realize it captured a couple of the students in teacher Shawn Gritzmacher's class putting on the finishing touches on the piece. The photo was a popular "like" destination on the WBLAHS Facebook page.

Students at the elementary level also wielded chalk to create a stir, with a mission of inspiring people to care for the environment. First grade students in Alyssa Larson's class from Matoska International took to the outdoors to illustrate the biomes they had recently researched. Soon, the students were writing message with International Baccalaureate themes of being risk-takers, thinkers, principled and open-minded.  

One inspired learner wrote in her best penmanship, "Even though we are small, we can make a difference!"

A night of jazz

After a full lineup of indoor concerts this winter, WBLAS band students decided to jazz up their latest performance with a special outdoor event. Earlier this week, students from Sunrise Park, Central and WBLAHS worked in concert to host an entertaining Jazz Night on the lawn.

The WBLAHS - South Campus Jazz Combo entertained the crowd prior to the official start of the concert. Then, eight different ensembles and groups performed their selections beginning with the 7th Grade Central Jazz Band performing "Jammin' with Charlie" and ending with South Campus Jazz 1 performing Stevie Wonder's smash hit "I Wish". 

In a special finale, all ensembles joined together to perform "My Dinner With Ronald" as band members extended from the building to encircle the crowd. The night ended with a standing ovation - a great accomplishment considering that the full group had never even rehearsed the final song!

Click here to see all of the photos from the event. Don't miss out on this year's final concerts including the "Farewell to Seniors" concert live online at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20.

Mastering math

Students from Otter Lake Elementary School have been finding new ways to exponentially expand their math skills this spring. Earlier this month, fifteen fifth and sixth grade students from Otter Lake Elementary participated in a regional Math Masters of Minnesota Challenge. The program challenges students to use critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities in mathematics through a series of team and individual components. Students from Otter Lake joined 32 teams and over 160 students from across the state of Minnesota.

By adding the skills they had learned in the classroom and subtracting their nervousness, several competitors found the formula to success. Placing in the individual fact-drill portion of the competition were Tyler Mattson - 2nd, Isaac Maruyama - 2nd, Collin Sibik - 4th, and Wyatt Vint - 16th. Three students also placed in the individual problem solving round: Isaac Maruyama - 12th, Kailey Halama - 18th and Collin Sibik - 23rd. In group competition, the team of Sydney Beck, Isaac Maruyama, Tyler Mattson, Collin Sibik and Wyatt Vint divided the tasks to take 4th place, while teammates Harris Brekke, Sam Burket, Kailey Halama, Paul Moris and Chuck Mortenson claimed 9th place.

Beyond the classroom

This Monday, retired veteran Robert Bormes visited the students in Ms. Plana's language arts class to share his experiences of being overseas during World War II and present the classroom with a handmade gift in appreciation of letters the students had written to veterans for their service earlier this year. The gift of the latchhook rug was an extra special one, Bormes explained, as the aging process has affected his dexterity so it's likely his last project in the craft.

The students' letters were delivered to Bormes when he was on an honor flight with his military group, traveling to Washington, D.C. for a special event. Central math teacher Ms. Jorgenson participated as a voluntary chaperone for the trip and distributed the letters on the return flight home. A quasi pen-pal relationship was started between the class and Bormes, who decided he wanted to do something for the classroom, so he arranged to visit after he had finished his gift.

"The Panda team wrote beautiful, heartfelt letters," said International Baccalaureate Coordinator Jill Pearson. "This is a perfect example of an IB community project that touches many lives in our state and beyond."

Another group of Central students is taking their learning beyond Minnesota as well. Eighth graders in the classrooms of Ms. Kasten and Mr. McCollough participated in the National Geography Challenge. More than 200 students took the test, with the top ten Central scores being averaged to give Central its score in the nation-wide competition.

The results were impressive. Team Central finished first in the state and third in the nation. The top ten students whose scores were averaged are: Joe Tschetter 49/50, Hailey Swails 46/50, Sarah Hirsch 44/50, Emma Larsen 43/50, Joe Parranto 43/50, Isaac Brown 43/50, Gage Sibik 42/50, Bailey Bolton 42/50, Allison Carpenter 42/50 and Shea Niccum 42/50.

Both Central and Sunrise Park Middle Schools are International Baccalaureate candidate schools, a priority identified by school and community members during the District's Strategic Planning process.

Activities Updates

Bear Baseball achieved its first wins of the season against Roseville and Park High Schools last week. The top-ranked Boys Lacrosse Team continues their five game winning streak against Stillwater, Cretin-Derham Hall, Hill-Murray, Woodbury and East Ridge High Schools. Congratulations to the Girls Lacrosse Team on recent victories over Woodbury and Hastings. Fall Musical actors Sam Adamsson and Emily Nies are in the top 24 students in the state of Minnesota as semi-finalists in the Hennepin Theatre Trust Triple Threat Award process. On Monday, May 20, they will participate in live auditions that will determine whether they are selected as finalists. Boys Track and Field won the Pony Classic Meet held at Stillwater on May 11 and claimed second at True Team earlier in the week.WBLAHS Athletic Awards were given to the following outstanding student-athlete award winners: Tarah Hobbs - Female Athlete of the Year (Presented to the senior female athlete whose athletic career at White Bear Lake Area High School is considered outstanding), Nick Truen - Dick Bradley Award (Presented to the senior male student-participant whose athletic career at White Bear Lake Area High School is considered outstanding, Danielle Renner - Miss Bear Award (Presented to the senior female student-participant who not only displayed excellent athletic prowess, but combined that with outstanding work in the classroom and great leadership within her school and community), and Karl Solberg - CH Christensen Award (Presented to the senior male student-participant who displayed excellence as an athlete, student and citizen).

White Bear Lake Area High School Athletics schedules can be found here.

A comprehensive 2012-13 District Activities schedule can be found  here.

Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7578) to submit Student News for inclusion in future publications.

School Board Student Recognition

Before its May 13 regular meeting, the School Board recognized the following students who recently competed at state or national competitions:

Bus Safety Poster Contest Winners 

History Day Recipients 

WBLAHS Archery Team

School Board Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Upcoming meetings

Date Type Time Location
Monday, May 20 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center Room 201
Monday, June 10 Regular 7 p.m. District Center Community Room 112
Monday, July 8 Regular 7 p.m. District Center Community Room 112