April 27, 2014

Spring Skies, Showers, and Strawberries

"Teacher, should we be at home today?" 

A first grader grazes out the window at April's grey, cloudy morning. After weeks of unseasonably cold temperatures and a major April snowstorm or two, gentle rain falls hour after hour. 

"Why do think you should be at home?" the teacher asks. 

The little first grader explains, "Because it is dark outside like it is when I wake up in the morning." 

Adults listen to weather forecasts, check the internet or mobile phone app, and still are frequently surprised! Consider the world of a child. Most haven't seen rain for six months, practically a lifetime ago! Should we be surprised when they are puzzled? 

Lesson 1: to a child every day is a new adventure. 

* * * * 

Rain continues though the day. By late afternoon at the high school, boys and girls on the track team finish their workouts. Flushed faces and enthusiasm give away their excitement about running outside, as rain washes away the remaining ice and snow. 

On a muddy field, lacrosse is in session. With yells of encouragement and lots of slipping, mud transfers from field to every exposed surface, including uniforms and faces. 

A coach asks, "Who is the short player between the two tall ones? I can't tell one player from another with all this mud!" 

Lesson 2: for a teenager, it doesn't much matter what they are doing as long as they are with friends. 

* * * * 

Go to the front of the line in the elementary school cafeteria and watch the children's faces as they receive school lunch on plastic trays. Eyes widen when the boys and girls see plump strawberries, the first of the season. As three red, sweet, berries are placed on each tray, children smile and politely say "thank you!" 

Lesson 3: children love lunchtime, where they socialize and share. Anything new, especially the first fruit of the spring season, is pure joy. 

* * * * 

With six weeks of school left for the year, teachers and all school staff help children finish strong, negotiating state tests (MCAs), college end of class exams (Advanced Placement and other exams), and encourage all to give their best through the last day. 

But as the season changes, every week is fresh and new. For this week we saw spring skies, showers, and strawberries. What is new for the children in your world?

Michael J. Lovett, Ph.D
Superintendent, White Bear Lake Area Schools

In Pictures: Sam Okello speaks to middle school choir students

Student News - Past, present success

Students in White Bear Lake Area Schools show their dedication to studying history, excelling in their present endeavors. Here are just a few stories to exemplify that level of dedication.

Ten seventh grade American History students from Central Middle School wrote winning essays for the Ramsey County Bar Association Law Day Essay contest. The 2014 contest theme was "American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters." 

Students wrote 500 word essays and each winner will be recognized on May 8 in a ceremony at the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul. Carrie Kearney Yee and Kari Janzen were the sponsoring teachers.

Another example of students who have used history to learn in multiple ways is Janel Toussaint's French class. Her College in the Schools classes were able to attend a lecture in French by Louise Dillery. 

Dillery was a teenager in Paris while the city was occupied by the Germans during WWII. She witnessed the arrest and deportation of her father (who never returned from Auschwitz) and managed to survive with no family members to help her. During a trip to France, other students found her father's name (Israel Gradzstein) on the wall of deportees.

Planning for future success

Beyond learning from history and enriching their present knowledge, White Bear Lake students also look to the future using the skills they have acquired in the classroom. Our seniors at WBLAHS are already planning out further education and career opportunities.

One example, Dan Kay, a senior at South Campus, won third place in the State Skills USA competition in the Diesel Technology division. Dan not only won a $5,000 scholarship to Universal Technical Institute (UTI) but also will receive his extended MSAT training with Cummins NPower in Phoenix, AZ at no cost.

Another example comes from our White Bear Lake ALC students who recently became state champions at the MAAP (Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs) Stars competition. They brought home gold, silver, and bronze ribbons for their achievements!

Some of the team events included: Team Management Decision Making, Team Parenting Decision Making, Team Advertising, and Community Service Project. The individual events were: Employment Interview, Workplace Relations, Career Portfolio, and Public Speaking.

These skills will undoubtedly prove to be very useful in their future career endeavors.

This forward-thinking mentality is not limited to their own lives - White Bear Lake students also put a lot of effort into bettering the futures of others.

For instance, our AVID classes have been implementing a service learning project to support, Solid Ground, a local shelter for women and children in abusive relations seeking safety. The students collected $1076 from their peers and our staff along with supplies for the shelter.

In the coming weeks, we will be honoring the accomplishments of many of our high school seniors as they graduate and look forward to a bright future!

Outstanding staff

Our students know how great their staff is at WBLAS, but it is a little extra special when we get to recognize them with a variety of different honors and activities.

Over the last two weeks, many of our teachers have been nominated and have won honors and awards. Cameron Mahlum was named "Best High School Teacher" at White Bear Lake Magazine's "Best of" event. Wendy Suoja and Shannon Anderson were runners up for the award.

Tony Walfoort, WBLAHS - North Campus teacher, was named the 2014 Teacher of the Year. Other finalists included Melissa Wenck (WBLAHS - North Campus), Ryan Brown (WBLAHS - North Campus), Kara Martinson (Sunrise and Central), Benjamin Kirkham (WBLAHS - North Campus) and Dan Gullick (Hugo, Oneka & Lakeaires).

In addition, last week, Sunrise Park Middle School teacher Huy Nguyen was one of two educators honored state-wide by the WEM Foundation and Synergy and Leadership Exchange with an Academic Challenge Coach Award. 

The award recognizes classroom teachers who are exemplary coaches of student teams that participate and compete in academic challenges endorsed by the Minnesota Academic League Council. This honor is accompanied by a $15,000 award.

This year, our staff members also have the opportunity to participate in a wellness challenge this spring. Three-hundred and fifty-eight district employees have made the commitment to "Move Towards Wellness" by joining the first district-wide wellness challenge.  

Expressing creativity

Three events this past week showcase our students expressing their creativity through publication, theater, and music. First, the WBLAHS Writing Center's Sips and Swallows event featured three MN authors (Kristy Abbott, Kate Hopper, and Nick Hupton) who were interviewed on stage by three students (Kaylee Anderson, Franny Eggan, and Franki Hanke).

They discussed their inspirations, motivations, and challenges surrounding writing and how it is an active part of their lives. The group also heard from ten students who read their writing, including poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and essays. The evening concluded with a slideshow presentation of all the photography and artwork that is featured in this year's Sensicality, a student publication celebrating its tenth year.

Next, high school students performed this year's spring play, The Odyssey, over the weekend. Click here to see another picture from White Bear Press!

Another great story of students expressing their creativity comes at the middle school level. Okello Sam, a guest speaker and musician from Uganda, came to middle school choir classes to teach about cultural instruments, songs, and dances.

Students had the opportunity to sing, drum, and dance to Ugandan music. Some students also had the chance to play a few different string instruments. See the above "In Pictures" section for some fun photos from his visit to Central Middle School.

62.4-second video update

Take a look at our 62.4-second update that highlights weekly activity throughout our schools!

Activities Updates

The White Bear Lake boys' track and field team took second place at the annual White Bear Lake Relays earlier this month.

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

Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7695) to submit Student News for inclusion in future publications.

School Board News - School Board Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Date Type Time Location
April 28 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
May 12 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
May 19 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center

District News

General Information

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 2014 Spring-Summer Catalog was recently mailed to District residents. Click here to register for upcoming courses.
  • Interested in joining an adult softball league? We offer a wide variety of options. Click here to learn more.

Parent Notices:

  • Koom Siab Culture Club is hosting their annual Asian Night Event on Friday, May 2. The event will include student performances, activities for kids, and delicious food. All are welcome! Doors open at 6:00 p.m. at the South Campus Theater. There is a $1 fee for everyone ages 12 and up.
  • Jang-mi Korean Dance & Drum group - It's Jang-mi Korean Dance & Drum group's 30th Anniversary and they will be celebrating with White Bear Lake Area Schools! On May 17, North Campus will host the celebration, which includes a special recognition of alumni as well as the annual program and recital. Click here for more details.
  • Reflect on Earth Week - Our students were involved in Earth Week and the Lights Out program!
  • NCAA clearinghouse - Is your child a college-bound student athlete? If so, you should consider registering him/her for NCAA eligibility here.
  • East Metro Miracle League (EMML) - This baseball league is designed specifically for youth age 3-18 with cognitive and/or physical challenges. Click here for more information on how to sign up!
  • Assistive Technology in Math - Learn more about how your child could benefit from assistive technology in math here.
  • ADD/ADHD Support Group - Join us for our April meeting!
  • Interested in TV Production? - Volunteers and interns are needed for White Bear Lake Cable Public Access television. Click here for more information.
  • Thank teachers - Thank your teachers and help them win a grant through the Farmers Insurance Thank a Million Teachers initiative. Simply go to this website and write a thank you message to a teacher. Then, that teacher can submit a proposal for a chance to win a $2500 grant for use in their classroom.
  • Emergency School Closings - For school closings, early dismissals and late starts, call the School Closing Hotline at (651) 407-7540 or watch/listen for information on these media outlets:
    • KARE-TV 11
    • KMSP-TV 9
    • KSTP-TV 5
    • WCCO-TV 4
    • WCCO-AM 830
    If winter weather is so severe that schools need to close, parents will also be alerted in three ways as soon as a decision is made:
    • A SchoolMessenger phone message and email will be sent to all parents.
    • A message will be posted on the District's homepage.
    • Messages will be posted on the District's Facebook and Twitter pages.
    We know that closing schools can be disruptive, especially for working families. Student and staff safety are our primary concern. Ultimately, the decision to send children to school remains with families. The District supports those decisions that are made for the safety and health of students. There are no negative consequences, and our schools work with families to assure that work is made up when an absence is safety-related.
  • Stay connected! - Sign up for the Community e-Newsletter, sent out twice a month. Join White Bear Lake Area Schools' social media circles - FacebookTwitter and YouTube.
  • Do you like working with children and other volunteers? - The White Bear Lake Area Schools Early Childhood Screening program at Normandy Park Education Center is looking for volunteers to help at screenings on Fridays. Click here to learn more about this opportunity!
  • Calling all baby models - We're looking for "Born to be a Bear" photos! Email photos to us at communications@isd624.org and you may find your little one featured in District publications! See an example of a "Born to be a Bear" photo here.

Senior Program Updates:

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

  • FREE Activity Pass for Senior Community members (age 65+) - White Bear Lake Area Schools offer a variety of activities - home athletic contests, concerts, and theater productions to name a few. Join us! Call the Superintendent's Office at 651-407-7563 to request a FREE Activity Pass for home athletics events and a 2013-14 District Activities Calendar. The Activities Pass is available to residents of the White Bear Lake Area School District who are age 65 and older.
  • 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.

Partnership Updates:

  • BearPower - Check out the newest edition of Bear Press here! Stay up to date on all BearPower events on the BearPower Facebook page.
  • 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.
    • A reception honoring David M. Gehrenbeck as the 2014 J. Stanley and Doris Hill Legacy Award recipient will be held on Tuesday, May 20 at Century College. The event, open to the public, will start at 7 p.m. in the Library Fireplace Area - East Campus. Gehrenbeck is being recognized for his extensive volunteer service to the White Bear Lake area and beyond its borders. From 7th grade to the present - in schools and in churches, on college campuses and elsewhere, David has generously volunteered his journalistic, music and communication skills. As a result, numerous groups and organizations have markedly benefited from his community service. Established by the Century College Foundation, the Mahtomedi Area Educational Foundation and the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation, the award honors the memory of Stan and Doris Hill for their remarkable commitment to community service.
    • 15th Annual WBLAEF Golf Tournament - The WBLAEF will be hosting its 15th Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, June 30 at Indian Hills Golf Club. Cost is $150 per golfer. Lunch and dinner are included. All proceeds will benefit the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation. If you are interested in registering and joining in on the fun, please contact Lisa at 651-407-7696 or click here!
    • Student Activities Scholarship - The Jim Honsa, Sr. Memorial Student Activities Endowment provides access to co-curricular activities for students who may not otherwise have access due to financial need. The scholarship, administered by the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation, provides up to $200 per applicant and is available for students in grades 9-12.
    • Attention 6th - 12th Grade Teachers - The Eugene & Kathleen Johnson Student Enrichment Scholarship is available for any WBLAS 6th - 12th student who would like to participate in enrichment activities such as writing, speaking, journalism, musical performance, and composition. The purpose of this scholarship is to provide opportunities for students that extend beyond the classroom and encourage higher level thinking skills. If you would like a flier to post in your classroom, please contact Lisa Lindvall and she will send you one! Students will be awarded up to $1,000 per individual, with a total amount of $2,000 in grants to be awarded per year. The application is on line for your students to apply at www.wblaef.org. Completed Grant Applications should be sent to WBLAEF at the District Office, 4855 Bloom Ave. Once the $2,000 amount has been reached for the 2013-2014 school year, I will send a note to teachers through the e-newsletter that we are no longer taking applications.
    • Visit our website - Visit our website to see all of the grants the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation has available for teachers.
    • Bleed Orange and Black - Foundation board members also handed out team spirit shirts reading, "Bleed Orange and Black". To find out how to get a team spirit shirt contact the Foundation office at www.wblaef.org. Check out the WBL U-12A girls' hockey team sporting these shirts here!
  • 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. Learn about our students' participation in Earth Week and the Lights Out program here.


Support WBLAS Students:

  • Golf team fundraiser - The WBLAHS golf team is selling 2014 PGA "two for one" golf card once again this year. Please consider helping the golf program. The cost is only $35.00 dollars - if you use the card once, it is paid for! If you have any questions or would like to purchase a card, contact Craig Nasvik.
  • 9th Annual Spotlight Showcase - White Bear Lake Area High School's production of "Once Upon a Mattress" will be honored at the Ninth Annual Spotlight Showcase at the Orpheum Theatre on June 8 and 9. Click here for more information and purchase tickets here!
  • Middle School Musical - Fiddler on the Roof - Purchase your tickets here!

Awards and Honors

  • Congratulations to all of the staff members who were honored during the last couple of weeks. April 14-18 was National Library Week / Public School Volunteer Week / Assistant Principals Week. April 21-25 was Administrative Professionals Week.
  • Check out the feature story above that highlights several staff honors and awards!
  • White Bear Lake Area High School is seeking nominations for its Athletic Hall of Fame. If you have an interest in nominating a former athlete, coach, or community member connected with Bears athletics, please contact Karen Larson, Activities Secretary at South Campus (651-773-6206) for information about the requirements, as well as the nomination form.

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