February 9, 2014

Knowing our history

Last fall I listened to a conversation of White Bear Lake Area High School graduates from the 1960s through the 1990s. The occasion was a dinner hosted by the White Bear Lake Educational Foundation, which has worked since 1993 to provide excellence in education for our students.

What did the graduates remember of high school? Friends and "life lessons," of course. But the memories turn invariably to teachers. Teachers who inspired career choices. Teachers who understood awkward adolescents. Teachers and coaches who taught and modeled scholarship, discipline, service, and determination.

"We have been given so much by this community," one reflected. "I would really like to support today's high school students." Other alumnus agreed.

Recently members of the current school administration met with a roomful of alumni who want to make a difference by doing what they can to encourage our newest generation.

This experience reminded me of an article our son sent our family shortly after we gathered for the holidays. The article, published in the New York Times, was an excerpt from a book entitled "The Stories that Bind Us," by Bruce Feiler.

Mr. Feiler writes that "...the single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative." He goes on to quote one psychologist who observed that "children who know a lot about their family tend to do better when they face challenges."

During my time in White Bear Lake Area Schools I have listened to inspiring stories from graduates from our high school from the 1930s through the present. These have included an internationally famous science professor from the University of Minnesota; an influential doctor who practices and teaches in Boston; and an injured war veteran who has served in the Legislature. Each of these graduates - and hundreds more - tell today's students what it was like in our community when they were in school. They tell about the challenges they have faced in their careers and life - and how the lessons they learned in our schools, churches, and community have inspired and sustained them.

Many of us have family members who taught us important lessons when we were young or encouraged us when we needed encouragement. We also learned from them that life can be difficult. We know about their defeats, as well as their victories. Knowing that a parent or grandparent faced fear or want - and persevered - can help us find determination in facing our own challenges.

We are fortunate to be part of a community that, in this regard, has characteristics of a family. Since the 1890s, graduates have been returning to continue the legacy of supporting the next generation.

Dr. Michael Lovett

This article was originally published in the White Bear Press.

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 2013-14 Winter Catalog was recently mailed to District residents. The catalog is available online. Click here to register for upcoming courses.

Parent Notices:

  • Student School Days added on Feb. 14 and April 4 - White Bear Lake Area Schools will add student school days on Friday, February 14 and Friday, April 4. The district is committed to the success of every student. Recognizing learning time that was lost because four student days were cancelled in January, the District is moving quickly to alert students, families and staff of plans to hold school on February 14 and April 4. These two days are currently scheduled on the calendar as teacher professional development or planning days and will be converted to student days as part of a modification to this year's official school calendar. The administration is working closely with our employee group representatives on details of this mid-year change. Families will receive additional information from the district and from your school principal.
  • I Love to Read Month - February is "I Love to Read" month! - February is "I Love to Read" month! Send us photos of the reading activities you're doing at home here and we'll share them in a photo album on the District's Facebook page. The album (found here) currently features a photo of a book list started by one of our Early Childhood students, who has pledged to read 100 different books with his parents during the month of February! Let's get reading!
  • Boys Speak! Camp - A new youth camp, Boys Speak!: Voices Through A Lens, will focus on gender representation in media and media literacy in general. The camp will be open to boys ages 11-14. In October, Girls Speak! was very successful and now the same opportunity has been extended for boys. Click here for more information.
  • Parent-Child Yoga- Join other families with young children for a parent-child yoga class.
  • Assistive Technology in Math - Learn more about how your child could benefit from assistive technology in math here.
  • ADD/ADHD Support Group - Learn more about this opportunity here.
  • 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.
  • 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.

In Every Issue:

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • Nominations for the 2014 J. Stanley and Doris Hill Legacy Award are now being accepted through the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation (WBLAEF), the Century College Foundation (CCF) and the Mahtomedi Area Educational Foundation (MAEF). These three area foundations, in which Stan and Doris Hill were involved, joined forces in 2006 to spread the word about the importance of volunteering within our communities.
      In an effort to celebrate the Hills' legacy of volunteerism, the award was created to annually honor an outstanding community volunteer.
      If you know of a friend or colleague who has given many years of volunteer service and is extremely committed to the WBL/Mahtomedi area, please consider nominating this individual for the award.
      Nomination forms are available through any of the three foundation offices, websites, and board members.
      Completed forms are due by Friday, February 21, 2014. For further information, call the WBLAEF office at 651-407-7696 or go online.
    • Visit our website - Visit our website to see all of the grants the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation has available for teachers:
      • The Glasrud Family Fellowship Applications are due February 13, 2014. We hope that having these grant applications available year around on our web site will allow teachers more time to plan & they can fill out their application forms at their own convenience.
    • 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. Find an info sheet about reducing water use here.


Support WBLAS Students:

  • "Plunging Bears" - Take the plunge into a frozen lake during the second annual Willow Lane Plunging Bears event. Only adults can plunge! More information and sign up here.
  • Donatelli's take-over experience - Stop by Donatelli's for lunch on February 11, 18, 25 or March 4 and experience the Willow Lane Elementary Fifth-Grader Takeover Experience!

Awards and Honors

  • Huy Nguyen, social studies teacher at Sunrise Park Middle School, has been named 2014 Minnesota Council for Social Studies (MCSS) Middle School Teacher of the Year. He will be honored at the annual MCSS gala on March 2 at the Bloomington Sheraton. Click here for more event details.
  • Katie Miller (percussion), Tejas Nivarty (trombone), and Ray White (percussion), eighth-graders from Central Middle School, have been selected to participate in the Minnesota Band Directors Association (MBDA) All-State Honor Band. Judges listened to 313 recorded auditions and selected the best 85. Selected students will receive their music in the next week and perform a concert in late April.
  • And the nominees are... - Click here for a full list of nominees for White Bear Lake Teacher of the Year.
  • The week of Feb. 3-7 was National School Counseling Week. If you haven't done so already, send your school counselor a belated thank you message!
  • The week of Feb. 17-21 is National School Board Recognition Week. Learn more about our School Board members here.

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

Student News - Serving success

Two fun activities were hosted at the White Bear Lake Donatelli's over the past few weeks. First, on Jan. 30, the Area Learning Center honored mid-year graduates with a graduation dinner at the local Italian restaurant.

In addition to this delicious treat, ALC winter graduates will also have the opportunity to attend the formal graduation ceremony June 5, at WBLAHS South Campus. 

Willow Lane Elementary fifth-grade students also had the chance to explore Donatelli's. In fact, they took over the restaurant! That's right, the annual Willow Lane Donatelli's Takeover began on Feb. 4 with students learning hands-on what it takes to work at a restaurant.

After applying and interviewing for positions at the Italian food restaurant, 16 students from Willow Lane Elementary had the opportunity to "take over" Donatelli's and practice working as hosts, servers, and cooks. Donatelli's managers were stunned by how well students had performed during the application process as well as working in multiple areas of the restaurant.

This valuable learning experience will continue February 11, 18, 25 and March 4, each day with a new round of students working from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. We hope you join us one - or all - of the days!

Keeping in touch

Two White Bear Lake elementary classrooms have used the power of technology to keep in touch with volunteers and teachers abroad. At Otter Lake Elementary School, John Barnes' second-grade class helped decorate a quilt for a soldier in Afghanistan through the Soldiers' Angel program. 

Barnes' stepmother, Penny Barnes, has participated in the program in the past and often writes letters and sends care packages to soldiers overseas. In December, Penny, who owns a quilting company, and Don Barnes, John's father, traveled from Iowa to visit John's classroom and help the students decorate American flag-themed fabric squares. 

Penny used the fabric squares to design and create a quilt to send overseas. After finishing the quilt, Penny video called John's class so they could see the finished product before she shipped it out on Jan. 23.

In Kathleen Elletson's kindergarten class at Birch Lake Elementary, Miss Silvia, a student teacher from Barcelona, has been teaching kids about technology and Spanish culture. 

On Friday, the class connected with a "sister school" in Barcelona using Google Chat and interactive white board program called Scriblink. Silvia, who will be with Elletson's class until the end of March, has opened the kindergartners eyes to a culture across the globe through new and exciting technology tools.

Health rewards

Optimal health and athleticism is rewarding throughout the many stages of life. On Feb. 5, eleven seniors at South Campus were rewarded for their athletic achievements by participating in National Signing Day and signing letters of intent to attend college as student athletes next fall.

That morning, family members, friends, and coaches gathered at South Campus to celebrate these students' accomplishments and congratulate them on continuing to pursue athletic excellence in college. To see a full list of the students, scroll down to the Activities Updates section. Find an image gallery from the morning here.

Our elementary students at White Bear Lake Area Schools look up to these promising individuals and strive to lead healthy and active lives as well. The YumPower Challenge currently underway is a true testament to how students enjoy eating healthy.

Reactions from parents and staff members have been overwhelmingly positive. One parent, Diane Smith, said her first-grade son George worked on the entire YumPower Power Pack book as soon as he got home from the first day of the challenge. He also asked his mother if she would help him make a chef's hat.

Both Leah Sitka, first grade teacher at Hugo Elementary, and Amy Corner, second grade teacher at Oneka Elementary, have been very impressed with the snacks their students have brought to class over the past few weeks. 

"I have been so impressed with the snacks I see the kids trying in class. They bring multiple types of fruits and veggies to eat!" stated Sitka.

For 12 days of BearPower winter activities click here and here

Above and beyond

Staff and students at both middle schools have gone above and beyond in the past few weeks. First, Huy Nguyen, social studies teacher at Sunrise Park Middle School was recently named 2014 Minnesota Council for Social Studies (MCSS) Middle School Teacher of the Year. 

He will be honored at the annual MCSS gala on March 2 at the Bloomington Sheraton. Click here for more event details. On the MCSS website, they describe the winners as exemplifying "the best of social studies teaching in Minnesota." Those who have taken Nguyen's class or worked with him can definitely attest to that.

At Central Middle School, three eighth-graders have been selected to participate in the Minnesota Band Directors Association (MBDA) All-State Honor Band. Katie Miller (percussion), Tejas Nivarty (trombone), and Ray White (percussion) were chosen for their exemplary musical abilities. Judges listened to 313 recorded auditions and selected the best 85.

Selected students will receive their music in the next week and have the opportunity to practice with the full group on April 26 with conductor Dr. Wendy Barden. The following day, they will perform a concert together. 

Outside the classroom

Two groups at White Bear Lake Area High School - South Campus have proven to be great examples of extending life lessons outside of the classroom. In late December, school councilor Brian Merhar and students involved in his Adventure Club returned from a Florida Sea Base on Munson Island, 24 miles north of Key West.

The students, who have struggled academically and wanted alternatives to in-class education, had the chance to live in tents, eat fish caught from the ocean, snorkel, and kayak on the trip. A few important lessons included: campfire building, snorkeling instruction, Florida tree and plant identification, deep-sea and ocean fishing skills, and an environmental service project.

Also at the high school level, the American Sign Language Club partook in lessons outside of the classroom by volunteering at Feed My Starving Children on Jan. 10. 

The reaction from students was overwhelmingly positive, with many asking to participate in the program next year. The result of their hard work: 20,000 meals, which could feed 60 children for an entire year.

And last but not least, a group of WBLAHS students were out on the lake this weekend. Science teacher Mr. Montgomery invited students to join him for an ice fishing adventure. The experience was made possible with the support of IMnFishing.com and Eco-Jig Fishing Lures.

Activities Updates

The following students signed letters of intent on Feb. 5, National Signing Day: Noah Lee (football at the U of M Crookston), Jake Newman (football at the U of M Crookston), Shayla Munson (track at MSU - Moorhead), Bethany Kozak (cross country at the University of South Dakota), Allison Ternes (nordic ski at St. Scholastica),Elizabeth Lastovich (soccer at the U of M Crookston), Jamie Rademacher (soccer at Central Michigan University), Anna Morrison (soccer at the U of M Duluth), Madison Scheer (soccer at Winona State University), Jordyn Foley(soccer at Bemidji State University), Rebekah Thom (soccer at St. Cloud State University). Find an image gallery from the morning here.

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 Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Upcoming meetings 

Date Type Time Location
February 10 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
February 24 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
March 3 Regular 7 p.m. District Center