January 26, 2014

Learning and "The Coldest Winter"

During the winter of 1880-81,  fourteen year old Laura Ingalls lived with her family on the South Dakota prairie. Many years later, her recollections and memories were published in her story "The Long Winter," familiar to many school children, parents, and grandparents.

There came a time during that winter that Laura and her younger sister could not get to school, but learning continued at home.

So far our winter has been more cold than long, but the effect is similar: despite White Bear Lake Area Schools' reputation  for "staying open no matter what," we have joined other metro schools in recent closings. When we miss a day of school, we look for ways of making up the institutional time. More to the point, we look for ways of assuring our students learn, despite the challenges of wind and weather.

But students and families can do much to help. If we have other days off, encourage your children to:

First,  have "school" at home. During the usual hours of school, keep to the discipline of reading, mathematics, and the other subjects that your child normally would have during that time;

Second,  check on-line teacher Schoology pages for class assignments, missed or incomplete work, and future assignments. If you need help or direction, email your child's teacher for help. While some teachers may be able to respond promptly, for others your emails will help the teacher know your questions and be prepared when the children return to school.

Third, let our teachers, principals or me know your thoughts on how we can make up for lost learning time.

Finally, encourage our students to journal about "The Coldest Winter." We'll plan on publishing excerpts of student, staff, and parent reflections.

But we may wait until it warms up.

Dr. Michael Lovett

General Information

Staff Updates

  • Reducing energy costs - Check out some of the ways our schools reduce energy costs here.
  • Used greeting cards wanted - Mary Pokorny, library media specialist, is collecting used greeting cards for library media use. Donated cards may be sent to Willow Lane Elementary.
  • Give kids a smile - The Minnesota Dental Association's program, Give Kids a Smile, is now taking appointments for their Feb. 7 & 8 free care for low-income children in need. Click here or call 2-1-1 for more information or to make an appointment.
  • New directions for logging in to Employee Access in Skyward - Click here to view a document outlining how to log in to Employee Access in Skyward.
  • Changes and new features in Skyward - Over the holiday break, the technology department changed the logins for employees to your first name, then a dot, then your last name - the same as your network login. Click here for more information.
  • Minnesota Writing Project (MWP) - Calling all writing teachers (K-12) to start thinking about summer 2014! Are you interested in becoming a better writer, learning from other writing teachers, and being encouraged by a team of University of Minnesota writers? Invited Fellows in the Minnesota Writing Project (MWP) receive free university credit for the intensive three-week course and the benefit of attending a two-day retreat prior to the on-campus experience. Please contact Merrily Wolters, 3rd grade teacher at Lakeaires and 2013 MWP Participant, if you have questions or wish to be nominated for the Summer 2014 Institute.
  • Mileage rates - Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 56 cents per mile for business miles driven. The business, medical, and moving expense rates decrease one-half cent from the 2013 rates.The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. (Please note that travel rates apply to the date traveled - 2013 travel will be reimbursed at a rate of 56.5 center per mile even if reimbursement paperwork is submitted in 2014.)
  • Employee reimbursement requests - Because we are now scanning employee reimbursements, please tape your receipts to the reimbursement form. If all receipts do not fit on the back of the reimbursement form, please tape them to a white, 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) - Whether you or your family need help with your personal life or are having issues at work, HealthPartners EAP is here for you. Call, visit online or use the mobile app 24/7 for help from a counselor finding child care, dealing with a loss, finding community resources and more.
  • A MUST READ for all District employees - "The Bear Essentials" is your bi-weekly link to important District information. Any information and/or announcements you are responsible to know as a staff member will be included in this communication piece, so it is important that you read through the e-newsletter each time you receive it. Find staff updates, human resources information, highlights of student and staff successes, and updates on School Board proceedings. Contact Joey Getty to submit information for inclusion in the e-newsletters and other District publications.
  • Software Installation Procedures - Find information about software installation procedures here.
  • Flu Shots - Find information about flu shots here.
  • License Renewal - Staff that need to renew their teaching license should submit paperwork to "District Office - attention Human Resources" before February 6, 2014 or May 15, 2014. The Relicensure Committee will be meeting on these dates to review paperwork for renewal. Forms for renewal can be found on the White Bear Lake web page under Human Resources. If you should have further questions please contact Chris Picha or Kari Solheim.
  • 2014 Minnesota Benefit Association Scholarship Program - Scholarships up to $1000 are available to public or school district employees or elected officials in Minnesota, or to the child or grandchild of public or school district employee or elected officials in Minnesota. See the flyer 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 2013-14 Winter Catalog was recently mailed to District residents. The catalog is available online. Click here to register for upcoming courses.

Parent Notices:

  • 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.
  • 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 Family Fun Day - 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.
  • 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 a January info sheet about reducing energy costs here.
  • MacPhail Center for Music - Save $25 on music lessons at MacPhail Center for Music's location at Birch Lake Elementary when you register by January 31. Mention WBLDIST-SCHOOL14. Valid for new students only. Call 612-321-0100 or go to macphail.org, flyer available by clicking 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 4, 11, 18, 25 or March 4th and experience the Willow Lane Elementary Fifth-Grader Takeover Experience! Find additional information about the program in the Student Story below.
  • China Night - Join us for a Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration Show from 7-8:30 p.m. on Friday, February 7th, 2014 in the WBLAHS - South Campus Theater. Dragon and lion professional dancers will be on stage alongside students, who will do performances such as singing, Chinese square dance, skits, rapping, Kung Fu, and more. The students will celebrate the most important Chinese holiday while showcasing what they have learned in their Chinese World Language classrooms at WBLAHS and Sunrise Park and Central Middle Schools.
  • 35th Annual WBLAHS Night Club Event - Enjoy jazz music, performed by students from WBLAHS - North and South Campus at the 35th Annual Night Club event on February 8. Find a "commercial" for the event that was put together after stopping in one one of the North Campus practices here.

Awards and Honors

  • Scholastic Art Awards - Eleven of Molly Vadnais and Brian Perry's Central Middle School students received 14 Scholastic Art Awards - the highest number of works recognized of any middle school in the state. Three of her students, Tony Ferraro, Matthew Johnson (x2), and Kami Kendall, received four of the seventeen Gold Key Awards - more Gold Keys than any other middle school in the state. In addition, two of Shawn Gritzmacher's WBLAHS - South Campus students, Amber Dunlap and Andie Chapin, won Silver Key Awards.
  • NEMBDA Honor Band - Eighteen Central students taught by Kristin Berg, Kristina Kuehn, and Jennifer Gere participated in NEMBDA Regional Honor Band at the UMD campus on January 18. More information about these achievements below.

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 - Two enriching cafes

On January 17, South Campus officially opened the student-led "Bear Café" Paige Pinnow and other staff members from the special education department helped special education students to work on planning, shopping, hosting, and interacting with staff "customers" during a reserved lunch period. Thanks to a generous donation from Flicker Meat, The Bear Café was able to make hot beef for their grand opening.

"With the proceeds that we make on the cafe, we plan on becoming self-sustaining and not having to rely so heavily upon donations each month," Pinnow said.

The restaurant has allowed for students to focus upon work readiness skills, social skills, and applying techniques taught in the classroom in a "real life" situation. The café is open once every month to staff who reserve a spot. Donatelli's has donated for next month's Bear Café, which will be open on February 21. Click here to watch a video on the project!

A very different café setting occurred at Central Middle School on January 16 - the school's monthly Career Café. On Thursday morning, students gathered during their home base period to hear Matt Nohr, software engineer at SmartThings, speak about his career and have the opportunity to engage in a conversation about his fascinating field. Nohr is the husband of Katie Nohr, a seventh grade language arts teacher at Central.

Previous guest speakers this year have included Officer Tuma from law enforcement and Andy LaCasse who presented on his career in music. If parents or community members would like to share their career journey with students at Central, please contact the counseling department to learn how to get involved in the Career Café.

Honors in art, music

Dozens of White Bear Lake students have been honored in the past few weeks for their achievements in the visual arts and music. First, 11 of Molly Vadnais and Brian Perry's Central Middle School students received 14 Scholastic Art Awards - the highest number of works recognized of any middle school in the state. Three of her students, Tony Ferraro, Matthew Johnson (x2), and Kami Kendall, received four of the seventeen Gold Key Awards - more Gold Keys than any other middle school in the state. 

In addition, two of Shawn Gritzmacher's South Campus students, Amber Dunlap and Andie Chapin, won Silver Key Awards. 

Another one of Central's great visual artists, Olivia Schwintek, won the Lions District 5M6 Peace Poster Contest and was recognized on January 12 at the 5M6 awards brunch at the Airport Mariott Hotel in Bloomington. In addition to the honor, Olivia received a plaque and a $100 check. 

The honors do not stop there. On January 18 at the UMD campus, three Central Middle School eighth-graders participated in the 9-10th grade Northeast Minnesota Band Directors Association (NEMBDA) Honor Band and 17 seventh-graders participated in the 6-8th grade Honor Band. The young musicians rehearsed and performed a concert with other students selected from the northeast region of the state. 

Soon, many of these talented students who are interested in jazz music will go on to WBLAHS - North Campus to perform in the jazz band and later, on to South to pursue even more advanced jazz endeavors. If you enjoy jazz music, this toe-tapping band of students from North and South Campuses will be performing at the 35th Annual Night Club event on February 8. Find a "commercial" for the event that was put together after stopping in one one of the North Campus practices here

Aspiring for greatness

On Martin Luther King Day, their day off, 16 motivated students from the North Campus Ambassadors woke up early to help honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his mission. These ninth and tenth graders spent time organizing and volunteering at an organization called "Dressed for Success" which helps get low-income women back into the workforce through interview training and clothes donations. 

Students then took part in the MLK march and rally at the Minnesota History Center and listened to speakers discuss Dr. King's legacy and motivate us to keep up the fight for equality. Governor Dayton even had students stand up to be given a round of applause for their work in the community.

Also at the high school level, students in Amy Canniff's career class and Rachel Clark's marketing class recently finished up their e-mentorship program in December. Canniff's class exchanged weekly emails with Assurant employees, while Clark's class did so with Carlson employees. Topics discussed ranged from career and college experience, workplace values, role models, workplace communications, technology, paying for a post-secondary education, college life, managing time, teamwork, conflict resolution, role models, marketing, lifelong learning and work/life balance. The program ended with a meet and greet where students had the opportunity to visit their e-mentors in their workplaces. 

Food lessons

Willow Lane Elementary will once again take over Donatelli's! This year, all 5th grade students will learn about the job application process and will be working at the restaurant. Students will be "applying" for either the host/hostess, server, or cook positions. They will be writing resumes and cover letters, as well as participating in formal interviews. 

Mark your calendars and join us for lunch to see the kids in action. Work days are spread out over five different Tuesday dates this year: February 4, 11, 18, 25 and March 4th. Students will be working from 11:00-1:00. Donatelli's is located at 2692 County Road E in White Bear Lake.

Vadnais Heights, Lincoln, Hugo, and Oneka Elementary Schools had their yumPower kick-off celebrations with Radio Disney during the last few weeks. The students gathered in their gymnasiums and had the opportunity to participate in a dance-filled, educational assembly that rallied students to eat colorful, new fruits and vegetables. 

During the four-week challenge, students will track their progress in eating colorful fruits and vegetables. While students will receive a small prize at the end of the challenge, parents received a Power Pack, which includes healthy recipes and creative ways to make fruits and veggies fun. 

Well-rounded education

On January 22, WBLAHS had a great turnout for their three free showings of the One Act Play, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The play is a "unique spin to this adaptation of Washington Irving's classic story," stated David Hanzal in his director's note. The group will also compete in the 2014 One Act Play State Tournament, starting with the preliminary round on January 23.

Following the tradition of the WBLAHS theatre department, student performers have included a service component into the play - this time it is a book drive. Play-goers brought new and gently used children's books to the show to be donated to WBLAS elementary schools. In February, student performers will deliver the books to the elementary schools and read to students in honor of "I Love to Read Month." 

Later in the school year, the Theatre Department will host "The Odyssey," adapted by Don Fleming as the Spring Play.

While some students enjoy live-acting, others might prefer digital media. Journey students from the WBLAHS campuses and Sunrise Middle School had the unique opportunity to take classes at the Suburban Community Channels (SCC). 

During two Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., students took classes that included "Introduction to Community Television," "Introduction to Digital Camcorder," "Introduction to Studio Production," and "Introduction to Non-Linear Editing."

Students have another opportunity to learn at "China Night," a Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration Show coming up from 7-8:30 p.m. on Friday, February 7th, 2014 in the WBLAHS - South Campus Theater. Dragon and lion professional dancers will be on stage alongside students, who will do performances such as singing, Chinese square dance, skits, rapping, Kung Fu, and more. The students will celebrate the most important Chinese holiday while showcasing what they have learned in their Chinese World Language classrooms at WBLAHS and Sunrise Park and Central Middle Schools. Chinese is also taught in grades K-5 at Lincoln and Vadnais Heights Elementary Schools. 

Activities Updates

Allison Ternes won her discipline at the Mesabi Invitational on Saturday. She out skied over 350 skiers from all over Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to win the Girls Classic race by 30 seconds. The White Bear Area High School and Middle School cheerleading teams both took first at the Coon Rapids Cardinal Classic Saturday, Jan. 18. With a record of 14-1, the White Bear Lake girls basketball team is ranked sixth in the 4A division. 

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 Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Upcoming meetings 

Date Type Time Location
January 13 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
January 27 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
February 10 Regular 7 p.m. District Center