May 11, 2014


Eight years out of high school, and four years from college, the young women was in her dream job. 

Driving to work, focused on the challenges of the day, an announcement on the radio brought her back to the moment. 

"This is teacher appreciation week. Think about a teacher who was influential in your life.... and make time to telephone or send a note."

* * * * 

Late Friday afternoon, I listened as a high school teacher with more then 25 years of teaching related this story. 

"She told me I was her favorite teacher, and how she gained confidence in a subject she had always feared and detested before." 

"I was touched that she would take the time to call. I have been wondering, what did I do that made the difference?" 

* * * * 

To our students, we are all teachers: teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries, child nutrition, custodial and maintenance, administrators and all support staff. 

Who has made a difference in you life? This week consider calling or sending a note to one you remember. 

Pass it on.

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

In Pictures: Matoska Water Walk

Student News - Global and local compassion

It is difficult to think of water as a scarcity in a school district with "lake" in its name, especially after the last week in April when we saw a lot of water in the form of rain. However, many communities across the globe still struggle with access to clean drinking water. This spring, our schools have partnered with the nonprofit, H2O for life, in order to help people get access to clean water one community at a time.

Starting in April, student groups at the high schools and secondary schools as well as ALC students have worked together to raise money to build a well in Kenya to serve a school and community. Each group creatively organized fundraisers for the cause.

For example, ALC Leadership/MAAP Stars students placed collection boxes throughout their building and took in as much loose change as they could scrounge. They also sold cookies, brownies, and bars during lunches on Wednesday afternoons, which quickly became known as "Cookie Wednesdays." In addition, the students sold coffee and treats during conferences. They raised a grand total of $387.01 to be donated to H2O for Life.

Matoska International set out to raise $4,000 for H2O for Life this year and ended up raising more than $5,500 for a well in Uganda. Students did chores around the house to earn money and asked friends and family for a small donation to the project. 

All money earned and/or donated went into the water bottle they received during the kick-off celebration. They brought the water bottle back on May 1 or May 2 (PE day) and dumped the money in the "big bucket." 

Also on that day, students participated in a Water Walk, connecting the water crisis in the world to our local water issues with White Bear Lake. Students filled empty two-liter pop bottles with water and carried them in their backpack down Bellaire Ave to White Bear Lake. White Bear Police department cruised the street and high school volunteers assisted at the crossings.

Local community outreach

Other than reaching out to the global community, our schools have also focused on our local community in recognition and service.

The Transition Education Center had their community partner celebration on April 17 where they recognized 14 community partners and 15 students who participated in their Work Based Learning Program. These community partners helped maintain this learning program that supports students preparing for independent employment, career exploration, and collaboration between our schools and the community.

At Lincoln Elementary, the Hug-A-Heart Club organized 40 groups, each with 3-5 kids in a group that were lead by 1-2 parent/staff volunteers and made May Day baskets and cards to be delivered to residents of Cerenity Care Center. 

On May 1, the 4th Grade Spring Hug-A-Heart Members walked over to Cerenity to deliver the baskets. Read more and see pictures from this May Day surprise in this White Bear Press article!

In addition to the work our high school Ambassadors students have put into the H2O for Life cause, they also have been working on service projects throughout the year. On May 6, these students had the opportunity to showcase their work before the North Campus Awards Night.

Collectively the group has already logged more than 3,000 hours of service this school year!

Student success

Our students have had many successes to celebrate this spring. First, immediately after the Ambassadors Service Fair, hundreds of North Campus students were honored at their annual Awards Night. Awards included achievements in academics, art, band, language arts, business education, world language and much more!

Also at North Campus, Ben Kirkham, language arts teacher and Teacher of the Year nominee, had eight of his students (and one who moved out of district) win or become runners-up for the National Center for Fathering essay contest for Father of the Year

That's right - nine out of all ten winners at the 9th grade level were Kirkham's students. This is his second year with the contest and last year he had one winner for 10th grade and one runner-up for 9th grade. Kirkham and the winners (and their fathers) are invited to the Father of the Year award ceremony on June 7. After the ceremony they will be given tickets to a Twins game.

Central Middle School student Stella Cotner won the regional competition and is moving on to the state competition for the VFW Patriotic Art Competition. In her artwork, she depicted the image of the American flag reflected in an iris.

On May 4, high school athletes at White Bear Lake Schools were honored at North and East Metro FCA banquet. There were more than 100 students from local schools who attended the banquet. Charlie Wachtler and Cassidy Hammel from North Campus as well as Trey Anderson and Katie Zoborowski from South Campus were Influence Award winners. Former Mr. Hockey, Brian Bonin was our keynote speaker for the ceremony.

On April 30, more than 60 White Bear Lake Area High School seniors were recognized at the annual Excellence Event. Each student selected an educator they wanted to honor for their guidance in their academic achievements. The alumni speaker for the evening was screenwriter and Hollywood TV producer, Janae Bakken. Click here to view a photo album from the night and congratulate the students and educators for their accomplishments!

At the elementary level, 14 students from Otter Lake Elementary School participated in the regional Math Masters of Minnesota Challenge April 26. The problem-solving competition for fifth- and sixth-graders included both individual and team components. Zack Kueppers earned 6th place in the individual fact-drill portion of the competition. There were 27 teams in attendance and 136 individuals in the competition.

Traditions, transitions, and new projects

One of the greatest community-oriented traditions at our elementary schools is the spring carnival. Matoska International recently had their carnival but this year was a little different. This year the carnival was BearPowered and featured creative yard games focused on getting families moving!

One of the most common traditions throughout most schools is the tradition of transition. That is, each year one grade of students must leave their current building to a higher level building. It is a tough transition for many but here at White Bear Lake, our students aim to make it smooth and easily adaptable for newcomers.

In fact, below is a video that North Campus students created to guide middle school students through the high school building and "show them the ropes.

Sometimes, we transition into developing a new program that teaches students at White Bear Lake Area Schools unique lessons. For example, for the first time all third, fourth and fifth grade students at Otter Lake hosted a Poetry Cafe for friends and family on May 1. 

Students showcased their original poetry and the technology they used to create it. Third grade students hiked to Tamarack, took photos of a nature subject that inspired them and then they composed haikus. After learning about free verse, cinquains and triplets, fourth grade students wrote a poem, and created a slide for a Google presentation. The fifth grade students wrote diamantes and limericks which were presented with Prezi. In true Poetry Cafe fashion, the audience snapped their appreciation for the students' terrific work. The poetry unit and the Poetry Cafe were made possible with funding from a Brosious Grant.

Another cafe that made its debut this year was the South Campus Bear Cafe. In this project, 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.

The Bear Cafe ran for four days throughout the winter and spring and served 128 customers, raising $640 from donations of those eating in the cafe. The department has used $400 of that money to put back into the cafe to become self sustaining. 

Local businesses helped in providing some of the food and supplies for the Bear Cafe. Walmart and Target donated gift cards, Flicker Meats gave a 15 pound donation of meat for shredded beefs, Donatelli's donated of a large pan of mostaciolli, and Perkins gave two bags of chicken noodle soup. The Bear Cafe had its final day this school year on May 9. Pinnow and the department are looking forward to continuing the Bear Cafe next year.

Another new project White Bear Lake Area Schools explored over lunch was a diplomatic symposium. South Campus students, faculty, and district leaders attended a symposium featuring career diplomat Thomas Hanson. The event, sponsored by Wells Fargo and held at the University of St. Thomas, gave students the opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation with Mr. Hanson about international relations, American foreign policy, and their individual college and career plans.

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 team won the annual Ron Sass Invitational. The White Bear Lake girls track team came in second of seven teams at the Border Battle meet in River Falls, Wis. WBLAHS vocalists competed in the Region 4AA Vocal Contest. Thirty-five students from North Campus and 21 from South Campus performed and all received superior or excellent ratings! The White Bear Lake Adapted Softball Team attended the Twins vs Tigers game on Friday, April 25. It was their fourth year cheering on their hometown favorites. The MN Twins offer ticket packages to the Minnesota adapted softball organizations, which includes a game ticket and access to the field before the game.

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

Financial Stewardship and Budget Management

As part of the district's ongoing goal of financial stewardship and budget management, the district is continuing to identify greater efficiencies in operations that will help maintain financial stability and continue improvement in program quality and student success.

While overall revenue is increasing at a rate of less than 1%, major categories of expenditures (e.g., employment, energy, technology, materials and supplies) rise at a rate higher than new district revenue. Without annual budget adjustments, the cost of the same level of goods and services will exceed our new revenue. Based on January 2014 budget forecast, in 2013-14 expenditures will exceed revenues by $2.7 million. By making budget adjustments of approximately $500,000 each year for FY 2015-18, the budget will be balanced no later than the 2017-18 academic year. Expenditure management will include controlling our costs in every area and improving efficiencies.


See the full information that was presented to the School Board on April 28 here.

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Date Type Time Location
May 12 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
May 19 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
June 9 Regular 7 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:

  • Vehicle Fair - The Early Childhood Program is having their annual Vehicle Fair on Thursday, May 15 from 6-7 p.m. at the Normandy Park Education Center! Click here for more details.
  • Vadnais Heights Elementary 4th Annual Relay Recess - Join Vadnais Heights Elementary on May 30 from 1:45 - 3:30 p.m. for this fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. This year, the event will be held in honor of Keith Warner. More information here.
  • Who Cares About Kelsey? screening - Kelsey Carroll has one goal - to graduate from high school - and plenty of reasons why she shouldn't. 'Who Cares About Kelsey?' is the story of Kelsey's transformation from a defiant and disruptive "problem student" to a motivated and self-confident young woman. Along the way, critical figures in her personal and educational life shape her coming of age and play important roles in an education revolution that's about empowering - not overpowering - youth with emotional and behavioral challenges. Click here for the invitation and here for more information on the creator of the film.
  • 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.
  • Shut down for savings - Read about how shutting down your computer monitor can save so much energy here!
  • 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 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.
    • The winner this year of the the Lynn Mielke Distinguished Educator Award is Evelyn Swenson - a social worker at Central Middle School. "Lynn Mielke was a speech clinician and Special Education Coordinator in the WBL District. Her compassion and love for children was at the forefront of all she did. She was known as a warm and loving person who worked to create a positive environment for everyone around her. This award was established to recognize an individual who has exemplified Lynn's dedication and care for the students and staff in our district."
    • 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 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 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 the importance of shutting your computer monitor down here.


Support WBLAS Students:

  • Fill the Heart Event - On May 21 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. Click here for more information!
  • 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!

Awards and Honors

  • Deb Schmidt at Otter Lake Elementary has been a National Board Certified Teacher for ten years. After ten years, teachers must go through a renewal process. She completed that process last year and found out this year that she had passed!
  • 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.