June 12, 2016

One Hundred Twenty Years

White Bear Lake Area High School Graduation Remarks
June 10, 2016

Welcome families, friends, staff, platform guests, and members of the White Bear Lake Area High School Class of 2016.

One hundred twenty years ago, in 1896, White Bear High School honored Frances Whitaker as our first graduate. Since then our community's high schools, known first as White Bear High, for a while as White Bear and Mariner, and for the past three decades as White Bear Lake Area High School, have graduated more than 20,000 students. 

Tonight you become part of this remarkable legacy, joining graduates from earlier classes, now honored and distinguished in their professions and vocations. These graduates live and work in our community, nation, and throughout the world. 

What might Frances Whitaker have thought in June of 1896 as she walked to the stage to receive that first diploma? Perhaps she was thinking "I hope I don't trip."

I've not been here for anywhere near 120 years. In fact, I met you first the summer before you began fifth grade, time enough to watch your explosive confidence in fifth grade, awkwardness in middle school, coming of age at North Campus, and emergence as poised young adults at South Campus.

To hear you tell it, the major change that occurred after I arrived was that you were finally bestowed with a few well-deserved...snow days. 

In elementary school, do you remember how much you loved to read? 

How your teachers nurtured and encouraged you? 

A good day was any day you could go out for recess.

In elementary school, you learned the importance of kindness.

In middle school, do you remember feeling awkward and unsure of yourself?

Your teachers understood what your were going through and knew how to draw you out. That's the only possible explanation for the corny jokes they told in class. 

You knew you could count on them to help you with a project or an assignment in a way that didn't make your feel embarrassed or dumb. 

A good day was any day you could count on a friend.

In middle school, you began to understand the meaning of courage.

In high school, only as a Bear could you start high school not once but twice.

For two years at North Campus you wandered around in circles, trying to look like you knew where you were going.

Just when you finally could navigate the circles, we sent you to South Campus, where we helped you develop a "growth mindset" by challenging you with straight hallways, squares and rectangles, and something unknown at North called an intersection. Your whole high school experience felt like something out of a geometry textbook.

Your teachers taught not only their subjects, but about life. 

A good day was one in which no one asked, "what do you plan to do after high school?"

In high school, you begin to understand what it means to think for yourself.

Tonight we honor you. We are your teachers, family, friends, and community.

As you walk across the stage, someone in this arena will remember:

  • When you were a tiny newborn and breathed your first breath;
  • When you let go of your mother's hand and climbed on the bus for your first day of kindergarten;
  • When you acted with kindness to someone who needed a friend; and
  • When you faced and overcame challenges...again and again.

Class of 2016, we send you off with our congratulations, confidence, and White Bear Pride.

Wherever you go, remember us.


Michael Lovett, Ph.D

Superintendent, White Bear Lake Area Schools

In Photos: ALC, Transition Plus and WBLAHS graduation ceremonies!

Find additional photos of the graduation ceremonies here:
Transition Education Center Graduation
Area Learning Center Graduation

White Bear Lake Area High School Graduation

Congratulations graduates!

This is always a bittersweet time of year as we congratulate and say goodbye to another memorable class. On Friday, June 10 roughly 600 WBLAHS graduates took the stage at Aldrich Arena to receive their diploma. District staff and classmates addressed the graduates during this celebration, sharing memories and best wishes on their journey beyond White Bear. After a series of auditions, graduates Kyra Renner, Tessa Takash, Justin Smith and Peyton King were selected to speak at this year's commencement. While receiving their diploma is already a notable accomplishment, some graduates were individually recognized. Principal Tim Wald personally handed out this year's Bear Awards to three graduates: Allison DiSera received the 2016 Service Award, Madison Kephart received the 2016 Leadership Award and Ethan Beauclaire received the 2016 Service Award. 

Prior to the WBLAHS graduation celebration, our Area Learning Center celebrated the graduation of 64 of its students. These graduates were from the ALC Program, Insight Recovery School and the ALC's Independent Study Program. Toward the beginning of this year's graduation ceremony, graduate Shaquita Peters blew everyone away with her vocals, singing the song "A Change is Gonna Come." Following her jaw-dropping performance, graduates Kayla Hernandez, Amanda Welsch and Gabrielle Schaeffer shared remarks and well wishes to the audience and their fellow classmates. All of the graduates were then awarded their diplomas by their advisers, who shared the students' strengths, successes and future plans. Some of the graduates received individual honors as well. Kayla Hernandez was named the 2016 Academic Achiever; she, along with Savanah Burg-Heller, Mary English, Christina Florez and Gabrielle Schaeffer were also honored at the district's Excellence Event for their academic achievements. Scholarships were also awarded during the graduation celebration; this year's STRIVE Century College Scholarship recipients were Kayla Hernandez and Alicia Schaefer. Schaefer also received this year's Lion's Club scholarship. Graduates Jada Sawatzky and Travis Telschow were named the Northeast Metro 914 Career/Technical Center Outstanding Students of the Year.

Also during the final week of school was the Transition Plus commencement, where eleven students celebrated graduation. Like the ALC, this graduation ceremony is unique in that every graduate is highlighted individually. Transition Education Center staff called up each graduate to the front of the stage to be recognized and shared their individual accomplishments and future aspirations. This year's keynote speaker was Lincoln Elementary Principal Dan Schmidt, who is a familiar face to many Transition Plus students who participate in work-based learning opportunities at Lincoln. Following his remarks, was this year's Farewell Address given by 2016 graduate Mao Yang. Yang is well known in the District as a talented writer, and proved it once again during her recent address which moved many in the crowd to tears. (You can read her entire speech here.) 

Though our elementary students have a long career at White Bear ahead of them before they receive their diplomas, they too celebrated graduations of a different sort. All of the elementary schools in the WBLAS District hosted graduation ceremonies for their fifth grade students as a send-off to middle school. Family and friends were invited to these events, as there were many fun performances and accomplishments to share. Oneka Elementary and Otter Lake Elementary also hosted separate graduation ceremonies for students in their Bear Fundamentals program. Families were invited to these as well to watch their little ones celebrate all they've learned during their first year as all-day, every-day students in White Bear Lake Area Schools. 

Service send-offs

As an annual tradition during their final days of their high school career, WBLAHS seniors are invited to take part in Senior Service Day - a chance for them to give back to the community that's supported them during their time at White Bear. More than one-hundred 2016 graduates packed the football bleachers for a class picture and breakfast, then divided into groups to conquer the service tasks assigned to them. This year's activities included doing some landscaping at WBLAHS - South Campus, creating Relay for Life luminaries, adopting a highway and sorting greeting cards. Senior Service Day is a highlight for many students and a great opportunity for them to express the District's Core Value of Service before beginning the next chapter of their lives.

Central Middle School students also wrapped up the school year with a successful service project called Pennies for Patients - a fundraiser for those battling Leukemia. Students were given three weeks to bring in as much change as possible to their homebase classes. The fundraiser was then concluded with a school-wide walk (pictured) to bring students together and to get them outside and moving. Throughout the duration of the fundraiser, students and teachers were very encouraging. This fundraiser also hit home for Central students, as one of their peers has battled Leukemia himself. In all, Central students raised nearly 600-dollars during the fundraiser.

After a unit on "being a good citizen," Oneka students in Amy Corner's second grade class spent an afternoon visiting residents at the Keystone Place in Hugo. They spent time talking, coloring, reading and playing dice games with residents there, then shared an ice cream treat with their new found friends. Finally, students surprised the residents by performing some of their Reader's Theater plays. You can watch a short video of their visit here.

Collaborative projects

Birch Lake students participated in a very unique environmental project recently, releasing beetles to conquer an invasive species along area lakes. The Rice Lake Project Committee, established by the White Bear Preserve Condominium Association, received a grant to control the invasive plant Purple Loosestrife on Rice Lake. It's a harmful and very hardy invasive perennial, which degrades wetlands, diminishing their value for wildlife habitat. A bag of loosestrife shoots with attached beetles was delivered to Heidi Walsh's fifth grade class at Birch Lake Elementary School. The students enjoyed observing the beetles as they helped to eliminate the Purple Loosestrife. The students then helped to stuff and seal envelopes for informational mailings which were sent out to the neighbors of Rice Lake. This project fit well with the students unit at the time, as they had been working on invasive species reports. The information they learned from this opportunity was very exciting and it prompted some really great questions. Birch staff say the final reports will be posted on Birch Lake'swebpage soon.

Central Middle School students in Molly Vadnais's eighth grade class have been using Artist Trading Cards to collaborate with students locally and across the world. Most recently, they collaborated with students in Lincoln Elementary School's Explorations Program, who came over to Central to create their own trading cards and exchange them in person. Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are miniature pieces of self-made artwork that are roughly the size of playing cards. Artists often create, trade and collect art at organized "swap" events, either in person or online. Central eighth grade students recently sent some of their cards to students at a school in the United Kingdom and have been told some of their work will be displayed at a show out there.

When it comes to putting on a show, the annual WBLAHS Film Fest rarely disappoints. It's an annual event that's been going on for 15 years and consists of student films from WBLAHS. Any student can participate, but the films mainly consist of films from the Movie Production Two course. The genre is varied, but the assignments are centered around one-shot films, black and whites, spoofs and the use of green screens. The community is then invited to watch a compilation of the students' work. This year, roughly 30 students participated in Film Fest and approximately 150 students and parents were there for the reveal. If you didn't get a chance to attend, you can watch the student films here

Meanwhile, a group of North Campus students just wrapped up a collaborative art project where they built a massive sculpture out of individual tiles. Students each made three tiles out of the 70 included for the design. They used a slab roller to create a certain thickness for each tile, then carved and added on clay to make the drawing appear. After firing the tiles through the kiln, they used an iron oxide stain to add the color, then fired them again. The final product will be on display at North Campus, once it's decided where the more than 100 pound, five foot sculpture (seen here) should go. The sculpture was based off of this picture.

Books to share

The White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation provided a BEAR Legacy grant to try out a program called Books on a Bus at Vadnais Heights Elementary this year. The idea came about after a district staff member saw a photo of this program being used on buses in Oregon. Essentially, special covers are designed to fit over the back of the school bus seat to hold books for students to read while riding to and from school. Vadnais Heights bus route #131 was chosen to try out the seat covers first.

Seventh grade Language Arts students at Sunrise Park Middle School also shared some good page-turners during a recent book swap activity in preparation for some summer reading. It was an easy way to get new titles on the shelves and the students were really excited about it.

62.4-second video updates

Take a look at our 62.4-second video updates that highlight weekly activity throughout our schools during the school year.

Activities Updates
The White Bear Lake Girls' Sailing Team won first place in the State Tournament. This is the third time skipper Kate Cox and her crew Olivia Staruck have taken home the State title. As a Co-Ed team, White Bear Lake placed third in the State Tournament. The WBLAHS Boys' Golf Team has been selected as the section winner of the Academic All State Award for 2016.

Click here for a schedule of all fall sports contests. Find a complete list of all WBLAHS Activities, Athletics and Fine Arts 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 meetings minutes and agendas can be found here.

Date Type Time Location
June 13 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
July 11 Regular 7 p.m.  District Center
August 8 Regular 7 p.m. District Center

For highlights from the most recent School Board meeting, click here.

Superintendent's Message

  • One Hundred Twenty Years

Student News

  • In Photos: ALC, Transition Plus and WBLAHS graduation ceremonies!
  • Congratulations graduates!
  • Service send-offs
  • Collaborative projects
  • Books to share
  • 62.4-second video updates
  • Activities updates

School Board News

  • School Board Meetings

District News

  • General Information
  • Opportunities


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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.

  • Seasonal catalogs are available now! You can find them here.

Parent Notices

  • The 2014-15 Annual Report to the Community and 2015-16 Update was recently mailed to all community members. The Report provides a snapshot of the District, including information regarding: Student Achievement, School Climate, Student Awards, Innovation, Finance, District Profile, School Board and Partnerships. If you would like any additional copies of the publication, please contact us at communications@isd624org.
  • Preschool Playground - There are still openings for this summer's Early Childhood Preschool Program at Normandy Park beginning June 13. To learn more and to register, click here.
  • Be a Bear! The district currently has many staff openings available for the current school year and 2016-17! See additional information here, and find the online application page here.
  • Summer Food Service Program - White Bear Lake Area Schools will be participating in the Summer Food Service Program where breakfast and lunch will be provided free of charge throughout the summer. Dates, times and locations can be found here.
  • Food Care Program - Willow Lane Elementary is now participating in the Food Care Program where children under the age of 18 can eat a free meal after school. The meals will be available at no separate charge to all enrolled children from 3:45-4:15 p.m. on school days. The goal of the program is to increase the opportunity for children to eat a variety of nutritious foods. For more information on this state-wide initiative, click here.
  • 2016 Lice Procedures - In line with most Metro districts, WBLAS has updated our lice procedures. Find information about the changes here.
  • Marketfest for students - Marketfest is around the corner! Organizers would like to share and encourage WBLAS students to participate in its many opportunities. Clickhere to get involved
  • Employees Wanted! - The district currently has a variety of open positions. Please go here to see a list of exciting opportunities!
  • 2016-17 and 2017-18 Academic Calendars - The 2016-17 and 2017-18 Academic Calendars were approved at the March 14 School Board meeting. The approved 2016-17 calendar can be found here. The approved 2017-18 calendar can be found here.
  • Mental Health Crisis Planning for Families - Learn the role of county crisis teams, de-escalation techniques and how to create an effective crisis plan at the Mental Health Crisis Planning for Families workshop on Tuesday, June 15. See this flyer for details.
  • Parent Resource Support - NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) provides support groups to help parents discover resources to meet the challenges of raising a child with mental illness, learn coping skills and develop problem solving skills. Support groups are facilitated by a parent who has a child with a mental illness and who has received specialized training. White Bear Lake meets on then 2nd and fourth Monday of each from, 6:30 - 8 p.m. at Eagle Brook Church. Contact Jody Lyons: 651-645-2948 Ext:109
  • One-stop online payments - The district offers a "one-stop" online payment system that enables families to make payments for food services, school activities and Community Education activities. The system also serves as the registration hub for middle school and high school activities. The system, new this summer, replaced multiple systems that are currently used for these purposes, including RevTrak, PayPams and ActiveNet.
  • PACER Center recently launched its National Parent Center on Transition and Employment website, which offers innovative tools, reliable research, and interactive training to support families who are going through the transition process.
  • 2015-16 Calendars - See the academic calendarhere. See the activities calendar here.
  • Stay connected! - Sign up for the Community e-Newsletter, sent out twice a month. Join White Bear Lake Area Schools' social media circles - Facebook and Twitter.
  • Calling all baby models - We're looking for "Born to be a Bear" photos! Email photos to us here and you may find your little one featured in District publications!
  • Additional resources:
    • Resources to help with our limited English speaking families can be found 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 District Activities Calendar. Find the application here. The Activities Pass is available to residents of the White Bear Lake Area School District who are age 65 and older.
  • Craft Corner Gift Shop at the Senior Center - Open from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, the gift shop is the perfect place to shop for a variety of beautiful, handcrafted items. With more than 100 consignees selling their personal crafts, there is much to choose from for purchase. If anyone, over the age of 55, has any love of creating crafts, we are in need of consignees to further our inventory. The Craft Corner Gift Shop is located at Normandy Park Education Center, 2484 County Road F East.
  • Be a Bear! The district currently has many staff openings available for the current school year and 2016-17! See additional information here, and find the online application pagehere.

Partnership Updates:

  • H2O for Life - The Race 2 Reduce initiative at H2O for Life is a collaboration of stakeholders working to educate about local water resources and water conservation. White Bear Lake Area Schools is a partner in this effort and is working to align curriculum to integrate these important topics into school.
  • BearPower is a community-wide movement helping White Bear Lake area families eat well and be active. For more on this community partner and its upcoming events, click here.
  • The White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation(WBLAEF) is an independent, non-profit corporation promoting excellence in education in White Bear Area School District 624 schools.
    • Books on the Bus - The WBLAEF provided a BEAR Legacy grant to try out the Books on the Bus program at Vadnais Heights this year.
    • Save the Date! The Bear Legacy fundraising event will be held on Friday, October 14 at the North Oaks Country Club. More details to come.
    • Marketfest and Manitou Days - WBLAEF will again be participating in the following community events this summer. The Manitou Days Grande Parade is Friday, June 17. If you would like to participate, contact Nancy Roth.
    • Annual WBLAEF Golf Tournament - The WBLAEF will be hosting its 17th annual golf tournament on Monday, June 27 at Indian Hills Golf Club. Click here to register!
    • Bleed Orange and Black T-shirts - find out how to get one by contacting the Foundation Office (651-407-7696). Cost is $10


Support WBLAS Students:

  • Attend an event or two this spring by finding the event schedule in the 2015-16 Activities Calendar! If you do not have a child in school but you would like a copy of the district-wide activity listing, please contact Jody Reber at 651-407-7563 to request a mailed copy and request to be added to the Activities Calendar annual mailing list.
  • Be a Bear! The district currently has many staff openings available for the current school year and 2016-17! See additional information here, and find the online application page here.

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