April 17, 2016

Listening to Student Voices 

What does it mean to listen? I wondered.


A glance at the calendar reminded me that we are living in the Twenty-First Century, so I looked up the word on-line.


Merrian-webster.com told me that listen means to "pay attention to sound." (As in, "I can't hear what you are saying! I'm listening to music!")


The second definition was more what I was looking for: "to hear something with thoughtful attention."


But I wanted still more depth, so I hauled out my worn copy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New College Edition (1976).


Today looking up a word on-line takes only a few seconds. But 40 years ago, looking up a word took a half hour, in part because looking at one word led the reader to other more interesting words on the page, and in part because all that stimulation required a snack break.


But I digress.


Forty years ago, listen meant "to apply oneself to hear something...to pay attention...give heed."


During the past few weeks we've been reminded how important it is to listen to student voices. My middle school and high school student advisory committees offer candid and sometimes surprising insights on topics and issues that affect students. These student voices influence how we design school programming and student support.


Another high school student successfully implemented a new recycling program at the high school, designing an education plan that was fully student lead.


This past week members of my high school student advisory committee met with legislators.


"What issues are on your minds," they asked? And they heard and learned.


In an era when many people tire of talking politicians and constant bombardment of media messages, remember that when it comes to students, it is well to remember a forty year old definition of listen:


"to apply oneself to hear something"

"to pay attention"

"to give heed"

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


In Photos: Sunrise Park Community Dinner!

Student News

Getting creative for a cause

For the past three years, WBLAHS - North Campus ninth grade students in Cassidy Wegwerth's Language Arts class have been tasked with creating a public service announcement (PSA) for a particular cause (as part of the research paper requirement). Students must choose two topics for this paper - a concern that they have and a Minnesota non-profit organization that works to address that concern. While the students work on this project, they bring in money with some friendly competition between classes to see which class can bring in the most. Then, all of money raised goes toward the winning PSA's organization. This year, Wegwerth's students raised a total of $850, which is the most her students have ever raised to date by more than $300! This year's winning PSA was created by student Deklan Hoff, whose mother passed away from brain cancer. His PSA was for The American Cancer Society and he has chosen to give the $850 to The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Minneapolis. A representative from the Hope Lodge will be coming to Wegwerth's class to speak to students and to share with them how the money raised will be used to help someone who is receiving cancer treatment.


Lakeaires students also raised a significant amount of money for a similar cause during their second annual "Pennies for Patients" fundraiser. Students participated in two weeks worth of fundraising activities, one in particular that put principal Cary Krusemark in a sticky situation. During "Stuck for a Buck Day," students could purchase a piece of duct tape for $2 to be used to tape Mr. Krusemark to the wall during lunch. Students had a blast taping their principal to the wall, so much so that some students even purchased several pieces of tape to make sure he couldn't wiggle loose. All of the money raised during "Pennies for Patients" goes to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The school has a special connection to the organization this year, as one of its staff members has Myeloma, one of the blood cancers that LLS funds research on. Lakeaires Student Leadership members collected and counted the funds, and in all, the school raised roughly $1,300 during their two weeks of fundraising!

Global connections

Central Middle School students recently had the opportunity to engage with a guest visitor from Uganda who shared some of the country's culture along with his personal life experiences. Okello Sam is an artist, dancer and musician from the East African country. He is also the founder of Hope North, a school in Northern Uganda which helps kids who are homeless because of wars and internal strife. Hope North is important to Okello Sam because at the age of 16, he was abducted by the rebel army of the now defunct UNLA of Northern Uganda and forced to serve as one of their soldiers. He escaped and vowed to bring an end to violence and bring hope to the people of Uganda. Today, Okello Sam runs the famous dance company, Ndere Troupe. He also has worked with the movie industry and directed the choreography and dancing in the movie, "The Last King of Scotland," starring Forest Whitaker. At Central, Okello Sam taught the kids how to dance, play the drums and learn musical instruments from Uganda. He was a big hit with Central students and they say they can't wait for him to return. He will be visiting Sunrise Park students this week.

When it comes to the familiarity of our global world, Sunrise Park student Patrick Glava is great at mapping it out. He recently competed at the Minnesota State Geography Bee at St. Cloud State University, competing against 100 other students from around the state. Patrick proudly represented Sunrise Park Middle School, his parents and his eighth grade teachers at the competition. Unfortunately, Patrick did not move on to the final round, but is already considered a winner considering he qualified for such a challenging opportunity.

Exploring opportunities

The happy hum of productivity and power tools filled the room as Lincoln's Explorations students engaged in a morning of "Makerspace" learning. Makerspaces are often referred to as "hackerspaces" and "fablabs," but these focus primarily on learning and education. They are a physical location where (in this case) students gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects and build. For this group of students, Makerspace is a time and place focused on innovative thinking. They build, make messes, try new things, encounter problems and solve those problems in creative ways. Recently, students in Julie Stonehouse's Explorations class tied their Makerspace to a current science unit, exploring the concepts of force and motion as they learned about simple machines. Students were presented with a couple of simple requirements: They were to build something that does something, and it must incorporate at least two different simple machines in its design. With the support of some fantastic parents handling those power tools, students created things like trebuchets, vehicles and even a book holder.

Employment Exploration is also the name of a course that Transition Plus student Jordan Vance is currently taking every day. She also participates in a paid work experience at Central Middle School Kitchen as a dishwasher. Transition Education students who participate in Work Based Learning as a part of their education, are working towards their goals and independence in the area of employment. Students get trained in, receive job coach support as needed and work towards achieving their goals and becoming independent. Jordan loves her co-workers at Central and is a hard worker, responsible and efficient. Jordan has learned independence, self advocacy and good communication skills through this opportunity. Watch this video highlighting her hard work and love for working independently.

'Sips and Swallows'

WBLAHS students recently hosted their fourth annual "Sips and Swallows" event which is the celebration of the WBLAHS Writing Center's publication of Sensicality - a student literary and art journal. Sensicality is comprised of student artwork and writing and is a tribute to students' creativity and talents. The student committee works hard to select the art and writing for the publication, pairing them in order to create a unique final product. The event name "Sips and Swallows" comes from the Stephen King book, On Writing, where he writes..."The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as long swallows." Copies of Sensicality can be found at the WBLAHS Writing Center. You may also view some highlighted student work on this website

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
Two WBLAHS seniors were honored during the National Letter of Intent signing day on Tuesday, April 13. Garrett Zakrezweski signed with Winona State University's Cross Country Team. Makala Keefe signed with the University of North Dakota's Track and Field Team.

The Minnesota Association of Student Council's awarded WBLAHS's Student Council as an Outstanding Student Council for the 2015-16 school year.


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 Recognitions

Before the April 11 School Board Meeting, the School Board recognized the following students and staff:

  • Moody Mega Math Challenge
  • Wrestling
  • Unified Basketball
  • 3x3 Basketball
  • Girls' Basketball


School Board Meetings

School Board meeting minutes and agendas can be found here.


Date Type Time Location
April 25 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
May 9 Regular 7 p.m.  District Center
May 23 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center

Superintendent's Message

  • Listening to Student Voices

Student News

  • In Photos: Sunrise Community Dinner!
  • Getting creative for a cause
  • Global connections
  • Exploring opportunities
  • 'Sips and Swallows'
  • 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 themhere.

Parent Notices

  • 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. Click here to get involved!
  • Charting the C's 2016: Fourth Annual Student-Family Conference - Family members of pre-school or school-aged special needs students are encouraged to attend an afternoon conference of child-family practices and informational sessions. The conference will take place Saturday, April 23 at the Arrowhead Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria. For further information and to register, click here.
  • ECFE Garage Sale - The 30th annual Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) Garage Sale is Saturday, April 23 from 9 a.m. - noon in the Otter Lake Elementary Gymnasium. Click here for more information.
  • Parent Institute for Quality Education - PIQE is a curriculum provided to parents so they can be empowered to be more involved in their children's education. There will be a free family event on the evening of Monday, April 18 featuring guest speaker Tou Ger Bennett Xiong. Clickhere for the flyer. (Yog xav paub txog Niam txiv txoj kev txhawb nqa menyuam txoj kev kawm nrog tus ces lus Tub Ntxawg Bennett Xyooj, nyem no.)
  • Employees Wanted! - The district currently has a variety of open positions. Please go here to see a list of exciting opportunities!
  • Earth Day Community Cleanup - The Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment is promoting a county-wide Earth Day Community Cleanup the week of Earth Day, April 17-23. For more information, click here.
  • NE Expo - The district will participate in the May 1 NE Expo and we hope to see you there! Find information here.
  • 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.
  • Digital Fabrication and Engineering workshops for students entering grades 8-12 will be available through Century College this June. For more information, click here. To register, click here. You may also contact David Mekala with questions.
  • Parent Education Night St. Paul - QPR - Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) covers the three steps anyone can learn to help prevent suicide. This parent education night will take place Tuesday, April 12 from 6 - 8 p.m. Click here for more information on this event and to register.
  • ADD/ADHD Support Groups will be meeting in North St. Paul to have a conversation with parents, caregivers, providers and professionals about ADD and ADHD. These events are intended to give families the opportunity to have an open conversation, show support and to share resources. Event details can be found here.
  • 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
  • Special Education Parent/Staff Advisory Council- Updated information and meeting dates for the 2015-16 school year can be can be found here.
  • 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 Academic Calendar - See the approved calendarhere.
  • 2015-16 Activities Calendar - The 2015-16 Activities Calendar was mailed to all district families and is available online 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.
    • Washington County Child and Teen Checkups newsletter can be found here.
  • The following recognitions will take place in April
    • Paraprofessional Appreciation Day - April 2
    • National Library Week - April 11-15
    • Assistant Principals' Week - April 11-15
    • National Library Workers' Day - April 12
    • Public School Volunteer Week - April 18-22
    • Administrative Professionals' Week - April 25-29
    • Administrative Professionals' Day - April 27

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.

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.
    • WBLAHS students are collaborating on a research project focused on water use. Residents in White Bear Lake are invited to take the survey!
  • 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, clickhere.
    • BearPower Family Breakaway Bike Ride - Families and community members are invited to join BearPower for its second annual free bike ride event Saturday, May 21. All ages and abilities are welcome. For further details, 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.
    • 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!
    • Teachers: Grant applications are now being accepted for the 2015-16 school year. Click here for the list and when to apply.
    • 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:

  • The Willow Lane 3K Color Run will be taking place April 30. Registration is from 8:45-9:45 with the race beginning shortly after. Please bring a canned food item to donate to the White Bear Lake Food Shelf. All proceeds from this event will to toward improving the school playground and STEM initiatives. Click here for more information and to register.
  • WBLAHS students are collaborating on a research project focused on water use. Residents in White Bear Lake are invited to take the survey!
  • Minnesota PGA Golf Cards are once again being sold by the WBLAHS Boys' Golf Team. The card is good for 2 for 1 golf at more than 160 golf courses throughout the state and western Wisconsin. The cost is $35 and you can use it throughout the summer. Please contact Coach Nasvik if you would like to purchase a card at craig.nasvik@isd624.org.
  • Want to see a theater production? There are student performances happening all spring! Click here for dates and details!
  • Attend an event or two this winter and 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.

Awards and Honors

  • The following recognitions will take place in April:
    • Paraprofessional Appreciation Day - April 2
    • National Library Week - April 11-15
    • Assistant Principals' Week - April 11-15
    • National Library Workers' Day - April 12
    • Public School Volunteer Week - April 18-22
    • Administrative Professionals' Week - April 25-29
    • Administrative Professionals' Day - April 27

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