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 Councilfor 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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