October 23, 2016

Play, Persistence, and Policy

Eyes look upward towards the top of the hill. Hikers proceed cautiously up the steep trail. From time to time, one reaches back to help a fellow classmate. Once at the top, some pause to gaze out upon the vista, clearly proud of their accomplishments. Then three young hikers spot a trail to the grasslands, and gleefully run into the deep grass, rolling with delight down the hill.

Our setting is Tammark Nature Center in White Bear Township; the hikers four and five year olds; and our guides their teachers and naturalist from "My Nature Preschool" a partnership of the White Bear Lake Area Schools and Ramsey County's Tamarack Nature Center.

"Play is the work of the child," famously observes educator Marisa Montessori; echoing agreement are Mr. Rogers and teachers of young children everywhere. Play is also a component of invention, creativity, and innovation, topics of conversation as relevant today as they were among Plato and the Ancient Greeks or Albert Einstein and the Twentieth Century scientific community. 

What we believe about how children learn and how they are motivated to learn influences state and federal education policy, and invariably affects the priorities and structure of schools in America.

Beginning just after the turn of the Millennium, federal policy was influenced by the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" law that emphasized math and reading proficiency scores. As the nation's schools shifted to meet the new priorities, other priorities gave way, including less attention to the arts. Even time allotted to that joy of childhood, the outdoor recess, diminished nationally.

During the past decade our nation's educators and policy experts looked to other countries that achieve superior achievement scores but without the rigid emphasis on testing. Out of these grew sufficient consensus for a new federal law to replace "No Child Left Behind." Passed in 2015, "Every Child Succeeds Act" shifts the focus to a "well-rounded education, moving away from just core academic subjects." More decision-making authority shifts to the states and local districts to determine what is part of a well-rounded education.

This fall the State of Minnesota's Department of Education is holding information sessions around the state to help define what "well-rounded" should mean for Minnesota's students. Consider attending a session and adding your voice to the conversation.

How do these federal and state policy discussions affect a local independent school district such as the White Bear Lake Area Schools?

Because in the United States education is state responsibility, the federal role in education is limited to what it can convince states to do, usually through incentives of federal funding. The emphasis on testing over the past decade and a half was the direct result of federal policy, but implemented differently in each of the fifty states.

States set the standard for what is taught. For example, based on Article XIII, Section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution: 
The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. 

As a consequence of this Constitutional mandate, the Minnesota legislature sets the standards, and delegates to local independent school districts the responsibility to implement education laws, giving great freedom to local priorities and values. Our school board, working with staff and our community, establishes our mission, strategic priorities and budget. 

Back to the story about the preschool children and play. One of the unintended consequences of the national emphasis on testing is that what is tested - usually narrow in scope - comes at the cost of time for students to gain a love of learning, and develop the skills, talents and attitudes that will be critical for their long range success.

School work does not need to be drudgery, always preparing for the next test. School work at its best combines play with persistence, as students learn discipline and effort in the pursuit of learning.

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

In Photos: Unity Day fun!


Student News

Student voice

Students in the district's Transition Plus program are sharing their student voice, by way of a Transition Education Center newsletter recently created in a Popular Publications 201 course. The course is designed to give students a basic understanding of journalism and newspaper writing techniques. Students will participate in research and creative writing all while learning about layout, design, blogging, social media and copyright laws. They will also develop skills in photography and interviewing to gather information. See their first publication here.

Student voice is also alive and well at Lincoln Elementary, where students elected Student Council leadership positions last week. Those who were on the ballot, fourth and fifth grade Student Council representatives, delivered heartfelt speeches during an all-school assembly and lined the hallways with campaign posters. The positions of secretary, treasurer, vice president and president were voted upon by the students, who will undoubtedly remember their own election "voice" lesson when following the democratic process in November.


Apple a day

Students throughout the district enjoyed an apple on October 13 as part of the Great Lakes Apple Crunch, a one-day effort to focus on local, healthy farm fresh food from the state of MN. The fun initiative, hosted during National School Lunch Week and National Farm to School Month, looked a bit different at each building - but each school that participated pulled in fun apple-related activities along with students "crunching" into their apples. The fun wasn't limited to students - adults participated as well, at Parent Leaders Forum meetings and at meetings Dr. Lovett had with local municipality leaders that day.


Last week, district students in the Tamarack Nature Center preschool program enjoyed apple-related fun as well. Parents were invited to join their students for Apple Cider Day, where they saw a cider press up close and person and enjoyed the fruits of their labor afterward. An important lessons learned by students in the nature-minded preschool experience was that of using every piece - the deer and other creatures at Tamarack will enjoy the mushed apple leftovers left during the pressing process (called "cake").


Singing from the rooftops

Members of the Mariners Choir from White Bear Lake Area High School - South Campus, are making their mark. The choir group recently spent the day at St Andrew's in Mahtomedi at a Choral Day event, sponsored by Concordia College in Moorhead. The Mariners and five other invited high school choirs performed a solo number at the evening concert, and then everyone performed two massed choir selections.


Their younger counterparts are forging ahead as well. District middle school students have been accepted into the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota State 7-8th Grade Boys/Girls Honor Choirs. In order to earn the honor, each of the students underwent 45-60 minutes of individual coaching before submitting an entire scale and song excerpt, both sung a capella. Central Middle School choir teacher Andrew Parr reports the students' devotion to the audition process, as well as their desire for success, was apparent.


Partnering for good causes 

The White Bear Lake Library was hopping a couple of weeks ago during an open house event hosted specifically for White Bear Lake Area Schools students and families. Approximately 200 people attended and signed up for library cards, completed a scavenger hunt, met reading therapy dogs, made books to take home, played computer games or built with Legos. The event was made possible due to a mini-grant received by district media specialist Connie Stirling. Also as part of the grant, Ramsey County librarians were available at three of the district elementary schools for Welcome Conferences in August and district/library system professional development is planned for the 2016-17 school year.


The District and the White Bear Lake Police Department are joining forces on Thursday, November 10 for a Parent Safety Night event that will address a variety of topics including: youth drug trends and awareness, internet safety, mental health support and safe routes to school. The event, which offers free childcare to families, will begin with a free dinner at 5:30 p.m. Breakout sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m. Find additional details here.


Another important community asset recently approached the district with an opportunity to collaborate on a Unity Day video, which was compiled with insights from district students and teachers and produced by the Government Television Network. The finished product was shared in classrooms throughout the district on Unity Day - a day on which individuals across the nation wear orange to show support, hope, and unity and band together against bullying and united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Check out the video here. Spanish and Hmong versions of the video will be available soon.

62.4-second video updates
Enjoy 62.4-second video updates highlighting weekly district activities throughout the school year.

Activities Updates

Five Central Middle School Choir members were accepted into the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota State 7-8th Grade Boys/Girls Honor Choirs. Students are: Seventh grader David Krzoska and eighth graders Lucas Fahie, Gabe Adams, Noelle Sommars, and Abby Weidt. WBLAHS Girls' Soccer player Claire Odmark was named a member of this year's All-State Soccer Team. She will be honored at the All-State Banquet on October 23.


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 October 10 School Board meeting, White Bear Lake Area High School students who were named AP Scholars, AP Scholars with Honor, and AP Scholars with Distinction were honored.

School Board Meetings

School Board meeting minutes and agendas can be found here.

Date Type Time Location
October 24 Work-study 5:30 p.m. District Center
November 14 Regular 7 p.m.  District Center
November 28 Work-study 5:30 p.m. District Center

For highlights from the most recent Board meeting, click here

Superintendent's Message

  • Play, Persistence, and Policy

Student News

  • In Photos: Unity Day fun!
  • Student voice
  • Singing from the rooftops
  • Safe Routes to School
  • Partnering for good causes
  • 62.4-second video updates
  • Activities updates

School Board News

  • School Board Recognitions
  • 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

  • Fall Musical Tickets - Tickets for the WBLAHS Fall Musical "Mary Poppins" are available here. The show will be performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 11-12, 17-19 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 12 at the WBLAHS - North Campus Theater. A "Practically Perfect Morning with Mary Poppins" event will take place Nov. 5. Find details here.
  • Annual Transition Fair - The White Bear Lake Area Schools, in conjunction with other districts, will be hosting its annual Transition Fair which will include a variety of resources and information for families, students and staff on numerous topics including: independent living, employment, supported employment, post secondary options, mental health, county services, vocational rehabilitation, social security and more. The event will take place Tuesday, November 1 from 4-7 p.m. in the WBLAHS - South Campus cafeteria.
  • Dyslexia Awareness Month - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently signed a proclamation declaring October as Dyslexia Awareness Month. Click here for resources on how to navigate a school system when a child is struggling with reading or Dyslexia, and here to learn about the warning signs of Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia Awareness event - This first-annual Dyslexia Awareness event is taking place October 16 and is geared toward helping families learn, network and talk about the struggles some readers face and the resources that are available in and out of school. Click here for details.
  • Parent Safety Night - Join the District along with the White Bear Lake Police Department Thursday, Nov. 10 for Parent Safety Night to discuss a variety of topics including; youth drug trends and awareness, internet safety, mental heath support and safe routes to school. The event will begin with a free dinner at 5:30 p.m., followed by breakout sessions starting at 6:30 p.m. Click here for additional details.
  • Extended Day job opportunities - The district's Extended Day Program is seeking committed, energetic and creative staff to work in our before and after school programs with youth grades preK-5 at several of our elementary school sites. Click here to learn more!
  • Testing for lead in water - With testing for lead levels in water being an item in the news these days, we want to let our families know that our schools are tested every 5 years as recommended by the Department of Health. While it does not happen often, whenever a fixture does test high we immediately shut the fixture off and replace it with a lead free fixture. We then have the fixture retested to ensure it's safe before turning the water back on. Specific questions about the water testing process can be sent to Health and Safety Coordinator Dan Roeser.
  • WBLAHS - South Campus stadium guidelines - No backpacks, bags, outside beverages or food of any kind may be brought into the WBLAHS - South Campus stadium during any events. Thank you for your cooperation.
  • Attention Volunteers! On Location TV19 is seeking volunteers to help with its mobile productions covering a variety of school programs. Click here for details.
  • Autism Workshops - The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) will host workshops on social and emotional safety in Duluth and St. Cloud in the coming weeks. Find details about their workshops here.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Upcoming events - There are a number of events happening this fall, click here for a complete list.
  • 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 page here.

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.
    • 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:

  • Tickets for the WBLAHS Fall Musical, "Mary Poppins," are available here. The show will be performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 11-12, 17-19 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 12 at the WBLAHS - North Campus Theater. a "Practically Perfect Morning with Mary Poppins" will take place Nov. 5. Find details here.
  • Attend an event or two this spring by finding the event schedule in the 2016-17 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.

Awards and Honors

  • October Recognitions
    • National Principals Month
    • Autism Awareness Month
  • November Recognitions
    • Daylight Saving Ends - November 6
    • Election Day - November 8
    • Veterans Day- November 11
    • American Education Week / Geography Awareness Week - November 14-18
    • Education Support Professionals Day - November 16
    • National Parental Involvement Day - November 17
    • Thanksgiving Day - November 24

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