Local schools uncertain about future of regional spelling bee
Even as spellers from around the CESA 10 district participated in the Regional Spelling Bee held in Stanley-Boyd on Feb. 6, administrators and other leaders of local school districts were wondering if a recent announcement from CESA 10 about future regional bees will spell the end for the annual event.
In the months leading up to local district spelling competitions, administrators and local coordinators of the district spelling bees said they were informed by CESA 10 that after the Regional Spelling Bee in February, CESA 10 would no longer be hosting the annual regional bee.
“I have not had any discussion with CESA about the future of their regional spelling bee,” said Joe Green, elementary principal at the Greenwood School District. “I only received an e-mail that stated they may not run a regional bee after this year.”
Currently, elementary and middle school students from Spencer, Greenwood, Loyal and Granton all participate in district bees each school year, with the winners of each competition heading to the regional bee hosted by CESA 10 at a district within their service area. If individuals take top placings at the Regional event, the students have the opportunity to compete at the State Badger Bee.
In the past few years, there have been several individuals from Granton, Spencer and Greenwood who have made it to the state level of spelling competition after performing well at the Regional Bee. Participation in the spelling bee at each district is high, and most staff members and students see a benefit in holding the annual spelling contests.
“At Granton we believe participating in the spelling bee offers our students an opportunity to improve spelling, practice public speaking, and improve poise under pressure,” said Amy Hanna, the spelling bee coordinator at Granton. “It’s a way to offer students who might not choose to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities a chance to compete and challenge themselves and represent our district.”
“Overall, I’ve gotten a sense that many teachers agree we should preserve the Spelling Bee and any other events that celebrate the academic strengths of our students,” added Heidi Much, the Spencer spelling bee coordinator. “Some students spend hours preparing for a chance to qualify for the bee, and they ask about it at the start of the school year without any prompting from educators, so there is definitely interest from those students. In general, giving our kids an outlet to practice any talent is something the Spencer school community is always looking for.”
Even though there is a lot of participation locally, according to Mike Haynes, agency advisor at CESA 10, the actual amount of CESA 10 districts that participate in the annual event is less than half of the schools in CESA 10’s service area, and that number is declining.
“We have 29 member districts,” he said. “Of that number, only 12 member districts participate. This costs CESA time and resources to do, staff time, PR (press releases), trophies.”
It’s these costs of time and resources, Haynes said, that is driving the push by CESA 10 to discontinue hosting the bee and look for alternative ways to run the regional event. For CESA 10, he said the regional bee is in no danger of ending anytime soon, but they would rather find another way for the bee to be run for those who want it, either through finding a host school to operate it from year to year or for districts to pay extra fees to participate.
“What we did two months ago was send out an announcement to the districts participating in the regional bee that in 2021, we’re not going to continue to volunteer our service for the bee,” he said. “Participation has dwindled and this doesn’t benefit most of our districts. Perhaps a district with high participation would be willing to host it, we would offer to help.”
As of right now, however, local districts remain somewhat skeptical about what exactly happens next for them. Every school district in the area said they have had discussions about what CESA 10’s announcement means and what steps they should take that would best benefit the kids. For now, most of the districts said they will be adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach.
“We are aware of the memo from CESA letting us know that they will be dropping this service after this year,” said Much on the situation in Spencer. “But the discussions here are still in the initial stages.”
In looking at the options proposed to them by CESA 10, most of the districts said even though participation is good at their respective schools, there is very little chance of a local district either taking on hosting responsibilities or paying additional fees. But as discussions about this matter are still in the early stages and a lot has yet to be made clear, they said it is difficult to say how things will end up.
“We would definitely be interested in continuing to participate in the spelling bee,” said Hanna. “The school already pays a fee to Scripps National Spelling Bee for materials and the opportunities to participate beyond the local level, so I’m not certain about paying additional fees. Also, there has not been any discussion at this time about taking on additional responsibilities regarding the spelling bee … I think a lot of the details for next year are up in the air.”
“Our elementary school (in Greenwood) cannot take over hosting the regional spelling bee as we do not have a facility fit for running something of that sort,” added Green. “I would not make any predictions about the future of the regional spelling bee until CESA makes a decision and communicates that out.”
After the Regional Spelling Bee on Feb. 6, CESA 10 announced that the Stanley-Boyd School District will be the de facto host of the Regional Bee for the 2021 year as one of its students won the Regional Bee. Whether or not the Stanley-Boyd district will be asked to take on the full responsibility of hosting the event has yet to be made clear and discussion about the future of the bee is likely to continue as more information is made available.