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WEF holds annual spelling bee

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by Rama K. Ramaswamy

The greater Wellesley community gathered at the Sprague Elementary School gym last week to participate in the 27th annual Spelling Bee, under the auspices of Wellesley Education Foundation’s 2016-17 Co-Presidents, Susan Ryan and Erica Recht.

Under the direction of this year’s Bee chairs Lisa Collins, Victoria Ostler, Becca Cahaly and Eunice Groark, the WEF kicked off the evening by announcing that “this year’s Bee had generated over $56,000 from the registration fees of 56 teams and contributions from 73 sponsors” and that WEF’s intention was to direct the total sum to advance innovation and excellence in the Wellesley Public Schools. According to WEF board member Lisa Hicks, “despite election fatigue, the Sprague Elementary School’s gym, decorated in black-and-yellow Bee colors, was packed” with people and the Bach to Rock band “entertained the crowd as teams, many amusing others with thematic ‘bee’ costumes, assembled before the event started promptly at 7 p.m.”

According to WEF, last year, more than $230,000 was channeled into the Wellesley Public Schools, as well as over $50,000 in response to special requests from the district to support the world language pilot and the new Evolutions program. Long time master of ceremonies Mike Dowling lined up the first set of teams of three on the stage, which included town service and government group representatives such as the WPD, the Fire Department, the Board of Selectmen, the Wellesley School Committee and World of Wellesley members.

The middle school teachers team - the SPELLunkers - L-R: Valerie Stark, Drew Bourn and Kari Sciera.

The middle school teachers team - the SPELLunkers - L-R: Valerie Stark, Drew Bourn and Kari Sciera.

First, they moved through easy and “medium-challenge” words. The first “difficult” round, featuring the word “bradyseism,” was won by the Wellesley School Committee’s team. The first round was over by the third word, but both the level of challenge and the competition got tougher by the seventh round, in which it took nine words to determine a winner. The Wellesley College team finally won that round by accurately spelling “exsiccosis” (dehydration caused by the insufficient intake of fluids) but only after getting through “entablature,” “cabochon,” “guillemot,” and “suasible.”

In the fifth and sixth rounds, teams spelled eight words before the winner was determined with the words “pityriasis” and “aileron,” respectively. There were seven rounds prior to the championship round. According to Hicks, “in the championship round, the seven winners of prior rounds took the stage, along with team Health Advances, the 2015 Bee champions, who also just happened to win WEF’s ‘second chance’ raffle after being disqualified in the fourth round.

Words posed to contestants in the final round are not necessarily included in the study guide distributed in advance”. The first word, “feuilleton”, knocked out six teams. Dowling remarked, “this might be the quickest final round ever!” Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s team won on the second word, talking the lead over Health Advances by correctly spelling “unguligrade,” a word meaning “walking on hooves.”

The Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage team brought home the Ruth Humphries trophy, making them the 2016 Bee champions. Team members included Elke Cardella, Moira Lown and Sheila Olson. Olson had some experience in winning as a team member with the Bates School Minions in 2014. She had only worked with them for the past two weeks prior to the Bee. Cardella said, “we had an amazing team, and everyone studied really hard. We divided the list into three parts and we each studied our own lists. I joined the spelling team because as an agent, I’m proud to be a part of the Coldwell Banker Wellesley office. Not only is it an incredible work environment with smart, supportive, hard-working people but also an organization that gives back to its community in so many ways. I’m really excited that we could do our part and win the spelling bee on behalf of such a great firm. This program is an incredible asset to the town of Wellesley because of the contributions that the WEF makes to the Wellesley Public School system. I love the various WEF events, but the buzz of the Spelling Bee is definitely my favorite!”

The championship round teams were: Wellesley School Committee - Word Nerds, Upham PTO - Upham Frizz-Bees, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, WHS PTSO - UnBEEtables, WHS Senior Class Officers, Wellesley College and Wellesley United Soccer Club.

If that excitement wasn’t enough, the WMS Teachers’ team, “the SPELLunkers”, won the Wellesley Education Foundation Team Spirit Award once again, which recognized the enthusiasm and creativity they brought to the Bee. This year, the team donned hardhats, searchlights and multiple feet of coiled rope. The SPELLunkers team included Kari Sciera, Drew Bourn and Valerie Stark. According to Hicks, “their energy illustrates one reason the Bee continues to be a favorite annual community event, bringing together students, educators, and community members of all ages for an old-fashioned challenge that, after 27 straight years, continues to provide a fun evening of entertainment for all.”

WEF Co-Presidents, Susan Ryan and Erica Recht, WEF’s co-presidents, thanked all donors and participants, and highlighted the Bee’s long-term Marquee sponsors, the Wellesley Bank Charitable Foundation, Wellesley College and Babson College.

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