Feb 24, 2006    #039
Contact: Michelle Hopkins

KCMO Public Schools Black History Month spelling bee at UMKC is festive event for educators, parents, kids

There was a lot going on at the Kansas City Missouri Public School District’s 4th Grade Spelling Bee, held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in Pierson Auditorium Friday, Feb. 24. Nearly 200 people packed into the hall and here’s some of what they witnessed.

Youngsters from J.S. Chick and Sanford B. Ladd elementary schools swung dangling legs and fidgeted in plastic chairs on a big wooden stage, while area lawmakers presented formal resolutions acknowledging the collaborative efforts of teachers, students and parents. Rep. Melba Curls of the 41st District, in which Sanford B. Ladd Elementary School resides, confessed to a modern-day over-dependence on her computer’s “spellcheck” and congratulated the youngsters for learning to spell. Once the bee began, anxious twitters signaled nervous uncertainty. Eyes grew big. Hands were wrung. And that wasn’t just on stage. In the audience, one mother clasped her hands seemingly in prayer as her child stood before the microphone.

For all the activity in the room, there was a surprising sense of calm in the chair occupied by entrant #15. Before the competition began, John Graham, a fourth grader at J.S. Chick Elementary, radiated confidence. “I like to read. I read a lot,” he commented. “I like books about magic.” As it happened, that love of reading would win out this day, although many of the 36 children competing executed the spelling of their words enthusiastically. Thirteen survived the first round. Gleaming eyes punctuated successful completion of words like evaporate, fixation, fluoride and decompose. In the crowd, Helen Tellis of J.S. Chick Elementary, instructional coach for the spelling bee, smiled admiringly.

Words like theology and revelation took their toll in round two. Nine more kids left the stage. The word relic narrowed the field to the final three: Cameron Hightower Blanks, John Graham and Kiara Johnson. The trio stood tough against an army of demanding words (rapture, relic, contamination and erosion among them). (The word list is the same as the one used in the Jackson County Spelling Bee for 6th through 8th graders.) But his breezily calm spelling of extinction wrapped up the win for Graham.

The final results were: John Graham, first prize; Kiara Johnson, second prize; and Cameron Hightower Blanks, third prize. All three students are from J.S. Chick Elementary.

The crowd pushed forward to congratulate winners while honors and prizes continued to be bestowed. Joe Greene of Kansas City Power & Light, a sponsor of the event, and Scott P. Schulz of Pomeroy IT Solutions presented Graham a desktop computer, 17-inch LCD monitor and the Microsoft Office suite for students, all valued at $2,000. The UMKC School of Education, represented by Dean Linda Edwards, gave the 4th graders from J.S. Chick Elementary a classroom projector for use by their teachers, Jimmie Collier-Bullard and Theresa Shelby.

All of the 4th graders, including the top three who took home gleaming gold trophies, earned medals of recognition. Debbie Brooks, manager of admission at the UMKC School of Law, gave each youngster a certificate for $1,000 toward admission to the law school if the choose to attend UMKC Law School after eight more years.


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