Spelling bees under way

While we might be just a few days into the new year, the Tri-State Area’s winter schedule already is starting to heat up.

Among the events that many people look forward to every year is the Jefferson-Harrison County Spelling Bee, which is presented by the Herald-Star.

It’s an event that dates back to 1985, and one that always makes school a little more interesting for hundreds of pupils from across the area.

This year’s regional bee is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. March 14 at Buckeye North Elementary School in Brilliant. The winner of that bee will earn a spot in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. The 93rd rendition of that event will be held May 24-30 in National Harbor, Md.

That event will have a little different look — Scripps has pared the field down to 400 spellers from last year’s 562, which should lead to better competition and a chance for each of those who earn a spot the chance to know each other a little better.

Last year’s national bee concluded with eight co-champions, the first time a group of co-winners had been named. That decision came after they had gone head-to-head for 20 rounds.

Among the 562 competitors last year was Zachary Kuntz, who was then a sixth-grader at Stanton Elementary School.

There’s a lot of attention directed each year at the regional bee, and that’s understandable because of everything that’s at stake. But it’s also important to remember that that bee is the culmination of a process that started shortly after school began in August. Area pupils have been busy preparing for classroom and building bees in the run-up to district bees.

District bees are important, because the top eight spellers from each of those bees will earn a spot in the regional bee. The next two finishers will become alternates for the regional bee.

Those qualifying bees start Tuesday, when the Edison Local district bee will be held beginning at 6 p.m. at Edison High School.

The following week will be the busiest of the bee season, with the Indian Creek district bee scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at Indian Creek Middle School, the Buckeye Local district bee scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at Buckeye Local High School and the Harrison Hills district bee scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 16 at the new Harrison Hills school in Cadiz.

The Toronto district bee is scheduled to be held at 9 a.m. Jan. 22 at Toronto Junior-Senior High School, and the Steubenville district bee is scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at Harding Middle School.

It takes a lot of planning to pull a competition like this together. That falls to a group of educators and volunteers under the direction of Ron Sismondo of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, longtime coordinator of the annual event.

Their efforts, plus the support of a growing number of sponsors from across the region, including Huntington and PNC banks and Tri-State Financial Services, have ensured that the event remains an important one on academic calendars.

According to Scripps, the bee is designed to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

We’re proud to once again be a part of that educational experience.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is exeuitve editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)