Spellicans Win 2017 Spelling Bee!

March 6, 2017

The Spellicans won the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI)’s 19th Annual Adult Spelling Bee on Sunday, March 5, correctly spelling om·ma·tid·i·um (äməˈtidēəm), noun from field of Entomology that refers to each of the optical units that make up a compound eye, as of an insect. All words in the Championship round were provided by the Discovery Trail.


Beth Howard, Melissa Smith, and Russ Charif have competed together as the Spellicans in every IPEI Spelling Bee since 2005, and have won it four times, more than any other team. They had not won in the past six years, but continued to participate because they are “word-nerds, enthusiastic supporters of IPEI, and parents of present and past ICSD students who have benefited from IPEI-funded projects.”


Approximately 400 attended the fun-filled family-friendly event for IPEI’s grants for teachers that raised $30,000. The IthacaSTEM Hexaplexes, We Spell Krazy Good, and Westhill <Ortho> Graphics were the other winners of preliminary rounds of spelling who advanced to the Championship round.


IPEI’s Executive Director Steve Manley expressed, “Today’s Spelling Bee demonstrates the commitment of the Ithaca community to support its teachers and students, and the excitement adults feel when they spell challenging words correctly! I am really honored to be a part of this community and to lead IPEI as it continues to raise funds to support innovative teachers across the ICSD. Thanks to everyone who came out and I look forward to seeing you next year!”


When IPEI was founded 20 years ago, Ralph Jones proposed adult spelling bees that would generate community support for ICSD teachers and students. This year’s Adult Spelling Bee honored his many years assisting with IPEI and its signature event; Jones presided as “King Bee”.


In addition to the 96 spellers on 32 teams competing in four preliminary rounds, there were others involved in the event itself including Jean McPheeters, host, and Geoff Dunn, word pronouncer, and Deborah O’Connor, time-keeper. She was assisted by honorary “bee-keepers” Robert Ainslie of Morgan Stanley, Bill Murphy of Tompkins Trust Company, Brandon Fortenberry of Cornell Catering, and Ithaca High’s Jason Trumble.


Judges were Matt Braun, Jennifer Engel, Suzanne Smith Jablonski, Martha Frommelt, Jerry Dietz, Deborah Lynn, Paulette Manos, and Deb Mohlenhoff. IPEI Board member Jennifer Biloski co-chaired the committee with IPEI Executive Director Steve Manley. They were assisted by the Bee Committee and volunteers from Kohl’s, Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, Code Red Robotics, and DeWitt Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society. This year’s bee fairies were Charlotte Hay and Anna Danks Burke.


Silent auction items were donated by local businesses, organizations, and individuals. Attendees enjoyed the Remembox photo booth, complimentary refreshments provided by Cornell Catering and Cornell Orchards, and a play area for children. The quilt created by retired teachers and friends of IPEI (Peggy Hill, Connie Patterson, Judy Steele and Marcie Wyant) was raffled.


Thanks to the event sponsors, all proceeds go directly toward funding Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) grants. The Blue Ribbon Champion Sponsor was Ainslie Reilly Group at Morgan Stanley, and the Red Ribbon Finalist Sponsor was Cayuga Radio Group. Sciarabba Walker, Cornell Catering, Trane US, and Tompkins Trust Company were Gold Ribbon Sponsors. Calf Audio and Westhill Graphics partner with the Bee each year providing their special services.


Prizes were awarded to spelling teams for success in spelling competition, in costume-wearing, and in fundraising from Purity Ice Cream, Ithaca Bakery, Heather Makepeace, Susan McCutcheon, and DonorsChoose.org.


Lake Street News, Ithaca High’s digital media studio, recorded all the sights and sounds for future viewing. https://youtu.be/_6E0ubmm49s


Jennifer Biloski, IPEI Board Member and Bee Co-chair, said “As a coordinator for this event for the third consecutive year, I have watched the Spelling Bee grow in terms of funds raised, sponsorships, number of teams spelling, community representation in types of teams spelling, and audience participation. The growth and popularity of this event is testament of the Ithaca community’s commitment to educational excellence; as well as to the intangible value that school programming enabled through IPEI grants adds to the educational experience of all students across all grade levels throughout the Ithaca City School District. I feel privileged to be part of IPEI.”


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