Letter to the Editor: Spelling Bee – Debacle in Clarke County

On March 20, at Daniel Morgan Middle School, three children and their families from Clarke County, arrived at 6:15 for a 7:00 start to participate in the Regional Spelling Bee.  To their shock and dismay, the bee had commenced at 5:30.  Due to the late hour, they were not allowed to participate in the competition.

As a community member, I take the spelling bee seriously.  It is the only event in the school system that is connected to a national competition and has been an annual event since 1925.

The Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company and local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Now, the real question is, why did these families not receive the proper time for the Spelling Bee?  All other participants from Winchester, Frederick and Warren Counties were there…on time. According to one parent, they were phoned on March 15 and told that the event started at 7:00 pm.

This reflects very badly on Clarke County Public Schools and on its Director of Curriculum, who did not take this event seriously enough to get the correct information to the students and their families.  Many, many hours had been spent in preparing for this event. There is no excuse for such sloppy behavior! The 8th graders will never get another chance to compete since his is the last year of eligibility. What do the students learn from this?   Incompetency is acceptable for an administrator?  A hurried apology is all that it takes to make things right? Just use “Spell Check” and everything will be fine?  Trivializing the spelling bee is an acceptable response?

Mary Veilleux

Berryville, VA


  1. been here a long time says:

    I was wondering the same thing about the time issue. What’s up and why doesn’t the school officals come out and address this so all of us can know what happened?

  2. J Gibson says:

    Mrs. Veilleux,[redacted]

    It was acknolwedged to be a debacle, on all sides. The CCPS administration apologized, several times. There is blame to go around. For this event, from 9 days ago, to continue to get fanned into something more than it is seems to be most unfortunate.

    It is most unfortunate, and egg has been worn by those involved…what more do you want? [redacted]

  3. BeenHere: I wondered the same thing about Clarke not informing parents about PAVAN Summer Governor’s School.What happened? Even if it does get cut from next year’s budget, what about this year?
    Someone has recently told me we pay as much as other counties to participate, but have a low participation. Perhaps that is because we don’t tell anyone? Who is in charge of getting the word out on that? I was also told the person who used to do it has left for another district.

    JGibson: Maybe it is still going around 9 days later because word is just getting out and people want to know what happened. Maybe this will shine some light on areas that need improvement in our schools. Maybe I am too hopeful for that.

  4. Sorry but says:

    CCPS once again shows their best. Isn’t this part of the manangemet (sp) team that wanted raises across the board a few weeks ago? Make a note: Obviously money can’t fix incompetence.

  5. I absolutely understand the upset but how do we know that the administrator wasn’t wrongfully informed therefore passing along the bad information?

    I have to agree with J Gibson. What else is there to do but apologize and promise it won’t happen again? Until it does happen again why are you beating a dead horse?

  6. Right Winger says:

    I never heard about this. I’m glad Mary has said something publicly about it. So the kids from Clarke County who earned a chance to go on to the Regional Spelling Bee were denied because of somebody in the CCPS administration’s incompetence?

    Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.

  7. Simply Put says:

    I doubt there was any malice here, but here’s the real problem:

    From CDN article 3/30:

    ” “[The CCPS administrator] advised the parents and students who were standing in the foyer, denied admission to the already ongoing Bee, that she was also unaware of the correct start time. At that point, the Regional Spelling Bee Coordinator, who was standing with the group, reminded [the CCPS administrator] of their telephone conversations the prior Thursday and Friday, in which the coordinator reminded [the CCPS administrator] that the start time would be 5:30 p.m.,” said one parent. “I witnessed [the CCPS administrator] acknowledging the accuracy of that statement.”

    Simply, someone is not telling the truth. Either it is the parent who looked so forward to seeing their child compete, or someone who needs a CYA to save face,

    Incompetence is not the same thing as being a liar.. Now what did our children learn?

  8. Seminole says:

    Yipes! This is what was leaned…….

    “I” before “E” as in ……LIE
    “I” before “E” except afte r” C” ….as in DECEIVE!