A legacy of orthography and excitement


The Island Spelling Bee is tomorrow. The history of The Martha’s Vineyard Times’s sponsorship of the Scripps National Spelling Bee local competition among young spellers from the six Island towns now extends more than two decades. The Island Bee, tomorrow morning at the Performing Arts Center, will be, as it has been over all these years, an academic equivalent of the most exciting competitive events you will ever witness.

Prodding in her determined but engaging way, Patricia Carlet of Vineyard Haven, Queen Bee of the Island orthography competition for so many years, urged The Times to become the Bee sponsor. She engineered the structure of cooperation between the newspaper and the school system, so that when she retired from the Edgartown School library, the Bee carried on, first with Barbara Reynolds as the school coordinator and for the last several years with the indefatigable Jean Holenko, the heart of the Bee today.

The Times had no particular expectations when we began the Scripps sponsorship all those years ago. We did think that because spelling is an important part of what we do, there was a some kind of rational link between newspapering and spelling bee support. What we learned, however, what were the many rewards, what surprised and delighted us has built this effort on the newspaper’s part into of its DNA.

We were astonished by the way so many families got behind their spellers to support and encourage them. We admired the poised and terribly hard working spellers who studied daily for months to outspell their school peers. We were impressed by the dedicated teachers who led the local school bees, by the school administrators who facilitated the Bee preparation and time required for the practice and competition, and by the school system leadership, especially superintendent James Weiss, who has been a steadfast supporter.

And we have been stunned by the enthusiasm of parents — including the majority of parents whose children spelled in local school bees but did not move on to the national Scripps competition — for the opportunity the Bee gives their children to excel academically.

We — that is, the entire staff of The Times over all these years — have been excited and rewarded by our participation in the Scripps Bee sponsorship.

In the Bee Hive, the Scripps newsletter for the nearly 400 newspaper sponsors worldwide, Scripps took note of The Times’s legacy of sponsorship participation. “With twenty-one years of participation, it’s clear that the spelling bee program is still important to this community,” the editor wrote.

Of course, we hope that’s true. We’re certain that it is an effort that has been immensely important to us.

Good luck to all the contestants in tomorrow’s Bee.