The Cinderella Story for 2013 was the amazing success of the Becker High School robotics team, doing business as the “Coalition of Independent Students, #4607”, a rookie team in high school robotics competition that all but swept the board in every competition they entered.
The first-year team was coached by BHS Assistant Principal Mark Kolbinger and teacher Alex Jurek, and drew a host of local sponsors and mentors, including contributions from Xcel Energy and Liberty Paper, for whom the “Liberty Xcelerator” robot was named (also known as “Peanut” to the team members). The team also received a grant from NASA, and was recently informed their support will continue this year.
The team’s accomplishments included being a part of the winning coalition in the regional competition in March, which led to an invitation to attend the national competition in St. Louis, MO that had the team scrambling to get ready for the unexpected honor. They followed that with a trip to the state competition in Minneapolis, where they again won first-place honors as part of the winning coalition. The string of victories led to an invitation to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, plus local honors including a spot in the Becker Freedom Days parade.
Kolbinger’s terse e-mail from the regional finals could be the tag line for the whole season: “We won it all. Honest to God!”
The team will host a pancake breakfast at BHS on Saturday, Jan. 4, a program which will also include a live video feed from St. Cloud where the required blueprint for the new competition robot will be revealed. That marks the start of the short but intense “build season” in which the robot must be designed and completed by a strict deadline.
The fall musical tradition continued at BHS, with Dennis Whipple from the GREAT Theatre in St. Cloud at the helm along with co-director Ruth Johnson, veteran musical director Gretchen Bordson, artistic director Lisa Sackett and amazing new set designer Rich Kimmerle on board for a delightful rendition of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”. Long-time BSHS director Jan Lefebvre decided to take a sabbatical after six years of intense work, opening the door for the exciting new collaboration.
The district hosted “Healthy Community Night”, which focused on mental health issues and suicide prevention. Representatives from state and local agencies, churches and private groups were on hand to meet with attendees and answer questions. Keynote speaker was Dr. Daniel Reidenberg, national director of S.A.V.E. (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education).
Ground was broken this summer and work proceeds full force on a series of renovations to the Becker campus, which include a new swimming pool, a new auditorium, new tennis courts, a new gymnasium floor and new bleachers, among a host of other improvements to climate control systems, lighting and communications. The pool and auditorium are expected to be completed by the fall of 2014.
BHS was recently named to an Apple® Distinguished School renewal for the 2013-2015 school years, according to Dir. of Instructional Technology Ryan Cox. A banner and plaque will be presented to the school at the regular Board of Education on Min., Feb. 3. The district currently has an agreement with Palmer Wireless to provide wifi service on district school busses, which allows students to use bus time to do homework on the district network.
Third-grade students at Clearview Elementary School in Clear Lake took part in the third annual “Pinwheels for Peace” program this fall. The program is part of the annual World Peace Day project, in which students create pinwheels in art classes, and then arrange them on the lawn of their schools in the shape of the international peace sign, according to art teacher Kathy Gerdts-Senger. Students sang along with music teacher Karen Ingeman and her guitar, and Mary Dank released homing pigeons and a white dove, which flew back to the coop at their home in St. Cloud after circling the school property.
New St. Cloud Schools Supt. Willie Jett attended the program, marking his first visit to Clearview since taking over his new position.
Students, teachers and family members gathered in September to plant a tree in memory of Kayleen Larson, the Clearview third-grader who lost her battle with cancer earlier in the year. In May, the Clearwater City Council proclaimed “Kayleen Larson Day” in her honor, and her classmates made orange artworks and paper ladybugs in her honor at that time.