NCEF spelling bee is 'Red Hot'

Teams don’t need a comprehensive knowledge of vowel sounds and consonant clusters to win Newton-Conover Education Foundation’s annual “Red Hot Spelling Bee.”

In fact, spelling sleuths on the four-person teams don’t even need to know how to spell.

“Just bring a fat check book,” said Newton-Conover City Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond, “and be ready to write plenty of checks.”

Presented by The Observer News Enterprise and Outlook, the annual Newton-Conover Education Foundation “Red Hot Spelling Bee” is set for 6:30 p.m., March 22 at Newton-Conover High School. Team registration is under way, and teams from area schools, civic groups, businesses, churches, professional offices and the community are invited to support the NCEF in this annual fund-raiser.

In the 2010 installment of the competition, Redmond and the team from the Newton-Conover City Schools administrative offices — Barry’s Angels — took home the spelling bee championship. Past champions include teams from Catawba Valley Medical Center and The Observer News Enterprise.
Now, the school system leader is daring challengers to bring their best spelling game.

“We are excited, and we are looking forward to being the winning team again,” he said. “We even upped our participation to two teams. We would love to challenge local municipalities to come and be defeated by a large margin — if they are up to the task.”

Challenging other government leaders and other potential teams, Redmond revealed the secret to his teams’ past success — a secret that will work for any team.

“As far as I can remember, I have never tried to buy results, except one time, and that was with the Red Hot Spelling Bee,” he said, “and I almost went broke.”

The competition is unlike most spelling contests. Teams don’t need to be able to spell — at least not until the final round. There’s not even a chance that a nervous solo speller will be forced to stand alone and re-live awkward nightmares.

Instead the “Red Hot Spelling Bee” is a cooperative effort among all team members. If a team misspells a word prior to the championship round, a $10 donation to NCEF delivers a word buy-back and new life.

“I can go up to $100. Then I have to start asking my wife, and this is money I pay out of my personal checking account. It isn’t school money,” Redmond said, adding he even sometimes helps student spelling bee teams with a $10 word buy-back donation. “When I see those sad eyes looking at me, I end up giving them money, too.”

Last year, 25 teams competed in the spelling bee, raising more than $4,000, said NCEF Chair Debbie Bandy. Proceeds support scholarships for students in the NCCS system, as well as provide grant funding for teachers.

“With the economic struggles that our school system is enduring, we are proud to be providing additional funding for teachers who are initiating innovative approaches in the classroom,” Bandy said. “We also provide scholarships for Seniors that have shown community involvement as well as ‘P.R.I.D.E.’ in the Newton-Conover school system. By participating in the spelling bee, you are not only supporting the Newton Conover Education Fund, but having a fun family night of entertainment.”

The event features refreshments for competitors and a costume contest among teams. There’s music and a festive atmosphere that Redmond said is “fun for the whole family,” whether you are competing, supporting a team of spellers or just a spectator. If nothing else, the competition allows spectators to see student teams battle against adults — often faring better than their elder counterparts.

“I think it is a wonderful opportunity to show the kids they are important, and it also helps create a really festive atmosphere. People love to watch the kids at their best,” Redmond said, adding he is proud to compete and donate to the annual event. “We are very indebted to Newton-Conover Education Foundation. They assist our teachers with special projects that might not otherwise be funded, and they offer other possibilities for students. We want to help the people that are helping us. If everybody can jump in and work together, then we all win.”

For more information or to enter a team, contact Bandy at 464-4870 or 446-6594. Registration forms are also available at the Newton-Conover Schools system office.