"Know Knothings" upset defending champions in Reaching Heights 23rd annual adult community spelling bee

Champion spellers, the "Know Knothings" representing Heights High PTA receive the coveted Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee trophy from former executive director Patrick Mullen, in yellow.

Pictured from left to right are Jim Wright, Anne Kugler, Patrick Mullen and Fran Lissemore. Photo by Jennifer Vinson.

The “Know Knothings” team, representing Heights High PTA, upset the defending champions, the Barratrous Orthographers, to win the 23rd Annual Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee at Wiley Middle School on April 2.

The winning team comprised eight-time participant Anne Kugler and seven-time participants Fran Lissemore and Jim Wright. The “Know Knothings” are two-time champions, last winning the Bee in 2009.

The champions seized victory in the seventh round, correctly spelling the word “dieffenbachia,” a genus of poisonous tropical American plants named after Ernst Dieffenbach, a 19th-century German horticulturist.

The “Know Knothings” narrowly defeated three teams that shared second place: “Barratrous Orthographers,” a team of lawyers representing Squire, Sanders & Dempsey—Bonnie Bealer, Becky Bynum and John Lazzaretti; the “Ms. Spellers,” a team of parents representing Roxboro Elementary and Middle Schools—Malia Lewis, Andrea Lynn and Brenna Lisowski; and the Coventry Word Outlaws, bedecked in cowboy hats, boots and bandannas—Cynthia Larsen, Peggy Latkovitch and Joe Mendes.

The FutureHeights “B” team, which comprised board members Clare Taft and Greg Bonanno, and alternate Kerri Whitehouse, made a valiant effort, but ultimately fell during the fourth round, on the word “plebiscite.”

This year’s Bee attracted 20 teams of three, with each team donating a minimum of $500 to participate. Most of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools sent a team of parents or teachers, and there were two teams of students in the Bee—one from the Heights High’s football team and one representing the CH-UH Board of Education.

The top fundraising team, garnering close to $2,000, was Upper Case, a team comprising Case Western Reserve University faculty and staff members Pat Crago, Jeffrey Janata and Lynn Singer. According to Krista Hawthorne, new executive director of Reaching Heights, Upper Case has consistently raised the most money in competition from year to year. Upper Case won the Bee in 2008 and was runner-up in 2007.

Patrick Mullen, former Reaching Heights executive director, awarded a bag of candy to the Boulevard Elementary School cheering team and said, “As long as anyone can remember, Boulevard Elementary School has had the loudest cheering section.”

The Reaching Heights Spelling Bee raises funds for programs that support academic and musical excellence in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools. This year, Reaching Heights recognized the contributions of Carla Bailey, a longtime active parent, PTA member and AFS International student exchange host parent, and presented her with its 2014 Friend of Public Education Award. In accepting the award, Bailey thanked her own children for their continuous support, as well as several exchange students in the audience whom she is hosting this school year.

Nylajean McDaniel, superintendant of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, and Andrea Celico, assistant superintendant, both made their debut appearances as Bee judges. Tony Zupancic, associate professor of communication, English, and theatre at Notre Dame College, served as a judge for the fourth time. Nancy Levin, director of the CH-UH Public Library System, was the pronouncer; Steve Titchenal projected the words for the audience for the 23rd time; and Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun, was the master of ceremonies.

Andrea C. Turner

Andrea C. Turner owns ACT One Communications, LLC, a marketing & communications consulting firm. She is the Heights Observer e-news editor.

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 1:01 PM, 04.08.2014