Island’s Official Spelling Bee Sending Five Competitors to County Level

Photos by Chuck Kapelke

Left to right, Alameda’s best spellers: Hazel Purins, first place, fifth grade, Otis Elementary; Dylan McGrew, fifth place, sixth grade, Academy of Alameda; Ella Banchieri, fourth place, fourth grade, Edison Elementary; Liam Hofmann, third place, fifth grade, Earhart Elementary; Brenden Dalipe, second place, fifth grade, Bay Farm Elementary and alternate Lavanya Kumar, sixth grade, Wood Middle.

Sun newspaper foots bill for six spellers’ entry fees

Atrophy, then delicatessen, were the winning words Hazel Purins spelled correctly to earn her the title of champion of the First Annual Spelling Bee Saturday, Feb. 7. Around 60 kids respresenting 12 Alameda schools — including elementary and middle, charters and parochial schools — participated in the rather intense spelling challenge.

Finalists Purins, Brenden Dalipe, Liam Hofmann, Ella Banchieri, Dylan McGrew, and one alternate, Lavanya Kumar, rose to the top after a very challenging 30-word written test, and besting 25 other semi-finalists in the oral matchup.

The top five will participate in the Alameda County Elementary Bee, to be held in Castro Valley on Saturday, March 14.

"The kids who signed up for this event all deserve a lot of credit," said the bee’s lead organizer, Chuck Kapelke. "It takes a lot of courage to compete in a public event like this, and they all handled it with aplomb." A local parent and PTA volunteer, Kapelke wanted to hold a spelling bee after finding out no official bee of its kind had been held in a long time here.

"Spelling bees are a fun way for kids to boost their vocabulary and think about language in a different way," said Kapelke. "We’re proud to organize a city-wide bee here in Alameda, and hope to make this an annual tradition. I have no doubt that one day a speller from Alameda could be the state or national champion."

Kapelke rallied local support to create the bee, starting with the Alameda Sun, where Co-Publisher Eric J. Kos immediately agreed to provide funding and to serve as a judge for the event.

"Helping host a spelling bee is something I’ve always wanted the Alameda Sun to do." said Kos. "I was honored to help, including letting the kids know when they got the spelling wrong. A tough job, but someone had to do it." Poet Laureate Julia Park Tracey also served as a judge. Alameda Advertising and Recognition provided the trophies while Books, Inc., the Pacific Pinball Museum, Subpar Mini-Golf and Toy Safari all donated prizes. Peet’s Coffee donated coffee and Girl Scout Troop 33022 provided logistics support.

"We are very grateful to the Alameda Sun and our other local sponsors for their willingness to support this event," said Kapelke.

Alameda County requires a bee receive a sponsor in the form of a school official, and Otis Elementary School Principal Dr. Shirley Clem fulfilled that role. University of San Francisco economics professor (and Alameda resident) Micheal Jonas was the official reader. While both Kapelke and Jonas have daughters in local schools, the girls chose to assist the bee through their girl scout troop, rather than compete.

To find out about next year’s event, keep an eye on For an entire gallery of photos from the event, visit