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Hofstra will not sponsor 2019 LI Scripps spelling bee

The Cincinnati-based Scripps National Spelling Bee is looking for a replacement sponsor for the competition. In 2018, 137 schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties participated, officials said.

Long Island students participate in the 2017 Long

Long Island students participate in the 2017 Long Island Regional Scripps Spelling Bee at Hofstra University on Feb. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hofstra University will not sponsor the 2019 Long Island Regional Scripps Spelling Bee due to scheduling conflicts, a university spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is looking for a new sponsor for the competition, usually held in February or March, said communications manager Valerie Miller.

Hofstra has hosted the Island's regional bee since 2012, but did not renew its contract for 2019 because it couldn’t find a date that worked, said university spokeswoman Karla Schuster.

“The Scripps company has made some changes to the program this year, including the timeline for when a regional bee can be held, that made scheduling very difficult, given the demands on our campus during the spring semester,” Schuster said.

Miller confirmed that Scripps provided a more limited choice of dates for the regional competitions this school year.

“By trying to limit to choice dates for those regional competitions, we believe that that helps to secure the integrity of those word lists,” Miller said. The security of the lists could be in jeopardy as coverage of regional events nationwide increases and words are posted online, she said.

“We certainly understand,” she said of Hofstra’s inability to host the competition. “They’ve been a great partner.”

The bee's sponsor before Hofstra had been Long Island Jewish World.

Without a sponsor Long Island students “don’t have the chance to compete in a regional final that could earn them a paid trip” to the national competition in Washington, D.C., Miller said. “It’s also the opportunity to compete in front of an audience, which the more experience you have at doing, the better off you are when you get to the national finals.”

Sponsors typically are education-related organizations, but don’t have to be, Miller said.

The local sponsor's responsibilities include managing the event, coordinating with the participating schools, selecting the judges and the venue, and paying to send the winner and a parent to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, she said. 

It’s also up to the local sponsor to determine which students are selected to participate in the regional competition.

A total of 137 schools from across Nassau and Suffolk counties participated in last year’s event sponsored by Hofstra, according to Scripps.

Fifth- through eighth-graders who participated in the regional competition last year first had to win the spelling bees sponsored by their local schools and then complete a written exam. In February, 41 students took part in Hofstra’s regional bee, which for the second year in a row was won by Ryan Himmelsbach, an eighth-grader at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School in the Three Village school district.  The National Bee, held in June, was won by Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, who received a trophy and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes, according to The Associated Press. 

Even without a regional competition students still can compete in the national bee, Miller said.

Last year Scripps created a “RSVBee” program, under which it invites students to compete in the national finals, she said. The regional route, however, is the only way for parents and students to earn a paid trip.

“We are working diligently to try and create as many of those sponsored regionals as we can to create as many opportunities for kids as possible,” Miller said.

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