'Spelling, S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G, spelling'

New Milford PTO plays host to inaugural 'Spelling Challenge'

They came, they spelled, some better than others, and they were humbled.

Well, all were humbled except Rev. Paul Fleck.

The pastor of the United Methodist Church in New Milford emerged Feb. 5 as the champion of the New Milford Parent Teachers Organization's inaugural "Spelling Challenge."

Twenty challengers started the evening in the New Milford High School theater spelling their way through words dished out by Dr. Christopher Longo, an NMHS assistant principal.

Judging their efforts were fellow NMHS assistant principal Mark Balanda and Robin Stiles, the school's library media specialist.

Amid some good-natured laughter and lots of support from a crowd of about a hundred family members and friends, the contestants did their utmost to spell words correctly.

The competitors were drawn from the high school student body, from its faculty, from the school district's administration and Board of Education, and spiced by a few town VIPs.

Each contestant donated to the PTO's scholarship fund in order to participate and, during the course of the evening, more than a few made additional donations in lieu of spelling particularly difficult words.

Among the event's many moments of levity, sensing she was about to misspell an especially vexing word, NMHS senior Kaylynn Rubbico broke into a broad grin as she asked her mother in the audience if she had any money she could borrow.

When the dust had settled, it all came down to NMHS student Tony Harkin and Rev. Fleck, who won out when his young rival finally stumbled.

At evening's end, consensus was the PTO, Rev. Fleck and everyone involved had been the winners of the inaugural Spelling Challenge.

All proceeds will benefit New Milford PTO scholarship fund.

-- Norm Cummings

Photography by Norm Cummings