Perry Hill School students demonstrate their spelling abilities

Winner Kamil Alkaul, left, spells a word with runner-up Megan Bisson in the background.
Winner Kamil Alkaul, left, spells a word with runner-up Megan Bisson in the background.

How do you spell the best speller at Perry Hill School?


On Wednesday night, sixth-grader Kamil Alkaul won the school’s spelling bee by besting 24 other finalists, including runner-up Megan Bisson.

Kamil won by getting the words “duplicate” and “compose” correct. During the final round, both of the last two competitors tripped up a few times but the bee went on because the winner had to spell two successive words correctly after an error by the other student.

Among the words they got right toward the end were “controlling,” “fertilizer,” “supplement” and “vanquish.”

The words at least one of the two finalists got wrong included “apparent,” “miniature” and “versatile.”

Perry Hill is a citywide school that serves the fifth and sixth grades in Shelton. The competition was open to both grades.

‘You guys were fantastic’

Kamil’s victory brought a round of applause by the audience for all the participating students.

“Wow, you guys are fabulous,” Principal Lorraine Williams said while the two finalists were still on stage. “Actually, they all were fantastic.”

A crowd of a few hundred parents, fellow students and educators watched the competition. The students were on a stage, with the announcer and judges below them.

“Congratulations to these two super spellers,” said Carla Sullivan of the Shelton Education Endowment Fund, which organized the event with Perry Hill School.

Williams, during an interview after the spelling bee, said the event was “great. The kids were outstanding spellers. Our whole staff embraced the idea. I’m getting letters from kids asking me if we can have another one in May.”

About the winner

Kamil won $100 for being the victor, and his homeroom also will receive $100.

He said purchasing video games would be a priority for the prize money. “I want to spend it on something I like,” he said.

To get ready for the competition, Kamil had worked from a study list of words for about 10 minutes a day.

He admitted he was nervous having to spell out words on stage in front of so many people.

His mother, Ingrid Vit, was proud of her son’s accomplishment. She said she may have been more nervous than Kamil during the competition, especially toward the end.

Vit is originally from Lithuania. She had helped Kamil study but said that her own command of English still is a work in progress.

Kamil’s favorite subjects in school are math and writing. His sister, Sophia Alkaul, also was in the audience to cheer him on.

Rules of the bee

During the competition, students could ask for a word to be repeated and for a definition. They had one minute to provide the answer.

In the first part of the bee, when the words were easier, only a few students were eliminated. But when the second part with more challenging words started, more students began to have difficulty. Students also started to ask for definitions much more frequently in the second part.

The students had different styles when giving their answers. Some would quickly spell the word, while others would take longer and carefully pronounce each letter.

Expanding the concept to other schools

School Supt. Freeman Burr said the goal is to expand the spelling bee next year to include all the elementary schools, and possibly Shelton Intermediate School as well.

“I think we’re in for a treat this evening,” he told the crowd before the competition.

Burr thanked the Shelton Endowment Fund for sponsoring the competition and thanked former Principal Sandy Mahony for working to bring back the competition, calling it “her brainchild.”

There had been an annual spelling bee in Shelton for many years but it was discontinued about six years ago.

Williams said this year’s spelling bee at Perry Hill was “a real community effort” that involved students, staff, former staff members, and local business representatives.

The competition began in mid-March when spelling bees were held in each classroom at Perry Hill, followed by another bee a week later to determine the 25 finalists.

‘Responsive’ to the idea

Mahony said the event was a success because people were “responsive” to the idea. She said Perry Hill administrators “never hesitated” at the prospect of reviving the spelling bee.

Mahony said she doesn’t think she would have done as well as many of the students. “I couldn’t even spell my name if I got up there,” she joked while addressing the audience.

Valerie Knight-DiGangi of the Shelton Education Endowment Fund said the entity was proud to play a role in returning the spelling bee to the Shelton public school system. “It’s an awesome event,” she said.

Correct and incorrect spellings

During the competition, some of the words spelled correctly included “benevolent,” “diligent,” “captivity” “convenient,” “expedition,” “glamor,” “incinerator,” “obedient,” “pyramid” and “treacherous.”

Some of the words spelled incorrectly by students were “colossal,” “emphysema,” “fatigue,” “villain,” “obstacle,” “plummet” “swivel” and “tentative.”

The Perry Hill School spelling bee began with the playing of patriotic songs by student musicians.