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Lower School Blog

May 4, 2015; Vol. # 24, Issue # 31

Dear Lower School Parents:


We had an extraordinary appeal at last Monday's flagraising by two children with direct connections to the disaster in Nepal.  With remarkable composure, Ria (2nd Grade) and Shaan (JK) Soni addressed over 500 people to talk about the toll a 7.9 earthquake had had on their mother's native country (her parents actually met in Nepal, and the father, Sandeep, earned his medical degree there).

We've since learned that over 6,000 people have died, and an equal number were injured. Perhaps even more are now homeless and quite desperate, many completely cut off from potential rescue.

As always, Parker people are looking for ways to help, and the Soni family suggested  http://americanepalmedicalfoundation  (The American Nepal Medical Foundation, which is providing trauma care, medical supplies and other services to the victims). Other vetted organizations also helping to ease this crisis can be found here


Bob Gillingham 


ERB Testing


Next week, the students in grades 3-5 will be taking the ERB tests (nationally-normed standardized tests measuring quantitative and verbal achievement).  The results from the tests serve to inform us about the effectiveness of our program, but they can also signal the need for individual enrichment and additional support.  Test results and information for interpreting the scores will be mailed out to parents in early summer.


STudent Council

Due to the PD day on Monday and flagraising this week on Tuesday, the Student Council meeting will be moved to Wednesday, May 6, at 8:00 a.m.


Science Fairs


Science Fairs will take place this week on Tuesday for 1st and 2nd graders and Wednesday for 3rd and 4th graders.  Students have been challenged to solve problems with their investigations, and you'll be delighted to see the depth of their thinking and creativity.  Join us if you can on both days from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in the Gooding (library) patio. 


Global Presentations


Upper School students have travelled all over the world this year, and they're coming to the Lower School this Tuesday to share what they've learned with students in grades 1-5.  This global connection has certainly inspired our younger students in the past, and they've become quite excited about their own future trips abroad.

For many of the older students, the trips have been transformative, often influencing their course of study following their time at Parker.  In the past few years, the program has really taken off, and by the time the Lower School students are ready to participate, there's no telling how many countries will be involved and how many related service projects will be ongoing.

In any case, our Lower School students will get a taste of it this week as they hear about and see 


Professional Development Day


This Monday is a professional development day for all faculty and there is no school for students.  School resumes on Tuesday, May 5.


San Diego Symphony


Students in grades 3-5 are off to the symphony this coming Thursday.  Students have found these trips very inspiring, and on occasion, students have been invited to perform with the symphony.


Showstoppers Performances


Showstoppers performances will be held this week for students on Thursday and for parents on Friday, both running from 4-5:45 p.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.


Special BBQ/Dress Down Day


This Friday will be a bbq/dress-down day, with an extra special twist.  In a rite of passage, fifth graders will be invited to share in the carne asada they've long coveted and will now enjoy.  Parents are welcome to join us during their children's regular lunch times.


 Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of May 4


Posted by ls-newsletter on Monday May 4 at 07:14AM
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April 27, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #30

Dear Lower School Parents:

I learn the most interesting things when I'm shaking hands at the gate, including who has new shoes, who's sporting a new hairstyle (and who needs a trim so we can see their sparkly eyes), who's ready to launch into the day, and who may need a little encouragement.  However, I also hear touching stories that often validate what we do on this campus.

Recently, a mother whose children have attended Parker for many years, and whose youngest is days away from moving to the Middle School, stopped to share an observation.  She told me that in the big projects her children had tackled of late, one in the Middle School and one in fifth grade, she was "forbidden" from helping, so much so that she didn't even know what was in a video her daughter had produced until it was first presented in competition.  When she tried to be more involved in her son's science project, he chided her (gently), reminding her that he and his partners were to work independently, without parent help.  

Looking me right in the eyes, she said, "This is why we send our kids to Parker; this is what it's all about..."

We think so, too, and we're actively involved in examining our curriculum, our classroom configuration and the way we deploy our teaching staff to ensure that our students are learning how: 1) to communicate well; 2) to access and employ their creativity; 3) to work with many and varied types of people and groups; 4) to think critically and innovatively in assessing, understanding and solving all kinds of learning challenges; and 5) to be independent, confident learners and citizens.

"As far as the mind can see..." makes more sense to me every day.


Bob Gillingham 


Summer Music Program (revisited)

The newly-arranged Summer Music Program will take place on June 5 (sorry for the incomplete date last week)  beginning at 1:30 p.m. for the students in SK-2.  At approximately 1:50 p.m., we'll take a break to allow for the resetting of performer's chairs, to allow parents with children in SK-2 only to depart and those with students in 3-5 to find their seats, and to move the older students into place.  At 2:15, the second part of the program will commence.

Lost and Found

With the variation in temperatures lately, the lost and found box is overflowing once again!  We'll return clothing we can indentify, and the rest will be donated in a week or so, so please take a look when you can.


Movie Night


This year, Movie Night will be held on May 15.  This has been a very popular event in the past and great support for the annual gala.  This year's movie will be chosen by the students (through their student council representatives) and announced next Tuesday. Children are allowed to remain after school that day, even if they are not part of the regular afterschool program, and dinner will be served at approximately 5:30-6:00 p.m. When the sun sets (generally about 7:30 p.m.), the students will enjoy a movie of their choice until 9:00 p.m.  Parents are always welcome to join us, but we certainly understand if they want to take advantage of this time for a night on the town. 

If you've missed the flyer, here it is!


 Late Start Morning, April 29


This coming Wednesday is a late-start morning.  Teachers are meeting to discuss exciting curricular changes we'll put in place next school year, so students may choose to arrive as late as 8:55 a.m. that day.  As always, students may arrive at school as early as 7:00 a.m., and the playground will open at 7:15 a.m.  Buses will run at their regular times.


Parent Mixer

This coming Friday, there will be a 5th-Grade Parent Mixer in the Nicholas Commons on the Linda Vista campus from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m.  Come join parents at your child's grade level for conversation, drinks and light dinner.


Oh, California DVDs

Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of either the 4th grade play “Oh California” or  the JK Spring Program, please place your order as soon as possible by visiting www.FrancisParkerDVD.com  Thank you very much!!!

Faculty Professional Day, May 4


A reminder that May 4 is a professional development day for faculty, and there is no school for students that day.


ERB (Standardized Testing) for 3rd-5th Grade


Coming soon... standardized testing for our 3rd-5th grade students on May 11-15 (and perhaps May 18, as needed).  Homework loads will be light that week, and we ask that students are well-rested, have a good breakfast and are ready to do their best on these series of tests.   Results will be received in mid-June and mailed out to parents along with informational booklets that help to explain the scores.


Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of April 27

Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday April 25 at 01:08PM
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April 20, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue # 29

Dear Lower School Parents:


The School's annual gala will be held this coming Saturday at the San Diego Air and Space Museum.  This is the school's major fundraiser, benefitting student financial aid and faculty professional development, but it also serves to bring the school's parents, faculty, staff and alumni together in a most delightful way.  If you've never been, this is your chance to connect to a greater extent with a wonderful community.  And, if you've been, you can be assured that this year's event will be among the most memorable.

Personally, I'm grateful to all of you who have supported this event over the years. Through the dedicated work and generous support of the Parents' Association, the evening has become a significant factor in the success of the school.  Many of the students now and previously attending Parker have directly benefited from the proceeds of the event, and their stories, some shared at previous galas, have been stirring and inspirational.  On one occasion, Dr. Richard Virgen, son of Shorty Virgen, our Director of Lower School Maintenance, talked about how the school had changed his life and how he hoped to change others' by curing Cancer.

Additionally, I've been around her long enough to remember when funds for professional growth were scarce, and few were able to avail themselves of professional growth opportunities.  Now, through the remarkable generosity of the School, and with great support from the annual gala, teachers who are seeking new ideas, methods and ways of reaching kids (virtually everyone), can be supported in their quests. 

We've staged the event in hotels, on playgrounds, and in gymnasiums, but this year's venue should be among the most memorable, and we certainly hope you can join us!


Bob Gillingham


E-Waste Collection at Parker

It's that time of year again to do some spring cleaning!  Parker will be hosting an E-WASTE recycling event in coordination with the University of San Diego Electronics Recycling Center.  Collection will occur on the Linda Vista Campus on Wednesday April 22nd from 7:30-8:55am during drop off AND at the Mission Hills campus on Thursday April 23rd during morning drop off.

Basically, if it plugs in, they will take it. There is nothing they can't take except for things like tires, paint, light bulbs, and alkaline batteries (lead batteries or car batteries or cell phone batteries are fine).
- All Appliances including dishwashers, ovens, stoves, microwaves, etc
- TV's: Big boxy ones and flat screens
- All Computer related parts
- Vacuums, garden tools, and other old exercise equipment
- Cell phones and any type of PDA or tablet.
- DVD/VHS players and any type of audio/visual equipment
- Printers, fax machines, copy machines, scanners
- Gaming consoles (and all games and CD's and floppy disks, etc -- any type of media)
- Any type of wireless equipment or networking equipment

Summer Concert Change

In the spirit of innovation and design thinking, we're going to attempt to make a change in how we present our musical accomplishments in our last music program.  In an nutshell, the program will be split into separate SK-2 and 3-5 concerts to accommodate the wonderful growth of our music program over the last few years and to recognize the graciousness of our students' parents to listen to ALL of it, even if their children were featured only relatively briefly.   Additionally, both the rehearsals and programs have become very long, and we'd like to streamline all of it.

The newly-arranged Summer Music Program will take place on June    beginning at 1:30 p.m. for the students in SK-2.  At approximately 1:50 p.m., we'll take a break to allow for the resetting of performer's chairs, to allow parents with children in SK-2 only to depart and those with students in 3-5 to find their seats, and to move the older students into place.  At 2:15, the second part of the program will commence.

We think the more focused programs, the relief on finding parking and seating, the reclaimed instructional time, and the increased engagement of the students will prove highly beneficial. 

BBQ/Dress-Down Day


This Friday is a bbq/dress-down day.  Parents are welcome to join us during their children's regular lunch times.


Culinart's Newsletter

Read the Nutrition Newsletter here!


Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of April 20

Posted by ls-newsletter on Friday April 17 at 11:40AM
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April 6, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue # 28

Dear Lower School Parents:


The faculty, students and I were treated to a real glimpse of our future 2 weeks ago, and... it looked to be in really good hands.  The fifth graders, under the guidance of many of their teachers and working collaboratively with their peers, hypothesized, researched, built, re-built, and tested their way to a wonderful exposition of their thinking in our second science-design fair.  The problems they struggled with represented a wide swath of real 21st-century issues, and their solutions were both authentic and impressive.

Among the designs were: human food recycled as dog food; a magnetically-levitated train; bio gas generation; cricket-flour brownies (that's not a typo); solar, hydro-electric, and wind power demonstrations; edible insects (tasted like sunflower seeds to me!); e-waste solutions; excess styrofoam recycled as glue; an iphone powered by roller skates; eco-friendly pencils, cat litter, and packaging; healthy baking; flood prevention; and even a demonstration of the best way to clean up an ocean oil spill.

Perhaps most impressive was the kids' group reflection later that afternoon in the library, in the company of their teachers.  For 30 minutes, they spoke of their failures and successes, of time wasted and plans for improvement, and when the bell rang at 3 p.m., none of them immediately got up and left (an unprecedented event).

This kind of learning looks messier and certainly less-prescribed, but the kids' ownership of their work, their legitimate learning, and the great engagment and pride they exhibited during the entire project are unmistakable signs that we're on the right track and learning together.

Coming soon... news about our plans to leverage what we've learned this year into even better outcomes next year...

Have a wonderful Spring Break!

Bob Gillingham 


Parker's Spring Gala


This year's gala, Soaring Into the Second Century, is a not-to-be-missed highlight of the year.  Parents and staff from all three divisions come together for a wonderful silent and live auction, dinner and dancing, this year at the San Diego Air and Space Museum on April 25.  For more information, to register or to donate, follow this link.


Junior-Kindergarten Spring Program


The JK students have been working hard to learn a number of spring songs, and they'll perform (rehearse) for students on Thursday and subsequently for parents on Friday from 8:45-9:15 a.m. in the courtyard.


Girl Scouts' Bronze Award


The fifth-grade Girl Scouts are pursuing their Bronze Award by promoting awareness about home safety in emergencies.  They've created a simple form to be completed by families and returned to school.  If 90% of the Lower School families return the form, the entire school will enjoy snowcones after lunch on some very hot day to come.  Please help the Girls Scouts by completing and returning this form.  Thank you. 


Spring Break


We'll be on Spring Break the week of April 13-17.  School resumes on Monday, April 20.


Townhall Meeting with Kevin Yaley

This Thursday, Head of School Kevin Yaley will be holding a Townhall Meeting in the Szekely Auditorium on the Mission Hills campus from 8:30-9:30 a.m.  Bring your questions and hear those of other school community members.

Notes From Nurse Maggie


Free Parent Summit—Parenting 2015

The County ofSan Diego is offering a free Parenting Summit on Saturday, April 11th from 8:30a.m. -2:00p.m. at the Jacobs Center (404 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92114). The keynote speaker is Cheryl Charles, PhD, who will speak about the reconnection of children with nature in their everyday lives. The closing speakers are Andre Jones and Aaron Wooten who are program coordinators of the Father2Child fatherhood program.

Childcare is provided for those who pre-register. Additionally, a free light breakfast and a free lunch will be provided. Fathers are encouraged to attend.

To register for this free event: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ParentSummit2015 or call 858-


Mission Hills Menu

Menu for the Week of April 6-10

Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday April 4 at 09:33AM
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March 30, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #27


Dear Lower School Parents:


Two very unusual, very different events this week alternately raised my awareness then warmed my heart.  

On the dark side, an attempted abduction at a north county school shook all of us out of our complacency.  I received many emails and calls about this nearly-tragic event, and it drew my attention once again to how trusting we've become and how careful we have to be. Even now, we're reviewing our safety protocols, and below, you'll find information I've sent to all of our teachers that should also be very helpful to you in talking with your kids.  In the very near future, we'll be addressing these same issues with the kids, in a very age-appropriate way, and we'll hope that, should a similar situation unfold for any of our students, they'll have the wherewithall to kick, scream and run as effectively as the targeted young girl did.

On the lighter side, one of our teachers came to me misty-eyed holding a letter she'd received from one of her students.  The thoughtful hand-lettered text and drawings cited the misfortune of a very young cancer-stricken relative of the teacher, and tucked in the envelope was the student's savings of $171 in cash, enclosed to help the young patient.  Most astoundingly, the letter's closing had been edited to include the word "anonamos" (sic) before the word "friend." Both the teacher and I were floored at the absolute and pure beauty of the gesture.

Our students, your children, will be surrounded by good and bad their entire lives.  Our goal has been and will be to prepare them to deal with and process complex problems, in whatever form they appear, while also recognizing and appreciating the beauty around them.  And, perhaps this time around, we'll take our cue from a most remarkable young (anonymous) philanthropist.


Bob Gillingham


Child Safety


Many of you are aware of yesterday's attempted child abduction at Skyline elementary school in Solana Beach.  Fortunately, the child is safe and was not physically harmed.  Although child abductions are thankfully rare occurrences, yesterday's events serve to remind parents that "stranger danger" is a topic that we must discuss with our children.  A little girl is safe with her family tonight due to her own bravery and the quick reaction of nearby adults.

Parents may be fielding questions from their children about their own personal safety, or about what to do if such a situation arises.  We suggest answers that are as honest as possible while still being reassuring and age-appropriate. 

If you would like to read more about discussing "stranger danger" with your children, please check out the following resources:

What to Teach Kids About Strangers

Teaching Kids to Be Safe Without Making Them Scared



Teaching Student About Strangers

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, one of the most important ways parents can protect their children of all ages is to teach them to be wary of potentially dangerous situations. This will help children when dealing with strangers as well as with
known adults who may not have good intentions.  Parents can teach their children to
recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior, such as when an adult asks
them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, asks them to
keep a secret, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.

Another recommendation is for parents to talk to their children about how they should
handle dangerous situations. One suggestion is to teach children the, “No, Go, Yell,
Tell” mantra. In dangerous situations, students should say, no, run away, yell as
loudly as they can (even indoors), and tell a trusted adult what happened right

Other suggestions from the NCPC include:

1. Parents should know where their children are. Make it a rule for children to check in with you before going anywhere. This is especially important with teens. Your children should have your work and cellular phone numbers available and/or memorized.
2. Point out safe places. Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there is trouble.
3. Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell a trusted adult.
4. Teach children to be assertive. Make sure they know it is ok to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in a dangerous situation.
5. Encourage your child to play with others…there is more safety in numbers.

Dr. Bridgett Besinger, Parker's psychologist, also has advice to offer on this subject, and you can read about her thoughts in this article.


Fourth-Grade Play


The fourth-grade play, Oh, California, will be presented for Lower School students next Thursday morning and for parents at 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, all performances in the Szekely Auditorium.  Come join us for this rousing, historical musical favorite. 


Peanut Butter


A recent tragedy took the life of a friend of one of our Lower School teachers, and this really turned my head on the issue of peanut butter in elementary schools.  I've had many requests over the years to be "peanut free," but I always thought that our faculty and staff's excellent management made this unnecessary. However, when I learned that this very cautious 62-year-old woman had died as the result of mistakenly eating peanuts in a kale chip, it changed my perspective markedly.

Last week, I asked the food service staff to remove peanut butter for a week to see if we could operate well without it.  With very few exceptions and few complaints, we have. It was replaced with sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) which I and others found to be quite good, but some children did not.  We were prepared for this by having very plain cheese and very plain turkey sandwiches, and the kids seemed to accept this as an alternative.

We'll continue without peanut butter, because we have among us individuals who would become gravely ill if exposed.  We anticipate having to make additional adjustments to ensure that the kids are well nourished, and should we have children whose needs we haven't met, we'll take a very individual approach to ensure their wellness.

I'd like to ask all of you not to send anything peanut-related to school.  Because we're an elementary campus with children who put their hands on everything, it's just a matter of time before we have an emergency or worse.  

Thanks for your understanding. Please call me directly (619-318-9978) if you have concerns, and I will be happy to work with you to get them resolved well.


Summer Program Update

Please note:  The Early Bird Registration Discount period ends this coming Tuesday, March 31.  Be sure to take advantage of this special pricing over the weekend or by Monday evening at the latest.
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Monique or Tim in the Summer Program office on 858-569-7900. Monique can be reached on Ext 4109, and Tim on Ext 4236.

SK Open House DVD's

Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the SK Open House the order deadline isFriday, April 3.  The DVD includes the classroom activities and the program in the auditorium.  For orders or questions please visit www.francisparkerdvd.com Thank you very much!!!


Lower School Menu

Menu for the week of March 30

Posted by ls-newsletter on Friday March 27 at 04:22PM
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Choose groups to clone to:

As Head of the Lower School and member of the Parker administrative team, Dr. Gillingham is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Mission Hills campus. In addition to overseeing curriculum and instruction, Bob also works closely with the school's Parents' Association in coordinating parent volunteers and campus activities. He also... Read more.

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4201 Randolph St.
San Diego, CA 92103
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