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Lower School Blog

August 31, 2015; Vol. #25, Issue #1

Dear Lower School Parents:


The faculty and staff of the Lower School are very eager to have you and your children on campus once again, either as returning students or to begin your Parker journey.  

There have been a lot of changes since you left (or last visited), both to our facilities and our staff, and it will be our pleasure to share all of them with you. 

Interestingly, my personal life and my life at Parker have converged a bit this summer.  At school, our first attempts at Design Thinking have shown the promise of more challenging curriculum and greater achievement in our students at all levels. This approach involves much more authentic learning, greater and deeper involvement, significantly more choice and hands-on project work, and engagement that would (and will) take your breath away.  At the end of our first year of dabbling, conventional measures of student achievment (ERB testing) have shown unprecedented progress.

Away from school, my wife and I have found ourselves living out a rather lengthy episode of This Old House, having purchased and relocated to an old family home that needs virtually everything.  Many have questioned our sanity, but when our grandkids first visited and subsequently ran around the VERY LARGE house giggling all the way, we knew we had made the right choice.

I do like projects (maybe just a few fewer all at once), particularly because of the satisfaction I get from solving problems, fixing things that aren't working and creating something beautiful, of great value to me and my wife.  The students are no different, and I think the Lower school staff were particularly delighted to see last year the remarkable contrast in student behavior when they were challenged to think and create rather than simply work.

Our students' futures will require them to think expansively and analytically, and to derive for themselves many of the problems they'll need to solve.  They'll also need to be able to try and fail, make adjustments and try again.  

It is, in fact, our mission to prepare these boys and girls to persevere, to work well with others, to take risks, and through their excellent achievement, to make a significant positive difference in the world.

Welcome to the 2015-16 school year... it should be amazing!


Bob Gillingham 


Back to School Page


A reminder that much of the information you'll need to get started in the new school year, including the 6-day calendar, the regular calendar, class lists, afterschool care sign-ups, staff lists, school photo dates, etc., can be found here.


First Day of School


A reminder that we'll be open at 7:00 a.m. on the first day of school (Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day), and students may be dropped off in the office.  Students in grades SK-5 who arrive later may go directly to the playground, but JK students should be brought to the office until 7:45 a.m.

We'll have a brief coffee at 8:20 a.m. (a thinly-veiled attempt to move you away from the classrooms), and we'd love to introduce our Lower School Parents' Association VPs, some of the key event chairs and a few staff members.

School ends at 3 p.m., and students in quick-pick-up or riding the bus will be directed to the appropriate area.  All other SK-5 students may go to the playground, unless they are remaining in their classrooms for Homework Club (3-3:30 p.m., M-Th).

A backpack is all that the students need to bring to school, as many of the teachers will provide or suggest particular kinds of notebooks.  All other supplies will be provided.

Lunch is provided each day, and we are a peanut-free campus.  We'd appreciate everyone's cooperation in this respect, as we have many children with severe peanut allergies.

Afterschool care is available every day from 3:30-6:00 p.m. and many for-fee classes are available, in addition to the regular activities included in general afterschool care.

Foreign Language Sign-ups

If your child has not yet been signed up for a foreign language class (Spanish or Mandarin), or even if you're not sure, simply contact Marsha Gygax with the preference (mgygax@francisparker.org).  

Nutrition Guidelines

As a part of the school's dedication to student wellness, and in support of our strategic goal which addresses it, the school has put considerable time and effort into providing healthy, desirable nutrition.  Nutrition Guidelines were created and approved by the Board of Trustees, and they allow for fun and celebration while also aiming to develop and encourage healthy eating habits in our students.

As a parent, one of the best ways to support this effort is to check with your grade level teacher or room parent for the suggested list of birthday treats and the protocol for enjoying them.  Generally speaking, teachers have tried to avoid "junk food" as much as possible, opting instead for fruit, healthier baked treats, etc.  

We would appreciate your help in supporting our students' healthy choices.

Emergency Plans

Before the school year begins, please know that the Lower School has emergency plans and supplies in place.  We practice regularly for the possibility of fires, earthquakes, and situations where we need to remove the students from dangerous situations (lockdown drills).  Additionally, should we ever have to keep the kids on campus for an extended period of time in a real emergency, we have food, water and supplies to ensure their well-being.

If the Lower School campus should become unsafe, our standby location would be Pioneer Park located 2 blocks to the south of the school.

Please make a note of my cell phone # (619-318-9978), as you are always welcome to call me if you are uncertain about your child's safety or well-being. 


Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday August 29 at 05:25PM
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JUNE 24, 2015

Dear Lower School Parents:

On behalf of the faculty and staff at the Lower School, thank you again for a most productive, fulfilling year.  The students have grown tremendously, and though we’re pleased with the outcomes achieved in the 2014-15 school year, we’re already fully involved in plans to make next year even more exciting and appropriately challenging. To all of our recently-promoted students and families associated with the Class of 2022, our best wishes for every success.

To leverage the early, exciting results we’ve seen in our nascent design-thinking attempts, we’re moving a few classrooms to create a design center in the library/science building.  The lecture hall is becoming a design lab which will elevate students’ creativity and critical thinking and afford them hands-on application of concepts learned in the regular classrooms.  The art room will be located right across the hall, also in close proximity to the science rooms and library.  With a new schedule that puts all of the students and design-team teachers in the same areas at the same time, flexible grouping and scheduling will allow for deeper, more meaningful investigation of topics across the Lower School curriculum.  Look for more details on all of the changes later this summer.

Thank you, and best wishes for a wonderful summer!

Bob Gillingham, Head of Lower School

Faculty/Staff Changes

We’ll be introducing some new faculty and staff in the fall, and I’ll update the list when I write to you in August.  However, for now, we are pleased to announce a few position changes and newly-hired staff. David Ries, last year’s fourth-grade associate teacher, will become a fifth-grade teacher next year.  Eugenie Armangau will be joining the fourth-grade team along with Elizabeth Ponder, last year's third-grade associate teacher, who will become the fourth-grade associate teacher.  Linda Kao will assume the position of third-grade associate teacher, and Lindsey Bushard, last year’s associate teacher for Patti Diaz, will join the second-grade team as their associate teacher.  Becki Thompson, Kym Farkas’ associate teacher last year, will become our new first-grade teacher, replacing Erin Perricone, who has returned to Illinois with her family.

Foreign Language Selection

Please take a moment to fill out the following online form to select your child's foreign language assignment for next year.  The form can be found here.


Afterschool Learning Center

Rising fourth and fifth-grade students who have acquired skills and concepts yet struggle with application, organization and their approach to studies have benefited greatly from The Lower School Afterschool Learning Center, a program that prepares fourth and fifth graders for success as they progress toward Middle School. In a supportive, small group setting, students explore personal learning styles, strengths and challenges, and develop study skills and strategies to help them succeed. Learning Center teachers work closely with the classroom teachers to stay current on curriculum, assignments, quizzes, tests and projects. Students attend Learning Center two, three or four times weekly after school and engage in various strategies tailored to their needs and strengths.  If you have an incoming fourth or fifth grader who wants to make the most of their learning experience and would benefit from this support, contact Rona Dosick, Director of the Parker Learning Center, for more information (rdosick@francisparker.org).

Class Lists

Listed below are the class lists for the 2015-2016 school year.  The teachers have worked very hard to balance the classes with the goal of creating the best possible learning environment for all of the students, and these classes will be wonderful:

Junior Kindergarten

Senior Kindergarten

First Grade

Second Grade

Third Grade

Fourth Grade

Fifth Grade


Math and Reading Resources

Continued practice with math and reading over the summer is a great way to ensure that students begin the next school year strong.  Staying sharp with math facts is a great way to facilitate growth in this subject, and you can find a list of expected benchmarks here.  

For your convenience, Heather Gray, our Assistant Head of Lower School, has compiled a wonderful math resource guide which provides lots of sites and activities to explore.  

Additionally, the library webpage lists tons of literacy resources, and the summer reading lists are included here, as well as a special summer assignment for rising third graders.


Junior Kindergarten

Finally, parents of junior-kindergarten students may expect to receive shortly a packet of forms that will need to be completed prior to the beginning of school in the fall.


Back-To-School Information Page

Following is a helpful link to lots of Lower School information including our faculty/staff directory, parent/student handbook and other need-to-know facts and data.  We'll be updating the link throughout the summer as a convenient source of answers for your questions.  You are also always welcome to contact us. 

Posted by ls-newsletter on Wednesday June 24
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June 8, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #36

Dear Lower School Parents:


This is it!  The last blog post of the school year. 

On behalf of the Lower School faculty and staff, please know that it has been our pleasure working with you and your children in a wonderful partnership.

Together, we've continued to build a strong foundation for your children from which they can venture "... as far as their minds can see."

We're excited not only about the growth and development of your kids this year, but also for the design thinking plans we hope to launch in the fall (more about that in the first summer letter).  

And, for the students we're promoting, the Class of 2022, we wish a most fulfilling journey to the Middle School and every success on that campus next year.  We'll be following you with great interest and affection.

From each and every one of us fortunate enough to work on this campus, have a safe, fun and fulfilling summer.


Bob Gillingham

Wordmaster Challenge


After our students took the last of the three Wordmaster contests this year, they felt they hadn't done very well, as their scores were lower than usual.  Turns out the test was exceptionally difficult for the 6,100 3rd graders and 7,000 4th graders who took it (over 700 schools competed), because our 4th grade placed 3rd in the nation and our 3rd grade placed... FIRST!  Congratulations to our teachers and students for working so hard to achieve this amazing accomplishment.

Variety Shows

The Variety Shows will be held on Monday and Tuesday, both beginning at 1:00 p.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.  Our JK-2 students will demonstrate their talents the first day, and 3rd-5th grade students will perform on the second.

LAnds' End Used Clothing Sale

Mark your calendars for June 24 at 7 a.m. on the Linda Vista campus (by the Field House) for this year's Lands' End Used Clothing Sale.  More info to follow.

Summer Program DVDs

Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the Summer Concert or any of the other recent Parker performances, please place your order as soon as possible by visitingwww.FrancisParkerDVD.com.  Also, you may now pre-order the 5th Grade Promotion DVD.  Thank you very much!!!

Summer Math Resources

Assistant Head of Lower School, Heather Gray, formerly our math specialist, has put together some wonderful math resources to keep your children sharp all summer. Enjoy and explore this wide range of links and materials.




Promotion for fifth graders, the Class of 2022, will take place this coming Friday at 3 p.m. in the Lower School courtyard.  Fifth-grade students are being asked to arrive no later than 2:30 p.m. for a class portrait.


Book Drive


Many thanks to everyone for the hundreds of books collected for the used book drive. The student council so exceeded their goal that they've extended the prize of popsicles to the entire school, to be enjoyed this coming Wednesday after lunch.


Last Day of School


The last day of school is this Thursday, and you've undoubtedly heard from your children's teachers about the many and varied parties taking place that day.  Do know that there will be a bbq lunch on the playground beginning at 11:00 a.m. and running through the regular lunch rotation, and parents are welcome to join us.


Room Parents

We couldn’t let the year end without a BIG THANK YOU to all the parents who gave up their time to be room parents!

Thank you for your efforts and enthusiasum all year long.  You helped to make the year an amazing one for the whole community.

Charlene Kakimoto, Ollie Nouskajian, Tiffany Archer, Mirna Rivera, Kathy Dryden, Kristi Douglas, Brette Campos, Stephanie Smith, Marion Henry, Julia Cornuelle, Julie Turner, Denise Lapaglia , Belle Drouin, Gloria Mayora, Michelle Vann, Stacie Devitt, Jennifer Janes, Jennifer Ranglas, Sarah Livermore, Karla Villareal, Andrea Frost, Davidde Burkhart, Charity Byrnes, Erin Dunn, Kate Smith, Nadine Guagliano, Peggy Duncan, Diana Casey, Sarah Herr, Lisa Khoury, Fernanda Lee, Lola Pollack, Anne McManus, Ginger Dethloff, Shannon Kelly, Kalpana Rhodes, Liz Thompson, Elizabeth Carey, Amie Wong, Diana Amato, Erik Keskinen, Cindy Velasquez, Tracy Skaddan, Susan Matthews, Laurie Housman, Rinku Vyas, Carola Firoe Dirkash, Maria Camacho, Julie Bierle, Allison Walsh



And for anyone out there wanting to volunteer in their classrooms or in one of the special classes…. It is not too late! Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity!

Please consider being a room parent next year! 

Sign up here:


Any questions? 

Just ask your 2015-2016 Lower School VPs,

Noelle Ludwig & Julie Turner


Notes from Nurse Maggie


Medications-If your student has any medications in the school office, would you please pick those medications up before the last day of school? If you would like your student to pick up his medications, would you please e-mail me (mwest@francisparker.org) giving your permission for your student to be given his medication to take home? We are unable to store medications in the office over the summer.

Immunizations-If your student receives any immunizations over the summer, would you please send an updated shot record to me at the above e-mail address, fax a copy to me at 858-569-7403, mail a copy to the school or bring in a copy to the office?

Reminder: All upcoming 7th grade students must have a Tdap, by law, to start the 7th grade and all upcoming kindergarten students must have their kindergarten shots (#5DPT, #4OPV and #2MMR) to start kindergarten next fall. Additionally, if you would like your child to have a personal exemption from immunizations, would you please e-mail me? There are new state laws concerning personal exemptions that must be followed for school attendance.

Medical conditions/prescriptions-If your student develops a medical condition or is prescribed/has a change in medications over the summer, would you please let me know? This information is important to know so I can provide the best healthcare for your student while they are at school.  Any questions, please call me at 619-717-0235.

Have a safe, relaxing summer. And remember to wear sunscreen!!

Mission Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of June 8




Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday June 6 at 05:30PM
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June 1, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #35

Dear Lower School Parents:


We should all be so lucky...  As hard as it is to think of myself as being 60 (goodness!), I also count myself extremely fortunate to have spent 39 of those years at Parker, 31 on the Mission Hills campus.  I've been blessed with remarkable friends and family and a job literally in the heart of the fountain of youth where smiles and giggles abound year after year, keeping us all young at heart.  

Speaking of good friends... the woman with me in the photo below is Carol Vassiliadis, a long-time member of the Parker community.  Her children were lifers, and she made a point of telling me on my 40th birthday (in the middle of a flagraising celebraton she arranged in my honor) that she would be back every 10 years to do the same.  Sure enough, she appeared at my 50th (emerging from the Szekely Auditorium during flagraising with other parents, all of them somberly dressed and carrying headstones) and again on Friday, to my great surprise.  She sang a lovely tribute along with all of the faculty, staff and kids, then she addressed the group to introduce herself.

My head still buzzing from Friday's surprise assembly, I learned on Saturday while getting my race number for Sunday's Rock and Roll marathon that in addition to my wife, my three kids will also be running in honor of my birthday.

What a weekend, and what a family, both at and away from school!


Bob Gillingham 



Variety Shows


The Variety Shows will be held next week, Monday, June 8, at 1 p.m. for JK-2 students, and Tuesday, June 9,  at 1 p.m. for 3-5 students, both in the Szekely Auditorium.  

If your child(ren) is interested in participating by singing, acting out a skit, doing a trick, playing an instrument, doing a dance, telling a joke, etc., they must fill out this Variety Show Form  and audition this week (June 1-5) during lunch recess in the Szekely Auditorium.


Third-Grade Play DVDs

Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the 3rd grade play “Let Freedom Ring”, or any of the other recent Parker performances, please place your order as soon as possible by visiting www.FrancisParkerDVD.com  Thank you very much!!!


Room Parent Appreciation Breakfast

This Tuesday, all room parents are invited to attend a special breakfast in their honor beginning at 8:15 a.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.


Presidential Physical Fitness Awards


Awards for students in grades 1-5 will be passed out during the students' regular p.e. times this Friday.


Summer Concert


The summer concert, split this time into programs from SK-2 and 3-5 will be held from 1:30-1:50 for the younger students and from 2:10- 3:00 for the older students. Parents attending the first concert (for the younger students) are asked to clear the seats if they do not have students performing in the second program.  If they do have older performers, they are welcome to remain where they are.


Lower School Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of June 1-5


Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday May 30 at 01:13PM
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May 26, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #34

Dear Lower School Parents:


We had the pleasure of welcoming the newly-admitted junior-kindergarten class and their families this past week, when we hosted an introductory ice-cream party, their first official Parker event.  As I was speaking, it gave me pause to realize that this particular group will be known as the Class of 2029!  I think all of us chuckled a bit, first at the improbability of that number, then in recognition that time really does pass so very quickly.

One of the host parents (a former student of mine) approached me to ask if my daughter (in attendance to corral my grandson, also newly-admitted and very fond of ice cream) had been the focus of her and her classmates' attention 31 years prior when my fifth-grade room parents presented me with a handmade baby blanket, anticipating her arrival.  I acknowledged that yes, this Parker Middle School teacher was in fact the lovely reason for that event.

Surrounded by car seats, diaper bags and mini-vans, it may be hard for you to imagine such a moment... but it will come in the blink of an eye. 


Bob Gillingham


Student Council

The student council meeting this week will be held on Thursday at 8 a.m., as Senora Herold will be off campus Tuesday and in a late-start meeting on Wednesday.


Fishing Trip


Those of you still deciding about the Lower School's fishing trip have until May 29 to turn in your slips.  Never been fishing?  This is a great opportunity for you and your kids to find out what it's all about.  Don't miss out on the adventure! Additional forms are available in the Lower School office.


Foreign Language and Music Selections For Next School Year


Next year's foreign language class selection information, class placements and progress reports will be sent to you in June following the end of this school year.  Music selection for rising fourth and fifth-grade students will take place after we report back to school in the fall.

Movie Night/Dress-down Day

Last chance to attend a truly unique event... an outdoor movie on a giant screen on a week night!  If you'd like to be a part of this fun evening, you can find the registration form here.

As a convenience to children and staff staying throughout the day and through the movie, Tuesday is a dress-down day.

Make it a date night!    

Please note that we're thrilled to partner with The Patio on Goldfinch during LS Movie Night for a special opportunity for Parker parents. The Patio will be hosting a Dine Out event on Tuesday for those wanting to enjoy an evening of good food, drinks and friends. The Patio will be donating 20% of the proceeds from our Parker families to the Francis Parker School Parents' Association as a fundraiser. Please schedule reservations with the host stand at (619) 501-5090 and mention you are with Francis Parker. They have confirmed that even with later reservations, they will have you out by 9PM for pick up.

Lands' End

Lands' End will offer clothing for sizing and try on at the La Jolla Lands’ End shop at Sears from June-September. During this time families can go to the shop to try on clothing and get assistance with sizing. This is for sizing purposes only, parents who want to order can do so from the store to receive free shipping to their homes.  See the flyer for more information.

Lost and Found


Unlabeled lost and found items have been gathered and are now in the office.  Following this coming week, all unclaimed items will be donated to local charities.  Come on by and claim your treasures!


Book Fair

An Ocean of Books has flowed into the Considine Library for the Book Fair this Wednesday, Thursday & Friday.

Have you seen the jellies and fish swimming in Considine Library?  A wave of sea creatures has transformed the library into an Ocean of Books, a convenient one-stop shop for all your summer-reading needs.  The book fair supports the Lower School’s wonderful library. 

The book fair needs your help to make it a success.  There are still slots not filled, so please sign up for a volunteer shift (or two) on a Google doc by following this link: http://bit.ly/1KnGra2  If operating a cash register seems daunting or you need a refresher course, sign up for the optional volunteer training session on Tuesday, May 26th from 2:45-3:00 pm or 3:00-3:15 pm by following this link: http://bit.ly/1ElDn9Q

The Book Fair runs:

Wednesday, May 27 7:30 am-5 pm; Thursday, May 28 7:30 am- 5 pm; Friday, May 29 7:30 am-1 pm

Preview the book fair at:  http://bit.ly/1GS9HTn

See you Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday!


Gently-used Book Drive


As mentioned as flag raising on Monday, the student council is sponsoring a book drive next week in conjunction with the book fair.  We will be collecting new and gently-used books to donate to Words Alive, a local reading advocacy organization that provides literacy support services to underserved children, youth and adults in San Diego County.  Words Alive is unable to accept textbooks, workbooks or magazines.  

Books can be dropped off in the labeled donation boxes in the hallway near the school office fromWednesday, May 27, through Friday, May 29.  Families are asked to please place their donations in the box that corresponds to their student's grade level.  The grade level that collects the most books will win a popsicle party!


This Wednesday is a late-start day, with the first bell ringing at 8:55 a.m.  Students are welcome to be at school as early as 7:00 a.m., but they may arrive as late as 8:55 a.m.  Buses will run their normal routes and times.

For All Current and Prospective Room Parents!

Dear WONDERFUL Room Parents, please remember to respond to your invitation to the room parent thank you breakfast scheduled for June 2. Didn’t receive the evite? Email Kristie Diamond and Noelle Ludwig at pa-vpls@francisparker.org and we will get it to you ASAP. 

Are you interested in signing up to be a Room Parent for next year? Even if you’ve never volunteered before WE WANT YOU! This is your chance to come out and have fun and be involved in your child’s classroom. And if you are a serial room parent PLEASE apply again! You know we love your experience and continued enthusiasm year after year! 

Fill out this brief Room Parent Application and HURRY, spots are filling up! WE NEED YOU to help make the school year a great one! 

Fourth-Grade Poetry Night

This Wednesday evening, beginning at 5:30 p.m., the fourth graders will be sharing their original poems with their parents.  The students have worked hard on their creations, and these presentations are a true highlight of their school year.  It promises to be a wonderful evening!

Showstoppers DVDs

Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the 4th and 5th grade Showstoppers plays or the 3rd grade play Let Freedom Ring, or any recent Parker performances, please place your order as soon as possible by visiting www.FrancisParkerDVD.com 


It's that time again for our talented youngsters to strut their stuff in our Variety Shows!  JK-2 grade students will display their talents on June 8 and 3rd-5th grade students will do the same the following day, both events running from 1:00-3:00 p.m. (we hope) in the Szekely Auditorium.  

If your child(ren) is interested in participating by singing, acting out a skit, doing a trick, playing an instrument, doing a dance, telling a joke, etc., they must fill out this Variety Show Form  and audition the week of June 1-5 during lunch recess in the Szekely Auditorium.

Silent Movie


Band leader Dave Brittan and the 5th-grade band will accompany a Buster Keaton production of "Silent Movie."  The students play throughout the movie in a really impressive demonstration of their skills, and the combination is remarkable.


Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of May 26-29

Posted by ls-newsletter on Thursday May 28 at 02:16PM
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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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Lower School
4201 Randolph Street
San Diego, CA 92103
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