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Lower School Blog

Sept. 15, 2014; Volume #24, Issue #3

Dear Lower School Parents:


We're now living in an age that is demanding much more from our students than was required of us at the same ages.  Teaching and learning then was much more finite, giving rise to such popular culture as the film, Stand and Deliver.  Indeed, we recognized and rewarded those students who were most adept at repeating (regurgitating) information that had been shared. 

So forgive me while I was a bit poetic...

That was then, and this is now... but not for long.  New information is being created at a dizzying pace, and what was once  the slow tranquil trickle of change is now a torrent threatening to overtake the banks that had once seemed capable of containing it.

So, how are we preparing our students not only to keep their heads above water but also to leverage the power of  this ever increasing flood?  As always, we're teaching them how to "swim," giving them the basic elementary skills necessary to read, write and calculate well.  However, increasingly, we're teaching the students how to think independently and flexibly,  to apply what they've learned in unique ways, to deal with frustration and failure by developing greater perseverance, and to reflect on their own learning.

In a nutshell, we're aiming to equip our students with those skills deemed necessary for success in this century: communication, collaboration, creativity and criticial thinking.  Our curriculum and pedagogy will continue to change as we explore new and varied ways to legitimately engage the students in their learning.

One very exciting development sweeping the school is Design Thinking, an empathy-based process for solving problems that matter.  Generally project-based, this style of learning challenges students to raise their gaze... to be more observant of the world around them, and to articulate what they've observed.  Subsequently, an individual or team can brainstorm potential approaches to a problem, narrow those thoughts to a design, create what they've designed, and test the solution.  

At the Lower School, we're just beginning to dabble with this process, and some of the early attempts have been magnificent.  At the end of last year, for example, the fifth-grade students put on an environmental science fair of the students' creation.  All of their projects dealt with environmental problems to be solved (e.g., ubran overcrowding, water reclamation, energy creation, biodegradable packaging, etc.).  Science teacher John Heilman described the process as "extremely messy, not unlike making sausage" as these were all student-created projects, but the results were magnificent.  Most joyous to me was a level of investment in learning that I had rarely seen in a group of students, complete with all the rigor and content any red-pencil wielding lecturer could ever want.

Our new schedule, still being refined, allows for groups of teachers to come together to plan for these exciting kinds of learning experiences.  As we venture further into the school year, you can expect to hear lots about them, not only here, but ideally from your children. 


Bob Gillingham


Speech/Hearing Screenings

This coming Tuesday, speech and hearing screenings will be held in the Szekely Auditorium.  This simple, inexpensive process has proven a wonderfully-preventive step in ensuring that our students have every advantage in their learning journey.   Beth Brown and her team from Rady Children's Hospital have diagnosed and treated hundreds of students right on campus over the last 24 years.  Plan to take advantage of this program if you have any concerns at all about your child's speech or hearing.


Back to School Night


This Thursday, we welcome JK-5 parents for our Back-to-School Night.  The school year is up an running, and we're eager to have you see and hear about all that is going on.  Following is the schedule for the evening:

6:00 JK/SK parents to classrooms for presentations

6:30 Meet & Greet in 1 - 5 classrooms

7:00 All parents meet in patio 

7:10 Presentation for JK - 5th grade parents in patio

7:30 JK & SK parents to special classrooms

 1st -5th grade parents to classrooms for presentations

8:00 JK & SK parents dismissed; 1st - 5th grade parents to special classrooms

8:30 1st - 5th grade parents dismissed

Next Friday

Next Friday, we will have our first BBQ, and we'll also have our first scheduled dress-down day.  For those of you new to the school, the bbqs are held in the Lower School courtyard at the regular lunch rotation times, and everyone is welcome to join us.  

During the bbq, there will be a bake sale sponsored by the JK and 2nd Grade to benefit our 2014 Pet Day* charities.  The cost of each item will be $1. So that your child may enjoy a special treat or two, you may want to send them to school with a little money (for a good cause!).

*Pet Day is scheduled for October 9th. Look for more information soon.

Friday will also feature our first student council election of the year.  We have 6 candidates vying to be president, and we'll get to hear their platforms at flagraising on Monday.  All of the students in SK-5 vote with approval voting (they can vote for all but one), and it's always a close race.

Friday also happens to be Linda Ruggles' birthday.  I'll pay dearly for listing it here, but as the Queen of first-aid and tooth-pulling, she certainly deserves all of our good wishes.



A message from our Homecoming Chairs, Erik Keskinen and Cindy Velasquez:

"Homecoming Fun Zone has a ton of FUN positions that need the Lower School's help in staffing because...guess what?!  The High Schoolers don't fit in the bounce houses anymore!!! That means they set all this up for our little Lower School Parker people! So come help the "Fun" continue and volunteer!

Volunteer positions include (but not limited to): rides, information booths, water delivery and roving positions. So, please click on the link below, find the ONE HOUR time slot(s) (come on it's only 1 hour!!) that work best for you and sign up!!  Please include your name, email address and phone number.  If you have any preferences, please put that in special requests and we will do our best to accommodate them! "


Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of Sept. 15.


Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday September 13 at 08:57PM
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September 8, 2014; Vol.#24, Issue#2

Dear Lower School Parents:

In one of our faculty/staff team-building activities last week, selected individuals became game contestants, and they were asked to list, among other things, a "guilty pleasure."  As I sat in the audience watching the fun unfold, I thought of a number of things that might qualify were I competing.  However...

... the answer to the question only really crystallized for me last Wednesday, following a delightful tour of our many classrooms.  Time and time again, I witnessed remarkable professionals in action, raising the bar for their bright young students, even on the second day.   Classroom procedures discussions, collaborative activities, and get-to-know-you exercises were happening everywhere, setting the foundation for a year of productive learning and growth.  

This first week has been remarkably smooth, and I am grateful to the men and women who come to work here each day for the dedication, time and effort that have made this beginning possible.  

The guilt in this pleasure?  I'm afforded this lovely window into the Lower School world 180 days a year...

Happy New Year!


Bob Gillingham

New Lower School Assistant Head

Many of you have come to know Heather Gray in one or more of her many roles at the Lower School.  She was hired first as a fifth-grade teacher where she spent 10 wonderful years in the classroom. Later, she took on the role of math specialist, working closely with all of our faculty to implement a new math program (Math in Focus- Singapore Math).  In the nascent days of this program's introduction to the U.S., it was very difficult to find staff developers who could effectively train faculty.  So, we sent Heather all over the country to every possible conference and workshop .  Thus trained, she was immensely valuable (and critical) to the success of our program, and to date, she has worked with schools all over the state.  

With the math program successfully in place here, we expanded Heather's role to Curriculum Coordinator, where she worked with our faculty in all aspects of the academic program, but also with board committees in crafting our current strategic plan.  Subsequently, she has worked with all three divisions to ensure a well-articulated JK-12 scope and sequence, a strategic goal.

Finally, and in seeking to mirror the administrative structures of the other divisions, Heather Gray has been promoted to Lower School Assistant Head, working closely with me to ensure that our Lower School operations are as smooth as possible and our Mission and Vision assiduously observed and pursued for the benefit of our students.

Congratulations, Heather!

First Flagraising

Join us if you can for our first flagraising this coming Monday at 8:20 a.m. in the courtyard.  We'll say the Pledge together, sing Happy Birthday to our many "birthday people," recite "STRIVE" (see below) and share news and achievements.  It's always great to see everyone together, and a wonderful way to showcase our students. 

S.T.R.I.V.E. (The Lower School Code of Ethics)

S- Seek always to do your best

T- Treat people and property with respect

R- Revere the truth

I- Invest in your future

V- Value school rules, your heritage and personal responsibility

E- Enrich the world for all

JK Mandarin

We can now say that Mandarin is offered at every grade level at Parker.  Our first classes of Junior-Kindergarten Mandarin met last week, with 14 students enrolled.  We're excited to see just how far this program will take the Class of 2028.

Lower School Performance and Concert Schedule

Following is the link to this year's Lower School Performance/Concert Schedule:


Parents' Association General Meeting

This Monday, immediately following flagraising, the PA will hold their first general meeting in the Szekely Auditorium.  The guest speaker is Kevin Yaley, Head of School.

Afterschool Registration

(with the correct email address...)

We're sending the afterschool registration form once again for students who plan to stay after school beyond 3:30 p.m. The Summer and Extended Programs office notes that billing will take place via regular student billing.

Completed forms may be scanned and send to Afterschool Director Whitney Norton (wnorton@francisparker.org)  or simply brought to the Lower School on the first day of school.

Room Parent Orientation

The orientation for room parents will take place in the Szekely Auditorium this Wednesday at 8:15 a.m.

Fifth-Grade Coffee

This coming Friday, fifth-grade parents are invited to an informational coffee beginning at 8:15 a.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.  Dr. G., Heather Gray, Sara Knox and other members of the Parker Staff will share insights about fifth graders and the fifth-grade experience at Parker and also field any questions.

Notes from Nurse Maggie

Maggie West, Parker's Nurse for all three divisions, often contributes helpful information to promote our community's wellness.  Follow this link for the first edition for this year: Tips for a Healthy School Year.

Lower School Menu 

Menu for the Week of Sept. 8

Coming next week...

Thoughts on Common Core, Design Thinking and 21st-Century Skills... what doe it all mean for Parker?

Posted by in 09. September on Saturday September 6
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September 1, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #1

Dear Lower School Parents:

A warm welcome to you and your families in this brand new school year!  The faculty and staff had a wonderful first week back, and we're all eager to have the students join us next Tuesday (JK students on Wednesday).

It was a most unusual summer for me, as we hired a very large number of faculty and staff for this campus.  Following are the new people and their positions:

  • Kelly Kemmer- Mrs. Blick's JK TA
  • Alexandria Flores- Mrs. Hartman's SK AT
  • Michelle Lavoie- Mrs. Farkas' SK AT (long-term sub)
  • Lindsey Bushard- Mrs. Diaz 1st-gr. AT
  • Amanda Pelloth- Mrs. Stafford's 1st-gr. AT
  • Brian Belsha- AT for 3rd and 5th
  • David Ries- AT for 4th
  • Holly Garrett- Science AT
  • Christine McClurg- Strings Teacher
  • Erin Perricone- 1st-gr. Teacher
  • Marsha Gygax- Administrative Assistant
  • Frances Pascual- Afterschool Learning Center
  • Laurynn Evans- Assistant Head of School

Please join me in introducing yourselves and welcoming these new members to our school community!
For me, there's nothing as exciting as the first day of school in a new school year, and we hope you feel the same.  We'll see you Tuesday morning, and together we'll make this, our 102nd year, the best year ever.


Bob Gillingham

Music Choices

A reminder that our 4th and 5th-grade students will be meeting with all 3 music teachers (chorus- Darleen Herriman, strings- Christine McClurg, band- Dave Brittan) this coming Wednesday to hear about each of their disciplines.  The teachers will be explaining the responsibilities and activities associated with each choice (including instrument rental, practice and lessons), and we'll send home an explanation for your benefit on Wednesday evening.  
On the following Friday, the students will make their selections here at school with the chance to ask questions for clarification.  Please note that we'll be encouraging the students to make thoughtful selections, as we'll be discouraging switching classes once initial choices are made.

Questions and Concerns

Virtually the entire faculty will be on the playground on Tuesday morning to help you and your children feel more comfortable.  Often, parents and students have lots of questions about the "nuts and bolts" of the school day, so we encourage you to ask any staff member.  If that person doesn't know the answer, they'll help you find someone who does.  Beyond the first morning, please do not hesistate to contact me if you have anything you'd like to discuss or if you're curious about anything we do. (bgililngham@francisparker.org   619-318-9978).

traffic and parking

Please be very mindful of safety and very considerate of our neighbors and others as you drive in the school neighborhood.  Our neighbors have been terrific about accommodating our many and varied activities (and associated traffic) during the school year, and we'd like to repay them by not inconveniencing them unnecessarily. Please note that the driveways in this area are very narrow, but modern cars are very large.  If you encroach on the driveways, our neighbors have a very hard time exiting their property. Thank you in advance for being considerate.

The First Day of School (We're There to Comfort You!)

A short heartwarming video about why it's important that we support each other in our new adventures... like the first day of school.

Posted by in 09. September on Saturday August 30
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June 9, 2014; Vol. #23, Issue #36

Dear Lower School Parents:


As the Class of 2021 approaches their Lower School Promotion, the faculty and I are feeling increasingly excited about the future of Francis Parker School and the students who will grow and thrive through its program.  The nature of education is changing, and we've a strategic route mapped out that promises to immerse students in experiences that will take them "... as far as the mind can see."

If that paragraph seems a bit hyperbolic, it's only because I caught a glimpse of the future this week on one remarkable day, Wednesday.  It began with the most delightful science fair I've ever seen.  Working collaboratively, a number of our teachers guided our fifth graders over several weeks to identify real environmental problems, to thoroughly research them, and to create effective solutions.  The kids explored such things as urban planning, biodegradable packaging, acid rain, voltaic piles (new vocabular for me!), and cabbage chemistry.  All of their work was completed at school, and the collective expertise of the faculty informed what turned out to be the very best of project-based learning.  I literally had tingles in my spine, and I wanted to shout out with joy (but didn't).

I then walked up to hear our student musicians performing the most beautiful rendition (to my ears anyway) of Ode to Joy, and I marveled at the capabilities of these 9 and 10-year-olds.  Later that afternoon, I visited my first Chinese Open House, and I listened to students conversing in Mandarin... really, really well.  Leaving that venue, I walked right into a robotics demonstration for which students had built and programmed their creations.  

Through it all, I kept noting just how articulate our students were, how engaged they were in their legitimate learning, and how beautifully the entire day underscored our goals for students in this century: clear, critical thinking; effective communication; constant collaboration; and oodles of creativity.

The day may have been one of the best of my educational career, but I suspect, based on what I see around the corner, there will be many more.

All the best to you and your families, congratulations to the Class of 2021, and have a wonderful summer!


Bob Gillingham


Calling All Potential Room Parents!

It's not too late! Don't miss this chance to sign up to be a room parent next year.  It's a great way to be involved in your child's classroom and support the school. If you would like to sign up for the 2014-2015 year, please click the link below.  

Any questions? Just ask your LS VP's:

Dress-down-Week Changes


Some of our very wise fifth-grade students pointed out, rather passionately, that Crazy Hair and Sock day is the same day as water day (Field Day).  Apparently, those with elaborate hair plans are concerned about ruining their elaborate coiffures (not to mention their socks). So... we've moved Crazy Hair Day to Thursday, the last day of school. Everything else remains the same:

Monday- regular dress-down clothes 
Tuesday- twin (Class) day
Wednesday- regular dress-down clothes (JK- crazy hair/sock day)
Thursday- crazy hair and sock day (SK-5)

Summer Music Program DVDs

Attention Parker Parents --- Don’t forget to order a DVD of the fabulous Lower School Summer Concert that took place June 6th in the school courtyard.  If you would like a copy please order by Friday, June 20th by visiting www.FrancisParkerDVD.com Also, if you are a parent of a 5th Grader, be sure and get a DVD of the 5th Grade Promotion which will be available soon after the Promotion on Friday, June 13th!

Presidential Fitness Awards

Students in grades 1-5 will receive Presidential Fitness Awards during their P.E. classes on Monday.  The students have worked hard to improve their skills and fitness this year, and all will be recognized.

Variety Shows

Variety shows will be held this week for on Monday (JK-2) and Tuesday (3-5) at 1:00 p.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.  Come see the students dance, sing, joke, cheer, play musical instruments and even juggle. You'll not be disappointed!

Field Days

Field days will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday during P.E. classes (5th grade P.E. will be at 9:00 a.m. on both days).  Wednesday is Water Day, so students need to bring a change of clothes.  Parents are welcome to attend both days.

Last Day of School

This Thursday is the last day of school for students in junior kindergarten through fourth grade. There will be an all-school bbq on the playground during the students regular lunch times, and all parents are invited.  The day is also a Crazy Hair and Sock Day, and our JK students will enjoy their Water Day from 10-11 a.m.


The Class of 2021 will be promoted to middle school this coming Friday at 3:00 p.m.  Following the ceremony, the students will be entertained by Xtreme Fun, a party/recreation company we've enjoyed for the last several years.


Notes From Nurse Maggie


A few reminders and thoughts about immunizations!


Lower School Menu

Menu for the last week of school!

Posted by on Saturday June 7 at 10:37AM
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June 2, 2014; Vol.# 23, Issue #35

Dear Lower School Parents:


Amazingly, the Annual Meeting will be held on June 10 at 6 p.m. on the Linda Vista campus, a mere 7 school days away.  The meeting is very important in a number of official ways, including hearing from the Head of School about the state of the School and approving the new slate of Trustees, but it also always signals to me the bittersweet end of a unique journey.  

For those who dwell on the Lower School campus, it means we're but a few fleeting moments from parting with children we've known, in some cases, for seven or eight years; children who have grown by leaps and bounds in confidence, skill and perspective.  The meeting also always falls at a time when the Lower School faculty and staff are generating plans for program renewal and refinement for the next school year. This year is no exception in that regard, and we're all buzzing with ideas for elevating students' thinking in ways which reflect the goals of our strategic plan.

In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing these ideas and plans with you, and I think you'll be as excited as we are for the potential they promise for our students' future.


Bob Gillingham 


Robotics Camp


Anoushka Bose and a few other Upper School students involved in the robotics team will be hosting a week-long summer camp for rising 4th - 10th graders.  A number of these students, including Anoushka, have been working with girls at the Lower School in a program called "Girls Science."  More information on the camp can be found at: robo.camp.


Head of Middle School, Dan Lang, will visit the Lower School Szekely Auditorium on Tuesday, June 3, at 8:15 a.m. to discuss with 5th grade parents the coming transition of their children to 6th grade. 


A Fifth-Grade Petition


We are fifth graders from Mr. Spearn’s class, and we have been studying environmental issues in San Diego, including the possible ban of plastic grocery bags in San Diego County. We think San Diego County should ban plastic grocery bags. We learned that each square foot of ocean has 46,000 microscopic pieces of plastic floating in it, and much of this is from plastic bags. The ban on plastic bags in San Diego can help reduce that number. The amount of plastic bags that is littered each year around the world can circle the globe 63 times!

Even though we want to see a ban on plastic grocery bags in San Diego County, we researched the cons of the ban too. Paper bags, which would be the alternative to plastic bags, are made from trees, and cutting down trees for paper bags leads to habitat loss for animals. Also, re-useable bags will be an extra cost for people. Even though these cons are problematic and inconvenient, there are more pros to banning plastic bags.

If you agree with us, sign our petition, which we will send to City Council Member Sherri Lightner who supports the ban on plastic bags. We are going to stand outside of school from 7:50 to 8:15 next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to collect signatures

Thank you for considering.

Erin Keith, Ian Lillie, Georgia Pasha, Ilana Delue, Tess Karras, and Audrey Chapman

Attention Fifth-Grade Parents!                            


Once again, Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion will be offered in the San Diego area. Three generations of Francis Parker families have participated in this program.  Your child would be part of a 61 year tradition of 6th grader’s attending this class throughout the county. The program is taught by Mr. Peter G. Benjamin. The classes will start this fall, and go on an every other week schedule, ending in the spring. The class will be 1 hour, 7:30-8:30 pm.  
Each class, the children are involved in topics pertaining to manners, thoughtfulness, and self-confidence. They also dance, in order for them to become more comfortable and self-assured in talking with others. 
The cost for the 6 month program is $250. (A one time payment or a 3 payment option). 
For more information, and to receive an invitation in late August, please visit  www.mrbenjamins.com
You may also contact Mr. Benjamin directly at (619) 222-3769

Third-Gray Greek Myth DVDs


Attention 3rd Grade Parents --- Don’t forget to order a DVD of the 3rd Grade Play “The Greek Myths” that took place on May 23rd in the auditorium. 

If you would like a copy please order by Friday, June 6th by visiting www.FrancisParkerDVD.com   

Last Week of School Dress-Down Themes

The last four days of school at the Lower School are dress-down days this year.  Monday and Thursday will be regular dress-down days.  Tuesday is "Twin" Day (which means the theme is open to everyone in a given class) and Wednesday is Crazy Hair and Sock Day.  


Summer Program


The Summer Music Program is this coming Friday at 1 p.m.  Students in senior-kindergarten through fifth grade will be performing songs and demonstrating skills they've worked on over the last 12 weeks.

A gentle reminder to be courteous of our neighbors when parking. 


Math Morning


Second-grade associate teacher, Christie Cunningham, will put on a math morning this Monday after flagraising in the Scripps Lecture Hall.  Christie will be demonstrating skills, strategies and concepts associated with Singapore Math, and anyone is welcome to attend.



The Lower School will be a polling site this Tuesday beginning at 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.  Don't forget to cast your ballot. 


Science Fair


The fifth-grade science fair will be held this Wednesday at 8:30 in the lower patio.  Students have been working on projects in school in collaborative teams with the assistance of a number of special teachers, their classroom teachers and their science teachers.  Come see the future of project-based, design-oriented learning!


Snow Cone Sale


The student council is sponsoring a snow cone sale this coming Thursday during the lunch rotation in support of recent fire victims.  Everyone is invited!  All snowcones are $1.


Chinese Open House


The first Chinese Open House will be held this Wednesday in the Scripps Lecture Hall from 2:30-3:30 p.m.  Everyone is invited.



Pertussis (whooping cough): The county Health and Human Services Agency announced this week that the number of pertussis cases reported in San Diego County this year has surpassed the total for all of last year. This year there have been 454 confirmed cases of pertussis surpassing the total of 431 in 2013. Many of these cases affect school age children.

 A typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild.

To prevent pertussis, vaccination is available and required for school entry. Please note that children generally receive a DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine at the ages of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years as well as a mandatory Tdap booster going into the 7th grade. If you have a student going into JK, SK or 7th grade, please make sure your child is current on all mandated immunizations. 

Please go to: www.eziz.org/assets/docs/IMM-231 for the current immunization schedule for children in California. Additionally, if your student does receive or has received updated immunizations, please send a copy of that immunization record to the school nurse as soon as possible. If you have any questions about pertussis or the mandated school immunizations, please call 619-717-0235 or email at mwest@francisparker.org


Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of June 2-6

Posted by on Friday May 30 at 08:13PM
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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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Mission Hills Campus
Lower School
4201 Randolph St.
San Diego, CA 92103
  Linda Vista Campus
Middle/Upper School
6501 Linda Vista Rd.
San Diego, CA 92111

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