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Lower School Blog

Nov. 3, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #10


Dear Lower School Parents:


The Lower School Halloween activities were great fun and so well-organized yet again this year, and our thanks go out to the many parent volunteers and staff members who were involved.  Though I've witnessed the process for many years, it never fails to amaze me that the playground changes from completely normal at 7 a.m. to full-blown carnival by noon and back to regular playground by 5 p.m., all in the space of a day*.

* The Haunted House (halved when we took part of the tumbling room for an office, creating twice the work for creative volunteers) is the exception.  Transforming the space is a multi-week effort, fully involving our fifth-grade students as designers and actors, and always resulting in a work of art. 

Behind the scenes, parents had been working hard for nearly a year, planning, rounding up volunteers, rethinking booths and activities, and creating new, exciting experiences for children who will always remember them as magical times.

On behalf of everyone at school fortunate enough to take part in this wonderful community day, thank you for the treat!


Bob Gillingham


A Halloween Wrap-Up From our LS Parents' Association V.P.s


Thank you to the 250+ volunteers that gave their time, energy and talent to the Halloween Carnival!  This is one of those events that truly can’t happen without the amazing Parker community.  We are grateful for all the amazing creativity of parents - from decorations to creating a whole booth in just a few hours to alien themed haunted houses!  More thanks go out to Student Council and Señora Herold for their creativity and work on the new ticket system.  A big thank you to Ditas Mauricio who was able to get nutritious donations of snacks from KIND bars, Sneakz, Arctic Zero, Popcorn Indiana, 18 Rabbits, Annie Chun’s, HeartBar and Bare Snacks!  The maintenance crew, upper school students, and so many more helped make the day a tremendous success.  We are grateful.

If you and your kids had any energy left to go trick or treating on Friday and ended up with more candy than you want or need, please bring in your unwanted Halloween candy Monday morning.  We will be collecting it to give to the troops.  Thank you! 


Admissions Open House


This coming Thursday, the Lower School will host its first Admissions Open House of the year beginning at 3:15 p.m.  Prospective families will visit to learn more about the school, and they'll be treated to personalized tours with our very own fifth-grade Squires.  Interested families should contact Sara Knox at sknox@francisparker.org.


Second-Grade Play


This coming Friday, the second grade will present their play, Coming to America.  Students will see it in the morning, and parents will attend at 1:30 p.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.  A special receptiion will follow for the students and their parents and relatives.


Parent Mixer


The First-Grade Parent Mixer  will be held at the Upper School in Nicholas Commons from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Friday.  This event is a great way to meet and greet other parents at your child's grade level and to enjoy a bit of food, drink and conversation, completely agenda free.


Notes From Nurse Maggie

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Collaborating Organizations (http://www.nbcam.org), breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it is found and treated early. A mammogram—the screening test for breast cancer—can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them. If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often. Men can also get breast cancer. Look for any changes in the breast area including nipple tenderness, a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area, a change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture). It is important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous. Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms. Questions? Please contact me at mwest@francisparker.org or 619-717-0235. 

Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of Nov. 3

Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday November 2 at 06:38AM
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Oct. 27, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #9


Dear Lower School Parents:


Among the many joys of my job is the privilege of observing frequently in all of the classrooms.  My perspective is a bit longer than most, as I've had the great honor of doing this for 24 years.  In that time, I've seen tremendous change in our academic program, most recently manifested as a shift to instill 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity)  in our students.  

To my great delight, and as is typical of Parker faculty, the teachers have managed to refine everything that has worked so well for our students (e.g., the introduction and mastery of basic elementary skills) while also paying attention to and implementing new techniques and strategies to prepare our students for a world in which they will have to sort through and make sense of more information than we might once have thought possible.

In short, our teachers are preparing our students to think expansively, to persevere when at first they don't succeed, to work closely and productively with those who may have different styles and perspectives, and to create original products truly reflective of their understanding and application of key concepts.

The rules of the learning game have changed, and Parker's Strategic Plan is rich with vision and goals established  to position our students to succeed in a future much less well defined than the one we encountered upon leaving school.

Following is an article sent to me by several of you which captures the spirit and intent of our current approach to teaching and learning.  By incorporating Design Thinking principles into more and more of our school day, teachers are preparing students to think, analyze and make sense of their world through meaningful inquiry.  In the article, if you substitute the word "exploration" for "play," the article's premise can easily generalize to the very foundation of Colonel Francis Parker's original vision for this school.



Bob Gillingham




The Carnival is almost here!  The Lower School will celebrate Halloween this Friday, October 31st.  Children may wear dress-down clothing to school, but the balance of their costume (including hair spray, gel, make-up, etc.) should be brought to school, not worn.  Also, if you think that your child’s costume accessories might appear too scary or too realistic (e.g., swords, guns or knives), please check with the school before finalizing costumes.  

The fun beings at 1 p.m. with a parade in the courtyard, and we’ll wrap up at 4 p.m. Please note that the after school program will continue as normal.

We are still looking for more general volunteers.  If you can, please consider helping out Friday morning by signing up here: https://docs.google.com/a/francisparker.org/document/d/1fDzxoufsPgNlSt5yGKtdxXVGNIbbpeH2qNMmBFFno4E/edit

We hope you are also getting some creative ideas for the Cake Contest!  More information about the rules and other info can be found here: http://www.lxt9.com/2014HalloweenFlyer.pdf

If you just feel like baking but don’t want to enter the contest, please feel free to bring baked goods that children can win in the Cake Walk!  Tables will be set up in front of school the morning of the carnival where you can drop off your baked goods.  If you are participating in the Cake Contest, please don’t forget to print out your cake tag and attach it to your cake.  www.Lxt9.com/Cake

If you have any questions at all, please contact the Halloween Chairs, Noelle Ludwig & Julie Turner at pa-halloween@francisparker.org


Late Start Wednesday


This Wednesday will be our second late-start Wednesday of the year. The additional time allows our faculty to train together and to make our program even more effective.

Students may arrive at their regular time (as early as 7:00 a.m.), but they may also choose to arrive as late as 9:00 a.m. when the first bell of the day will ring.  Buses will run at their regular times, and the playground will be covered as usual.


Notes from Nurse Maggie


This week's article centers on the Ebola virus in an effort to bring greater clarity to this issue.


Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of Oct. 27


Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday October 26
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Oct. 20, 2014; Vol.#24, Issue #8

Dear Lower School Parents:


I am most grateful to all of you as well as our faculty and staff for a very successful conference week.  The teachers appreciated hearing your thoughtful insights, and they will incorporate what they've learned from you and what they've gleaned in the first weeks to create an even more effective learning environment for all of your children.

Behind the scenes, and in order to avoid having to send all of the students home during conferences,  the special teachers crafted unique classes for the kids.  Using Design Thinking, the teachers created lessons with which students were able to explore buoyancy, musical composition, natural shelters, climbing walls, literature and other exciting topics.  Though exhausted, the teachers were able to see the seeds of their creative programming begin to take root, and that was quite fulfilling.

And, as if that weren't enough for one week, great spirit permeated the campus in preparation for Homecoming.  The irrepressible Erik Keskinen and Cindy Velasquez were joined by Jenn Brady (next year's Chair inductee) in putting together a true children's delight complete with our very own band, balloons aplenty, a parade which included circus acts, and the Upper School cheerleaders.  

For me, the week represented all that's remarkable about Parker.  Though we had a busy three-ring circus of a time, teaching and learning, close collaboration with parents, and all that's magical about the Lower School were all accomplished in concert in a most delightful, successful way.

Happy Homecoming!

Bob Gillingham


Kids' Newsday for Rady Children's Hospital

Be sure to bring money this Tuesday, Oct. 21, to support Kids' Newsday by purchasing a special edition newspaper from our 3rd Grade Brownies. All proceeds from the Kids' Newsday newspapers, which will be sold in front of school from 7:30 to 8:15 am, support Rady Children's Hospital. This year, instead of asking for $1 to purchase a newspaper, we are asking for a donation of any amount. This means you can still buy a newspaper for $1 or donate even more money if you so desire. Along with heartwarming stories of patients of Rady Children's Hospital, each newspaper will contain a coupon worth $2 to be used to purchase a coffee at Starbucks on Kids' Newsday.

Once again, Dr. G will be offering the Lower School's very own Golden Ticket. Whoever purchases the one newspaper with the Golden Ticket inside will be treated to lunch for them and a friend, ordered from Sam's and enjoyed in the Lower School courtyard. (The day of the lunch will be determined by Dr. G and the winner.) Last year, the Lower School sold out of newspapers before the bell even rang!

Halloween Cake Contest

It's that time of year again and we are looking for all your little ghouls and goblins to use their imagination and creativity to create a Halloween Cake for our Cake Contest!  It's for all kids... JK-5th grade. The only rules are.... (1) the cakes must be prepared and decorated by the kids (parents can help only with things that are hot or can hurt), and (2) everything on the cake must be edible, including ALL decorations!  There are three winning categories (1st, 2nd, 3rd place) in each grade!!  Plus, this year we'll continue the "Kids Choice Award" that will be voted on by the kids Student Council Reps!  As always, there will be an Adult Cake Contest category as well as the contest for Middle and Upper School students.  So, look for the flyer (http://www.lxt9.com/2014HalloweenFlyer.pdf ) in your child's Monday envelope, print out your cake tag atwww.Lxt9.com/Cake , affix it to the cake, and help us make this year’s Cake Contest the best one ever!! If you have any questions or concerns (including nut or allergy free entries), please contact Kristin Zeko at: kristinzeko@cox.net or Alexander Thomas at: Lxt9@Lxt9.com.    BOO!! 

Gala Volunteer Meeting

Gala Meeting: Friday, 10/248:00am coffee, 8:30am start in Conference Room next to Café at LV Campus.  Come join the fun Gala team of volunteers.  We will be assigning Chairs, tasks, etc.  We’d so appreciate the help!  New to the school?  Come learn about the Gala, timing, and volunteer opportunities - a great way to meet Parker parents. The Gala this year is April 25 at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, in beautiful and historical Balboa Park.  The countdown begins!  Questions?  Contact Gala Chairs Gayle Nuffer and Randie Lettington at pa-galachair@francisparker.org.

Girls' Science

Ms. Rendon and Upper School student Anoushka Bose have teamed up over the last few years to offer exciting afterschool science classes for girls in grades 3-5.  Those who have been involved have loved the program. Click here to learn more about Girls' Science for girls in grades 3-5.

Second-Grade Math Morning

Come join us on Tuesday morning from 8:20-9:00 a.m. to learn more about Singapore Math (Math in Focus) at the second-grade level.  Carrie Hasler will be leading a hands-on workshop to highlight just how dynamic and essential this program is for our students.

BBQ This Friday

This Friday will feature a bbq and dress-down day, but it will also include a 2nd-grade parent coffee hosted by Dr. G, Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Knox.  Together, they'll share insights about students at this grade level, highlight program expectations and show you what a day in the life of a second grader really looks like.  Join us if you can!

That evening at 6 p.m., there will be a JK Parent Mixer at the Nicholas Commons (til 7:30 p.m.) on the Linda Vista campus.  Plan to join your grade-level friends for conversation, food and drink in a beautiful, relaxing setting.

Notes from Nurse Maggie

Importance of Handwashing:

In celebration of Global National Handwashing Day last Wednesday, and in light of the recent prevalence of enterovirus, pertussis and Ebola in the news, here are a few reminders about handwashing. According to the Center for Disease Control, handwashing is the single most important act to help stop the spread of infection and to help people stay healthy. Due to proper handwashing with soap and water, there are an estimated one million deaths prevented globally each year. Additionally, up to 80% of all infections are spread by people’s hands. Doorknobs, animals and food also can spread harmful germs. The CDC recommends that you wash your hands before preparing food, before and after eating, after using the restroom, after sneezing/coughing, after playing with your pet, and after coming off the playground.  For more information about proper handwashing, please watch this video clip from the CDC: http://www.microbeworld.org/washup/handwashing-videos/488-put-your-hands-together Please contact me with any questions at: 619-6=717-0235 or mwest@francisparker.org

 Mission Hills Menu

Menu for the Week of October 20

Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday October 19 at 11:50AM
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Oct. 14, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #7


Dear Lower School Parents:


This week is Homecoming Week, a Parker event that has grown in significance over the last few years by offering something for everyone.  Our youngest students often focus on the cheerleaders who put on a special second flagraising replete with abundant spirit or perhaps the football players who visit during lunch recess and are mobbed by their adoring young fans.  Our teachers often focus on former students, marveling at how much they've grown physically, emotionally and socially since the time they called the Mission Hills campus their home.  Our Lower School parents tend to focus on their children, adorned in spirit wear, giggling and joyous, perhaps participating in one of the shortest but most endearing parades you'll ever see, and relishing the chance to experience the much larger and very exciting Linda Vista campus. And I just love hearing and seeing the Lower School band that plays the Wisconsin fight song with great determination and surprising accuracy, just a few weeks into the school year.  You may hear a cacophony... but I hear a symphony!  

Whatever draws you to this special Parker tradition, you can't help but notice the delightful array of Lower, Middle and Upper School families and employees, all having fun together in a place that truly serves or once served them as a second home for so many hours of their lives.

If you haven't been to a Parker Homecoming, plan to make this your first of many.  You'll feel the warm embrace of the community, and  you'll know it's a place to which you can always come home.


Bob Gillingham


Student Council News

Since flag raising will be on Tuesday next week, we have had to move the student council meeting to Wednesday morning at 8:00am in Senora Herold's classroom.  

Happy Homecoming Week


Just a reminder that this is “Dress Down in Spirit Wear” week! Tuesday thru Friday you can wear your spirit wear from this year or any past years or brown and gold!

Wednesday during lunch recess come by the auditorium and bring your best “clowning around” skills and try out for the Pep Rally and/or the half time show during the big game!

Friday, the 17th, at 8:15am will be our annual Homecoming pep rally! Make sure to bring your Parker Spirit to cheer on our very own upper school cheerleaders and see our lower school band perform!  Plus a lunch time visit from our Parker Football team!

Parker’s Homecoming Game will be at the upper school on Saturday the 18th! The fun zone will open at 11am along with the food booths. The Lower School parade will begin at 12:30 p.m., and all Lower School students are welcome to participate.  Additionally, at 1 p.m., just before the game, the Lower School Chorus will sing the national anthem.

We could still use some help with the fun zone, so click on this link to sign up for 1 hour of fun zone help!


Goooooooo Lancers!

Fall Break


School resumes Tuesday, October 14, an "E" day, after a four-day break.


Parent/Teacher Conferences


Conferences will be held this week on Wednesday through Friday afternoon.  Students' afternoon schedules will be altered to allow their classroom teachers to meet with parents.  Special teachers will be taking the opportunity to implement Design Thinking with the students, introducing innovative projects and activities.


Third-Grade Coffee

Parents are invited to join Dr. G., Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Knox this Friday at 8:15 a.m. in the Szekely Auditorium to see what a typical day in the life of a third grader looks like and to learn a few insights into children at this grade level.



Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday October 11 at 02:35PM
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Oct. 6, 2014; Vol. # 24, Issue #6


Dear Lower School Parents:


I experienced a glorious moment this week when I was invited to watch our fifth graders attempt to make fire using wood bows, rods and "birds' nests," a collection of very combustible twigs, etc.  (Yes, I did say "fire," but I must assure you that this carefully-crafted lesson provides an amazing learning window for our students, a project-based survival unit through which they experience and learn about various regions around our country.)   First, a very sweaty and smoke-scented John Heilman (our upper grades science teacher) presented himself in the office to say that the kids had tried very hard but could produce only smoke (and copious amounts of it) but no fire.  He has been trying to demonstrate this skill for several years, but actual fire had somehow eluded him and his students.  Bowed (so to speak) but not broken, John soldiered on, and I learned that the he and his students from another fifth-grade class would be making another attempt the next afternoon.  In the purest form of Design Thinking, the class had noticed the essential need for fire were they to survive, had focused on what needed to be done, then brainstormed various ways to create fire before designing and creating the tools and setting necessary to succeed.  Initially, and for several subsequent attempts (tests), they failed!  However, they studied what hadn't worked, iterated a better solution, and tried and tried again.  

Finally, they learned that their tools could be modified slightly to create more friction, and they set up another attempt.  This time, 2 students shared the bowing duties, another held the rod steady, and Mr. Heilman, with eyes the size of saucer pans focused so hard on the action that I suspect it might have been his gaze rather than the tools that began to create increasingly large amounts of smoke.  At the critical point, the bowing stopped, the smoking wood fragments were moved into the birds' nest and a tiny wisp of smoke was evident.  Mr. Heilman began to blow on it ever so gently, his excitement level climbing by the moment.  The kids moved closer, the smoke grew darker, the tiny ember grew redder and soon you could barely see the birds' nest.  At last, in one thrilling moment, the smoke burst into flame and given the kids' and Mr. Heilman's reactions, you'd think they'd won the lottery.

No one present then will ever forget that hard-won moment, and we'll all strive at the Lower School to attain that same level of complete engagement and joy in authentic, experiential learning in our students.


Bob Gillingham


Fall Break


There won't be any school for students from Oct. 10-13.   The faculty will be meeting this Friday to work on curriculum and instruction, and the following Monday is a holiday.  Classes will resume on Tuesday, October 14, an "E" day.


Pet Day


This coming Thursday, we celebrate one of the longest-held traditions at Parker, Pet Day.  Boys and girls in grade one through five can bring in their caged pets (Szekely Auditorium) or dogs (playground) to share beginning at 7 a.m., though they must bid them adieu by 9:30 a.m.  Dogs must be supervised by parents, and students must remain with their furry friends for the duration.

If you haven't witnessed this much-cherished event, come on by and see for yourselves the strong bonds between the kids (and parents) and their pets.

Given the range of supervisorial duties that day, it will be a dress-down day for everyone.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Cynthia Smith, always a favorite with the kids, will present on some of the mammals for which she provides care and training.


Parents' Association General Meeting


This Monday, there will be a Parents' Association General Meeting in the Szekely Auditorium beginning at 8:30 a.m. Guest speakers will be the Heads of the 3 Divisions, who will give you their insights about what is happening and planned fro at each of the campuses.


Picture Make-Up Day


Picture Make-Up Day will be held this coming Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m.



Thank you for showing your Parker Spirit with the purchase of your spirit wear items! We are excited to see the students wearing their spirit wear to school, supporting their Lancer team the week of October 14-17th! Be sure and show your Parker Pride by wearing spirit wear to Homecoming on October 18th.  Your items will be available for pick up before and after school on Pet Day, October 9th in front of the school.
We will be holding auditions on Wednesday October 15th during Lunch for the LS Pep Rally performance and Homecoming half-time show for grades 1-5.  Children that are planning on attending Homecoming and interested in participating in the half-time show orFriday’s Pep-Rally should go to the auditorium during lunch, wearing your best circus outfit and show off any circus skills you would like to showcase!
We still need lots of help in the Fun Zone so PLEASE click on this link to sign up for a one-hour shift!
Thanks so much! GOOOOO LANCERS!
Erik, Cindy & Jenn

Boys' Science


Do you have a curious boy - or would you like to promote interest and enthusiasm for Science at an early age? Please explore the Boys Science Club for 3rd through 5th Grade Boys. If your son is interested in joining this year's after-school Boys Science Club, please come to an informational meeting on Thursday, October 9th at 3:30 in Mr. Heilman’s Lab. Interested students should plan to attend and parents are strongly encouraged. If you or your son are unable to attend the meeting but are interested in finding out more information about the program, please contact Kerri Gutekunst:  Kerri@Gutekunst.com

Notes From Nurse Maggie


This article discusses Parker's Medication Policy.  If you have any questions, please contact Maggie West at mwest@francisparker.org.

“California Education Code Section 49423 allows a Registered Nurse or other designated (by administration) staff member to assist students who are required to take medication during the school day. This service is provided to enable the student to remain in school, or to maintain or improve his/her potential for education and learning.” Please note that:

  • Medication, including over the counter medication, must be kept in the health center or in the division-specified school office.
  • If a student requires prescription medication that will be taken at school, the medication must be provided by the parent in the original prescription bottle with the child’s name, medication name, dosage, directions for administering the medication and the route.
  • There are specific forms that must be completed by parents and student’s primary health care provider allowing school staff to administer prescription medications while on campus. Please contact Nurse Maggie or staff in your division office for a copy of these forms.
  • Students who have life-threatening health conditions, such as asthma, anaphylaxis and diabetes, are allowed to carry medication for those conditions on their person with parent/guardian approval. Please let the nurse know if your student is carrying medication for these conditions. We also ask that “back-up” medication be kept in the designated school office in case of emergency.
  • All other medications, including over the counter medications, must be administered in your student’s designated health center.
  • If you send in over the counter medication for your student to receive during the school day, please send it in the original container with a signed note stating your student’s name, the medication needed, the dose and the time you’d like that medication administered to your student. Please also let us know if you’d like us to keep the medication or send it home with your student.
  • Under no condition is a student to self-administer medications, have medication with them without the school’s knowledge or share any kind of medication with other students.

Questions? Please email me at mwest@francisparker.org or call 619-717-0235.


Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of October 6

Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday October 5 at 10:37AM
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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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6501 Linda Vista Rd.
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