Last week was Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week, and on behalf of the entire Lower School crew, I must say that we were absolutely overwhelmed by parents' and students' kindness and generosity. From the opening surprise parent-initiated student-council performed song at flagraising to the coffee barista on Friday, we felt the love... Thank you so much for everything, and please know how much we also appreciate you, your families and our remarkable Lower School parents' association leadership.
The countdown has begun! With only 23 days left in the school year, the pace is accelerating and we're all anticipating a wonderful conclusion to 2014-15. We're also looking ahead, and recently, I shared the following with the faculty and staff, hoping to illuminate our strategic plans for next year and beyond and to plant a stake in our future:
"... in an effort to inform all of you about what we're doing with students you'll soon have the pleasure to meet, I'd like to bring you up-to-speed on some of the changes we're making, as inspired by our strategic plan.
Most importantly, we're noticing* the rapid change in what will be required of our students in this century, and we're focusing on ways to elevate their skills and understandings so that they can contribute meaningfully, thoughtfully and successfully throughout their lives.
Accordingly, we're busily brainstorming exciting curricular ideas and different ways to leverage our facilities and personnel in order to design a learning environment that will fully engage and challenge our students. Initially, we're hoping to create a prototype that will, at the very least, capitalize on the collective talent of our staff, provide sufficient infrastructure for teaching and learning, and inspire new program to allow students to think and wonderas far as their minds can see.
In short, we're hoping to create a true design center that will include our library, a new design and technology/innovation lab (incorporating woodshop instruction), the science rooms and the art room, all in one building. The facility will be supported by a schedule that will allow for great flexibility in terms of grouping and instructional timeframes. Additionally, the staffing will ensure not only that students are known, supported and encouraged as they learn to take risks, explore and discover, but it will also promote closer collaboration among these teachers.
Our Lower School program has grown significantly over the last decade, and additions and enhancements in foreign language, performing and fine arts, and the academic curriculum have required the use of every nook and cranny on the Mission Hills campus. Planning for next year allows us to realign many of these disciplines, placing then in close proximity to each other to cut down on transition times, and somehow... retaining all of the rich elements of our current program, including woodshop, art, music, p.e., foreign language, library, and science, with the goal of integrating them as much as possible in new and engaging ways for the benefit of our students and staff.
Presently we're testing our plans by working closely with faculty and staff to anticipate and refine all that we can, including the melding of all that has worked well at the Lower School and all to which we aspire... a true design project if ever there were one..."
* blue italicized words highlight key elements in Parker's Design Thinking Process
This week, 3rd-5th graders will be taking ERB (standardized) tests to measure their verbal and quantitative achievement. Testing generally takes 1.5-2 hours a day, and we ask that students are well-rested, well-nourished and ready to do their best. Results will be mailed home in early to mid-June along with information helpful in understanding the scores.
IT’S TIME TO FINISH YOUR SPRING CLEANING!
We are collecting gently used uniforms for our used uniform sale. Please look for the bins outside of the office beginning next week, Monday, May 11. The school wide used uniform sale will be held in June. Stay tuned for the exact date and time.
Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the JK Spring Program or any of the recent Parker performances, please place your order as soon as possible by visiting www.FrancisParkerDVD.com Thank you very much!!!
CALLING ALL POTENTIAL ROOM PARENTS!
Don’t miss the chance to sign up to be a room parent. 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 2015-16 year, please click the link below.
This Spring’s Book Fair is coming soon! The book fair provides convenient one-stop shopping for all your summer-reading needs while also helping fund the Lower School’s wonderful library. The book fair needs your help to make it a success. Please sign up for a volunteer shift (or two) on a Google doc by following this link:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This Friday is a bbq/dress-down day. Parents are welcome to join us during their children's regular lunch times.
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!
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.
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- 616-5911.
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.