Patrick Henry principal retires
On May 8, 2020 Mrs. Elizabeth Gillingham announced her retirement to her staff and in the following week announced it to the school community. She writes her last message below as the principal at Henry High School:
“It is with mixed emotions I share this news, as being a principal in the community my own children grew up in meant a lot to me.
I started at Henry on Nov. 4, 2012 and was thrilled to begin working at the largest high school in the district. Henry was slated for many changes during my tenure, which included a full modernization of all classrooms, a state-of-the-art theater construction project (fondly known as PHAME!), a new two-story building, and a rebuild of the football, baseball, and softball fields. Each phase brought on new challenges as we worked hard on providing the best educational program while working around a construction site in the middle of the school.
I also put energy into building a strong community feeling at Henry. That included adding three pillars — Do No Harm, Use Choice Words, and Be Welcoming — which helped build a warm and caring culture among the students and the staff over time. I could feel the difference standing each year in the front of the school as I greeted students who entered on their way to their morning class. I also could see the difference in terms of the way the students treated the school. Simple things like trash ending up in cans began to take hold and the spirit at each home game became legendary and noticed by other schools when they would compete against us.
It has been a sincere pleasure to work with the community at Henry, too. I was embraced by the Alumni Association by being invited to president Kevin Calrlon’s home for a celebration of their first golf tournament fundraiser and have enjoyed working with them over the years as they eagerly raised close to $750,000 dollars to support Henry High School. I also enjoyed working with the Cowl’s Mountain Foundation headed up by Katherine Nakamura as they worked hard to support the addition of PHAME! through many fundraisers and they helped support the cutting the ribbon ceremony once this special project finally became a reality for our school. I also want to thank the Patrick Henry Foundation, headed up by Donald Thomas, but supported fiercely by former Henry vice principal Mike Derisi and volunteer extraordinaire Mary Treadway. Again, having the community support us on a yearly basis is so important to helping the school with expenses and plans that weren’t easily covered with the day-to-day budgets given to us by the district.
There are so many teachers at Henry who made me feel welcomed to visit their rooms at any time and who encouraged growth in their own instructional program by constantly making changes as new research was shared over the last eight years. We instituted PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), common assessments, structured-talk routines (moving away from lectures all period long), fostered growth mindsets, and built culturally-responsive instructional programs. My vice principals, Mr. Bill Miller and Mrs. Jennifer Pacofsky, are both credited for helping me carry out change with the operations of the school as well and will continue to help the next principal with new Henry goals as we work through this pandemic.
And a special thanks goes out to the office staff, custodians, counselors, nurses, and cafeteria workers who all embraced the Henry family we developed and made sure the experience of every student who walked the halls of our school were receiving an educational program that was something we would all be proud of.
The students will always be my favorite part of Henry. Special thanks to the coaches and athletes who competed with skill and passion to be the best; the amazing musicians, singers, dancers, and actors who entertained me over and over again with their many talents; the cheer team for supporting our athletes, and community service provided by our students through NJROTC, Engineering Academy, ASB, and the countless clubs that have given our students a place to show off their skills and make a difference in our community.
My last day was June 30, so like the class of 2020, I get to slip away in a more sedate and calm way. But I walk out grateful for 38 years in education with the San Diego Unified School District. I have loved my career choice that I shared with my husband Bob Gillingham, who is also retiring as the head of the Lower School at Francis Parker School. And knowing my daughters are both teachers and my son is stepping into his first principal/director job at High Tech Middle Media Arts school, our work will still continue through them. It doesn’t get better than that!
Hopefully, you’ll see me back at Homecoming or some other community event because once a friend at Henry, always part of the family. Thank you for enjoying the articles written by me and other staff members. I have loved sharing our work and I hope this continues with the new principal too!”
Kindness Matters mural
Each year, Henry selects a theme to help build the school culture around their three pillars of Being Welcoming, Do No Harm, and Using Choice Words. This year, our school t-shirts were designed with a “Kindness Matters” theme and our advisory team of teachers (kudos to Chad Miller, Linda Good, Tom Knapik, Elise Morgan, Mike Pinto, Karen Thomas, and Karl Bolton) began their work around building activities to help our students understand the importance of working together.
The year began with a special Wisdom Quest, where students were assigned to meet with three different staff members to learn their wisdom that they elected to share with them. Secretaries, custodians, teachers, counselors, and administrators were included in the activity to help students meet people outside their bubbles and to appreciate the wisdom adults can share with them from all walks of life. Mrs. Passmore, long-time PHHS receptionist, shared her love of reading and created a special bookmark for every student with the top 50 books every adult should read during their lifetime according to the Internet.
Our last advisory class of the year was built around being grateful. Students were each given a Kindness Matters postcard (printed by teacher Karl Bolton) to write a thank you note to someone who was near and dear to them and asked to give them out during lunch time. Watching students share these special postcards at lunch was quite impressive on many levels. Students were also given a skinny slip of paper to write a message of gratefulness to a teacher, friend, or parent that was to be turned in for our school mural.
The mural was created by Mr. Karl Bolton and during the pandemic, he took over 2,500 slips of paper and created a life-size image of a peace sign from the slips of paper students turned it. This mural will go up in the quad, when the students return to Henry as a reminder that what we do as a community does matter and has a ripple effect on others. Special thanks to our team who developed these ideas to show our students and staff that kindness really does matter at Henry!
IScholar named for 2020
IScholar was founded and launched in 2014 by Irina Chukhray, a PhD student in Sociology at Rice University. Chukhray obtained her BA degree in Psychology, followed by her MA degree in Women’s Studies at San Diego State University, and her MA degree in Sociology at Rice University. She aims to obtain her PhD degree in Sociology at Rice University in 2018.
After graduating from Patrick Henry High School (PHHS), Chukhray set her mind to one day give back to the school and especially the teachers who motivated and encouraged her to pursue her academic goals. She decided to help PHHS seniors currently mentored by the same teachers that mentored her (PHHS science teacher, Mr. Andy Mangahis, and PHHS English teacher, Mrs. Erin Mangahis).
Chukhray designed IScholar with the intention of creating a scholarship that would be useful to its applicants. In her own experience of applying for scholarships, she noticed that the required essay component seemed like an extra writing assignment that did not directly relate to the college application process. The application requirements for IScholar, however, mirror current college application requirements, resulting in a practice run (i.e. essay draft and required supplemental material) for college applications. Using that format, she structured her prompt and selected a student.
This year’s 2020 award went to Emily Donahue (class of 2020) as she presented herself as a strong candidate who has persevered to achieve her goals. In her application essay she writes:
“My whole life, I have been fascinated with nature, with animals, with ecosystems and cause and effect. Even as a kid I knew I wanted to have a career that would put me out in the field to study nature’s beautiful creations. Now, to fulfill this dream, I plan to major in environmental engineering and minor in marine science at a four-year university.
With a degree, or two, under my belt, I hope to find a job with a research organization that focuses on marine life. I want to help spread awareness about the impacts of human interactions with nature and find solutions to minimize the negative effects. Specifically, I would love to focus on saving the coral reef ecosystems and the shark populations. My life would consist of field work, data analysis, and the education of others. Ecosystems and the delicate balances that make up natural habitats are like a constantly changing puzzle that I can’t wait to solve.
The next step in achieving my dream is attending a university to earn a degree related to my dream. I believe that I am a strong candidate for college admissions because of my passion, leadership and perseverance. Over the course of my life, these traits have developed and grown with new experiences, and will continue to grow.
I can claim to have an unwavering passion for the environment, and that can be reassuring for a potential college. Other than having loved nature for my whole life, I also have already gotten a taste of my dream. This last summer I traveled with our school’s marine science teacher and a fellow student to the small town of Bayahibe in the Dominican Republic to study the coral reefs. We would snorkel in waters that should’ve been colorful, vibrant, and full of life. Instead they were brown, dead, and with minimal fish. Regardless, the trip was incredible, and I felt so grateful to be able to learn firsthand about parrotfish, how to build coral farms, and specifically how plastic affects the ocean ecosystems. This trip cemented my dream to do this kind of work for the rest of my life.”
Congratulations to Emily Donahue and special thanks to Irina Chukhray for making this scholarship possible for our Henry grads.
Class of 2020 goes out with a parade
With in-person graduations being banned due to COVID 19, Henry High School kicked into gear with a new way to honor their graduates. Thanks to several Zoom meetings with senior ASB representatives and advisor Autumn Flores, a plan was made to honor the graduates in a special, socially-distant way. Stations were placed around the school for students to visit and get gifts along the way while they made one last drive around the campus.
Station 1, started off with a literal blast from Vice Principal Bill Miller, who had a green-smoked filled bomb that he pulled the string on every 15 minutes to welcome the next 20 decorated cars that lined up with seniors wearing their caps and gowns and their families who were all ready for a tribute.
Station 2 had our counselors lined up to cheer the seniors with their cars decorated with large car-size caps and tassels put on their car hoods facing the grads as they entered through a large balloon arch made to welcome the Class of 2020. Special banners lined each station as students drove past the halls of learning they once traveled through.
At Station 3, students were able to drop off thank you cards written to various staff members and in return got a gratitude newsletter written by the Henry staff for the class of 2020. From there, they picked up cookies, diploma covers, programs, popcorn bags, and key chains provided by our ASB.
The Grad Night Parent committee provided two special stops. One was an 8-by-10-inch yearbook photograph of each graduate and the other was a stage for the grads to stop and take a traditional graduation photo while pomp and circumstances was being played in the background. Each grad was greeted by Principal Gillingham (live and a large cutout) so pictures could be taken with them receiving their diplomas as if we were at USD Jenny Craig Pavilion. A red carpet was included which made the event feel festive and special for each of the graduates as they had their moment to celebrate their achievements.
At the end of the day, each senior seemed happy with the tribute given the circumstances and felt as though the school had done the best they could to honor them in a personal and significant way.
Congrats to the Class of 2020! You set the bar high for others to follow you and your legacy of school spirit will be one that other classes will hope to demonstrate in future years.
— Elizabeth Gillingham is the now former principal of Patrick Henry High School.