Visions of Hillbrook’s past and future merged on campus this week.
Walking down the hill Thursday, people were greeted by a newly installed replica of the original sign for The Children’s Country School (Hillbrook’s name until 1960). The inspired idea of unofficial school historian and teacher Paul DiMarco, the sign was created by 93-year-old local San Jose artist, Rey Giese. The sign will hang at the entrance of the Village of Friendly Relations and provides a beautiful and playful connection with the school’s early history.
The sign was unveiled as part of of our second annual Founder’s Day celebration. Hillbrook’s first student and graduate of the Class of 1946, Richerd Cancilla, joined Paul in front of a student assembly on Thursday to share the story of the Village of Friendly Relations. Built by the students in the late 1930s, the Village was a living community complete with a tea house, a newspaper, a general store, and a bank. Through the Village, the students learned invaluable life lessons that, in the vision of founder Mary Orem, would help prepare the children to create a better world.
Following Richerd and Paul’s presentation, the students had an opportunity in buddy groups to build models of a 21st Century Village of Friendly Relations. Computer stores, a water slide, castles, a variety of general stores, a full-length football field (not a Village “house”, per se, but something a group if 2nd and 8th grade boys really hope to see at the school!) and even a thinking house emerged from recycled boxes and assorted odds and ends. The tinkering masterpieces will be on display at Flag on Monday and will provide a vivid image of how much things have changed – and, in some cases remained the same – since the late 1930s.
While the students and faculty ventured into our past, as a school we took a significant step in the process of laying the foundation for our future. On Wednesday evening, we met with our neighbors to share our plans for building a better middle school. The meeting represented one of the final steps in the process before we formally submit an application to the Town of Los Gatos to grow our enrollment from 315 students to 414.
A key component of Vision 2015, the effort to grow the Middle School is an important step in helping us remain a leading JK-8 school in the Bay Area. Our plans call for increasing grades 6-8 from two sections to three sections of 18 students, which will increase our overall enrollment in grades 6-8 from just under 100 students today to 162 students within 3-5 years. There will be no change in the Lower School enrollment model.
A larger Middle School will benefit our program in several key areas, including:
- Stronger academic departments that allow more academic flexibility, including the potential for tracking in math and foreign language
- More opportunities for co-curricular activities, including dance, band, and drama
- Increased participation in existing athletic programs, including lacrosse, softball, and track & field, as well as opening up new sports, such as swim team or golf
- More social opportunities for our middle school students during this critical stage of growth and development
- More flexibility to balance grade size and gender balance in the upper grades while simultaneously bringing in new students and new families who add an exciting new energy to our community
As a community, we will be asking you in the months ahead to work with us to help this important application get passed. In the next week or two we plan on submitting our application to modify our conditional use permit to the Town of Los Gatos. We then expect our application to be placed before the Planning Commission in 60-90 days. Following approval by the Planning Commission, the application could be appealed to the Town Council in which case we would appear before the Town Council most likely at some point during the summer or perhaps early Fall.
How can you help?
The most important thing our families can do is to continue to be good neighbors. We remind you again to:
- carpool or use the shuttle, minimizing the number of cars coming on and off our campus.
- drive slowly through the neighborhoods, 15 mph on Upper Marchmont and 25 mph on Lower Marchmont
I also encourage you to visit our Building a Better Middle School page on the website to educate yourself about our proposal. On this page, you can see the traffic study that was completed as part of our pre-application process and a copy of the presentation we gave to the neighbors on Wednesday night. We will be sharing more information with you in the months ahead as we shepherd our application through the planning process.
Standing with Richerd Cancilla today and reflecting with him upon his time at the school more than 70 years ago, I was struck by the depth of his connection to TCCS/Hillbrook. While the school has changed in dramatic ways since he was here, he returns because the essence of the school – a life preparatory school – remains the same. Whenever I speak with Richerd, he is clearly proud of the extraordinary school that we have become today.
I was also reminded that our generation – like every generation in the school’s history – has an obligation to do things to ensure that our school is thriving 75 years from today and beyond. We need to continue focusing on making the school ever better, while preserving the core values that have guided us since our founding. The effort to build a better Middle School is another important step in our school’s journey.
Talking to Richerd, I also couldn’t help but look at our JK/K students and try to imagine which of them will be standing in front of a group of children 75 years from today. I am confident they will proudly share stories of 2012 and how the work we did today helped ensure that Hillbrook would provide an extraordinary educational experience for generations to come.