Harding University Partnership School has been missing its mascot since thieves took the iconic weathervane from the top of the building two years ago, but former Principal Sally Kingston has donated a replica of the hawk as a parting gift to the school.
The surprise thrilled the students, who saw it revealed Thursday during assemblies on the last day of school, and teachers were eager to check out the hawk up close afterward.
“In my heart I wanted to give you a gift for seven great years,” Kingston told students and families Thursday morning.
When the hawk was stolen, a reward was offered and students wrote letters and drew pictures in a campaign to “Bring Our Hawk Home.”
Noozhawk partnered with the Harding School Foundation and givezooks! to raise money for another one, but the $450 in contributions fell far short.
Kingston paid for the weathervane herself, finding a workshop — West Coast Weather Vanes of Santa Cruz — that crafts copper weathervanes by hand. It even made it a rush job so students could see it on the last day of school, Kingston said.
It’s almost an exact replica of the original, which was part of Harding for so long that people speculate it had been there since the school was built in 1927.
The new weathervane is unique in its engraving — with the school’s name and “Donated by Principal Sally Kingston” — and has pennies inside.
Yes, pennies. It’s a tradition that started in the American colonies and now all weathervanes have pennies in them, according to retired architect Fred Sweeney, husband of Harding Early Years’ Jane Santos-Sweeney.
Sweeney said at the assembly that there aren’t as many weathervanes in California as other parts of the country, but it’s perfect for Harding as a symbol of knowledge and ambition and a reminder of early scientific inquiry into how nature works.
Kingston picked out four specific pennies for Harding’s hawk: 1927, the year the school was built; 2005, her first year as principal; 2012, her last year as principal; and 2010, the year Harding became Harding University Partnership School.
“Remember when you look up and see the hawk that you’re doing your best, trying your hardest and soaring high like the Harding Hawks that you are,” Kingston said.
Before the big reveal, she presented top scholar awards, which included stacks of books for each winner donated by the Bialis family and a laptop for the top sixth-grade students, and announced a new award. The William B. Kingston Award, named for her father, will be given along with a laptop to a student every year who shows leadership and a dedication to making the school a better place, she said.
No one was surprised at the winner — sixth-grader Ariana Rubio, president of Harding’s student government. Kingston said Rubio is the best president the school has ever had, and every teacher in the auditorium gave her a standing ovation.
Kingston also thanked Pat Morales for her dedication to the students during the last month, since Kingston left to become director of the Carpinteria Unified School District’s College Bound Program. The Santa Barbara Unified School District is still looking for a permanent principal to replace Kingston.
“I know how hard it was for you, for me, for teachers and for parents when I left May 4,” she told students.
Facilities staff members have already put up scaffolding to install the hawk — which gave the surprise away to the teachers a bit early — and it should be back on its roost soon.
In the last two years, Harding has formed a strong partnership with UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, improved student test scores and pursued becoming an International Baccalaureate Program school.
They’ll get the news soon whether they are authorized as an IB Primary Years Programme school and join the elite group of just 26 others in California, out of about 5,500 elementary schools.