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Harding School Has a Proud History, and a Bright Future

While remaining true to architectural foundation, campus officials employ innovative strategies to help students develop academically

Noozhawk’s note: Noozhawk and givezooks! are proud to participate in a project to replace Harding School’s hawk weathervane, which was stolen earlier this summer. Read on to learn how you can help.

Harding School is creating a new identity for itself but has maintained its historical appearance and recognition as an integral part of Santa Barbara’s Westside.

Former Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum was a parent and math specialist at the school, 1625 Robbins St., from 1972 to 1974.

“Harding was a great little school,” she said. “The physical building hasn’t changed. It looks like it did 40 years ago.”

The surrounding neighborhood has become predominately Hispanic since then, but much has also stayed the same since many students still walk to school and parents want the best educational experience for their children, Blum said.

Sally Kingston
Sally Kingston

Principal Sally Kingston was hired in 2005 and has been working to establish an International Baccalaureate Program and improve test scores.

Ellen Bialis is a close friend of recently retired kindergarten teacher Molly Presser and an active donor at Harding.

“They had a very laid back principal before,” Bialis said. “They really just got by.”

Kingston has taken a new approach to engage her students by fostering cooperation between Harding and students and faculty at UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education.

Among the results of this effort is a new name for the school, which will reopen Aug. 20 as Harding University Partnership School.

UCSB graduate students and credential teachers will be brought into the campus community to apply theory and research in the classroom as part of the restructuring of Harding as a partnership school, Kingston said.

“We are just at the beginning of how to make their learning more applied and provide opportunities for the student teachers,” she said.

Graduate students will participate in a reading intervention team to help identify and address students’ reading problems. They will also help run the new Family Strength Center that will help parents and students deal with social and behavioral problems as an alternative to suspensions.

“It’s rethinking how we deliver education to our kids,” Kingston explained.

Aside from improving Harding’s academics, Kingston has also introduced a recycling program, farmers market, butterfly garden and a landscaping project under the tutelage of Susan Van Atta, president of Van Atta Associates.

“Back in the 1979s, we were not recycling at all,” Blum said. “They are really at the cutting edge.”

Despite these changes to Harding’s operations and school grounds, the Santa Barbara School District maintains the original building as close to how it was built in 1927, project manager Dave Weniger said.

“Whatever we do, we try to respect the architecture of the building,” he said.

A few significant architectural projects have been undertaken over the years, including the auditorium’s construction in 1950, a seismic upgrade to the buildings’ foundations in the 1960s, and access upgrades from 1994 to 1996 to bring the campus into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The latter project included a wheelchair ramp down to street level and a bridge across Robbins Street to the east campus. At that time, Robbins was the main water artery that ran down to Mission Creek, Weniger said.

The school’s hawk weathervane, perched on top of the main building, was a focal point until it was stolen in June. But the weathervane was not initially in the building’s design, Weniger said.

Before the school adopted its Hawk mascot, the building had a weathervane called “The Chase.” The original drawing was of a dog being chased by a boy and a girl.

“I think they made the change because it was very old,” Weniger speculated. “It’s very possible that they came up with the mascot of the hawk and decided it would be great to put that on the weathervane.”

One notable Harding alumnus is KEYT anchor Paula Lopez, whose mother also worked at Harding for a time.

Kingston is hopeful that once parents and the public learn about the new academic strategies at Harding less attention will be given to substandard test scores from the past, she said.

“We are figuring out how to work smarter,” she said. “Change is hard but if they can see it’s best for their kids I think they’ll support it because teachers really want the best for their kids.”

Click here to make a tax-deductible online donation to the Harding Hawk Project through givezooks!

Click here to join the Facebook group, Bring Our Hawk Home.

Related stories

» Drive Takes Wing to Replace Harding School’s Stolen Hawk

» Leading Off: Can a Weathervane Really Make a Difference at a School?

Tomorrow: Local startup givezooks! is on the cutting edge of online philanthropy.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne will be a junior at Chapman University in the fall. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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