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Art, song enliven 50th at Jackson

Jackie Robbie, Jackson Elementary's 27-year art teacher (the last 18 as a volunteer), is joined on a 1960s-style "phone call" with long-time assistant Jean McKanna during the school's 50th celebration event. The various "phones" were made by Robbie's students as part of school-wide research into how times have changed in the years between Jackson's 1966 opening and the present.
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       In a festive evening attended by hundreds April 20, Jackson Elementary celebrated a half-century as a District 11 school in Holland Park.
       Attendees were treated to speeches from the current and previous principal (whose combined tenure spans 32 of those years); musical performances (including the recently revived school song); school-related news clippings; photos and other memorabilia; and student displays/art work reflecting grade-by-grade, decade-by-decade research into worldwide social and cultural events, going back to when Jackson opened in 1966.
       The school media center was festooned with student art based on 1960s styles - a project led by art teacher Jackie Robbie that included kid-stylized land-line phones based on an era that was pre-Internet... even pre-answering machine.
       At the school for 27 years, Robbie has gained renown for teaching art as a volunteer for the last 18 of them (and guiding many students to awards) - while insisting that the lack of bureaucracy is more desirable than a paycheck. Donations and fundraisers cover the bulk of the costs.

To the appreciation of attendees, Jackson students and staff sing their school song in the media center, near the beginning of the two-hour open house to celebrate the elementary's first 50 years. Hanging from the ceiling is some of the student art work - mimicking the style of famous 1960s artists such as Peter Max or Andy Warhol - that was produced in the classroom of art teacher Jackie Robbie.
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       Enjoying the evening with her was Jean McKanna, who has been volunteering at Jackson (helping Robbie most of those years) since 1980 when her son started going there. Later her daughter attended Jackson and had Robbie for a teacher. That daughter now “has a degree in fine arts because of her” (Robbie), McKanna happily recalled.
       During a standing-room-only ceremony in the media center early in the two-hour open house, Sara Miller, who has been principal since 2011, welcomed the throng, saying their support “means more to us than you'll ever know.”

Anne Dancy, the Jackson Elementary principal from 1990 to 2011, speaks to the audience in the school's media center after being introduced by current Principal Sara Miller (standing at left) during the 50th anniversary celebration April 20.
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       She summarized the school's history and academic format changes over the years. Built initially to accommodate the then-new Holland Park subdivision, the school originally was designed in the trendy - long since abandoned - open-classroom concept.
       In recent years, enrollment has nearly doubled (to about 430) as Jackson has absorbed students after closures of once-nearby elementaries Pike, Lincoln and Bates. In 2016 it became the district's only certified AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) school. (AVID, according to website information, is a national nonprofit that supports school staff in guiding students of all backgrounds to the kinds of behavior and thinking skills that could lead them to college.)
       Pleased applause rose when Miller introduced: Anne Dancy, who had been the school principal for 21 years before retiring in 2011. “When I left, I wasn't sure what was going to happen,” Dancy said. But she expressed pleasure that Jackson students “continue to learn and to grow”; and she added praise for building manager Tomas Chavez for looking after the school's upkeep. “I'm very, very proud to continue to be a Jackson Jaguar,” she concluded.

Three generations of "Jacksonians" (clockwise from upper left): Debbie Hankins, her daughter Adrienne and grandchildren Charlotte and Royce.
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       Among those on hand for the celebration was Debbie Hankins, a 17-year school secretary who retired in 2014. She was joined by second and third generations of her family with connections to Jackson. Her daughter, Adrienne Cooper, went to the school, volunteered there during college and has taught first grade for the past two years in this, her second spell at the school between her husband's deployments. Her kids, Royce (fourth grade) and Charlotte (kindergarten), are students there now.
       “I love, love, love this school,” Cooper said. “With the people here, the staff and the families, it feels like home.”
       Hankins herself has stayed involved since retiring. She was part of a 50th Anniversary Committee that Miller credited for pulling the event together. The committee lead was kindergarten teacher Amanda Martinez. Other members were Tricia Shirola, Debbie Tuxhorn, Carrie Hart, Desiree Leonard, Ashley Eilert, Jackie Robbie and Linda Wilson.
       As for the school song, Miller said it had been “dormant for many years until we revived it again four years ago” - the melody fortunately having remained in the memories of some of the committee members.

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