Brentwood’s second elementary school, Garin, turns the big 4-0 this year, and to celebrate, the school is pulling out all the stops, especially after the passing of one of the Brentwood Union School District’s most beloved icons.
“Life is too short, and we never know what tomorrow will hold,” said Principal Stacy Joslin. “After the passing of (former Garin principal and BUSD superintendent) Bill Bristow this past year, we realized that we are all getting older, and we want to celebrate each momentous occasion as it comes. Forty years is quite an accomplishment in itself. We’re the third oldest school in the district. We are hoping to reach more people who will be able to participate (this year) rather than waiting 10 more years, when people may be harder to locate.”
Joslin said the 40th birthday is also an ideal milestone to acknowledge because in this time of massive education budget cuts and “economic gloom,” people need a reason to celebrate, have a good time and remember “the happiness that comes from teaching children and the success of those who have come through our halls.”
Over the years, those halls have changed. Today’s Garin barely resembles the school that opened in 1970, and to highlight the changes, the 40th birthday celebration will feature a Walk Through Time display, a collection of photos and artifacts marking each decade of Garin’s existence. Alumni are invited to sign and share their favorite moments on the Memory Wall, and visit the Find Your Face Display of class photos.
In keeping with the birthday theme, the celebration will feature games, music, snacks, and of course, cake.
“We want this to be an event not only for Garin alumni but for the entire community,” Joslin said. “The school has physically transformed over the years, but the Garin spirit remains the same. I’ve been principal for only three years, but I’m always meeting up with people who have attended Garin, and people always have such great memories to share, so this is a party for everyone because Garin is very much a part of the Brentwood community. So many people have dedicated their lives to this school.”
While more than 30 classrooms currently occupy Garin’s First Street campus, Wanda Groseclose remembers when there was only one. Groseclose, who taught at Garin for 21 years, said Garin started off as a school for fourth- and fifth-graders. She shared a large open-space classroom with three other teachers, which made her job exciting yet challenging.
“When I first came to Garin, the main building wasn’t divided into classrooms as it is now,” Groseclose recalled. “The four of us shared this one big room – we each had our own corner. Open space classrooms were all the rage at that time, but as education evolved, as it always does, that method went out the window, so we put up walls, and then we had six classrooms.”
Groseclose stayed in Room 1 until she left Garin in 1995, but her decades of service to Garin and the school district remain prevalent in the BUSD. Groseclose helped co-author “American Music Through Time,” a musical performed by fifth-grade students, which originated at Garin but is now performed at the BUSD’s seven elementary schools. While Groseclose’s musical has helped hundreds of Brentwood students travel through time via song, a class project she put together 26 years ago will help birthday guests do some time traveling of their own.
In 1984, Groseclose’s fifth-grade class assembled a time capsule that was buried near her residence on Payne Avenue.
Although she and her husband moved to another Brentwood neighborhood a few years back, Groseclose always planned to retrieve the capsule one day, reassemble her 1984 class and open the capsule – and the birthday party seemed like an ideal time to do it.
“When we buried it, I figured we’d wait 25 years and then open it,” Groseclose said. “One of my former students lives next door to my daughter and he told me that it’d been 25 years already, and I just couldn’t believe it. Then I heard that Garin was going to have this big party to celebrate the 40 years and people had been asking about the time capsule, so I got in touch with the right people and we’re going to open it up as part of the event.”
Amy Ardzrooni, one of the celebration organizers, was thrilled when she found out that Groseclose knew where the capsule was buried, ending weeks of searching done by the party planners. “I was really excited to find out that a class from 20-some years ago buried this time capsule, but no one had any idea of where it was,” Ardzrooni said. “I was afraid it was buried somewhere on campus and that the district had built over it by now. I was worried it’d be under layers of concrete and there’d be no way for us to get it out.”
Groseclose said she buried it on her property for that very reason. Luckily, the new owners, the Bristow family, were more than willing to allow a group to search for the capsule and dig it up. A sprinkler system had been placed over top of the capsule, so a few pipes were cracked along the way as part of the excavation, but in the end, the capsule was located – though it won’t be opened till the night of the birthday celebration.
Groseclose has forgotten what’s in the capsule, but looks forward to reuniting with her students at the birthday celebration and rediscovering the memories of 1984. “I encouraged the kids to choose items that were synonymous with the times,” she said. “Each student brought in an item and we placed it in this large metal garbage can and taped it up really well, so everything should be protected.
“I believe we put in some newspapers and magazines as well. I think 1984 was the year that Michael Jackson recorded ‘We Are the World.’ I know there has got to be something Michael-Jackson-related in there. He was extremely popular at that time.”
The time capsule is currently resting in Joslin’s office, but she’s been able to resist the temptation to open it. “Luckily, it’s sealed up nice and tight, so I can’t sneak a peek, but I can’t wait to see what’s inside. I remember the big hair and the neon clothes of the ’80s, but there could be all kinds of things in there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Now that the capsule has been located, the next challenge is locating the students from Groseclose’s 1984 class. So far, Ardzrooni has located about a third of the class, but is still working on tracking down the rest. Groseclose has also joined the search. If you were in her 1984 class or know someone who was, e-mail Ardzrooni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Garin 40th Birthday Celebration will be held at Garin Elementary School, 250 First St., on Friday, April 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. Wristbands for access to carnival games are available in advance for $8, or on the day of the event for $10. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Garin Parents’ Club to benefit Garin programs. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.