Rio Seco Memorial Reading Garden to be Dedicated to Santee Teachers

What began as a memorial bench for one teacher has grown into a reading garden where students will be able to share every teacher’s love for reading in a lovely natural setting.

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The Rio Seco Memorial Reading Garden will be dedicated Friday, August 24.

Our dream began almost a year ago after losing our dear colleague and friend, Christine Bailey. We wanted to remember her in a special way and thought a memorial bench would be a perfect way to do this and also provide our students a comfortable place outdoors to sit and enjoy a book. We knew that Mrs. Bailey had always instilled the importance of reading to her students and would appreciate us remembering her. 

Shortly after this loss, Kelly Brown, a teacher at , lost her mother, Kathy Davis. Mrs. Davis was another very devoted teacher in our school district for over thirty years. Not only was she an outstanding classroom teacher, but she served as a mentor to teachers and parents throughout the district. The Davis family wanted to honor Kathy at Rio Seco where her grandchildren will be attending. Added to these losses was the passing away of a very kind and gentle man, John Gathercole, a former outstanding Rio Seco Jr. High teacher. His passion for teaching and devotion to his students definitely made a difference, and we wanted to honor John as well. 

The bench has now grown into a beautiful outdoor garden where classrooms of students will be able to share every teacher’s love for reading in a lovely natural setting. 

This did not happen overnight. The San Diego Council of Literacy Professionals had gifted a significant amount of financial support to our school to promote reading. That support ignited the idea for a reading garden. It was then decided that we could build a garden to promote reading and honor the teachers we had lost. We hope to eventually honor other teachers who have contributed to making a difference at Rio Seco School. 

We then sought the expertise of our district Maintenance Department. Chris Erwin, was sent to us as the project leader. He took our ideas and through his vision was able to transform what had been unusable space into a beautiful garden. What makes this particularly special is that as a young boy Chris attended Rio Seco School. Not only did he design and build this garden, but as a fourth grader he helped plant many of the trees that he now cares for. 

Our next job was to inform our school community and the community of Santee about our dream. We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of our Rio Seco families, teachers, and retired teachers, as well as numerous businesses in our community. From the gravel and rock, to the brick and block; from irrigation materials to the grass and plants; from the benches to the arbors; from the tiles to the plaques; even water, Gatorade, coffee, bagels, donuts, and lunches for our volunteers… ALL have been graciously donated to make this dream come true! 

We have had over $25,000 in materials and financial support donated to complete the garden. The following are the generous supporters of the garden: 

  • The Foundation (generous financial support and volunteers) 
  • San Diego Council of Literacy Professionals (generous financial support) 
  • Rio Seco Families 
  • Rio Seco Staff and retired teachers 
  • – Gene Chubb 
  • Lakeside Land Co.- Jim Harris 
  • Treebeard Landscape-Tim Hillman 
  • Rain Bird Corp. 
  • Alpine Block and Rock 
  • Hunter Industries 
  • Synthetic Lawn Supply 
  • El Cajon Name Plate 
  • San Diego Marble 
  • New Creation Flooring 
  • Todd Seaboch (concrete staining) 
  • Family of Christine Bailey 
  • Family of Kathy Davis 
  • Family of John Gathercole 

Throughout this process, Christina Becker, Director of Maintenance and Operations for the Santee School District has been our “golden resource”. Her expertise of architecture and construction has insured not only the safety of the garden but its beauty as well. 

We greatly appreciate the generous support of our community. It has been exciting and inspiring to watch our garden grow. 

Steven Bartholow August 17, 2012 at 07:55 PM
9am, but I would contact the school to see if the public is invited
Kathryn Sibayan August 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Unfortunately, due to limited space, this is an invitation only event. We appreciate all the community support and wish we could have opened it to the community. Feel free to stop by during school hours after the dedication on Friday. The Rio Seco Reading Garden Committee
Steven Bartholow August 21, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Thanks Kathryn, Santee Patch will publish photos of the garden after the dedication on Friday for those interested in seeing it.
Kathryn Sibayan August 23, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Thank you Steven for sharing our story. Hope to see you Friday.
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