Noe Valley Voice May 2004

School Report


Talent Show Crowd Overflows Auditorium

Late arrivals for the 2004 James Lick Talent Show on April 7 found standing room only as friends, parents, and neighbors filled the school's spacious auditorium on Noe Street. Opening-night excitement permeated the halls while dozens of young performers waited backstage to entertain their exuberantly cheering friends and justifiably proud families.

From the percussive thunder of the James Lick Drum Group to the spectacular gymnastics of Devin and Marta Henderson, everyone (including those who had to watch from the doorways) enjoyed a vibrant evening of well-crafted performances. Joining the customary lineup of vocal and instrumental music, dance, and comedy for the first time, the James Lick Fashion Extravaganza, coordinated by Vanessa Mathews, wowed the crowd as 23 students pranced and swaggered across the stage, modeling styles ranging from hip-hop finery by Baby Phat to athletic wear from local retailer See Jane Run. The entire show, including five student MCs and performances by the Mambo Queens, Glamorous Classy Divaz, and Da Tazmaniakz, repeated the following day for the student body. Bravo.

A Day of Kindness

Are bullying, name-calling, and cruel gossip inevitable hallmarks of the middle school experience, or can they be avoided?

Last month, as part of a district-wide project for middle schools, James Lick students observed a Day of Kindness by gathering to talk about incidents of harassment or intimidation they might have seen or experienced at school or in the community. They also learned to identify different forms of obvious and subtle bullying, and developed strategies to protect themselves and each other from such unwanted behavior.

In a related event, parents attending Coffee with the Principal on March 26 participated in similar discussions led by students from the school's Peer Resources Program. These students, who counsel classmates on some of the conflicts they encounter in school, dramatized examples of bullying and demonstrated conflict-management solutions.

James Lick staff member Roberto Pena, who worked for five years with the mayor's office on gang prevention programs, provided parents with an overview of the challenges kids face today. Speaking in both Spanish and English, he explained how to identify and prevent drug use and gang involvement before they can become established behaviors.

Art Show and Sale

If you've never seen an art show at James Lick, you're in for a real treat on Friday evening, May 21, when art teacher Alexandra Redfield and her students invite you to the Art Room from 6 to 8 p.m. for an exciting show and sale of art created this year. Don't miss it!

Car Wash and BBQ

You are also invited to join us for a spirited car wash and delicious barbecue on Saturday, May 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the upper yard (enter on 25th Street). Proceeds will support publication of next year's school yearbook.

Ice Cream Social for Incoming Sixth-Graders

Incoming sixth-grade families will be welcomed to the James Lick community with bowls of ice cream from 4 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 22.


Mother Earth will shake, rattle, and samba on Sunday, May 30, when James Lick's colorful contingent of drummers, stilt walkers, and dancers hits the pavement for this year's Carnaval Parade through the Mission District. The James Lick group has been practicing together and performing at Carnaval for several years, and they are thrilling to watch, whether live at the parade or at home on your TV. The parade starts at 24th and Bryant streets at 9:30 a.m., and snakes along Mission and 17th streets, ending up at the Harrison Street Carnaval Festival around noon. (For the full scoop, see

Dinner with the Principal

Join James Lick Principal Janice Daniels for a special dinner on Thursday night, May 13, at the Mission Neighborhood Cultural Center. This event, sponsored by GEAR UP, will replace the final Coffee with the Principal for the 2003­04 school year. Please call the school to confirm time and date.

Come to Lunch, Neighbors

The Merchants' and Community Alliance will meet for the last time this school year on Wednesday, May 26, at 12:30 p.m., with lunch provided. Noe Valley merchants and neighbors are welcome to attend.

How to Contact James Lick School

Call our new message service for same-day response: 415-436-0349. Or you can come to the school at 1220 Noe Street between 25th and Clipper streets. Contact Parent Liaison Denise Rueda at 415-695-5675.

Again, thank you for sharing your ideas, talents, enthusiasm, and support.

--Sue Cattoche


The Mirror Dance

On Thursdays at 7:50 a.m., right after the morning bell rings, Artist-in-Residence Sean McMahon climbs onto the roof of Alvarado School and begins dancing. As the music starts, the children assembled on the playground put down their backpacks and mirror his lively movements, sliding, jumping, or hopping to the left, then repeating the same action to the right. For the school staff and parents who put down their coffee cups and join in, this is much better than caffeine.

McMahon works with groups of children throughout the school, rendering elements of dance, Pilates, and yoga--including counting and breathing.

"If you have a stuffy nose today, it's okay to breathe in through your mouth," he assures a first-grade class.

Every eight weeks, McMahon and Alvarado's other artists-in-residence meet with classroom teachers to plan hands-on arts activities that will broaden the standard curriculum for grades K­5. Children experience the world through their senses, and each of the eight-week arts programs stimulates, sharpens, and refines these critical pathways to the brain.

The fifth-graders filing into ceramicist Paul Lanier's studio are not entering another classroom but the workspace of a professional artist, filled with the tools of his trade and his own works-in-progress. Today these children are carrying drawings of animal heads that they will create in clay for a class project on totem poles. As they watch Lanier demonstrate various techniques, their hands mirror his hands, and their minds store lifelong memories about the tactile qualities of clay, the shapes of wild animals, and the symbolic meaning of totem poles.

Music teacher Katherine Baird introduces a group of percussion instruments to a circle of kindergartners seated on the floor, classifying them according to their materials: skin, wood, or metal. After the children select which instrument they want to play, each child has a chance to create a rhythm that the others will repeat with their own instruments. Then Baird places three hoops on the floor, and puts a skin, wood, or metal instrument by each one. When she steps into one (or more) of the circles, only the instruments of that type are played. Some of the children take turns leading the group, mirroring Baird's "conducting."

These are only a few of the arts programs currently operating at Alvarado. Talented visual artist Marissa Kunz's presence is felt, even when she's not in the building. Last month, her students' drawings of scary "monsters" lurking under collages of transparent tissue paper brightened the walls. Michelle Holdt's exciting theatre arts program concluded in the fall, but she's still around to coordinate scheduling for all the artist-in-residence programs at Alvarado.

It is impossible to imagine losing any one of these talented individuals. But enormous budget deficits--at the district, county, state, and yes, national level--are threatening our school's resident artists. The artists themselves are scrambling to find new sources of support to supplement the PTA's already extensive fundraising efforts.

These challenging times call for creative solutions. We will need all the help we can get to save the outstanding programs that have made Alvarado an exemplary public school.

If you feel like helping to sustain the arts at Alvarado, checks can be made payable to Alvarado PTA Arts Fund and mailed to Alvarado School, Attn: PTA Treasurer, 625 Douglass Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. If you have fundraising ideas or questions, call Josie Iselin at 824-7482 or e-mail her at

Weiner Seeks School Board Seat

David Weiner, principal of Alvarado Elementary School and a former teacher at De Avila Elementary School, formally announced his candidacy for the San Francisco Board of Education at a rally and picnic on May 2 at Douglass Park.

Weiner is the only candidate running who has served as a principal and teacher in San Francisco's public schools. If elected to the school board, he says he will work to bring the kinds of innovative programs we have at Alvarado to all schools in San Francisco.

Cinco de Mayo Assembly May 7 will celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Latino Heritage at 9 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m.

The Youth Arts Festival at Zeum (above Yerba Buena Gardens) will be open weekends 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 8 through 16.

The Alvarado Spring Carnival happens on May 15, starting at 11 a.m. and running through the afternoon, in the schoolyard.

Chat with Principal David Weiner on the first and third Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m. For more information, call 415-695-5695 or visit the school's web site at The address is 625 Douglass Street at Alvarado Street.

--Sue Cattoche


Kids Off to Camp

As music pounded out of the speakers and the cool evening air wafted over the patio at El Rio one night last month, Fairmount parents and teachers boogied down to salsa, hip-hop, and rock music.

School Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort pulled parents onto the dance floor at the Mission Street nightclub and helped them practice salsa steps they learned at a recent PTA meeting.

It was just before spring break and everyone was ready to party, but there was a good cause as well: the crowd was raising money to help Fairmount's fourth- and fifth-graders take an extended field trip to Westminster Woods, an outdoor education camp near Occidental, Calif.

"We went there four years ago, and we've been talking about doing it again for a long time," said fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Maureen Sullivan. "We finally said, Let's just do it. A lot of the kids have never been camping, never been away from home."

The trip will take place over three days and two nights in May. "They'll be doing day hikes along the creek," said Sullivan. "There are trained naturalists who will teach them about life cycles of the forest and redwood forest ecology."

Parents donated from $5 to $20 for the evening's entertainment at El Rio, which included a music deejay and a spread of tamales, beans, and rice cooked by parents. That night, they raised $1,218, bringing them just a few dollars from their goal of $10,000 to fund the trip.

The rest of the money was raised by T-shirt sales, donations, and "Sweet Fridays," held throughout the spring. At these after-school events, students were selling smoothies, pizza, and cookies they'd made themselves.

Lion King Declared 'Great'

The Orpheum Theater may never before have had an audience like this one. The packed house cheered wildly for the hero, let out loud "Awww's" when the main character's father died, and sang along to the songs.

The entire student bodies of Fairmount Elementary, Roosevelt Middle, and Balboa High schools went to see The Lion King one recent Wednesday afternoon, and the seats were hopping with excitement.

"It's about when Simba's a little kid," said first-grader Nicholas Weisenberger, explaining the plot a few days later. "Part of it is the bad guys and a bunch of hyenas and camels come and all the cheetahs are crying."

Nicholas threw his arms out, his eyes wide: "It was great."

The three schools had been chosen by the show's producer, Carole Shorenstein Hays, to be beneficiaries of a special performance a couple of months ago. That performance resulted in each of those schools netting upwards of $75,000. Principal Aguilera-Fort and the Fairmount staff are still working out a plan for the money.

Shorenstein Hays was moved to put on the benefit when she heard about how budget cuts were affecting schools. After visiting many places, she chose the three San Francisco schools, along with the organic garden founded by Alice Waters at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Middle School, because she liked their communities and felt their students could benefit from a budget boost.

Amazing Values at FiestaVal

Fairmount invites neighbors to FiestaVal, the annual spring party, to sample food, participate at craft booths, watch kids dance Ballet Folklorico, and buy auction items and raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes donated by families and local merchants.

The festivities will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, at the school, 65 Chenery (at Randall).

Gift certificates for the auction have been donated by Incanto, Curves, Just for Fun, Noe Bagel, Cover to Cover, the Ark, Cotton Basics, Eric's Restaurant, Terra Mia, One Stop Party Shop, Jaboh Salon, Noe Valley Bakery, and many other restaurants and merchants near and far.

To view the auction items, visit Here are a few more items to whet your appetite: a two-night getaway for two at Harbin Hot Springs; five days of dog walking services; a pair of tickets to the San Francisco Jazz Festival; salsa-merengue classes at Mission Cultural Center; and four roundtrip tickets on Amtrak from Oakland to Sacramento. Hmmm, you could go lobby Gov. Scharzenegger.

--Jan Ruiz


James Lick Middle School

1220 Noe Street at 25th Street


Janice Daniels, Principal

Alvarado Elementary School

625 Douglass Street at Alvarado


David Weiner, Principal

Fairmount Elementary School

65 Chenery Street at Randall


Karling Aguilera-Fort, Principal