Noe Valley Voice November 2006

School Report

Kids and parents are working hard to make the grade--academically, artistically, and financially--at three public schools in the neighborhood. Here's the latest from parents and volunteers at James Lick, Alvarado, and Fairmount.


Are We Rock Stars Yet?

Blue Bear School of Music recently sponsored two remarkable field trips for James Lick students. One Saturday in late September, a group of Richard Storbeck's music students were transported by chartered bus to Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View for the Download Festival, an all-day concert featuring Beck, Muse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and many other contemporary groups.

On Oct. 6, the entire school traveled to Golden Gate Park for the opening day of the 2006 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Both trips support Blue Bear's efforts to acquaint our students with the roots, history, and cultural significance of American popular music. The new music program, less than a year old, has already been featured on radio station KFOG and on TV Channel 7.

When James Lick's rock ensemble learned they were invited to perform at the Noe Valley Harvest Festival only a few days before the event, they immediately began rehearsing after school. But the reality for our young musicians was a 9:15 a.m. sound check the next day, and then the challenge of gathering a trickle of early shoppers into a real audience. At 10 the next morning, the kids were ready!

The band broke into a thumping rhythm as lead singer Briall Dang belted out David Bowie's Rebel, Rebel: "You've got your mother in a whirl/She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl...," as her own proud mom and prouder grandpa--and a growing crowd--looked on approvingly.

Girls Explore Careers in
Science and Math

A group of girls from James Lick will attend the Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics conference at San Francisco State University on Nov. 4. The all-day conference is designed to nurture girls' interest in science and math courses and to encourage them to consider career options such as engineering, computer science, and physical science. The girls will participate in fun and challenging hands-on activities led by women mathematicians, scientists, and engineers who live and work in their own community. The girls will take home T-shirts and other souvenirs to remind them that studying math and science can be fun, and that it is important for them to study as much math as possible in high school. For more information, visit www.expanding

Improv Group Headlines
After-School Benefit

On Friday, Nov. 17, a family-appropriate evening of improvisational entertainment will be presented by 5 Speed Overdrive, an improv group featuring Joel Micucci and friends.

Proceeds will benefit the school's after-school program, Beyond the Bell, where Micucci teaches improv and acting skills. Doors open at 6:40 p.m.; the fun happens from 7 to 8 p.m. in our beautiful auditorium. Sliding-scale admission; flat fee for families.

Your donation enables us to provide five days a week of free academic support and enrichment activities for James Lick students. Students from Beyond the Bell will showcase the skills they've learned in their first eight-week session for fifth-graders at nearby elementary schools on Nov. 9.

Merchant Alliance Rekindled

This month, after we elect a new student council, we will resume our outreach to the local community through the James Lick Merchants and Community Alliance. We'll invite members of the community, our neighbors, and local merchants to attend monthly meetings with our student council representatives to discuss school issues and their impact on the community. Contact Beyond the Bell program director Lina Hancock, or watch this space, for more information.

Thank You, Hands On

Hands On Bay Area Volunteers helped us spruce up the schoolyard and replant the tubs in front of the school last month. PTSA member Jewli Judd, who coordinated the cleanup, says we still need to sand and paint the lower playground benches, but we don't have the right sanders for the job. Jewli has added that item to our wish list!

Our Boys' Baseball Team had a great team this year, finishing their season in fourth place competing against some tough teams, with a record of four wins, three losses, and one tie. Congratulations to the kids and their coaches, Steve Johnides and Tom Kroner.

Principal's Chat and This and That

Join us for coffee and the next chat with Principal Carmelo Sgarlato on Friday, Nov. 17, at 8:30 a.m.

Our Open House in mid-October was attended by more than 50 prospective families who expressed interest in sending their kids to Lick. School tours continue every Thursday morning from 9 to 10 a.m. through Dec. 14. Drop in; no reservations are necessary.

The SFUSD Public School Enrollment Fair will take place Saturday, Nov. 18: Come to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and meet representatives from every public school in the city. For additional advice on selecting a school, contact Parents for Public Schools, 415-468-7077, or

Saturday Parking in December

For a modest donation, you can park in our lot while you shop in Noe Valley--and support our programs at the same time!

--Sue Cattoche


Kicking It at the First Annual Soccer Tournament

The crowds went wild at the First Annual Alvarado Soccer Tournament and Picnic held in Dolores Park on Sunday, Oct. 15. The many who attended were able to witness soccer's future stars in action. There were many great offensive and defensive plays as Alvarado students played side-by-side with their families for the title of Happiest Soccer Team in San Francisco. The potluck picnic, in typical Alvarado fashion, was well supplied with delicious food from the many diverse cultures represented by Alvarado families.

More After-School Fun and Education

The fall semester of afternoon enrichment classes began in mid-October. The PTA sponsors a wide range of classes guaranteed to interest everyone, including drama, clay modeling, knitting, chess, gardening, yoga, painting, and Poco Loco drumming.

The fall classes take place after school, one afternoon each week, until Thanksgiving break. Many of the enrichment classes will perform at Alvarado's Winter Fair in early December. Many thanks to the PTA members who volunteered to organize and teach! Their hard work makes these classes possible.

PTA Meetings Hardly Dull

Last month's PTA meeting focused on the importance of art in education and the various art programs at Alvarado. Attendees viewed a short film documentary on artist Ruth Asawa's achievements and activism. Asawa has a special place at Alvarado since she co-founded the Alvarado Arts Workshop back in 1968, when she was an Alvarado parent. Her son Paul Lanier later returned to Alvarado to teach ceramics for many years.

The current art program includes ceramics, music, visual arts, theater, and dance, and all five of the art teachers were introduced at the PTA meeting. As a special bonus, Genevieve Feeley, the dance instructor, gave the crowd a sample of her dancing abilities and then enticed a large portion of those in attendance to take an impromptu salsa lesson. The cafeteria was rocking!

The next PTA meeting, on Nov. 7, will be Middle School Night. Representatives from many of San Francisco's middle schools will be in attendance. This is a must-attend meeting for everyone looking to place their child in middle school within the next year or two.

La Fiesta del Dia de los Muertos

Alvarado typically celebrates the Day of the Dead by creating an Altar of the Dead on the gymnasium stage. The entire stage is decked out in the traditional Mexican fashion, and the result is impressive! Everyone is welcome to stop by and admire all the handiwork by the students and teachers.

If I Had a Hammer

Alvarado's annual Work Day is just around the corner on Saturday, Nov. 4. There is plenty to do this year as a result of Alvarado's recent construction project. There are many carpentry and painting projects to complete, as well as gardening projects. Your help is needed (and appreciated), even if you can only come for a couple of hours.

Doors will open at 9 a.m., and we will be busy until 4 p.m. Child care will be provided for school-aged children on the school's upper play yard. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Please bring your tools, ladders, and shop vacs, especially if you are handy with a hammer. You can find the signup sheet in the main hall, close to the office. See you then!

--Dan Willhite


Fairmount Harvests Happy Kids

Warm weather with sunny skies greeted Fairmount's inaugural Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 21. School families gathered for a day filled with games, including the renowned obstacle course, and a multicultural feast featuring homemade papusas prepared by parent Flor Escobar.

In addition to parading through an old-fashioned cakewalk, festival goers purchased keys, one of which would unlock a secret gourd. The lucky person with the key to the gourd received a weekend getaway at a Russian River resort. A "Hairy Spray" booth was a particular favorite of the kids, resulting in wildly streaked children cavorting about the school grounds.

A highlight of the day was a tour of Fairmount's organic garden, lovingly tended by students under the direction of parent Katie Simmons.

The festival and fall raffle, sponsored by the PTA, raised over $11,000 to support student after-school programming and projects such as ballroom dancing for fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Library Use Keeps Going Up

Fairmount students are hitting the library using a "Letters of the Week" approach. Each week, they are allowed to check out books whose authors' last names begin with certain letters of the alphabet. This will encourage the kids to check out different books, as well as help them get to know the library better. The students will be using about three letters a week until they roll through the entire alphabet.

All the classes are being read the picture-book selections for the California Young Reader Medal. The students will vote for their favorite book, and the votes will be submitted as a school vote. Go to for more information. The students are also beginning a book club, where they'll read and discuss the selections for grades 3 to 5.

Also, on Nov. 3, Fairmount will hold its first literacy night. The special guest speaker will be noted children's author Jorge Argueta (A Movie in My Pillow).

Short Takes

Fairmount parents have been working a new web site. Look for the newly designed site with new content and features opening soon. It's at www.windesheim

You are welcome to visit Fairmount every Tuesday morning. Call the school to reserve a space (695-5669) or drop in to check out what's going on in our Spanish-immersion and English language classrooms.

Save the date: El Rio Night is coming up on Thursday, Nov. 16, 5:30 to 9 p.m. This annual salsa party, at El Rio bar on Mission Street, raises money that will enable the fourth- and fifth-grade classes to take an environmental trip to Westminster Woods. All are welcome to come and enjoy a great night out with Fairmount's teachers and parents.

--Tom Ruiz


Alvarado Elementary School
Gene Barresi, Principal
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado

Fairmount Elementary School
Karling Aguilera-Fort, Principal
65 Chenery Street at Randall

James Lick Middle School
Carmelo Sgarlato, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street
School Web Site:
PTSA Yahoo Group Web Site: