Noe Valley Voice March 2007

School Report

Volunteers and parents report on the victories (and parties) celebrated at three neighborhood public schools: James Lick Middle School, and Fairmount and Alvarado elementary schools.


Lick Wins City Soccer Championship

James Lick's soccer team shut out long-dominant Horace Mann to win the San Francisco Middle School Soccer Championship for the first time in 40 years. The last time Lick won the city championship was in 1967, and Jorge Santana was on the team!

The grueling road to the championship was a triumph of spirit and hard work, both on and off the soccer field. With 80 eager students trying out for a team that can only field 11 players at a time, more than 30 eventually made the co-ed roster, giving this small middle school the largest team in the district. Lacking a turf field, the kids had to practice after school on the hard blacktop playground. But all were heartened when two students who were unable to play due to low marks managed to raise their grades in time to play in the crucial final games.

In the semifinals, the Bulldogs overcame Herbert Hoover--the only undefeated team, and the only team that beat us during the regular season--with a score of 4-1. Finally, on Feb. 16, Kezar turned into "James Lick Stadium," and our kids scored five unanswered goals to overcome Horace Mann, for decades the reigning city champions.

Coach Rogelio Orihuela ("Mr. O") credits the team for playing "with great heart," and he thanks the hundreds of kids, parents, and teachers who came out to support the team in the championship game. "The Martinez family donated pupusas for the champions. For a moment, Kezar became James Lick Stadium. We had to wait 40 years, but we did it!"

Orihuela also salutes the contributions of Ray Ponce, "a teacher, a mentor, and a friend of our students. After retiring from 36 years of working as a teacher, he still works with us." Congratulations, Bulldogs!

James Lick Teacher Honored

Eighth-grade math teacher Karen Berman was named February Teacher of the Month by 826 Valencia, a non-profit writing workshop and tutoring center located in the Mission District. Ms. Berman believes that all of her students are capable of tackling algebra, and she teaches it to everyone, including students who are below grade level in math.

The gang at 826 Valencia recognized Berman's innovative use of storytelling to help kids understand the sometimes bewildering new concepts. Her students call her "an amazing teacher" because she explains everything by making up stories, so that everybody learns and understands what she says. For example, Berman explains multiplying bases with exponents as "the babies coming to the mama"--an image her students won't easily forget!

Berman also teaches an extra class after school to ensure that every student gets a chance to succeed. Now students who were previously struggling with math are getting their homework done and raising their grades. Congratulations, Ms. Berman!

Going, Going, Gone...

Need legal services, electrical work, or eight hours of custom carpentry? Sushi or bagels? Knitting instruction or highlights for your hair? Don't miss the opportunity to bid on hundreds of items donated by neighborhood merchants and professionals--including sculpture by Ruth Asawa, high tea for one, a divorce consultation, and rock-climbing classes--at our annual silent auction on Saturday, March 10, at the Noe Valley Ministry (1021 Sanchez Street near 23rd Street) from 6 to10 p.m. Join us for an abundance of appetizers and beverages, and live music by local band Gaucho.

Proceeds will help JLMS celebrate 75 years in Noe Valley and raise money for student programs. Tickets are still available, for $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Please call 415-826-3565 or visit for more information or to donate an item.

Looking Toward the Future

School Assignments and Tours: On March 16 the district's eighth-graders will learn where they will attend high school next year. At the same time, fifth-graders will learn their sixth-grade assignments, so we will resume weekly school tours on Thursdays at 9 a.m., for parents whose children were assigned to Lick and who would like to take another look.

75th Anniversary Fete and Peace Garden Dedication: Don't forget to save the date for our official 75th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, May 12, here at the school.

Wish List: We're still looking for pictures, yearbooks, trophies, report cards, stories from neighbors, parents, or grandparents who attended the school, and any other artifacts of our school's rich history to replace school archives lost during relocation and remodeling activities in past years.

Chat with Principal Carmelo Sgarlato. Call to confirm March date--usually on a Friday at 8:30 a.m.

Find Us on the Web: www.james

--Sue Cattoche


S.F. Ballet Partnership Continues to Grow

The San Francisco Ballet's Dance in the Schools and Community (DISC) program continues to thrive in its third year at Fairmount Elementary School. The program works with all three second-grade classes, engaging them in the world of modern dance for six-week sessions. The Ballet awarded scholarships to seven of last year's students, now third-graders. The four boys and three girls are currently taking after-school classes twice a week at the Ballet's Civic Center location. Charles "Chip" McNeal, the program director and dance instructor, works with the dancers, who participate in separate boys' and girls' classes.

Parents were recently treated to an open class session where they were able to view their students' progress as dancers and observe the teaching and performance movements up close and personal. Afterward, the Ballet hosted a reception for the students and parents from all the schools participating in the program.

Students and their families are also exposed to the professional world of ballet through complimentary tickets to the Nutcracker and other San Francisco Ballet productions, including the innovative Artifact Suite, which had these students, with a new awareness of the difficulty of the movements, on the edges of their seats. Bravo to the Ballet and the DISC program for bringing dance to our students.

Dual Immersion Program Draws
Big Crowds

When the dust had settled and all the application forms had been processed, the verdict was in. Fairmount's tremendously successful dual Spanish immersion programs drew 187 first-choice applications for the 40 kindergarten openings for the 2007-08 school year. Potential Fairmount parents were also impressed with the school's Tuesday tours and the opportunity to talk with El Director/Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort about the school's focus on academic growth, as well as providing a wide variety of arts and cultural enrichment.

Of Tamales and Teaching

As the second semester swung into gear, 70 parents showed up for the community summit one night in February, while 100 of their kids trotted off to the library for movie night. After watching a Mayan play performed by first- and second-graders, parents feasted on tamales as teachers explained the evaluation data that is being used by the school to measure progress and pinpoint where students need extra work.

Teachers also explained a new language arts program that is being used in both English and Spanish classes. "It's basically a teachers' guide that works as a bilingual language arts manual," says Ken Jones, chairman of the School Site Council. "This will take kids well beyond the basics. It sounds like it may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is offering teachers more innovative ways to teach language arts."

The meeting also included a discussion on what parents can do to support what's going on in the classroom. Teachers discussed ideas such as playing math games with darts, dominoes, and cards, using addition and subtraction in the games.

FiestaVal Approaches

Fairmount's annual spring carnival, student performances, and silent auction are revving up for May. We appreciate the contributions and support rendered by Noe Valley and many other community businesses, restaurants, and shops. Last year, the school community was able to raise over $35,000 to support our multicultural arts programs. If you have something to donate (and what an easy advertisement for your great shop or restaurant!), please call the school at 695-5669.

--Tom Ruiz


The Not-So-Silent Auction Starts with a Bang!

Alvarado Elementary invites you to join the school's families and staff at our annual Not So Silent Auction. This year's event takes place on Saturday, March 3, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Fort Mason Conference Center in the Marina District.

The highlight of the event is the live auction, which begins at 8:15 p.m. In addition to the fantastic art projects donated by the Alvarado classrooms, this year's auction features works by famous Bay Area artists such as Eric Zener and Betty Guy. The silent auction is open from 7 to 10 p.m. and includes donations such as fine dinners in local restaurants, instructional classes, vacation getaways, and lots more.

Come out and support your neighborhood elementary school and perhaps walk away with a bargain or two. Complimentary finger food and beverages will be served throughout the evening.

All proceeds from this event go toward providing excellent academic and artistic programs for Alvarado students and maintaining a safe and attractive learning environment.

Want to Teach After School?

The spring semester of afternoon enrichment classes at Alvarado began in February. The PTA sponsors a wide range of classes guaranteed to interest everyone, including drama, clay modeling, knitting, chess, yoga, painting, Poco Loco drumming, and German.

The spring classes take place after school, one afternoon each week. Many of the enrichment classes end with a school performance at the end of the year.

Many thanks to the PTA members who volunteer to organize and teach! Their hard work makes these classes possible.

If you would like to teach a class for the fall semester, please contact the Alvarado PTA. Call 695-5695 or check us out at

--Dan Willhite


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