Noe Valley Voice October 2003

School Report

By Susan Cattoche


Parents Key to School's Success

The wind ripples a crazy quilt of banners as a procession of singing children emerges from the building and wraps around the block. It's "Flag Day" at Alvarado Elementary School. Each child has made his or her own flag, and more than 100 nations are represented in this celebration of the school's cultural diversity. Parents participate in the parade alongside their children's teachers, leading anthems from various nations, snapping photos, or simply cheering encouragement from the sidelines. At Alvarado, where parents are viewed as partners and significant contributors to the success of the school, from 80 to 90 percent of parents participate in school activities.

The involvement of parents is evident everywhere, from the beautiful garden in front of the school to the quiet hum of productivity inside. In the front office, where colorful Mexican paper cutouts alternate with bright Chinese lanterns on a string overhead, a parent is covering the phones for an absent employee. Across the hall, a volunteer helps a child who might otherwise fall behind learn multiplication tables. In a first-grade classroom nearby, parents run a reading group and have started a book club where advanced students can discuss The Hobbit or Harry Potter.

At Alvarado, an effective PTA makes it easy for parents (and others) to become involved. A "Volunteer Opportunities" sign in the lobby directs visitors to a well-organized information table nearby, where a volunteer-produced newsletter offers detailed school information in both English and Spanish, including strategies parents can use to support learning at home.

A hefty binder holds sign-up sheets for all the committees and activities planned for the current school year. Parents can sign up to fix a cabinet, make copies for the office, or direct a major fundraising operation. Last year, Alvarado parents raised $175,000 to fund programs at the school.

Principal David Weiner credits parent involvement for much of the school's stellar success. "Parents here are just amazing. If I need anything, all I have to do is pick up the phone. And the answer I get is always, 'I'll do anything!'"

Alvarado Calendar Highlights

Oct. 7 PTA General Meeting,
6 p.m.

Oct. 11-13 Tribes Training (conflict resolution)

Oct. 18 Alvarado Work Day (Lend a hand!)

Oct. 23 Alvarado Night at Chevy's Stonestown

Oct. 25 Public School Fair at School of the Arts

Oct. 31 Halloween Parade

Nov. 3 El Dia de Los Muertos Assembly, 9:30 a.m.

Nov. 4 Election Day: Support SFUSD Bonds (Prop. A)

School Tours: Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. (Oct. 7 through Dec. 12)

Chats with the Principal: First and third Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m.

For more information, call 415-695-5695 or visit the school's web site:

Alvarado Elementary School

625 Douglass Street


David Weiner, Principal


A New Sixth-Grade Class

James Lick Middle School--which has students in three grades: sixth, seventh, and eighth--is happy to welcome 140 new sixth-graders this year. Although the kids come from 30 different elementary schools, they have quickly formed one cohesive group.

By far, the largest single group came from Alvarado School in Noe Valley, accounting for almost 25 percent of the incoming class. The other Spanish-immersion schools in the San Francisco School District contributed significant numbers of new students, too.

Some reasons parents gave for choosing James Lick were: "Everyone is so friendly," "The school is so open and welcoming," and "The teachers are excellent!"

Sixth-grade counselor Gia Martino says this is a wonderful group of parents, too.

The Bulldog Card Debuts at Splashy Assembly

A lively September assembly introduced students to the James Lick Bulldog Card with live music, raffle prizes, and the chance to enter a "Money Shower" and be pelted with dollar bills! Sales of the new discount cards will benefit the entire community. In addition to stimulating local business, each card purchased entitles the bearer to enjoy discounts on pizza, coffee, dry cleaning, bowling, and many other products from 15 participating merchants. Proceeds from card sales help the school fund important programs, and students can earn prizes.

Priced at $10, the James Lick Bulldog Card is valid for a year. Muchos gracias to the local merchants who supported this activity by offering discounts to cardholders. Contact the school or ask your favorite James Lick student for details.

Teacher Enhances Learning with Video Projects

On Sept. 17, as the incoming sixth-grade class gathered in Glen Park for community-building activities, students from Juan Carlos Cuellar's class were busy recording the day's events for a video they are producing for a local cable television show. Watch for it on Latinoamerica Querida, which airs on Channel 29 the second and fourth Saturday of every month at 9:30 p.m.

Two days later, Mr. Cuellar's 22 students visited the !Cine Latino! Film Festival at the Victoria Theatre on 16th Street, where they viewed a program of six short films made by young Latinos, titled "From Reel Visionaries to Digital Rebels." Following the screenings, students responded to the films in written activities that encouraged them to analyze plot, interpret meanings, and develop their own creative voices.

Mr. Cuellar, a Noe Valley resident, also teaches an after-school video production class at James Lick on Monday afternoons. Filmmaking, like music, is a complex activity which develops important critical thinking, communications, and technical skills while enhancing learning of language, fine arts, and physical science.

Important Dates at James Lick

Oct. 25 SFUSD Public School Fair at School of the Arts

Oct. 31 Halloween Dance

Nov. 3-7 Parent Conference Week (early dismissal)

Nov. 4 Election Day: Support SFUSD Bonds (Prop A)

Coffee with the Principal: Parents, neighbors, and merchants are invited to join Principal Janice Daniels for coffee between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on the last Friday of each month in Room 107, for open discussion of school-related issues.

The James Lick Community Alliance meetings continue on the last Wednesday of the month at 12:30, with lunch provided.

School Tours for parents of new or prospective sixth-graders are Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m.

Make a difference! Visit Room 107 or contact Denise Rueda, Parent Liaison, at 695-5675. Share your ideas, your talents, your enthusiasm and support for a diverse and caring community.

James Lick Middle School

1220 Noe Street


Janice Daniels, Principal

Editor's Note: In last month's Voice, because of an editing error, we mistakenly wrote that Susan Cattoche had developed parent-involvement programs for the San Francisco Unified School District. In fact, her work was performed for a national non-profit organization.