Noe Valley Voice June 2004

School Report


New Floors Nothing to Sneeze At

Fairmount School is hoping to breathe a little easier next year. Literally.

As parents and teachers meet with the principal to determine how to spend the roughly $100,000 the elementary school received from the Lion King benefit, the item at the top of the list is removing old carpeting from the classrooms.

"Those carpets have been there for 30 years," said Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort. "I've received letters from doctors about kids with allergies and asthma."

Those problems will be alleviated, Aguilera-Fort said, when the carpets are removed and replaced with tile, which can then be covered with easily cleaned, or replaced, throw rugs.

The money comes from a Lion King performance that Carole Shorenstein Hays, the producer, put on in March to benefit Fairmount and three other schools.

Parents and teachers are meeting to decide how to spend the rest of the money, and the "wish list" includes art consultants, equipment for physical education programs and for special education students, and professional development.

Some of the money will be used for an all-staff retreat to Point Reyes after school lets out, to help teachers and staff prepare for the coming year.

Green Thumbs on Hand

The volunteer group Hands on San Francisco held its sixth annual workday on May 8, and 30 people showed up at Fairmount to help fix the sprinkler system, build garden boxes, pull weeds, and give the school's gardening program a boost. Hundreds more volunteers spread throughout the city to teach children how to read, beautify parks, coach athletes with disabilities, clean streets, and cook meals for those who are homebound.

The two Fairmount parents who tend the school's plants and who lead gardening classes with students throughout the week, Julie Hagelshaw and Kate Simmons, are planning to create an edible garden that will teach the children about making meals from the food they grow.

Hands on San Francisco's work helped the school get one step closer to that goal, and volunteers promised to stop by and help water the plants during the summer.

Gift from a Neighbor

A third-grade class got a gift from a neighbor of the school, Walter Knoepfel, who helped students attend an overnight naturalist retreat in the Marin Headlands last month.

The Hostel Adventure Program brings children for two-day, one-night journeys to the Headlands and down the coast, where they participate in environmental programs in the outdoors.

Knoepfel, who works with the program, made a personal donation of $100 to Fairmount to help the classroom with the $390 cost.

FiestaVal Fun

The Fairmount FiestaVal filled the school grounds on May 15 with neighbors swaying to music, children painting masks, grandparents eating ice cream, parents taking pictures, teachers bidding on art projects, and a glowing school spirit.

The party, held on a sunny Saturday afternoon, raised $30,000, which will be used to support art classes, the library, and physical education, among other programs.

The party raised about $10,000 more than last year, which was the first time the school held an auction and raffle. Organizers chalked up the increase to more neighborhood involvement and generous donations to the auction from local merchants. Thank you, Noe Valley.

Welcome to Kindergarten

It's time to think about the new school year, and Fairmount is already planning its picnic to welcome new kindergarteners. The Saturday before school starts, Aug. 28, will be a time for new students to meet teachers, older kids and each other. Save the date!

--Jan Ruiz


Maypoles and Mother Lands

A lively morning assembly at James Lick Middle School celebrated the many wonders of May--Mother's Day, maypoles, and Cinco de Mayo--with poetry, music and dance. Clad in elegant white suits trimmed with coin-sized gold buttons, the men of Mariachi Nuevo Generación opened the show with a powerful performance of traditional Mexican music. An energetic violin solo by Eduardo Garcia, a member of the multigenerational troupe and a sixth-grader in the Spanish-English Immersion Program at James Lick, drew cheers from the packed auditorium.

With the scent of sacred sage perfuming the air, a procession of Grupo Aztecan dancers wearing maroon and gold costumes with towering feathered headdresses passed through the amazed crowd and took their places onstage. A solitary drummer wearing a brilliant metallic costume stood at the center of the stage, striking a powerful beat as the performers honored Mother Earth with ancient dances from the area known today as Mexico City.

Student performances rounded out the program, with readings of Mother's Day poems, dancers swirling their wide tiers of bright circle skirts, and a delightful maypole dance in which the dancers wove lime green, fuchsia, and purple ribbons down the pole in an elaborate pattern, and then just as precisely reversed their movements to release them. The event concluded with a slideshow of this year's Mexico trip followed by a parade of flags from 21 nations, the "Mother Lands" of our diverse student body. Kudos to teachers Adriana Blanco, Gladys Dalmau, and Rogelio Orihuela for producing these wonderful performances.

Snowshoes and Shakespeare

Seven feet of snow covered Crater Lake when 24 students and 17 adults from James Lick traveled to Ashland, Oregon, last month. In addition to donning snowshoes for some "cool" fun, the group participated in workshops at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where they learned about archetypes, family trees, and how to act without using words. Highlights included performances of The Royal Family, a 1927 parody of the Barrymores, and an exceptional production of A Raisin in the Sun. While in Ashland, the group also visited Southern Oregon University and Lithia Park. The students' evaluation of the trip: "Way fun."

Dufty Speaks at Graduation

The theme of this year's graduation is "A Walk to Remember," but our eighth-graders will enjoy a picnic at Lake Anza in Berkeley's beautiful Tilden Park (June 2) and a dance (June 4) before they take those momentous steps on June 7. Supervisor Bevan Dufty will be the featured speaker at the 10 a.m. ceremony at the school. Sixth- and seventh-graders will be away from campus on field trips that day, with June 9 their last day of classes before school resumes on Aug. 30.

Alegria en Carnaval

This year's Carnaval entry from James Lick Middle School on May 30 featured the theme "Alegria en Carnaval" (Happiness in Carnival) portraying different dance styles of the Caribbean with an interweaving of percussion tumbadoras, vocuses, and other drums.

GEAR UP for College

Families participating in GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) enjoyed an all-day field trip to the campus of U.C. Santa Cruz on May 24, with a side trip to the Santa Cruz boardwalk on the way home. James Lick will also host another "I'm Going to College" summer day camp from June 21 to 25, with daily visits to local campuses, leadership opportunities, prizes and games, and it's all free.

New Year for Community Alliance

Congratulations to sixth-grader Frieda Hess, who will be the new student leader of the James Lick Merchants/Community Alliance next year. Outgoing leader Antonio Ayala expresses his thanks to all of the merchants, neighbors, and members of the community who have attended meetings and supported the school in spite of the many economic challenges they've faced this year. Antonio is sponsoring the final luncheon meeting on June 1 in appreciation of their support.

How to Contact J.L.

Call the message service for same-day response: 415-436-0349. Or you can come to the school at 1220 Noe Street, at Clipper Street. Thank you for sharing your ideas, talents, enthusiasm, and support. We'll be back in August to start the new school year.

--Sue Cattoche


Can't Stop Dancing

Disco, hip-hop, soul, swing, salsa--what's your style of music? Friday, June 4, is the date set for Boogie Night, which promises to rock the walls of Most Holy Redeemer Church (100 Diamond Street) from 8 to 11:30 p.m., as teachers and other guest deejays spin dance tunes for Alvarado Elementary School's final big event of the year.

Originally conceived as a fundraiser to prevent a budget crisis (which was happily averted), the idea of a dance party had such a positive response that we decided to do it anyway! In addition to benefiting school programs, Boogie Night is also an opportunity for staff, parents, and friends to celebrate another wonderful year at Alvarado.

A suggested donation of $20 per person for the adults-only event includes a finger buffet, beer, wine, soft drinks, and deejay tunes. If you're reading this before June 4, please contact the school or call Caroline Scott (563-6238) for tickets.

"Feria de Alvarado"

The mingled aromas of grilled ribs, roasted corn, tamales, pozole, and quesadillas drew Alvarado families, friends, and more than a few neighbors to the schoolyard for the annual spring carnival "Feria de Alvarado," on Saturday, May 15. While munching on jicama, mangos, watermelon, and other healthy snacks, guests enjoyed carnival games, music, and dancing, hands-on art activities, and live performances by Alvarado children. The midday event also featured a cakewalk and a raffle, with the lucky winners bringing home Giants tickets, $100 in cash, luscious desserts, and many other donated prizes.

Art on Display at City Hall

A beautiful ceramic totem pole and other works by Alvarado students are currently on display in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services at City Hall. Mayor Gavin Newsom personally hosted the opening night reception for the ART@MONS Gallery Showcase on Wednesday, May 26.

Mayor Newsom joins many educators in the belief that the arts play a critical role in the lives of students and in their overall academic achievement. The gallery, located in Room 160 at City Hall, is a year-round venue for students to display their artwork .

What Should Your Child
Be Learning?

Alvarado Principal David Weiner spoke at the SFUSD parent convention "Partnering for Safe Schools" on May 22 at Mission High School. His topic was "What Should Your Child Be Learning?" He discussed ways parents can determine if their children are working at grade level, and if not, what to do about it.

If you'd like to learn more, you can drop by the school and chat with Principal Weiner on the first and third Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m.

Staff Appreciation Luncheon

Appreciative parents treated our teachers and staff to a delicious luncheon and small gifts on Friday, May 21.

So Long for Now

Our fifth-graders will graduate on June 8, and the last day of school is June 9. Thank you, everyone, for your support and your contributions to a very successful school year!

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

--Sue Cattoche


Alvarado Elementary School

625 Douglass Street at Alvarado


David Weiner, Principal

Fairmount Elementary School

65 Chenery Street at Randall


Karling Aguilera-Fort, Principal

James Lick Middle School

1220 Noe Street at 25th Street


Janice Daniels, Principal