Noe Valley Voice November 2004



Musical Instruments Jazz Up School

In the first few weeks of the school year at Fairmount Elementary, principal Karling Aguilera-Fort was surprised to see large boxes delivered to the school office each day.

When the boxes were opened, there were four violins, three flutes, three clarinets, and two trumpets. The instruments were the result of a $5,000 grant from the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, which supports music education throughout the country.

"This is great for our students--many more of them can learn music now," says Aguilera-Fort.

"Many of our children using these instruments would not otherwise be able to afford the purchase and rental price," agrees John Calloway, the school's new music teacher.

Calloway is a performer as well as a teacher, and often plays Afro-Cuban, Afro-Latin, and Latin jazz music. His fourth- and fifth-graders are learning basic techniques and children's songs this fall and will move on to more complicated, multicultural songs in the spring. "They seem very enthused, which makes me feel more comfortable in my new school and surroundings," says Calloway.

Fourth-grade teacher Loreta Torres confirms that the students are excited about their music classes. "So far, I can only say that when my students' scheduled time comes up to go to the library for their lesson, they are flying out the door," Torres says. "They come back excited about what they've learned. Reports from home are that students are practicing like mad. I love it!"

Fairmount's after-school choir, which performed at numerous events at school last year, is in need of a new director. Anyone interested in this part-time job, please contact parent Diana Mueller at the school, 695-5669.

Car Wash a Sparkling Success

Fairmount teachers, students, and parents turned out in droves on a gray but warm Saturday, Oct. 16, to wash cars and sell clothes, toys, and baked goods at the school's eighth annual Car Wash and Rummage Sale.

Salsa music was blaring as people eagerly rolled up their sleeves to scrub down the endless stream of cars rolling through the Fairmount schoolyard. Shoppers and sellers alike packed the cafeteria as parents strolled in hour after hour to replenish the tamales, quesadillas, and pan dulce.

The weekend's festivities actually began on Friday afternoon, when one parent, a professional caterer, opened her home for a tamalada--a tamale-making party--where many parents helped roll the tasty chicken and pork treats in corn husks.

The event not only helped lift everyone's spirits, but raised thousands of dollars for field trips and art.

* * *

School Tours are held every Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. Interested parents can show up at 65 Chenery Street (the cross street is Randall) or call the school for more information, 695-5669.

--Jan Ruiz


Students' Altar on Tour at City Hall

It's unusually quiet in the Art Room this morning. With only a week left to complete a massive Day of the Dead altar for display on the main floor of City Hall, Alexandra Redfield's active seventh-graders are busy pasting strips of warm papier-mâché on their personal nichos, or altars, commemorating relatives, friends, or pets who have died.

Shamarea's nicho will be pink, the favorite color of her grandmother. She'll place a mirror inside it to reflect the memory of this person who always treated her with dignity and respect. Tamryn's nicho will pay tribute to his pets, who "all died of old age, except for my cat ate the bird." He's also honoring a pit bull his family had to give away because "the three cats bullied her too much."

Erin is making curtains and placing cooking utensils in her nicho in appreciation of an uncle who liked to cook. Ruby's nicho has two of everything: two doors, two crosses, and two chairs, for her two grandmothers who were very close in life. She'll also include a picture of them and write the word "love."

Pamela is making a table to go in front of her grandpa's picture because he's sitting on a sofa. Then she'll make a sign that says "Nicaragua" because that's where he died. Andy is still deciding just how to memorialize his best friend, who died in a car accident, and his grandfather, whose presence might provide some comfort for Andy's young friend.

Ms. Redfield reports that her students are very interested in the subject of death, and many of their favorite books relate to this topic. In addition to exploring different cultural traditions and discussing the students' attitudes about death, Ms. Redfield incorporates the teaching of complex academic skills into this unit. Students learn to cull information from scholarly sources using key words, highlighting, and graphic symbols.

Her sixth-grade classes are learning the principles of scientific illustration through the painting of still lifes containing skulls of herbivores and carnivores and shaping "sugar skulls" from clay for the Day of the Dead project. Her students will also fold 1,000 paper cranes to complete the altar, which will be installed in the main floor lobby of City Hall on Oct. 26 and remain on display for two weeks.

How to Survive and Thrive

A team of five James Lick staff and volunteers attended the "Ready to Learn: Helping Children Survive and Thrive" conference in October to develop positive alternatives for students in danger of dropping out of school. In addition to sharing successful strategies to keep students on campus, participants set up networks among their schools to continue trading ideas after the seminar.

Financial support for the program was provided through a grant written by the school's outreach coordinator, Annette Hughes, and funded by U.S. Senate Bill 65. Ms. Hughes, who meets regularly with teachers and families, emphasizes that the risk of dropping out occurs at all economic levels. Parent volunteer Patricia Hoskins brought back new strategies to deal with bullying and for helping students become more respectful of each other and of the Noe Valley community.

Art for Peace

With support from the San Francisco Educational Fund, James Lick Dean Adonis Ali Torres is establishing a James Lick Peace Initiative in response to the tragic loss of young lives due to violence in the communities where many of our students live. His project will encourage artistic expression in literature and art, as a way of helping students find peaceful ways to resolve conflict.

Working with the school's faculty, Mr. Torres also hopes to demonstrate the power of art and literature in shaping one's environment. The first phase of the project will involve a tribute to the city's fallen youth, and will include readings and a display of students' artistic works.

* * *

The James Lick Merchants/Community Alliance will continue to meet on the last Wednesday of the month at 12:30 p.m., with lunch provided. Noe Valley merchants and neighbors are welcome to attend.

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

Share Your Ideas, your talents, your enthusiasm, and support for a diverse and caring community. Please visit Room 107 or contact Denise Rueda, Parent Liaison, at 695-5675.

How to Contact Us: Call our message service for same-day response: 436-0349. Or you can come to the school at 1220 Noe Street, at Clipper Street.

--Sue Cattoche


Día de los Muertos Commemoration

This November is full of exciting activities at Alvarado, starting with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Altar and Assembly. The altar is a collaboration among many local artists, including Aiko Cuneo, Paul Lanier, and Marissa Kunz, and all the students and teachers at Alvarado. The enormous art piece will be on display on the stage in the school cafeteria during the first weeks of November and is a moving tribute to loved ones we have lost. On Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m., there will be a student performance commemorating el Día de los Muertos. There will be songs, beautiful handmade costumes, stories, and poems. It is a lovely event for the entire community.

Parent-Teacher Conferences are scheduled for the week of Nov. 1 to 5. While you're here, be sure to stop by and see the magnificent Day of the Dead altar.

Community Pitches In: On Saturday, Nov. 6, we invite our neighbors to join us for our Work Day. This is the day we fix up our school and really make it sparkle. We can use help of all sorts, from carpenters and painters, to folks with green thumbs or those handy with a feather-duster. Come by and pick your own group or individual project, and then have lunch with your fellow workers! We'll be working from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Reading Marathon: We will kick off our annual Read-a-thon on Monday, Nov. 8, so you will see more kids with their noses in books than at any other time of the year. If you would like to sponsor a child for this fundraiser, please contact the Alvarado PTA at 643-5540.

School Tours take place every Tuesday, promptly at 8:30 a.m. The tours last for one hour and conclude with a meeting with the principal. These tours will continue into January. You do not need a reservation to attend. Just meet outside the school office.

District Sampler: The San Francisco Unified School District enrollment fair will be on Nov. 13 at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Representatives from every public elementary, middle, and high school in the city will be on hand.

Chat with Principal David Weiner on the first Friday of each month from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Alvarado cafeteria. For more information, call 695-5695 or visit the school's web site at The address is 625 Douglass Street at Alvarado Street.

--Alvarado PTA President
Rebecka Hernandez Wright


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