Noe Valley Voice June 2006

School Report

James Lick, Fairmount, and Alvarado School all checked in this month with their campus news.


Lick Student Honored by S.F. Giants

On May 12, Willie Mays presented James Lick seventh-grader Reuben Raff with the "Say Hey" Award for Community Service during a Giants game at AT&T Park on Mays' 75th birthday. Reuben was selected from among all the students in the district for the honor, which includes a $2,400 savings bond.

Peer Resources teacher Sarah Jones describes Reuben as someone who leads by example. "For instance," she relates, "last week we got a new Special Needs student in class. Without asking or prompting, Reuben decided to work with him on a class project. I overheard another student ask Reuben if he knew the new student previously, and Reuben replied no."

Jones says Reuben has been an outstanding conflict mediator and peer educator both inside and outside school. "He has a long history of volunteering for various organizations and causes, such as the soup kitchen. What truly strikes me about Reuben is his sincerity and humbleness in his random acts of kindness. They are not to win approval or recognition. It is, I believe, his internal compass of what is right and wrong that drives him, and his desire to do good in the world." Congratulations, Reuben, and keep on batting a thousand.

Eighth-Graders Moving on Up

After our eighth-graders pick up their diplomas on June 14, members of the Class of 2006 will advance to at least 14 different high schools, with 61 percent qualifying for slots at the city's top academic campuses. According to a chart published in the student newspaper Uncertain Times, the most popular destinations for the Class of '06 include Lincoln (28%); Lowell (15%); Washington, SOTA (School of the Arts), and O'Connell (9% each); and Wallenberg and Balboa (6% each). We are very proud of all of our graduates, and wish them great success wherever they go.

Parents Prepare for High School, Too

On May 30, Jeffrey Leiken, a nationally recognized expert and teen mentor, spoke on the topic "Moving From Middle to High School: Guiding Our Teens." Leiken provided parents with a glimpse of what's going on in their kids' minds during this important transition, and shared the latest scientific research on the teen brain. Leiken also emphasized what parents and educators can do to help teenagers live up to their full potential.

A related presentation by our own staff is scheduled for June 6 at 6:30 p.m., when Marna Blanchard and Andy Grimstad will lead "Get Ready for High School Night." The two veteran teachers will share their experience and expertise to help families understand the application and admission process, and place their children in the San Francisco high schools that will work best for them.

Immersion Program Still Growing

The size of next fall's incoming sixth-grade immersion class has increased from 60 to 90 students for the 2006­07 school year. With the continuing expansion of Spanish-immersion programs in the elementary schools, James Lick is in an excellent position to respond to the increased demand for similar classes at the middle school level.

Music, Talent, Fashion, and Dance!

The legendary James Lick Talent and Fashion Show debuted on May 25 with a matinee for the students, followed by an evening performance for parents and friends on May 26. Mr. Storbeck's guitar students, who only a month ago were seeing their guitars for the first time, amazed everyone by performing covers of Buffalo Springfield and Rolling Stones songs.

Thanks are due to after-school program director Lina Hancock, Ms. Mathews, and Ms. Lim for organizing and producing this highly anticipated event; to all the students who auditioned and performed; and to the many volunteers who helped to make it happen.

Only a day later, many of the same James Lick families were at work building a float for the annual San Francisco Carnaval Parade, while a thundering contingent of drummers, 80 elaborately-costumed dancers, and numerous in-line skaters practiced their steps and rhythms in preparation for the big event, held Sunday, May 28. Following the parade, families returned to the school for an End of Year Potluck Picnic--to play games, jump rope, dismantle the float, eat, and say goodbye to our departing eighth-grade families.

Time to Thank Our Volunteers!

Parent liaison Maria Camposeco extended her appreciation to all the parents who helped out during the school year, most recently during the annual period of standardized testing, when parent volunteers brought in, sliced and diced, and distributed more than 500 healthy snacks every day. Not only did they help our students stay focused, but they gave the kids the message loud and clear: you have our support and we want you to succeed.

Camposeco recognized parents Suzie Balenzuela, Leonor Jackson, and Daisy Hernandez for showing up early every day and helping to coordinate the distribution. She also thanked the members of the Latino Families Club and the James Lick PTSA, who have been so generous with their time throughout the school year; and Foods Co., Good Life Grocery, Bell Market, Carcione's Fresh Produce, and Noah's Bagels for their generous contributions to our youth.

--Sue Cattoche


FiestaVal Raises $40,000 for Arts

Saturday morning May 20 began cloudy with a forecast for rain, but the day soon exploded into sunshine as parents, kids, staff, and community members came to celebrate another outstanding year at Fairmount's annual party, FiestaVal.

Hundreds of attendees witnessed a wide variety of student performances, sponsored by the money raised each year at FiestaVal. Ballet Folklorico, featuring colorful Mexican costumes, delighted the crowd, as did the performance by the ballroom dance class. The Falcon Choir, under the direction of Vernon Bush, sang a series of songs in English and Spanish, and beckoned the enthusiastic audience to join in. The student guitarists showed their continuing development under the tutelage of their music teachers.

Capping the biggest springtime fiesta ever held at Fairmount, Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort proudly declared: "Our students were able to demonstrate where the money goes and the value of the programs we are funding. The performances of the different groups showed that giving children the opportunity to shine in the artistic arena will support them in their academic learning. As they learn to focus through art, they also learn to focus on academic content areas."

More than $40,000 was raised through a mix of activities, including a silent auction featuring many services and meals donated by Noe Valley merchants and restaurants, as well as a public auction of student-made crafts from each grade. Games, food sales, and raffle ticket sales of more than $8,000 contributed to the total. The largest single auction item raised $5,000 for a banquet dinner for 50 people at the Chenery House mansion next door, donated by Fairmount neighbor and political philanthropist Bob Pritikin. Another hot item was a 30-minute private tour of City Hall and the mayor's office, conducted by none other than His Honor Gavin Newsom.

Big people and small people, speaking many different languages, shared the homemade papusas and other international cuisine as they listened to the student performers. The experience was another reminder of how lucky they were to be a part of the Fairmount school community.

A Boost for Before and After School

Next year marks the beginning of a major initiative to support a unified before- and after-school program to support the needs of Fairmount's working families. Using combined funding sources from the school district, the PTA, the school site council, and a sliding-scale tuition, two formerly separate programs will be merged to provide high-quality academic support and enrichment activities for all Fairmount students who need them. A major addition will be the expansion of the before-school program, which provides supervised activities and breakfast each morning beginning at 7 a.m.

The new program will be administered by the non-profit organization Growth and Learning Opportunities (GLO), which has run the Fairmount After School program over the past five years. GLO has also committed additional resources to kick-start the first year of the program. Added to the mix will be the Amigos program, which is currently funded by the school district. The Mayor's Department of Children, Youth, and Families has signaled its support with a grant, and the school hopes to raise an additional $30,000 to continue to develop a model program that could be replicated at other sites.

--Tom Ruiz


Last Chance to Boogie Down

Don't expect the folks at Alvarado to slow down just because the school year is almost over--they're planning another dance party! So get ready to put on your dancing shoes on Friday, June 9, for the third annual Boogie Night. The end-of-the-year dancing celebration starts at 9 p.m., and there's no telling when it will end.

Alvarado parents, teachers, and staff will have a get-down, groovy time celebrating all the hard work done this year. They'll also give goodbye hugs to the teachers and staff, and say hasta la vista to all the graduating families. Everyone will have fun dancing to disco, Motown, salsa, swing, hip-hop, and more, played by Alvarado's own in-house deejays. There will be a rotating king-and-queen dance for the "graduating" teachers, staff, and parents who have done so much for the school. Let's give them all a shout-out and final hurrah! Tickets for the adults-only event go on sale June 5 to 9 at the school.

Spring Fair at James Lick

As we go to press, Alvarado families are busy making final preparations for the annual Spring Fair (also known as Spring Carnival) on Saturday, June 3, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Due to construction at the Alvarado site, this year's Spring Fair will take place at James Lick Middle School--but this year only! Be sure to stop by for some great food, fun, games, and fabulous prizes! Your support of this event will help us continue to bring arts, sciences, and other enrichment activities to our students.

Brunch to Honor Volunteers

The Alvarado School staff will be providing brunch for our wonderful parent and community volunteers on Friday, June 9, from 8 to 9 a.m., in the Motor Skills Room. We'd be lost without their tireless support!

Benefit for Clay Program

Last month, the clay artists at Ruby's Clay Studio on Noe Street presented a Teapot and Tea Bowl Show and Sale as a benefit for the Alvarado School clay program. The show was up from May 17 through May 30, with a "tea party" reception on May 21 to raise money for our school.

The Velvet Hammer

On May 25, the Alvarado PTA grant writing committee hosted their second annual Velvet Hammer event at Onramp Studios to thank all those who have supported Alvarado Elementary School in the past, and to introduce new people and organizations to the programs provided by the Alvarado PTA.

Paul Lanier Leaving Alvarado

After nine years as artist-in-residence, clay artist Paul Lanier will be leaving Alvarado at the end of this school year. In a letter to the Alvarado community, Lanier wrote: "The time has come for me to return to my other studio to concentrate on my own artwork. I am very proud of the work we have accomplished together and all of the fantastic arts programming that has benefited our children. I believe that the high quality of our arts programs, and in particular our clay program, was a significant contributor to the success of our school and to the fact that we are now one of the most highly sought after elementary schools in the city. I hope that you will all continue to advocate for the Alvarado Arts program, which focuses on the hiring of professional artists to teach our students.

"The opportunity to work in clay is so valuable to our students. They love clay, they make great pieces, the material is unique in how it introduces complex three-dimensional geometry and proportions as part of their early understanding of their physical world. It also enriches their academic experience."

Lanier's mother, sculptor Ruth Asawa, was a pioneering advocate for the arts at Alvarado in the late 1960s, and helped build the school's outstanding arts program. After assisting in the selection of a new clay artist for the school, Lanier hopes to expand on his experience with public and private art projects and commissions.

School Ends June 15!

On June 14, we'll say goodbye to our graduating fifth-graders, and school will end for the rest of our students on June 15. As the year comes to a close, we would like to thank the parents, teachers, and staff for all their hard work that has made this such a great year at Alvarado. Have a great summer and see everyone in the fall!

--Lisa Barry and Sue Cattoche


James Lick Middle School
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street
415-695-5675 or 415-436-0349
Carmelo Sgarlato, Principal

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

Alvarado Elementary School
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado
Clementina Durón, Principal