Noe Valley Voice February 2009

School Report

The parents and students at three local public schools--Fairmount, James Lick, and Alvarado--hit the ground running right after New Year's, in their race to raise money for school supplies, art, music, athletic and academic programs this spring.


Parents Draw Up a Merchants Guide

As the economy stumbles, as homes are foreclosed upon, as familiar storefronts end up taped over with cardboard, even in San Francisco--even in Noe Valley!--Fairmount families have come together, doing what they do best: helping each other out in a time of crisis.

It all started when one of the students' mothers sent out a note on the school listserv, saying her husband had just lost his construction job, and asking if anybody knew of any references to help him find work.

Other parents wrote notes about their skills, and their need for work in specific areas. Quickly, Fairmount realized our little community had a wealth of talent in many different areas. What would be better than to put together a booklet listing everyone's specialties?

Each person who wanted to advertise in the "Fairmount Family Merchant Guide" donated $20 to the school, and the list is being posted on the school website,, for all to have access to.

Nancy Ganner, a Fairmount PTA mom (and real estate agent), launched the merchants guide "to not only help raise funds for our school, but also to support our families outside of school. Everyone's business is down with this economy, and I thought, If you need to hire a carpenter, an attorney, a cleaner, a psychologist, or get a massage, why not seek one right here in our Fairmount circle and we can help each other in these tough times."

Oh, and don't forget that the list has real estate agents. Now is the perfect time to buy in San Francisco, right, Nancy?

Raffle and a Pizza Party

Speaking of how Fairmount families help each other, our raffle in December brought in a hefty $10,000. The bounty will go toward ballet folklorico, drama, science through gardening, capoeira instruction, choir, librarian support, and $250 to each teacher for supplies.

In January, parents and kids contributed to another fun fundraiser. Giovanni's Pizza on Mission Street at Richland Avenue, a pleasant walk from the school, had agreed to donate 20 percent of all revenues earned on a Thursday night to the school. The event was such a success, there were lines out the door all evening long, and some people didn't get seated for an hour or had to order their pizza to go.

But everyone enjoyed talking to one another, and those who decided to buy a gift certificate to use on another date discovered a treasured new pizza parlor, one that supports our school.

Bunking Down in Bungalows

And the new year has brought a few changes at Fairmount School, changes that may seem difficult, but that will eventually help disabled students enjoy our campus as much as the rest of us do. Construction began in January in the upper C pod, requiring students to move into bungalows on the lower yard while the space is made accessible. In May, the students will move back into their renovated quarters, while the next part of the project begins.

--Jan Goben


Silent Auction--a Neighborhood Tradition

Economy? What tough economy? Isn't it always a good time to get a $5 "bottomless" glass for your beer or wine, and to bid on haircuts, dinners at local restaurants, and of course art? You betcha.

That's why James Lick Middle School students, parents, and staff invite you to attend or participate in our annual silent auction. This year it's called "Frolick for Lick." And donations from 24th Street merchants--including Global Exchange, Valley Chiropractic, Hot Headz, and Tip Top Nails--are already pouring in.

Every dollar gleaned from the auction will go to providing students with essential equipment, such as academic planners, sweatshirts, and school supplies, as well as treats like a trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the spring.

The auction, which will include professionally catered appetizers donated by a community member, will be held on Saturday, March 7, right here in the neighborhood at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street, 6 to 10 p.m.

Biking and Bowling

In other news: This spring, James Lick's fitness room will expand to include new cardio bike machines, elliptical riders, and climbing machines, thanks to two generous grants to the physical education department, totaling $3,000. A workday will be held soon to put the equipment together so kids can start biking and climbing, even on rainy days.

Also, money from the voter-approved Proposition H has arrived, and the PE department will be using its portion to add indoor bowling to the class schedule. Lanes and pins will be set up in the gym, and kids will be bowling strikes in no time. The Prop. H funds will also buy circus skill equipment, tumbling mats, and tennis sets, and new uniforms for every Lick athletic team.

Gearing Up for College

These days, it's never too soon to start planning for college. At James Lick, students get a lot of help in that area. Two school programs--GEAR UP and First Graduate--have been making a difference.

In January, GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) sponsored College 101 Night, a workshop that got students and their parents thinking strategically about getting into the college of their dreams. No straight A's? How about an impressive community service record? U.C. too pricey? Start at City College and transfer to Berkeley later.

Presentations at the event included a crash course on the school district's new high school course requirements, a primer on how to fill out an application for financial aid, and a discussion of organizations and websites to help with scholarships.

"We want to make sure our families have access to all the options available to them to get into college," says Mary Archer, James Lick's coordinator for GEAR UP.

Archer notes that besides workshops, GEAR UP organizes field trips for the students and families, to San Francisco State, U.C. Berkeley, and Stanford. "They are absolutely eye-opening," says Archer. "For the first time, a lot of kids start saying, 'Hey, I want to go here!'"

She's happy to report, "We have a college-going culture at Lick."

At College 101 Night, GEAR UP was assisted by Martin de Muchas Flores from SF Promise (the mayor's new college program for all sixth-graders), Omar Butler from College Track, Shane Maldonado from PACT Inc., Anthony Mickens from First Graduate, and Leonor Jackson, Lick's parent liaison. For more information on GEAR UP, call Archer at the school, 695-5675.

Graduate First

Every spring, dozens of sixth-grade students are chosen for a program called First Graduate (formerly B.A.Y. Fund). The "First" means these kids will be the first in their families to graduate from college. Currently, there are 23 students at Lick who are First Graduate students, and more will be recruited this spring.

The program, which is free, has graduated over 20 students who now are either freshmen or sophomores in a four-year college.

First Graduate gives year-round support to the students, from middle school through college--working with their families, giving academic help, mentoring, school counseling, and then college support--for the skills and confidence necessary to become a college graduate.

To apply for First Graduate, parents can go to

--Heidi Anderson


Flights of Fancy?

Wine connoisseurs can join the usual crew of eager shoppers and art lovers to find treasure at the 16th annual Not-So-Silent Auction to benefit Alvarado Elementary School. Titled "Flights of the World," this year's auction, on Saturday, March 21, promises to give our community's diversity the rosy hue of a mellow red.

The event isn't just about drinking--it's about education! say the organizers. How so? Bidders will war over flights of wine--bottles selected as much for taste as for regional character--from countries that school families have ties to.

If food is more enticing than liquid refreshment, party-goers can pool their resources to win group galas, like dinners made by local chefs. Also on the auction block are tickets to ball games and concerts, restaurant gift certificates, summer camps, weekend getaways, and handmade jewelry and crafts.

Auctioneer and Alvarado parent Bruce Kapsack will put his theatrics to work selling the ever-popular student art at the live auction. As in the past, parents and friends will vie to outbid one another on mirrors, tables, and paintings that the kids have been making since fall.

Meanwhile, the bar will be flowing, food will be buffeting, and a band will be rocking the house--all for a ticket price of $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The time and location will be the same as last year's blowout: 6 to 11 p.m., at the Janet Pomeroy Center, 207 Skyline Boulevard, San Francisco.

Cash-and-Carry Boutique

This year, there are two extra components of the auction. The science room is set to become a Pre-Auction Boutique the week of parent-teacher conferences (March 16-20), giving families an opportunity to buy "cash and carry" items like games, books, gift certificates to local shops and restaurants, and other economically priced items. Nothing in the boutique will cost more than $50.

"All the parents will be coming through school that week, and we thought turning the science room into a boutique would be a great low-key way for everyone in our community to participate in the auction this year. We know that it's not possible for everyone to come to the auction, but everyone can stop by Room 16 and pick up one or two items that they need," said auction co-planner Angela Danison.

Raffle to Be Grand

Danison and her auction partner Gabriele Lange also added a Grand Raffle to generate excitement around the fundraiser. Tickets can be purchased for $25 each (or five for $100, for those who want to up their odds). The grand prize is a fully and finely stocked wine cooler. The second- and third-place prizes are an adult bicycle (or $300 if the winner chooses) and a Blu-ray video disc player.

Those interested in making donations to the auction are invited to call the school at 695-5695 and leave a message. Auction coordinators will return calls promptly. The public is invited to the auction and to join the Grand Raffle.

For more information, visit the auction portion of the school's website at www

--Heather World


Alvarado Elementary School
Robert Broecker, Principal
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado

Fairmount Elementary School
Ana Lunardi, Principal
65 Chenery Street at Randall

James Lick Middle School
Bita Nazarian, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street