Noe Valley Voice December-January 2003

School Report

Editor's Note: We're pleased to announce that our school news now includes a report from Fairmount Elementary School, written by volunteer parent Jan Goben. Fairmount is located on the southern tip of Noe Valley at Chenery and Randall streets. And as you can see, language and the arts are becoming school specialties.


From Morning Circle to Evening Poetry

As a group of Fairmount School second-graders sings a Spanish song for other students, parents, and teachers at the daily morning circle, their principal, Karling Aguilera-Fort, stands behind them, clapping, swaying, and tapping his toes.

Morning circle is a time for the school community to gather to hear announcements and receive awards. It is also a time when Aguilera-Fort encourages the students to share in one of his passions: the celebration of the Spanish literary tradition.

Now, kids and parents are following Aguilera-Fort to an event where he helps the community do just that. One Friday evening a month (usually the last Friday), Aguilera-Fort is the master of ceremonies at a gathering at El Valenciano Restaurant, 1153 Valencia Street, where anyone is invited to stand up and recite a poem from memory, in Spanish. It is a tradition performed in Spanish-speaking countries, on buses or in local plazas, and El Valenciano keeps up the tradition with a piano player accompanying the participants and Aguilera-Fort weaving together the recitations with his narrative.

Elementary and middle school students sometimes get up to recite their favorites. And now a group of English-speaking parents who are taking Spanish classes from second-grade teacher Loreta Torres is descending upon El Valenciano on the poetic Friday evenings. Who knows, perhaps as they become fluent, they will venture forward to recite poetry as well. The evenings are magical, filled with warmth and music.

Gardening Club: Fairmount invites anyone who is interested to join in the monthly Roly Poly Gardening Club to help keep the school grounds beautiful. Parents, students, and neighbors gather to plant flowers, pick up trash, and pull weeds. The upcoming Roly Poly days are Sunday, Dec. 21, and Saturday, Jan. 17, 9 a.m. to noon. Bring your gloves and meet a neighbor.

School Tours: The deadline for kindergarten enrollment is quickly approaching--Jan. 16--and parents are encouraged to visit Fairmount and learn more about its programs, including Spanish Immersion, English Language Development, and special education classes. Tours are held every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.; no appointment is necessary. For information, call the school at 695-5669.

Chevy's Night: Anyone who would like to support Fairmount School or get to know the community better is welcome to join families at Chevy's Restaurant in Stonestown on Dec. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. When diners present a Fairmount/ Chevy's flyer, 20 percent of the check is donated to Fairmount. Stop by the school to pick up a flyer, or message chris@ to have one sent to you.

--Jan Goben


Teacher Luis Sierra Honored

Alvarado third-grade Spanish Immersion teacher Luis Sierra was selected "San Francisco Teacher of the Month" for October by 826 Valencia, an organization that helps students develop their writing skills in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, and English as a second language.

The 826 staff was especially pleased to honor Sierra because his students and their parents wrote wonderful letters describing how he made math fun, played soccer after school with students, and taught them compassion through their literature assignments. Moreover, he created new ways for working parents to participate in their children's school experiences, and even wrote letters to each of his students during the summer while visiting his family in Mexico.

Director Ninive Caligari adds, "We were thrilled when so many families from the Alvarado community came to the award presentation to applaud and support our decision." The program, which is located at 826 Valencia Street, offers free drop-in tutoring, workshops, and school field trips (as well as pirate supplies!).

Books Inc. Tutors: Alvarado School has entered into a new partnership with local bookseller Books Inc. to provide reading tutors for the school's students. San Francisco School Volunteers will assist by preparing Books Inc. employees to work with young readers.

Playground Plans: Parents and students will select one of three proposed plans currently on display in the first-floor hallway for the new "Dream Playground," which will be built at the Douglass Street school on March 9, 2004, by members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. All of the safe and accessible playground configurations include ramps, bridges, ladders, slides, forts, and playhouses where differently-abled children can play together safely. If you would like to volunteer to help on March 9, please call the school for details.

School Tours: Come take a tour on Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. through Dec. 12.

Chats with the Principal: Alvarado Principal David Weiner opens his doors on the first and third Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m. For more information, call 415-695-5695 or visit the school's web site at

--Susan Cattoche


First-Ever James Lick Scrabble Tournament

It's only 8 a.m. when the clatter of wooden tiles shatters the silence of the school library. Dictionaries in hand, a group of students tackles an hour of before-school practice with coach Addie Lanier, a.k.a. Our School Librarian. Poring over their purple Scrabble Cheat Sheets, these verbal athletes are learning how two- and three-letter words can help them add vital points to their scores. ("Hey, what's an edh? Is that really a word?" Yes.)

Contestants agree to attend training sessions before school or at lunchtime; read for 30 minutes every day to build their vocabularies; and commit to attending all three sessions of the tournament: Dec. 10, 11, and 13. In contrast to the usual Scrabble rules, students will be encouraged to use dictionaries during tournament play because, remarks Lanier, "It's another way for them to learn, and that's the most important thing."

Hoop Dreams: Members of the James Lick boys' and girls' basketball teams traveled to Stanford University on Nov. 25 to watch the famous Stanford Women's Basketball team in action. The outing was sponsored by GEAR UP, a program which promotes early preparation for college.

New Student Leaders: Marcelo Pereira has been elected student body president; Antonio Ayala, vice president; Maya Danaher, secretary; and Ian Steinman, treasurer. Could there be a future mayor or "governator" in this outstanding group of student leaders?

Stone Soup: Parent volunteer Patricia Hoskins organized a special pre-Thanksgiving lunch on Nov. 25 in the Parent Room for the many parents, staff, and volunteers who bring meaning to the word "community" at James Lick. The menu featured Hoskins' legendary Seven Bean Soup, cornbread, and rice.

The Candy Cane Alliance: Noe Valleyans are smiling as they stuff quarters into parking meters during the holiday season because James Lick students working in alliance with the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association wrapped each of the one-legged bandits with colorful ribbons on Nov. 29.

Mexico Trip: The school's annual Mexico trip will bring many students to Merida, Yucatan, the week of Feb. 15 to 22. Several of our students are looking for sponsors who can help them cover expenses for this valuable experience.

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.

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

Make a Difference! Please visit Room 107 or contact Denise Rueda at 415-695-5675. Share your ideas, talent, and support for a diverse and caring community.

--Susan 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


The San Francisco Unified School District is enrolling children for the 2004­05 school year. The deadline for enrollment for kindergarten, middle school, or high school is Jan. 16; the deadline for siblings and special education students is Dec. 5. All new students, all students in fifth or eighth grade, and all students who want to apply for a transfer to a new school must come to the district's Educational Placement Center at 555 Franklin Street.