Noe Valley Voice September 2003

School Report

By Susan Cattoche

Editor's Note: With this issue of the Voice, writer Susan Cattoche will be expanding her School Report to include both James Lick and Alvarado schools, the two public schools located in "Downtown" Noe Valley. She also may report to the Voice on other local schools, on an occasional basis. Before working as a volunteer at James Lick over the past few years, Cattoche taught English in the middle grades, developed curricula for multicultural education, and helped design parent-involvement programs for the San Francisco Unified School District. A Noe Valley resident for 15 years, she shares her 1890 cottage "with a big, feisty cat and a mild-mannered drummer." Here's the first installment of what we hope will always be good news from Alvarado School.

Alvarado's Test Scores Shoot Up

From a distance, Alvarado Elementary School is a pale yellow beacon shining from the intersection of Alvarado and Douglass streets. Come closer, and you will notice that the fancifully shaped windows on the Douglass Street facade, outlined in pastel shades of lavender, green, and blue, are as bright, and as diverse, as the students who learn there.

Alvarado has long been known for its exemplary artists-in-residence program, established in 1968, and for its Spanish-English immersion program. Now it has a new claim to fame.

Principal David Weiner was ecstatic when the results from the rigorous California Standards Test were released in mid-August. "We had one of the biggest increases in achievement test scores in the entire district," said Weiner. For example, Alvarado's fourth-graders jumped to 60 percent proficient in language arts this year, up from 35 percent last year; and to 59 percent proficient in math, up from 24 percent the year before.

"The wonderful thing is that these gains were across the board, for all of our students, in every subject area," he said. "They included lower-income students, disabled students, African-American students, and Latino students. We are really closing the achievement gap."

Weiner attributes the school's outstanding gains to "many programs working together." He cited "wonderful, dedicated teachers who put in hours on end; parents who help wherever they are needed most, not just in their own children's classrooms; a wonderful curriculum, including strong programs in the arts, science, and technology; a three-hour after-school academic program designed to help students catch up; and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's Excellence for All plan, which concentrates resources exactly where they are needed most."

Parent Sandra Halladey chimes in: "Mr. Weiner is much too modest. His strong leadership has made a huge difference."

Alvarado serves 550 students in grades K-5. Students live in Noe Valley, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, Bernal Heights, and the Mission. School tours are Tuesday mornings at 9:30 a.m. Parents and neighbors who would like to visit the school may call the office for more information.

Note: The Noe Valley Voice profiled David Weiner (October 2002) as he began his first year as a school principal.

Miracles in August at James Lick

James Lick Middle School on Noe Street was uncharacteristically quiet this summer, with no summer classes in session and only a few kids using the playground. The specter of budget cuts and layoffs seemed to cast a pall over the school after it closed in June. Yet behind the scenes, Principal Janice Daniels was very busy. She conferred with merchants and attended meetings of neighborhood groups; talked to neighbors, consulted with parents, and listened to students. Despite the financial meltdown, the school really would be repainted, inside and out, and Daniels wanted maximum community input in selecting the new colors.

In August the trucks arrived. First, there was a new roof. Then scaffolding on the exterior, and prep work commenced. Soon, fresh white paint ("Swiss Coffee") brightened the largest areas of the building, with a soft, grayed-green ("Silver Lace Vine") accenting the architectural details. Doors and windows were outlined in a deep, muted purple ("Widow's Walk").

Visitors arriving to register for classes found the interior brightened by "Honey Moon" white paint, highlighting the elaborate plaster details of the foyer ceiling. Soft beige "Dakota Land" and gentle green "Lapis" mimic colors found on the school's beautiful tiles.

Thanks to the efforts of a lot of wonderful people, James Lick's staff survived the layoffs, including art teacher Alexandra Redfield, who was mentioned here in June and profiled on TV Channel 7 as an example of a teacher facing a layoff.

Coffee with the Principal: Parents, neighbors, and merchants are invited to join Principal Janice Daniels for coffee between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on the last Friday of each month in Room 107, for 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.

Make a Difference! Please visit Room 107 or contact Denise Rueda, Parent Liaison, at 695-5675. Share your ideas, your talents, your enthusiasm, and support for a diverse and caring community. h