Noe Valley Voice April 2006

School Report

Parents and volunteers report on the latest goings-on at Noe Valley's public schools: Fairmount Elementary, James Lick Middle, and Alvarado Elementary.


The Envelope, Please

Families from Noe Valley and its environs anxiously awaiting the decisions of the Educational Placement Center were opening their envelopes the weekend of March 5 to see if they had won the lottery and received their choice of schools.

Continuing recent enrollment trends at Fairmount, more parents requested spots for their kids in the Spanish-immersion program than were available at the school (40). Still, families of 60 new kindergartners were delighted to find their students joining the Class of 2012.

Another interesting trend showed up in this year's graduating class. Thirty-four of the current fifth-grade Spanish-immersion students will be continuing their education in the growing Spanish-immersion program at our Noe Valley sister school, James Lick Middle School.

As the school district's consent-decree ends, the San Francisco Unified School District will be developing a student assignment system to replace the old court-ordered process. Interested citizens should contact the district to find out about upcoming public hearings on the new assignment system, which will go into effect in the 2007­08 school year.

A Fair Mountain of Snow

More than 40 parents and kids, some of whom had never seen or played in snow before, journeyed to the Sierras the weekend of March 17 for Fairmount's first family snow trip. Hitting perfect weather (no chains!) and fresh white powder covering the pines, the group was delighted to find a winter wonderland.

Families skied, sledded, and built snowmen in the white powder. The trip, coordinated by parent Laurie Wigham, used the Sierra Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge in Norden, Calif., which provided a full meal service and a wonderful livingroom gathering place that enabled families to relax and enjoy one another's company in the evening.

The lodge offered a courtesy shuttle to the nearby Sugar Bowl ski resort as well as the opportunity to cross-country ski out the back of the lodge. At the end of the trip, parents brainstormed ways to get to the snow more often, including one-day trips during the next school year.

After-School Programs to Merge

After a yearlong planning process, the two after-school programs at Fairmount are preparing to merge into one. The new program will effectively use the resources of both to serve all the kids needing after-school care.

Growth and Learning Opportunities (formerly West Portal Care), which runs the current before-and-after-school program as well as the district-sponsored Amigos program, have been working together this year on a pilot basis to develop after-school activities that enable all of the students needing after-school care to participate.

With the assistance of a grant from the Mayor's Office of Community Development, the two programs have embarked on a series of program improvements, including the expansion of "choice time," which allows students who are done with their homework period to engage in activities such as sports, art, and earth and culture (which explores topics involving the earth).

Over one-third of the school community will be able to receive on-site after-school programming with the merger of the new programs for the upcoming 2006­07 school year. Tuition will be on a sliding-scale basis.

Looking Forward to FiestaVal

It's already happening. Students are practicing their songs and dances, parent volunteers are collecting fabulous auction donations, and the whole neighborhood is gearing up to join in the fun at our FiestaVal celebration, on May 20 this year. Look for more details in next month's Voice!

--Tom Ruiz


Lick Students Shine at Randall Museum Science Awards

All six students chosen to represent James Lick Middle School at this year's citywide science competition at the Randall Museum came home with ribbons!

Who have better memories, pre-teens or their parents? Boys or girls? If you want to know, ask Gianfranco Armas, whose project on memory won first prize among competing sixth-graders.

Sixth-grader Will Simons won second prize for demonstrating the effect of weight on the velocity of a skateboard. Seventh-graders Alazan Flores and Oscar Gates-Kent and sixth-graders Tania Nuñez and Courtney High were awarded honorable mention for their projects. These winners and several other James Lick students who were recognized at our own science fair earlier this year were honored at a pizza party on March 15.

Kudos to them, and to the wonderful teachers who helped them rise to the top.

Camp Gourmet Sizzles This Summer

Looking for something fun and tasty to do this summer? If you're between the ages of 11 and 14, you can learn how to read recipes, plan nutritious meals, and create mouthwatering dishes this summer when Camp Gourmet takes residence at James Lick School. Kids will learn how to cook, bake, and grill--and they'll get to eat, too. One-week sessions, which include field trips on Wednesdays, begin June 26. Call the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department at 205-5971 for more information.

Festival Heals Through Art and Poetry

Adonis Torres, dean of students at James Lick, has spent many years helping students use poetry and art to deal with the impact of violence on their lives. You are invited to view the students' creations and hear live poetry readings when Mr. Torres' organization, the San Francisco Peninsula Peace Initiative, presents the second annual Poetry and Art Festival of the Youth of San Francisco. The focus of the group is maintaining peace in our streets.

The event will take place on Thursday, May 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street at Grove, in the auditorium on the library's lower level. Finger food, coffee, tea, and cookies will be served. Please enter at 30 Grove Street and proceed directly downstairs to the lower level.

Yearbooks Keep Memories Alive

If you've been out of school for a decade or more, you've probably searched for your school yearbook at least once or twice, to recall old friends' names and faces. But if your family couldn't afford to buy a yearbook, would those treasured memories be lost forever?

Yearbook adviser Tobi Hacker and the 2006 yearbook staff extend thanks to all the members of the community who recently purchased ads and made donations to support the 2006 James Lick Yearbook. These donations are greatly appreciated, as we have a diverse population of students, many of whom cannot afford a yearbook. Checks payable to JLMS Yearbook are always welcome! If you'd like to help out, contact Ms. Hacker at the school, 695-5675, or e-mail tsachack@ And watch for a community event in May sponsored by the yearbook class, with music, dancing, food, and fun to benefit this very good cause.

Ashland Trip Was As Merry As the Day Is Long

By the time this report goes to press, we'll be on our way home from our fourth annual Shakespeare Festival field trip to Ashland, Ore., filled with new memories of crossing the Siskiyou Mountains into Oregon, touring Crater Lake, being awed by the size and beauty of the outdoor stage in beautiful Lithia Park, taking part in workshops, and watching the amazing plays. Thanks to all who helped us get there by supporting the school and our hard-working PTSA.

James Lick Enrollment Requests Up!

Word must be getting out about the good things that are happening at James Lick Middle School--enrollment requests increased significantly this year. With the many positive changes at the school, we anticipate that James Lick will soon become one of the most requested middle schools in the district!

The Littlest Bulldog

Congratulations to art teacher Alexandra Redfield Cohen and her husband, sixth-grade teacher Brian Cohen, on the birth of their daughter, Jada, born on March 6, 2006.

--Sue Cattoche


The Play's the Thing!

Following 24 weeks of hard work and fun in the school's theater classes, our fourth-grade students demonstrated the skills they learned by performing in four dramatic presentations last month: "The Stinky Cheese Man," "The Phantom Tollbooth," "Collected Folktales from Our Families of Origin," and "Two Plays," telling the life stories of Cesar Chavez and Roberto Clemente.

Bravo! to director Michelle Holdt Roderick, who has led Alvarado's young actors for the past five years, and a big round of applause for all the energetic students who bring us joy with their performances. We're really looking forward to May, when the fifth-graders will do another cycle of plays.

Backstage Tour at Bell

A big thank-you to the folks at Bell Market for hosting a tour of the store for 18 students in our Excel after-school program on Feb. 9. Max Millard reports that store manager Enrico Fornesi arranged the tour and longtime employee Laura Taylor guided the group through all the departments, including areas that shoppers rarely see: the huge walk-in refrigerators, the giant conveyer belts, and the meat preparation department upstairs.

At the end of the tour, Ms. Taylor gave the students two big packages of Valentine cookies and two bags of bright orange clementines. The store also supports the Excel cooking class each month with a $25 gift certificate. Thank you, Bell, for a fun and educational trip, and thank you, Max Millard, for telling us about it!

Gift Wrap Winners

If you happened to purchase gift wrap from our students or their families last fall, you'll be pleased to learn that the school raised almost $9,000 from this fundraiser, with half of the money going directly to teachers to pay for supplies and class projects. Congratulations to four budding young student entrepreneurs: top sellers Andre Retauro, Room 8; Charles Brady, Room B1; Solomon Perez, Room 15; and Juan Valencia, Room B2.

Rummage Sale April 22 & 23

The much-loved Alvarado Rummage Sale is coming to Noe Valley this month on Saturday, April 22, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, April 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday is the regular Fabulous Rummage Sale, and Sunday is our famous Bargain Clear-Out and Clean-Up Day, when people enter for a small admission and then take out as much as they can carry, lug, roll, or drive away.

This year, we are hoping that more people will come on Sunday, to ensure less stuff left over on Monday morning, since space is tight at school with all the construction going on. Don't miss the sale. All money earned will help fund wonderful programs. For more information, contact the school.

If you're doing your spring cleaning and want to donate the used or new stuff that is crowding your closets and cupboards, bring it to the school on the two preceding Saturdays, April 8 and 15, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. (No computers, stuffed animals, or mattresses please.)

Welcome, Kindergartners!

A warm welcome to all the new kindergarten students and families who have recently registered and who will be joining us next fall. It is great to see so many new faces!

Prop. A Construction

We are starting to see changes at the school, as the Prop. A­ funded construction project is well on its way to making Alvarado more accessible. Thank you again to our neighbors for your patience and support through this process. If you have questions, please stop by the principal's office.

Morning Drop-Off Zone

To help alleviate the double-parking on Douglass Street and around the school, parents please continue to pull around the corner of the school onto 22nd Street to drop your children off in the morning. The benefit to everyone is increased safety!

Contributing to the Alvarado School Report this month were Sue Cattoche, Lisa Barry, Christine Young, Max Millard, and Jo Wigley Baldwin. Thank you, everybody.


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

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

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