Noe Valley Voice March 2006

School Report

Here's the latest scoop on James Lick Middle School and Alvarado and Fairmount elementary schools, provided by school parents and volunteers.


Students Hit the Books

There were a lot of pages turning at Alvarado Elementary in the last few days of February, as students raced toward the finish line in the school's annual Read-a-thon. Under the guidance of new principal Clementina Durón, who has made literacy her focus this year, the kids were bursting with enthusiasm over this wordy event.

The two-week competition got off to a colorful start on Monday, Feb. 13, with Literacy Club members dressed in colorful hats announcing the Read-a-thon at the morning assembly and then visiting all the classrooms to hand out reading logs and pledge sheets.

Lily Barry, who headed up the Read-a-thon this year, reported a very excited parent calling her to thank her for the event. The excited mom said, "Until tonight, my daughter had only read a few words at a time. She's so excited about the Read-a-thon that she took three books into her room tonight and read the first three pages of a chapter book!"

The students were working towards rewards for beating last year's total reading time of 35,621 minutes (that's almost 600 hours). The classroom with the most minutes was vying for a prize as well.

The Biggest Event of the Year

Mark Saturday, March 18, on your calendar, because that's when Alvarado's Not-So-Silent Auction will take place, from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Fort Mason Conference Center in Landmark Building A.

We'll have both live and silent auctions, and live music with Ralph Carney's Gaucho Jazz Band. Some of the great auction items already donated include meals at local restaurants; hotel stays; kids' camps and activities; private wine-tastings and tours; gym memberships; and family portraits.

Tickets are $15 in advance (purchase them in the front hallway March 13 to 17) or $20 at the door. Donations are still being accepted--contact Mara by e-mail at

Watch for Trucks and Cars

* Construction is under way at Alvarado funded by the Proposition A bond measure. Expect large trucks around the school in the coming months.

* We have a 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!

* The annual rummage sale will still happen in mid-April despite construction; details to follow next month.

--Lisa Barry


¡Hola! from Costa Rica

From Feb. 16 to 25, a contingent of 50 James Lick students and their adult chaperones were busy exploring the rain forests, volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls, and natural hot springs in Costa Rica, truly a paradise for anyone who loves the natural world. In the protected area of Tortuguero, they found themselves among monkeys, toucans, parrots, morpho butterflies, manatees, and sea turtles. Near the awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano, surrounded by magnificent rain forests, they felt the ground shake from the daily seismic shifting of the earth and occasional eruptions of steam, rocks, and hot lava. Our thanks go out to all who made these experiences possible by supporting our International Travel Program.

Linocuts on Display at Tully's

Congratulations to 15 talented James Lick artists whose striking black-and-white linocut prints are being exhibited through March at Tully's coffee shop on 24th Street (next to Bell Market). The sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders made their prints through a process called linocut, also known as linoleum cut. Students carve a design into a block of linoleum, and then roll ink over a printing plate to create an image.

Special thanks to the Ruth Asawa Fund, the James Lick PTSA, and the James Lick Merchant, Student, and Community Alliance, for making this project possible. A reception for the young artists will be held at Tully's on March 3 from 4 to 5 p.m. Contact Sandra Halladey at Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco at 468-7077 or www.ppssf .org for additional information.

The sixth-grade students who participated in the show were Elizabeth Arellano, Andreas August, Emma Brenner-Bryant, Kristyne Cardenas, Emma Lanier, Jennifer Robles, and Julian Stickley. The seventh-graders were Madeleine Buck, Roberto Garcia, Isidro Johnson, Audrey Larkin, Marvin Sampedro, and Steven Tijerino. Noel Anderson and Jonathan Bosquez were the eighth-grade artists in the group.

Reading is FUN!damental

On Feb. 9, James Lick held the first of three monthly book giveaways sponsored by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a program that promotes reading for fun and recreation. Each language arts class is scheduled to come to the library for 10 minutes each month, and students may choose new paperbacks from tables filled with books. With support from the RIF Foundation, SFUSD, and the James Lick parent organization, over 1,600 new paperbacks have been provided.

Focusing on the Family

Principal Carmelo Sgarlato's monthly breakfast chat with parents on Feb. 17 emphasized family communication and connection. Marriage and family therapist Harriet Schatz was on hand to discuss family relationships and strategies to help families work together, become more resilient (and more positive), and balance the demands of the workplace with the challenges of raising young adolescents. Following her presentation, a representative from the Bay Fund advised parents on ways to get tutoring, mentoring, and funds for their children's education through the group. For more information on this and future presentations, contact Maria Camposeco, James Lick's parent liaison, at 695-5675.

Vintage Pirates Help Out Auction

Our 2006 auction was an enormous success, thanks to all the parents and staff who solicited donations, sold tickets, and volunteered to set up (and clean up), serve food, deejay the event, and do stuff on their computers. A thank-you also to the many Noe Valley merchants who donated items, especially the new donors.

Highlights of the auction included red-and-white vintage James Lick athletic bags from the bygone era when the school's athletes were called the Pirates, Asawa/Lanier family art donations, Mayor Gavin Newsom's donation of a private tour at City Hall, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty's tickets to a 2006 49er football game. But the Henderson kids and their friends stole the show with their amazing acrobatic skills! It truly takes an entire community to make this a successful event.

Keeping in Touch

If you'd like to get in on the action, call the school at 695-5675, leave a message at 436-0349, or drop by 1220 Noe Street, near Clipper Street. Thank you for sharing your ideas, talents, enthusiasm, and support for our public schools.

--Sue Cattoche


Parents Turn Out for School Summit

More than 100 parents and staff members turned out on Friday, Feb. 10, to receive a progress report on Fairmount students' learning gains over the past year. Upon viewing data compiled by the California Standardized Testing Program, parents were delighted to find that all ethnic and language groups had made gains over the previous year. School Site Council Chair Ken Jones reported that language arts scores had risen 4.7 percent, while mathematics scores had improved 5.9 percent schoolwide. Dongshil Kim, Fairmount's instructional reform facilitator, provided an analysis that showed Fairmount's 6 percent gain for all English language learners was the second largest among the school district's six Spanish-immersion elementary schools.

A unique feature of the meeting was that it was held in Spanish with English-only-speaking parents receiving simultaneous translation from a bilingual parent on headsets provided by the SFUSD. The English-speaking parents gained an appreciation for how the Spanish-speaking parents usually obtain information at the school's translated meetings.

Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort attributed the strong academic gains to a new coordinated approach to the curriculum. The new approach had teachers from all grade levels forming teams and sharing teaching methods. They also adhered to the same language and math standards. In addition, the school this year grouped students by level, for more intensive language learning, as well as supported two on-site literacy teachers to work with small groups of students needing extra assistance.

After the data presentation and an inspirational talk on parent involvement (by Noe Valley resident Ramon Martines, who works in the district's parent relations office), the participants broke into smaller groups to discuss the ways parents and teachers could improve their ability to support student learning at Fairmount.

The night ended with an ice cream social. Earlier, the students had enjoyed pizza and a movie while their parents talked.

A second community summit will be held in March to discuss which of the ideas developed at the February meeting to implement and what budget priorities to suggest to the School Site Council for 2006­07.

Ballroom Dancing Coming to Fairmount

Fairmount, in conjunction with Brava Theater, is hosting a fundraiser on Sunday, April 2, at 3 p.m. at Brava Theater Center on 2781 24th Street in the Mission. New Line Theater has agreed to let the school premiere Antonio Banderas' new movie Take the Lead (see trailer at

The money raised will be used for a pilot program in ballroom dancing for third- to fifth-graders. Dance teachers will come on-site and teach the classes. The course will initially be piloted as an after-school program, but the school hopes to also incorporate it into next year's curriculum.

Black History Month Showcased

Student musical performances, including a performance by the Fairmount Falcons Chorus, highlighted this year's Black History Month celebrations held Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Fairmount multipurpose room. Student artwork inspired by African-American history was displayed, and the chorus sang with spirit and enthusiasm under the direction of Vernon Bush, youth chorus director at Glide Memorial Church. Class projects at school focused throughout the month on the achievement of African Americans.

Students Hits the Slopes

Fairmount families are joining together for a ski and snowplay trip the weekend of March 17­19 at the Sierra Club's Claire Tappan Lodge near Lake Tahoe. Fairmount parent Laurie Wigham, who is organizing the trip, also is coordinating a lending "library" of ski clothes and equipment, for parents who need to outfit their kids with appropriate gear for skiing and snowplay. If you have kids' snow clothing or equipment, please call the school to donate it to the library. And heads up for snowballs!

Calendar Notes

SFUSD schools will be closed Thursday, March 30, for a staff professional development day and will also be closed the following day, Friday, March 31, in honor of the birthday of Cesar Chavez.

--Tom Ruiz


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