Noe Valley Voice May 2006

School Report

Here's the latest from two local public schools: James Lick Middle School and Fairmount Elementary.


New Music Program Rocks!

Blue Bear School of Music launched a pilot Rock Guitar Ensemble program at James Lick to provide our students with something that's been missing for too long: instruction in the history and appreciation of contemporary music; music theory; guitar instruction; and an opportunity to perform.

During the first two weeks of the program, a group of sixth-graders studied the history of major movements in contemporary popular music and key elements of music theory with instructor Richard Storbeck, who earned his music degree playing French horn before switching to electric guitar. Hands-on instruction began for real on April 20, when 24 ecstatic kids picked up their gleaming new Stratocasters, turned the amps up to "10," and strummed their first thundering chords!

Kevin Marlatt, executive director of Blue Bear, describes the collaboration that has developed between Blue Bear School of Music, James Lick Middle School, and Guitar Center to get the program up and running, as "simply incredible--we are thrilled to be a part of this innovative program and are committed to its success and expansion so more students can have this wonderful opportunity." Principal Carmelo Sgarlato adds: "A quality, vibrant arts program is vital to the success of students and is also a way to make our school more appealing to families."

The program is proving to be a big hit with students like sixth-grader Emma Lanier, who reports, "We don't call it music class, we call it guitar studio--and I can't wait to play the electric guitar!"

Initial financial support for the program came from funds raised by parents eager to return music to the school and proceeds from Blue Bear's first annual Music for Youth Benefit Concert held in February. The school hopes to raise more money so that the Blue Bear program will be open to students in all grades next year.

If you would like to help James Lick expand this program, please contact Carmelo Sgarlato, Principal, James Lick Middle School, 1220 Noe Street, San Francisco, CA 94114, or e-mail csgarla For more information on Blue Bear School of Music, go to

Family Art Night at James Lick

On the evening of April 19, our school cafeteria was filled with families creating a public art piece as a gift to the school and the Noe Valley neighborhood. Led by local artists and James Lick community members Paul Lanier and Aiko Cuneo, hands, large and small, fashioned soft clay tiles depicting drawings prepared by our students to illustrate the theme "What I Like About School." After the tile pieces are glazed and fired by the school's art classes, the vertical 18-by-72-inch plaque will be installed on the corner of 25th and Castro streets near the bus stop. Enjoy!

Earth Day at James Lick

On Sunday, April 23, our families organized a workday to clean up and beautify our school grounds. Look for some colorful new plantings in front of the building!

May Highlights

Cinco de Mayo: You'll hear the music coming from our joyful annual assembly on May 5 as we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, and everything about spring! It's also Staff Appreciation Day, so the PTSA will be treating our teachers and the whole staff to lunch.

Poetry and Art: Our students will read poetry and display art dealing with the impact of violence on children's lives at the Second Annual Poetry and Art Festival of the Youth of San Francisco on Thursday, May 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event takes places at the San Francisco Public Library's Main Branch, 100 Larkin Street. Contact Mr. Torres for more information or to see an impressive anthology of the poetry written by our students.

Carnaval San Francisco: We've been practicing our steps and beats for several weeks, so look for the colorful James Lick float and our contingent of costumed dancers and drummers on Sunday, May 28, when we join the spectacular, multicultural Carnaval Grand Parade. (If you've never seen it, you'll be amazed!)

James Lick's Annual Sports Banquet on May 31 will honor all the talented student athletes who participated in our after-school sports programs, and the dedicated folks who coached them.

--Sue Cattoche


Revving Up for FiestaVal

Fairmount Elementary School is gearing up for the annual FiestaVal wingding. All of Noe Valley is invited to join the school community and enjoy an exciting day on Saturday, May 20, at the school campus on Randall Street at Chenery. The event will run from noon through dusk.

Festivities include a silent auction, with a number of prizes donated by Noe Valley merchants and restaurants. Kids will love the free arts and crafts activities, as well as games and contests including the ever-popular obstacle course.

Highlights will also include musical performances by student guitarists and the Fairmount Choir. Also featured will be the school's Ballet Folklorico dance troupe. FiestaVal details and auction items can be found at www.WindesheimDesign .com/fairmount.

Fairmount Survives the Big One

Fairmount parents are collecting historical photos, which will soon go up on a school web site at www.Fairmount They are getting a kick out of uncovering pictures of old school buildings, some of which are included in a book at Just for Fun on 24th Street.

The original Fairmount School was built in 1905 and survived the Big One of 1906. The school was later rebuilt in 1977, an event that brought a remembrance from parent Rojelio Rodriguez: "Yes, this brings back memories. I had a paper route on that block back then. Every day, I saw how the old school was quickly demolished and the new school slowly built. I was told back in the fifties they sang a school pride song."

For folks who would like to view old school photos, the San Francisco Public Library web site ( has a pictorial section of the city's schools, including Fairmount. If anyone knows the Fairmount pride song, please call the school and sing the tune.

Mayor Newsom Pays a Visit

Fairmount students got some excitement when they came back from spring break and Mayor Gavin Newsom visited the school on Monday, April 17.

Newsom visited classrooms and watched with amazement as kindergarteners in the dual-immersion program spoke to him in Spanish.

As he extended his stay and joined students in the cafeteria at lunch, autograph fever broke out. The mayor was mobbed by students asking him to sign everything from notebooks to lunchboxes. Fairmount parent Hydra Mendoza, who is also the mayor's education liaison, accompanied her boss and noted that Newsom regularly visits the city's schools. She said he enjoys meeting teachers, parents, and students, as well as seeing in person the great teaching and learning going on in San Francisco schools.

--Tom Ruiz


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

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

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