Noe Valley Voice October 2006

School Report

This month's School Report, written by school parents and volunteers, reveals that academic, artistic, and solar energy is fueling learning at three local public schools--James Lick, Fairmount, and Alvarado.


Teachers and Parents: Making a Difference Together

An air of excited optimism filled the halls of James Lick Middle School at Back to School Night last month as chatting parents shared first impressions of the school's many new teachers and classes. Differentiated instruction in math and English will be offered this year, along with a greatly expanded selection of electives: Ballet Folklorico dance; rock, jazz, and choral music; drama; visual arts; video production; peer resources; and a math "problem-solving" course. Everyone is thrilled that James Lick continues to make significant gains academically, while developing a promising new arts program at the same time.

Parent volunteers are helping with tasks ranging from assisting with playground supervision to translating non-confidential school communications into Spanish--freeing the staff to spend more time with James Lick's 614 lively students.

Based on the enormous increase in parent involvement at James Lick and a great new infusion of outstanding teachers, Principal Carmelo Sgarlato predicts a very successful school year ahead.

Principal's Chat in Spanish and English

The school year's first chat with the principal filled the Parent Room to capacity last month, as Mr. Sgarlato discussed the state of the school and answered parents' queries about homework, dress codes, school safety, and the transition to middle school.

Our new Parent Liaison, Leonor Jackson, translated everyone's comments into Spanish or English, encouraging a lively exchange of ideas among speakers of both languages. Join us for coffee and the next chat with Principal Sgarlato on Friday, Oct. 20, at 8:30 a.m.

Lights On for Beyond the Bell Program

A potluck dinner Thursday, Oct. 12, will celebrate the opening of our new after-school program, Beyond the Bell, with an orientation and lights-on celebration from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. This free program provides an hour of academic support (homework and/or tutoring), followed by an hour of enrichment activities chosen from the following: chess, yearbook, choir, computer lab, garage band, carnaval dance and drumming, breakdancing, improv theater, poetry, DJ-ing and MC-ing, newspaper, storytelling, soccer, and basketball--and more! About 30 percent of our students enrolled for the first eight-week session, bringing the program to capacity with additional students on a waiting list.

Mexico Trip Mapped Out

James Lick Middle School proudly announces its Ninth Annual Independent Study International Field Trip to Merida, Campeche, Celeston, and the Mayan ruins at Becan, Xpujil, and Ek Balam, Yucatan. The nine-day trip in February 2007 will include visits to cities, jungle areas, historic sites, markets, museums, and schools. Expect to see many fundraising activities to offset the cost of the trip for participating students--we'd like to see as many of our kids as possible share this extraordinary experience.

Family Health and Fitness Night

In response to Mayor Gavin Newsom's recent initiative to improve fitness and nutrition in the city, our PTSA (Parents, Teachers, and Students Association) is sponsoring a Family Health and Fitness Night on Friday, Oct. 20, based on a program called the Mayor's Challenge: Shape Up San Francisco.

"For the first time, American children born today have a lower life expectancy than their parents," warned Mayor Newsom. "In San Francisco, one quarter of our children are overweight or obese.''

Activities will include fitness assessments and a Walking Challenge program designed to develop regular exercise routines, encourage families to be physically active together, and help participants learn about their neighborhoods.

School cafeterias are serving more fresh produce, and a citywide San Francisco Walk to School Day is planned for Monday, Oct. 4.

Calendar Highlights

Chevy's Fundraiser: If you dine at Chevy's in Stonestown on Wednesday, Oct. 11, between 5 and 9 p.m., a percentage of your food purchase can be donated to James Lick. But you must first pick up a flyer from our Parent Room or download one from the PTSA Yahoo Web site, and show it to your server.

Cleanup Day Saturday, Oct. 14: This is where we really roll up our sleeves and get some chores done at our school site. We're getting a special crew from Hands On Bay Area to do some yard improvements.

Noe Valley Harvest Festival Saturday, Oct. 21: You can park all day in our parking lot for $10 and support our international travel programs!

SFUSD Enrollment Fair Saturday, Nov. 18: This annual event in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium brings parents in contact with teams of teachers, staff, and parents from all the public schools in San Francisco to help them choose the best schools for their children.

--Sue Cattoche


Fall Fun Raising

The Chenery House was rocking on a warm Sunday, Sept. 17, as Jorge Santana and guest musicians delighted a large crowd of families and friends of Fairmount Elementary School. This is the second annual fall benefit bash at the home of Fairmount's next-door neighbor, Noe Valley philanthropist Bob Pritikin.

Partygoers toured the eclectic mansion with its renowned art collection, including a Bufano sculpture of a whale, an indoor swimming pool, and one of Herb Caen's typewriters, among other San Francisco artifacts. Guests enjoyed a lunch feast of jambalaya and fettucini alfredo, washed down with beer and sangria.

Gwen Chan, the interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, came to the party and spoke to the crowd, complimenting the parents, staff, and principal Karling Aguilera-Fort for their commitment. Former Fairmount principal Linda Luevano, who instituted the two-way immersion program and now serves as an assistant superintendent for the district, also attended the event.

All the dignitaries pointed toward the Fairmount parents as a source of inspiration. "These are two incredible women," Santana said of PTA president Nancy Windesheim, who served as emcee, and parent Madelaine Vella, who conceived of the original event last year and was again the driving force behind this year's benefit.

The main delight was, of course, the music. In addition to getting the crowd dancing to his band's Latin beat, Santana shared the stage with a group of mariachi musicians who, in their elegant white costumes, pleased the crowd with traditional Mexican ballads. A dozen members of the choir from Fairmount took the stage, singing two songs as Santana and his musicians backed them up. Of course, Pritikin himself also performed, strumming his musical saw, amazing the kids who had never seen a saw turned into a musical instrument.

Another "fun raising" school year is off to a great start.

Lights On Afterschool

Neighborhood residents are invited to stop in at Fairmount to sample some of the students' favorite projects in the Lights On Afterschool event from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12. There will be baked goods from the cooking club, tribal chants, and a darkened room lit up by flashlights created in the science club. Children in the after-school program have many activities to choose from every day, and they're ready to show off what they've learned.

Two Harvest Fests

Don't be surprised to find little goblins selling raffle tickets at the Saturday farmers' market and other places around Noe Valley. Fairmount has shifted its spring raffle to fall, and Zephyr Real Estate has donated a $500 first prize. Other prizes include a $200 gift certificate to Sports Basement, gift certificates for dinner at Postrio and the Last Supper Club, and tickets to Beach Blanket Babylon.

As Noe Valley prepares to celebrate its Harvest Festival, Fairmount is joining in the fun with its own Harvest Festival, including Halloween activities for kids and the raffle.

Fairmount will hold its first annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 21, from noon to 4 p.m. There will be fabulous seasonal and ethnic foods prepared by Fairmount parents and friends, featuring vegetables grown in our organic school gardens. We'll also have student-led educational tours of our school gardens, as well as natural art projects, natural bath and cooking products for sale, and, of course, seeds and plants for sale. All proceeds go to Fairmount's PTA, which supports the school garden.

Come explore our gardens, share our food, and celebrate our community!

--Tom Ruiz


Off to a Good Start

Alvarado Elementary's new principal, Gene Barresi, is pleased to announce that overall our school has had a smooth start. Enrollment is stable, most construction issues have been resolved, and standardized test scores are up for the eighth consecutive year. Under the state accountability system, our Academic Performance Index (API) rose from 812 to 820. And under the federal accountability system (Adequate Yearly Growth or AYP), Alvarado students continue to outperform the school district and the state.

Alvarado is happy to welcome back all of last year's classroom teachers. We would also like to welcome several new and returning staff: Jennifer Hill (3-5), Rebecca Pryor (K-2), and Mary Cervantes have joined our Special Education Department, and Ann Chang (first-grade Spanish Immersion) has returned from sabbatical.

Three New Artists

The school is pleased to welcome back two more excellent teachers: Katherine Baird, who begins her seventh year teaching Orff music, and Marissa Kunz, now in her fourth year of teaching visual art at Alvarado. We also look forward to getting to know our three new teaching artists: Dan Stingle (clay), Liz Anderson (theater), and Genevieve Feeley (dance). All three are wonderful teachers as well as professional artists. Additionally, Ms. Anderson and Ms. Feeley are both Spanish bilingual.

Alvarado PTA's next General Assembly takes place Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. in the school auditorium (enter on 22nd Street between Eureka and Douglass streets). The arts program will be highlighted, and this year's artists will be introduced. Dinner and child care are provided.

Picnic & Soccer at Dolores Park

Come out from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to enjoy food and fun with your fellow Alvarado families at our first schoolwide soccer tournament on Sunday, Oct. 15. Each class will field a soccer team made up of students, parents, and staff, who will compete to see who can have the most fun on the field. Bring your favorite picnic food and join the fun!

Solar Panels Installed

Alvarado is the first school in San Francisco to receive a solar electric system as part of the PG&E-sponsored Solar Schools program. The solar panel installation will transform sunlight into electricity for the school. This system will generate about as much electricity as a two-person household would use in one month.

The main purpose of the system is to educate students and the community about the benefits of solar power. The solar panels have been installed on the schoolyard, where people can stand beneath them and relate to their physical size.

Students will be able to monitor the amount of energy being produced by our solar panels and compare it with other solar schools across the state. Alvarado teachers can attend a training workshop that shows them how to integrate the specialized curriculum with their science standards. This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate to our students the viability of renewable energy. To learn more, go to

School Tours

If you'd like to visit Alvarado, we offer school tours every Tuesday this fall beginning at 8:30 a.m. Please call the school office to book an appointment.

--Mara Sieling


Alvarado Elementary School
Gene Barresi, Principal
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado

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

James Lick Middle School
Carmelo Sgarlato, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street
School Web Site:
PTSA Yahoo Group Web Site: