Noe Valley Voice September 2006


The latest news from Noe Valley's public schools is that Alvarado Elementary has a new principal this fall: Gene Barresi. The Voice hopes to visit with Mr. Barresi and report on his first few weeks at the helm in the next issue. Meanwhile, here's what's up at two other local public schools, Fairmount Elementary School and James Lick Middle School. The following school notes are supplied by volunteers and parents at the individual schools.


Fairmount Continues Academic Gains

As the new school year began, Fairmount Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort received good news to share with his staff and the school community. The school's 2005­06 test scores had risen again in both language arts and math. The math gains were especially impressive, with the second and fourth grades making exceptional gains. These increases were even more significant given the school's purpose as a school of languages (with a highly successful Spanish dual-immersion program).

Last year's focus on using data and performance benchmarks to track each student's progress and support his or her individual learning needs has seen results, as both teachers and students strive to meet the state academic standards. Bravo to the staff and students for a job well done.

Party at Pritikin Mansion Features Music by Jorge Santana

In a reprise of last year's spectacular fall concert, musician Jorge Santana and philanthropist/neighbor Bob Pritikin have teamed up to support Fairmount with a Sunday afternoon benefit party at Chenery House. The private estate, which can be entered through the school's parking lot on Randall, is a mansion surrounded by acres of landscaped grounds and filled with Pritikin's astounding collection of paintings and sculpture.

The event, open to Fairmount's Noe Valley neighbors, takes place on Sunday, Sept. 17, from noon to dusk. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $30. Free valet parking will be provided, and the price of admission includes self-guided tours of the mansion (with its upper-floor swimming pool), as well as an open bar and barbecue, hosted by Pritikin. Last year's event raised $20,000, which was used to support art, dance, and music programs for Fairmount's students.

Fairmount Parent to Run for
School Board

Hydra Mendoza, longtime Fairmount parent activist and Mayor Gavin Newsom's education adviser, has tossed her hat in the ring for this November's school board race. Mendoza, whose previous position as executive director of Parents for Public Schools involved working to increase public school enrollment, will be aiming for one of the two vacant seats, as incumbents Sarah Lipson and Eddie Chin have decided not to run for reelection. Mendoza and her husband Ricardo Alvarez, a physician at St. Luke's Hospital, have a third-grader at Fairmount, as well as an incoming sixth-grader at James Lick Middle School.

Time for a Visit

Interested in touring Fairmount to experience its dynamic programs and meet with the principal? School tours, guided by parent volunteers, occur every Tuesday morning throughout the fall. You can reserve a spot by calling 695-5669 or drop in to see teaching and learning in action.

--Tom Ruiz


75th Anniversary Alumni Search

Were you ever a Bulldog, a Skipper, or a Pirate? James Lick is looking for former students to help celebrate the school's 75th birthday in the spring of 2007. (Our current eighth-graders will be the 75th graduating class.)

If you, a relative, or someone you know attended James Lick between 1931 and the present, we'd love to hear from you. We welcome pictures and personal recollections of the school, your teachers, and your classmates. Sadly, much of the school's collection of photos, yearbooks, and other memorabilia disappeared during asbestos abatement work in the early 1990s. Therefore, any items you can copy, lend, or donate to help us recreate our school's history would be greatly appreciated. Watch for more information about this important anniversary.

Enrollment, Test Scores Rising

James Lick is becoming a very successful middle school, with rising enrollment and a waiting list for new students. A recent article about test scores in The Examiner identified James Lick as one of the most improved schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. The entire school community has been working hard to ensure that academic gains are made without sacrificing arts, science, and language programs, which encourage the development of well-rounded, creative thinkers. Interested parents of elementary school students are invited to tour the school on Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. from October through December.

A Very Busy Summer

Despite an abbreviated City College session this summer, the Bulldog Cafe (formerly Café Lick) made nearly $3,000, thanks to a dedicated group of families who showed up to sell coffee and snacks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for the six-week summer session. Income from the Bulldog Cafe, which operates whenever City College classes are on campus, provides support for many of James Lick's enrichment, arts, and travel programs.

After-school program director Lina Hancock spent her summer developing Beyond the Bell, a new and expanded program that will be offered Monday through Friday from 3:45 to 5:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 11. Students will have daily time for tutoring and homework support, followed by a choice of activities ranging from drama and physical fitness to quiet reading or chess. James Lick students may sign up to attend eight-week sessions from two to five days per week.

More Students, More Fun...

The incoming sixth-grade class at James Lick will spend an entire day in Glen Park for community-building activities and a picnic. The students will have a chance to meet all their teachers and classmates, and have a great day outdoors in the sun. The sixth-grade class is big this year, with about 200 students, compared with 170 last year. Sixth-graders will share a separate lunch period on regular school days.

Electives Get a Boost

Two years ago, James Lick had only one elective art class. This year, the school will have drama, jazz band, a choral group, Ballet Folklorico, and the return of the successful Blue Bear School of Music guitar program.

Welcome from the Principal...

In a series of orientation meetings the week before school opened, Principal Carmelo Sgarlato welcomed new and returning families to the school and shared information about exciting changes in curriculum, staff, and academic performance. He also acknowledged the positive environment that is evolving at the school, and he pledged to do all he could to sustain it.

...and the PTSA

The Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) is busier than ever this year. President Heidi Anderson reports that because so many incoming parents are eager to get involved the PTSA is creating a new volunteer program. The group also will be selling James Lick sweatshirts and planners at upcoming events.

PTSA families held a cleanup day on Saturday, Aug. 26, to prepare the schoolyard for the arrival of students. Then, on the first day of school (Aug. 28), they gathered in the Parent Room (Room 108) for a welcome breakfast featuring lots of good food and conversation.

The PTSA's Annual First Meeting Potluck will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 6 to 8 p.m., in the school cafeteria. This will be a great opportunity to meet other parents and get a closer look at the plans for the year. Parents who are online can get all the information they need by joining the PTSA's Yahoo group: http://

No Change in Dress Code

James Lick's dress code will remain the same this year. The mandatory school uniform is plain black pants, a plain white collared shirt, and no red or blue colors.

For Those Behind the Wheel

Please remember to drive safely, especially when school is in session: 8:20 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. Also, check out "What I Like About School," the beautiful new ceramic plaque we installed last year near the bus shelter on Castro near 25th Street. It's a slender, vertical slab of glazed clay mounted on one of the white art-deco posts along the school's outer fence. Students and families worked together to create this public art piece as a gift to James Lick and the Noe Valley neighborhood.

--Sue Cattoche


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

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

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