Noe Valley Voice April 2007

School Report

Here's the scoop from volunteers and parents at Alvarado Elementary, Fairmount Elementary, and James Lick Middle School.


From Trash to Treasure

The much-loved Alvarado Rummage Sale is coming to Noe Valley on Saturday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sunday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday is the regular Rummage Sale, and Sunday is our famous Bargain Clear-Out and Cleanup Day, when people pay a small admission fee to enter and then take out as much as they can carry, lug, roll, or drive away. All money raised goes toward enrichment programs and resources at Alvarado.

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 7 and April 14, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. (No computers, stuffed animals, mattresses, metal furniture, or broken electronics, please.) Get rid of that clutter and help out a great school.

Alvarado Auction a Great Success

March 3 was a beautiful night at Fort Mason, and there was plenty of food, fun, and fine art for everyone--and lots of bargains, too. The Not-So-Silent Auction is a tremendous amount of work for those involved, but it's all worth it since the auction is one of the most successful fundraising events at Alvarado. Thanks to everyone who helped support this truly enjoyable event through their donations, labor, and participation.

Fantastic Fun with Fighting Kites!

Alvarado families will enjoy a fabulous kite-building workshop on Saturday, April 14, led by Marissa Kunz and Dan Stingle. If you're lucky, you'll see some amazing Asian fighting kites skirmishing in the neighborhood later this month!

Students Read to Raise Money

The 2007 Read-a-thon was a success by any measure! One hundred and twenty-one students participated this year, reading for a total of 77,358 minutes to raise over $4,500 (so far) for the school. Donations, ranging from $2 to $370, are still coming in.

Don't Miss the Spring Carnival

Come eat, play games, win prizes, cakewalk, do crafts, and enjoy art work and performances by Alvarado students at the 2007 Spring Carnival. We're excited to be back on our home turf for this year's carnival, which will take place on Saturday, May 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We hope to see incoming, outgoing, and continuing members of the Alvarado community on hand to enjoy music, face-painting, delicious fare, and more.

--Dan Willhite


All Immersion, All the Time

Big changes are coming to Fairmount next fall. As mentioned in last month's School Report, a significant increase in demand for the two-way Spanish-immersion program resulted in more than 128 requests for the 40 available seats in the kindergarten program.

For the past two years, Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort has proposed a vision of Fairmount as a complete Spanish-immersion school instead of the current two-thirds Spanish-immersion, one-third English student enrollment.

After hearing an impassioned presentation by Aguilera-Fort, the school district agreed to adopt the plan, beginning with the kindergarten class in the 2007-2008 school year.

All current students in the English-based classes will remain at the school as the all-immersion program is rolled out one year (and one grade) at a time.

"I envision Fairmount as a community school, as a school of languages, as a school for the arts. But most importantly, I envision Fairmount as a school of academic excellence for all our students," says Aguilera-Fort. "When the entire school community is unified around one Spanish-immersion program, teachers and students will be able to work fully toward their potential."

After the rollout is complete, Fairmount will be the second all-Spanish immersion school in the district, joining its Mission District neighbor Buena Vista Elementary.

In another show of support for the Spanish-immersion approach, the district expanded the number of incoming sixth-grade Spanish-immersion seats from one-third to two-thirds of the sixth-grade class. The move opens more ongoing immersion learning opportunities to graduates of all five elementary schools with Spanish-immersion programs.

The district also agreed to expand the Mission High School Spanish-immersion program to include the sophomore year, meaning that within two years the school district will for the first time have a K-12 continuum for Spanish immersion.

FiestaVal Approaches

Fairmount families are preparing for the biggest party of the year, FiestaVal, from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 19. Ballet Folklorico and music performances, a silent auction, kids' games including the renowned obstacle course, and homemade tamales and other treats draw crowds to the school each year for our spring celebration.

Our auction items include donations from neighborhood favorites Lovejoy's Tea Room, Kookez Café, Regent Thai, Savor, and Terra Mia. We would love to have every Noe Valley business donate a dinner, coffee, or knickknack to FiestaVal, since Noe items are always our biggest sellers (and a great way for businesses to get their names seen). Other items so far have come in from Harbin Hot Springs, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Divisadero Car Wash, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, and Aquarium by the Bay. Donation items can be sent to FiestaVal, Fairmount School, 65 Chenery Street, San Francisco, CA 94131. Or call Tee Minot at 415-203-4252.

Fairmount Goes on the Air

On Friday, March 9, a group of young writers and poets from Christina Velasco's fifth-grade class made their debut on radio. Velasco and her students were invited to KPFA's Valencia Street studio to participate in La Onda Bajita (the Short Wave). They read their poems and articles in Spanish and explained why they felt inspired to write about global warming, gang awareness, and the importance of environmental education.

Aguilera-Fort was also present and talked to the show's hosts about the importance of learning a second language and being able to "articulate your ideas, your feelings, and your knowledge in more than one language."

The presence of the students' voices in the media demonstrated once again that Fairmount students are exposed to a rich world of learning opportunities.

--Tom Ruiz


Peace Garden Plans Taking Shape

The inaugural phase of the new James Lick Peace Garden begins this month with a PTSA workday and a writing and art project in our eighth-grade core classes. The new garden will complement the building's art deco architecture and include new trees (palms and flowering trees), ornamental shrubs and ground-covers, planter urns at the front entry, granite benches, art walls, and an irrigation system. Students will explore their perceptions of the school's shared values and interpret them in ceramics. The resulting works of art will be installed on the garden walls as a legacy to the school from this year's graduating class. Successive classes will add to the project.

According to landscape architect and James Lick parent James Stickley, "The overarching theme of the garden is peace. It's meant to be a way for the outgoing graduating classes to leave their legacy behind. We also hope to have the students involved with some community outreach and in the actual installation of the garden."

Stickley has helped guide members of the PTSA through the planning, design, and budgeting of the project. A San Francisco Community Challenge grant and donations from Friends of Noe Valley, Noe Valley Farmers' Market, James Lick PTSA, and individual donors will fund much of the initial construction, but more money is still needed for the first phase of the project. Please contact the school if you would like to help us create this beautiful addition to the community.

Classes Combine to Stage Grease

James Lick students are rehearsing for a production of the 1972 musical Grease. The project will be directed by a collaboration of our elective teachers: Mr. Stookey, Visual Arts and Drama; Mr. Davis and Mr. Storbeck, Music; Ms. Vela, Dance; and Ms. Jones, Peer Resources. The students will stage a dress rehearsal and student shows prior to the main performances in our auditorium on the weekend of June 1 and 2. Tickets go on sale in May.

Time to Give Back

The James Lick Middle School Band will perform at the Great American Music Hall in "Blue Bear Live," an annual benefit concert for Blue Bear School of Music's youth education programs, on Saturday, May 12, at 8 p.m. For more information go to

Congratulations to our citywide Science Fair winners. The sixth-graders who won awards were Patricio Trejo, second place; Alicia Mana, third place; and Morgan Dang, Aaron O'Hearn, DeKimbey Lamb-Lewis, and Ashoka Alvarez, honorable mention. Eighth-grader Alazan Flores won an honorable mention, too.

CSI: James Lick

Our students became crime investigators as they explored the latest offerings at our annual Book Fair during the week of March 19 to 23. In addition to the usual book sales, this year's fair featured mysteries for students to solve and daily prizes.

James Lick Celebrates 75th

Save the date for our 75th Anniversary Fete on Saturday, May 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school. Preliminary plans include a carnival and food; dedication of the new Peace Garden; and a school history presentation.

The 75th-anniversary-edition yearbooks are selling out fast! This year's theme is "Then & Now," focusing on how things have changed over the years, with interviews and reflections by James Lick alumni. Contact yearbook adviser Tobi Hacker to order your copy.

Wish List: We're still looking for pictures, yearbooks, trophies, report cards, stories from neighbors, parents, or grandparents who attended the school, and any other artifacts of our school's rich history. If you can help, contact Chris Loughran at or Leonor Jackson at

--Sue Cattoche


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