Noe Valley Voice December-January 2007

School Report

Our stringers from Alvarado Elementary, Fairmount Elementary, and James Lick Middle School all reported in this month.


Holiday Fair in Our Winter Firmament

As the days grow shorter and the holidays approach, Alvarado students are looking to the skies: Our new science teacher, Barbara Hogan, has been weaving science and fun into lessons about the stars that are tailored to each grade level. Students will show off what they've learned by lighting up the lunchroom with the winter sky.

The transformation will be complete by Wednesday, Dec. 5, when the school hosts its annual Winter Fair. Please come and see the students and their art shine between 6 and 8 p.m. Students will perform songs and skits onstage that reflect our many cultures here at Alvarado. You might even catch Principal Robert Broecker with a mike in hand!

Either way, you can kick-start your holiday shopping at the fair's Winter Marketplace. Unique jewelry (made by teachers!), school pride (Cougar shopping tote!), and easy gifts (cookies in a jar need only your wrapping paper!) can be found.

The school, too, needs gifts, so we can give our students valuable resources, such as the PTA-contracted instructors. Our annual fund drive kicked off in mid-November, and we gratefully welcome any tax-deductible donations to the PTA. The fund will have a booth at the fair, but the organizers will be accepting money into 2008. This money gives Alvarado the kind of extras that are often found only in private schools: art, dance, and computer and science teachers, for example.

Kids Crowd After-School Clubs

Another PTA-funded perk--after-school clubs--is wrapping up a fall session that offered more options than ever. Nearly 200 students signed up for one of 16 classes that ranged from yoga to Italian culture to drumming. Thanks to donations from many parents, the clubs broke even. Donations do not always mean mailing in a check, either. Parent volunteers taught half the classes. The Italian culture class--new this year and very popular--was taught by Sara McMullen and funded by a grant she got from the Italian embassy.

Unfortunately, scores of children did not get into a club. The waiting lists for chess, art, clay, and drumming were especially long. Those kids will have priority for clubs this spring, but we also hope to expand the number of clubs by dividing some of the more popular clubs into two sessions. (Spring is longer, making its two sessions roughly as long as fall's.)

A Wish List from the Teachers

Finally, your Voice correspondent asked the Alvarado teachers to come up with a holiday wish list:

* Anne Chang, Spanish-immersion first grade: Dry erase board, 24 by 36 inches.

* Nancy Hawkins, outreach: Nice clean smallish rug and curtains for play area.

* Marco Bianchi, computer lab: Digital cameras.

* Kristen Engler, third grade: New carpet, bound, blue or green tweed, 5.5 by 11.5 feet.

* Malaika Sapper, Spanish-immersion kindergarten: Tall ladder to hang hooks and string from ceiling.

* Jilma Ortiz, Spanish-immersion second grade: New carpet, small refrigerator.

* Barbara Hogan, science: Small carpet and non-skid pad.

* Robert Broecker, principal: Larger conference table for principal's office.

Call the school if you have questions: 595-5695. Thank you, and happy holidays from all of us!

--Heather World


Opera Stars Bring Magic Flute to School

Fairmount wants to give its students more exposure to the performing arts. What could be better than live theater?

For the past few years, Maureen Sullivan, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders, has worked with the San Francisco Opera's "Opera à la Carte" program, to give students the chance to both perform and observe opera. Filling the Fairmount cafeteria in October for two standing-room-only shows were actors and singers from the company who astounded listeners with Mozart's tale of The Magic Flute. This opera, thought of as an ideal way to introduce audiences to opera, also featured Fairmount students in leading and accompanying roles, including an operatic choir. The students rehearsed with the company players, at school and at the Opera's Civic Center headquarters, in preparation for two school community performances.

On the day of the performances, kids sat on the floor with their eyes wide open and mouths agape as they followed the story of a quest for true love, a slain dragon, and an evil queen. One highlight was when Papageno, played by San Francisco Opera baritone Mark Hernandez, kneeled before a crowd of little girls, crying out, "Where is my wife? Is she here? Is she there?" The girls in the audience shrieked and scattered across the floor.

Camping and Cooking at Slide Ranch

An integral part of the Fairmount school curriculum is the opportunity for older students to experience the great outdoors while learning about the environment. This year's fourth- and fifth-grade students will be participating in an environmental education program through the nonprofit Slide Ranch in Marin County. Slide Ranch generously provides discounted camping fees, which allow all Fairmount students to attend.

The group attending the fall session at the ranch recently returned, having had the opportunity to work with farm animals, including milking a goat, feeding chickens, and making sure to keep their hands safely in their pockets while in the wild turkey pen. Students also learned to set up camp, including putting up tents. For some students, it was their first experience sleeping in a tent and looking at the stars from a sleeping bag.

Students worked in the herb garden and made herb bread, which they ate at dinner. A highlight of the trip was a hike to the tide pools, where naturalists helped students identify marine life. Naturally, all good camping trips end with a campfire and, in the words of one camper, "slightly scary stories." More students will make the trek this spring.

Festivals, Festivals, Festivals

The second annual Fairmount Harvest Festival was a resounding success, with $10,000 raised through a raffle to support the school's music, arts, and dance programs. The festival featured face-painting and kids jumping, hopping, and rolling in an obstacle course. But the highlight was the butterfly tent, where children could enter and hold butterflies or find them alighting on their shoulders or heads.

On Nov. 2, the Dia de los Muertos Festival featured altars made by students and teachers, memorializing deceased loved ones. Also, students each made their own loaf of pan dulce to eat.

One final festival footnote: Recent Fairmount graduate Rebecca Hughes won a new electric guitar for a song she performed at last year's FiestaVal. The song--"Annoying Little Brothers"--garnered laughter, applause, and tapping feet last May. While Rebecca enjoys her new classes at James Lick Middle School, her (very sweet) little brother, Jamie, still attends Fairmount as a third-grader.

Tuesday Tours

Tours continue on Tuesday mornings. Contact the school to reserve a space or drop in to see our dual-immersion Spanish program in action, or to chat with our dynamic principal, Karling Aguilera-Fort.

--Tom Ruiz


James Lick Students Win Essay/Art Honors

Congratulations to James Lick seventh-graders Jose Cabrera, Santiago Martinez, and Alicia Mana, whose essays-with-art comprised three of the four top selections representing the city in the Chronicle's Latino Essay and Art Contest. Jose Cabrera also won second prize at the statewide level.

Alicia Mana's essay honored the contributions of Carmen Lomas Garza, an internationally famous Latina artist who lives in San Francisco. Alicia saw her own grandmother reflected in many of Garza's images, and wrote: "I would love to accomplish many of the things she has throughout her life. Maybe one day, a girl or boy will be writing about me in an essay for a contest like this." Alicia drew a pastel portrait to accompany her essay.

Santiago Martinez wrote about his grandfather, Jose Martinez, a Mexican immigrant who overcame prejudice in his high school--where the principal said, "Mexicans don't do science"--to become one of the first Mexican Americans to earn his doctorate in physics. He also helped found the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. "My grandpa realized that few minorities were following scientific careers.... He demonstrated that Hispanics and other people of color are very capable people."

Jonas Cabrera wrote about his grandmother, Celina Martinez, who was a renowned political activist in Mexico. Jonas wrote, "People everywhere knew her, from the high sierras to the cities. Her words were powerful and her voice was thunderous. Wherever she went, thousands followed her." His essay, a poem, and a collage of pictures, words, and drawings earned him a $1,000 savings bond from the Ford Motor Company as the second-place winner in the statewide competition.

All three students are in Tobi Hacker's seventh-grade language arts class, and the contest was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Ms. Hacker reports, "I was very proud to submit all the excellent writing and beautiful art our James Lick students created." Kudos to Ms. Hacker for her inspiration, support, and encouragement. Read on below:

Ms. Hacker Honored by 826 Valencia

Seventh-grade language arts and social studies teacher Tobi Hacker was recently honored by the tutoring center 826 Valencia as Teacher of the Month (September). In making the award, the crew at 826 cited her high standards, nurturing teaching style, and mentoring of new teachers. "Beyond her deep commitment to her students, Ms. Hacker also demonstrates the importance of collaborating with colleagues on the development of a strong curriculum and exciting lessons.... We are so fortunate to have a teacher of Tobi Hacker's caliber in our neighborhood."

Movies and Theater for Families

Bring your family to our Family Movie Day on Saturday, Dec. 15. We'll be showing Pixar's culinary comedy Ratatouille (rated G) at 3:30 p.m. and the fantasy/action thriller Transformers (rated PG-13) at 6 p.m. in our beautiful theater. Parking in our lot is free, and our students will sell refreshments and snacks. Requested donation is $4 per person, with special rates for families. Doors open 20 minutes before the show. Feel free to bring a booster seat for younger children.

On the evenings of Jan. 15 and 16, our students will present performances of Novio Boy, a light-hearted comedy about the awkwardness and excitement of young love. Written by award-winning author Gary Soto, and directed by our own drama teacher Jake Stookey, the play is one that young teens can relate to. It also should bring back amusing memories for parents. Call to confirm times and ticket prices. Proceeds from both events will benefit our Costa Rica Scholarship Fund.

Pancake Breakfast and Rummage Sale

Drop by the school on Saturday, Jan. 12, when our Costa Rica­bound students and their families will be flipping pancakes and selling knickknacks to finance their international travel adventures. The pancake breakfast will be served from 8 to 10:30 a.m., and the Rummage Sale will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Come early--or stay late--for the best bargains!

Mayor's Shape-Up Program

If the sidewalks seem busier than usual around James Lick, it's because our students, families, and staff have been logging their walking and running miles every Friday as part of Mayor Newsom's Shape Up San Francisco fitness program. Participants are striving toward the goal of running or walking a total of 1,016 miles--a distance that is equivalent to the total length of the California coastline. Lick is proud to be the only middle school in the city participating in this event!

Winter Wonderland Ball

Our cafeteria will be transformed into a magical fantasy world when the lights are dimmed for our second annual Winter Wonderland Ball on Friday, Dec. 7, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This semi-formal event for students includes both dinner and a dance, and is sponsored by the yearbook class as a benefit for their publication. Parents and teachers will serve the meal; professional photographs will be available for purchase; and a variety of door prizes will be given away.

Salsa Night Fundraiser

Not to be left out, the grown-ups will have a dance of their own the following night, Saturday, Dec. 8, at El Rio from 5 to 9 p.m. This event is for adults only; tickets may be purchased at the door.

It's Bee Time

Our language arts classes held spelling bees in November, with the winners advancing to competition in the school's annual spelling bee on Dec. 6 during seventh period.

New Counselor Selected

Congratulations to our new eighth-grade counselor, Rhonda Luna. Ms. Luna was responsible for organizing positive incentive programs to reward student improvement, and providing ice cream socials for students on the academic Honor Roll in October.

--Sue Cattoche


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

Alvarado Elementary School
Robert Broecker, Principal
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado

James Lick Middle School
Carmelo Sgarlato, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street