Noe Valley Voice June 2007

School Report

Guitars are twanging, Spanish is flowing, and students are talking to their parents and their peers in novel ways at James Lick Middle School and Fairmount Elementary.


Santana Speaks at Peace Garden Dedication

Close to 100 people were waiting in front of James Lick Middle School to witness the May 12 dedication of the Carlos Santana Peace Garden when the famous guitarist and peace advocate arrived, casually strolling south on Noe Street toward the school as if he lived in the neighborhood.

"There's a lot of light and hope at this school," he told a larger crowd of about 500 people half an hour later when it was his turn to speak. "I'm very honored to be back here at the first place I came to in San Francisco from Tijuana."

After describing the confusion and anger he experienced as a teenage newcomer, he condemned the disparity between what is spent to educate children and the drastically larger sum that is spent to incarcerate adults in prison.

Santana urged today's students to reject hatred, violence, and war. "The next time you get angry...go into a library or go into a school, and eat a book. Devour it--with your eyes!"

S.F. Beautiful Helps Garden Grow

San Francisco Beautiful, the nonprofit organization founded 60 years ago to save the cable cars, marked its "millionth dollar" granted by contributing $5,400 to help fund the new garden.

"The Carlos Santana Peace Garden at James Lick Middle School is exactly the sort of project San Francisco Beautiful is set up to fund," said Executive Director Dee Dee Workman. "Certainly, there is nothing more beautiful than peace.... What a perfect serendipity that we mark our millionth dollar with creation of a living garden that will continue to provide lessons and beauty over the years. This green schoolyard project will have a huge impact on the neighborhood."

In addition to San Francisco Beautiful, the new garden is funded by the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant Program, Friends of Noe Valley, and many other supportive community members, who donated funds, labor, and professional services.

Some of the large trees that blocked light from the building and grounds have been trimmed or replaced with smaller features, such as palms, planters, mosaics, and paving. Student artwork and other landscaping will be added in the future. Come and take a look!

A Look Inside Peer Resources

The Peer Resources (PEERS) program is only a few years old at James Lick, but it has been in the SFUSD for over 25 years. Its purpose is to engage young people in making their school community a safe and nurturing environment. Leadership is a key component of the class, as well as the notion of empowering students with the skills necessary to be leaders. Here at James Lick, students are trained to be conflict mediators, mentors, tutors, and support group leaders.

Sixth-graders focus on building their conflict resolution and communication skills. They learn to solve their problems peacefully, communicate more effectively, and empathize with others. This year's class assembled a book from letters they wrote to express their gratitude to Rosa Parks for freedoms that many of us take for granted today.

Seventh-graders focus on specific issues that affect them directly. A bulletin board outside the classroom allows students to express their reactions to the senselessness of gun violence after reading about a young person who was shot and killed while buying candy. Seventh-graders also work on "Photo Voice" projects. Each student chooses an issue that affects his or her life, and is given a disposable camera to document that issue. The photo projects are then displayed at the school.

Eighth-graders are trained to be mentors and mediators for younger students. For example, they might help students resolve a dispute that arose in the schoolyard during lunch, or teach other students effective study skills. Eighth-grade mentor Manny Martinez praises the program because, "It lets kids take out their anger and frustration by talking it out,...not taking it out physically on someone else and causing more drama."

For more information about the program, visit

--Sue Cattoche

What Parents Can Do

James Lick Peer Resources teacher Sarah Jones recently asked all her students (ranging in age from 11 to 13) what they would like their parents to do in order to be closer to them. The most common responses in the survey were:

* Spend more time at home.

* Talk to me and listen more.

* Eat dinner as a family.

* Take me more places.

* Stop smoking.


FiestaVal Raises $30,000 for the Arts

Saturday morning, May 19, began with sunshine peeping through Noe Valley's early-morning overcast but soon burst into a beautiful day as parents, kids, staff, and neighbors came to celebrate another outstanding year at Fairmount School's annual party, FiestaVal.

Hundreds of attendees witnessed student performances that were the result of classes funded by each year's festivities. Ballet Folklorico students, wearing colorful Mexican costumes, delighted the crowd, as did members of the ballroom dance class.

Another highlight was a group of fifth-grade graduating girls singing a song they composed called "Annoying Little Brothers." A handful of second- and third-grade boys could be spotted in the crowd, glaring at the performers. The homemade papusas and tamales, along with other international treats, were lapped up by the hungry fair crowd.

Almost $30,000 was raised during the day's combined activities, which included a silent auction featuring services and meals donated by Noe Valley merchants and restaurants, as well as a public auction of student-made crafts from each grade.

The highlight of the crafts auction was a pointillist painting of Frida Kahlo, created by the fifth-grade class with the guidance of parent Nancy Windesheim. The artwork was signed on the back by every graduating student, and the painting fetched $650 during spirited bidding.

Calling it the biggest springtime FiestaVal ever held at Fairmount, Principal Karling Aguilera-Fort said he was impressed with how the school's parents and ethnic communities had joined hands to pull off such a spectacular event.

Further reflecting on his fourth year with Fairmount, Aguilera-Fort also said one of the greatest accomplishments of the school year was the community's decision to become an all Spanish-immersion school, beginning next fall. It was heartening, Aguilera-Fort said, "to have the entire community come together, pushing for a dual-language program. This will bring coherent cross-instructional programs to the school. It was wonderful to see teachers and families working together and having a common goal."

Fairmount Honors Retiring Teacher

Third-grade teacher Diane Meagher is retiring after 28 years at Fairmount Elementary. She brought much joy and music to her classroom, receiving a grant each year for the past four years that gave each child in her class a guitar. She taught her students how to play the guitar, taught them an array of songs, and at the end of the year each year, the students were given the guitars to take home.

At FiestaVal, she announced her retirement--to sadness, well wishes, and some surprise. And then she launched into a mini-concert, leading her students in playing and singing.

GLO Glows Before and After School

Next year will see the continuation of our before- and after-school program to support the needs of Fairmount's working families. Thanks to combined funding and support from the San Francisco Unified School District, the Fairmount PTA, our school site council, and the city's Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families, the after-school GLO program (Growth and Learning Opportunities) will continue to provide high-quality academic support and enrichment activities for all Fairmount students in the coming school year.

--Tom Ruiz


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

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

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