Noe Valley Voice March 2008

School Report

Kids attending public schools in Noe Valley have their hands full this spring. They'll be dressing up as literary characters at Fairmount Elementary, designing a mural at Alvarado Elementary, and eating salads, running track, and rehearsing the musical Hairspray at James Lick Middle School. Here are the details from parents and school volunteers.


Runaway Imaginations

If you see Ramona the Pest walking down the street this month, or Harry Potter and his friend Hermione, or Nancy Drew, don't be alarmed. It's simply Literacy Week at Fairmount School.

Fairmount has devoted a whole week, March 10 to 14, to literacy activities, including reading, writing, listening, and more. The "Dress as Your Favorite Book Character Day" is just one day in a string of fun-filled literacy days.

Children will also have a Book Exchange Day, when they can bring "gently used" books to donate, and pick up another undiscovered treasure to bring home. A Writing Day will include one station where children can write a letter to a senator or the mayor or the governor, telling what they love about school.

There will also be stations for adults, including a bilingual station, where parents can get help learning to navigate the Internet or in setting up e-mail accounts so they can join the very active Fairmount listserv, where parents discuss, debate, and celebrate school activities.

Want to be a part of this wonderful event? Contact the school about dropping off books to read or notebooks to write in, or about coming by to read some of your favorite stories to the students. Call 695-5669 to get details from the school about when and where to drop things off, or where and when to read.

What Can One Little Person Do?

Last month's African American History Day, on Saturday, Feb. 23, brought out parents, grandparents, and neighbors to hear Fairmount students joining in a number of moving performances.

The Fairmount Falcon Choir sang "What Can One Little Person Do?", "The Ballad of Doctor King," and "When the Saints Go Marching In," in combination with "This Train."

Other students had a chance to show off what they had learned on their musical instruments, with the trumpet, flute, and clarinet players doing "When the Saints Go Marching In" and the sguitar students playing "Sing About Martin" and "Aiko, Aiko," among others.

While the students shone, parents seized the opportunity to work toward keeping or even expanding the wonderful art and music programs that Fairmount has to offer. The School Site Council members had a stack of letters addressed to legislators--about the statewide budget crisis and how it is affecting our schools--ready for parents to sign, stamp, and drop in a mailbox.

Countdown to FiestaVal

FiestaVal is coming! On Saturday, May 17, the food, fun, laughter, and songs will once again take over the Fairmount campus on Chenery Street near 30th, as celebrants join in the delight of being part of our community.

Parents have begun planning for the year's biggest fundraiser by holding meetings after school (and after work) to hear the fundraising pros tell the newcomers how to let the local restaurants, shops, and event organizers know that this little school in Upper Noe Valley is a wonderful place for them to send their donations.

Songs, games, and food are already being planned. And the hit attraction, the butterfly tent, will return this year. Children who found themselves amazed by butterflies floating about and sometimes settling on their shoulders last year will be lining up outside the tent to experience the magic once again.

--Jan Ruiz


Mural to Adorn Playground Wall

Neighbors see our playground tile mosaics from afar, students climb stairs past stained-glass windows every day, and now Alvarado School will add a mural to brighten the lower playground.

A $5,000 grant will enable our artist-in-residence Dan Stingle to lead a group of students in creating the mural, which will be painted on the wall that separates the school's new garden and the playground along Eureka Street. The student artists will receive extra guidance from seasoned muralists from Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center.

Stingle, a sculptor who works in clay and bronze, has been commissioned to create public art before. He calls it information art, and cites his bronze castings of San Francisco Bay native species (or their footprints) that run the length of Crissy Field.

The mural will be designed and completed over a two-month period by an after-school club of students organized by the PTA-sponsored Art Committee. Stingle is inviting his 30 young painters to brainstorm drawings that refer to the natural world around the school, especially the garden.

"The kids will explore the natural and native history of San Francisco," he said, and may illustrate such things as the water cycle (evaporation, precipitation, etc.) and ideas in geology or archaeology.

After the students have drawn their segment, muralists from Precita Eyes will make a grid over the illustrations and transfer them to the wall. The entire community is then invited to participate in painting during Alvarado's Carnival Festival on May 17. After the painting, the young muralists will double-check the work to see that their vision has been faithfully re-created. Then they'll fine-tune the painting.

A similar, smaller grant last year paid for four family art workshops: bookmaking, samba dancing, kite-making, and a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Workshop.

The project is in keeping with Precita Eyes' mission of educating the public about murals while working with communities to beautify their surroundings. Besides offering a range of classes for children up to 19 years old, the Mission District arts organization has created many city murals in Oakland and San Francisco. (See for examples.)

A Last Shout for Silent Auction

Don't forget Alvarado School's Not-So-Silent Auction, on Saturday, March 8, 6 to 11 p.m., at the Janet Pomeroy Center, 207 Skyline Boulevard (front entrance on Herbst Road). This is your opportunity to help fund science and art programs while bidding on vacation getaways, dinners at local restaurants, student artworks, and unique items like summer camp tuition for your child. The party will also feature food, music, and dancing. For ticket information, call Gabriele Lange-Edwards, 648-6831, or Angela Danison, 642-8310, or e-mail

--Heather World


Salad Bar Popular with Kids

Our students love the new salad bar that's been added to the traditional hot lunch served in the James Lick School cafeteria every day. Kids who used to skip lunch, or who ate only a cookie and milk, are now excited about joining the lunch line and sampling some veggies.

Favorite items include cucumbers, tomatoes, and jicama--a crunchy, mildly sweet tuber native to Central America. (Tip: Cut the jicama into strips to munch plain, scoop up some guacamole, or enjoy with a squeeze of lime and a shake of fiery chili powder.)

Requests are coming to add more items, and the lunches are selling out by the end of the hour. Cost of the hot lunch plus salad bar is $2 for students, $3 for adult staff.

Pushups to Follow Burritos

The P.E. department will begin conducting California physical fitness assessments in March. All of our students will be evaluated for cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and strength. Parent and fitness instructor Chris Loughran suggests that parents practice doing pushups (for upper-body strength) and curlups (to strengthen abdominal muscles) with their children at home. What a great idea!

Last month we reported that our co-ed soccer team won all of its playoff games and advanced to the championship match. We're pleased to report that we tied as this year's SFUSD champions with Horace Mann, a school that had dominated the championships until last year, when we were district champs. Coach Rogelio "Mr. O" Orihuela and the kids celebrated with a hearty burrito feast--on Valentine's Day!

Congratulations to Coach Edna Ramirez and all the girls who played volleyball this year. With only two returning players from last year but plenty of energy, we accomplished a lot of team-building. Watch out for us next year!

Our track team met in February to undergo physicals and learn about the grades and commitment students must make to attend practices and meets. The team will begin practicing in March, so watch for groups of our students running in the neighborhood.

Some of our seventh- and eighth-grade girls are practicing their cheerleading skills for the after-school flag football games. Games start soon and uniforms have been ordered.

Latino Parent Day

James Lick Middle School was the site of Latino Parent Day in February, sponsored by Parents for Public Schools, a non-profit organization that helps families select the best schools for their children. The Spanish-language event included free workshops, childcare, lunch, and parking. School Superintendent Carlos Garcia was featured as the keynote speaker. Students from James Lick were on hand to set up, translate, and help families find their way around the building. Parents for Public Schools also works to increase parent involvement and improve the academic performance of all children in our public schools.

Hairspray Tryouts Begin

We're having tryouts this month for our spring musical, Hairspray. Rehearsals will follow, with performances beginning by late May or early June.

March Highlights

March 5: A community meeting at James Lick will feature a report from the School Site Committee for next year.

March 8: The Noe Valley Library at 451 Jersey Street reopens with a visit from the mayor. Take a look at the library cards: two of the designs were created by Gabriella and Maddie, students in Jake Stookey's art class last year.

March 15: The Class of 2008 will discuss graduation plans and other end-of-middle-school activities at the eighth-grade Pancake Breakfast.

March 17 to 20: It's time for parent/teacher conferences.

March 20: The school holds an Ashland Trip planning meeting.

--Sue Cattoche


Alvarado Elementary School
Robert Broecker, 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