Noe Valley Voice November 2008

School Report

Here's the latest from parents at Noe Valley's public schools: James Lick Middle School on Noe Street, Alvarado Elementary School on Douglass, and Fairmount Elementary at Chenery and 30th.


Spotlight on a James Lick Alum: Bernie Melvin of Bernie's Cafe

Tucked between Ritz Camera and Bell Market on 24th Street is a friendly little coffeehouse called Bernie's Cafe, run by a neighbor who grew up in Noe Valley. Bernadette "Bernie" Melvin, the owner, also is a James Lick alum. She graduated from Lick middle s chool in 1988.

"Those were some of the greatest years of my life," says Melvin, who grew up at 22nd and Douglass streets. "I met four new kids on my first day of school, and they are all still my best friends."

Melvin, who opened her café a little over a year ago, has already donated coffee for James Lick events more than a dozen times, and students and staff stop in regularly to chat. Principal Bita Nazarian can be spotted in line almost every morning, getting her half-caff medium coffee.

Says Melvin, "I love talking with James Lick people when they come in."

Melvin says that teachers seem different today than when she was a student at Lick. "When I was there, teachers were more like information providers," and they maintained their distance from students.

Today, when staff and students bump into each other at the coffeehouse, Melvin says, "the teachers really know a lot about the kids, and care about the kids' lives."

Join Us at Pomodoro

Another generous Lick neighbor is Pomodoro at 24th and Noe streets. The restaurant is hosting a fundraising night for the school on Monday, Nov. 3, from 5 to 9 p.m. If diners present a special flier (available that night), 10 percent of the profits from the evening's meals will go to the school.

Open House Is Friday, Nov. 14

The school application season has begun, and Lick is hosting its annual Open House for families of fifth-graders who are looking for a middle school. Light refreshments will be served as Principal Nazarian, sixth-grade teachers, and the PTSA present all the reasons why families should choose James Lick, including its expanded arts program, the school musical, the small-school atmosphere, beautiful Art Deco building, and good test scores. The evening begins at 6 p.m.

In addition to the Open House, doors are open for tours of the school every Tuesday morning, from 9 to 10 a.m. Call the school at 695-5675 for information.

What's a GATE?

Many students in the San Francisco School District are identified as Gifted and Talented (GATE) while they are in elementary school, and the district provides several ways to challenge these students throughout their education. On Thursday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m., the PTSA will be presenting an evening of information on how GATE students are identified, what "differentiated curriculum" means, and how to get the most out of GATE programs. All Noe Valley community members are welcome.

High School 101

The James Lick PTSA and the afterschool program After the Bell recently presented High School 101 Night to teach parents and students what they need to know about SFUSD high schools.

The event was packed with parents and kids eager to hear about high school from the experts: S.F. high school students. After the students gave a talk and answered questions, the school district's Educational Placement Center filled families in on the application process.

"I feel like I know more now about what I need to do," said one parent afterward, "and especially the deadlines to get everything in on time."

For information on enrolling your child in a public high school, call 241-6512.

Let Us Entertain You

The Visual and Performing Arts Department at James Lick Middle School will be performing its annual Fall Concert on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the school auditorium. Middle school students will perform dances and choral music numbers. Come see all the talented kids strut their stuff. Donations gladly accepted at the door.

Yard Open on Weekends

Want to shoot some hoops with the kids? James Lick's schoolyard is now open to the public on weekends. Come to the gate on the Clipper Street side, leading to the lower yard.

The Lick playground is one of 11 schoolyards whose gates will be unchained as part of "Schools as Community Hubs," a project piloted by Mayor Gavin Newsom last spring. A joint effort of SFUSD, the mayor's office, and the city's Rec and Park Department, the project aims to foster exercise and community centers. The yards will be open from approximately 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays. Sorry, no access to school bathrooms.

Parking Lot Reaps Cash

As many of you know, the fourth annual Noe Valley Harvest Festival went off without a hitch on Saturday, Oct. 25. The day was sunny and warm, and the neighborhood streamed to the fair by foot, horse, bike, and car. To raise money for PTSA projects, James Lick offered its parking lot to the vehicular crowd. When 5 o'clock rolled around, the PTSA had raised over $700 for the school. Way to go, Noe Valley! And a special thanks to parent volunteer Wendy Jones for supervising the lot.

Donate Early and Donate Often!

The James Lick Middle School Silent Auction will be held again at the Noe Valley Ministry on Saturday, March 7. Ambitious fundraising goals have been set, and organizers have begun work. Got something to donate? We would love to hear from you. Call Nadine Kessler at 734-7808.

--Heidi Anderson


Teachers Humming and Strumming

Professional development in the arts can mean dry classes on "improving field trips," but this year Alvarado teachers are learning how to play the guitar, to enhance teaching and--hopefully--enjoy themselves.

The first of two eight-week beginning guitar classes has already started, and about 20 teachers have signed up for the after-school course, which is being taught by a music instructor supplied by the non-profit Guitars in the Classroom.

Kindergarten teacher Laurie Baker-Flynn is enthusiastic about the program, and thinks it will stimulate her teaching. "This [course] is addressing the whole person as a teacher. Here's how we feed our creative soul and use it in the classroom, too."

She says the kids in her classroom already enjoy hearing music on CDs. But the guitar will bring something special. "It's right there--this instrument they can see and touch."

With a stable of 46 music instructors--ranging from rockers to worship leaders--Guitars in the Classroom currently runs courses in schools across 25 states.

Jessica Barton, who directs the California-based non-profit, says GITC's guitar-learning technique is simple. "It doesn't take talent," she says. And no practice is required. "Our motto is 'Just show up.'"

GITC provides its teacher-students with instruments and songbooks, but teachers also learn to write their own music and incorporate the songs into lessons. A bilingual Spanish-English songbook will be added this year to boost English skills.

Studies show that weaving music into the classroom increases kids' language fluency and academic performance, Barton says. "Music is tied to everything."

What's more, the teachers get a boost. Barton has seen worn and dispirited veteran teachers--and frustrated and exhausted new teachers--leave the GITC class reinvigorated.

"When a teacher feels creative, renewed, and powerful and knows every day they pull out their guitar, magic is going to happen," Barton says, "they're going to remember why they became teachers in the first place."

--Heather World


Party Up, Party Down,
Read On

Fairmount's fall fundraising events to support PTA-sponsored extracurricular art, drama, music, and dance got off to a smashing start with a Baile de Familia under the stars in the schoolyard Sept. 26.

With new principal Ana Lunardi dancing up a storm alongside the parents and kids, the event raised $2,500. The only missing note was that the principal forgot to ask her mother to dance. "I can't believe I didn't bring Mom onto the dance floor!"

October also brought forward a favorite FUNraiser, the fall car wash, which had kids and parents spraying hoses and soaking each other as well as the cars. Another $1,500 was raised.

Thanks to all the Noe Valleyans who followed the kids' signs and drove into our yard to get their cars washed and dried. While they waited for their rides to get a makeover, they enjoyed some grilled hot dogs from parent Ken Jones and scrumptious goodies baked by other Fairmount moms and dads.

The end of October also featured the book fair, which ran concurrently with parent conference week. High-quality Spanish-language books, as well as English-language favorites and school supplies, were gobbled up by students and their parents, with Fairmount receiving the lion's share of the proceeds.

Take a Parent-Led Tour

Parents thinking of checking out Fairmount and our dual-immersion Spanish immersion programs should stop by Tuesday mornings for parent-led tours and conversations with our principal. Call 695-5669, or just come by 69 Chenery Street (corner of Randall) at 9 a.m.

--Tom Ruiz


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

Fairmount Elementary School
Ana Lunardi, Principal
65 Chenery Street at Randall

James Lick Middle School
Bita Nazarian, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street