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On the Stage, in the Studio, and on the Dance Floor
James Lick Middle School's annual Ice Cream Social in May welcomed over 150 new students enrolled for sixth grade next fall. While they listened dutifully to what to study over the summer (multiplication tables) and what to wear next year (white-collared shirt, black pants, no red or green), the new students also got testimonials from current students about some of their favorite classes.
Hands-down favorites on everybody's list? Vocal music, rock band, art, dance, and acting. As for what the kids liked to do after school, which counts big in a middle-schooler's life even if it doesn't go on the transcript, top vote-getters were performing in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, strutting salsa stuff at Carnaval, playing with the rock band Los Lobos on stage, and opening National Dance Week in the longest conga line ever seen in San Francisco.
Lick is becoming known as an unofficial "arts magnet" school, as the variety of classes in the arts has been growing from one studio and a popular art teacher just a few years ago to a lineup today that would make alumnus Carlos Santana proud. At Lick, all sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students take part in the arts, cycling through several classes each school year. There are currently 16 options, including dance (social ballroom, jazz, hip-hop, and a wide variety of Latin American folk), visual arts, crafts, music (chorus, Blue Bear School of Music rock band), drama, and journalism.
During this past year, once the bell rang at 3:30, over 300 students headed to the auditorium to paint sets and props, sing, dance, and act their hearts out for a production of Bye Bye Birdie. (The show wowed audiences in February.) Another 90 students trooped into dance practice to be in last month's Carnaval, something Lick has gladly participated in for over 10 years. Visual arts projects, aided by guest artists Aiko Cuneo and Lilli Lanier, were also a big hit this spring and brought in more than $3,000 at the school's Silent Auction, the most successful such event ever.
All the singing and dancing and crafting has led to another happy result. This year, 20 graduating eighth-graders were accepted at Lowell High (known for high-achieving arts programs as well as academic rigor), 17 were accepted at the School of the Arts Academy, and six went into the traditional School of the Arts (SOTA) program, for which students must audition. Congratulations!
Sad Mug on Bulldog Café
After almost 10 years in operation, the Bulldog Café is closing at James Lick. It began as a small coffee and muffin station set up to serve City College students attending night classes at the school. By the mid-'00s, it had become a thriving concession, staffed by volunteer parents, students, and teachers all year long, including summer session. But with City College moving its satellite campus to Everett Middle School this June, the Bulldog no longer will have enough customers to stay open.
Each year, the Bulldog was run by a few dedicated PTSA parents. Over the last two years, parents Cathy Ritter and Sarah Soman were the heroes who managed the café. Soman commandeered the volunteer staff, keeping the café open as much as humanly possible (as families who signed up to help also juggled soccer practices and rehearsals). She stayed on top of everybody and was always gracious. Ritter kept the café stocked with food by keeping a sharp eye on the café's cupboards and making endless runs to Costco and other stores to get City College favorites like bagels and fresh fruit.
In all, hundreds of James Lick parents over the years have dedicated many hours to the Bulldog, brewing the coffee and chatting up the college students who lined up every night before class. Lick students helped just as often and did their homework during the slow times. As with most PTSA fundraisers, friendships were formed between families who otherwise never would have met, and the bonds strengthened ties at the school, making families' short, three-year experience much richer.
And something else has been richer: the café typically netted over $20,000 a year, which has supported classroom supplies, dance class costumes, material for the student musicals, plus trips to central California, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Mexico.
Clearly, next year will be a rebuilding year for PTSA fundraising. The Silent Auction, which kicked it up a notch this year by several thousand dollars, will try to make even more next year, and parents are meeting over the summer to make plans for a new fundraising venture to replace the cash cow that was the Bulldog Café.
Let the Games Begin
You can benefit Alvarado School by shopping at Just Awesome--the board game store at 816 Diamond Street (at 24th Street)--the week of June 7 to 13. Co-owner Erik Mantsch will donate 7 percent of the store's sales that week to Alvarado.
"Why 7 percent? It's just awesome!" says Mantsch, who has been a generous supporter of Alvarado and other neighborhood schools since he opened in December. Every Thursday, Mantsch brings games to Alvarado and hosts an after-school club, which he hopes to expand to two clubs divided by age next fall, he says. He also has donated to the auction and Carnival events at the school.
Several parents and students have discovered Just Awesome's "back room," which is set up for playing games all day. "Friday Night Fun," from 6 to 9 p.m., with pizza served at 8 p.m., is a popular night out for Alvarado families.
Art Goes to de Young
Alvarado's commitment to the arts earned its students a central role in May's nine-day Young at Art Festival, the annual spring showcase of city student art at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park.
Papier-mâché dragonflies from 10 students swarmed the museum's main entrance, luring visitors into the exhibit, where ceramic Victorian houses, papier-mâché skeletons, and self-portraits from 26 Alvarado artists joined nearly 2,000 other art projects.
This is the second time since the museum reopened in 2005 that Alvarado art has been prominently featured, says artist-in-residence Dan Stingle. The event also included more than 60 concerts from student and community musical groups, as well as film and video screenings of student work and dramatic performances. The museum expected about 10,000 people to attend.
Perfect Day for Dunking
Back on campus, this year's Carnival drew about 500 revelers, many of whom came to dunk a teacher in the water tank and throw a pie in the face of our principal, Robert Broecker. Scorching summer weather made the dunk tank a popular place to volunteer, and dozens of others spent time painting faces, coloring hair, and handing out prizes to eager students. Thank you for your support!
Alvarado Elementary School
Robert Broecker, Principal
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado
Fairmount Elementary School
Mary Lou Cranna, Principal
65 Chenery Street at Randall
James Lick Middle School
Bita Nazarian, Principal
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street