Student advocate speaks at capitol

By Jacqueline Carr

Minutes after arriving in Sacramento, a University High School Junior, Tristan Malhotra, was speaking in front of the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. Malhotra was one of 22 students from the five Irvine high schools who traveled to the California state Capitol on March 10 to lobby on behalf of IUSD on education issues.

IUSD Sacramento 2“While this program has been ongoing for nearly 10 years, this is the first time our students have actually had the opportunity to speak at a hearing,” said Irvine High School Social Studies Department Chairperson, Jon Resendez.

When the students first arrived they observed the hearing, then the Subcommittee Chair, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty opened up the floor for public comments. The IUSD contingency quickly jumped at the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Malhotra talked about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) from the perspective of IUSD and said, “districts like mine, IUSD, are funded $2,000 (per year per student) under the state average.”  The LCFF allocates funding levels to school districts based on various criteria, and Irvine’s share per student is one of the lowest in the state.

Also speaking at the hearing was Superintendent Terry Walker, who said, “We’re trying to make sure we don’t exacerbate that inequity as we begin to see the effects of the LCFF.”  The one-and-a-half hour hearing was videotaped and can be accessed at the State Assembly website . The portion of the hearing with just the IUSD’s speakers is posted on YouTube.

To prepare for the hearing and the trip to the Capitol, the students reviewed the 23-page budget subcommittee meeting agenda and studied education issues at four weekly meetings.

IUSD Sacramento 3At the Capitol, the students also met with Senator Lois Wolk, a 12-year veteran of the legislature, Majority Whip, Chair of the Government and Finance Committee and a former teacher. She gave each of the students a detailed chart entitled, “The Life Cycle of Legislation – From Idea Into Law” which shows the complicated steps for passage of a bill, but she also encouraged the students not to be cynical about the process.

Lobbyist Bob Blattner organized the meetings and coordinated the visits with the lawmakers whom the students met, including:

  • Assemblymember Rocky Chavez, Education -Vice Chair Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance member, Higher Education Committee member.
  • Rick Simpson, the Assembly Speaker’s Policy Director
  • Roger Mackensen, Chief Education Policy Consultant for Senate Republicans
  • Edgar Cabral, Education Budget/Proposition 98 expert, Office of the Legislative Analyst
  • Nick Schweitzer, Deputy Superintendent at California Dept. of Education and
  • Craig Reynolds, Veteran Chief of Staff for Senators Wolk, Killea and Assemblywoman Thompson.

The students asked questions on topics including the Local Control Accountability Plan (district’s allocation of own funds), Common Core (new curriculum), mental health, technology and facilities.

Five IUSD teachers accompanied the students, along with IUSD administrators, and staff, IUSD board member Lauren Brooks and Sharon Wallin, and leaders from the Irvine Teacher’s Association, California School Employees Association, IPSF, and the Irvine Unified Council PTA which organized this ninth annual Sacramento Advocacy Trip.

The annual Sacramento trek is an opportunity for students to learn more about the legislative procedures at the state level and to provide the elected officials with a voice from the students. This year’s PTA Sacramento Student Trip was coordinated by Deloris Yang, Irvine Unified Council PTA Secretary and Seth Grossman, Irvine Unified Council PTA Finance Chair, under the direction of IUSD School Board President Lauren Brooks.

The program provides an insight into the life of a legislator and the busy nature of the capitol and gives the students a view of the complex procedures for legislating education matters.

IUSD Sacramento 1

Jacqueline Carr is a junior at Irvine High School and part of the Sacramento Advocacy Program.

Photos courtesy Lauren Brooks and Deloris Yang.

Northwood High has been named a Grammy Signature School for the sixth time

For the third straight year — and the sixth time since 1999 — Northwood High School has been selected as a Grammy Signature School by the Grammy Foundation.

This is one of the most prestigious accolades for music education, and in 2015 it’s being presented to just 13 schools throughout the country. In addition to the special designation and a custom award, Northwood’s music program will receive $3,500.

Established in 1988, the Grammy Foundation promotes the impact of recorded music on American culture and recognizes schools that provide exceptional music opportunities for students. Each year, more than 20,000 public high schools have an opportunity to apply to become Grammy Signature Schools, but only a small number earn the honor.

IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools have now won 11 Grammy awards with half of those going to Northwood, which opened in 1999.

Applications for the honor were submitted in the fall. Northwood high school was among many semifinalists that were later asked to submit additional documentation, including concert recordings. Those materials were reviewed by an independent committee of top music educators and professionals, who decided which schools merited the designation.

Janelle Cranch named as one of OC’s Classified Employees of the Year

In an exciting announcement from the Orange County Department of Education, IUSD’s very own Janelle Cranch, a buyer technician who works in the district office, has been named as one of Orange County’s Classified Employees of the Year for 2015.

IMG_2418Cranch has been a vital employee since 1989. Known for her customer service and leadership, her expertise is regularly sought after, and she has served in a variety of committees with IUSD.

Willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, Cranch inspires others through her level of commitment. From initiating a Red Cross Blood Drive to advocating for educational funding, she is an active and engaged member of the community.

Described as a tenacious advocate for staff and students and an iconic leader, she serves as chapter president of IUSD’s California School Employees Association. Her commitment, compassion and work ethic have earned her a reputation as one of the most beloved and respected members of the school community.

Established in 2008 by the California Department of Education, the Classified School Employees of the Year program annually highlights the contributions of employees who have performed exceptionally in support of public school students, from preschool through grade 12. Classified workers with a minimum of five years of service are eligible for the recognition, whether they serve at traditional schools, charter schools, district offices or county offices of education.

A committee consisting of community representatives and educators selected this year’s Classified Employees of the Year in the areas of child nutrition; maintenance, operations and facilities; transportation; para-educator and instructional assistance; office and technical services; and support services and security. A total of 60 employees were nominated in Orange County, and judges evaluated each application based on a state selection criteria organized around four themes — work performance, school and community involvement, leadership and commitment, and actions that go above and beyond.

Each of the six Orange County finalists are now scheduled to be honored at the OCDE Board of Education Meeting on April 15, and they’ll be eligible to compete for recognition at the state level.

Board of Education unanimously approves name for IUSD’s next K-8

In accordance with the district’s policy to assign names based on an adjacent street, park or village, the IUSD Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday night to name IUSD’s third K-8 campus Beacon Park School, referencing the village in which it will be built.

With construction underway, the school is scheduled to open in August 2016.

Beacon Park School will be located south of Sand Canyon Avenue near Irvine Boulevard.  The address will be 200 Cultivate, though you probably won’t find that on a map yet.

Board members had five names to consider Tuesday, with other options being the nearby street names: Beacon, Benchmark, Cultivate, and Paramount.

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Wednesday, April 1 at 3:30p.m.

Textbooks recommended for the 2015-16 school year will be available for review

Pile of TextbooksHigh school textbooks recommended for adoption in IUSD will be available for public review beginning Monday, March 16.

These would be the instructional materials under consideration for 2015-16, covering the content areas of English/Language Arts, foreign language, mathematics, performing arts, science and social science.

The books are set to remain on display at each of IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools throughout the adoption process, which is expected to conclude with a vote by the Board of Education on May 5.

IUSD selects new Public Information Officer to start in March

In an announcement today from Asst. Superintendent of Human Resources, Eamonn O’Donovan:

We are pleased to announce that Annie Brown will be the new Public Information Officer for Irvine Unified School District. Annie joins IUSD from the City of Irvine, where she served as Senior Media Services Coordinator in the Public Information Office (PIO). She will make the transition to IUSD in late March.

A manager in the public information division for the City of Irvine, Annie was responsible for communications with employees, residents, and local businesses, and her knowledge of Irvine will be of benefit in IUSD’s efforts to engage the community in the education of our students.

Her experience includes marketing, media relations, publications, issues and crisis management, emergency management, community relations, economic development, corporate communications, corporate giving, and event production.

Prior to working with the City of Irvine, Annie handled corporate communications for Honeywell Transportation Systems, based in Torrance, California.

Annie earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from California State University, Chico.

A resident of Newport Beach, she has a 6-year-old daughter.

Teachers of the Year for 2014-15 announced during surprise visits to their schools

The time has come, once again, to honor three Irvine educators that have been selected as IUSD’s elementary, middle and high school Teachers of the Year.


venableThis years Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Paula Venable, a fourth/fifth-grade teacher at Portola Springs Elementary School.

Venable began in IUSD twenty-seven years ago, and she continues to bring passion and excitement to her work on a daily basis. Her unwavering commitment and positive attitude help to foster strong support from all facets of the school community.

Venable’s impact as a teacher leader is felt on the IUSD Continuous Improvement Council, the Teacher Advisory Forum, and by the new teachers she has supported as a BTSA provider. She stays current with pedagogical changes by engaging in professional development at Columbia University during her summer breaks.

Striving to build a rapport of trust with her students, Venable’s classroom provides an environment which facilitates learning. She puts the learning of all students first, and recognizes that they are our legacy. As a founding member of Portola Springs Elementary School, she has fostered a spirit of community service in providing leadership opportunities for students.


sarmientoMiddle School Teacher of the Year is Susana Sarmiento, an English Language teacher at Venado Middle School.

Sarmiento is a natural leader, and as such, contributes to her school, the district and the community. She is deeply committed, collaborative, and well respected. She designs and shares curriculum, and is an active member of the campus Tutorial Committee, School Site Council and IUSD’s Teacher Advisory Forum.

The at-risk student holds a special place in the heart of Sarmiento. She is innovative and empowering and her daily work in the classroom illuminates her interest in creating learning opportunities which are accessible by all students.

When visiting Sarmiento’s classroom, there is overwhelming evidence of her student-centered teaching style. Her commitment to teaching and learning is clear, and her caring and sincere demeanor is the backbone of the positive rapport she has with students.


haleyThe High School Teacher of the Year is Christine Haley, a Language Arts teacher at Woodbridge High School.

Haley exemplifies collaboration, but it’s her enthusiasm for learning, humor and intellect that are at the core of her work. She is a versatile teacher who can engage all students, from Advanced Placement scholars to those who require additional help or are coping with learning difficulties. Haley supports student learning across all abilities and collaborates with her peers to meet the needs of individual students.

Outside the classroom, Haley chairs the English Department at Woodbridge High and is a lead teacher in transitioning the school into the Common Core. In addition, she works at the district committee level developing writing standards and providing staff development.

Haley is seen as an expert among administrators as well, as evidenced by her selection to serve on the self-study team and chair the WASC process.


Now in its 29th year, IUSD’s Teacher of the Year program recognizes exceptional instructors at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Nominations are submitted by district employees, and candidates are later interviewed by a committee that includes teachers, principals and administrators.

That panel ultimately narrows the field to three using the following criteria: Evidence of a wide range of instructional strategies used effectively; commitment to the teaching profession; and demonstration of Irvine teachers’ values of integrity, empowerment, learning, collaboration and trust.

IUSD also recognizes a handful of standout first- and second-year teachers, who are announced as “Teachers of Promise.”

All of today’s honorees will be formally honored in May at the Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet, which is organized each year by the Exchange Club of Irvine and ITA.

Student scientists are gearing up for IUSD’s 34th annual District Science Fair

IUSD’s 34th annual District Science Fair is set to take place on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Irvine High School.

The fair will once again be brought to you by the Broadcom Foundation, in partnership with the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, and if it’s anything like last year’s event, we’re going to see some pretty impressive projects.

Submissions include “Don’t Come Backteria,” “Microwave Oven: A Cooking Companion Or A Dangerous Device” and, of course, “The Effect Of Different Solutes In Distilled Water On The Resulting Solution’s Capability To Perform Electrolysis.”

Parents are encouraged to check with their child’s school or science teacher to learn more about specific requirements and deadlines. And you may also want to check in with the rules and regulations for the Orange County Science & Engineering Fair.

In the meantime, here are a tips worth noting:

  • To be eligible for the Orange County Science & Engineering Fair, students must have participated in IUSD’s Science Fair, and they need to inform their science teachers, who must approve each entry.
  • OCSEF limits IUSD to 125 entrants, and county projects will be selected based on student interest, input from the students’ science teachers and ribbons awarded at the district level.
  • Not all blue ribbon winners from the IUSD Science Fair will be selected to participate in the OCSEF, and in fact some red ribbon winners might make the cut. The district’s Honorable Mention winners won’t be eligible to participate unless there aren’t enough blue ribbon and red ribbon winners to fill the 125 allocated slots.
  • The information above is subject to change.

Once again, be sure to check with your child’s school and the OCSEF Rules & Regulations before planning your project. And good luck!

IUSD students connect with ISS for a unique glimpse of earth

The week of January 25, the Canyon View Elementary 5th graders, and Portola Springs Elementary 4th and 5th graders were “on mission” with the Sally Ride EarthKam.

The EarthKam has a camera mounted on the International Space Station (ISS). Mrs. Megan Seager and Mrs. Jessica Lingenfelter, both elementary science specialists, requested a mission date, which took place during the Weather and Space unit of study in her science lab. This program brings the earth science 5th grade curriculum standards into “view.” Students learned about the Space Station and how the camera works. Each student had the opportunity to select a location of his/her choice.  They then used latitude and longitude coordinates and uplinked them to request the image. Due to positioning of the ISS, student pictures were scheduled to be taken between January 25-31.  There was a Russian supply shuttle docked at the ISS during this time, so photos may contain part of that shuttle in them!


Students at both schools used iPads to remotely request images to be taken from a camera mounted on the International Space Station.  Each students used a map on the EarthKam website, selected an orbit and a location that they wanted a picture of. The orbits and Earth’s axis allowed for Southern Hemisphere pictures this week.

All students are very excited to view their photos next week.  They will be on the EarthKam website in a school gallery and can be viewed at school or home.

westpark creditElementary science specialist Vicky Anthony from Westpark Elementary also sent her 5th grade astronomers “on mission” and took the following photo of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, South America, near Argentino Lake. For those of you who speak satellite, the image was taken on 2015/028/19:43:37, Orbit 635, Nadir 49.86° S, 72.69° W, Center 49.86°, 72.69° W.

For more information about the Sally Ride EarthKAM, click HERE

For more information about our Elementary Science Specialist program, click HERE