Northwood High orchestra entertains, educates young musicians at Segerstrom Hall


The Northwood High School Chamber Orchestra was recently invited to perform for elementary-age kids and their families during a pair of interactive shows at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

NHS Chamber Orchestra 1Family Musical Mornings is an ongoing concert series at the hall that introduces young audiences to the Pacific Symphony. The Northwood musicians were on the bill for two shows there on Saturday, Oct. 25, participating during the Music Carnival portion of the program.

Not only did they play music for hundreds of elementary students, members of the Northwood High orchestra also demonstrated different styles and techniques, and they gave more than 50 young maestros an opportunity to conduct, according to Ben Case, one of NHS’s instrumental music directors.

“It was truly a great experience all around,” Case told the NewsFlash.


Bonita Canyon families leave cars at home for eighth annual Walk to School Day


WalktoSchoolBC3

These photos were sent to us by the staff at Bonita Canyon Elementary School, which was among the Irvine campuses to take part in Walk to School Day on Oct. 22. Observed annually around this time, the national campaign promotes walking and bicycling as a way to improve health, reduce traffic and highlight safe routes to school.

WalktoSchoolBCWalktoSchoolBC2We’re not sure where he trekked from, but Honeypaws, the school’s mascot, was on hand — on paw? — to greet B.C. students in kindergarten through grade six as they arrived early that morning. To the right, Hunter Hertstein and Preston Getz from Mrs. Watson’s kindergarten class take a moment to pose with the affable bear, and another student goes up top for a high-five.

Speaking of B.C., the school also hosted a number of activities associated with Red Ribbon Week last week, including a popsicle party for the classes that wore the most red and a pizza party for those that collected the most pennies. We’re told more than 800 pounds of pennies were collected in total, and those funds will help support programs that encourage students to make healthy choices.


Did you know these 15 facts about the Irvine Unified School District?


We’ve noticed that a lot of blogs and online magazines seem to be fond of lists lately. So we thought we’d come up with one of our own. Without further ado, here are 15 things worth knowing about the Irvine Unified School District:

1. IUSD schools have earned the California Distinguished School designation – considered the state’s highest honor – 61 times since 1986, and all four comprehensive high schools have been recognized at least once.

DistrictOffice2. All four comprehensive high schools have been named Blue Ribbon Schools, the nation’s highest level of recognition for K-12 campuses. (That’s a lot of pressure for the soon-to-be-constructed Portola High.) In all, IUSD has produced 15 Blue Ribbon schools since 1983.

3. IUSD has been at the vanguard of the “green schools” movement. In addition to generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on utility bills through staff conservation efforts, the district has promoted environmentally-friendly construction and diverted thousands of tons of construction debris to recyclers for reuse.

4. Since 2010, IUSD has authorized the installation of energy-generating solar panels on the rooftops of more than a dozen schools, and vehicle shade structures topped with photovoltaic tiles have been constructed at a number of additional sites. These panels generate 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption and save IUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in electricity costs. They also serve as the basis for standards-based instruction on alternative energy sources.

5. High schools in Irvine consistently rank in the top 10 in Orange County for producing the highest SAT scores.

6. The Irvine Unified School District is unmatched in its performance at the annual Orange County Science & Engineering Fair Awards. Of the 154 OCSEF awards presented at the 2014 competition, 49 were earned by Irvine students.

7. Last year, Plaza Vista Middle School teacher Scott Bedley was announced as one of five Orange County Teachers of the Year. Irvine teachers have also gone on to earn California Teacher of the Year honors.

8. Irvine campuses are consistently named among the county’s best in the Orange County Register’s annual evaluation of elementary, middle and high schools. In 2014, Stonegate Elementary School earned top honors based on a formula that takes into account academics, accolades and school environment.

9. IUSD’s newcomer program makes great strides with students who have arrived from other countries with little or no English skills. Many are quickly integrated into mainstream classrooms.

10. The Irvine Unified School District consistently produces dozens of semifinalists in the annual competition for scholarships through the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Corp. In 2014, 110 IUSD students earned this honor, joining an elite group that represents less than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors.

11. IUSD sends more participants to the All-Southern California Honor Orchestra than any other district from the Mexican border to San Luis Obispo. Of the 102 spots available in the 2014 All Southern California Middle School Full Orchestra, 42 were filled by students from Irvine Unified.

12. In March 2014, IUSD was named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” by the highly-regarded NAMM Foundation. The district earned the same honor in 2010 and 2013.

13. From February through June 2014, more than 20,000 IUSD students were selected to showcase their musical and artistic talents in scores of visual and performing arts events in the district and beyond.

14. The Grammy Foundation has awarded 10 Grammy Signature Awards to IUSD high schools, more than any other district in the state.

15. Irvine students have consistently moved the needle on standards tests. According to the state’s most recent Academic Performance Index, which measures achievement on a scale of 200 to 1,000, eight of the top 20 highest-scoring schools in Orange County were in the Irvine Unified School District. IUSD also posted a cumulative API score of 925 in 2013, tops in the county.


Northwood High School drama students to perform ‘The Ash Girl’ this week


Northwood High’s drama department is getting ready to stage a fall production of “The Ash Girl” Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 in the school’s theater. All shows start at 7 p.m.

Tickets, which can be purchased at the box office during lunch or before each performance, are $12 for students and senior citizens and $15 for adults. The Oct. 21 show is considered a preview performance, so those tickets are only $10 each.

Here’s a brief teaser of the plot, courtesy of the Northwood High website:

If you think this is just another reworking of the Cinderella fairy tale, think again. Our story begins in a big old house, with a girl who lives huddled deep in the protection of an ashy hearth. When the invitation to the ball arrives from the prince, Ashgirl must fight the monsters that have slithered and insinuated their way into her heart and mind.

FullSizeRenderDanyelle Dunavold, Northwood’s theater arts director, says her cast and crew have been particularly invested in bringing this story to life.

“The process of designing and creating this show has been incredibly powerful not only because the many students involved were engaged in the process from day one, but because of the empowerment of our student designers,” Dunavold said. “The play is entirely student run. The sets were designed by students using Vectorworks, an architectural drafting software. The costume design, marketing and publicity design, makeup design, props, running crew, box office, house manager, light board operator, sound, stage management – all performed by students.”

Be advised that a strobe light is used in the performance. For more information, call 949-936-7276 or visit the school’s website at www.northwoodhigh.org.


Portola High groundbreaking celebrated as a testament to collaboration, perseverance


In less than two years, a state-of-the-art high school is expected to occupy this vast stretch of undeveloped land south of Irvine Boulevard. There will be classrooms, a 720-seat theater, a gymnasium, a building to house elective courses, and the kind of student center you might find on a college campus.

But IUSD school board President Sharon Wallin sees more than the promise of new facilities. She sees memories waiting to be made.

“I see pep rallies, homecoming dances, basketball games,” said Wallin, flanked by blue and white balloons. “I see band performances, spring musicals and campus clubs. I see the first encounters between students, and the lifelong friendships being made. That to me is what this project is all about.”

Portola High groundbreaking 3Joined by local dignitaries and community members, IUSD ceremoniously broke ground on Portola High School Thursday afternoon, marking the start of construction on the district’s fifth comprehensive high school after years of diligent planning, collaborative negotiations and rigorous environmental reviews. The event was held just three weeks after a groundbreaking celebration for the similarly named Portola Springs Elementary School.

“You know, they say that the best things in life don’t come easy,” Superintendent Terry Walker said during his introductory remarks. “So if that is true, then I have no doubt that this high school is going to be the greatest high school in the world.”

Along with Wallin and Walker, ceremony speakers included state Assemblyman Don Wagner, Irvine Company Senior Vice President Mike LeBlanc, FivePoint Communities Executive Vice President Lynn Jochim, Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway and representatives from the offices of Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and state Senator Mimi Walters.

Portola High groundbreakingFEATUREDIUSD Board of Education members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks, Ira Glasky and Michael Parham were also on hand, as was former trustee Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner. And the Northwood High School band, led by music teachers Ben Case and Whitney Tavlarides, cheerfully loaned school spirit to the ceremony with a setlist of contemporary songs, including Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Both were fitting.

Naturally, there were photos to commemorate the occasion, featuring board members, staff and others breaking ground with shiny silver shovels near what will become home plate on Portola High’s future baseball diamond. (“So all kinds of references to hitting home runs would be very relevant to today’s events,” noted Walker.) But first it was time to acknowledge the moment’s significance — and to recognize those responsible for getting Portola High to this point.

“The story of this school, like most of the great stories, is one about people,” Walker said, “and in this case their selfless dedication to serving our students and this community.”

“The people responsible for making this school a reality … embody the same characteristics we aspire to cultivate in our students — courage and resilience and perseverance and grit, as well as thoughtful planning,” the superintendent said.

Portola High groundbreaking 2Indeed, planning had been long underway before IUSD and its developer partners reached agreement on the school’s location in 2011, kicking off an exhaustive evaluation and testing process that culminated with approvals from the California Department of Education and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. In May, the Board of Education passed a resolution formally selecting the more-than-40-acre site along Irvine Boulevard and west of Alton Parkway, and the school was given a name nine days before Thursday’s ceremony. Portola High School, designed by HMC Architects, is now set to open in August 2016 with an inaugural class of freshman students.

“Here’s an understatement for you: This is a big day for our school district,” board President Wallin said, drawing an enthusiastic round of applause.

“Though our groundbreaking ceremonies traditionally mark the beginning of construction, our district’s vision is long-term,” she said. “Our commitment extends to many generations who will go on to shape this campus and establish its own identity, ensuring that Portola High is indeed synonymous with all that’s great in Irvine.”

Photos by IUSD Webmaster Shane Cline


Uni High team earns grant funding to invent aerial search-and-rescue system


Uni's Lemelson-MIT team

A team of University High students has been awarded $9,680 in grant funding to develop an aerial search-and-rescue prototype capable of locating lost hikers. Seriously. It’s all part of a unique program that encourages high schoolers to solve real-world problems with technological solutions. 

Uni is one of just 15 high schools nationwide to secure funding for its Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam this year. Founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994, the Lemelson-MIT program aims to inspire the next generation of inventors and promote economic growth.

Uni High science teacher and STEM coach Tinh Tran describes the program as “the ultimate in STEM project-based learning instruction.”

“There are no predetermined answers,” Tran said. “Where the project goes depends on hard work, skill, smarts and a bit of luck.”

“The team will likely experience many failures along the way and students will learn that it’s okay to fail – failure is an integral part of innovation,” he said. “By working in this type of learning environment, the students develop and practice 21st Century skills needed in a world that values collaboration, initiative, perseverance, flexibility, empathy, curiosity and creativity.

Tran began the InvenTeam application process last spring and even attended a training at MIT in June to refine his school’s entry. Months later, a panel that included educators, researchers, MIT alumni and former Lemelson-MIT award winners judged the proposals and named Uni among this year’s grantees. 

With almost $10,000 in funding, Tran will lead of group of 15 students in developing a high-tech system for locating lost hikers and others who go missing in wilderness areas. According to the proposal, the Uni invention will create an autonomous fixed-wing aircraft, a mobile data-receiving base station and a distress-signal-emitting radio wristband, and all of those components will be able to talk to one another.

“The InvenTeams program represents the future,” said Leigh Estabrooks, Lemelson-MIT’s invention education officer.  “We place an emphasis on STEM-focused projects to develop interest in these fields among youth. With InvenTeams, our primary goal is to foster high school students’ passion for invention, in turn inspiring them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering or math.”

Along with other local companies and organizations, Uni’s InvenTeam — or UNInvenTeam, as they’re calling themselves — is partnering with OC Makerspace, a company that offers community members a creative space to work on projects and connect with professionals.

The Uni students will develop their Aerial Wilderness Distress Monitor and Search System over the next nine months, and in June they plan to showcase a prototype of their invention at EurekaFest, a multi-day event held at MIT with activities designed to inspire youth and encourage creativity and problem-solving.

“The student inventors and I are absolutely thrilled and feel incredibly honored to have received an InvenTeam grant,” Tran told the NewsFlash. “The work we put in over the summer to research, brainstorm ideas, gather feedback from intended beneficiaries and prepare the final application really paid off. Now we get to have fun, because inventing is just plain fun.”


Irvine Unified Council PTA to hold forum for trio of Board of Education candidates


With three hopefuls vying for two open seats on the IUSD Board of Education, the Irvine Unified Council PTA will host a special Candidate Forum beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23.

The event, which is open to the public, will be held at the District Office, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway. It will also air locally for Cox cable subscribers on IUSD’s channel 39 and via AT&T U-verse’s government and public television menu.

vote-300x298Irvine voters will head to the polls on Nov. 4 to fill two at-large posts on the five-person school board. Seeking a four-year term are incumbent Ira Glasky, an attorney; Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur; and Sharon Wallin, an incumbent who currently serves as board president.

At the forum, each candidate will have an opportunity to make a statement and answer questions presented by an impartial moderator from the League of Women Voters. The questions, developed by the Irvine Council PTA Executive Board, will be the same for all three candidates, and there will also be a limited amount of time for questions from the audience.

“The Candidate Forum has become an Irvine Council PTA tradition and helps us connect our families with the district and the issues we face in public education,” Irvine Council PTA President Connie Stone said.

“We face challenges and opportunities with increases in school populations throughout Irvine as well as implementation of Common Core,”  Stone said. “We are excited to hear what our candidates have to say about these issues and opportunities.”

No RSVP is necessary to attend, but organizers recommend arriving by 6 p.m. to ensure a seat. There may also be time at the end of the forum to chat with the candidates.


Posted in PTA

Latest federally-mandated asbestos inspections reveal no hazards in IUSD


An “extremely thorough” asbestos inspection that assessed every room on every IUSD campus over the summer has resulted in a clean bill of health for local schools.

Under the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, or AHERA, school district facilities are required to be re-inspected for asbestos-related hazards every three years. A team from the environmental services firm A-Tech Consulting Inc. was dispatched to Irvine to perform that work in late August and spent about a week examining IUSD’s campuses.

In a letter dated Thursday, Oct. 9, an A-Tech Consulting official confirmed that his company’s comprehensive evaluation revealed no asbestos hazards in Irvine Unified.

“The re-inspections were extremely thorough,” Project Supervisor Joseph A. Williams said. “We made it a point to go into every building, room and closet within each school and look at every material. At this time, our findings indicate that there is currently no asbestos hazard throughout the Irvine Unified School District.”

IUSD, which will be re-examined again in three years, tends to go above and beyond in testing its schools for potential hazards, says Joe Hoffman, the district’s director of Maintenance and Operations.

“We follow all the AHERA guidelines and re-inspect our schools continually to make sure they’re safe for students and staff,” Hoffman said.


Superintendent sends email to parents endorsing IPSF’s latest fundraising campaign


In a notice sent to IUSD families this week, Superintendent Terry Walker endorsed the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s latest campaign to raise money for local schools, noting that every dollar donated will be matched by the City of Irvine.

TerryWalker“These funds make a difference where it matters most – in the classroom,” Walker wrote in the Oct. 6 email. “At the elementary level, proceeds from this campaign pay for the qualified instructional assistants who work directly with your children, increasing the amount of one‐on‐one interaction. In our middle and high schools, class‐size support funds equate to additional staffing hours that reduce student‐to‐teacher ratios in critical subjects.”

“Though any amount is appreciated,” he added, “IPSF and IUSD are asking you to consider a tax-deductible contribution of $100 or more by the end of the calendar year. This revenue will make an immediate impact in our classrooms, and just imagine what our district could do if each of our 20,000 families participated.”

Here’s the full text of the superintendent’s email:

Dear IUSD community member:

Since 1996, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation has been an invaluable partner to our district, leveraging this community’s generosity and passion for education while facilitating a number of innovative programs.

Well, IPSF is once again leading the charge to ensure excellence in our classrooms with a new fundraising campaign, and the City of Irvine has offered to match every donation. That means if you donate a dollar to IPSF, the City will kick in an additional dollar, potentially generating nearly $2 million.

These funds make a difference where it matters most – in the classroom. At the elementary level, proceeds from this campaign pay for the qualified instructional assistants who work directly with your children, increasing the amount of one‐on‐one interaction. In our middle and high schools, class‐size support funds equate to additional staffing hours that reduce student‐to‐teacher ratios in critical subjects. In addition, IPSF supports music education for students in kindergarten through grade six, as well as grants that enable our teachers and counselors to pursue new technologies and 21st-century learning strategies.

Though any amount is appreciated, IPSF and IUSD are asking you to consider a tax-deductible contribution of $100 or more by the end of the calendar year. This revenue will make an immediate impact in our classrooms, and just imagine what our district could do if each of our 20,000 families participated.

Keep in mind that IPSF is the only organization with the reach and resources to impact every school – and every child – in our district. If you’ve ever considered making a contribution to preserve excellence in the classroom, or even to help maintain the property values that are linked to our schools’ performance, now is the time.

To make a donation, or to learn more about the partnership between IUSD, IPSF and the City of Irvine, please visit the foundation’s website by clicking here.

As always, thank you for supporting education in Irvine.

Sincerely,

Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools


Board of Education unanimously approves a name for IUSD’s next high school


We now know what name will be stamped on the marquee outside Irvine’s next high school: Portola High School.

gavelThe Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday night to brand IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school with that moniker after considering a lengthy list of community submissions — and a handful of staff recommendations based on those submissions, including Great Park High, Modjeska High, Veterans High and Park View High.

Despite more than 300 community suggestions, the early board consensus was that there was no runaway favorite, and there was talk of postponing a final decision. But board members ultimately agreed that Portola High was the right choice, and one that fits with IUSD’s other high school names.

“Believe me, I’ve been thinking about it,” Board President Sharon Wallin said, “and there’s not a name great enough for what this high school is going to be.”

Joining an award-winning lineup that includes Creekside, Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools, Portola High is on track to open with an inaugural class of freshmen in August 2016. In the meantime, an Oct. 16 groundbreaking ceremony has been planned to mark the beginning of construction.