IPSF’s inaugural Spirit of Excellence Gala and Auction raises more than $200,000 for schools


“Live from Irvine, it’s Friday night!”

So proclaimed Nasim Pedrad, a “Saturday Night Live” cast member and former Trojan from University High School, during the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s inaugural Spirit of Excellence Gala and Auction, which was held Sept. 10 at the Irvine headquarters of Kia Motors America.

The black-tie event, which featured a cocktail reception and silent auction followed by dinner, a live auction, performances and dancing, honored five exceptional IUSD graduates – and raised more than $200,000 for schools in Irvine. Nearly 400 guests attended, including IUSD Board of Education members Sharon Wallin, Sue Kuwabara, Gavin Huntley-Fenner and Carolyn McInerney, Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, Congressman John Campbell (R-Irvine), city officials, district staff, community leaders and various movers and shakers from the business community.

IPSF CEO Neda Zaengle

In addition to Pedrad, the IPSF gala recognized Jeremy Siskind, a former musical wunderkind from Irvine High who became a pianist for Eastman Jazz of New York City; Dr. Richard Baick, a Uni High grad who is now a physician with the Irvine Family Practice Medical Group; Garrett Atkins, another Uni grad who went on to play with the Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles; and Woodbridge High’s Adam Keefe, a former member of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and the fifth leading scorer in the history of the PAC-10.

Foundation CEO Neda Zaengle, addressing the crowd, said IUSD’s alumni were emblematic of the district’s successes.

“If you really want to know about a school system, if you really want to rate its quality, meet a few of its graduates,” Zaengle said. “Who did they become? What did they bring to their communities, and how have they enriched their work, their relationships and their everyday deeds?”

Prizes displayed for the silent and live auctions included upscale dinners, artwork and signed sports memorabilia. In the end, these items – and the generosity of those in attendance – helped IPSF raise more than $200,000 for local schools, shattering all expectations.

Corporate sponsors for the gala included Kia, Wells Fargo, Hoag Hospital Irvine, Kaiser Permanente, Vizio, Schools First Federal Credit Union, Grandpoint Bank, the Great Park Communities, MVE and Partners and the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center.


IUSD to sponsor its annual Ask-A-Scientist Night next month at Rancho


Stumped on a science project? Why not ask a scientist?

The Irvine Unified School District will once again sponsor “Ask-A-Scientist Night” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School.

Students working on all sorts of science fair projects will have the unique opportunity to seek advice from practicing scientists and engineers from Beckman, Allergan, Rockwell, the Irvine Ranch Water District, UC Irvine, USC, Irvine Valley College, Chapman University and other local science-related institutions. In addition, district science teachers will be on hand to assist.

Students will also be able to purchase IUSD Science Fair backboards for $5 each.

Rancho San Joaquin Middle School is located at 4861 Michelson Road. For more information, call (949) 936-5057.


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


With three candidates vying for two open seats on the IUSD Board of Education, the Irvine Unified Council PTA is planning to host a special “Candidates Forum” later this month.

Organizers say the forum, set to begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20, will give the public an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates about their qualifications and their views on education in advance of Election Day, which falls on Nov. 2.

In Irvine, the Board of Education is comprised of five members who hold four-year terms and set policy for the 27,000-student district. Among its numerous duties, the school board adopts the annual budget, hires the superintendent and approves expenditures, curriculum, facility plans and construction contracts. (For more information about the board’s duties, click here.)

This year’s candidates are incumbent Sharon Wallin, who is the current Board president; fellow incumbent Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner, a scientist; and challenger Jodie Lu Stout Hoffman, an education evaluation consultant.

The Sept. 20 forum, which will be open to the community and broadcast locally on Channel 39, will take place in the Board Room of the District Office, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway.


It’s September 2, and IUSD schools on the traditional calendar are open for business


To all students who are returning to schools on the traditional calendar, welcome back! And to those who are brand new to the Irvine Unified School District, welcome!

Today, of course, marks the first day of classes for most IUSD students, who will be streaming en masse to campuses all over Irvine. (Those attending the district’s four year-round schools started back up in late July.) Because the morning routines may be less familiar than they will be in a week or two, families escorting younger children may want to get an earlier start this morning. Moreover, local motorists are advised to practice a little extra vigilance to ensure neighborhood streets are safe for pedestrians, pint-size and otherwise.

For additional details, check out your school’s website. And good luck!