Innovative middle schooler is one of 10 finalists in national science competition

An Irvine student has earned a spot among 10 finalists in a premier national science competition for students in grades five through eight.

Albert Tung, who is currently a freshman at University High School, entered the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge last year as a Rancho San Joaquin Middle School eighth-grader. His project theorized that a specially wired helmet could aid stroke-impaired patients by stimulating damaged regions of the brain.

As a finalist, Albert receives $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to St. Paul, Minn., where he’ll present his innovation to a panel of judges. The first-place winner will take home $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

The Young Scientist Challenge was established to encourage the exploration of science and innovation among America’s youth and to promote the importance of science communication, according to its website. Discovery Communications launched the competition 12 years ago and teamed up with 3M in 2008.

To check out a brief video outlining Albert’s project, click here. To read about it in The Orange County Register, click here.

Orange County Register looks to the community to expand coverage of Irvine schools

The Orange County Register would like to expand its coverage of Irvine schools – and you can help.

To supplement the work of its staff of professional writers and photographers, the newspaper is calling on you, the citizen journalists of the world, to submit photos and short stories about campus events, festivals and honors. Each submission will be considered for publication on the Register’s website and in the Irvine World News.

Editors say they’re interested in timely stories and photos that document school fundraisers, festivals, competitions and special events, as well as the honors, accolades and prizes won by IUSD’s students and staff. The text should tell readers what happened, when it happened, where it happened and how many attended, along with any other relevant information. (For example, a story about a school fundraiser should note how much money was raised and for what cause.)

All submissions should be emailed to Theresa Cisneros at or Paul Danison at Photos must be in the “.jpg” format, accompanied by a few lines that identify the people in the photo, describe what they’re doing and indicate the date and time the picture was taken.

Oh yeah, and be sure to include your name, phone number and email address so the paper can contact you and give you credit if your story or photo is published.

Good luck!

Local schools help propel Irvine to No. 5 on new list of America’s best cities

The latest list of America’s top cities has Irvine at No. 5, citing in part the quality of local schools. In fact, the report says, Irvine “has the best schools among the cities on our list.”’s first foray into municipal rankings came out earlier this week with Raleigh, N.C., at the top of its “Best Cities” breakdown, followed by Arlington, Va., Honolulu and Scottsdale, Ariz.

Holding down the fifth spot is Irvine, which is credited with a high median income and a large percentage of college-educated residents. “Further, the area has the best schools among the cities on our list,” the publication says, and who are we to argue? “In short, it’s a splendid place to settle down.” says it spent months looking at a range of data on everything from school performance and green space to crime rates and cultural amenities. To check out Irvine’s statistics, click here.

District to sponsor ‘Ask-A-Scientist Night’ next month at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School

Students looking for an edge on their science projects will be able to consult with some pretty sharp experts next month, as IUSD is once again sponsoring “Ask-A-Scientist Night” at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School. This year’s event will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

As in previous years, students in grades six through 12 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 firms and institutions. In addition, district science teachers will be on hand to assist.

Rancho San Joaquin Middle School is located at 4861 Michelson Road. For more information, check out the above flier. Or email Or call (949) 936-5057.

Former fiscal chief will oversee business operations until a replacement is named

IUSD recently bid farewell to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lisa Howell, who after 11 years in Irvine – including the last three as the district’s fiscal chief – has accepted a job much closer to her Palm Springs-area home.

Howell is a savvy veteran of school finance, and her departure to the Palm Springs Unified School District leaves some pretty big shoes to fill locally. Yet the district has tapped an experienced and familiar leader to temporarily fill the void. Dr. Vern Medeiros, who was IUSD’s deputy superintendent of business services up until his retirement in 2008, will reprise his former role and oversee fiscal operations during the transition, pending approval by the Board of Education.

“We could not be more grateful to secure the expertise of Dr. Medeiros, who is very familiar with our staff, our community and the culture of this district,” said IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker.

Meanwhile, Walker said, the search is on for a permanent replacement. District officials are anticipating a deep pool of talented and experienced candidates, with the expectation that the position will be filled by the holidays.

“Until then,” the superintendent said, “our district’s finances remain in good hands.”

Nearly 100 IUSD seniors rank among nation’s elite as Merit Scholarship semifinalists

Ninety-six IUSD seniors are in some very elite company this week, having been named semifinalists in the annual pursuit of scholarships through the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Overall, 16,000 earned the prestigious honor in the U.S., representing less than 1 percent of all high school seniors. Of that total, some 270 attend schools in Orange County, according to a report in The Orange County Register.

As juniors, more than 1.5 million students entered the 2012 National Merit Program by taking the 2010 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The highest scoring entrants now have an opportunity to pursue roughly 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $34 million.

Of course, semifinalists can only become finalists by fulfilling a number requirements, including earning outstanding marks throughout high school, securing the recommendation of their principals and posting high SAT scores.

Program organizers say more than 90 percent of semifinalists will ultimately advance to the next round, and approximately half of all finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship and earn the title of “Merit Scholar.”

In the meantime, to check out the list of IUSD semifinalists as compiled by the Register, click here.

Different bat-time, same bat-channel for future IUSD Board of Education meetings

Just a reminder that tonight’s Board of Education meeting will kick off a half-hour earlier at 6:30 p.m.

In fact, all regular meetings from here on out will start at 6:30, unless otherwise advertised.

Board members voted to make the change at their Aug. 23 session following a recommendation from staff, which noted that earlier dismissal times would reduce fatigue and be an overall benefit to community members, student board members and employees.

Meetings will still take place in the Board Room of the District Office, which is located at 5050 Barranca Parkway, and they’ll continue to be aired locally on Channel 39 in Irvine.

For tonight’s agenda, click here. For more information, click here.


IPSF, PTAs and other organizations take different paths toward a common cause

Ever considered making a contribution to IUSD, but you’re not exactly sure who pays for what?

There are, after all, a number of organizations that exist to support Irvine schools, including the Irvine Public Schools Foundation and our local PTAs. To clarify the roles of each, Superintendent Terry Walker emailed a letter to families last week. Here’s the full text:

Dear IUSD parent:

Surveys consistently indicate that our schools are among the top reasons families move to Irvine. That means there’s a good chance you’re here because you want the best educational opportunities for your child.

As we start another year, the Irvine Unified School District remains committed to sustaining those opportunities. Yet we know from experience that California cannot be relied upon to fully fund the level of quality and enrichment that our families expect. As a result, a number of local organizations have emerged over the years to help.

Admittedly, having so many supportive organizations may be a bit confusing for parents who would like to contribute but aren’t sure how. So allow me to take a moment to clarify the roles of a few groups that contribute to our success.

Irvine Public Schools Foundation. IPSF is the only organization with the reach and resources to impact every student at every school in our district, and it relies heavily on the support of parents and corporate donors. IPSF backs districtwide initiatives, providing funding for instructional assistant hours in larger classes, along with music, nurses, health clerks and grants for teachers, counselors, science and technology. The foundation also facilitates a number of vital programs including Afterschool Classroom Enrichment (ACE), the K-8 Summer Enrichment Academy (SEA), the popular Instrument Rental Program and the Donald Bren Honors Concert.

(How to support IPSF: You can make a tax-deductible donation to IPSF at any time by visiting Or join the 365 Partners Program to donate the equivalent of one dollar per day for your child’s education.)

Your school’s PTA. School PTA units play a critical role throughout our district, coordinating essential volunteer efforts while raising money for supplies, equipment and site-based programs, including P.E. and assemblies. PTA funds cannot be used to hire additional teachers or to reduce class sizes, but they can be used for supplemental instructional assistant hours and health clerk hours. Every IUSD school has a PTA, and there are more than 13,000 PTA members throughout Irvine. Moreover, each site PTA is a member of the Irvine Unified Council PTA, which provides training and support through monthly meetings while coordinating district-wide advocacy efforts.

(How to support the PTA: Contribute your time and talents as a PTA member, or consider making a donation.)

Classroom collections, fundraisers and booster programs. Our schools may also seek voluntary donations to pay for classroom supplies, activities and special programs such as music, art, science and athletics at the high school level. Some schools have booster clubs, which are independent and voluntary membership organizations established to support a particular club, team or program. All contributions are optional, meaning no student will be excluded from an educational opportunity if his or her family opts not to pay. But donations are always welcome, and in fact they’ve become critically important in the wake of California’s budget crisis.

(How to support your child’s school: Look for information about volunteer and donation opportunities from teachers and the organizers of your child’s favorite activities.)

Just as the word “us” is right in the middle of “IUSD,” collaboration is at the heart of this district, which was established by forward-thinking educators who settled for nothing short of world-class schools and choices for parents. Nearly 40 years later, we are incredibly fortunate to offer some of the finest academic and enrichment programs in the nation, thanks in large part to our community partnerships and generous families like yours.

Again, all monetary donations are optional, and no child will be denied an educational opportunity, regardless of whether a contribution is made. But we hope you will help carry on this district’s collaborative spirit by spreading the word about IPSF, our PTAs and the many partners that contribute greatly to the success of each student.

As always, thank you for supporting education in Irvine.


Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools

September 8 marks the first day of school for students on the traditional calendar

Over the course of the next nine and a half months, there will be essay questions, reading assignments, science projects and word problems. There will also be field trips, football games, high school dances and, ultimately, commencement exercises.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Tomorrow, after all, is just the first day of school for IUSD students on the traditional calendar, and to those who will be returning we say, “Welcome back!” — or “Welcome!” if you’re new to the district.

Because the morning routines will seem a little less familiar either way, families with younger children may want to get an earlier start tomorrow morning, and local motorists are advised to be patient and practice extra vigilance to ensure Irvine’s streets are safe for pedestrians.

Most of those pedestrians will return to campuses that haven’t changed too much, but that’s not the case for those heading to Woodbridge High School and Deerfield Elementary School, which have each benefited from major modernization and expansion projects.

In fact, Deerfield will welcome back students after being out of commission for more than a year. The former El Camino Real Elementary site served as temporary housing for Deerfield students while their campus was completely overhauled with new structures, new landscaping and brand new interior walls in the campus’ main building, effectively ending the open floor-plan era that had been around since the 1970s. (To read a recent Orange County Register story about Deerfield’s transformation, click here.)

As always, you can learn more about your own school through its website, which can be accessed by clicking here. To check out the district’s calendar for the 2011-12 school year, click here.