Experienced IUSD principals selected to lead Cypress Village and Portola Springs elementary schools


To keep pace with the rapid growth of residential development in Irvine, IUSD is planning to open not just one but two new elementary schools in the fall of 2014.

Cypress Village Elementary School is currently under construction south of Jeffrey Road and east of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway. Portola Springs Elementary, serving its namesake village, will be located at an interim site for a year, with a new facility opening in time for the 2015-16 school year.

Naturally, a lot of work will take place to get these schools ready for the fall, but IUSD leaders took a big step this week by securing principals for each.

Susan Kemp, who is in her seventh year as principal at Canyon View Elementary School, will oversee operations as Cypress Village’s first principal. Heather Phillips, who currently serves as principal at Plaza Vista School, has been selected to take on the same role at Portola Springs.

Susie Kemp and Heather PhillipsBoth administrators will remain at their current sites through June and receive additional administrative support to ease their transitions. Meanwhile, the district has said it will begin the hiring process for their successors at Canyon View and Plaza Vista in the spring.

Kemp, a resident of Newport Beach with three children, including two in college, began her career in 1992 as an elementary teacher in the Newport Mesa Unified School District, where she taught grades one, three, five and six. In 2000, she was hired as a principal in the Ocean View School District, and in 2007 she took over as Canyon View’s principal.

Kemp has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA, an administrative credential from UCI, a master’s degree in educational administration from National University and a doctorate in educational administration through a joint program between UCLA and UCI.

“Working at Canyon View has been an honor and a privilege,” she told her community via email on Oct. 16. “I love what I do, because of all of you. Thank you for seven amazing years. Canyon View will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Phillips started out as an intern teacher at IUSD’s Springbrook Elementary in 1992, teaching grades three and five for seven years. She helped open Plaza Vista in 1999 as part of the school’s original Leadership Team and eventually taught primary grades, upper elementary grades and middle school before being named assistant principal in 2007. The following year, she was hired as principal of Plaza Vista.

A resident of Irvine with four children in the district, Phillips earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies from UCLA, her teaching credential from UCI and her master’s degree and administrative credential from Cal State Fullerton.

In an email to her community, she said the decision to leave Plaza Vista was a difficult one. Not only was she there from beginning, but all four of her children have been students at the school.

“After 15 years here, the connection we have fostered and enjoyed together as a community is deep and rich,” she said. “When I made the transition from classroom teacher to administrator, I was encouraged and supported by this community, and I feel a strong sense of satisfaction and an ever-growing appreciation with each task we have accomplished and with each issue we have solved.”

At the same time, Phillips said her new role presents “an exciting opportunity for me to facilitate the opening of a new school and to play an active role in the forming of a new neighborhood community – very similar to what occurred here at Plaza Vista 15 years ago.”