Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner celebrated by colleagues at final Board of Education meeting

On Tuesday night, the IUSD Board of Education accepted the latest installment of the Irvine Company’s generous pledge of more than $20 million for art, music and science. And board members also approved the first reading of a sweeping technology plan.

But in between, it was time to bid farewell to a longtime friend and colleague.

This week’s session marked the final regular meeting for Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner, who announced in October his plans to step down from the board on Nov. 21. Huntley-Fenner, a scientist who has published research on language acquisition and the early development of mathematics, has served IUSD since 2005.

Before adjourning for a brief reception, fellow board members and staff praised Huntley-Fenner as a thoughtful and dedicated leader who has advocated passionately on behalf of important issues, including school equity, special education, legislative action for full funding and a data-driven approach to pursuing continuous improvement.

“Honestly, it’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with you,” board member Michael Parham said. “In the times that we’ve agreed, it’s been for the right reasons. And the times that we’ve disagreed, it’s been for legitimate reasons too.”

Board member Paul Bokota said Huntley-Fenner has worked tirelessly on behalf of education and the students of Irvine, logging countless hours.

“He has been a tremendous asset, he has been a great friend, we will miss him on the board and hopefully we will not miss him in terms of his involvement in the community,” said Bokota.

“Your energy and your talent to maintain the high standards of the Irvine Unified School District has been unwavering,” added board member Lauren Brooks, who was elected last year along with Bokota, “and I just want to tell you that it’s my distinct pleasure to serve along with you.”

Finally, Sharon Wallin, who sat next to Huntley-Fenner for eight years, offered her parting thoughts.

“You have sought answers when they were difficult to find, you have led us with your gift of communication … and it will be really difficult to work without you,” she said.

Huntley-Fenner thanked his colleagues and his family — including his wife, Beth, who was in attendance with the couple’s two children — as well as IUSD the staff and representatives from the Irvine Teachers Association, the California School Employees Association, the Irvine Company and the Irvine Public Schools Foundation.

“I just feel very grateful to have served on the school board with such an extraordinary leadership team in such an extraordinary community,” he said. “I know it feels short. It feels short for me, but I can leave now knowing our district is in good hands.”