Board of Education votes to reopen negotiations with employee associations for 2010-11


Based on the projection of positive ending balances through 2011-12, as well as the arrival of approximately $4.5 million in federal dollars, the IUSD Board of Education on Oct. 5 voted to reopen negotiations for the current year with the Irvine Teachers Association and the local chapter of the California School Employees Association.

Back in March, with IUSD facing a shortfall of $20 million, Board members approved a number of staff-recommended reductions that included four districtwide furlough days for 2009-10 and eight for 2010-11. As furloughs represent a loss of compensation for employees, the days were secured through the collective bargaining process – and with the understanding that the district would reopen negotiations if new funding materialized in 2010-11.

Assistant Superintendent Terry Walker said negotiations will address IUSD’s current projections and the new federal dollars, as well as the uncertainties associated with the state budget.

To read a recap of the Oct. 5 Board of Education meeting, click here.


State lawmakers come to terms on a budget for California – 100 days after it was due


Well, better late than never.

California’s budget arrived 100 days late to be exact, setting a new mark for the longest budgetary impasse in state history. But by Oct. 8, lawmakers had approved a spending plan for the fiscal year that began in July. (The Los Angeles Times has more here.)

IUSD’s Business Services staff will closely scrutinize details of the plan in the days ahead. Yet initial reports indicate that the budget is at least a little more favorable to education than what was outlined in the governor’s proposal from May. That said, Gov. Schwarzenegger personally vetoed nearly $1 billion in welfare, child care and special education programs that will impact school districts, and most experts agree that California’s spending plan is based on some pretty rosy revenue assumptions that probably won’t hold up. That means mid-year cuts at the state level are a possibility.

You’ll recall that Irvine Unified adopted its budget for 2010-11 in June, which is when school districts are legally required to do so. (The state shares this deadline, but Sacramento is usually tardy.) In order to present a balanced budget, IUSD first had to approve a raft of budget reductions and adjustments to bridge a deficit estimated at about $20 million.

With costs coming in slightly lower than anticipated and revenue coming in higher, the district is now cautiously projecting positive ending balances through 2011-12. To read a recent update on IUSD’s finances from Superintendent Gwen Gross, click here.


Gov. Schwarzenegger and lawmakers say they’ve struck a deal on a state budget


Potentially ending the longest budget impasse in California’s history, it was announced on Oct. 1  that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and key legislative leaders had finally reached agreement on a spending plan for the current fiscal year.

Few details have been released, and lawmakers still must vote on the plan, which would presumably close the state’s $19 billion shortfall. Then there’s the possibility that the budget’s passage could be complicated by the upcoming election, as noted in a recent Los Angeles Times article.

The Irvine Unified School District is closely monitoring developments out of Sacramento, as a number of variables in the state budget will have local impacts. In the meantime, the district is cautiously projecting positive ending balances through 2011-12.

For the latest on IUSD’s budget, click here.


Budget Notebook: IUSD is cautiously optimistic as state sets new record for budget tardiness


BY SUPERINTENDENT GWEN E. GROSS, Ph.D.

This week, California made history – and not the good kind.

Our state is now as far as it has ever been into the fiscal year without an approved budget, and it could be days or weeks before a spending plan is agreed upon in Sacramento. Even then, California’s plan may be more smoke and mirrors than actual solutions.

So what does this mean for the Irvine Unified School District? Well, we are continuing to operate based on the governor’s projections from his “May Revise,” and while we cautiously project positive ending balances through 2011-12, we are also grappling with a number of variables.

For example, based on the May Revise, we have already anticipated and budgeted a reduction of 3.85 percent, or approximately $6.5 million. But it’s not yet known whether this cut will apply to districts funded under the “Basic Aid” model, including Irvine. Moreover, IUSD and other Basic Aid districts were told to brace for another reduction of $9.7 million as part of their “Fair Share” agreement with the state, but this cut doesn’t yet appear in any budget language for 2010-11.

This represents a total of $16.2 million that could swing in either direction. That said, even if we are asked to relinquish these funds in the months ahead, it appears we will still be able to make it through this year and next without additional reductions.

The reason is this: Our revenues have come in slightly higher than expected, and, thanks in large part to our employees, our costs have come in lower. In fact, including the 3.85 percent hit and the Fair Share reduction – and factoring in our state-mandated emergency reserves – the Irvine Unified School District is cautiously projecting healthy ending balances of $13 million in 2010-11 and $6.6 million 2011-12, followed by an estimated deficit of $4 million in 2012-13.

Again, these figures will not be real until we have a state budget – and even then there are no guarantees that Sacramento won’t pull the rug out from under us after the November election, which will introduce new lawmakers and a new governor. Based on our recent history, this district’s Business Services team has found it necessary to budget conservatively, and we’ve still been forced to react to bitter surprises in the spring. Nevertheless, our aim is to communicate every step of this process, for better or for worse.

We’ll soon be meeting with our employee associations to discuss our fiscal condition. Meanwhile, there’s another revenue source in play – in the form of federal EduJobs dollars. Back in August, a federal bill was signed into law to preserve jobs, including those of approximately 160,000 teachers. IUSD’s share of this money has been estimated at about $5 million, but there are many rules as to how and when these dollars must be spent. And, once again, our status as a Basic Aid district could impact our allocation. Staff is closely monitoring developments and will be prepared to make recommendations to the Board of Education, which will ultimately decide how to use these funds to the benefit of our students.

One more point worth noting. Last year, our district submitted its First Interim Report to the county with a “qualified” certification, indicating we would not be able to meet our financial obligations without taking corrective action – and we did exactly that. This year, we anticipate filing the same financial report with the ideal “positive” certification, pending another sudden shift at the state level.

That we are in this position is testament to the leadership of our Board of Education, as well as our faculty and staff, which has made incredible sacrifices and held costs in check in the face of dwindling revenue. While it’s not yet time to declare ourselves out of the woods, there is at least reason for cautious optimism heading into October.


IUSD cautiously projects positive balances, though state budget outlook is uncertain


While the state budget picture remains cloudy, IUSD is cautiously projecting positive ending balances through 2011-12, Assistant Superintendent Lisa Howell told the Board of Education this week.

That means IUSD, which has cut nearly $38 million over two years, should not have to make additional reductions to file its First Interim Report with the preferred “positive” certification. (First Interim Reports are submitted to the Orange County Department of Education every fall. They essentially signal a district’s financial health.) Still, Howell noted during Tuesday’s Budget Study Session that uncertainties remain in Sacramento, where legislators have yet to adopt a budget for the current fiscal year.

Meanwhile, school districts throughout California are hoping for some relief via a federal jobs bill that was signed into law in August. Howell said key details of that allocation have yet to be announced, but it is believed IUSD’s share will be approximately $5 million.

Tuesday’s budget session was followed by a regular meeting of the Board of Education. To read a recap, click here.


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.


IPSF reports brisk ticket sales for next month’s inaugural Spirit of Excellence Gala and Auction


The Irvine Public Schools Foundation says tickets for its inaugural gala are selling briskly, and corporate sponsorships for the event are still available. 

The Spirit of Excellence Gala and Auction, which will be held on Friday, Sept. 10, at the KIA Motors America headquarters in Irvine, aims to celebrate the achievements of five accomplished IUSD alumni while generating much-needed funding for local schools. 

“We are delighted with the support we have received from the local business community and Irvine families for this event and we’re looking to make this gala the biggest event for supporting education in Irvine’s history,” said IPSF chief Neda Zaengle.

“Great schools make it easier for local employers to attract exceptional professionals,” Zaengle said. “We’re looking for additional corporate sponsors to help us help them make Irvine a great place to live and send your kids to great schools. We’re grateful for the support we have so far and there’s still room to join us.”

The five honorees to be recognized at the gala are: Nasim Pedrad (University High), an actress and comedienne who recently joined the cast of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”; Jeremy Siskind (Irvine High), a pianist for Eastman Jazz of New York City; Dr. Richard Baick (University High), a physician with the Irvine Family Practice Medical Group; Garrett Atkins (University High), a three-time All-American baseball player at UCLA who went on to play with the Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles; and Adam Keefe (Woodbridge High), a former member of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and the fifth all-team leading scorer in the PAC-10 for Stanford.

For tickets, or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact IPSF at (949) 265-6409. Or visit www.ipsf.net.


Cash-strapped school districts hope federal bill will provide relief by preserving teaching jobs


President Obama signed into law an emergency bill from Congress this week designed to preserve jobs, including those of approximately 160,000 teachers who have been laid off or who might have been laid off this year. The Los Angeles Times has the story here.

School districts including Irvine are closely monitoring this legislation and hoping the bill will provide some much-needed relief. However, it has not yet been determined at the federal and state levels how or when these dollars will be allocated.

It’s also worth noting that California is still without a budget for 2010-11, and lawmakers in Sacramento are struggling to close a gap of approximately $20 billion. Whether these factors play a role in the distribution of the federal funds remains to be seen.

For more information on IUSD’s finances, visit the district’s Budget Watch page.


Friday is your last chance to win a home through IPSF’s 7th annual Dream Stakes Home Raffle


This is it – the end of the line.

Friday marks the final day to purchase a ticket for the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s 7th annual Irvine Dream Stakes Home Raffle, which is offering up a $700,000 condo – or $500,000 in cash – as the grand prize.

IPSF has already given away a bunch of early-bird goodies, including $10,000 in cash, a new BMW, a vacation package for six oceanfront resorts and free rent for a year.

But there’s still the matter of handing over a high-rise luxury home at 3000 The Plaza. The winner will be announced at 10 a.m. on Aug. 21 at Woodbury Elementary School, and it could be you – but only if you buy a ticket by Friday.

Raffle tickets are $150 each, and the proceeds benefit schools in the Irvine Unified School District.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to www.irvinedreamstakes.com or call (949) 734-6873. To read more in the Orange County Register, click here.


Board approves a balanced budget for 2010-11 as uncertainties abound in Sacramento


The Board of Education on Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt IUSD’s budget for 2010-11.

The final spending plan, which can be accessed here, outlines approximately $200.6 million worth of expenditures – both restricted and unrestricted – against $196.8 million worth of total revenue. The difference will be offset by onetime carryover funds, said Lisa Howell, assistant superintendent of Business Services.

As a result of the state budget crisis, IUSD was forced to make a number of reductions and adjustments in March to bridge a fiscal gap of approximately $20 million. While the district will submit a balanced budget for 2010-11, IUSD continues to project significant shortfalls for the two subsequent years and will therefore be required to explore additional reductions and revenue enhancements.

Irvine is annually required to submit its budget to the Orange County Department of Education on or before June 30. Other districts share this deadline, as does the state, though the Legislature rarely meets it. That forces educators to make important financial decisions based on the governor’s proposals from January and May. Once the state officially adopts its spending plan – some believe this might not happen until after the November election – IUSD will have 45 days to make any necessary adjustments.

To view the slide presentation that was shown prior to Tuesday’s vote, click here. To read more highlights from the meeting, click here.