IUSD Board of Education Passes Resolution in Support of Public Schools

On February 21, 2017, during the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education meeting, the Board of Education passed Resolution No. 16-17-42 to affirm the District’s commitment and support for public education.  The resolution is being sent to local, state and federal officials.  To view the entire resolution,  click here or see below.

RESOLUTION NO.  16-17-42


WHEREAS, The Irvine Unified School District’s core values include, but are not limited to: nurturing the diverse gifts and capabilities within each individual; challenging every student and adult learner to persevere for excellence; developing competent, resourceful, resilient, and empowered learners prepared to meet the challenges of a complex future; and enhancing the human capability for courage, compassion, and contribution; and

WHEREAS, the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education believes that a system of quality public education is one of the essential foundations to make a meaningful difference in today’s and tomorrow’s world; and

WHEREAS, the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education believes that education is the most important asset in maximizing the opportunities of an individual and a community; and

WHEREAS, the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education believes that without quality public education a great divide will exist between the educated and the uneducated, corresponding to a divide between the prosperous and the impoverished; and

WHEREAS, the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education believes that well-funded, effective public schools are essential to developing empowered learners prepared to meet the challenges of a complex future; and

WHEREAS, public schools have a positive impact every day on the lives of countless students; dedicated school board members and school district employees who work countless hours to provide for the needs of learners of all ages, and

WHEREAS, quality public education for every child is integral to the democratic viability and economic future of our nation, by directly and indirectly contributing to the intellectual and physical development of all learners, regardless of heritage or circumstance; and

WHEREAS, all human beings have the capacity to learn at high levels and quality public education is the key to every learner having boundless opportunities to reach his or her dreams regardless of heritage or circumstance; and

WHEREAS, the potential for erosion of financial support for public education serves to deepen the inequalities and diminish the opportunities for every child; and

WHEREAS, as a student’s first model of civic engagement, public education is both a product of, and a tribute to, our democratic principles.  As always, we will defend those principles, students, and the integrity of our public schools.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the commitment to excellence is the hallmark of the Irvine Unified School District.  As a school and community partnership, our promise is to provide the highest quality educational experience we can envision;

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Irvine Unified School District is committed to ensuring students have access to a free, high-quality education that addresses the needs of the whole child, a commitment to anti-discriminatory policies and practices, and support for a safe and welcoming school environment for every student, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or socioeconomic background;

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education does hereby affirm its support for the public education system.

IUSD High School Students Arrive in Sacramento to Meet with State Lawmakers and Others

IUSD high school students, accompanied by teachers, District staff and IUSD Board Members, are in Sacramento today to meet with state lawmakers, journalists, government experts and staffers to discuss issues impacting education.  Below are photos of the group, which just recently arrived to the state capital.  They have a full day ahead, including meetings with State Senator John Moorlach; Assembly Member Steven Choi; veteran journalists Jim Miller and Sam Stanton; representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the California School Boards Association, the Public Policy Institute of California, and the California School Employees Association; and staffers from various representatives’ offices.














Top photo: IUSD students for visit to Sacramento
Left to right: Assembly Member Choi, IUSD students, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Assembly Speaker Rick Simpson, Senator Moorlach 


IUSD Announces 2016-17 Teachers of the Year

Early this morning, a caravan of District staff and IUSD Board Members traveled to seven schools to announce the three Teachers of the Year and the four Teachers of Promise.  Click here for the 2016-17 Teachers of Promise.

Now in its 31st year, IUSD’s Teacher of the Year program recognizes exceptional instructors at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  Below are this year’s honorees.

Elementary School Teacher of the Year

Mary Thomas-Vallens
Fifth Grade APAAS (Alternative Program for Academically Advanced Students) Teacher
Brywood Elementary

Mary Thomas-Vallens has been an educator since 1977.  Her passion for teaching is as strong today as it was when she first began 39 years ago.  Thomas-Vallens empowers students to strive for academic excellence in a supportive and empowering environment.  In addition to a focus on academic rigors, she encourages students to think beyond themselves and offers a range of service learning projects, such as Families Forward, Team Kids and more!

Her expertise extends beyond the classroom.  Thomas-Vallens has elevated the teaching of thousands of IUSD teachers through her Launch Point Professional Development training by teaching instructional strategies that support higher level thinking skills.  College students just beginning their careers benefit from her support through her coordination of field-study work for UCI students.

As best stated by Brywood Principal Astrid Ramirez, “She does more than teach…she touches lives.”

Middle School Teacher of the Year

Lauren Morrison
Education Specialist – Special Education
Jeffrey Trail Middle School

Lauren Morrison is a devoted and knowledgeable team player who has an excellent relationship with both her students and school staff.  She works tirelessly with her students to ensure they are supported and have every opportunity to be successful.

A typical day for Morrison starts before school with an IEP meeting, followed by a Special Education meeting; she then teaches a full class schedule.  Any free time is usually filled with principal, school psychologist or PBIS team meetings.  After school, she provides academic support to students.  This is only a snapshot of her day and does not fully capture her incredible work to serve our students each and every day.

Jeffrey Trail Principal Mike Georgino said, “Lauren is not only an enormous asset for JTMS but also to the teaching profession in general.  She deserves this recognition for being an outstanding teacher.”

High School Teacher of the Year

Christina Banagas-Engelerdt
English Teacher
Northwood High School

Christina Banagas-Engelerdt has been a member of Northwood High School’s staff since the school opened in 1999 and has established herself as a leader on campus.  From crating English curriculum in the school’s early days to her current role as WASC Chairperson, Banagas-Engelerdt embodies the Northwood core values of Compassion, Mutual Respect and Integrity.

As a compassionate teacher, Banagas-Engelerdt has served as the school’s intervention lead for several years and has had oversight of the creation of countless support classes – teaching several of these classes herself.  As a result, students know they can always come to her for guidance and support.  She is reflective in her teaching and strives to create a challenging yet supportive environment for her students.

Banagas-Engelerdt is held in the highest regard by her colleagues for her tremendous work ethic and her constant willingness to help others.  She has mentored numerous student teachers, helped innumerable students through many obstacles and has been a key player in the school’s evolution.

Principal Leslie Roach stated, “Christina is everything we could ask for in a Timberwolf and we are honored to have her here and Northwood High School.”

More information about the Teacher of the Year program
Nominations are submitted by District employees and candidates are later interviewed by a committee that includes teachers, principals and administrators.  That panel ultimately narrows the field to three, using the following criteria: Evidence of a wide range of instructional strategies used effectively; commitment to the teaching profession; and demonstration of Irvine teachers’ values of integrity, empowerment, learning, collaboration and trust.

Teachers of Promise
IUSD also recognizes a handful of standout first- and second-year teachers, who are announced as “Teachers of Promise.” Click here for the 2016-17 Teachers of Promise.

Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet
All of this year’s honorees will be formally recognized on Friday, April 21 at the Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet, which is organized each year by the Exchange Club of Irvine and the Irvine Teachers Association.

2016-17 Teachers of Promise Announced

Today, in addition to announcing the 2016-17 Teachers of the Year, IUSD announced four “Teachers of Promise.” This annual honor goes to first- or second-year instructors who go above and beyond, while demonstrating professional curiosity and an unbridled enthusiasm for teaching.

The 2016-17 Teachers of Promise, as shown above, are Quyen Ly, humanities/social science teacher from Southlake Middle School; Jared Gray, sixth grade teacher from Woodbury Elementary School; Kevin Miller, second grade teacher from Beacon Park K-8 School; and Lauren Hoffman, education specialist – special education from Legacy Education Center.

Ly was recognized in front of colleagues during an early morning meeting.  Gray was surprised in his classroom in front of students.  Miller was recognized during a surprise fire drill in front of the entire school.  Finally, Hoffman was honored in front of her students during a meeting at the Legacy Education Center.

All four Teachers of Promise will be formally honored Friday, April 21 at the 31st annual Excellence in Teaching Awards Dinner.

Once again, congratulations to this year’s Teachers of Promise!

Click here for the 2016-17 Teachers of the Year honorees.

(Photo caption from left to right: Quyen Ly, Jared Gray, Kevin Miller and Lauren Hoffman.)

36th Annual IUSD Science Fair Feb. 28

IUSD’s 36th annual District Science Fair Open House is Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Portola High School gymnasium (1001 Cadence, Irvine) from 5-6 p.m.  The award ceremony will immediately follow in the Portola High School Theater.

IUSD’s Science Fair gives students, in grades 6-12, an opportunity to showcase their innovative science projects.  Participating students will present a biological, physical, or Rube Goldberg project.

This year’s submissions include an impressive array of projects, including “Fungi Busters,”  “Maximizing Efficiency of a Wireless Energy Power System,” “Human Computer Interaction: Translating English into Code,” and “Bubble Gum Science.”  For a copy of this year’s event program, click here.

Family, friends, community members, IUSD teachers and staff are welcome to attend the open house and award ceremony.

This annual event is graciously sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation, though a STEM grant to Irvine Public Schools Foundation.

Woodbridge High Team Earns Top Honors at the Orange County Academic Decathlon

Woodbridge High School has punched its ticket to the California Academic Decathlon in March with an impressive win in this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon.  

Rounding out a raucous awards ceremony Friday night at Santa Ana High School’s Bill Medley Auditorium, the nine-member Woodbridge squad was announced as the Overall Team Winner by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE.

That means Woodbridge advances to the state-level competition in Sacramento.

Woodbridge, which last won the county title in 2006, scored 52,038.4 total points at the 49th annual event, which was staged over the course of two consecutive Saturdays. Along with a plaque, bragging rights and a plethora of individual medals, the team received a $3,000 travel stipend for the state showdown, which will draw high-performing contenders from California’s 38 counties.

“It is great to see the students rewarded for all their hard work and commitment to each other,” said Mike Nakaue, a retired science teacher who coaches the team along with English teacher Shan Wu. “It took the right mindset, grit, commitment, dedication, and they trusted each other.”

Here’s a breakdown of the top Orange County teams by division:


  • 1st Place: Woodbridge High School, Irvine Unified School District
  • 2nd Place: Valencia High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 3rd Place: Westminster High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
  • 4th Place: Trabuco Hills High School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District
  • 5th Place: La Quinta High School, Garden Grove Unified School District


  • 1st Place: El Dorado High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 2nd Place: Esperanza High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 3rd Place: Servite High School, a private school
  • 4th Place: Sonora High School, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • 5th Place: El Toro High School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District


  • 1st Place: Los Alamitos High School, Los Alamitos Unified School District
  • 2nd Place: Brea Olinda High School, Brea Olinda Unified School District
  • 3rd Place: Segerstrom High School, Santa Ana Unified School District
  • 4th Place: JSerra Catholic High School, a private school
  • 5th Place: Santiago High School, Garden Grove Unified School District

Held at the local, county, state and national levels, Academic Decathlons are designed to prepare students for college and careers by promoting 21st-century skills. And here’s a fun fact: The contest was founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Robert Peterson.

Nine-member teams battle for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments based on a yearly theme. (This year it was “World War II.”) Each decathlon team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below).

The event culminates with the popular Super Quiz Relay, which takes place in front of an audience.

“Academic Decathlon is much more than learning information, it deals with goal-setting, improving and making adjustments over a long period of time,” Nakaue told the OCDE Newsroom. “It deals with more than just bonding for social activities as a team, but involves bonding to the standards and goals established by the team.”

“Many decathletes become lifelong friends,” he added. “These lifelong lessons only come from embracing moments, and the Academic Decathlon creates a platform for these moments, resulting in students experiencing the important things in life.”

This year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon was presented by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE with support from community members and sponsors, including NuVision Federal Credit Union, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Aeries Software, Illuminate Education and Power School.

You can learn more about the program by visiting OCDE’s Academic Decathlon 101 webpage.

Superintendent Walker Delivers State of the District in New Video

Superintendent Terry Walker delivered the State of the Irvine Unified School District in a new video, which can be viewed by clicking here

State of the District topics include:

  • An overview of IUSD’s vision to prepare students for 21st century college and careers.
  • District funding realities, as one of the lowest funded school districts in California, and how IUSD is maximizing investments to best serve our students.
  • New State Standards and IUSD’s instructional strategies.
  • How the District is using technology to enhance and empower students and teachers.
  • IUSD’s facilities, which are designed to foster flexibility, innovation and collaboration.
  • Important District’s partnerships with parents, students and the community, which are critical components of IUSD’s success.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this important video and for your continued investments, engagement, partnership and support of IUSD.

Irvine Company Issued Latest Installment of $45M Commitment to Art, Music and Science

During the first Board Meeting of 2017, the Irvine Company presented IUSD with a check for $2.15 million as part of the Excellence in TIC PhotoEducation Enrichment Fund grant, which supports art, music and science education for Irvine Unified School District students in grades four through six.

In September 2016, Mr. Donald Bren and the Irvine Company announced that they would renew the Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund grant with an additional $20 million over the next 10 years, bringing the Irvine Company’s commitment to IUSD students and families to more than $45 million.  Each year, more than 7,000 students are positively impacted by the Enrichment Fund.  To date, this unprecedented support has benefited more than 70,000 IUSD students.

Robin Leftwich, Vice President of Community Affairs for the Irvine Company, presented this year’s check to the IUSD Board of Education and IUSD students.  Board President Ira Glasky expressed the District’s gratitude for the generous donation, which has sustained critical educational opportunities in IUSD.

Superintendent Terry Walker stated that the Enrichment Fund has had a lasting and positive impact for IUSD students, before introducing IUSD Student Board Member Allie Hunter, who performed “Always Starting Over” from the musical If/Then.  Hunter, who is a Senior at Woodbridge High School, delivered a pitch perfect performance and was an excellent example of how the Enrichment Fund has benefited so many IUSD students.

Established in 2006, the Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund pays for specialists to work in IUSD’s fourth through sixth-grade classrooms. Students receive two 60-minute science lessons per week, two 40-minute music lessons per week and six hour-long art lessons per year, all taught by highly qualified instructors.

The program has been extremely popular in IUSD, enabling schools to preserve and continue hands-on courses that may have been lost due to budget cuts.

Irvine Company Renews Enrichment Fund with $20M Commitment to IUSD Students

Uni High Student/Teacher Only Calf. Team Selected to Study D-Day in France

University High School is the only California high school to have a student/teacher team selected to Picture Judy Richonne Sonia Kellyparticipate in the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom® Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute.  In addition, this student/teacher team is only one of 15 teams, nationwide, to be selected to participate in this prestigious program by the nonprofit education organization National History Day.

As part of the program, University High student Sonia Kelly and social science teacher Judy Richonne will tell the story of a fallen World War II hero.  After a year of research, Kelly and Richonne will first travel to Washington, D.C. this June to finish their research with help from the National Archives, historians and college professors. While in D.C. the teams will tour the World War II Memorial, attend a dinner hosted by the White House Historical Association and prepare for the voyage of a lifetime to Normandy, France.  Once in France, the teams will visit the D-Day beaches, walking in the footsteps of their Silent Heroes. After seeing museums, historic sites and churches that were used as field hospitals, the teams will visit the Normandy American Cemetery. There, each student will deliver a powerful graveside eulogy for the Silent Hero he or she spent the year researching.

“Throughout their research these students and teachers have become incredibly connected to their Silent Heroes,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “When they read their eulogies they are reading a eulogy for someone they know, someone whose story they are responsible for telling. It results in a powerful, and often tearful, understanding of the sacrifice these Silent Heroes made in World War II.”

During the program, teachers and students will also create a memorial webpage about their Silent Hero. After the conclusion of their travels, teams use these websites in presentations to local community groups, schools and classes, and veterans’ organizations.  The overall goal of the program is to teach a new generation or students about the sacrifices and challenges faced during World War II.

The program is coordinated by National History Day® and is funded by Mr. Albert H. Small, a veteran himself.  Mr. Small’s generous donation includes overseas travel, courses, and room and board for each student/teacher team.

School Board Hosts Swearing-In for Elected Board Members and Selects New President

During the December 13 Irvine Unified School District Board Meeting, incumbents Paul Bokota and Lauren Brooks, and newly-elected Board paul-lauren-and-betty-2016Member Betty Carroll, took the oath of office.  This is the second term for both Bokota and Brooks.

The Board also selected a new president and clerk, which are one-year terms.  Ira Glasky was selected to serve as president and Sharon Wallin was tapped to serve as clerk.  The Board and District staff honored Paul Bokota for his service as president since last December.

In addition to being the final session of 2016, Tuesday marked the annual organizational meeting for the five-member board, which approved school site liaison assignments, determined Board Member committee participation, appointed representatives to various District committees and established meeting dates through December 2017. The next two regular meetings are scheduled for January 17 and February 7. paul-and-ira-passing-gavel-2016

Board Certifies First Interim Report
Also Tuesday, the Board voted to certify IUSD’s First Interim Report of 2016-17 as “positive,” meaning the district is expected to meet its financial obligations over the next two years.

Every school district in California is required to examine and certify its financial condition as “positive,” “qualified” or “negative” twice during each fiscal year. Positive is the ideal certification, while qualified indicates a district may not be able to meet its financial obligations for the current year and the two subsequent years. A negative certification indicates that a district will not be able to meet its financial obligations over this period.