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.

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.

30th Anniversary of Astounding Inventions

Innovative student inventions will be featured during the 30th annual Astounding Inventions contest on Saturday, January 28 from 11 a.m. astounding-invetions-image-2016to noon at the Irvine Valley College Hart Gymnasium.  The awards ceremony for grades K, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8 starts at noon.  The awards ceremony for grades 4 and 5 starts at 1:15 p.m.  This year’s theme is, “Reducing your carbon footprint: small footprints help our environment.”

Supported by Cox Communications, Astounding Inventions brings together kindergarten through 8th-grade students from the Irvine and Tustin Unified School districts for an elaborate science, technology, engineering and math competition that fosters student entrepreneurship and creative thinking.

This free event is open to the public.  In addition to this year’s student displays, the event will feature a stage show, “Mad Chemists.”

For more information, see the attached flier.


Irvine High School Dedicates Student Art Panels

Irvine High School recently hosted a dedication for student artwork that was commissioned by the

Principal Monica Colunga, Sahil Patne, Grace Lee, and Sun Ah Lee representing her sister Jung Ah Lee

Principal Monica Colunga, Sahil Patne, Grace Lee, and Sun Ah Lee representing her sister Jung Ah Lee

school’s Student Forum to demonstrate the values of Integrity, Honoring Self and Others, and Social Responsibility.  These values are a representation of behavioral expectations under the school’s Positive Behavior Interventions Support (PBIS), which among other benefits establishes guidelines for positive student behavior.

Last year, the Student Forum requested that students provide an artistic representation of Irvine High values.  Various artistic renditions were vetted and the student body was asked to vote on the three that they felt best identified the school’s values.
The selected artists were asked to paint their work on canvas panels, which are now on display in the school library.
The artists listed by their work are as follows:

  • Integrity by Jung Ah Lee Integrity
  • Honoring Self and Others by Grace Lee
  • Social Responsibility by Sahil Patne

To read more about Irvine High School’s PBIS, click here.

IUSD This Week – November 18, 2016

IUSD THIS WEEK – November 14-18

Each week, so many great things happen throughout IUSD, we’ve provided the following “snapshot” to keep you informed!  Click here to view a photo gallery of this week’s events.

iusd-thisweek-11-18-16Canyon View Elementary Principal Christina Giguiere kissed a pig on Monday, November 14 as part of a PTA fundraising initiative.  The school met its goal and raised more than $52,000, so Principal Giguiere puckered up and the kids loved it!

Meadow Park Elementary fifth and sixth grade students, in the Specialized Academic Instruction program, organized and hosted a Thanksgiving meal for about 40 teachers, staff and administrators.  To prepare for the feast, students took part in grocery shopping, cooking, decorating and hosting the event, all part of their life skills lessons.  This is the second year this wonderful event has been held – it has become a tradition that Meadow Park students and staff look forward to each year.

Rancho San Joaquin Middle School students participated in a Student Investment Workshop put on by the Irvine Chamber of Commerce.  The more than 100 students, who participated, learned about the basics of investing and then managed a portfolio of $25,000 for four weeks.  As part of the conclusion of the program, a final meeting was held in which the winning teams were recognized and awarded prizes.

Woodbury Elementary students were visited by Gabrielino Indian Chief, Ernie Salas, who shared information about his tribe’s culture and history during a third-grade assembly.

Woodbury Elementary second-grade students also participated in a concert for parents in which they sang patriotic songs.

Greentree Elementary students have been and will continue performing the school’s annual play, Disney’s Peter Pan Jr., through Saturday.  This special event is sponsored by IPSF.  Students are performing to sold out crowds of families and friends.

For more information about exciting events and news related to your school, visit your school’s website and social media pages, where available.

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

board-checkThe Irvine Company has extended the Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund with a renewed grant of $20 million over the next 10 years.  The Enrichment Fund supports science, music and art programs for IUSD students in grades four through six.  This most recent donation brings the Irvine Company’s commitment to IUSD students to more than $43 million over 20 years.  Each year, more than 7,000 students are positively impacted by the Enrichment Fund – that’s more than 70,000 children who have benefited from the Irvine Company’s generosity.     
“This gift from Irvine Company allows us to continue an enrichment program that distinguishes Irvine schools nationally,” Irvine Unified Superintendent Terry Walker said. “This is vital, especially during the shift to Common Core and new science standards requiring substantially more hands-on instruction.”
Robin Leftwich, Vice President of Community Affairs for the Irvine Company, presented IUSD with a $20 million check during an Enrichment Fund appreciation event, surprising teachers, students and parents in attendance.  The event, held on Monday, September 26 at Portola Springs Elementary, was to honor and thank the Irvine Company and Chairman of the Board Donald Bren for their partnership with IUSD.   In addition to speaking presentations from the Superintendent Terry Walker, School Board President Paul Bokota, Leftwich, students and teachers, the event also featured student musical performances, science demonstrations and art displays. 
The afternoon began with a performance by the Northwood High School String Quartet; two choral performance by fifth and sixth graders from Brywood, Canyon View, Bonita Canyon, Cypress Village and Portola Springs elementary schools; and finally, a performance by violinist Kevin Muira, an eighth-grade student at Sierra Vista Middle School and 2nd place winner in the Junior Division of the prestigious Menuhin International Violin Competition in London. 
Established in 2006, the Enrichment Fund has provided IUSD $2 million each year over the past decade.  The funds pay for specialists to work in IUSD’s upper-grade elementary classrooms.  To learn more, click here. 

To view a brief video of the event, click here

IUSD Recognized Outstanding Service of Student Board Members

IUSD recognized the outstanding service of the District’s four Student Board Members during the May 24 Board Meeting.  The 2016 student representatives were Courtney Fassett from Northwood High School, Samantha Kosai from Woodbridge High School, Karina Sun from Irvine High School and Sarah Verdegan from University High School.

Superintendent Terry Walker expressed the District’s gratitude to the capacity audience and stated, “Our Student Board Members provide us with invaluable insights from the student perspective and they offer creative suggestions to address some of our more challenging issues. This year’s Student Board Members have been exceptional in their commitment and engagement, and their candid input has been informative and invaluable.”

Superintendent Walker then expressed the District’s sincerest appreciate to the four student leaders, “We deeply appreciate your participation and thank you for your service in representing your peers.  We wish you every success in your future endeavors and are quite confident you leave here well prepared for whatever life holds.”

Below are remarks delivered by members of the District’s executive leadership team to each Student Board Member.

Courtney-soloCourtney Fassett – Northwood H.S.
(Remarks by Superintendent Terry Walker)

Courtney will be attending the University of Southern California, majoring in GeoDesign within the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.  She was selected as a Presidential Scholar to receive a half-tuition scholarship.

This year, Courtney was awarded a Pride of the Pack award for demonstrating Northwood’s Core Values: integrity, compassion and mutual respect.  She was also granted the Athletic Booster’s Scholarship, and received two Distinguished Timberwolf Awards for her service as a Super Crew member and an ASB Award.

Courtney shared that her experience as a Student Board Member has furthered her appreciation for IUSD and allowed her to gain a whole new perspective and appreciation for how the education system works.  Her greatest takeaway from this past year was learning how to respectfully, efficiently, and proactively address and solve the concerns of others.  The drive and motivation of community members has inspired her to stand up for herself and what she believes in.  She shared, that she has seen firsthand the passion and dedication the Board Members have for the community and students, and is grateful to of had this experience.

samantha-soloSamantha Kosai – Woodbridge H.S.
(Remarks by Assistant Superintendent, Chief Financial Officer John Fogarty)

Samantha will be attending UC Berkeley and will be majoring in Sociology.  She also hopes to continue her love of policy and music by being involved in Cal’s student government and their marching band.

This year, Samantha was named Woodbridge’s Youth of the Year, and was named one of the Regional Youth of the Year, which is for all of California and Nevada.  In Samantha’s spare time she served on the founding committee for TEDxWoodbridge, a series of TED Talks given by students, teachers, alumni, and community leaders.

As a Student Board Member, Samantha said one of the most significant insights she gained was seeing how dedicated the IUSD staff and School Board is and always has the students’ best interests in mind.  She said, “It is obvious that everyone in IUSD loves their job, which inspires us students to love learning. It has been honor to serve as Woodbridge High’s School Board Representative this year!”

karina-soloKarina Sun – Irvine H.S.
(Remarks by Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Eamonn O’Donovan)

In the fall, Karina will be attending the University of California, Berkeley and majoring in Political Science with an intended minor in Public Policy.  Her experience on the Board has greatly influenced her plans for the future as Karina intends to be involved in student politics at Berkeley as well.

This past year, Karina was named a National Merit Finalist and voted a Pacesetter at Irvine High.  She will also be speaking at Irvine High School’s commencement ceremony.

Moving forward, Karina expressed she now has a better understanding of the intricacies of education policy and has an increased appreciation for the time and deliberation that goes into every dollar.  This experience, has showed her how much those in charge really care about every student.  Karina further shared, she leaves tonight reassured that the future students of Irvine are in good hands and expressed her appreciation for everyone she had the pleasure to work with this past year.

sarah-soloSarah Verdegan – University H.S.
(Remarks by Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Cassie Parham)

Sarah will be attending Westmont College in Santa Barbara, she was one of thirty students, who were awarded a merit scholarship from the Augustinian Scholarship competition.  Additionally, she was awarded the “Cultural Diversity Scholarship”; and plans to help further enrich the diverse community at Westmont.

In IUSD, Sarah was chosen as the recipient for the Dr. Kevin Armstrong Memorial Scholarship which honors Dr. Kevin Armstrong.  Athletically, Sarah was awarded Most Valuable Attacker on her Varsity Lacrosse Team, made 2nd team All-League, and enjoyed serving as captain for her second year.

From her two years serving as a Student Board Member, she says, she has learned to think through even the smallest decisions and consider all the ripple effects that they may have.  In addition, she is thankful to have seen again, what she learned last year, that the District Board is constantly considering what is best first for its students.  She shared she has enjoyed every minute, especially the sandwiches after the meetings.

It is with deep gratitude that IUSD thanks each student for her participation and service.


District Announces 2016 Classified Employees of the Year

Today, IUSD announced its five Classified Employees of the Year – Kitty Fyfe, Manny Lupercio, Kathy McCoy, Lorianne Randell and Meleah Shank. Classified employees are individuals who work hard every day to ensure the District runs efficiently to serve our students and their families. They include custodians, paraeducators, media technicians, food services staff members, analysts, secretaries, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, and all the other non-certificated staff members. Most are represented by the California School Employees Association (CSEA). This year’s five employees were selected from more than 1,500 classified employees districtwide.

Similar to previous years, a caravan of District employees and Board Members traveled to each winner’s site to surprise them in front of their colleagues and/or their school sites. This year’s well-wishers included Board Member Lauren Brooks, Superintendent Terry Walker, district staff, CSEA President Janelle Cranch and the five 2015 Classified Employee of the Year winners.

Meleah Shank

maleahThe day started at 8:50 a.m., with the first stop at Stonegate Elementary to award Meleah Shank, P.E. Paraprofessional, with the first of five Classified Employee of the Year awards. Meleah has been with IUSD for four years.

She was recognized for commitment to student’s health and wellbeing. Through her yoga instruction, she has provided students the unique opportunity to benefit from not only strength training but also from relaxation and breathing techniques. Her instruction has enabled students to become more aware of their environment and better equipped to manage obstacles and challenges by utilizing techniques they are learning.

“Meleah is a dedicated professional who consistently searches for ways to improve her instruction,” said Stonegate Principal Harmony Briscoe. “She is an enthusiastic and inspirational team member who has made a
difference for our kids.”


Manny Lupercio

mannyManny Lupercio, Head Custodian of Brywood Elementary was the next stop at 9:30 a.m. Manny has been with IUSD for 15 years and received the Classified Employee of the Year for his high standard of professionalism and dedication.

Manny is loved by students and staff because of his compassion, integrity and his commitment to Brywood. He knows students by name and gives endless high-fives. Manny is a leader on campus and for his colleagues throughout the district – he is a role model for students and staff alike.

“Manny is an unsung hero who gives of himself to students, staff and our school,” said Principal Astrid Ramirez. “He lets all students know he cares about them and sets a great example with his positive attitude.”


Kathy McCoy

kathyThe third stop was to College Park Elementary at 10:15 a.m., where for the first time in IUSD history, two employees from the same school received Classified Employee of the Year awards. The first was Kathy

McCoy, Nutrition Services. Kathy has been with IUSD for 11 years and received this honor for her customer service and commitment to student nutrition.

Kathy’s recognition is particularly special, since College Park’s kitchen and serving room is one of the smallest in the District. She stepped up to pilot the first elementary “outdoor café” and was heavily involved in the process from planning and design to implementation. Prior to implementing the outdoor café, Kathy could only have five kids in the tiny kitchen at a time. What used to take up to 12-15 minutes in line for students, now takes five to eight minutes. Her vision and work has enabled students to get healthy food in less time.

“Kathy is considered the heart and soul of our school,” said College Park Principal Meg Gwyn. “She goes above and beyond to connect with the kids. She knows every child’s name and takes the time to make sure students know the rules of the café and have access to healthy food choices.”


Lorianne Randell

lorlor2Lorianne Randell, Media Tech was the second Classified Employee of the Year to be recognized from College Park Elementary. Lorianne has been with IUSD for nearly 10 years and received this recognition for helping students develop their technology skills and for supporting both students and teachers in the school’s technology lab.

Lorianne monitors the College Park’s First in Math programs, SBAC testing and works with students on everything from typing to coding. Teachers rely on her with the utmost confidence to ensure the computer lab and related testing and activities are running smoothly. Her knowledge and skills have benefited both College Park students and staff.

“If you have a question, you don’t search Google, you ask Lorianne,” said College Park Principal Meg Gywn. “She knows everything about our school and students and will assist our students on everything from a
paper jam to nose bleed.”


Kitty Fyfe

kittyThe final stop at 11 a.m. was to the District Office to award Kitty Fyfe, Special Education Analyst, with Classified Employee of the Year. Kitty has been with IUSD for 22 years and received this recognition for her dedication to the critical work of the Special Education department.

Kitty, fondly nicknamed “Ninja Kitty” has the ability to remember the history and important details of students and is able to provide background knowledge that is helpful to staff. In addition, she is responsible for a wide-range of duties, including budgeting, staffing, data analysis and information management.

“Kitty is very caring and compassionate for the students we serve,” said Melanie Hertig, Executive Director of Special Programs. “Her ability to support and have answers for those she serves, both in and out of the office is unsurpassed. She is proactive and hardworking, while maintaining a great sense of humor.”

Congratulations again to each winner, who will receive $1,000 courtesy of CSEA Chapter 517, as well as a jacket and commemorative plaque. They’ll also be honored at the May 24 IUSD Board Meeting.

IUSD Students to Showcase Films at “Only in Irvine” Screening Party

IUSD students will screen their short films based on the theme, “Only in Irvine” on Wednesday, April 20 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Great Wheel Court in the Irvine Spectrum.  This free public event is hosted by the Irvine Company as part of their campaign to highlight students’ and residents’ unique Irvine experiences.

Students from all five Irvine High Schools will present their three-minute films focused on what they love about Irvine.  Food will be available for purchase, including discounted sandwiches and beverages from the Corner Bakery.

For more information about the “Only in Irvine” campaign and to share your Irvine story, visit onlyinirvine.com/.

IUSD to Send Most OC National History Day Projects to State Competition

Woodbridge High School senior group exhibit: “Matthew C. Perry: Exchange through Encounter and Exploration in Japan.”

Woodbridge High School senior group exhibit: “Matthew C. Perry: Exchange through Encounter and Exploration in Japan.”

The results are in…Irvine Unified middle and high school students will send the most National History Day projects to the state competition than any other Orange County school district.

At the middle school level, 12 IUSD student projects, out of a possible 18 projects, will advance to the state competition. IUSD middle school students swept the website, documentary, and historical paper categories in both the individual and group entries.  IUSD high school students also had an impressive finish with 17 out of 27 projects continuing to the state level, with IUSD sweeps of the documentary and historical paper categories for both the individual and group entries.

Irvine student presentations included the senior group documentary “Dr. John Snow: Developing Modern Epidemiology”, a senior individual performance of the “Sacajawea Expedition,” a junior documentary “Exploring the Lemba Tribe: An Unlikely Journey of Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange”, and a junior website titled “The Apollo-Soyuz Mission.”

During this year’s competition, more than 550 students from 38 schools produced original websites, papers, documentaries, performances and exhibits for the March 12 competition, which was followed by an award ceremony on Thursday, March 16.  The top submissions from Orange County now head to the state finals, coming up in May. California’s highest-scoring projects will go on to compete in June at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in Maryland.

National History Day contests are held annually at the local, state and national levels, drawing half a million participants in grades four through 12. Working as individuals or in teams, students are tasked with conducting extensive research on a historical topic before submitting in-depth projects based on the year’s theme. The current theme is “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.”

For more information, visit the NHD-OC website.