City of Irvine records nation’s lowest violent crime rate for 10th consecutive year


A safe city generally means safer schools. So we felt it was newsworthy to mention here that, for the 10th straight year, Irvine boasts the nation’s lowest per-capita violent crime rate among cities with a population of at least 100,000.

IrvineFigures indicating as much were released this week as part of the FBI’s latest Annual Uniform Crime Report. Spanning all of 2013, the report reveals that last year marked a new per-capita low for violent crime in Irvine, which is home to nearly 250,000 residents.

“This is really great news for our community,” Irvine Police Chief David Maggard said. “This is clearly a city-wide effort, and I am most grateful for the incredible work of the men and women of the Irvine Police Department.”

The Irvine Unified School District is also extremely grateful to the IPD, which has been a model for effective and proactive community service. Among its many assists to IUSD, the department provides school resource officers for the district’s middle and high school campuses and dispatches D.A.R.E. officers to Irvine’s elementary schools.


IUSD adds more solar panels, forecasts up to $8 million in long-term savings


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IUSD has reached another milestone in its ongoing drive to offset energy costs with solar power.

Last week, it was announced that solar installations at three schools have been completed, capping the second phase of the ambitious district-wide initiative.

Vehicle shade structures topped with solar tiles are now producing electricity at Stonegate and Woodbury elementary schools, as well as University High School. With these new structures online, IUSD now powers 22 sites with the help of photovoltaic systems, and the district is expecting to avoid $5 million to $8 million in utility costs over the next 20 years.

“We accomplished this with zero up-front costs and zero maintenance costs through a power-purchase agreement with SunEdison,” says Mark Sontag, IUSD’s director of math, science and career technical education. “That extra budget means more resources for our teachers and students.”

NorthwoodHS-039 (1)Since 2010, IUSD has authorized the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of more than a dozen schools — that’s Irvine High School pictured above — and vehicle shade structures capable of harnessing the sun’s rays have been constructed in the parking lots of 11 sites, including the District Office and the Maintenance and Operations center. (Shade structures at Northwood High are shown to the right.)

The systems were all built by SunEdison, which agreed to sell power back to IUSD at a rate that is both predictable and consistently below what the local utility charges. In exchange, SunEdison qualifies for tax incentives that public agencies can’t access.

IUSD’s solar panels generate about 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption, but Sontag notes that the benefits go way beyond savings. The installations also serve as the basis for standards-based instruction, allowing students to learn about photovoltaic technology on their own campuses as they track energy production and consumption in real time.

“The Irvine Unified School District is a wonderful success story and a role model for other school districts,” said Sam Youneszadeh, managing director of west coast distributed generation at SunEdison. “They’re inspiring to us, and we hope many more schools are able to follow their lead and invest more on education by reducing their energy bill.”

A third phase of IUSD’s solar initiative would add panels at Cypress Village and Portola Springs elementary schools in 2015.


All IUSD schools and offices to be closed Tuesday in honor of Veterans Day


Just a friendly reminder that all IUSD schools and offices will be closed on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in honor of Veterans Day. The federal holiday honoring the men and women who have served in the military is observed annually on Nov. 11.

To learn more about the history of Veterans Day, click here. And we’ll see you back at school on Wednesday.


‘Reading is the Goal’ for Greentree Elementary students and the Anaheim Ducks


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Greentree Elementary students took advantage of a pretty fortuitous power play last week, sharing their campus with representatives of the Anaheim Ducks for a daylong literacy celebration.

“Reading is the Goal Day” was the name of the event that drew a flock of Ducks out to the Manzanita Avenue school, including left wing Matt Beleskey, right wing Devante Smith-Pelly, broadcaster Kent French, members of the Power Players squad and, of course, Wild Wing, the prominent-billed mascot.

Presenting the jersey“It was so cool,” Principal Tamara Brown said, “I became a hockey fan.”

Starting at around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, Ducks staff members began visiting Greentree classrooms to read stories, field questions and discuss the importance of literacy. The day wrapped up with a 45-minute assembly for a sea of orange fourth- and fifth-graders, featuring Beleskey and Smith-Pelly.

Naturally, there was some hockey in between.

During lunch, students had an opportunity to play street hockey on the playground thanks to the Anaheim Ducks Street Team, which set up a pair of rinks and provided personnel to man them.

“There was so much excitement and enthusiasm around here,” Principal Brown told the NewsFlash afterward. “It was just electrifying. And there were people here from all parts of the organization, from food services to H.R. to P.R., all talking about how important reading is in their jobs. Our kids were just ecstatic.”

Street hockeyReading is the Goal Day is an annual component of the Ducks’ S.C.O.R.E. program — the acronym stands for Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education — which was created to reward students for their time spent reading within a 30-day period.

Greetreen has participated in the S.C.O.R.E. program since its inception in 2005-06. For hosting Thursday’s celebration, the school was presented with a framed jersey signed by the entire Ducks team, books for the school library and street hockey equipment.


District security supervisor recognized for his role in October burglary arrest


IUSD’s security supervisor was honored this week by the Irvine Rotary Club in partnership with the Irvine Police Department for actions that led to the arrest of a burglary suspect last month.

Don GrudemDon Grudem, who joined the district as a campus control assistant in 1994, was presented with the Public Safety Partnership Award on Wednesday morning during a Rotary Club meeting at the Irvine Rancho Community Center.

“It is an honor to receive this award,” Grudem told the NewsFlash, “especially when it’s for doing your job.”

“You don’t set out to win awards,” he added. “You do your job because it’s what you love to do.”

Grudem was on the job at about 4:30 in the morning on Oct. 7 — which also happened to be his birthday — when he ran into a stranger exiting a classroom at Canyon View Elementary School. After a brief conversation, the quick-thinking supervisor took a photo of the man with his smartphone and contacted police.

The suspect fled the scene but was arrested about three hours later.

To recognize his vigilance, Grudem was presented with a framed certificate — he’s pictured holding it above — as well as a modest cash award. But there are even greater rewards for his daily work.

“The real honor for me is being part of this partnership with the community, the Irvine Police Department and our staff,” he said.


Incumbents Wallin and Glasky re-elected to the IUSD Board of Education


Incumbents Sharon Wallin and Ira Glasky will retain their seats on the IUSD Board of Education after receiving the most votes in Tuesday’s election.

Sharon and Ira FEATUREDTwo seats were up for grabs on the five-member school board, which sets policy for the district. With ballots tallied from all 92 precincts, Wallin, who currently serves as board president, has earned a fourth four-year term with 15,845 votes, or 39.3 percent of the total. Glasky, an attorney who joined the board following a special election in June, secured his first full term with 15,150 votes, or 37.6 percent.

Challenger Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur, finished third with 9,332 votes, or 23.1 percent.

The Board of Education is the chief policy-making body for the Irvine Unified School District, comprising five members elected at large by IUSD voters. Its next meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 18.

For more local election results, visit the Orange County Registrar of Voters website.

[Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include the latest vote count.]


Three candidates seeking two open seats on the IUSD Board of Education


It’s the first Tuesday of November in an even-numbered year, and that means it’s time to head back to the polls.

Along with city, state and congressional races, Irvine voters will fill two seats on the IUSD Board of Education today, choosing from among three candidates. This time the ballot features incumbent Ira Glasky, an attorney; Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur; and Sharon Wallin, an incumbent who currently serves as board president.

We’ll post the school board results tonight or early tomorrow here on the NewsFlash. For local election results as they come in, check out the Orange County Registrar of Voters website.


Northwood High orchestra entertains, educates young musicians at Segerstrom Hall


The Northwood High School Chamber Orchestra was recently invited to perform for elementary-age kids and their families during a pair of interactive shows at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

NHS Chamber Orchestra 1Family Musical Mornings is an ongoing concert series at the hall that introduces young audiences to the Pacific Symphony. The Northwood musicians were on the bill for two shows there on Saturday, Oct. 25, participating during the Music Carnival portion of the program.

Not only did they play music for hundreds of elementary students, members of the Northwood High orchestra also demonstrated different styles and techniques, and they gave more than 50 young maestros an opportunity to conduct, according to Ben Case, one of NHS’s instrumental music directors.

“It was truly a great experience all around,” Case told the NewsFlash.


Bonita Canyon families leave cars at home for eighth annual Walk to School Day


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These photos were sent to us by the staff at Bonita Canyon Elementary School, which was among the Irvine campuses to take part in Walk to School Day on Oct. 22. Observed annually around this time, the national campaign promotes walking and bicycling as a way to improve health, reduce traffic and highlight safe routes to school.

WalktoSchoolBCWalktoSchoolBC2We’re not sure where he trekked from, but Honeypaws, the school’s mascot, was on hand — on paw? — to greet B.C. students in kindergarten through grade six as they arrived early that morning. To the right, Hunter Hertstein and Preston Getz from Mrs. Watson’s kindergarten class take a moment to pose with the affable bear, and another student goes up top for a high-five.

Speaking of B.C., the school also hosted a number of activities associated with Red Ribbon Week last week, including a popsicle party for the classes that wore the most red and a pizza party for those that collected the most pennies. We’re told more than 800 pounds of pennies were collected in total, and those funds will help support programs that encourage students to make healthy choices.


Did you know these 15 facts about the Irvine Unified School District?


We’ve noticed that a lot of blogs and online magazines seem to be fond of lists lately. So we thought we’d come up with one of our own. Without further ado, here are 15 things worth knowing about the Irvine Unified School District:

1. IUSD schools have earned the California Distinguished School designation – considered the state’s highest honor – 61 times since 1986, and all four comprehensive high schools have been recognized at least once.

DistrictOffice2. All four comprehensive high schools have been named Blue Ribbon Schools, the nation’s highest level of recognition for K-12 campuses. (That’s a lot of pressure for the soon-to-be-constructed Portola High.) In all, IUSD has produced 15 Blue Ribbon schools since 1983.

3. IUSD has been at the vanguard of the “green schools” movement. In addition to generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on utility bills through staff conservation efforts, the district has promoted environmentally-friendly construction and diverted thousands of tons of construction debris to recyclers for reuse.

4. Since 2010, IUSD has authorized the installation of energy-generating solar panels on the rooftops of more than a dozen schools, and vehicle shade structures topped with photovoltaic tiles have been constructed at a number of additional sites. These panels generate 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption and save IUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in electricity costs. They also serve as the basis for standards-based instruction on alternative energy sources.

5. High schools in Irvine consistently rank in the top 10 in Orange County for producing the highest SAT scores.

6. The Irvine Unified School District is unmatched in its performance at the annual Orange County Science & Engineering Fair Awards. Of the 154 OCSEF awards presented at the 2014 competition, 49 were earned by Irvine students.

7. Last year, Plaza Vista Middle School teacher Scott Bedley was announced as one of five Orange County Teachers of the Year. Irvine teachers have also gone on to earn California Teacher of the Year honors.

8. Irvine campuses are consistently named among the county’s best in the Orange County Register’s annual evaluation of elementary, middle and high schools. In 2014, Stonegate Elementary School earned top honors based on a formula that takes into account academics, accolades and school environment.

9. IUSD’s newcomer program makes great strides with students who have arrived from other countries with little or no English skills. Many are quickly integrated into mainstream classrooms.

10. The Irvine Unified School District consistently produces dozens of semifinalists in the annual competition for scholarships through the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Corp. In 2014, 110 IUSD students earned this honor, joining an elite group that represents less than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors.

11. IUSD sends more participants to the All-Southern California Honor Orchestra than any other district from the Mexican border to San Luis Obispo. Of the 102 spots available in the 2014 All Southern California Middle School Full Orchestra, 42 were filled by students from Irvine Unified.

12. In March 2014, IUSD was named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” by the highly-regarded NAMM Foundation. The district earned the same honor in 2010 and 2013.

13. From February through June 2014, more than 20,000 IUSD students were selected to showcase their musical and artistic talents in scores of visual and performing arts events in the district and beyond.

14. The Grammy Foundation has awarded 10 Grammy Signature Awards to IUSD high schools, more than any other district in the state.

15. Irvine students have consistently moved the needle on standards tests. According to the state’s most recent Academic Performance Index, which measures achievement on a scale of 200 to 1,000, eight of the top 20 highest-scoring schools in Orange County were in the Irvine Unified School District. IUSD also posted a cumulative API score of 925 in 2013, tops in the county.