Northwood High has been named a Grammy Signature School for the fifth time

For second straight year — and the fifth time since 1999 — Northwood High School has been selected as a Grammy Signature School by the Grammy Foundation.

This is one of the most prestigious accolades for music education, and in 2014 it’s being presented to just 12 schools throughout the country. In addition to the special designation and a custom award, Northwood’s music program will receive $2,000.

“Our teachers are so excited,” Principal Leslie Roach said Tuesday. “It is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of our music staff and our great kids.”

Established in 1988, the Grammy Foundation promotes the impact of recorded music on American culture and recognizes schools that provide exceptional music opportunities for students. Each year, more than 20,000 public high schools have an opportunity to apply to become Grammy Signature Schools, but only a small number earn the honor.

IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools have now won 10 Grammy awards — look out, Quincy Jones — with half of those going to Northwood, which opened in 1999.

“Through this Grammy in the Schools initiative, the Grammy Foundation is able to provide critical financial resources and bring attention to the excellence of music programs in schools across the United States,” Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation said in this news release.

Applications for the honor were submitted in the fall. Along with Northwood, Irvine and Woodbridge high schools were among 127 semifinalists that were later asked to submit additional documentation, including concert recordings. Those materials were reviewed by an independent committee of top music educators and professionals, who decided which schools merited the designation.

University High theater to stage ‘Shrek the Musical’ April 3-5 and April 10-12

Shrek the MusicalUniversity High School’s theater department is planning to bring “Shrek the Musical” to the stage April 3 through April 5 and April 10 through April 12.

All shows will start at 7 p.m. in Uni’s big theater.

Based on the 2001 animated film with Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, as well as William Steig’s 1990 book “Shrek!,” the show will feature more than 100 Uni students in the cast, crew and pit orchestra, according to Uni drama teacher Ranae Bettger.

Tickets are available at snack time, during office hours and during lunch in Room 223, which is generally referred to as the little theater. You can also buy them at the door on show nights or secure them online at

IPSF’s Science Little League is enrolling students now for its spring session

The IUSD science department has asked us to pass along word of an engaging opportunity for science-minded students in grades one through six.

Logo.Full.Lg.Color.CenterThere are a few more days to enroll for Science Little League, a fun and educational after-school program offered by the Irvine Public Schools Foundation. These courses, taught by IUSD teachers, encourage students to explore scientific concepts in a hands-on environment. There is a cost to participate, but some of the proceeds will benefit the district’s science program. Scholarship can also be pursued by filling out an application at

Each session consists of five 90-minute classes, which will be starting soon at Alderwood, Brywood, Culverdale, Greentree, Meadow Park, Oak Creek, Santiago Hills,Stone Creek, Stonegate and Turtle Rock and  Woodbury elementary schools, as well as Plaza Vista and Vista Verde K-8 schools. Organizers say there are still spots available, but enrollment ends this Friday, March 21.

[Update: The deadline has been extended until April 7 for the primary sessions at Brywood, Greentree, Stone Creek, Stonegate, University Park and Vista Verde.]

For more information or to register, go to

Video: Brywood students get more than they bargained for during whale-watching tour

Students from Brywood Elementary School caught a rare and up-close glimpse of so-called false killer whales this week during what can only be described as a very successful whale-watching expedition.

The video images above were captured between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 12, as about 30 of the large oceanic mammals greeted the Ocean Institute’s RV Sea Explorer.

“I have been cruising in this area for many years,” Sea Explorer Captain Mike Bursk said, “and I have never seen this species of cetacean off of our coast. They prefer deep temperate to tropical waters. We were all very excited about this find.”

Sponsored by the Ocean Institute’s Adopt-a-Class program, the tour had taken Brywood students just a few miles off the coast of Dana Point. Needless to say, they had plenty to talk about when they returned.

“I didn’t get to go but the students came back and they were so excited,” Principal Astrid Ramirez told the NewsFlash.

The Ocean Institute offers ocean science programs for children, as well as whale-watching cruises to the general public on weekends.

Irvine schools celebrate Read Across America Day with special guests and their favorite books

Paul Bokota reads to children at Northwood Elementary School

A handful of IUSD elementary schools invited a cast of special guests to read their favorite children’s books on March 3, officially celebrated as Read Across America Day.

Established by the National Education Association, Read Across America Day is an annual literacy campaign that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel — better known to kids as Dr. Seuss.

Local guest readers included Board of Education member Paul Bokota (pictured above), who read to students at Northwood Elementary School; Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, who visited Springbrook Elementary School; and Superintendent Terry Walker, who read at Culverdale Elementary.

Bokota, the board member, read a book called “The Perfect Pet” to third-graders, who naturally broke into a discussion about their own pets.

“I asked them who had a pet,” he said, “and we literally spent the next 20 minutes discussing dogs, cats, snakes, hamsters, fish, parrots, parakeets and every other pet imaginable. I stayed afterwards and spoke with more of the kids about their pets. It was a great experience.”

IUSD seeks feedback from local stakeholders for new accountability plan

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula represents a dramatic change in how education dollars are allocated in California, channeling greater resources to the students who need them most.

Meanwhile, the new funding system also calls for additional accountability measures.


Beginning this year, every school district and county office of education must develop, adopt and annually update a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan — or LCAP — with input from parents and other community stakeholders.

That’s where you come in.

IUSD is now encouraging its parents, students, teachers and community members to take a few minutes to respond to six questions covering topics that include academic standards, college and career readiness, parent involvement and school climate. Feedback provided by the April 4 deadline will be considered carefully as the district drafts its first Local Control and Accountability Plan, which will set new goals and establish measurable benchmarks for progress.

You can access the Irvine Unified School District’s 2014 Stakeholder Survey by clicking here, or by typing in the following URL:

Textbooks recommended for the 2014-15 school year will be available for review

High school textbooks recommended for adoption in IUSD will be available for public review beginning Monday, March 17.

These are instructional materials under consideration for 2014-15, covering the content areas of English, foreign language, math, performing arts, science and social science.

The books are set to remain on display at each of IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools throughout the adoption process, which is expected to conclude with a vote by the Board of Education on May 6.

IUSD high schoolers make annual trek to Sacramento to meet with state policymakers

Accompanied by a handful of teachers and district leaders, 23 high school students from IUSD are in Sacramento today to discuss education issues with state legislators and other influential policymakers.

The trek up to the state Capitol has become an annual tradition for politically-savvy Irvine students, who get to advocate for important educational causes and learn about the legislative process at the same time. This year, the local contingent is joined by IUSD Board of Education President Sharon Wallin, Superintendent Terry Walker and board member Lauren Brooks, who’s been instrumental in coordinating these trips along with PTA members and parent volunteers.

Brooks just sent us this photo of the group at the start of what will surely be a packed day.

IUSD students in Sacramento

11:57 a.m.

Here’s another shot of our local students, this time meeting with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg talks to IUSD students

Alert: Irvine Police seek child annoyance suspect following latest reported crime

The Irvine Police Department advised of another child annoyance incident on Tuesday, this time occurring in the area of Paseo Westpark and Hearthstone. You can read the news release here.

Authorities believe the same man harassed and exposed himself to children on multiple occasions in the Woodbridge area in January and February. He’s said to be 20 to 30 years old with light skin and short, dark brown hair.

Once again, victims are urged to call 911 immediately, and anyone with information that might help investigators should contact the department at 949-724-7200.

Registration is open for preschool program offered by IUSD’s Early Childhood Learning Center

Registration is now open for parents seeking to enroll their children in IUSD’s preschool program for the 2014-15 school year.

The program, open to children ages 3 and 4 who live within the district’s attendance boundaries, is administered by the team of professional educators at IUSD’s Early Childhood Learning Center. A sliding scale is available for income-qualifying families.

Established in 2002, the Early Childhood Learning Center has worked collaboratively with local families to build a world-class learning community, one designed to support each child’s social, emotional and pre-academic needs.

The ECLC campus is located at 1 Smoketree in Irvine. To learn more, visit the center’s website, or call 949-936-5890