IUSD Names New Executive Director of Special Education

Melanie Hertig has been named the Executive Director of Special Education. Melanie has a strong educational background, including her experience as an elementary and middle school teacher, school psychologist, and most recently, Director of Special Programs for IUSD. Her selection will provide continuity for the District, as she continues in a leadership role with the Special Education Department. Her new assignment begins July 13th.  Melanie Hertig (2)

Melanie has been with IUSD since July 2014. In her role as a Special Education Director, she has supported secondary programs, the School Psychologist Department, and the Educationally Related Mental Health Services Department.

Prior to joining IUSD, Melanie served as Director of Special Education/SELPA for the Temecula Valley School District, where she was responsible for the daily functions of the Special Education Department. In this capacity, she assisted in developing and overseeing the district’s first Special Education Local Plan Area through a collaborative process with district and school staff, local agencies and advocacy groups. She oversaw the district’s expansion of the Behavioral Health Department, continued support for the Positive Behavior Intervention Support program, worked closely with school psychologists, consulted with legal counsel, reviewed case files, and participated in all areas of mediation and due process.

Melanie and her husband reside in San Clemente. She has two grown boys and just recently celebrated the college graduation of her youngest (who graduated in three year with honors!) from the University of Oregon.

IUSD Selects New Coordinator of Student Services

Tim Hornig has been named Coordinator of Student Services. Tim is an experienced high school administrator and teacher, who has worked collaboratively with students, parents, and school and district staff to build strong relationships and maintain a student-centered environment.  Tim Hornig

Tim joins IUSD from San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas, California, where he has served as Principal since 2011.  Tim oversaw the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, integrated math, the school’s facility master plan (including the design and building of a new stadium and classrooms), and WASC Accreditation, while maintaining a culture intently focused on curricular supports for students.  His responsibilities also included support for all students, including “at-risk” youth, management of the San Dieguito Parent Foundation, communications with key stakeholder groups, staff development and leadership of more than 100 staff members.

Previously, Tim served as the Assistant Principal of Discipline and as the Assistant Principal of Guidance and Curriculum for Dana Hills High School. His responsibilities included student discipline, WASC Coordination, oversight of all guidance and academic counseling for students, testing, professional growth, UC/CSU matriculation, student intervention coordination and evaluation of Social Science, PE and Special Education.

He resides in San Clemente with his wife, Sarah, who is a fifth grade teacher, his daughter Kylie who is 9 and his son Owen who is 8.  Tim is excited to join the IUSD team and is looking forward to working with students, families, teachers and staff to support students and their families and to advance IUSD’s mission and goals.

IUSD Names New Director of STEM

IUSD is pleased to announce Kristen Winn has been named Director of STEM. She has a strong background in STEM education, Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science
Standards, and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).  Kristen Winn

Kristen joins IUSD most recently from the San Mateo County Office of Education, where she served as Coordinator of Science and Engineering and was trained in design thinking and project-based learning.  As part of a regional team, she led the development and delivery of rigorous STEM curriculum and professional learning for Next Generation Science Standards.  She was also the director of the San Mateo County STEM Fair.

Prior to that, Kristen served as the AVID Regional Program Coordinator for San Diego County Office of Education.  In this role, she worked collaboratively to develop and deliver professional development and blended learning courses in the areas of Common Core State Standards, academic writing, Tutorology, critical reading and data analysis.  In addition, she taught middle school science for ten years in the San Juan Unified School District.

Irvine Shines at National History Day Competition

Irvine’s Sierra Vista Middle School students, Frances Kroll and Michelle Kroll, received first-place honors in the Junior Group Documentary Category during the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, held from June 14 to 18 at the University of Maryland in College Park.  Their documentary was titled “Henry Ford: Driving America Into the Future,” and their teachers were Barbara Hall Jonathan Millers.frances-michelle-kroll

In the Junior Individual Exhibit category, Morgan Kopecky of Lakeside Middle School placed third with her submission, “Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Jon Pang was Morgan’s teacher.

More than 500,000 elementary, middle and high school students from the U.S. and beyond take part in National History Day competitions at the local, state and national levels each year, conducting extensive research based on a yearly theme before submitting complex projects in the form of papers, exhibits, performances, websites and documentaries. School competitions are held in the winter, followed by county and state contests.

In May, California’s National History Day event was held at William Jessup University in Rocklin, drawing more than 1,161 students from 25 counties. Fifteen of those students ultimately got the chance to bring their projects to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest. This year’s theme was “Leadership and Legacy in History.”



There’s still time to enroll your child in IUSD’s preschool program for 2015-16

Irvine Unified’s preschool program still has space available for the 2015-16 school year.  The program, open to children ages 3 and 4 who live within the district’s attendance boundaries, is run by the staff of professional educators at IUSD’s Early Childhood Learning Center.  A variety of options are available, including subsidized funding for income-eligible families.  ECLC-cub

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

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

Rancho Students Competed in Finals of the National History Bee

After winning competitions at the local and regional levels, Rancho students advanced to the finals in Louisville, Kentucky from May 22-24.  2015 history bee (2)

“It was a great experience and I am very proud of the Rancho team,” states History Bee Coach Aghassi Gharadaghian.  “The team did well, 3 of the 5 made it to Nationals.  Studying, determination, and quick thinking are all traits that served them well.  Of course a love of history helps too!”

Prior to the nationals, students at Rancho competed at the local level in the National History Bee with amazing results.  Only five students can represent a site, all of which must score above a certain level in order to be considered for Regionals, which were held on March 9.   Rancho sent a full roster to compete against other schools from all over Southern California and each other in the buzzer- based question rounds.  The students who gained the most points through the four rounds were then qualified to go on to Nationals held in Louisville, Kentucky, where they competed against the best from every state.

Irvine Sent Only OC Student to Compete in National Spelling Bee

Sierra Vista Middle School Student Sarika Rau was the only Orange County student to qualify for the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland.  Sarika participated in a written vocabulary test and two rounds of preliminary oral examination.  She was one of only 285 students nationwide to participate in this prestigious competition.  Spelling Bee

While Sarika did not advance to the semifinals, she has received a great deal of local attention for her incredible accomplishment.  She has been featured in two Orange County Register articles and her class was able to watch her compete live on ESPN.

Congratulations to Sarika for job well done!



Northwood and University Receive 2015 California Gold Ribbon Schools Award

Northwood and University high schools have been named 2015 California Gold Ribbon Schools, the State’s highest recognition for public schools.  Both schools were among 180 high schools to receive this prestigious designation.   Instagram-logo

The California Gold Ribbon Schools Award was created to honor schools in place of the California Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while California creates new assessment and accountability systems.  Schools applied for the award based on a model program their school has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.  “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right—embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate.”

In addition to being chosen as a Gold Ribbon School, Northwood was given an additional honor of being selected as having an Exemplary Program in Arts Education.

“We are proud of Northwood and University teachers, staff, students and parents, who exemplify our mission to provide the highest quality educational experience we can envision,” said Irvine Superintendent of Schools Terry Walker.

IUSD Receives Prestigious National History Day Recognition

Four Irvine schools will send two team and three individual student projects to the national Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at University of Maryland at College Park, from June 14-18.  National History Day, is a non-profit education organization dedicated to engaging middle- and high-school students around the world in conducting original research on historical topics of interest.  The National History Day Contest in Maryland is the final stage in a series of contests at the county and state levels.  Guo Project NHD State 2015

To qualify for the national competition, Irvine students competed against more than 1,000 students from 25 counties at the state competition in early May.  Irvine projects moving on to the national competition are:

Junior Individual Exhibit

  • Augustus Caesar: His Leadership Through an Empire and Legacy of its Fall
    • Lakeside Middle School
    • Alina Guo
  • Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    • Lakeside Middle School
    • Morgan Kopecky 

Junior Group Documentary

  • Henry Ford
    • Sierra Vista Middle School
    • Michelle Kroll and Frances Kroll

 Junior Individual Website

  • Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Lamp
    • Jeffrey Trail Middle School
    • Mulan Homo

 Junior Historical Paper

  • Harry Truman: A Leadership and Legacy in the Truman Doctrine
    • Sierra Vista Middle School
    • Miranda Wu

Senior Group Documentary

  • The Legacy of Ed Sullivan: Bringing the Civil Rights Movement into America’s Living Room
    • Woodbridge High School
    • Cullen Darius, Garrett Moore, Josh Morrison, Mitchell Cronin and Scott Armstrong

National History Day has also recognized two Irvine teachers.  University High School teacher Judy Richonne, was one of only two winners from California to receive the National History Day Teacher of the Year for her outstanding creativity, commitment and inspiration in developing student interest in history.  She is eligible for the national Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award, which will be announced on June 18 at the competition in Maryland.

In April, Judy also received the Outstanding Contributions to Education award from the Orange County Board of Education.

Additionally, Sierra Vista teacher Jonathan Millers was named runner up for the State of California as the National History Day Teacher of the Year.

District Announces 2015 Classified Employees of the Year

Today, IUSD announced its five Classified Employees of the Year – Jody Butte, Alex Cruz, Julie Hicks, Rose Magda and Gerry Ruiz.  Classified employees include the men and women who work hard every day to ensure the District runs efficiently to serve our students and their families.  They include secretaries, custodians, paraeducators, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, food services staff members and all the other non-certificated workers.  Most are represented by the California School Employees Association (CSEA).

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 in some cases their school sites.  This year’s well-wishers included Board Members Lauren Brooks and Sharon Wallin, Superintendent Terry Walker, district staff, CSEA President Janelle Cranch and the five 2014 Classified Employee of the Year winners.

Alex Cruz

IMG_8525The day started at 8:20 a.m., with the first stop at the District’s Maintenance and Operations facility to award Alex Cruz, Maintenance VI Plumber, with Classified Employee of the Year.  Alex has been with IUSD for 17 years and received this award for his positive “get it done” attitude, strong work ethic and his commitment to the District.


For several months, Alex was the District’s only plumber, responsible for all 40 District sites.  Previously, Alex had shared this role with a colleague who retired last year.  During a months-long period, Alex took on the increased workload with the utmost professionalism.  He worked with maintenance staff to ensure each site was well-maintained and functioning.

“IUSD is a great environment to work in,” said Alex.  “I enjoy doing what it takes to get the job done but it’s also a team effort.  I work with great and dedicated people.”

Jody Butte

IMG_8538Jody Butte, Supervisor of Nutrition Services at Northwood High School, was the next stop at 9:15 a.m. Jody has been with IUSD for 20 years and received the Classified Employee of the Year award for her leadership and outstanding customer service to Northwood students.

IMG_8531Jody is known for caring for her students, nurturing staff and creating an environment of inclusion through her leadership.  Since she moved to Northwood High School during the 2012-13 school year, students who utilize the cafeteria for breakfast have quadrupled and students who purchase lunches have tripled. She goes out of her way to accommodate students’ requests for healthy snack and food items and talks with students daily to ensure she is meeting their needs.

“I love what I do,” said Jody.  “I love our students, IUSD and the people I work with.  This is so unexpected…I am honored.”

Rose Magda

IMG_8554The third stop was to Greentree Elementary where Rose Magda, Instructional Assistant Special Education, was awarded the Classified Employee of the Year in front of school staff and students at 10 a.m.  Rose has been with IUSD for four years and received the award for her compassion, unparalleled creative approach to serving students and for her extraordinary efforts to ensure every student is included.

IMG_8540Rose, known for her trademark phrase “Stop it!”, makes learning fun for students with profound disabilities.  In a typical day, she goes above and beyond to communicate to students that they are smart, kind, appreciated and most importantly, loved.  An example of her care is when she dressed up like a tree so she could help her student participate in the school play.  She dressed up so she would not be noticed while holding the student’s head up so the child could sing.

“Greentree students are so wonderful, they make me want to be better,” said Rose.  “I love the people I work with and feel honored.”  She concluded her remarks with, “Stop it!” and a smile.

Gerry Ruiz

IMG_8564Next up at 10:40 a.m. was Gerry Ruiz, PE Equipment Custodian at Irvine High School.  Gerry has been with IUSD for 14 years and received the Classified Employee of the Year award for his dedication, responsiveness and integrity.

IMG_8559Gerry is often proactive and demonstrates great leadership skills.  When one of Gerry’s colleague’s wife went into labor, he stepped up without hesitation to take on the workload so his colleague could be there for the birth.  The football team heavily relies on him during football season.  On Fridays, he will often work a 20-hour day.  A lot is requested of Gerry and he does it with a positive attitude and professionalism.

“I consider the people I work with to be family,” said Gerry.  “I like to help when I can and love working here with you all.”

Julie Hicks

IMG_8578The final stop at 11:25 a.m. was to College Park Elementary to award Julie Hicks, Media Tech I with Classified Employee of the Year in front of school staff and students.  Julie has been with IUSD for 10 years and received the award for her passion, creativity and dedication to helping develop students’ skills and love of reading.

IMG_8570Each week, Julie works with sixth-grade student council members to make video announcements on a variety of important school topics.  She helps the students write the scripts and edit the videos, which are shown during weekly library time.  She often works after school or on the weekends to ensure the production of the videos is perfect.  Many of Julie’s former students have taken these valuable skills and experience and pursued video production.

“The students inspire me each and every day,” said Julie.  “I love working here and with such wonderful people.  This is so surprising!”

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 June 2 IUSD Board meeting.