Woodbridge High Students Place Third at National History Day Competition

Nat Hist Day Woodbridge Winners 6.20.16

This month, National History Day winners were announced during the 42nd annual Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest. Woodbridge High School students Eunji Son, Chai Won (Bella) An, and Kenny Chung, placed third in the senior group exhibit, titled, “Perry Expedition: Exchange through Encounter of Japan.”

More than 600,000 students from around the world competed in five categories: documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances and websites. Less than 1% of those entries were awarded the opportunity to compete in the national finals at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest held in Maryland.  Competitors represented the top entries from 57 affiliate members, including every state, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, South Korea, South Asia, China and Central America. Nearly 3,000 middle and high school students presented their work related to the 2016 theme, Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.

“The competitors at this contest are some of the brightest students of their generation,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “The work they produce is astounding in its breadth and scope of historical research. Once again, they amazed myself, the NHD staff, and the judges with their hard-work and creative projects. I want to congratulate them all for being in the top 1% of History Day projects created this year and especially congratulate those whose work was deemed the best of the best.”

During the Orange County National History Day competition, in the junior level, 15 projects out of a possible 18 projects were IUSD projects and advanced 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 at the County competition, with 18 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.

While at the state competition, IUSD students were recognized in three award categories: Honorable Mention, Runners-up and Champion.

Honorable mention winners included a Junior documentary “Perry’s Voyage: Opening the Gates of the Rising Sun” and group exhibit “The Kennedy-Nixon Debate: How Television Changed Politics Forever” from Sierra Vista Middle School and a senior historical paper from University High School “Star of the North: Catherine the Great’s Exchanges with Western Europe and Russian Encounters with the Enlightenment.”

Runners-up included a junior website from Jeffrey Trail Middle School “The Beatles: Revolution on Abbey Road” and a Senior individual documentary from University High School “The Okie from Muskogee.”

Four IUSD champions at both the Junior and Senior levels advanced to the national competition. From Lakeside Middle School a historical paper “Unlikely Explorers: The Mormon Battalion;” Nat Hist Day Woodbridge Project 6.20.16from Sierra Vista Middle School a group documentary “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Jonas Salk’s Pioneering Exploration into Poliomyelitis;” from Northwood High School a group documentary “Charles Lindbergh: Exploring Through Aviation, Exchanging Controversial Ideas, Encountering Hostile Criticism;” and from Woodbridge High School a group exhibit “Perry Expedition: Exchange Through Encounter in Japan.”

IUSD extends its congratulations to all of our students who participated in the county, state and national competitions and to the many dedicated teachers who worked tirelessly with the students.  To read about Sierra Vista Middle School teacher Jon Miller, who was named top middle school history teacher of the year, click here.

Founded in 1974 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, the National History Day Contest was created to inspire students to conduct original historical research. Since its creation, the contest has grown to an international competition with more than 600,000 participants that awards thousands of dollars in scholarships and prizes annually. The theme for 2017 is Taking a Stand in History.

Sierra Vista Teacher Named Top Middle School History Teacher in the Nation

Jon MillersSierra Vista Middle School History teacher Jonathan Millers received the prestigious Junior Division Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award, worth $10,000, at this year’s Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in Washington, D.C. This honor is bestowed upon one junior division (middle school) and one senior division (high school) teacher annually. The recipient of the national award is selected from the affiliate winners of the prize. National History Day has affiliates in all fifty states, Washington, D.C., China, Korea, Guam, South Asia, Central America, and American Samoa. Millers became eligible for the prize after winning California’s Junior Division Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award.

Millers has participated in National History Day – California (NHD-CA) for nine years. NHD-CA, sponsored by the Sacramento County Office of Education, is one of the largest state history competitions in the nation. Each year more than 40,000 students from 28 counties explore historical topics and create projects that are entered in school, district, and county competitions. County champions advance to the annual state wide contest which includes more than 1,200 participants.

“Mr. Millers has a love for history and seeing students engaged in learning,” said NHD-CA State Coordinator Craig Irish. “His passion is evidenced by the students who pack his classroom each day during lunch and before and after school to work on their history projects. We are proud to have Mr. Millers represent California as the Junior Division Behring Teacher of the Year.”

As an 8th grade History teacher, Millers engages his students with hands on activities such as historical court case reenactments, or encouraging students to adopt the persona of a historical figure. Sierra Vista began participating in the National History Day Contest as an extracurricular activity. However, after seeing its effectiveness to improve student skills in research, use of technology, reading, and writing, it was decided to expand the program. It is now a key component in the school curriculum. The annual school presentation of these projects draws more than 300 attendees, including former students who offer advice to the next generation of National History Day Contest participants.

Aaron Jetzer Named Principal of Eastwood Elementary

Aaron Jetzer-GroundbreakingIUSD is pleased to announce that Aaron Jetzer has been named Principal of Eastwood Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in August 2017 to serve the new community of Eastwood Village. However, Mr. Jetzer will continue in his current role as Principal of Culverdale Elementary and begin the transition to Eastwood in January, 2017.

Mr. Jetzer has 16 years of education experience and is recognized as an outstanding leader in IUSD.  He currently serves as Principal of Culverdale Elementary, where for six years he has developed an excellent reputation as a site leader who works collaboratively with students, staff, and the parent community, including the PTA and the Irvine Public Schools Foundation.  Innovation and continuous improvement are the hallmarks of Mr. Jetzer’s leadership, including the piloting of math and reading programs at Culverdale before they became standardized across the District. He continues to revamp the school’s technology and wireless infrastructure and in 2012, Culverdale was recognized as a California Distinguished school.

Mr. Jetzer is looking forward to the challenge of opening IUSD’s newest K-6 school and will work closely with students, staff and parents to develop an environment that personalizes learning to ensure that all students develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to connect to the world around them.  He is experienced at working with diverse student populations, has high expectations for academic achievement, and will offer a broad range of extracurricular programs.

Mr. Jetzer lives in Laguna Niguel with his wife and two kids.  In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, watching his kids play soccer, working on home projects, cooking, biking, running and yoga.

Important Water Safety Reminders

Graphic with Text Baby by Pool 2016As you prepare for the hot summer months, filled with fun and long days in the sun, IUSD would like to take this opportunity to share important water safety reminders.  IUSD and the City of Irvine have partnered with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) on a water safety campaign for Irvine.  According to OCFA, Irvine has the second highest drowning rate in Orange County.

Below are links to helpful handouts from OCFA in five languages, which can be printed and placed on your refrigerator or somewhere visible for the whole family.  Also, please share this information with caregivers.

ABCs of Water Safety


Water Safety Rules


Another helpful resource is OCFA’s drowning prevention webpage, which includes tips and videos.  http://www.ocfa.org/SafetyPrograms/DrowningPrevention.aspx

Thank you and have a fun and safe summer!

IUSD Celebrates Groundbreaking of Newest Elementary School

Groundbreaking Featured image
The Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for Eastwood Elementary School, June 1 at the new school site – 99 Meander, Irvine. The ceremony marks the start of construction on Irvine’s 39th school, serving the Eastwood Village.  Eastwood is a K-6 school and is expected to open in August 2017.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by the IUSD Board of Education, IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker, IUSD staff, PTA Council President Connie Stone, President of California School Employees Association, Chapter 517 Janelle Cranch, Mayor Steven Choi, city of Irvine representatives, Irvine Company representatives Robin Leftwich and Mike LeBlanc, and members of the community.

“Like all Irvine schools, Eastwood Elementary has been designed to encourage curiosity and collaboration to prepare our students for 21st century college and careers,” said IUSD Board President Paul Bokota.  He then announced Eastwood’s new Principal Aaron Jetzer who will transition from Culverdale Elementary.

Click Here to see photos of the event.

Irvine Voters Pass Measure E

Dear IUSD Community,

I am pleased to announce that voters have passed Measure E.  The school facilities improvement measure, which was placed on the June 7 ballot by the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education, passed with 60 percent of the vote, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ website.  The county agency will officially certify the results by the end of the month.

Although only voters in the neighborhoods served by Irvine’s oldest schools voted on Measure E, it was the subject of citywide discussion and campaigns.  Passage of this measure is an affirmation of the community’s confidence in the Board of Education and our District.

IUSD’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the Irvine Teachers Association, the California School Employees Association and the many parent volunteers and community members, who comprised the Yes on E Campaign, were pivotal in communicating the importance and positive impact of Measure E to the Irvine community.  PTA Council President and Campaign Committee Chair Connie Stone and her team worked tirelessly to ensure educational equity for all IUSD students, now and for generations to come.

Measure E will provide a maximum available bond issuance of $319 million to provide modernizations to the District’s aging schools. This funding will be issued in four series over 12 years. IUSD anticipates the first bond issuance to occur in January or February of 2017.

Click here for a list of schools that will receive funding and to see proposed project lists for each school site.

District staff will present the proposed school site project lists to the Board of Education during a yet to be determined Board Meeting in the coming months.  In addition, the District will begin the process to form a Citizens Oversight Committee to oversee the allocation of bond funds and to conduct an annual audit.  By law, funds can only be used for facilities projects and cannot be taken away by the state or redirected for other purposes.  Property owners in the newest areas, who are paying Community Facility District (CFD) fees toward school facility construction, will not be impacted by the Measure.

Passage of Measure E is a tremendous step forward to ensuring all IUSD schools meet the same safety and academic standards as new schools and that all students have equal access to 21st-century educational facilities.  IUSD will regularly communicate important milestones and updates through our school communities and on our website iusd.org.

Thank you for your support and engagement, which helps IUSD better serve our students.


Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools, Irvine Unified School District


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.


Portola High School Affirmed Safe by Top State Environmental Agency

Dear IUSD Community,

I am pleased to inform you that the Portola High School site has been affirmed safe by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC).  Today, DTSC provided the District with the environmental site approval, also known as a “No Further Action” notice.  This designation affirms the site is environmentally safe for students, families, staff and the community, and supports the 2014 and 2015 environmental site approvals previously granted by the DTSC.  To read the final report, click here.

During this third series of testing, 17 additional locations were selected throughout the school site by DTSC with more than 100 tests conducted at two depths of five and 15 feet, which is the industry standard.  To date, more than 300 tests have been conducted at more than 100 locations site-wide.  Below is a map with the comprehensive test locations and information.

IUSD expected the final report at the end of April; however, during a March 22 Special Board Meeting, after hearing feedback from the public, the Board of Education requested that DTSC identify additional test locations beyond the eight the state agency initially selected.  The additional locations expanded the timeframe and the time needed for DTSC to review the data and make its own independent determination.

As explained by DTSC Division Chief Dot Lofstrom during the March 22 Special Board Meeting, there are three potential “outcomes” of the confirmation soil sampling.  She explained that “Outcome Two” is the current status of the site and that if the testing supports this status, no further action will be required of IUSD.  Chief Lofstrom stated:

Outcome One

“One outcome is that all samples come back non-detect.  That means that no contaminants were discovered above the capabilities of our laboratory instruments to detect them.  In that case, the concerns described by me tonight would have been met by the District and no further action will be requested of the School District.”

Outcome Two

“A second outcome might be that contaminants are discovered but at very low concentrations.  So low as to constitute no health risk to occupants of the school.  That’s the current status of the site – our current conceptual model that there are very low concentrations of some contaminants – scattered areas underground.  These contaminants that do exist are sometimes as low as 600 times below the health concentrations, so I’m talking very low concentrations.

A few scattered concentrations of low level contaminants would confirm the current conceptual site model that there is no risk to future occupants of the school.  Very low levels of contaminants in the soil do not trigger cleanup requirements, because walking or running on a field, playing on the ground, or sitting inside rooms with concrete floors and walls do not result in any exposures that are a health concern.

In this case again, the concerns of DTSC would have been met and no further action will be requested of the School District.”

Outcome Three

“There is a third outcome, that is contaminants are present and at sufficiently high concentrations to have possible health impacts.  In that case, additional investigation will be required of the District.”

To view a video of Chief Lofstrom’s presentation during the March 22 public meeting, click here.

Chief Lofstrom and DTSC Geologist Dan Gallagher will join IUSD staff for a presentation to the Board of Education Tuesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office.  The public is invited.  If you are unable to attend in person, you may view the meeting live on Cox channel 39 and AT&T U-verse channel 99.

For more information about the Portola High School site, including a comprehensive site history and District communications, please visit iusd.org/portolaconstruction.  See the following links for recent IUSD communications about the school site.

Portola High School Testing Update – May 11, 2016
Portola High School Update – April 29, 2016
IUSD Board Held 17th Public Meeting to Ensure Highest Standards for Portola High – March 25, 2016
Portola High School Meeting Reminder and Procedures – March 21, 2016
Portola High School Update and Public Meeting Notice – March 17, 2016
Portola High School Update from Terry Walker – March 4, 2016

Thank you for your support and engagement throughout this independent and rigorous process to ensure the Portola High School site is safe for our students, staff, families and community.  We look forward to welcoming the inaugural Portola High School freshman class this August and we share in the community’s excitement about this state-of-the-art educational facility that will be home to generations of Irvine students.


Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools, Irvine Unified School District







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.

2016-17 School Funding Survey Closes Monday

The 2016-17 school funding survey, which is part of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process closes Monday, May 16.  If you haven’t already, please take a moment to participate in this survey.

The LCAP process helps IUSD identify annual goals, take action on those goals, and measure progress on academic achievement, school climate and parent engagement.  Your input is critical to IUSD’s decision-making process and will help guide investments in the District’s priorities.

To learn more about the state’s funding system, including the Local Control Funding Formula and the LCAP, visit iusd.org/LCFF-LCAP/.  Click here for an informational summary of the proposed LCAP actions.

Click here to take the survey now.