IUSD to Receive World’s First K-12 High-Speed Network

Kids on ComputerThis week, CENIC Networks announced that it has partnered with the Orange County Department of Education to provide Orange County public schools with the first-ever 100-Gigabit per second K-12 internet connection.  The Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) is one of 27 districts to benefit from this ultra-fast network.

IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker, who is the only K-12 superintendent representative on the CENIC Board of Directors and Executive Committee, said of this high-speed network, “It is the equivalent of adding 20 lanes to the 5 Freeway – imagine what that would do for traffic in Southern California. Now, imagine the possibilities for education.”  Superintendent Walker continued, “So much of what we do as educators, to provide our students with real world learning experiences and access to resources, is dependent upon internet connectivity.”

A 100Gb connection will provide IUSD with the limitless ability to dramatically transform how students learn by leveraging technology and internet bandwidth in a way that has never been possible for K-12 schools, until now.  IUSD is uniquely positioned to fully maximize this opportunity due to the ongoing investments the District is making in its technology infrastructure.

Students will have increased access to quality research resources, interactive lessons and video streaming to increase their engagement in science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math.  Such an opportunity will afford our students with experiences found on college campuses and in innovative 21st century careers.

IUSD will continue to manage how technology is integrated into classroom learning and will continue to educate our students about good digital citizenship.  This historical opportunity will ultimately better leverage the human potential of our students, teachers and staff.

To read the full CENIC press release, click here.

Cypress Village, Plaza Vista and Woodbury Earn Gold Ribbon Awards

Gold Ribbon Elementary 2016Cypress Village and Woodbury elementary schools and Plaza Vista K-8 have been named 2016 California Gold Ribbon Schools.  This prestigious designation is the State’s highest recognition for public schools.  The schools were among 772 elementary schools state wide to receive this prestigious honor.

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.

Below are details about the model program each school highlighted through the Gold Ribbon application process.  While all IUSD schools implement innovative programs, the three 2016 Gold Ribbon schools demonstrated how they uniquely implement the following programs.

Cypress Village

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) – A program designed to create a positive school culture by engaging students through ongoing expectations, communications and feedback between teachers, staff and students.  Cypress Village utilizes STORM to teach behavioral expectations. STORM represents the school’s behavioral norms, Safety first, Take responsibility, On time and ready, Respect, and Make a difference.  To learn more about PBIS, click here.

Plaza Vista

Daily 5 – A framework for structuring literacy time so students develop lifelong habits of reading, writing and working independently.  Students select from five authentic reading and writing choices, working independently toward personalized goals, while the teacher meets individual needs through whole-group and small-group instruction, as well as one-on-one conferring.  To learn more, click here.


Response to Instruction (RTI) – A reading program that supports students by using both formative and summative assessments, which are powerful and effective tools to assess students while they are learning, as well as at the end of an instructional unit.  This comprehensive approach provides ongoing feedback that can be used to guide teacher instruction and improve student achievement.  It also enables parents to track their child’s progress throughout the school year. Additionally, it supports parents to reinforce skills at home that their children have learned in the classroom.

“These schools shine as bright beacons for others, putting forth an exemplary effort to ensure that every student is ready for 21st century college and careers,” Torlakson said. “California teachers are developing an education model for the nation, training the students of today to be the problem-solvers, inventors, and pioneers of tomorrow.”

IUSD congratulates the teachers, staff, students and parents of these three outstanding schools, who exemplify the District’s mission to provide the highest quality educational experience we can envision.

Corey Pace Named New Principal of Bonita Canyon Elementary

Dear IUSD Community,

We are pleased to announce that Corey Pace has been named as the new Principal of Bonita Canyon Elementary School. After an extensive recruitment process, which included staff and community input and participation, Mr. Pace was selected from a talented candidate pool as the best fit for Bonita Canyon. He is a successful IUSD principal, who has served with distinction for the past five years at Santiago Hills Elementary School. His official start date is on July 1, 2016.

Mr. Pace is familiar with the Bonita Canyon community and is a true product of IUSD. He served as an assistant principal at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School and graduated from University High School. He has seventeen years of experience in education as a teacher and administrator. He lives in Irvine with his wife and two children.

Mr. Pace is excited to work with the Bonita Canyon students, staff and community. He will visit with current principal Bob Curley to transition to his new role and looks forward to meeting with students, staff, and the parent community in the coming weeks.

Mr. Curley has been named principal of IUSD’s newest K-8 school, Beacon Park, which is set to open this August.

Please join IUSD in congratulating Mr. Pace on his new role and in welcoming him to Bonita Canyon.

Eamonn eSignature


Eamonn O’Donovan
Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources
Irvine Unified School District

IUSD Named Top Five District in Nation for Student Achievement

Technology-Master-PlanAt a time when the achievement gap between low-income students and their affluent counterparts is growing nationwide, the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) was named one of the top five districts in the nation to close this gap, by Education Cities.  The nonprofit organization, which recently published the first-ever Education Equality Index tracked data from school districts in the 100 largest U.S. cities.  According to the organization’s website, “the index score is calculated by identifying the percentage of students from low-income families that reach proficiency averaged across every subject/grade.”

“IUSD and our dedicated teachers and staff continuously work to improve how we deliver the highest quality education we can envision,” said Superintendent Terry Walker.  “The recognition that IUSD is providing educational equity for all students is another piece of powerful evidence of our significant accomplishments in support of students.”

IUSD has made student intervention and a commitment to supporting the individual needs of students a critical focus.   Intervention work includes training teachers to assess student performance and to identify the necessary resources and strategies to maximize student learning. To support our learners in reading, the District utilizes targeted small group instruction to assess students as they are learning and to provide increased rigor or greater support during lessons.  This kind of differentiation ensures that teachers monitor student needs and intervene appropriately.

In addition, IUSD integrates evidence based intervention with the support of highly trained intervention lead teachers and intervention psychologists.    Our increased focus on intervention began seven years ago, and continues to be an integral part of our practice.   Meeting the needs of each student, encouraging student voice and generating greater levels of authentic engagement are integral components of our practice.

IUSD believes that our robust science, technology engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programming for all students as part of their daily instruction also supports student success.   These opportunities could not exist without our gifted and committed Instructional staff who enable IUSD to reduce class size and individualize instruction. The addition of classified support staff enables teachers to work more closely with students and facilitates effective small group instruction.

Support staff includes:

  • Instructional Aides are an effective part of IUSD’s current strategy to reduce class size and increase individualized instruction.
  • Teachers on Special Assignment, who perform a wide variety of tasks designed to support classroom instruction based on the needs expressed by teachers and school sites.
  • Science and Technology Coaches, who support teachers and students on meaningful integration of technology in classroom activities.
  • Intervention Lead Teachers, who monitor students in need of additional support.
  • Intervention Psychologists, who design and provide effective intervention and intervention training.
  • Health and Wellness Staff, including school psychologists, counselors, guidance paraprofessionals and guidance assistants.

Visit, iusd.org to learn more about IUSD programs and initiatives. To read the Ed Source article, “Achievement gaps in Irvine, San Francisco are among smallest of US cities,” click here.


IUSD Named a 2016 Best Community for Music Education

NAMM 2016For the fourth consecutive year, IUSD has been named one of the nation’s Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation.  IUSD joins 476 school districts across the country in receiving this prestigious award.

“This recognition is further evidence of the District’s commitment to the arts,” said Brad Van Patten, IUSD Fine Arts Coordinator.  “Through the Board of Education’s visionary leadership, fine arts have flourished in IUSD schools despite inadequate state funding.”  He went on to recognize and thank the Irvine Company and the  Irvine Public Schools Foundation for their generous support of the District’s visual and performing arts programming, which benefits thousands of students.

Now in its 17th year, the Best Communities program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards and overall access to music instruction. The basis for the award is the annual NAMM Foundation survey that asks districts specifically about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and opportunities to make music in the community.

Responses were later verified with school officials and reviewed by The Institute for Educational Research and Public Service, an affiliate of the University of Kansas.

In a prepared statement, the NAMM Foundation said, “This designation recognizes communities for their commitment to music education and strengthens support for these programs.  Having widely embraced the evidence indicating that music education yields great things in schools and communities, people are increasingly…advocating for school music curricula and championing programs like Best Communities that recognize this commitment to music education.”

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.

IUSD Board Held 17th Public Meeting to Ensure Highest Standards for Portola High

phsThe Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) Board of Education held the 17th public meeting, since 2013, in which the Portola High School site was discussed and the public had opportunity to
comment.  During the more than four-hour meeting on Tuesday evening, the Board heard presentations from the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), and IUSD staff and experts about the history of the school site and its safety.  The presentations were followed by public testimony from the capacity audience.

DTSC Presentation: Extensive Testing and Approvals of the Portola High School Site

DTSC Division Chief Dot Lofstrom began the evening’s presentations.  She reviewed the federal, state and local processes required to ensure a site is safe before a school can be built and the stringent standards IUSD followed.  She stated, “To this day, the District has worked closely and collaboratively with the DTSC to ensure the high standards for environmental safety were met.”  She went on to address DTSC’s April 2014 approval of the school site, which documented the site was safe and was a “green light” for IUSD to begin construction of Portola High School.  Chief Lofstrom clarified the purpose of the additional confirmation sampling is to reaffirm DTSC’s 2014 approval of the school site.  She reported DTSC had determined 10 additional sample locations, with 18 tests in total, were “sufficient to meet DTSC’s interests” and that DTSC selected the locations of the samples.

Some members of the audience asked DTSC for more soil sample locations, in addition to the more than 200 tests that have already been conducted throughout the site.  Independent DTSC Geologist Dan Gallagher explained that the site did not warrant more sample locations beyond the 10 locations identified by DTSC.  He said, “In my professional opinion, 10 samples at two depths…should be sufficient to clear this site.”  Chief Lofstrom then stated that IUSD does not need to identify more than the 10 sample locations determined by DTSC but appreciated the District’s interest in incorporating the public’s input to ensure confidence in the school site.

Chief Lofstrom acknowledged that the Portola High School site has had more scrutiny and testing than any other site on the former El Toro Marine Base, because DTSC “tends to be particularly protective of schools.”  She also told the audience that IUSD has acted with an abundance of caution at every step of the project.  As an example, she cited IUSD’s handling of small amounts of stained soil found on the edge of the property, which was deemed nonhazardous by two independent test labs and DTSC.  She reported that the agency did not require IUSD to remove the soil but the District removed it anyway.

DTSC Workplan

After expressing that it has every confidence in the work done to date by DTSC and IUSD staff and experts, the Board requested the state agency to modify its workplan to include additional testing locations beyond the 10 it had already selected.  On behalf of the Board, Superintendent Walker acknowledged that this is DTSC’s process and workplan but requested the agency to consider input from the public, staff, experts and the Board to ensure all parties have 100 percent confidence in the additional confirmation soil samples.

As part of the updated workplan, DTSC will determine the number of samples collected and the exact sample locations. DTSC committed to an efficient sampling and review process to prevent disruption to the timeline for opening the high school.  The updated draft workplan was submitted Wednesday.  Upon DTSC final approval of the workplan, the agency will report its decision on the number of locations and tests.  Subsequently, the additional sampling will begin.

Superintendent Walker reiterated the District’s interest and point of view regarding the additional confirmation sampling, “It’s an opportunity to reaffirm the original approval under a highly conservative approach, which is what the Board had asked for originally.  It’s the gold standard.”  He continued, “We’ll go through this process and act accordingly, in direct connection with the experts guiding us.”

Next Steps

Chief Lofstrom stated that she believes the test results will be similar to the more than 200 tests already conducted, which led the DTSC to determine the Portola High School site is safe in 2014.  She indicated the samples will most likely “confirm the current conceptual site model that there is no risk to future occupants of the school.”

DTSC’s report on the confirmation sample results is scheduled for April 22.  IUSD is prepared and will act in accordance with DTSC direction.

The public meeting concluded with the Board reiterating its commitment to the safety of students, staff and the community.  They also thanked the audience for their participation and expressed their appreciation for the hard work IUSD staff and experts have put into this project over the last four years to ensure the site is safe.

News Coverage
To read the Orange County Register’s coverage of the meeting, click here.

IUSD Staff Presentation
Click here for a copy of the IUSD staff presentation, which includes the following information:

  • The history and chronology of the school site, located on the former El Toro Marine Base.
  • The rigorous and mandated process federal, state and local agencies must follow to ensure the site is safe for a school. Requirements for building a school are more stringent than residential or commercial developments.
  • The more than 200 tests performed throughout the school site under DTSC oversight.
  • Approvals received from the California Department of Education and DTSC before IUSD could begin building the school.
  • An outline for a proposed draft workplan developed by DTSC and the District for confirmation soil and soil gas samples to reaffirm the safety of the site.

Meeting Videos
Opening Presentation by Superintendent Walker

Presentation by DTSC Division Chief Dot Lofstrom

IUSD Staff and Expert Presentation

Comments from Portola High School Principal John Pehrson

Board of Education Comments

The March 22, 2016 Board Meeting in its Entirety

IUSD Communications
Comprehensive Portola High School Information Page

 IUSD Fact Check: Portola High School Site

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)

Portola High School Meeting Reminder and Procedures

Dear IUSD Community,

Rendering of Portola High School Student Union

Rendering of Portola High School Student Union

This is a reminder that tomorrow evening, March 22, at 7 p.m., IUSD will hold a public meeting at the District Office (5050 Barranca Parkway, Irvine) about the Portola High School site. Because this is a Board of Education Meeting, the District is bound by Board policies and practices.  The following information is to help you understand the meeting format, should you wish to attend.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. with Board Member roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance.  We then will move immediately to the only business item, “Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) Draft Workplan for Additional Confirmational Testing at Portola High School.”   This business item will begin with an IUSD staff presentation and a presentation by the DTSC, followed by public comments.  Each Board Member also will speak and have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions of IUSD staff and DTSC representatives.

The public comment period is the opportunity for meeting attendees to address the Board.  To ensure fairness and that all members of the public have equal time to speak, the public comments will be three minutes per person.  The Board cannot give any one member of the public preferential treatment or more time than others.  However, if you feel your comments or the information you would like to share with the Board will require more than three minutes, please feel free to bring copies of that information to give to the Board and to DTSC representatives.

Persons wishing to address the Board should complete a blue “Request to Address the Board” form, available on the information table, and submit it to the Board Secretary.  IUSD staff will be available to assist members of the public.

In keeping with the District’s commitment to transparency and to keep you informed, I will provide a brief update after the meeting with next steps.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, it will be broadcast live on Cox Channel 39 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99.  The District also will post the video of the meeting online by Thursday, March 24 for on-demand playback.

Thank you for your engagement and interest in our students and schools.  The safety of our students, staff and the community is the District’s priority and we look forward to going through this process to reaffirm the safety of the Portola High School site, which will open this August.

For more information about the school site, including a comprehensive site history and District communications, please visit iusd.org/portolaconstruction.  To view the meeting agenda and the draft workplan, click here.





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


University High Orchestra Takes First Place at National Competition

University High School’s symphony orchestra recently placed first nationally at a competition held in Tampa, FL.  The group was already in some pretty elite company.  Uni Orchestra

Uni’s Orchestra Director Grace Lee, said just ten of the top programs from around the country were invited to the National Orchestra Festival, which was organized by the American Strings Teachers Association and held March 3rd through March 6th.

“It was a wonderful experience, and the kids really enjoyed every minute of it,” Lee said. “From listening to top orchestra groups across the nation, to receiving valuable post-performance feedback from world renowned clinicians, to jamming out on electric string instruments, to learning how to play gypsy jazz, it was all an unforgettable experience the kids will remember for a lifetime.”

Three years ago, Uni’s symphony orchestra placed second in the nation.  This year, they returned to the competition with a renewed focus.

According to its website, the National Orchestra Festival invites youth, middle school and high school orchestras, which are selected to participate based on their applications and supporting materials. Groups can compete or receive evaluations for their performances, which are followed by educational clinics.


Woodbridge High School Named Top GRAMMY School in the Nation

grammyWoodbridge High School has been named the 2016 National Grammy Signature School for its outstanding music program.  This designation is one of the most prestigious accolades in music education.  Since the inception of the GRAMMY Foundation in 1988, IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools have received 12 Gold and Signature Grammy awards but this is the first-ever top honor for an IUSD school.

In 2016, the GRAMMY Foundation presented Signature School awards to just 13 schools across the nation.  The top three schools were designated Gold recipients. The best of the Gold recipients, Woodbridge High School, was named the National GRAMMY Signature School.  Woodbridge will also receive a $5,000 prize.

“This national honor is a tribute to our extraordinary music program, including our dedicated music instructors and students,” said Woodbridge Principal Chris Krebs.  “Winning this award is akin to winning a national championship in athletics.”  Krebs went on to praise the music instructors for their professional and personal investments in the program and its students.

In late 2015, the GRAMMY Foundation announced that all four of IUSD’s comprehensive high schools were named 2016 GRAMMY Signature School Semifinalists – a historical first – making IUSD the only district in the nation with four schools with this designation.  Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools were among 119 schools nationwide selected as semifinalists.

“This is a very important and prestigious honor for our students, staff and community,” said Brad Van Patten, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts.  “It is a testament to the entire K-12 program that allows for a quality music education with access and equity for every child in IUSD to help develop their individual talents in a collaborative ensemble that will be a part of their college and career skillset.”

Applications for the honor were submitted in the fall. Semifinalists were 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.

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.