Commencement ceremonies are coming up for high school seniors and their families

Here we are, a third of the way through June, and that means high school graduation season is upon us. Here’s a schedule of the commencement ceremonies coming up in IUSD:

2014 graduation ceremony schedule

Speaking of dates to mark on the calendar, June 25 will be the final day of classes for all K-12 students in the district — or at least until summer school, which starts on June 30.

Year-round students may also want to note that July 29 is the first day of the 2014-15 school year. IUSD students on the traditional calendar will report back to school on Sept. 2.

Oh, and Sunday is Father’s Day.

IUSD names new principals for Venado Middle School and Vista Verde School

IUSD has announced two new principals for the 2014-15 school year.

Luis Torres, currently the assistant principal at Venado Middle School, has been promoted to principal at Venado, and Jerry Vlasic, formerly the principal of Kaiser Elementary School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, will lead the K-8 Vista Verde School.

Both will begin their new assignments on July 1.

Luis Torres

Torres, pictured to the right, began his career in education in 1992 as a social science teacher at Marco Forster Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District, and in 2005 he became a school psychologist intern with Capo. He joined IUSD a year later, and from 2006 through 2011 he distinguished himself as the school psychologist at Venado and South Lake middle schools. Torres became a lead school psychologist for the district in 2010, and in 2011 he was named assistant principal of Venado.

“Not only is he knowledgeable of the students, staff and school community, he has extensive experience at the middle school level, where he’s contributed to positive school cultures as a teacher, school psychologist and administrator,” Superintendent Terry Walker said Friday.

Along with credentials in teaching, administration and school psychology, Torres has a master’s degree in education from Cal State San Bernardino and a bachelor’s degree in history from UCI.

Vlasic, a resident of San Clemente — he’s pictured below — began his career in education in 1988 at William Fegely Middle School in Portage, Ind., where he worked as an English and social studies teacher. In 1991, he joined the San Marcos Unified School District, where he would spend the next 12 years. At San Marcos Middle School, he was an English teacher, computer elective teacher and, eventually, assistant principal; at Discovery Elementary School, Vlasic served as assistant principal before being promoted to principal.

Jerry VlasicIn 2003, his career path led to the Capistrano Unified School District, where he was principal of Las Flores and Moulton elementary schools for six years. In 2009, Vlasic joined the Newport-Mesa district as principal of Kaiser.

“He is a highly respected educational leader with experience at the elementary and middle school levels,” Superintendent Walker said, “and he is deeply committed to the long-term success of Vista Verde.”

Along with teaching and administrative credentials, Vlasic has a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Ball State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English and teaching with a minor in sociology from Indiana University.

Ira Glasky leads trio of candidates in special Board of Education election

With nearly all ballots tallied from Tuesday’s special election, attorney Ira Glasky has emerged as the top vote-getter in the race for an open seat on the IUSD Board of Education.

[Updated at 12:54 p.m. on June 10]

Ira GlaskyGlasky, formerly a member of the district’s Finance Committee, has received 7,529 votes, or 43.3 percent of the total, with all 88 precincts reporting. Carolyn Inmon, a retired teacher, is second with 6,247 votes, or 35.9 percent. Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur, has 3,627 votes, or 20.8 percent. (You can access official results from the Orange County Registrar of Voters here.)

After Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner announced his resignation in October, board members had to decide whether to hold a special election that would cost IUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars or make a provisional appointment for the one-year balance of the term. They chose the second option and selected Glasky to serve through November 2014. But petitioners later gathered enough signatures to invalidate the appointment process and force a special election.

Pending the tally of some additional absentee ballots and certification of the results, Glasky is poised to once again take over a seat set to expire in December, though he has indicated his intent to run for a full four-year term in the Nov. 4 election.

The Board of Education is the chief policy-making body for the Irvine Unified School District, comprising five members elected at large by Irvine voters.

New special ed director is a ‘highly collaborative leader’ with experience in a growing district

IUSD has announced a new addition to its Special Education team.

Melanie Hertig, who currently serves as director of Special Education in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, has been selected to take on a similar role in Irvine, where she’ll work alongside Director Erica Hawkes. Her start date is July 1.

Melanie Hertig“Melanie will bring a breadth and depth of experience not only as a special education director in a growing district, but also as a former program specialist and general education teacher,” Superintendent Terry Walker said. “In each role, she has proven herself as a highly collaborative leader dedicated to meeting the needs of each student.”

Walker noted that IUSD’s Special Education department is expected to serve as many as 1,000 additional students in the coming years, assuming a growth rate congruent with the rest of the district. As such, Executive Director Mark Miller has been collaborating with a number of groups to assess the department’s current organizational structure with the goal of providing an optimal level of support for students.

Hertig will help ensure IUSD keeps pace with anticipated growth and complex operational needs.

She began her career as an elementary teacher in the Pomona Unified School District in 1996, and three years later she joined the Temecula district as a middle school teacher. She became a school psychologist in 2001, and in 2006 she was named a program specialist.

In 2011, Hertig was named TVUSD’s assistant director of Special Education, and in 2013 she was promoted to Director of Special Education, as well as Director of the local Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).

Along with her teaching and administrative credentials, she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education/pupil personnel services from Azusa Pacifica University.

IUSD Board of Education to hold public hearing on latest draft of district accountability plan

The IUSD Board of Education will hold a public hearing during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 3 to hear comments on the latest draft of the district’s new accountability plan.

LCFF-LCAPThe Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, is an important component of the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula. Starting this year, all districts are required to prepare LCAPs that describe how they intend to meet annual goals for students, addressing both state and local priorities.

The reports, which must be adopted on or before July 1, also require input from local stakeholders, including parents, staff and community members. Though Tuesday’s public hearing represents the latest opportunity to weigh in, IUSD began soliciting input back in March.

Each LCAP must focus on eight areas identified as state priorities, but the plans also have to demonstrate how district budgets will help improve student outcomes — and how progress will be measured.

To meet the eight state priorities detailed in the LCFF legislation, IUSD has developed these four goals:

  1. Ensure all students attain proficiency in the current content standards
  2. Ensure access to rigorous and relevant learning tools, resources and skills for all staff and students
  3. Cultivate a positive school culture and system of supports for student personal and academic growth
  4. Communicate effectively and form strategic alliances to secure the support and resources necessary to deliver our vision

And, according to the latest draft of Irvine’s LCAP, the goals above will be supported by the following proposed actions:

Student learning

  • Reduce class sizes by two students from transitional kindergarten through grade six and by one in grades seven through 12
  • Increase site allocations by 25 percent and return site carryovers from 2011-12
  • Fund curriculum development and textbook adoption
  • Fund science specialists in grades four through six

Site-level support

  • Fund a districtwide Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) school support facilitator, as well as assistant principal allocations
  • Fund site-level technology support
  • Invest in districtwide technology infrastructure upgrades

District-level support

  • Fund support for Education Services, including TOSA support
  • Provide support for Maintenance and Operations, as well as school grounds
  • Restore deferred maintenance funding


  • Provide for fiscal stability

Of course, that’s just a rough overview of the plan. To access a draft of IUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, click here. Or take a look at this slide presentation from the Board of Education’s April 29 Study Session.

Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the District Office, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway in Irvine. It will also be broadcast on channel 39 for local Cox Communications subscribers and via AT&T U-verse’s government and public television menu.

To access the full agenda for the June 3 session, click here.

Woodbridge High vocal music director a quarterfinalist for national Music Educator Award

Woodbridge High Vocal Music Director Rob Blaney has been named a quarterfinalist for the prestigious Music Educator Award presented annually by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

Rob BlaneyMore than 7,000 nominations were submitted for the national honor, which was established to spotlight K-12 teachers and college instructors who have made significant contributions to music education while helping to preserve its place in our schools. The 222 candidates who were announced as quarterfinalists this week are from 208 cities, fanned out across 41 states.

“This is an incredible honor, and I am blessed to be a part of a community that places such a high value on music education,” Blaney told the NewsFlash. “I love the diversity of our music program at Woodbridge and am grateful for our administration and parents, who have allowed me to create a vocal music program that provides students with opportunities to create, discover, and, as cliché as it sounds, find their voice.”

“The students and faculty that I collaborate with each day are simply the best,” he said, “and they inspire me to be the best that I can be.”

According to the official news release, semifinalists will be announced in September, and the field will later be narrowed to 10 finalists. One of them will pick up The Music Educator Award and a $10,000 honorarium in L.A., but that’s not all; he or she will also get to attend the 2015 Grammy Awards.

The other nine finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists are set to receive matching grants. All grants and honorariums are made possible by Converse, Disney Performing Arts, the Ford Motor Company Fund and Journeys.

New principal for Westpark is well-versed in curriculum, instruction and Common Core

IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker has announced a new principal for Westpark Elementary School.

Deanna Rutter, who is currently vice principal at an elementary school in the Anaheim City School District, will succeed Principal Ann Marie Simmons, starting July 1.

Deanna Rutter 5.29.14Walker on Friday touted Rutter’s credentials, saying she is well-versed in curriculum, instruction and the new Common Core instructional standards.

“She is also a leader in technology who has experience with numerous school programs, including Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Response to Instruction (RTI) and special education,” the superintendent said.

Rutter’s career in education began in 2004 at Key Elementary School in Anaheim, where she taught fifth- and sixth-grade Gifted and Talented Education, as well as a regular fifth-grade class. From 2008 through 2010, she served as a Teacher on Special Assignment, and, after teaching third-grade GATE at Edison Elementary for a year, she was named vice principal of Juarez and Guinn elementary schools in 2011. Earlier this year, she was named vice principal of Anaheim’s Ponderosa Elementary School.

A resident of Irvine with her husband, Neal, and their two daughters, Rutter has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCI and a master’s degree in teaching with a specialization in reading from National University, along with teaching and administrative credentials.

Westpark won’t be the only school with a new leader next year. On April 4, IUSD announced new principals for Canyon View, Meadow Park and Stonegate elementary schools, and district officials announced a new principal for Plaza Vista School later that month.

Greentree Elementary students and staff part ways with ponytails for charity hair donation

Greentree students and staff donate hair

Audrey Coburn, 9, could feel a weight had been lifted — and for good reason. Eight inches of red hair that was swinging from the back of her head moments earlier was now clutched in her right hand.

“It feels very different,” the fourth-grader said Friday. “I used to have hair all over the place.”

Audrey Coburn gets a haircut as her friend look onAudrey was one of 15 girls from Greentree Elementary School who volunteered to donate their long locks to a pair of charity organizations that make wigs for children experiencing hair loss for medical reasons. Sitting in a row of folding chairs, the altruistic students were joined by a pair of staff members, including science specialist Alison Garza, who came up with the idea earlier in the school year.

Garza, who was planning to donate her own hair, said she asked if any students or staff members wanted to join. To her surprise, more than a dozen stepped up, so she reached out to both Audrey Coburn shows off her locksLocks of Love and Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

“I’m so proud of them — every one of them,” said Ms. Garza, holding a pair of her own recently detached ponytails. “They wanted to donate as much as they could, and they all did it out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Magnifying their bravery, the cuts were made during an afternoon assembly on the Greentree blacktop as classmates wildly cheered them on. Lori Hillman and Danielle Penz, two scissor-wielding stylists from local salons, did the honors.

Audrey was one of the first to go. After a few snips, there was no turning back.

Though she said it wasn’t an easy decision, she knew it would benefit another little girl or boy who was already going through a difficult time.

“I’d feel bad if I had no hair,” she said.

Latest proposal for high school boundary changes presented to Board of Education

The IUSD Board of Education engaged in a special study session this week to discuss proposed changes to the district’s high school attendance boundaries.

As we’ve reported previously, planning for Irvine’s fifth comprehensive high school necessitates a modest boundary reconfiguration in time for the campus’ projected opening in the fall of 2016. Though most IUSD families won’t be affected, changes could impact some Irvine students who are currently enrolled in kindergarten through the sixth grade, as well as currently enrolled kindergarten through seventh-grade students who live within the boundaries proposed for the fifth high school.

Back on March 4, Tony Ferruzzo, a facilities consultant and former IUSD principal, unveiled an initial recommendation for boundary changes made by the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee, which includes one principal, one teacher, one student and two parents from each of IUSD’s comprehensive high schools, along with district staff.

That recommendation generated discussion by the board and was later the subject of four parent forums. On Tuesday, May 27, Ferruzzo returned to board with a revised proposal based on the latest community input.

Board members are expected to take action on July 8, though any changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2016-17 school year. [Update: The board is not expected to take action on proposed boundary changes until Aug. 19 at the earliest.] In the meantime, a map of the current recommendation is posted below, and here are a few of our takeaways from Tuesday’s session:

  • Under the revised recommendation, students from Irvine’s Laguna Altura community would continue to send their children to University High School rather than the new high school campus. In addition, a non-contiguous portion of the Stone Creek Elementary School attendance area would remain in the Woodbridge High boundary, along with the rest of Stone Creek.
  • Current high school students and those who will start high school in the fall won’t be impacted either way. That’s because the youngest will already be in the 11th and 12th grades before any changes take effect. Again, even though the board is expected to take action on July 8, altered boundaries in Irvine wouldn’t take effect until August 2016 at the earliest.
  • IUSD is growing – and fast. Without a fifth comprehensive high school, moderate projections indicate Northwood High’s student population would swell to 3,140 by 2017. Irvine High would similarly expand to 2,946 students, University High would grow to 2,842 students and Woodbridge High would hit 2,488, which is still above the district’s maximum enrollment target for high schools.
  • There are essentially three enrollment options for opening the fifth high school. The district could require all ninth- and tenth-graders living within the school’s attendance area to enroll. Or it could start with just ninth-graders. Or it could require ninth-graders to enroll but give tenth-graders a choice. Each of these options has its pros and cons, but the Boundary Advisory Committee is recommending the first scenario — requiring freshmen and sophomores to attend — because that would ensure a viable enrollment and a comprehensive program for all students. The final decision will ultimately be made by the Board of Education.
  • Ferruzzo said the work of the Boundary Advisory Committee was based on an established criteria, along with guiding values. For example, in addition to creating a viable enrollment for the fifth high school, committee members sought to balance long-term student enrollment across all five high schools while doing their best to keep students from smaller communities together as they transition to middle and high school.

You can take a look at detailed slides from Tuesday night’s presentation by clicking here. And here’s a map of the current proposal. (Click to enlarge.)

Revised high school boundary proposal from May 27

IUSD Board of Education approves location of district’s fifth comprehensive high school

A rendering shows the performing arts center that will be part of IUSD's fifth comprehensive high school.

At last it can be said: Barring delays, the Irvine Unified School District will open a brand new state-of-the-art high school near the northeast border of the Orange County Great Park in 2016.

The IUSD Board of Education on Tuesday night passed a long-awaited resolution selecting the site of the district’s fifth comprehensive high school and allowing ownership of the property to be transferred from developer Heritage Fields to IUSD.

The 4-0 vote capped nearly three years of due diligence that recently led to site approval from the California Department of Education and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control for what has been commonly referred to as Site A. Escrow is now on track to close by May 29, and construction could begin next month.

“Getting this done is a big deal,” board member Michael Parham said, “and I think it’s time to celebrate that fact and to move forward, because it’s really a transformational time for this district.”

“It’s going to be an awesome school,” Parham added. “In my opinion, it’s going to be one of the best high schools in the country.”

School board President Sharon Wallin lauded her colleagues on the board for going “above and beyond” in their questioning and analysis to ensure the property meets the strict standards for an Irvine-quality school.

“I’m very excited,” she said, “but I’m mostly excited for those students.”

In 2011, IUSD and its developer partners initially agreed on the 40.2-acre site adjacent to Irvine Boulevard and west of Alton Parkway. Though the district also considered an alternative location on the west side of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro based on a request by the City, that property – generally referred to as Site B – has not been fully removed from the EPA’s Superfund list of hazardous sites and could require extensive environmental mitigation.

Site A, by contrast, has been through an exhaustive evaluation and testing processes and has been fully reviewed and approved by regulatory agencies throughout the state. The Irvine Unified Council PTA also produced a report in December endorsing the location over Site B after examining such factors as safety, traffic and timing.

Speaking of which, timing remains critical for the development of IUSD’s next high school. Projections indicate the district needs to open the new campus by the start of the 2016-17 school year to accommodate thousands of new homes while preventing overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools.

Before Tuesday night’s vote, attorney Andreas Chialtas of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo clarified that the resolution before the board was composed of several components, including selecting the site, ending the district’s review of Site B and approving an Implementation Agreement with Heritage Fields.

Chialtas said that Implementation Agreement clarifies the project schedule, grading information, the site plan and timing issues while allowing for the close of escrow. It also documents the value of the land, which was recently appraised at $127.4 million. While IUSD doesn’t pay that cost, the district will turn over to Heritage Fields its share of any state funding received pursuant to a contractual formula between IUSD and its development partners.

The evening wrapped up with a unanimous roll call vote, but not before additional environmental questions from board member Paul Bokota and a few words of praise for those who have gotten the project to this point.

Board member Lauren Brooks thanked the public for raising important issues “and asking the questions that we could research and really vet.”

“I’m really excited for our students, our future students, our current students, and what the future is going to bring for us,” Brooks said. “And I think we’re really going to have a fabulous high school to look forward to.”