Flash mob breaks out at Irvine High School as students celebrate Unity Week


Flash mob at Irvine High School

About 100 dance students, 20 ASB members and 10 teachers recently initiated a flash mob at Irvine High as part of the school’s Unity Week celebration.

The seemingly sudden spark of spontaneous dance took place around the quad between first and second period on Feb. 26, IHS Dance Director Sheryl Sloate tells us. (The photo above is courtesy of student Jenny Seo.)

“People gathered around and watched the flash mob unfold, and several joined in at the end as the performers invited people to join in and dance,” Sloate said.

The students and teachers apparently kept the whole thing hush, even as they secretly rehearsed for several days during lunch. Being Unity Week, which celebrates unity and diversity, the songs focused on togetherness. The dancing was coordinated by Irvine High dance captains Melanie Sakurada, Rachel Blevins-Boor and Kristen Ninonuevo, with help from Sloate and ASB Adviser Flip Lanard.

Said Sloate, “It was a new experience for Irvine High and hopefully a new tradition.”


IUSD to present information on proposed high school boundary changes at upcoming forums


The Irvine Unified School District will hold four upcoming parent forums to share information on proposed changes to the district’s high school attendance boundaries.

The sessions, which are open to families from any school, are scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. and will take place on the following days (and at the following locations):

  • Wednesday, March 19 in the Woodbridge High School Staff Lounge
  • Monday, March 24 in the Irvine High School Theater
  • Wednesday, March 26 in the University High School Multi-Purpose Room
  • Tuesday, April 1 in the Northwood High School Media Center

As the maps below indicate, the vast majority of IUSD students would not be impacted by the recommended changes. But planning for the district’s fifth comprehensive high school requires a modest reconfiguration that may affect Irvine students who are currently enrolled in kindergarten through the sixth grade, as well as current seventh-graders who live inside the proposed boundary for the fifth high school.

IUSD is planning to open the new school by September 2016 with just freshmen and sophomores, though juniors will be added in 2017 and seniors in 2018 as the inaugural class advances. The campus, set to occupy one of two potential locations near the Orange County Great Park, will serve Irvine’s newer communities and alleviate crowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools.

Meanwhile, a new high school requires the formation of new attendance area, and boundary adjustments will be needed to ensure enrollment is balanced districtwide. The latter consideration is an important one, as IUSD’s Board Policy calls for high schools of no more than 2,400 students when possible. With the dramatic residential growth we’ve seen in Irvine, keeping high schools at this size has been an ongoing challenge.

Tony Ferruzzo, a facilities consultant and former IUSD principal, delivered this presentation on the proposed changes at the March 4 Board of Education meeting. The recommendations, he said, were drafted by the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee, which includes district staff, as well as one principal, one teacher, one student and two parents from each of IUSD’s comprehensive high schools. Ferruzzo said the panel has met regularly since October. After receiving public input, the school board is expected to vote on the proposals in June, though changes wouldn’t take effect until the fall of 2016.

Again, families can find out if they’re impacted by taking a look at the maps below — click on each one to enlarge — and they can learn more by attending one of the upcoming parent forums. Additional developments will be posted on the IUSD website and here on the IUSD NewsFlash.

IUSD's current high school boundaries

IUSD's proposed high school boundaries


Brywood and Canyon View choral singers shine at conference in Santa Barbara


This picture was sent to us by IUSD vocal music teacher Kaii Lee, who recently chaperoned eight Brywood Elementary sixth-graders and a Canyon View Elementary fifth-grader to the American Choral Directors Association’s Western Division Conference in Santa Barbara.

Selected from about 1,200 applicants to be members of the ACDA Honor Chorus, the Irvine students rehearsed with renowned conductor Henry Leck for four days beginning on Feb. 19 before a final performance at the Granada Theatre on Feb. 22. Lee says they sang a half-dozen songs in English, Latin, Hebrew, Portuguese and an East African dialect — all from memory.

“Our students performed beautifully,” she said. “It is a great accomplishment for them at this age.”

The students are: Brywood sixth-graders Sasha Anand, Ally Chao, Shounok Ghosh, Nathan Hsu, Joshua Kwon, Amala Neernannan, Shivani Pasricha and Varsha Sampath; and Canyon View fifth-grader Angeline Xu.


Stonegate Elementary principal will be IUSD’s next director of elementary education


An experienced IUSD principal with expertise in curriculum, instruction and operations has been selected to serve as the district’s next director of elementary education, Superintendent Terry Walker announced Friday.

Stan Machesky, who oversaw the opening of Stonegate Elementary and has since successfully managed that school’s rapid growth, will succeed Lauren Sipelis, who announced recently that her family is pursuing a unique opportunity to live overseas.

“Stan has been an exceptional leader in this district, excelling in a number of roles and under a variety of circumstances,” Superintendent Walker said. “As such, he brings a breadth and depth of expertise in so many areas, including instruction, curriculum and assessment, technology integration, facilities planning and budgeting. He has also capably managed the accelerated growth in one of our newest communities, and he is highly respected by parents, students and his colleagues.”

Now comes the task of finding a successor to Machesky, and there will undoubtedly be a large pool of qualified candidates. District officials said they will seek input from the Stonegate staff and community before selecting his replacement.

Machesky began his career in IUSD in 1996 as a teacher at the former Alderwood Basics Plus School, and in 2001 he was named principal of Santiago Hills Elementary School. Four years later he became principal at Plaza Vista School, a K-8.

Machesky later moved to Westwood Basics Plus, where he oversaw a smooth transition for the staff and community to a new home in Irvine’s Stonegate village in 2009. In August of that year, Machesky left Stonegate Elementary to serve as fiscal director for the Irvine Unified School District. But he returned the following year to fill a principal vacancy at the school.

Since returning to Stonegate, Principal Machesky has led efforts to accommodate a temporary surge in enrollment spurred by new residential development. Yet even with the larger student population, Stonegate has earned a string of recent accolades.

The campus earned a National Blue Ribbon in September, and earlier this month it was named the No. 1 elementary school in the county by the Orange County Register. In addition, it was recently announced that this year’s Elementary Teacher of the Year is from Stonegate, as is one of four IUSD Teachers of Promise.

Machesky, in an email to his community, acknowledged that his decision to leave was a difficult one.

“The part that is most difficult,” he wrote, “is the fact I will be leaving all of YOU, the wonderful families of this still growing and vibrant community. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed our time growing and learning together and we have accomplished much since our start.”

Machesky has a master’s degree in educational administration from Cal State Fullerton and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Diego State University. A resident of Lake Forest, he is married with three sons, ages 8, 9 and 13.


IUSD gearing up for field test of modern assessments tied to Common Core standards


IUSD, along with hundreds of school districts throughout California, will be participating in a field test of the state’s brand new student assessment system this year.

You may already be familiar with the old STAR testing program that launched in 1999. Well, that’s being replaced statewide by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress – or CASPP – which features modern computer-based exams that are aligned to the Common Core standards for English and math. While these exams won’t be officially administered until 2015, they will be piloted for many students this year.

One of the goals of the “field test” is to determine how well specific questions measure what students know and still need to learn. IUSD is also welcoming the opportunity to see how well its technical capabilities meet the demands of the new computer-based assessments — and whether additional resources may needed for teachers and schools.

Meanwhile, students may want to view this year’s test as an opportunity to try out the new system without consequences, as IUSD won’t be capturing or utilizing their scores. Instead, district officials plan to use what they learn to help ensure a successful launch of the new system during the 2014-15 school year.

In the weeks and months ahead, the field test will be administered to students in grades 3 through 8 at each of the district’s elementary schools, as well as grade 11 at each high school. If you’d like to preview what types of questions students will see, or how the test will be presented, you can access an online practice test by clicking here.

For more information, visit the California Department of Education’s Smarter Balanced webpage. And if you have any questions regarding your child’s participation in Irvine, you may want to check out IUSD’s Common Core webpage.


Alert: Irvine Police continue to seek suspect for child annoyance and indecent exposure


The Irvine Police Department advised Thursday that it continues to search for a suspect who may have harassed and exposed himself to children on multiple occasions in the Woodbridge area. Police are also urging any victims to call 9-1-1 immediately.

The latest crime reportedly occurred at about 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, near Eastshore and East Yale Loop. Authorities say a man exposed himself after asking a 12-year-old victim for the time.

Two weeks earlier, on Feb. 12, a man allegedly exposed himself to one high school student and harassed another at about 3:20 p.m., while the two 15-year-old girls were walking home near West Yale Loop and Warner Avenue.

The suspect has been described as a male with light skin, possibly 20 to 30 years old, with short, brown hair. Detectives believe he may have also been involved in similar incidents in the Woodbridge area on Jan. 17 and Feb. 4. He allegedly drives a dark four-door sedan with tinted windows. A news release for the Feb. 12 crime, which includes a composite sketch of the suspect, can be accessed by here.

Police have maintained an increased presence in recent weeks, particularly around local schools, and the Irvine Unified School District has pledged its ongoing assistance, including communications. Once again, victims are advised to call 9-1-1 immediately, and anyone with information is asked to contact the department at 949-724-7200.

IUSD and IPD are also jointly encouraging families to remind children of the following safety strategies:

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings
  • If approached by a suspicious stranger, run away and immediately notify your parents or a trusted adult
  • If wearing headphones, look for approaching people or vehicles as you may not hear them
  • Whenever possible, walk with a partner or in a group
  • Stay away from remote or unfamiliar areas
  • Stay on the part of the walkway that is farthest away from shrubs, dark doorways and alleys where people can hide
  • Do not approach vehicles that may slow or stop ahead of you
  • If you see suspicious activity or persons, immediately leave the area and call 9-1-1
  • Always avoid substances that may make you vulnerable, such as drugs and alcohol

Irvine High newspaper takes first and Northwood is second in county journalism competition


For the second straight year, high school newspapers from Irvine have taken first and second place at the Orange County Journalism Education Association Write-Offs.

Irvine High School’s El Vaquero won the overall Division 1 sweepstakes at the Feb. 22 competition for student newspaper reporters and yearbook staffs. The Howler, which is Northwood High’s student newspaper, finished in second place, and Oxford Academy in Cypress placed third.

Julie Braun, the El Vaquero adviser, said more than 200 students from 15 schools traveled to Fullerton College to compete in this year’s event. Her students now have their sights set on the Southern California Journalism Education Association State Write-Offs, which will be held March 15 in Long Beach.

Interestingly enough, Northwood took the county sweepstakes last year, with Irvine High finishing second. But El Vaquero has historically been a force to be reckoned with at the SCJEA Write-Offs, winning in 2000, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 and 2012. (In sports we’d call that a dynasty.)

Contributing team points to the county win and advancing to the state contest are: Alex Williams, news; Clara Baik, Melanie Sakurada and Alex Thompson, sports; Tracy Nguyen, Sally Oh and Jennifer Shin, editorial; and Joseph Kim, features.

Other El Vaquero staffers to earn honors include Avrita Brar, Carissa Chow, Prosperity Fields, David Hsiou, Angela Lee and George Parampathu in novice news; Anissa Govind and Saieashwar Mukund in cartooning; Sreyas Samantula in critical review; Jenny Seo in photography; and Jillian Kido and Jessica Lin in newspaper layout.


California Music Educators Association presents awards to two from IUSD


Two exemplary educators who have made a big impact on IUSD’s music program have been recognized by the California Music Educators Association.

CMEA Annual Awards GalaBob Avzaradel, who chairs the Performing Arts Department at Irvine High School – and is pictured on the right — was presented with the CMEA Jazz Educator Award at the association’s Annual Awards Gala on Feb. 21. Brad Van Patten, who oversees IUSD’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, was one of three administrators to take home the CMEA Outstanding Administrator Award.

The gala to honor California’s top music educators took place during the 2014 California All-State Music Education Conference, which was held Feb. 20-23 in Fresno. 

“Jazz is a cornerstone of American culture,” Avzaradel said this week, after returning from the conference. “I am honored to have been recognized at the state level for what we do at Irvine High School.”

As part of the National Association for Music Education, CMEA focuses on the importance of music education and promotes quality music programs throughout the state. 


Q&A: Director of student support services discusses state’s new funding formula for education


Alan Schlichting is IUSD’s director of student support services, and he’s been making the rounds lately to share information about the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, which represents a dramatic shift in the way California allocates dollars for education.

At the Board of Education meeting on Feb. 4, Schlichting explained that the LCFF will channel more resources to students with the greatest needs, including English-Learners, foster youth and low-income students. It will also mean greater accountability requirements, with broader benchmarks for measuring success.

We sat down with Schlichting this week for a brief follow-up interview to learn more about the LCFF and what it means for Irvine.

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Let’s start with the basics: How exactly does the new Local Control Funding Formula differ from the previous model?

Under the old system, there were more than 40 funding categories, each for a specific purpose identified by the state. The LCFF model has essentially established three pots of funding with increased local discretion to determine how best to spend those funds in the service of our students.

All districts will now start with a base level of per-student funding that varies slightly depending on grade levels. Then there’s supplemental funding, which adds 20 percent of the base for each English-language learner, low-income student and foster youth. Finally, there’s a third pot called a concentration grant that is equal to 50 percent of the entire base. But that’s only for schools and districts where English-learners, low-income students and foster youth exceed 55 percent of the total enrollment, and IUSD isn’t eligible.

So the idea is that funding will be more directed toward students who need the most help to succeed in school?

That’s correct. IUSD will receive more funds specifically to support services for low-income, English-learning students and foster youth. This extra funding will come from the supplemental grants, and we will continue to designate more resources for programs and services that serve our highest-need students.

When does this new model take effect?

LCFF was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Governor Brown in June 2013. But remember that this represents a seismic shift in how schools are funded, and the state Board of Education is still in the process of working out some of the details and providing direction to county agencies. As such, school districts are currently being funded through a hybrid model of the previous Revenue Limit formula and the new LCFF model.

Will IUSD receive more money as a result of LCFF?

Yes, but there are couple caveats. For starters, it will take a few years to catch up to the funding levels we were at before the recession hit, and LCFF won’t be fully implemented until 2020-21. Even then, IUSD stands to receive less money than most districts in the state because the new model was designed specifically to channel more resources toward English-learners, low-income students and foster youth.

But ultimately individual schools in Irvine will see an increase in funding?

Yes. Eventually all schools will receive more funds, and schools with higher concentrations of low-income, English-learning and foster youth will see the greatest increases. Again, we are still recovering from years of funding cuts, so it may take a few years before we see the real impacts of LCFF.

I understand there are new accountability measures tied to the Local Control Funding Formula. Can you tell us about those?

All school districts will be required to submit what’s called a Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, that includes annual goals in eight defined areas. These areas are: Credentials and Instructional Materials, Academic Standards and Implementation of the Common Core, Parental Involvement, Pupil Achievement, Pupil Engagement, School Climate, Access and Enrollment and Other Pupil Outcomes.

So in addition to establishing and prioritizing these goals, we will be required to indicate the steps we need to take to meet them. The state Board of Education has adopted a template for this important work, which will include soliciting input from various stakeholders.

Does that mean parents help decide how money is spent?

Absolutely. Each district must follow a plan that incorporates community input on how the supplemental and concentration grants are spent in particular. Gathering input has long been a part of the budgeting process for IUSD, and we look forward to further strengthening our channels of feedback.

How will we know if our budget decisions improve student achievement?

Our district already has a number of ways with which we measure student progress, and we report our results regularly. In addition, all school districts will be required to submit their first Local Control and Accountability Plans in July for the 2014-15 school year. The State Board of Education is continuing to finalize some of the details, but we know that these plans must indicate goals for student progress, as well as the data we will use to measure that progress.

Can you tell us more about the LCAP timeline?

Sure. In January, the State Board of Education adopted its spending regulations and the governor unveiled his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. From now through June, we’ll be communicating with our stakeholders, gathering feedback and holding budget-planning meetings. The state Board of Education is expected to finalize its LCAP template in March, and our district will adopt its spending plan — along with a Local Control and Accountability Plan that covers the next three years — in June.

While the Local Control Funding Formula is projected to be fully funded by 2020-21, we know that all future spending is tied to the health of the state economy and therefore subject to change.

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For more information on the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control and Accountability Plan, check out these resources:

California Department of Education LCFF Overview and Frequently Asked Questions
California School Boards Association LCFF Overview and Resources
Children Now LCFF Webinar Series
Legislative Analyst’s Office LCFF Overview
State Board of Education and WestEd LCFF Channel
A Vision For IUSD: Irvine Unified School District’s Strategic Initiatives


Meet the Irvine Unified School District’s four Teachers of Promise for 2013-14


Allie Nixon, Karen Feng and Zach Halop were deservedly receiving lots of kudos after being named IUSD’s Elementary, Middle and High School Teachers of the Year this week. But they weren’t the only ones being celebrated.

IUSD, along with the Exchange Club of Irvine and the Irvine Teachers Association, also announced four “Teachers of Promise” on Wednesday. This honor annually goes to first- or second-year instructors who go above and beyond while demonstrating professional curiosity and an unbridled enthusiasm for teaching.

The 2013-14 Teachers of Promise, as shown above, are Brendan Geck, a history teacher at Northwood High School; Jill Morgan, a science teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School; Alyssa Morris, a sixth-grade teacher at Canyon View Elementary School; and Darin Nakakihara, a fifth-grade teacher from Stonegate Elementary School.

Geck was recognized in front of his colleagues during a staff meeting at Northwood, while the other three were surprised during schoolwide assemblies. All four will be formally honored May 2 at the 28th annual Excellence in Teaching Awards Dinner.

Once again, congratulations to this year’s Teachers of the Year and Teachers of Promise.