How are we doing? IUSD asks parents, students to take Continuous Improvement Survey

IUSD leaders are hoping parents and students will take about 10 minutes to complete an online survey that will help identify organizational strengths and opportunities for growth.

survey2The parent version can be accessed here, and students can weigh in here. Both will accept responses through Jan. 9.

The twin surveys are part of IUSD’s ongoing drive toward continuous improvement, and in fact they were developed by the district’s Continuous Improvement Council, which comprises teachers, parents, students and administrators. The council meets annually to identify focus areas and examine how the district is carrying out the guiding principles and practices outlined in IUSD’s ever-evolving roadmap for progress — a document known as the Continuous Improvement Efforts.

Survey feedback will help inform future decisions by spotlighting trends and themes for further exploration, but individual responses will be anonymous and confidential.

For more information on IUSD’s Continuous Improvement Efforts, click here.

Board selects new president, certifies financial health and OKs advisory committee

The IUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to elect Lauren Brooks to a one-year term as president and Paul Bokota to a one-year term as clerk before turning its attention to the budget and other matters on Tuesday.

LaurenBrooks2The school board’s annual organizational meeting — and the final session of 2014 — began with Superintendent Terry Walker administering the oath of office to incumbent members Sharon Wallin and Ira Glasky, who were the top two vote-getters in the November election. Moments later, Brooks (pictured to the right) was announced as president, and her first act was to commend the leadership of her predecessor, Wallin.

The five-member board also approved school site liaison assignments, appointed representatives to various committees and established meeting dates through next December. The first two regular meetings of 2015 are scheduled for Jan. 13 and Feb. 3.

Latest budget update includes ‘positive’ news

Later in the evening, Assistant Superintendent John Fogarty presented a brief budget update, and the board voted unanimously to certify IUSD’s First Interim Report of 2014-15 as “positive,” meaning the district is expected to meet all of its financial obligations over the next few years.

Every school district in California is required to examine and certify its financial condition as positive, qualified or negative twice during each fiscal year. Positive is the ideal certification, while qualified indicates a district may not be able to meet its financial obligations for the current year and the two subsequent years. (A negative certification is rare and would indicate a district was unable to meet its financial obligations.)

Recognizing the volatility of the state economy and Sacramento’s heavy reliance on income taxes, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has outlined three possible scenarios for California’s economy, ranging from a slowdown to a temporary surge. Fogarty, who oversees business services for the district, told the board that the LAO’s most likely scenario projects moderate growth through 2019-20, which may lead to steady increases for K-12 schools.

“It was very unusual for (the LAO) to have three scenarios,” Fogarty told the NewsFlash afterward. “They’ve never done that before. While things look good right now, we know they could change very quickly.”

California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, meanwhile, has increased the amount of base funding for school districts and allocated more dollars to serve English-language learners, low-income students and foster youth. Projected increases have also enabled IUSD to strategically invest the reserves it built up to weather the state’s fiscal crisis, Fogarty said.

That said, there are a number of potential challenges and uncertainties for school districts, which must take a multi-year approach to budgeting. The state’s plan to address the unfunded liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, requires districts to contribute significant dollars to help close the gap, and temporary tax increases that went into effect under Proposition 30 will begin to expire in 2016, eliminating a dependable source of state revenue.

As we’ve mentioned here before, the state’s new funding model mandates that school districts develop comprehensive accountability plans with stakeholder input that show how local resources are being directed toward measurable objectives for student achievement and school climate, and because these are three-year plans, funding is often earmarked in advance. IUSD crafted its first Local Control and Accountability Plan last year and will soon be reaching out to the community to update priorities for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years while considering options for 2017-18.

Board approves new education advisory committee

Lastly, the board voted to establish a new education advisory committee that will review and discuss critical educational issues and district initiatives.

The committee, requested by board members in November, will comprise two appointees from each board member along with the superintendent, the assistant superintendent of education services, a PTA representative, three teachers, a student representative and a representative of the California School Employees Association.

Board of Education to elect a new president during final meeting of the calendar year

The IUSD Board of Education will convene for its final session of 2014 at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

As this marks the board’s annual organizational meeting, trustees will elect a new president and clerk and set meeting dates for 2015. In addition, the five-member board is scheduled to appoint school liaisons and representatives to various committees.

gavelA little later in the evening, board members will also vote to certify IUSD’s First Interim Report.

Every school district in California is required to certify its financial condition as “positive,” “qualified” or “negative” twice during each fiscal year. Positive is the ideal certification, while qualified indicates a district may not be able to meet its financial obligations for the current year and the two subsequent years. A negative certification indicates a district will not be able to meet its financial obligations.

IUSD is recommending certifying its First Interim Report as positive, meaning the district is in solid financial shape.

Lastly, the board will vote on a recommendation to form a new education advisory committee to review and discuss critical educational issues and district initiatives.

This type of committee was requested by board members at their meeting last month. As proposed, it would include board appointees, the superintendent, the assistant superintendent of education services and representatives from the PTA, the Irvine Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association.

As usual, Tuesday’s meeting will be held at the District Office, which is located at 5050 Barranca Parkway in Irvine. To access the agenda, click here.

IPSF teams up with local businesses as part of the global #GivingTuesday movement

We wouldn’t normally urge you to head out into the rain on a school night, but hear us out on this one.

Logo.Full.Lg.Color.CenterAs part of #GivingTuesday, a global movement that encourages charitable giving, local businesses are donating a percentage of their sales to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation on Tuesday, Dec. 2. That means you can pick up some food or gifts for the family today while generously contributing to IPSF’s annual campaign, which pays for instructional assistants at the elementary level and additional staffing at Irvine’s middle and high schools.

Participating businesses include Bearfruit at the Irvine Spectrum, Bruxie, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chloe & Isabel, Chronic Tacos, The Counter, Excel360 Learning Academy, Flippin’ Pizza, Kendra Scott, KOBA Tofu Grill near UCI, Pho Saigon Pearl, Rita’s Italian Ice, Smashburger and Spade Skin Care.

Remember that all donations to IPSF will be matched by the City of Irvine through its special challenge grant, which essentially doubles each gift. So go forth and shop on behalf of local schools. Just be sure to bring an umbrella.

IUSD will seek input from local stakeholders during update of accountability plan

Parents, teachers, students, staff and community members are once again being encouraged to weigh in on IUSD’s goals for achievement and school climate as the district begins the months-long process of updating its three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan.

You may recall that the LCAP was introduced last year as a requirement under California’s new funding formula, which increased local control while allocating more resources to schools that serve low-income students, English-learners and foster youth. By law, each district’s accountability plan must be submitted by July 1, outlining annual goals as well as plans for taking action and measuring progress on a number of fronts, including academic achievement, school climate, access to a broad curriculum and parent engagement.

LCAP 111914At Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Alan Schlichting, IUSD’s director of student support services, previewed the process that will be used to update Irvine’s plan. You can scroll through his presentation here, but essentially the timetable begins with community presentations and district communications in November and December, followed by stakeholder meetings to gather input in January and February.

In March and April, the community will get to review a draft of the LCAP and offer additional feedback, both in person and through an online survey. The school board is expected to hold a public hearing and adopt the finalized plan in May or June.

Because districts must annually develop LCAPs that cover three years, Schlichting said the task facing IUSD is to update priorities that were drafted for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, while considering options for 2017-18.

“Remembering that this is a three-year plan, many of the actions that we put into the plan are multi-year steps that will grow in cost over time,” he said, “and those have been budgeted through 2016-17.”

“We may have additional funds that are available,” he added. “We’ll learn about that with the release of the governor’s 2015-16 state budget in January, and at that point we’ll consider additional actions to our LCAP.”

Schlichting noted that IUSD is also moving forward with a number of state and local initiatives, including implementation of Common Core standards, new state assessments, the establishment of Next Generation Science Standards and technology integration. The LCAP, meanwhile, requires progress in eight areas — credentials and instructional materials, academic standards and implementation of the Common Core, parental involvement, pupil achievement, pupil engagement, school climate, access and enrollment, and pupil outcomes.

With those in mind, IUSD identified four goals for its 2014-2017 LCAP. They are: Ensure all students attain proficiency in the current content standards; ensure access to rigorous and relevant learning tools, resources and skills for all staff and students; cultivate a positive school culture and system of supports for student personal and academic growth; and communicate effectively and form strategic alliances to secure the support and resources necessary to deliver our vision.

Progress will be being measured using a number of metrics, including results from the California English Language Development Tests, universal screening assessment data, California High School Exit Exam pass rates, graduation rates, statistics that show completion of UC and CSU requirements, as well as drop-out, attendance, suspension and expulsion data.

“We’ll be sharing with the board data on how we’re progressing in those areas as we move through the year,” Schlichting said.

IUSD NewsFlash will post more LCAP information in the weeks and months ahead to promote opportunities for public input. In the meantime, you may want to peruse Tuesday night’s slide presentation, which includes details about IUSD’s objectives, along with funding information and next steps. You can also learn more by exploring these links:

IUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan 2014-2017
IUSD’s LCFF and LCAP informational webpage
California Department of Education LCFF Overview and Frequently Asked Questions
A Vision For IUSD: Irvine Unified School District’s Strategic Initiatives

Also Tuesday night:

  • The Board of Education and staff engaged in a lengthy discussion of dual language immersion programs, with a specific emphasis on Spanish, to understand the pros and cons and to determine if such a program would benefit a significant number of Irvine students. You can scroll through the accompanying slide presentation here.
  • The board also approved a formal request to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, outlining priorities for the 2014-15 school year. Funding areas will once again focus on class-size support, music in kindergarten through the third grade, instructional assistants for music classes in grades four through six, school nurses, athletic trainers and the Naviance counseling program.

UCI invites local middle schoolers to watch college hoops and showcase math skills

Listen up, middle school math enthusiasts — especially those of you who happen to be fans of college hoops.

UCI Math Night2UC Irvine and the Irvine Public Schools Foundation are inviting IUSD middle schoolers and their families to catch a free basketball game featuring the mighty Anteaters against the University of Texas at Arlington as part of UCI’s first-ever “Mathletics Night.”

Of course, as the name implies, there’s a little bit of a twist here. During the first half, participating students will be challenged to track game statistics and calculate percentages, with the top scorers earning prizes provided by UCI.

Each IUSD middle school student — and teacher — is eligible for up to four free tickets to the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13. Additional tickets may also be purchased. Those interested should RSVP no later than Nov. 28 by clicking here.

Tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. For more information, click to enlarge the flier.

O.C. Register laptop program helps bring 140 Chromebook computers to IUSD

You may have already heard about the Orange County Register’s laptop program, which enables supporters of local schools to dispatch a Chromebook to their favorite K-12 campus every time they purchase a new annual subscription to the newspaper.

Well, thanks to that program — forged from a unique partnership involving the Register, FivePoint Communities and the Orange County Department of Education — 140 Samsung Chromebooks are on their way to classrooms in Irvine.

Chromebook donationIUSD Superintendent Terry Walker personally took delivery of the boxed-up computers at the District Office on Thursday, Nov. 13 during a brief ceremony that featured FivePoint Communities President and CEO Emile Haddad; FivePoint Executive Vice President Lynn Jochim; Aaron Kushner, CEO of Freedom Communications, which publishes the Register; and Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools.

“This donation aligns with our district’s ongoing efforts to use technology to increase student engagement while maximizing the time and talents of our staff,” Walker said. “We are extremely grateful to the Orange County Register, Freedom Communications and FivePoint Communities for putting these resources in the hands of students.”

The Register has now donated more than 600 Chromebooks to 75-plus schools in Orange County since launching its laptop program in September 2013. The latest batch was made possible by FivePoint Communities, which is gifting newspaper subscriptions to new homebuyers in Irvine’s Pavilion Park — and allowing residents to decide which schools get the accompanying laptops.

“Two of our founding principles are learning and connecting,” CEO Haddad said. “This program motivates Orange County’s students and our dedicated teachers to achieve both.”

For those unfamiliar with Chromebooks, they’re cloud-based systems with solid-state drives, making them quick to power up when they’re needed. Because IUSD schools already have WiFi access, they can be used in most classrooms, allowing students to fulfill assignments in programs such as Google Apps and the Chrome browser. They can also be used to take the new web-based assessments aligned with the state’s instructional standards.

The Register’s Kushner said Chromebooks have the capability to enhance interactions with students while promoting technological proficiency.

“To the extent that we as a community can connect to one another, and unlock students’ passion for learning,” he said, “the ultimate outcome will be improving and strengthening our communities.”

Set to be divvied among 18 sites, IUSD’s Chromebooks are helping to move educators away from the traditional “computer lab” mindset toward an environment where technology can be deployed anywhere and anytime, Superintendent Walker said.

“Historically, if a teacher has wanted her students to conduct research or write papers, she has had to reserve a computer lab weeks in advance,” he said. “With Chromebooks, teachers are able to wheel them in on a cart and work seamlessly in their classroom environment.”

“It is wonderful to see the community coming together to enhance our schools’ online capabilities by supporting the laptop program,” added county Superintendent Mijares. “Technology facilitates how students can learn, collaborate and apply their knowledge toward complex subjects. The laptop program is a wonderful extension of our vision to lead the nation and the world in how we integrate technology into Orange County’s classrooms.”

Uni High theater department to bring ‘Stardust’ to the stage Nov. 19-22

Uni showThe University High School Theatre Arts Department will present “Stardust,” a comedy written by Walter Kerr, Nov. 19 through Nov. 22 in the big theater. All shows are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Set in 1946, “Stardust” is considered a spoof of method acting and the Actor’s Studio, following students at the Dramatic and Allied Arts as they wait for the arrival of a well-known Broadway actress who’s set to guest star in their summer repertory production.

Uni drama teacher Ranae Bettger tells us more than 50 Uni students in the cast and crew are currently working to bring the show to the stage.

Tickets are $20 for orchestra seats, $13 for general admission, $10 for Uni students with ASB cards and $7 for senior citizens and children.

You can secure your seats now at or by visiting the little theater — also known as Room 223 — weekdays during snack and lunchtime. Guests may also purchase tickets from the box office on the night of each show.

City of Irvine records nation’s lowest violent crime rate for 10th consecutive year

A safe city generally means safer schools. So we felt it was newsworthy to mention here that, for the 10th straight year, Irvine boasts the nation’s lowest per-capita violent crime rate among cities with a population of at least 100,000.

IrvineFigures indicating as much were released this week as part of the FBI’s latest Annual Uniform Crime Report. Spanning all of 2013, the report reveals that last year marked a new per-capita low for violent crime in Irvine, which is home to nearly 250,000 residents.

“This is really great news for our community,” Irvine Police Chief David Maggard said. “This is clearly a city-wide effort, and I am most grateful for the incredible work of the men and women of the Irvine Police Department.”

The Irvine Unified School District is also extremely grateful to the IPD, which has been a model for effective and proactive community service. Among its many assists to IUSD, the department provides school resource officers for the district’s middle and high school campuses and dispatches D.A.R.E. officers to Irvine’s elementary schools.

IUSD adds more solar panels, forecasts up to $8 million in long-term savings

IrvineHS-010 (2)

IUSD has reached another milestone in its ongoing drive to offset energy costs with solar power.

Last week, it was announced that solar installations at three schools have been completed, capping the second phase of the ambitious district-wide initiative.

Vehicle shade structures topped with solar tiles are now producing electricity at Stonegate and Woodbury elementary schools, as well as University High School. With these new structures online, IUSD now powers 22 sites with the help of photovoltaic systems, and the district is expecting to avoid $5 million to $8 million in utility costs over the next 20 years.

“We accomplished this with zero up-front costs and zero maintenance costs through a power-purchase agreement with SunEdison,” says Mark Sontag, IUSD’s director of math, science and career technical education. “That extra budget means more resources for our teachers and students.”

NorthwoodHS-039 (1)Since 2010, IUSD has authorized the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of more than a dozen schools — that’s Irvine High School pictured above — and vehicle shade structures capable of harnessing the sun’s rays have been constructed in the parking lots of 11 sites, including the District Office and the Maintenance and Operations center. (Shade structures at Northwood High are shown to the right.)

The systems were all built by SunEdison, which agreed to sell power back to IUSD at a rate that is both predictable and consistently below what the local utility charges. In exchange, SunEdison qualifies for tax incentives that public agencies can’t access.

IUSD’s solar panels generate about 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption, but Sontag notes that the benefits go way beyond savings. The installations also serve as the basis for standards-based instruction, allowing students to learn about photovoltaic technology on their own campuses as they track energy production and consumption in real time.

“The Irvine Unified School District is a wonderful success story and a role model for other school districts,” said Sam Youneszadeh, managing director of west coast distributed generation at SunEdison. “They’re inspiring to us, and we hope many more schools are able to follow their lead and invest more on education by reducing their energy bill.”

A third phase of IUSD’s solar initiative would add panels at Cypress Village and Portola Springs elementary schools in 2015.