District security supervisor recognized for his role in October burglary arrest

IUSD’s security supervisor was honored this week by the Irvine Rotary Club in partnership with the Irvine Police Department for actions that led to the arrest of a burglary suspect last month.

Don GrudemDon Grudem, who joined the district as a campus control assistant in 1994, was presented with the Public Safety Partnership Award on Wednesday morning during a Rotary Club meeting at the Irvine Rancho Community Center.

“It is an honor to receive this award,” Grudem told the NewsFlash, “especially when it’s for doing your job.”

“You don’t set out to win awards,” he added. “You do your job because it’s what you love to do.”

Grudem was on the job at about 4:30 in the morning on Oct. 7 — which also happened to be his birthday — when he ran into a stranger exiting a classroom at Canyon View Elementary School. After a brief conversation, the quick-thinking supervisor took a photo of the man with his smartphone and contacted police.

The suspect fled the scene but was arrested about three hours later.

To recognize his vigilance, Grudem was presented with a framed certificate — he’s pictured holding it above — as well as a modest cash award. But there are even greater rewards for his daily work.

“The real honor for me is being part of this partnership with the community, the Irvine Police Department and our staff,” he said.

Incumbents Wallin and Glasky re-elected to the IUSD Board of Education

Incumbents Sharon Wallin and Ira Glasky will retain their seats on the IUSD Board of Education after receiving the most votes in Tuesday’s election.

Sharon and Ira FEATUREDTwo seats were up for grabs on the five-member school board, which sets policy for the district. With ballots tallied from all 92 precincts, Wallin, who currently serves as board president, has earned a fourth four-year term with 15,845 votes, or 39.3 percent of the total. Glasky, an attorney who joined the board following a special election in June, secured his first full term with 15,150 votes, or 37.6 percent.

Challenger Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur, finished third with 9,332 votes, or 23.1 percent.

The Board of Education is the chief policy-making body for the Irvine Unified School District, comprising five members elected at large by IUSD voters. Its next meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 18.

For more local election results, visit the Orange County Registrar of Voters website.

[Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include the latest vote count.]

Three candidates seeking two open seats on the IUSD Board of Education

It’s the first Tuesday of November in an even-numbered year, and that means it’s time to head back to the polls.

Along with city, state and congressional races, Irvine voters will fill two seats on the IUSD Board of Education today, choosing from among three candidates. This time the ballot features incumbent Ira Glasky, an attorney; Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur; and Sharon Wallin, an incumbent who currently serves as board president.

We’ll post the school board results tonight or early tomorrow here on the NewsFlash. For local election results as they come in, check out the Orange County Registrar of Voters website.

Northwood High orchestra entertains, educates young musicians at Segerstrom Hall

The Northwood High School Chamber Orchestra was recently invited to perform for elementary-age kids and their families during a pair of interactive shows at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

NHS Chamber Orchestra 1Family Musical Mornings is an ongoing concert series at the hall that introduces young audiences to the Pacific Symphony. The Northwood musicians were on the bill for two shows there on Saturday, Oct. 25, participating during the Music Carnival portion of the program.

Not only did they play music for hundreds of elementary students, members of the Northwood High orchestra also demonstrated different styles and techniques, and they gave more than 50 young maestros an opportunity to conduct, according to Ben Case, one of NHS’s instrumental music directors.

“It was truly a great experience all around,” Case told the NewsFlash.

Bonita Canyon families leave cars at home for eighth annual Walk to School Day


These photos were sent to us by the staff at Bonita Canyon Elementary School, which was among the Irvine campuses to take part in Walk to School Day on Oct. 22. Observed annually around this time, the national campaign promotes walking and bicycling as a way to improve health, reduce traffic and highlight safe routes to school.

WalktoSchoolBCWalktoSchoolBC2We’re not sure where he trekked from, but Honeypaws, the school’s mascot, was on hand — on paw? — to greet B.C. students in kindergarten through grade six as they arrived early that morning. To the right, Hunter Hertstein and Preston Getz from Mrs. Watson’s kindergarten class take a moment to pose with the affable bear, and another student goes up top for a high-five.

Speaking of B.C., the school also hosted a number of activities associated with Red Ribbon Week last week, including a popsicle party for the classes that wore the most red and a pizza party for those that collected the most pennies. We’re told more than 800 pounds of pennies were collected in total, and those funds will help support programs that encourage students to make healthy choices.

Did you know these 15 facts about the Irvine Unified School District?

We’ve noticed that a lot of blogs and online magazines seem to be fond of lists lately. So we thought we’d come up with one of our own. Without further ado, here are 15 things worth knowing about the Irvine Unified School District:

1. IUSD schools have earned the California Distinguished School designation – considered the state’s highest honor – 61 times since 1986, and all four comprehensive high schools have been recognized at least once.

DistrictOffice2. All four comprehensive high schools have been named Blue Ribbon Schools, the nation’s highest level of recognition for K-12 campuses. (That’s a lot of pressure for the soon-to-be-constructed Portola High.) In all, IUSD has produced 15 Blue Ribbon schools since 1983.

3. IUSD has been at the vanguard of the “green schools” movement. In addition to generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on utility bills through staff conservation efforts, the district has promoted environmentally-friendly construction and diverted thousands of tons of construction debris to recyclers for reuse.

4. Since 2010, IUSD has authorized the installation of energy-generating solar panels on the rooftops of more than a dozen schools, and vehicle shade structures topped with photovoltaic tiles have been constructed at a number of additional sites. These panels generate 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption and save IUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in electricity costs. They also serve as the basis for standards-based instruction on alternative energy sources.

5. High schools in Irvine consistently rank in the top 10 in Orange County for producing the highest SAT scores.

6. The Irvine Unified School District is unmatched in its performance at the annual Orange County Science & Engineering Fair Awards. Of the 154 OCSEF awards presented at the 2014 competition, 49 were earned by Irvine students.

7. Last year, Plaza Vista Middle School teacher Scott Bedley was announced as one of five Orange County Teachers of the Year. Irvine teachers have also gone on to earn California Teacher of the Year honors.

8. Irvine campuses are consistently named among the county’s best in the Orange County Register’s annual evaluation of elementary, middle and high schools. In 2014, Stonegate Elementary School earned top honors based on a formula that takes into account academics, accolades and school environment.

9. IUSD’s newcomer program makes great strides with students who have arrived from other countries with little or no English skills. Many are quickly integrated into mainstream classrooms.

10. The Irvine Unified School District consistently produces dozens of semifinalists in the annual competition for scholarships through the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Corp. In 2014, 110 IUSD students earned this honor, joining an elite group that represents less than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors.

11. IUSD sends more participants to the All-Southern California Honor Orchestra than any other district from the Mexican border to San Luis Obispo. Of the 102 spots available in the 2014 All Southern California Middle School Full Orchestra, 42 were filled by students from Irvine Unified.

12. In March 2014, IUSD was named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” by the highly-regarded NAMM Foundation. The district earned the same honor in 2010 and 2013.

13. From February through June 2014, more than 20,000 IUSD students were selected to showcase their musical and artistic talents in scores of visual and performing arts events in the district and beyond.

14. The Grammy Foundation has awarded 10 Grammy Signature Awards to IUSD high schools, more than any other district in the state.

15. Irvine students have consistently moved the needle on standards tests. According to the state’s most recent Academic Performance Index, which measures achievement on a scale of 200 to 1,000, eight of the top 20 highest-scoring schools in Orange County were in the Irvine Unified School District. IUSD also posted a cumulative API score of 925 in 2013, tops in the county.

Northwood High School drama students to perform ‘The Ash Girl’ this week

Northwood High’s drama department is getting ready to stage a fall production of “The Ash Girl” Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 in the school’s theater. All shows start at 7 p.m.

Tickets, which can be purchased at the box office during lunch or before each performance, are $12 for students and senior citizens and $15 for adults. The Oct. 21 show is considered a preview performance, so those tickets are only $10 each.

Here’s a brief teaser of the plot, courtesy of the Northwood High website:

If you think this is just another reworking of the Cinderella fairy tale, think again. Our story begins in a big old house, with a girl who lives huddled deep in the protection of an ashy hearth. When the invitation to the ball arrives from the prince, Ashgirl must fight the monsters that have slithered and insinuated their way into her heart and mind.

FullSizeRenderDanyelle Dunavold, Northwood’s theater arts director, says her cast and crew have been particularly invested in bringing this story to life.

“The process of designing and creating this show has been incredibly powerful not only because the many students involved were engaged in the process from day one, but because of the empowerment of our student designers,” Dunavold said. “The play is entirely student run. The sets were designed by students using Vectorworks, an architectural drafting software. The costume design, marketing and publicity design, makeup design, props, running crew, box office, house manager, light board operator, sound, stage management – all performed by students.”

Be advised that a strobe light is used in the performance. For more information, call 949-936-7276 or visit the school’s website at www.northwoodhigh.org.

Portola High groundbreaking celebrated as a testament to collaboration, perseverance

In less than two years, a state-of-the-art high school is expected to occupy this vast stretch of undeveloped land south of Irvine Boulevard. There will be classrooms, a 720-seat theater, a gymnasium, a building to house elective courses, and the kind of student center you might find on a college campus.

But IUSD school board President Sharon Wallin sees more than the promise of new facilities. She sees memories waiting to be made.

“I see pep rallies, homecoming dances, basketball games,” said Wallin, flanked by blue and white balloons. “I see band performances, spring musicals and campus clubs. I see the first encounters between students, and the lifelong friendships being made. That to me is what this project is all about.”

Portola High groundbreaking 3Joined by local dignitaries and community members, IUSD ceremoniously broke ground on Portola High School Thursday afternoon, marking the start of construction on the district’s fifth comprehensive high school after years of diligent planning, collaborative negotiations and rigorous environmental reviews. The event was held just three weeks after a groundbreaking celebration for the similarly named Portola Springs Elementary School.

“You know, they say that the best things in life don’t come easy,” Superintendent Terry Walker said during his introductory remarks. “So if that is true, then I have no doubt that this high school is going to be the greatest high school in the world.”

Along with Wallin and Walker, ceremony speakers included state Assemblyman Don Wagner, Irvine Company Senior Vice President Mike LeBlanc, FivePoint Communities Executive Vice President Lynn Jochim, Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway and representatives from the offices of Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and state Senator Mimi Walters.

Portola High groundbreakingFEATUREDIUSD Board of Education members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks, Ira Glasky and Michael Parham were also on hand, as was former trustee Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner. And the Northwood High School band, led by music teachers Ben Case and Whitney Tavlarides, cheerfully loaned school spirit to the ceremony with a setlist of contemporary songs, including Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Both were fitting.

Naturally, there were photos to commemorate the occasion, featuring board members, staff and others breaking ground with shiny silver shovels near what will become home plate on Portola High’s future baseball diamond. (“So all kinds of references to hitting home runs would be very relevant to today’s events,” noted Walker.) But first it was time to acknowledge the moment’s significance — and to recognize those responsible for getting Portola High to this point.

“The story of this school, like most of the great stories, is one about people,” Walker said, “and in this case their selfless dedication to serving our students and this community.”

“The people responsible for making this school a reality … embody the same characteristics we aspire to cultivate in our students — courage and resilience and perseverance and grit, as well as thoughtful planning,” the superintendent said.

Portola High groundbreaking 2Indeed, planning had been long underway before IUSD and its developer partners reached agreement on the school’s location in 2011, kicking off an exhaustive evaluation and testing process that culminated with approvals from the California Department of Education and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. In May, the Board of Education passed a resolution formally selecting the more-than-40-acre site along Irvine Boulevard and west of Alton Parkway, and the school was given a name nine days before Thursday’s ceremony. Portola High School, designed by HMC Architects, is now set to open in August 2016 with an inaugural class of freshman students.

“Here’s an understatement for you: This is a big day for our school district,” board President Wallin said, drawing an enthusiastic round of applause.

“Though our groundbreaking ceremonies traditionally mark the beginning of construction, our district’s vision is long-term,” she said. “Our commitment extends to many generations who will go on to shape this campus and establish its own identity, ensuring that Portola High is indeed synonymous with all that’s great in Irvine.”

Photos by IUSD Webmaster Shane Cline

Uni High team earns grant funding to invent aerial search-and-rescue system


A team of University High students has been awarded $9,680 in grant funding to develop an aerial search-and-rescue prototype capable of locating lost hikers. Seriously. It’s all part of a unique program that encourages high schoolers to solve real-world problems with technological solutions. 

Uni is one of just 15 high schools nationwide to secure funding for its Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam this year. Founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994, the Lemelson-MIT program aims to inspire the next generation of inventors and promote economic growth.

Uni High science teacher and STEM coach Tinh Tran describes the program as “the ultimate in STEM project-based learning instruction.”

“There are no predetermined answers,” Tran said. “Where the project goes depends on hard work, skill, smarts and a bit of luck.”

“The team will likely experience many failures along the way and students will learn that it’s okay to fail – failure is an integral part of innovation,” he said. “By working in this type of learning environment, the students develop and practice 21st Century skills needed in a world that values collaboration, initiative, perseverance, flexibility, empathy, curiosity and creativity.

Tran began the InvenTeam application process last spring and even attended a training at MIT in June to refine his school’s entry. Months later, a panel that included educators, researchers, MIT alumni and former Lemelson-MIT award winners judged the proposals and named Uni among this year’s grantees. 

With almost $10,000 in funding, Tran will lead of group of 15 students in developing a high-tech system for locating lost hikers and others who go missing in wilderness areas. According to the proposal, the Uni invention will create an autonomous fixed-wing aircraft, a mobile data-receiving base station and a distress-signal-emitting radio wristband, and all of those components will be able to talk to one another.

“The InvenTeams program represents the future,” said Leigh Estabrooks, Lemelson-MIT’s invention education officer.  “We place an emphasis on STEM-focused projects to develop interest in these fields among youth. With InvenTeams, our primary goal is to foster high school students’ passion for invention, in turn inspiring them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering or math.”

Along with other local companies and organizations, Uni’s InvenTeam — or UNInvenTeam, as they’re calling themselves — is partnering with OC Makerspace, a company that offers community members a creative space to work on projects and connect with professionals.

The Uni students will develop their Aerial Wilderness Distress Monitor and Search System over the next nine months, and in June they plan to showcase a prototype of their invention at EurekaFest, a multi-day event held at MIT with activities designed to inspire youth and encourage creativity and problem-solving.

“The student inventors and I are absolutely thrilled and feel incredibly honored to have received an InvenTeam grant,” Tran told the NewsFlash. “The work we put in over the summer to research, brainstorm ideas, gather feedback from intended beneficiaries and prepare the final application really paid off. Now we get to have fun, because inventing is just plain fun.”

Irvine Unified Council PTA to hold forum for trio of Board of Education candidates

With three hopefuls vying for two open seats on the IUSD Board of Education, the Irvine Unified Council PTA will host a special Candidate Forum beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23.

The event, which is open to the public, will be held at the District Office, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway. It will also air locally for Cox cable subscribers on IUSD’s channel 39 and via AT&T U-verse’s government and public television menu.

vote-300x298Irvine voters will head to the polls on Nov. 4 to fill two at-large posts on the five-person school board. Seeking a four-year term are incumbent Ira Glasky, an attorney; Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur; and Sharon Wallin, an incumbent who currently serves as board president.

At the forum, each candidate will have an opportunity to make a statement and answer questions presented by an impartial moderator from the League of Women Voters. The questions, developed by the Irvine Council PTA Executive Board, will be the same for all three candidates, and there will also be a limited amount of time for questions from the audience.

“The Candidate Forum has become an Irvine Council PTA tradition and helps us connect our families with the district and the issues we face in public education,” Irvine Council PTA President Connie Stone said.

“We face challenges and opportunities with increases in school populations throughout Irvine as well as implementation of Common Core,”  Stone said. “We are excited to hear what our candidates have to say about these issues and opportunities.”

No RSVP is necessary to attend, but organizers recommend arriving by 6 p.m. to ensure a seat. There may also be time at the end of the forum to chat with the candidates.

Posted in PTA