Superintendent Walker's Back to School Message

Back to school image of IUSD Superintendent Walker

August 29, 2019

Dear IUSD Community,

On behalf of the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) Board of Education, Leadership Team and staff, I’m excited and proud to welcome our new and returning families to the 2019-20 school year.  While our year round schools started in July and are now in full swing, our traditional schools are still settling in and hopefully enjoying the excitement of their first full week of school.    

As you might expect, during the summer months, our dedicated staff and I met frequently to assess, adapt and refine how our District supports students to ensure we deliver on our promise to provide the highest quality educational experience we can envision.  This important work is grounded in our Continuous Improvement Efforts, which start with the premise that excellence does not have a finish line and is guided by our Strategic Initiatives, which serve as a roadmap for how we will prepare our students for the challenges of 21st century colleges, careers and other goals.

The rules of the game have changed in the last 40 years.  The world our children will enter as college students and career professionals continues to rapidly evolve, including estimates that 70 percent of future jobs have not been created yet.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to prepare our students to be game changers.  They need to be innovators, who have the skills and abilities to be resilient, to see connections between disciplines, to be collaborative, embrace a growth mindset and intellectual risk taking, critically evaluate content, effectively communicate in our increasingly diverse world, and not only focus on IQ but also EQ – Emotional Quotient (intelligence) and AQ – Adaptability Quotient.  Equally important is balance to support mental health and wellness, which are essential for lifelong success and happiness. 

To achieve our core vision and mission, IUSD is guided by our forward thinking Board of Education and will continue to make strategic and intentional investments in critical areas to enhance teaching and learning so that all students have the right supports to achieve at their highest levels.  This means continued investments in our greatest resource, our dedicated staff, and providing them with essential tools and resources needed to leverage their individual and collective talents.  We will continue to invest in facilities and technology, while advocating for higher school funding levels for IUSD, which remains one of the lowest funded school districts in the state and nation.   

Below is a snapshot of how IUSD is connecting our vision, mission and investments to every school and student in the District. Please take a moment to read this important information. 

Talented Staff
As a result of IUSD’s rapid growth in recent years, the District has hired 1,186 teachers since 2011. This astounding growth has enabled IUSD to hire teachers and staff, who share IUSD’s core values. They are passionate, adaptable, student-centered, reflective, collaborative, relationship-centered and courageous.

The District’s high level of service and performance can be attributed to our talented teachers, staff and administrators, who are constantly adapting and reflecting on ways to improve student learning and outcomes. The belief in student-centered learning is at the heart of their work each day. 

Teaching and Learning
As a District, we are not only focused on how we teach but also the importance of understanding how each student learns. IUSD has implemented a series of initiatives to better serve our diverse student population. One example is the Student Shadowing Program, which was designed for teachers to walk in the shoes of students in order to develop a deeper appreciation for their challenges and needs.

Every IUSD school has also established Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), a research-based best practice, where educators collaborate regularly to look at evidence of learning and share teaching expertise to support students.

To watch a short video about PLCs, click here.

We should all feel very proud of the clear evidence of our continued success. For nearly a decade, IUSD has been named a Best Community for Music Education by the prestigious NAMM Foundation, ranked third in the nation by WalletHub, and for the second straight year, IUSD was named a top school district in California by Niche.  IUSD students continue to outperform county and state averages and continues to be one of the top three school districts in California for the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in both English and math. IUSD students’ SAT scores surpass county and state averages and the District’s schools are consistently highly ranked on Newsweek’s list of America’s Top Schools.

Technology/Innovation
IUSD investments in technology are augmenting teaching and learning in transformative ways.  The District has increased its educational software offerings to provide more personalized opportunities for students both at school and home.  Most of our classrooms now have 1:1 Chromebooks for students – one Chromebook for each student.  In just the last six years, IUSD has dramatically improved connectivity and access to technology from 7,500 to more than 44,000 educational devices in our classrooms.  This shift is a clear demonstration of the District’s commitment to equity, ensuring that all teachers and students are utilizing tools necessary for success in the 21st century. 

To watch a brief IUSD technology video, click here.

Enhanced Facilities
In the last six years, IUSD has grown from 33 to 41 schools.  We built these new schools to keep pace with Irvine’s unprecedented growth and increasing population, while maintaining our status as one of the highest performing school districts in the state and nation.  

The number of students enrolled is now 36,000, which is an increase of nearly 9,000 students since I became Superintendent in 2011. That’s nearly twice as much as the increase over the previous 14 years, making investments in all IUSD facilities mission critical to positive student outcomes.

Since voters passed Measure E in 2016, IUSD has been engaged in detailed planning and efficient implementation of Measure E projects for 24 of the 28 schools receiving funds in the first two series.  Measure E projects are focused on facility and technology upgrades, including new modernized classrooms, science and innovation labs, high school theaters and music rooms as well as general upgrades to the accessibility, safety and security of our campuses. These enhancements are bringing all of our schools up to a similar standard to support educational equity for all students. 

For information about Measure E funding, projects by series or school site, and for a list of completed projects, visit iusd.org/MeasureE.

Additionally, many IUSD schools are being modernized to improve opportunities for collaboration among students and teachers -- a critical skill in the 21st century. They leverage flexible furniture and technology so that teachers can more strategically design and adapt the learning environment. 

Click here to watch a brief time-lapse video of one example of how these flexible learning spaces are utilized.   

Funding
Despite being one of the fastest growing and highest performing school districts in the nation, IUSD continues to face on-going funding challenges.  Although the state average funding per student is $10,036, our district only receives $8,266 per student. This means IUSD loses $59.6 million per year compared to the average school district in California. To meet this funding challenge, IUSD will continue to strategically leverage our limited resources to best meet the needs of students. 

Story of IUSD
The secret to IUSD’s unparalleled success is in the center of our name – it’s the “US” in IUSD. We have thrived as a District through a unique collaborative partnership that includes our visionary Board of Education and leadership team, talented teachers and staff, active parent community, engaged students, and passionate civic leaders and community partners.  Thank you and please continue to support IUSD and our students.   

I would also like to provide a special thank you to our dedicated PTA leaders and members, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, the City of Irvine and our development partners the Irvine Company and FivePoint, who support and enhance teaching and learning for our students.   

Communication and Feedback
As we move through the 2019-20 school year, we will continue to improve and develop new vehicles to reach out to you with important news and information about our District.  We will also ask for your feedback in a variety of areas, including the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is the District’s interactive budgeting process, updates to our Strategic Initiatives, and our Annual Survey that will give you an opportunity to provide your feedback on school and District priorities.  We look forward to our continued partnership with you and your family. 

Thank you and best wishes for a wonderful school year.

Sincerely,

Terry Walker Signature

Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools
Irvine Unified School District

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