The State of the IUSD is Strong
“Having outrageous expectations is powerful,” said IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker while delivering his second annual State of the District speech in recent weeks. Big wins by academic teams from Woodbridge and University high schools prove his point.
“Preparing students for this rapidly evolving world is what we are trying to accomplish,” Walker told the audience gathered at the Northwood High School Performing Arts Center. “I want our schools to prepare kids not just for something,” he said. “I want them to be prepared for anything because we don’t know what they might face in a world where 70 percent of jobs have not been created yet.”
The event kicked off with performances by the Northwood High theater dance students, followed by introductory remarks from Board President Lauren Brooks.
Walker’s speech to IUSD Board Members, teachers, administrators, students, parents, local dignitaries, business leaders and Irvine community members focused on the future of education in the Irvine Unified School District.
Walker thanked and acknowledged IUSD Board Members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks, Betty Carroll, Ira Glasky and Sharon Wallin for their leadership and the strategic investments they have made in teaching and learning, technology and facilities.
He also thanked community partners, including the city of Irvine, the PTA, Irvine Public Schools Foundation, FivePoint, and the Irvine Company.
As a result of IUSD’s rapid growth in recent years, the district has hired 1,156 teachers since 2011. This astounding growth has enabled IUSD to hire teachers and staff who share IUSD’s core values. Walker said, “They are passionate, compassionate, flexible and adaptable, student-centered, reflective, collaborative, relationship-centered and courageous.”
IUSD receives $8,266 per student, compared to the state average of $10,036 and the national average of $12,156, Walker explained. That means the district would have an additional $139 million per year to spend on students if it received the state and national average funding.
To meet this funding challenge head-on, Walker outlined how the district leverages its limited resources, time and focus to best meet the needs of students.
As a result, in the past year, IUSD received numerous awards including being ranked No. 3 in the nation for education by WalletHub, being named a Best Community for Education by the prestigious NAMM Foundation, and being ranked No. 1 in Orange County by Niche.
And for the third year in a row, IUSD has finished second in California for the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in both English and math. IUSD SAT scores continue to outperform state averages and the district is consistently ranked high on Newsweek’s list of America’s Top High Schools.
At the end of the day, the reason why we do something is that it benefits students,” Walker said. “We have an overlying belief that every single child can achieve at a high level with the right supports.”
As examples of achievement at the highest level, two Irvine high school teams achieved academic success recently.
University High School won its regional round of the U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl for a second straight year and will compete in the national tournament in Washington D.C. in April. The team has three students returning from last year’s team, which placed fifth at the national competition.
Meanwhile, Woodbridge High School’s Academic Decathlon team took first place at the Orange County Academic Decathlon for the third consecutive year, advancing to the state competition this March.
University High’s Science Bowl team of Seniors Michael Diao, Anton Ni, Maggie Zhang and Jerry Li and junior Nyle Wong went undefeated and took first place among 24 teams from around Greater Los Angeles.
“I was incredibly happy for the team and proud of what they have accomplished,” said David Knight, Science Bowl coach and science department chair at University High.
In Science Bowl, teams are asked questions on math, physics, Earth and space, chemistry, biology and energy during 16-minute long rounds. They aren’t allowed to use calculators, books, notes or the internet. The Jeopardy-style competition was held at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for the 27th year.
“It is difficult to win back-to-back because the competition in our region is so good, ”Knight said. “Any of the top three or four schools at the competition would have represented Southern California well at the national competition.”
But it will be University High School battling for the national championship.
Woodbridge High School’s three-peat at the O.C. Academic Decathlon puts them in elite company as one of only three schools in the 51-year history of the county competition to win three times in a row. University High School placed second in the competition.
The Woodbridge team was comprised of Seniors Hannah Hui, Sachin Pathuri, Ramanuj Sarkar, Sugnan Suresh, Mark Diamond, and Austin Diamond; Juniors Snigdha Saha, Chris Lin, Kaylie Tran, Vishnu Menon, and Dena Nikjoo; Sophomore Yana Khetiya; and Freshman Iris Shen.
Nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments, concluding with the Super Quiz Relay, a Jeopardy-like competition. Subjects range from mathematics and social science to speech and an interview on this year’s competition theme of the 1960s.
Each team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below).
Woodbridge team member Hannah Hui had the highest score in the competition for the second year in a row. She was awarded the Dr. Robert Peterson Scholarship for her exceptional decathlon career that started when she was a freshman.
Founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, the first decathlon was held at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove in 1969.