Irvine Unified highlights student-centered learning at first State of the District event

Irvine Unified School District Superintendent Terry Walker addresses educators, students, parents, business leaders and community members at Portola High School on Thursday, Nov. 2.

The Irvine Unified School District must be adaptable to prepare the next generation for a future in which “70 percent of the jobs have not been created yet,” IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker said this week.

That means educators must teach students to be resilient, to embrace a growth mindset, to see the interconnectedness between disciplines and to be collaborative, he said.

“There should be no ceiling on what we and our students can achieve,” he said.

Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares, Irvine Unified Superintendent Terry Walker and Irvine Board of Education President Ira Glasky

Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares, left, was among the attendees of IUSD’s State of the District, which featured a presentation from Irvine Superintendent Terry Walker, center, and remarks from Board of Education President Ira Glasky.

Walker, who has served as superintendent since 2011, delivered IUSD’s first-ever State of the District address on Thursday, covering a wide range of topics including student successes, collaborative teaching, technology, facilities and funding. The presentation, held in the Performing Arts Center on the brand new campus of Portola High School, drew an audience of teachers, administrators, students, parents, local dignitaries, business leaders and community members.

Irvine has long held a reputation as one of the highest performing school systems in the nation, and in recent years it’s become one of the country’s fastest growing districts. But Walker said IUSD receives far less funding than state and national averages as a result of California’s new funding formula. Compared with the national average for unified school districts, he said, Irvine loses out on approximately $150 million annually.

Nevertheless, the superintendent credited the district’s staff and community partners with its ability to promote student-centered learning while maintaining a high level of service.

“We are surrounded by committed, hardworking and bright people who take tremendous ownership and responsibility, which makes a difference in our students’ lives,” he said, acknowledging the contributions of the PTA, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation and the City of Irvine, along with real estate developers FivePoint and the Irvine Company.

On the subject of development, the city’s rapid growth has necessitated a dizzying pace of school construction in recent years, and more campuses are set to open in 2018 and 2019. At the same time, Measure E, a $319 million bond measure backed by voters in June 2016, has generated funds to upgrade older sites, meeting the school board’s call for educational equity.

Walker spoke about the investments made to bolster the IUSD’s technological infrastructure, improving connectivity and access districtwide. And he discussed the ability of educational technologies to enhance teaching and learning, including Chromebooks, tablets, robotics and 3D printers. Over the last five years, IUSD has increased the number of computers from 7,500 to more than 34,000, enabling many classrooms to have one for every student.

Toward the end of his presentation, Walker listed off a few of the awards and accolades Irvine and its students have earned, including 15 national Blue Ribbons and consistent recognition from the Grammy Foundation and Newsweek’s List of America’s Top High Schools.

“As I look to the future … I have no doubt that students will continue to set the bar and pace for the nation and state, you will continue to be a huge part of our success, and IUSD will continue to fulfill its promise of educational excellence and to continue our unprecedented success,” he said.

A comprehensive recap of Irvine’s State of the District, along with slides and photos, can be found on the IUSD website.