The ‘we’ story behind Irvine education

by TOM BERG

Irvine Unified School District Superintendent Terry Walker lights up when talking about the partnerships that enrich his students’ lives.

“It has always been a ‘we’ story for Irvine Unified,” he says, “and it always will be.”

The “we” Walker is referring to entails an ecosystem of support – from the business community, parents, teachers and nonprofits – that enriches student education.

This support helps to bridge a significant gap in state funding. It raises several million dollars each year, funding everything from classroom supplies to world-class musical instruction, making IUSD one of the strongest districts in the nation.

Simply put, this “we” story is working.

Irvine Company: A 20-year financial commitment

A significant 20-year financial commitment by Irvine Company provides art, music and science teachers for every fourth grader through sixth grader in the district.

As a result, IUSD students outperform their peers in California and the nation in science and visual and performing arts.

“This commitment from Donald Bren and the Irvine Company really is a symbol of what makes our community great,” says IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker. “It’s a reminder of the partnerships we have. And this is one of the greatest examples of that.”

This Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund has helped provide 80,000 elementary students with classes usually available only to secondary students.

IPSF: From scholarships to satellites

The Irvine Public Schools Foundation provides scholarships, teachers’ grants and summer enrichment programs. It also sponsors the Irvine CubeSat STEM program, which has seen Irvine high school students launch two satellites into space.

As one of the nation’s leading education foundations, IPSF’s mission is to enrich the educational experience of every child in Irvine and unite the community in support of educational excellence.

“We knew that it was only with the help of the entire community that our schools could continue their legacy as some of the best in the nation,” says IPSF President’s Circle Leader Cyndi Ruszat.

City of Irvine: Unprecedented partnership

Few cities help fund local school costs. But the city of Irvine is the rare exception. Each year, the city contributes millions to educational experiences, recreation and student safety. These contributions offer direct support by funding teachers and programming, as well as indirect support by providing public safety officers, use of park facilities and other enriching programs.

PTA: The glue that binds

The Irvine PTA is the glue that binds the schools together. Of course, it helps fund critical supplies and technology programs. But it also builds character and community by funding and organizing school assemblies, book fairs, art showcases and spelling bees.

PTAs throughout the district fund scholarships and student trips to the state Capitol and assist schools in hundreds of ways.

The “we” story that Superintendent Walker talks about allows Irvine students to thrive. It is a model unique to Irvine and one that continues to work for Irvine families.