NEWS

A Standing Ovation, or Two, Well-Deserved

A standing ovation, or two, well-deserved

Donald Bren’s latest donation to Irvine schools is prudently committed to art, music and science teachers.

Donald Bren’s latest gift to Irvine schools struck precisely the soft spot in the heart of the community. This is a community that values and demands an exceptional education for its children; it cherishes and fights for an education enriched with the arts and sciences.

Pledging that for the next 10 years Irvine schools can afford to provide all youngsters in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades with all they want of art, music and science ought to earn Mr. Bren more than a decade’s worth of appreciation. The two standing ovations he received Monday in a school auditorium is a good start.

That was an enormous pledge made Monday.

Thirty teachers who specialize in teaching the arts, music or science will be guaranteed for the next 10 years. School superintendent Dean Waldfogel on Monday publicly made a point of thanking the specialist teachers who stuck it out with the district through the years when funding for their jobs was uncertain. The district and the teachers made wise commitments.

Thirty teachers who specialize in teaching the arts, music or science will be guaranteed for the next 10 years. School superintendent Dean Waldfogel on Monday publicly made a point of thanking the specialist teachers who stuck it out with the district through the years when funding for their jobs was uncertain. The district and the teachers made wise commitments.

Waldfogel said flatly the kids for the next 10 years will receive the best curriculum in the fine arts, music and science to be found anywhere in the public schools of California, “if not the country.”

The superintendent knows what he’s talking about; he’s been in leadership jobs with Irvine Unified for 30 years and is retiring this summer on a high note. He has sweated over budgets in recent years where time after time the always vulnerable arts programs – among the first to go in any school district beset by money problems – faced the ax only to win reprieves from a community that refuses to give them up.

A major force in rallying the community, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation now can concentrate its substantial fundraising abilities in the areas of much needed nurses and health clerks, health education, counseling and other needs in the middle schools and high schools.

Part of the intervention when slashed budgets seemed imminent was another of Mr. Bren’s gifts, a $700,000 annual matching grant for four years for programs in the arts and science. Indeed, he has given some $200 million to education in Orange County, from elementary schools to UC Irvine.

Mr. Waldfogel and Mr. Bren at Monday’s announcement of the $20-million gift both emphasized the extended benefits of an education rich with the arts and science. The influence on creativity and thinking can’t be measured in strict academic standards, said the school superintendent. Art, music and science are part of his daily life, personally and professionally, said the billionaire businessman.

“There is an undeniable correlation between the strong fine arts, music and science curriculum and the unmatched academic achievement attained throughout our district,” added school board president Sue Kuwabara.

Mr. Bren called his donation an investment not only for the kids and the community, but for his company as well. The Irvine Co. and the Bren Foundation and their chief invest their money wisely. And history has shown them that Irvine Unified leadership, and the community and the kids, can be counted on to make every dollar count.