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Superintendent's Newsletter

April 28, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

Today’s issue highlights Pennekamp Elementary, students competing in a large county math tournament, and the winning team for the 2023 MBMS Scholar Quiz!

Spotlight on Pennekamp (Special thanks to Mrs. Rumble, Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Tynan, and Principal Sharon Witzansky)

Pennekamp 4th graders recently finished a cross-curricular project that incorporated non-fiction reading, writing, and science! 4th grade teachers Mrs. Rumble, Mrs. Hart, and Mrs. Tynan worked with students as they researched the Next Generation Science Standards on plant and animal structures and functions. Using voice and choice, students were challenged to think both critically and creatively as they researched and wrote an informational essay using domain-specific academic language.

For the second part of the project, students chose the perspective of a scientist, a journalist, or an artist to create models of plant and animal structures. To accompany their essays, 4th grade scientists created Google Slides presentations, 4th grade journalists produced newspaper articles, and 4th grade artists used clay, paint, and other art supplies to make scientific field journals, paper models, and more!

Staff Spotlight: Elvia Ortiz

This week we are featuring Educational Services Department’s Office Specialist Elvia Ortiz. Elvia began her career at MBUSD in 2018 as a substitute instructional assistant and soon after was hired full-time as an instructional assistant at MBMS. After spending time in the classroom, Elvia was hired to her current role. She says it’s been an exciting journey and she’s grateful for the opportunities she has been given to grow at MBUSD. Elvia’s positive enthusiasm and can-do attitude are apparent at the District Office!

Elvia aspired to work at MBUSD because she always had a passion for working with youth and wanted to transition her career into education. “The District’s commitment to academic excellence, cutting-edge facilities, and supportive environment for learning and personal growth made it the perfect fit for me,” says Elvia. She also says having the opportunity to impact the lives of students positively and watching them achieve their goals has been incredibly rewarding when she worked at school sites.

Her proudest accomplishment is serving in her current position. “It’s an important role that allows me to contribute to MBUSD’s mission of providing a supportive and enriching learning environment for all students. I take pride in knowing that I’m helping to ensure that each student receives the best education possible.”

Elvia is a proud mother of three and enjoys exploring new hobbies and interests. Some of those are music, movies, art, history, science, and technology. She says new hobbies broaden her horizons and enrich her life. 

Creating Waves with Colleagues 

The Social and Emotional Learning Committee at MBMS is piloting a new program to build stronger connections among staff! This week they hosted an Introduction to Pickleball class taught by P.E. teachers Kelly Navarro and Sue Steinmetz.

It gave staff an opportunity to teach a class to their colleagues to improve pickleball skills, improve one another’s social-emotional wellness, and spend quality time together. A special thanks to Linda Daly for coordinating this effort.

Eva Asiddao Recognized as Youth Emerging Leader

Congratulations to Mira Costa junior Eva Asiddao! She was recognized by the City of Hermosa Beach and Leadership Hermosa with a “Youth Emerging Leader” Award. Hermosa Beach Mayor Ray Jackson presented the award to Eva for her commitment to the South Bay community. Leadership Hermosa Beach and the City partner together annually to award and recognize emerging leaders in three categories, which includes “Hermosa Beach Youth.”

Eva shared, “All of my work is to give back to this community that has been so incredibly encouraging and supportive of me. I live to pay forward the good that life has shown me…I’m so thankful. Love wins and I hope you will join me in choosing to spread joy and kindness.”

MBMS Drama Team Wins Once Again!

MBMS Drama Festival team attended the Spring Shakespeare Festival hosted by the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California (DTASC) recently. They earned two 1st place wins, one 4th place, and two honorable mentions. The team also placed fourth overall.

The team consisted of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students who performed in front of judges and other teams from around Southern California. Our students and MBMS Drama Director David Levy dedicated two hours every week for the last four months to prepare for the festival. They showcased their talents by performing scenes from Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest.

Mr. Levy says that through rehearsals students also learned how to analyze Shakespeare’s writing and concepts like rhyme scheme and meter.

MBUSD Elementary Schools Excel at E=MC2 Math Tournament

Join us in congratulating our MBUSD elementary math teams which excelled at the 16th Annual E=MC2 Culver City Math Competition this past weekend. There were 180 mathletes on 36 teams from 21 schools across LA county competing in individual and team math competitions.

Pennekamp's math team won the GOLD medal in the team event. The team consisted of: Talar A., Charlotte F., Lily F., Michael S., and Alicia Z.

Grand View, Meadows, Pacific, and Pennekamp all had medalists in the individual event:

Individual GOLD medals: Bliss L. (Meadows) and Alicia Z. (Pennekamp)

Individual SILVER medals: Aakash B. (Meadows), Neil K. (Pacific), Rohan P. (Pacific), and Shaan V. (Pacific) 

Individual BRONZE medals: Adrian G. (Pacific), Devan P. (Grand View), and Michael S. (Pennekamp)

Pacific Math Team

Grand View Math Team

Meadows Math Team

We are so proud of our students’ stellar performance. Congratulations to the mathletes from Grand View (coached by Gillian Cato), Meadows (coached by Alice Kuo and Michelle Legaspi), Pacific (coached by Hilary Grayver), and Pennekamp (coached by Christine and Ayres Fan)!  

The E=MC2 Math Competition is an annual competition hosted by Dr. Jason Frand, a retired UCLA professor, at Linwood Howe Elementary in Culver City. 

To prepare for the big competition, our dedicated students practiced for this and other competitions during weekly after school math club classes where they worked on challenging math word problems.

Check out the Special Education Department April Newsletter!

A few of the highlights include:

  • Information about transition IEP meetings
  • Extended School Year (ESY)
  • State Testing
  • Staff Professional Development
Read the April Newsletter Here 

Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment

There are many ways to measure your student’s learning. Your student’s teacher uses report card grades, classroom work, teacher observations, and end-of-year statewide test results to get a complete picture of your student’s learning.

Each year, students participate in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress(CAASPP). Your student will take the following tests, depending on their grade level or instructional program: 

  • Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English Language Arts and Math, required tests in grades 3–8 and 11.
  • California Science Test (CAST) and CAA Science, a required test in grades 5, 8, and 11. 
  • California Alternative Assessment (CAA) for English Language Arts and Math, required grades 3-8 and 11 (CAA designated by IEP Team). 

The testing schedule is as follows:

Elementary Testing Window| May 8-19

MBMS Testing Window | May 15 - 26

MCHS Testing Window | May 15 - June 2

You can find more information about CAASPP here.

Click here to read the full letter sent to parents/guardians.

MCHS Principal Dr. Karina Gerger Honored as ACSA Secondary Administrator of the Year

Dr. Karina Gerger was celebrated and honored with an award at the Administrative Awards banquet this week for earning the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 14 Secondary Administrator of the Year title.

During the ceremony, Dr. Gerger shared that when she was a little girl she knew that she wanted to work in education. "I've been so blessed and lucky to be able to be in education and to have the opportunities I've had, especially in Manhattan Beach. I've been here for nineteen years and have served in nine different positions at MBUSD."

Dr. Gerger's motto is "Do what's best for students learning." ACSA has 19 regions in California and is the largest umbrella organization for school leaders in the United States.

(From Left to Right: Mira Costa Vice Principal Jessica Lubs, Mira Costa Vice Principal Amanda Vavao, Mira Costa Principal Dr. Karina Gerger, and Mira Costa Vice Principal Daniel Pestle)

Join us! Experience the Diversity and Cultures of our Families Tomorrow!

We are hosting our 6th Annual International Day tomorrow (Saturday) at MBMS! Our own families will be the highlight of the event as they will showcase their culture and heritage through music, food, performances, and games! 

This is always a great event and a time for us to come together to celebrate one another. 

Here are some of the countries that will be represented: 

MBEF Celebrates 40 Years

MBEF is celebrating its 40th Anniversary of supporting the Manhattan Beach public schools on Saturday, May 6th from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Metlox Plaza. The 40 years of support equates to over $100 million in directed funding to build a foundation of excellence in our schools. We would like to invite the entire community to join us for a special presentation, refreshments, and activities for attendees of all ages.

Read More in the Easy Reader

Click flyer below

MBMS Scholar Quiz

After nearly two weeks of the 2023 Scholar Quiz competition, and rounds of more than 300 students competing from all three grade levels, this year’s champions have been crowned. 

Congratulations to the Red Team of Alex C., Sean L., Katherine M., and Sam C., who won with a final score of 175-135 over the Blue Team! We are proud of you.

This year two 6th grade teams moved on to the Elite Eight. Mira Costa High Scholar Quiz winners also came out to support the participating teams during the finals! Thank you to the MBMS PTA, staff, Scholar Quiz Committee, and the 150 community volunteers for making Scholar Quiz a huge success. Board President Cathey Graves was the official flag judge. 

2023 MBMS Scholar Quiz Champs!

Makerspace Feature: Robinson

Students in Mrs. Weiss’s 4th grade class participated in the Bucket Challenge where they helped the people of "Engineeria" raise pennies above ground because of the incoming rain.

With just limited supplies, students had to figure out how to use those supplies to make a bucket which when suspended will hold the pennies without collapsing, touching the sides of the bucket, and must swing freely.

The fun and challenging lesson incorporated the use of 12” of tape, 12” of string, and eight straws. Makerspace Specialist Valerie Edwards says it was a great lesson for Earth Week as it demonstrated how to not be wasteful, and that with limited supplies you can get the job done.

Holocaust Survivor Visits Mira Costa

Thank you to Holocaust survivor Mr. Nat Rocker for visiting Mira Costa and speaking to 10th graders about his encounter with a Nazi soldier when he was a child and his story of survival with his family during World War II. His presentation was powerful and poignant leaving an impact on the students in attendance.

Mr. Rocker shared that he hopes his testimonial will encourage students to stand up against hatred and ensure that this horrific time in history never happens again. In March, Mr. Rocker also spoke at MBMS. 

MBUSD Recognizes National Denim Day

Students and staff recognized National Denim Day on Wednesday, April 26 by wearing jeans to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and against sexual violence.

At the Wednesday, April 19 Board meeting, the MBUSD Board of Trustees adopted a resolution recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Denim Day. It supports the efforts of Peace Over Violence to educate persons in our community about the true impact of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and rape in Southern California. The MBUSD Board has adopted this resolution since 2019. 

Wearing denim on April 19 became an international symbol of protest against misinformation and attitudes about sexual violence. 

MBUSD District Office Staff

Robinson Elementary Hosts Screen Awareness Activities Throughout the Week (April 24 - 28)

Robinson Elementary’s Healthier Tech Use Group hosted Screen Awareness Week as an opportunity for their community to reset and inform families and students about the impacts of technology. Parents from across the District were invited to take part in informative Coffee Talks with leading experts to learn about the effects of technology on the brain as well as the clinical impacts of screens on kids.

But for the students, the treat of the week was definitely when Mira Costa Seniors Brinkley and Brooklyn Baker rode in on their unicycles and dazzled Robinson’s 5th graders with their Cirque du Soleil skills, and then shared how the two of them thrive by not having phones. The amazing duo inspired and empowered Riptides to be comfortable without screens and to stand up to peer pressure.

Robinson’s Screen Awareness Week closes tonight with a Family Game Night featuring BINGO, giant chess, giant Connect Four, and other classics. If you are interested in joining other parents in making better choices around technology, you can email Robinson’s Tech Group chairs Shana Kish and Tricia Ryan.

Thank you to Yea-Lan Chiang for sharing this story with us and for leading this work. 

MBUSD Community Participates in Earth Day Beach Clean-Up Challenge

Our community ended Earth Week on a high note by participating in the MBUSD Earth Day Beach Clean-Up Challenge! Each school site had designated locations on that day to clean-up our beaches with the goal of collecting 1,000 pieces of litter. Some of the trash participants found included plastic, wrappers, and bottle caps. Check out some of the highlights below!

Rotary Recognizes MCHS Talented Artists

This week’s Manhattan Beach Rotary meeting was extra special. Mira Costa students were honored for their work in Cinematic Arts, Photography, Painting, Art, Printmaking 2, Ceramics (sculpting), and 3D Fabrication as part of the Rotary’s Annual Craft Awards. The event was created to recognize students excelling in the arts in our community.

The following students received awards:

Kai Brennan | Cinematic Arts

Jack Shields | Photography

Scarlett Peterman | Painting 2

Shane O'Brien | Painting 1

Luc Conforme | Art 2 

Bruna Bernardi | Printmaking 2

Finleigh Pogson | Ceramics 2

Kaila DeBeer | Ceramics 2

Hailey Ramirez | Ceramics 2 and 3d fabrication

3 More Shows Left for MAMMA MIA!

Tickets are still on sale for Mira Costa’s Drama/Tech spring musical, MAMMA MIA!

Click the Flyer Below

Drama/Tech ABBA's hits tell the hilarious story of a young woman's search for her birth father. This sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. The story-telling magic of ABBA's timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter, and friendship, creating an unforgettable show.

Purchase Tickets Here

Nominate Costa Alumni into the Hall of Fame!

The Annual Mira Costa Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame nominations are now being accepted. Each year since 2012, a handful of Mira Costa alumni nominated by community members are selected as Distinguished Alumni. They are selected based on criteria and also for their contributions to their careers, life endeavors, and serving their community.

You can find the nomination form here. The deadline is May 24, 2023.

Once the alumni are chosen they are recognized at an assembly where they are officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. You can watch last year’s ceremony here. 

Join the MBUSD Family!

We are hiring classified and certificated staff. We’re looking for individuals with a passion for helping students discover the joys of learning and creating a safe and engaging learning environment. If you are looking for a meaningful career, with excellent benefits, flexibility, and stability, MBUSD is the place for you! 

Click the links below to learn about the variety of MBUSD job openings currently available.

Classified Job Opportunities

Certificated Job Opportunities

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The next Superintendent's Newsletter will be published on Friday, May 5. 


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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