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Superintendent's Newsletter

December 15, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Robinson Elementary, Teacher of the Year Niel Leonard honored at the Clippers game, and highlights from our recent Board meeting.

Spotlight on Robinson (Special Thanks to Mrs. Reaper, Mrs. Weiss, and Principal Jackie O’Sullivan)

Fourth-grade students in Mrs. Reaper’s and Mrs. Weiss’s classes are reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, a beloved fourth-grade core novel. It is about the story of Karana, a young Native American girl stranded on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the book, Karana's emotional state undergoes various changes as she grapples with isolation, survival, and the challenges of living alone. 

Students analyze the text to cite evidence from the novel to support inferences about Karana's emotional state and how she evolves throughout the novel. They work in collaborative teams to come to agreements using text evidence and then plot Karana's emotions on their classroom's Mood Meter, one of the tools in The RULER program that Robinson is implementing from Yale's Center for Emotional Intelligence.   

Students will revisit this process throughout the novel and then compare their own emotions and feelings using the Mood Meter to connect reading comprehension skills to the District and school's goals for social and emotional learning.     

Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Huynh | MBMS Principal

This week, we spotlight and share the story of MBMS Principal Jennifer Huynh. Jennifer joined MBUSD in the fall of 2021 as a Vice Principal at Mira Costa High School before stepping into her current role as the dynamic leader of MBMS.

Jennifer has a diverse background in education, including a three-year tenure as an assistant principal at Santa Ana Unified. Prior to that, she spent eleven years as an activities director and teacher covering AVID, English, Student Government, and Vietnamese Foreign Language in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Her passion for being an educator has included serving as an adjunct faculty member at Central New Mexico Community College. Throughout her career, as she took on more leadership roles, she was inspired to make an impact on students and in the school community as an administrator.


“I enjoy helping and coaching others. One big component of being a leader is to develop more leaders, and I am grateful to be able to serve in a role that gives me the ability to do that regularly with both staff and students,” said Jennifer Huynh.


This is evident when you walk onto campus, where she and the leadership team foster strong connections with students and staff. Reflecting on her role, Jennifer shares, “My favorite part of my job as a principal is fostering a learning environment where students and staff feel empowered to reach their fullest potential. I enjoy having the opportunity to help shape those educational experiences and contribute to the growth of my school community.”


Jennifer remembers the passion and kindness she received from teachers as a student, which motivated her to do what she does today.


“Growing up as an English Language Learner, I was drawn to learning how to read and write in English. My journey in learning English helped me appreciate the moment when the ‘light bulb’ goes off. I was inspired by my teachers who took time to teach and get to know me.”


Jennifer received her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and master's degree in Educational Leadership to pursue her career as a teacher.


“The concept of learning is very special for human growth and development. Education is the window to that opportunity for everyone, regardless of background or skill. I am grateful to be part of a community that helps me do that daily with kids and adults.”


Jennifer’s dedication to creating positive change is evident in her proudest career achievement – the successful collaborative implementation of a new bell schedule at MBMS that was embraced by the school community and positively impacted teacher professional development and student achievement this year.


“I am extremely proud of the work (and it is definitely work!) that our staff and students have put in this year, especially with so many different changes to what they have been used to doing before. I humbly believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you, and they are knocking it out of the ballpark!”


In her free time, Jennifer enjoys hiking, running, writing, and spending time with her top 3: Family, friends, and fur babies.

Board of Trustees Organizational Meeting

This week, we held our annual Board of Trustees organizational meeting. Vice President Jennifer Fenton moved to re-elect current Board President Cathey Graves to another year-long term as MBUSD’s Board President. Trustee Wysh Weinstein was appointed Vice President, and Trustee Tina Shivpuri was elected Board Clerk. 

Trustee Bruce Greenberg was appointed to serve as the representative to the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association (LACSTA), Board Clerk Tina Shivpuri was appointed to serve as the representative of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, and I was reappointed as the Secretary to the Board.

MBMS String Ensemble

Thank you to the MBMS String Ensemble under the direction of Instrumental Music Teacher Denise Haslop for their mesmerizing performance at this week’s Board of Trustees meeting. They performed a brand-new holiday medley with various members of the Board and Cabinet playing the bells. 

MBMS’s various music classes performed pieces from their winter concerts throughout today for their fellow students.

Thank you, PTAs!

We are always grateful for the unique partnership with our seven PTAs. Parent volunteers work tirelessly to make a difference on our campuses. The support is immeasurable, and we appreciate everything they do throughout the year. During Wednesday's Board meeting, Trustees accepted the 2022-23 school year donations from all seven school PTAs totaling $300,339.60. Thank you!

Our PTAs provide school supplies and technology, capital improvement, academic, social-emotional, and VAPA programming, field trips, staff appreciation and teacher professional development opportunities, community support, and cultural and school-wide celebrations. Various PTA parent functions provide a forum for parents to voice their opinions, engage in discussions, and learn about what is happening at our schools. If you haven’t joined your students’ school PTA, join today! 

Grand View PTA

Meadows PTA

Pacific PTA

Pennekamp PTA

Robinson PTSA


Mira Costa PTSA

MBUSD Trustees Accept Beach Cities Health District’s (BCHD) Partner in Health Proclamation 

The Beach Cities Health District Board of Directors issued a proclamation to MBUSD recognizing its quarter-century commitment as a partner in health to create a healthy beach community for all ages. 

The proclamation acknowledges MBUSD’s dedicated time, energy, and civic service to partnering with Beach Cities Health District on several initiatives to make healthy choices available and accessible to all.

It also appreciates the Manhattan Beach Unified School District’s dedication to preventive health success for twenty-five years.

Check out our Updated BCHD Resources Page!

Arts Integration in the Classroom

Our Visual and Performing Arts Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), Scott Hughes, is working with neighboring districts, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), and the L.A. County Department of Arts and Culture to provide resources for MBUSD teachers to further incorporate the arts into any curriculum. This is part of the broader initiative to strengthen the arts pathways for all MBUSD students in accordance with the California Arts Education Framework.

Recently, Hughes hosted a Mira Costa professional development session entitled “Arts Integration for Your Classroom: Why and How?” The session provided an overview of how the visual and performing arts can be incorporated into any subject matter to promote deeper connections to content, creative thinking, perspective sharing, storytelling, and social-emotional learning. 

MBUSD Leadership Spreads Holiday Cheer

For another year, I had the opportunity to participate in Santa’s annual tradition of touring Manhattan Beach neighborhoods aboard his special sleigh float that first started in 1955. The community and volunteer operation is run by the Manhattan Beach Kiwanis Club and is sponsored by many local businesses and organizations. 

It’s been a tradition for MBUSD to represent one night on the float and be part of Santa’s team of elves! This year, MBUSD Board President Cathey Graves and Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Heather Hoffman joined in celebrating the holiday season with the community. It’s always great to see our students and their families throughout the night.

Friday, December 15 is Santa's last night in town. You can find more information here

MBMS Drama Play Back to the Top Opens Tonight

MBMS Drama is proud to present their upcoming play Back to the Top, a story about two teens as they struggle with their own thoughts, emotions, and insecurities. As doubt, judgment, and ego threaten to undermine their own sense of self, Rian's and Sara's thoughts reveal just how difficult being a teenager can be.

The play is written, produced, and directed by MBMS Drama Director, David Levy. 

Purchase your tickets today to see this one-of-a-kind performance!

The shows take place on December 15, 16, and 17 at the following times: 

December 15 at 7:00 p.m.

December 16 at 2:00 & 7:00 p.m.

December 17 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are $5 online or $10 at the door! We encourage you to purchase tickets in advance.  

Buy Tickets Here!

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Representative to Visit MBMS

In the upcoming week, the ADL will be presenting a session on antisemitism for the MBMS No Place for Hate® (NPFH) Committee. The NPFH Committee started the year with a Pledge Signing lesson during Advisory, Intervention, Review, and Enrichment (AIRE) time and a Pledge Signing activity during lunch. The pledge commitment is one of the main phases of the NPFH program, during which students promise to be upstanders and spread kindness. Students reflected on the pledge and wrote ways to implement it in their daily lives. These reflections were shared on posters and showcased throughout campus. Another part of this lesson was for students to identify areas where MBMS could enhance its commitment to the pledge for the current school year. 

The NPFH Committee has been meeting regularly, taking a deeper look at the survey results, and studying the data to determine the NPFH focus. Future activities will be developed based on this analysis, and the committee will also discuss how to share this content in the classroom. 

MBMS Science Teacher Niel Leonard Celebrated at Clippers Game

MBMS Science Teacher Niel Leonard was recognized at this week’s LA Clippers Game! He was one of sixteen Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year honored before the game started. The appreciation night gave the educators a unique courtside experience – they were also celebrated on-court, and Niel was seen on the big screen! 

The Clippers organization annually celebrates the L.A. County Teachers of the Year. Niel says it was a lot of fun. He received complimentary tickets, and one of his students, an 8th grader, bought him a Kawhi Leonard jersey to wear.

The Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year (TOY) Program is the largest of its kind in the state and part of the oldest and most prestigious honors competition in U.S. for public school teachers. 

The teachers selected as Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year are educators who have shown exemplary dedication, compelling classroom practices, positive accomplishments, and professional commitment. We are proud to have Niel as one of MBUSD’s educators and want to congratulate him on this well-deserved honor!

Easy Reader Story: MBUSD Eliminates the Sale of Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District has officially eliminated the sale of single-use plastic water bottles, an initiative started in 2019 when MBUSD first removed small plastic water bottles from elementary schools. 

MBUSD Food and Nutrition Services Department Director Léna Agee said this further step towards environmental sustainability has long been a goal for MBUSD. 

Agee said the initiative will eliminate an estimated 140,000 single-use plastic water bottles per school year.

“It’s truly gratifying to announce that MBUSD no longer sells single-use plastic water bottles,” Agee said. “This achievement reflects the Department and District’s commitment to sustainability and sets a positive example for our students and the community.”

Read More Here!


MBUSD Kindergarten Information Day on January 20, 2024

We are excited to host the MBUSD 2024 Kindergarten Information Day at Grand View Elementary on Saturday, January 20! It’s an opportunity to get your enrollment questions answered before enrollment opens on January 22, 2024. You will learn more about MBUSD from current leadership, principals, teachers, students, and MBEF.  

This year, we will have a special meet and greet for all attendees from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. Breakout sessions will follow with each elementary school principal, and one will focus on transitional kindergarten. We can't wait to meet our future families!

Click Here for Enrollment Information

Manhattan Beach Preschool Winter Concert 

MB Preschool families gathered for the annual winter concert! Students sang songs showcasing the diversity of the school with many holiday tunes. Director of Early Learning Shannon Huston said the concert was an opportunity to share with students stories about winter holiday traditions from around the world with art projects, food, and family sharing opportunities.

"A heartfelt thank you to our dedicated music teacher from Music Rhapsody, Zachary Kenefick, and our classroom teaching teams for investing their time and energy to help cultivate the love of music in our preschoolers. Together, they've guided our students to learn the songs they prepared for our Winter Concert," said Shannon Huston.

Here are some highlights!

MCHS Operation Happiness

The 25th Annual MCHS Operation Happiness, a school-wide initiative, is in full swing to give back to those in need for the holiday season. This week, staff and students were busy wrapping gifts and fulfilling holiday wishes with various organizations they partnered with for the festive season. Yesterday, they were busy filling up cars that were going to make deliveries ahead of the holidays!

The drive, which started at the end of November, is a community service project that includes providing gifts through Richstone Family Center’s Adopt-a-Family program, participating in the Salvation Army Angel Tree, contributing to Toys for Kids, aiding the homeless through distribution of clothing and blankets, and a canned food drive. 

For Adopt-a-Family, MCHS-sponsored families, forty angels from the Angel Tree will receive gifts, fifty gifts will be delivered to Harbor UCLA Medical Center on Christmas morning through Toys for Kids, and thousands of cans have been collected.

H.E.A.R.T. Club Caroling in the Community

The Mira Costa H.E.A.R.T. Club visited the Sunrise Senior Living Center in Hermosa Beach this week to sing some popular holiday songs! Mira Costa School Psychologist Janet Allen is the H.E.A.R.T. Club’s staff advisor and says this has been a cherished annual tradition.

Share Stories with Us! 

Do you have a good news story idea? Share it with us! There are great stories to be told across the District, from stories of accomplishment, perseverance, and noteworthy events to academic excellence unfolding in our classrooms. Please share a story with us so we can share it with our community!

Stories submitted are often shared in our publications, on social media, and with our local media partners.

Submit your story here!

Stay Updated! Download MBUSD App!

If you haven’t downloaded the MBUSD app, please do so!

You can go to an Apple or Google Play store to download the app by searching Manhattan Beach Unified or MBUSD. Once you download it, you will see a home page asking you to set up the schools you would like access to and announcements from, including the District.

You can toggle between the District and each school site screen from the top of the app. All elementary school sites have the same buttons, while MBMS and Mira Costa’s features cater to our families and students there. The app offers 42 languages from which to choose. You can update your app settings, and you can learn what is happening at the District and school site level every morning by push notifications! 

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 educational 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 December 22. Have a wonderful weekend!


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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