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Superintendent's Newsletter

December 22, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well and preparing for a well-deserved winter break. I appreciate you for being part of the MBUSD community and look forward to 2024 and all that we will achieve together. 

Today’s issue highlights Manhattan Beach Preschool, MBMS 6th-grader selected as City of Manhattan Beach Mayor for the Day, and the Anti-Defamation League presenting to students at MBMS.

Spotlight on Manhattan Beach Preschool (Special Thanks to Director of Early Learning Shannon Huston)

Manhattan Beach Preschool will open its second new two-year-old classroom this school year! As part of our commitment to providing exceptional early childhood education, the new classroom will meet the needs of our community and the many children of this age group currently on our waitlist.

On Wednesday, December 20, MB Preschool hosted a warm and welcoming meet and greet session for our future families who will have children in this new classroom. Director of Early Learning Shannon Huston says seeing so many eager faces and enthusiastic families ready to embark on this exciting journey at MB Preschool was heart-warming. The official opening day is scheduled for January 8 after winter break.

"We can hardly wait to welcome our little learners into their new space, filled with age-appropriate materials, and activities as well as a nurturing environment and teaching team," said Shannon Huston.

Remembering MBUSD Colleague Mike McAvin

It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that we share the news of the passing of Mira Costa teacher, Mr. Mike McAvin. He passed peacefully early Wednesday morning at home with his family after losing his battle with a terminal illness.

Mr. McAvin has been an esteemed member of the Mira Costa family since 2002. He grew up in Manhattan Beach, attended Grand View Elementary, Center Intermediate School, and graduated from Mira Costa High School in 1983. Mr. McAvin taught English, Journalism, and credit recovery at Mira Costa, positively impacting many students over the years. He was the La Vista Newspaper Advisor, contributing to the program’s multiple award-winning successes. To many students, he was known as “Mac” and this week, they took to social media to remember their beloved teacher and express their gratitude for his support. 

Many of you have known Mr. McAvin in various ways; his connections run deep throughout our community, and so will his life's lasting contributions to his students and colleagues.

We understand that everyone may process this news differently. Mira Costa counselors have been available for students since the news was shared with the Mustang community. Beach Cities Allcove counselors and Taking Time grief counselors have also been on campus to support students and staff. 

At this time, Mira Costa administration is in touch with the McAvin family, who have asked for their privacy. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. McAvin’s family and on this profound loss. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time. 

Staff Spotlight: Jonathan Westerberg | Drama Tech Department Director

This week we are featuring Mira Costa Drama Tech Department Director Jonathan Westerberg. He began his career in 1999 at MBUSD as an English teacher while also teaching Drama classes. In 2018, he officially transitioned into the Drama/Tech Department. He now teaches three levels of drama, Student Academic Support, and Play Production. Jonathan shared that he also taught English Language Development (ELD) over the years at Costa. Beyond his dedication to Drama, Jonathan has served as the English Department Co-Chair and held various positions on committees. 

When Jonathan first moved to Los Angeles, he was hired as a teacher at a small Catholic school (K-8) in Venice before coming to MBUSD. He also worked with a local theater company in Hollywood and became a co-producing artistic director, where he directed and designed shows. But his true passion and drive was to also work in education, which led him to MBUSD. Jonathan reflected on his journey: "Being able to work in the theater as a teacher, as I do now, is the perfect marriage of all of my passions,” said Jonathan. 

When asked what his favorite show he has produced in the Costa Drama/Tech Department, he shared that they have all been so different and personal that it is hard to compare. “They all have their personalities. Every one of them is equally stubborn and enlightening. Some are far more challenging than others, and some bring a cast and crew together in ways others don't, but they all arrive at the same station despite different paths. I just really enjoy the process of producing and directing for the theatre, and my favorite production always tends to be the one I am currently working on.”

The latest production the MCHS Drama Tech Department is working on is the upcoming spring musical Footloose. Jonathan hopes it will take attendees back to the 80s as a fun and familiar story. “The students seem very excited about this show, and the production team is having a blast in pre-production. Similar to Mamma Mia! (our musical last spring), this show comes with a lot of familiar music and has a highly energetic story centered around discovery, redemption, and community. I expect it to be a crowd-pleaser!”

He loves working with students throughout their four-year journey at Costa and seeing them grow. He appreciates the community and District's support in having a theater program that invests in student and production excellence. 

Jonathan says the most rewarding moments come from a successful day of teaching and when there is a breakthrough with a student. He enjoys his art and being with his family in his free time. Also, he is a Niners fan!

MCHS Senior Charlie Fuerbringer Recognized as the 2023-24 High School Athlete of the Year 

Mira Costa Girls’ Volleyball setter Charlie Fuerbringer has been inducted into the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Hall of Fame. The non-profit organization selects only one coach and senior athlete as the top in their respective sports. The NHSCA’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee tracks the highest-level athletes throughout their season and chooses its honorees upon completion of their season. 

Congratulations! The NHSCA says the recognition is to showcase her outstanding accomplishments and honor senior athletic careers.

Charlie graduates this year and has committed to playing volleyball at the University of Wisconsin. 

Check out this Easy Reader article to read more about Charlie’s past accolades!

Click Here for Charlie's Hall of Fame Profile

Congratulations to our CHOICE Program graduate!

The Mira Costa CHOICE program had its winter ceremony today! Congratulations to Blake Tanner, who has reached this important milestone. Blake has been at MBUSD during his entire educational journey. During the commencement, CHOICE Transition Education Specialist Lareina Rodriguez described him as perseverant, intuitive, and observant. 

“Blake reminds us to work at our own pace and to care for those who care for us. During his time with us, he has become one of our most loving and genuine participants. Blake is an amazing friend and is able to recognize when someone needs a smile,” said Lareina. 

CHOICE is the MBUSD Special Education Transition program for individuals ages 18-22 at Mira Costa. CHOICE provides teachers, job mentors, and other support services to ensure young adults learn all the skills necessary to be prepared for their future endeavors. Through the program, students are offered a wide range of opportunities, from vocational training to having the chance to participate in its workability program that prepares students for employment placement and supports them through career exploration. 

This year, seventeen students are enrolled in the program. Since the program’s inception in 2015, they have served forty students. Looking ahead, Blake will be pursuing further individualized programming that will allow him to explore his community and personal goals. 

Learn More About CHOICE Program

Made by CHOICE Pop-Up Store at Lazy Acres 

One example of the hands-on experience students receive through the CHOICE program was this week’s Made by CHOICE Pop-Up Store located at Lazy Acres! Students sold gifts and crafts that they designed and created with guidance from support staff. 

The participation provides work experience for the students while promoting inclusion in the community and workplace. 

MBMS 6th-Grader Lilia Priester, City of MB Mayor for the Day

Lilia Priester proudly sat in Manhattan Beach’s City Council Chambers, learning the ins and outs of City Council meetings and what it means to be mayor. She was selected to be the Mayor for the Day through a contest by the City of Los Angeles Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s Office and the City of Manhattan Beach. 

The application was open to all MBMS students, asking them to submit an essay on what they would do if they were the Mayor of Manhattan Beach. Lilia’s essay was chosen as the top entry because of her realistic goals. She said she would host a community picnic at Polliwog Park to unite people of all ages. She also talked about creating a project that would bring cheer to children in the hospital. Mayor Richard Montgomery was impressed by her essay. 

Lilia began her day by having lunch at the Kettle in downtown Manhattan Beach. She toured City Hall, City Council Chambers, and visited departments. 

From left to right: Deputy of Constituent Engagement Jessalyn Waldron (Office of Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell), Lilia Priester, and Mayor Richard Montgomery

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Visit to MBMS

We are grateful for a presentation from the ADL to the MBMS No Place for Hate ® Committee this week in an engaging and informative session on antisemitism. The presentation began with the meaning of the term and shared with students how it’s important to recognize the impact antisemitism has on people. 

The meeting encouraged attendees to look at the steps they can take to work towards a goal where everyone feels welcomed and understands how they can play a role in combatting antisemitism on a broader societal scale. The meeting allowed students to share their own experiences and thoughts. 

Students were asked to share examples of antisemitism and how to respond and were provided insight into the diversity of the Jewish community. After listing examples of antisemitism, the session delved into the definitions of an ally, advocate, and activist. Students were asked to think about how, as members of the NPFH Committee, they could assume one of these roles to make positive change. 

The committee will plan future activities and lessons focusing on how to be an ally and how to report incidents of hate. ADL resources and materials will be used to support this work.

Students Participate in "Where Everybody Belongs" (W.E.B.) Activity

6th graders had another “Where Everybody Belongs” (W.E.B.) activity with their 8th-grade WEB Leader mentors this week. Students participated in an engaging Beach Ball Bonanza activity where they shared fun information about themselves with their group. Then, they had a chance to cheer each other on during a friendly "Snowball Scoop Challenge" that reinforced the concept of teamwork, finding strategies to succeed, and encouraging others.


MBMS 8th grade WEB Leaders did a great job facilitating these activities in classrooms to help foster a closer connection for our 6th graders! WEB is made possible through MBEF and PTA. They fund training for the staff and resources for the students to bring it all together.

Thank you to Student Success Counselor on Special Assignment Lauren Galbraith, and Social Studies teacher and WEB Coordinator Zachary Beaudin for leading this initiative on campus.

Students Learn Real-World Math Skills at Ralphs

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program at MBMS took a field trip to Ralphs, where they applied math skills to estimate and calculate costs and percentages. Students took a tour with staff and learned the commerce of managing a grocery store. They purchased supplies and used them at school to measure and follow directions for a recipe. 

Thank you to DHH Teacher Kelly Rodono for sharing this story!

Mira Costa Choir Brings Joy During the Festive Season

You may have seen the Mira Costa Choir caroling across the South Bay. Since Thanksgiving, they have sung for the Sandpipers, Neptunian Woman’s Club, and other establishments. They recently took their talents to Universal Studios, where members from all three choirs performed on the 5 Towers Stage. They featured songs from their Winter and POPS Concerts! 

This week, they also brought joy to the District Office, an annual tradition where they spread the holiday cheer by singing to our staff! Thank you for visiting us!

Panther Winter Concert

Kindergarteners at Pacific Elementary performed its annual “Winter in Manhattan” Concert! They sang unique renditions of popular holiday songs such as “Sandy the Sandman” and “12 Days of Kindergarten.” Initially, the concert began in 1996 at Robinson Elementary, where current Pacific Kindergarten teacher Michelle Syverson initiated the idea with the former Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services at that time and co-wrote the lyrics to the songs for the first-grader “Winter in Manhattan” concert that also continues at Robinson. 

In 2022, when Michelle Syverson joined the Kindergarten team at Pacific Elementary, fellow Kindergarten teacher Lanissa Patterson proposed to start a Kindergarten version of “Winter in Manhattan.” Michelle refreshed the concert's repertoire, tailoring the songs around Kindergarten experiences. Through teacher collaboration, they added songs that have become part of the program, including “Love Will Be Our Home,” “PEACE song,” and the Pacific Panther song. The Kinder team at Pacific says there is nothing better than bringing the school community together during the holidays!

Thank you to Kindergarten teachers Sandra Abrams, Lanissa Patterson, and Michelle Syverson for working with the students to make this concert successful.


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 enrollment questions answered before enrollment opens on January 22, 2024. Attendees will learn more about MBUSD from current leadership, principals, teachers, students, and MBEF.  

All incoming Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and Kindergarten families are warmly invited! Meet & Greet with attendees and principals will start at 9:00 a.m., and 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

MBUSD Students Begin Business Journey

Students at the first event for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) were prepared with their elevator pitches as they gathered at the Kinecta Federal Credit Union Headquarters. The first part of the CEO Roundtable gave this year’s YEA! Students an opportunity to engage in meet and greet sessions with CEOs and present their business ideas. 

After this portion, students asked the panel of CEOs business questions, which included Keith Sultemeier, CEO and President of Kinecta, Roger Van Remmen, CEO and President of Richstone Family Center, and Russ Lesser, President of Dive N' Surf. They also shared personal anecdotes about their entrepreneurial journeys and gave valuable advice to attendees. 

Throughout the years, YEA! has given middle and high school students across the South Bay a chance to bring their business ideas into reality. This year twenty-four students and twenty-three businesses are participating.

The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts the program, and it wouldn’t be possible without Mira Costa English Teacher Rachel Thomas, the instructor, and Ro Schreiner, a former MBUSD teacher who taught here for 51 years before retiring and now serves as the YEA! Program Support. Entrepreneurs meet for twenty-four weeks during the academic year and receive one-on-one coaching. The program culminates in an Investor Panel and the opportunity to win seed money. MBUSD students have taken home the 1st place award for the last two years. 

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 January 12. Have a wonderful winter break and Happy New Year!


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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