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Superintendent's Newsletter

December 8, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Pennekamp Elementary, MBUSD officially no longer selling single-use plastic water bottles, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) providing training to MBUSD leadership.

Spotlight on Pennekamp (Special Thanks to 3rd-Grade Staff Leanore Heagy, Liana Kuklinski, Mike Warner, and Principal Sharon Witzansky)

At Pennekamp Elementary School's 3rd-grade level, the implementation of small group and learning center time instruction represents a tailored approach to meet the individualized needs of students. The school has embraced a student-focused model, recognizing that each child learns at their own pace and has unique strengths and challenges. During center time, students are afforded the opportunity to engage in activities specifically designed to address their individual areas of need, whether it be enrichment for those excelling or additional support for those requiring reteaching.

The grouping strategy is dynamic, with students organized based on their academic needs or placed in mixed-ability groups to foster collaboration and peer learning. This approach not only allows for targeted instruction but also promotes a supportive learning environment where students can learn from each other. Teachers play a pivotal role in this process by using data-driven insights to inform their instructional decisions, ensuring that each student receives personalized attention and interventions as needed. By leveraging data to assess and address the unique learning needs of each child, Pennekamp Elementary School's 3rd-grade educators are dedicated to fostering a productive and successful academic experience for every student.

Staff Spotlight: Heidi Snively | Library Resource Specialist

This week, we are excited to spotlight Grand View Library Resource Specialist Heidi Snively! She started working for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District during the 1999-2000 school year. Heidi said in those days, there were no computers in the library. “To look up books, people needed to use the card catalog, a huge boxy wooden filing cabinet with long drawers that held little paper cards with information about, and the location of, each book in the library. Borrowers signed check-out cards to borrow books. It was all a labor-intensive, time-consuming process!”

To anyone who knows Heidi, her commitment to her work is no surprise! As a child, she found “joy, comfort, and inspiration from reading books. So I was naturally drawn to volunteering in the library for my predecessor, Mrs. Patsy Johnson when my own sons were students at Grand View.”

Heidi says that she began to apprentice with Johnson over the course of a school year to be ready to apply for the position when she retired. After nearly 25 years as a Gator, Heidi shares working for MBUSD has been a dream come true.

“The PTA provides a generous materials and operations budget, dedicated parent volunteers provide strong support, the teachers and staff are consummate professionals, and it is my pleasure and privilege to be a part of the lives of so many children.”

She says some of the highlights of her job are being able to match a book to a range of readers and reading aloud during presentations. Students always appreciate Heidi’s range of character voices! Also, it’s always special for her to see former students become educators and return to work at the school they once attended or serve MBUSD in other capacities. 

“They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, and that is so true for me. Every part of the school library job is so enjoyable, whether I am selecting books for purchase consideration, updating the Grand View library website, cataloging, processing, decorating, or organizing. I am deeply grateful to MBEF for funding the Library Resource Specialist positions and making this all possible.”

Heidi says in a week, twenty-two classes visit for presentations crafted to instill a love of reading, to enhance classroom lessons, and to inspire lifelong learning. Visits include checking out materials, practicing information literacy, and exercising digital citizenship. 

In addition to working for MBUSD, Heidi works after school and on Saturdays for the City of Redondo Beach as a public library circulation clerk. When she isn’t working, she enjoys being with family and friends, reading, gardening, completing crossword puzzles in ink with the self-imposed goal of no scratch-outs, and visiting her grandchildren!


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

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Provides Training for MBUSD Leadership

This week, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) staff visited the MBUSD District office to host a training for MBUSD leadership staff on “Unlearning Antisemitism - Understanding Antisemitism and How to Respond.” The training started with ADL’s mission and all of the work they do through their anti-bias framework. 

Staff learned more about Jewish identity, the different definitions of antisemitism, the reasoning behind the increase in antisemitism, and the under-reporting of hate crimes and incidents. 

We are grateful to the ADL for sharing resources and materials for our leaders and classrooms. ADL representatives shared the significance of biased attitudes and actions and how, as a community, we must combat the normalization of biases. The ADL has been tracking antisemitism since 1979. LA vs. Hate funded the training, and we appreciate the ADL for their training and partnership.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Key Card System Installation

As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure campus safety, the District is working to install a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) key card system at each elementary school’s Extended Day Program (EDP) gates. This will allow secure access for EDP families and alleviate the need to leave gates unlocked and open during EDP drop-off. 

The system is already in place at Pennekamp Elementary, in the implementation process at Grand View Elementary, and in the installation process at all other elementary sites. The system setup will be tailored to each school’s practices and campus geography. As each site is set up, site EDP staff will reach out to EDP families to inform them of any updates to the site’s procedures.

We appreciate EDP families’ support during this transition and anticipate completing the installation by December 18, with full implementation by January 8.

Run, Hide, Fight Training 

This week MBUSD District office staff received Run, Hide, Fight training by Student Services Director Kerry Riccio Aguero and Manhattan Beach Police Department School Resource Officer Michael Hamilton. The in-depth training focused on active assailant response with Run, Hide, Fight. Training had staff think about an action plan, learn how to assess circumstances, and emphasized the importance of practicing response to an active shooter situation, and they were informed of exits if such an emergency did occur.  

The Run, Hide, Fight response is a nationally recognized model for responding to intruders in a school setting. The strategy increases people’s chances of survival and prepares individuals to put them into practice if an emergency occurs. We want to ensure that staff know when it’s safe to Run, Hide, Fight in any school setting. This includes when to evacuate students, how to lock down classrooms, barricade them, and how to disarm an intruder.

Annually, MBUSD reviews safety procedures, protocols, drills, and security measures. You can visit our safety page here

We Want to Hear From You! Provide Input on Expanding VAPA Opportunities! 

We offer strong and nationally recognized Visual and Performing Arts education at MBUSD. In 2022, California voters approved Proposition 28: The Arts and Music in Schools Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act. Prop 28 funds are intended to add to and strengthen our current VAPA programs. Each school will develop a site plan for this purpose, and MBUSD has established a Prop 28 VAPA Committee to support the process.

We invite input from our families on how we can broaden VAPA opportunities for students. Your feedback is essential and will be shared with our Prop 28 VAPA Committee for consideration as we create plans for investing Prop 28 funds for our VAPA programs. Click here to take the survey!

Please respond to this survey by Friday, December 15. If you have any questions, please contact Visual and Performing Arts Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Scott Hughes at [email protected]

Attendance Matters!

The holidays are upon us, and we want to remind families that it is important that your student(s) attend school daily so there isn’t a gap in their education and they can participate in opportunities happening on campus. We know families enjoy traveling during the holiday break, and it’s an exciting time of the year! Please be mindful of when you are taking your student(s) out of school and ensure they are here before and after winter break. As a reminder, our schools will be closed from December 25 - January 5.

Research shows that parent involvement has a positive impact on school attendance. We want to encourage our students to strive for regular attendance throughout the school year. We are committed to providing a supportive and engaging learning environment that inspires every student to attend school regularly.

MBUSD Officially No Longer Sells Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles 

We are proud to share that as of November 28, MBUSD is no longer selling single-use plastic water bottles District-wide. The Food and Nutrition Services Department has replaced plastic water bottles with cardboard and aluminum bottle alternatives. 

In 2019, MBUSD switched to wooden utensils and removed small plastic water bottles from all elementary schools. At the same time, the option of purchasing water in aluminum water bottles was added to MBMS and Mira Costa to reduce the sale of plastic bottles. Post-pandemic, due to costs, both of these endeavors had to be put on hold. 

We are grateful to MBUSD Director of Food and Nutrition, Léna Agee, for bringing back these initiatives and moving forward with the work and vision of having no plastic bottles or plastic utensils on our campuses. As a National Green Ribbon District, our Green Committee regularly collaborates with MBUSD and City staff to discuss ways our campuses and community can continue to reduce our carbon footprint and educate the community about being environmentally friendly.

700 MBMS Students Celebrated

We want to congratulate MBMS Honor Roll students for their academic achievements in the first trimester! Students who earned a grade point average of 3.5 or higher in the first trimester received honor roll certificates as friends and families joined in on the celebration this week!

Students are honored twice a year for the honor roll. Thank you to all of the volunteers who made this possible and to the MBMS PTA for also sponsoring the certificates and cookies.

Mira Costa’s Robotics Team Heading to State Championships

We congratulate the Mustang Mechanics for earning the finalist title in the Mt. SAC regional competition at Mt. San Antonio College. This qualified them to move on to the State Championships. 

Mustang Mechanics is Mira Costa’s official robotics team and is student-run. This year alone, they have won multiple sportsmanship, design, excellence, and building awards. The team boasts thirty students.

Costa Marching Band and Color Guard Visit MBMS

There was excitement in the air as Mira Costa’s GRAMMY® award-winning marching band and color guard visited MBMS yesterday as part of their inaugural middle school tour. They performed their fall show and gave students a glimpse of the remarkable program and future opportunities awaiting them in high school.

Hermosa Valley School was treated to a musical visit as well. For more pictures, visit our Instagram.

Mira Costa Students Engage in Poetry Readings with Older Adults 

MCHS students (grades 9-12) from Shannon Vaughan’s English classes enjoyed an evening of reading poems to a large audience in the courtyard of Pages: A Bookstore in Downtown Manhattan Beach. They were joined by older adults from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Older Adults program. Many of the poems shared were written by the readers and shared their life experiences.

The Older Adults Program has participated in events with the Creative Class twice this year, including their performance at the Joslyn Center during the Hometown Fair in October. Future intergenerational events in the pipeline include "Coffee and Tech" and plans to collaboratively publish a poetry book with student and older adults' work. 

MCHS English Teacher Shannon Vaughan, who leads the intergenerational work in partnership with the City’s program, says the literary magazine at Costa, Papercut, has invited The Poetry Circle to submit poetry to its compilation and have a special intergenerational section. Thank you to Shannon Vaughan for providing this opportunity to our students and continuing this excellent, creative relationship with the City of MB.  

Mira Costa Model United Nations Hosts 29th Annual Los Angeles Invitational Model United Nations (LAIMUN) Conference 

Schools across Southern California visited Mira Costa for the two-day (December 2 and 3) LAIMUN conference that brings hundreds of delegates together. They debate various topics and problems that the world faces today. 

The conference was very successful, and Costa students in the Mira Costa Model UN program look forward to next year’s conference!

Tickets Now on Sale for MBMS Drama Play Back to the Top

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!

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 15. 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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