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Superintendent's Newsletter

February 17, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

Today’s issue highlights Pennekamp Elementary, MBUSD principals receiving California Distinguished School Awards from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and the MBUSD Board of Trustees welcoming their newest member!

Spotlight on Pennekamp (Special thanks to 2nd Grade Teachers and Principal Sharon Witzansky)

The Pennekamp 2nd grade teachers provided a fun and creative opportunity for students to practice money skills called “Student Mall.” Throughout the course of the school year on three separate occasions, students take on two different roles at the mall: producers and consumers. Students who are producers advertise their products/services and sell them at the mall. The consumers are the individuals who buy/get to shop at the mall. The hands-on educational experience assists with building important skills such as responsibility, financial literacy, and mathematics. 

Check out some of the clever products and services below!

Staff Spotlight: Eric Rodas

This week we are featuring Mira Costa High school security team member Eric Rodas! Eric began his career at MBUSD during the 1994-95 school year as a freshman basketball coach and served for 17 years at various levels of the program. 

In 1996, he became part of the Mira Costa security team as a campus security assistant and currently serves in this position. Eric says his favorite part about the different positions he has served over the years is being able to see students grow into young adults during the 4-years they are at Mira Costa. “I believe that I may have had some kind of positive influence in their lives. I also consider myself very fortunate to have kept some of those connections throughout the years after graduation,” says Eric.

He works hard to keep our campus safe throughout the day and is always a friendly member of the Costa team that greets everyone who comes through the main entrance. You can often see Eric speaking to students and building relationships with the Mustang community. 

He says he is grateful to be part of the great MBUSD community that is invested in the District. 

When we asked Eric what his biggest achievement is, he says it’s the impact he has made on the students at Mira Costa. “I believe it is the vast network of former students that I have had the pleasure of keeping in contact with over the years. I have been honored to be invited to college graduations, engagement parties, weddings, and other milestones.”

Thank you for all that you do! You are a shining example of professionalism and dedication.

New Director of Early Learning Begins

We want to give a warm welcome to our new Director of Early Learning, Ms. Shannon Huston. She started officially at MBUSD on Monday, February 13. Ms. Huston joins us from Long Beach Unified where she was the Early Learning Center Manager for the Head Start Program and managed three preschool centers. 

A veteran educator of more than 21 years, Ms. Huston has an extensive background in Early Childhood Education and is passionate about and understands the importance of early learning. She will oversee all of the District’s early learning programs including the Manhattan Beach Preschool operations, Transitional Kindergarten (TK), and our Extended Day Program (EDP). 

Ms. Huston says she is excited to be part of MBUSD. She is looking forward to building and fostering relationships with our students, families, and community.

We are lucky to have her join our vibrant community!

Newly Appointed MBUSD Trustee

We are pleased to announce that the MBUSD Board of Trustees welcomed its newest Trustee at the Special Board meeting Wednesday afternoon. After interviewing six candidates publicly, Trustee Bruce Greenberg was appointed to the seat that was vacated when Jason Boxer resigned in January. I was honored to administer the Oath of Office to Mr. Greenberg, after which he began serving his term immediately. 

“I am humbled and very honored to be appointed as an MBUSD Trustee. I look forward to serving our students, families, and community. MBUSD is a great District and has been a place where my children have achieved academic success and personal growth,” said Trustee Greenberg. 

“Although I believe that I bring a unique background and perspective to the Board, I plan to work collaboratively with my fellow Board colleagues to focus on what is best for our students, the District, and the community. I am passionate about our schools and I am honored to be a voice for the community.”

Mr. Greenberg is currently a proud Mira Costa parent and already has a child who has graduated from our schools. He is a former e-business executive who now advises start-up early-stage technology companies. Over the years, he has been very involved on our campuses. He volunteered to coach and lead the Math Olympiad program at Grand View, which evolved into a larger program that offered our students competitive weekly after-school math opportunities. Mr. Greenberg also mentored a parent to assist with launching the same program at Pennekamp Elementary and he was a co-founder of the annual MBUSD Elementary Math Contest. 

Mr. Greenberg has served as MBUSD’s representative on the City of Manhattan Beach Parks & Recreation Commission since 2017. 

“Among the strong pool of six candidates, Mr. Greenberg’s interview was impressive. He demonstrated his deep commitment to the District and conveyed why his skills and experience uniquely qualified him to hit the ground running on the issues facing the Board. I am confident that the community will find Mr. Greenberg to be an effective and knowledgeable leader and that he will make an excellent addition to our Board,” said Board President Cathey Graves. 

The next meeting of our Board of Trustees is March 1, 2023, at 5:00 p.m.

MCHS Cheer Team 2nd in the Nation

Also during Wednesday’s Board meeting, we honored the Mira Costa Cheer Team! They brought their trophy, medals, and award to share with everyone. The team recently returned from Walt Disney World Resort in Florida where they competed on a national level at the 44th UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship winning 2nd place in the Division 1 Large Varsity Division and 10th place in the Division 1 Super Varsity Game Day Division. We are so proud! 

It was the cheer team’s 6th year performing at the event. Coach Travis Neese talked about the recent competition and said the students put endless hours into the sport. Senior Captain Margaux Greely says the team has shown tremendous growth over the years. The team says it has been an uplifting and positive experience earning the CIF state champion title and now winning in the top ranks in Florida. Board President Cathey Graves awarded the team for their hard work with a certificate of recognition. 

At the recent competition, Mira Costa was ranked the highest out of the 47 California schools that performed at the event. Overall, more than 1,200 teams participated. 

Read more here

Congressman Ted Lieu Presents $1M Grant at Mira Costa 

Excitement was in the air this week as our students and administrators welcomed Congressman Ted W. Lieu and other dignitaries to Mira Costa’s Friendship Club. 

U.S Representative Lieu presented a $1 million Congressional Community Project Funding Grant to expand the Friendship Club program that will meet the needs and demands for more Friendship Clubs within schools in CA-District 36. The honor brought together students from all backgrounds including special needs students who are the heart of the club. The club, since its inception, has been a place where special needs students can develop relationships with their general education peers. The Friendship Club has been a safe space for activities and socializing for students from all walks of life.

Mira Costa is home to the first Friendship Club in the South Bay which sparked the creation of the Friendship Foundation 16 years ago. To mark the large donation, the Friendship Foundation wanted to have the check presentation on our campus where it all started.

The Friendship Club was created by our very own students, and it was the first of its kind to focus on the social aspect of inclusion within schools. Alumni Xan Saks, who was the Friendship Club’s first president, was in attendance at the event. 

Thank you to our community partner the Friendship Foundation and to U.S. Representative Ted Lieu for making this event possible. 

Axel Koester Photography

MBUSD Elementary Schools Honored by CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond

We joined the celebration of more than 350 elementary schools that were celebrated by the California Department of Education for being named the 2023 California Distinguished Schools on Thursday, February 16 at the Disneyland Hotel! We are proud of Meadows, Pacific, and Pennekamp elementary schools for receiving this coveted title which is one of California's most prestigious educational honors. The California Distinguished Schools program honors some of the state's most exemplary and inspiring public schools and celebrates districts, teachers, and classified employees for their innovation, talent, and success in supporting students.

Principals Michelle Krzmarzick, Rhonda Steinberg, and Sharon Witzansky accepted the award from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Board President Cathey Graves, Trustee Wysh Weinstein, myself, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo, and our Public Information Officer Hibah Samad joined our administrators for a lovely evening.

Only 6% of California’s elementary schools received the honor this year. Congratulations! Thank you to all of our staff, students, and families for their dedication. The CDE selects schools using multiple measures to identify eligible schools based on their performance on the state indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard.

This marks another year where our schools have been among the best. All MBUSD elementary schools have been recognized over time with this title at least once. 

11 Eleven Mira Costa Students Selected as National Merit Scholarship Finalists 

Congratulations to our eleven Mira Costa students who have been named 2023 National Merit Scholarship finalists! In September 2022 these students were selected as semi-finalists for the 68th Annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Way to go!

The following students will now be considered for National Merit Scholarship Awards to be offered in 2023:

Benjamin Blum

Andrew Cherry

Karyn Fu

Kyle Fukumoto

Tucker Gauss

Ethan Harrison

Alexander Holcomb

Heather Jensen

Cindy Lin

Dashiell Rumble

Jacob Tan

The selection of nearly 7,250 Merit Scholarship winners from the group of more than 15,000 finalists is underway! The nationwide pool of finalists represents less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors. We are proud of you and good luck to our students!

District Hosts First MBUSD Invention Convention

We want to congratulate all of our District Invention Convention winners! This week the first MBUSD Invention Convention took place at MBMS welcoming students and families to explore unique inventions. Our inventors showcased each of their projects and answered questions from attendees. The convention gave students recognition for creating inventions to solve real-world problems. Each student solved, created, and iterated their projects.

The winners that will now move on to regionals are: 

Elementary School Finalists:

Rose Waldman | “The Lunch Run”

Sammy Gupta | “The Silent Smart Hearing”

Hazel Blockley and Maddie Cunningham | “The Dog Entertainer”

Shawn Desai, Hudson Kim, Talin Thadhani, Cannon Cravatt | “Investing Empire” game

Middle School Finalists: 

6th grade | Chase Mader “The Clip-On Wheels2”

7th grade | Isabella Amy “The Cone Saver”

8th grade

1. Archer Johnson, Pierce O'Brien, Dylan Grieser | “Buckle Cover”

2. Emily Nimitsilpa, Pamelyn Wang, Juliette Im | “Heat Grippers”

3. Maddie Shaheen | “Series Box”

4. Charlotte Fan and Wyatt Newbill | “Terreus”

5. Isabella Jacobson | “E-Z Remote”

6. Ben Tallman and Christian Greenwade | “The Can Crusher”

We are grateful to our STEM Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Tanya Sanchez and Science Lab Specialist Connie Lieu for bringing to life such an exciting event. Our STEM TOSA is one of the staff positions supported by your donations to MBEF. 

Vex Robotics Compete

The MBMS Robotics Club RoboWaves team competed in seven matches last weekend at the VEX Robotics competition in Orange County. Each match had the same objective of using their robot to successfully play in a frisbee gold type of game. They also received points for throwing a string across the field called “expansion.” Students say during the experience they faced many challenges they had to solve such as fixing the “expansion.”

In three of the matches, the team took the top scores. MBMS students say the competition has taught them to work together as a team to solve unexpected problems in real time, learn how to be interviewed by judges, and have good etiquette when responding to questions. 

The Robowaves used engineering, producing, and problem-solving skills to win! The Mira Costa VEX Robotics team also competed.

All-District Band Festival Takes Place

It was a magical evening at the Mira Costa Auditorium last night as the bands from all grade levels moved the crowd with their performances. The 5th grade Combined Band, Elementary Schools Honor Band, Manhattan Beach Middle School Cadet Band, Mira Costa’s Symphonic Band, MBMS Concert Band, Mira Costa High School Wind Ensemble, MBMS Symphonic Band, Mira Costa’s School Wind Symphony, and Mira Costa’s Jazz Band 1 all put on an amazing performance! More than 400 students showcased their skills. Elementary students were led by Elementary Band Director Tim Nail, MBMS students were directed by MBMS Band and Orchestra Instructor Denise Haslop, and Costa students took direction from MCHS Bands Director, Joel Carlson.

The event ended in a culminating combined band performance of the song Valiance. This is an annual tradition where students play in various spaces of the auditorium. 

Ex-Neo-Nazi Visits MBMS and Mira Costa 

Frank Meeink, formerly known as one of the most sought-after skinhead leaders, came to speak to 8th graders at MBMS and also visited Mira Costa High School’s Jewish Cultural Club this week. 

At age 18, he was a well-known Neo-Nazi leader and recruiter. Meeink talked about his life experiences as a white supremacist that led him to be violent and racist. Meeink shared with students his changed perspective of life when he was in prison and how he changed through encounters that led him to become an advocate for diversity and inclusivity. Meeink’s powerful testimony illustrated that students can always treat others with respect. He brought real-life experiences students may face and how to overcome them. 

Frank Meeink is the author of Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead.

Ethnic Studies Committee Site Launches

California Assembly Bill 101 mandates that all high schools offer an Ethnic Studies course by the 2025-26 school year. The Manhattan Beach Unified School District School Board approved the Equity, Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion (EDSJI) Action Plan on April 20, 2022, which included a commitment to offering this course by 2024-25.

MBUSD has established an Ethnic Studies Committee to review and follow the Los Angeles County Office of Education Toolkit in the creation and adoption of this program. We accepted applications from staff, parents, and students to select Ethnic Studies Committee members. 

Check out our Ethnic Studies Committee page

Black History Month Celebration at Mira Costa 

I attended Mira Costa’s 10th Annual Black History Month celebration and the theme was a "celebration through the decades.” The event highlighted African Americans from the 60s through the 2020s. Students and staff filled Mustang Mall will live music, poetry, fashion, poster boards depicting important historical events and figures.

The door decorating contest is also underway and we can’t wait to see who the winners will be. Thank you to everyone who participated and put this together to showcase diversity across Mira Costa’s campus.

Makerspace Feature: Meadows

This week we are showcasing the amazing work in Crista Riccio’s Makerspace class. The focus of the lesson featured the arts, the science of visual perception, and technology. 

Students sketched a perspective drawing using a horizon line and a vanishing point. The Infinity Mirror challenge appears to have depth through this technique. 

The project is inspired by the Infinity Room at the Broad Museum by artist Yayoi Kusama in downtown Los Angeles, creating the illusion of infinite space using mirrors and LEDs. 

Complimentary Tickets to the 2023 LA Sevens Rugby Tournament

We are excited to announce that MBUSD is partnering with LA Sevens Rugby to offer all staff and students two free tickets for the 2023 LA Sevens Rugby Tournament and Championship at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The tournament takes places on Saturday, February 25th or Sunday, February 26th. The official amateur rugby tournament has teams participating from across the nation and the world to play rugby and compete in the World Series event. 

If you are a student/staff member at MBUSD, you are eligible to receive two free tickets per MBUSD email. The promo code can only be used once to redeem two complimentary tickets. In order to take advantage of this offer, students must use their account and staff members must use their email. 

To select tickets, visit here and use the promo code “MBUSD” to redeem the tickets with a $5.44 processing fee per ticket.

There is also the opportunity to upgrade or add-on tickets at a discounted cost. We hope you take advantage of this opportunity! 

Upcoming Events!

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, March 3. Have a great Ski Week!


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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