Visit Our Website

Superintendent's Newsletter

February 2, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Meadows, state testing information, and we are looking for families to share their cultural heritage at our annual International Day.

Spotlight on Meadows (Special Thanks to Ms. Munson, Mrs. Sokol, Mrs. Walsh, and Principal Michelle Krzmarzick)

Students at Meadows Elementary School have been busy solidifying their learning and deepening their understanding of content. For example, students in Ms. Munson’s first-grade classroom are learning about 2D and 3D shapes and studying parts of a non-fiction book, including glossaries, table of contents, indexes, and more. Mrs. Walsh’s first-grade classroom students are piloting a phonics program called Fundations. They are working on tapping out words, making words, and marking up blends, digraph blends, and bonus letters.

In the meantime, Mrs. Sokol’s third-grade students are delving deeply into expository text and informational essays in reading and writing workshops. They are currently working on their three subtopic paragraphs about a self-selected topic. Mrs. Sokol double-checks their "boxes and bullets" graphic organizers before they embark on drafting their paragraphs. 

Students are reminded that all good writers include a topic sentence, many details, sentences of at least eight words (complex sentences are even better), transition words and phrases, and an ending sentence. Fourth and fifth-grade students are beginning to write argumentative pieces that have positions strengthened by facts and strong reasoning.

Staff Spotlight: Theresa Brunello | Speech and Language Pathologist

This week, we are highlighting Elementary Speech and Language Pathologist Theresa Brunello. Serving her seventh year at MBUSD, she began her journey as a Speech and Language Pathologist in 2017, and her first year in the District served as her Clinical Fellowship Year.

As she reflects on her early experiences in the District, Theresa says, “I was truly fortunate to benefit from the guidance of MBUSD's exceptional group of Speech and Language Pathologists. Their generosity, time, and patience are something for which I am eternally grateful. The strong support extended to clinical fellows entering the field made saying 'yes' to MBUSD an easy decision,” said Theresa Brunello.

She was introduced to the field of speech therapy during her undergraduate studies and says it captured her attention, and she redirected her major within months! Today, the most rewarding aspect of her job is the relationships formed with students and their families.

“Some of these connections span years, allowing us to witness the growth of students who enter as young as four years old and progress to walking at their fifth-grade promotions (this year, my 2017 Transitional Kindergarten students are officially 5th graders!).”

A typical day for Theresa involves working with students, conducting assessments, participating in progress review meetings, and collaborating with MBUSD’s special education team. She feels incredibly grateful to work alongside these staff members.

In her free time, you can find her practicing yoga, meditation, breathwork, and enjoying the beaches in the South Bay. “Traveling abroad is one of my greatest passions, and I feel fortunate to have experienced the beauty of so many cultures around the world.”

CA Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Tests: What They are, and Why They are Important

Every spring in California, all public schools administer tests through the CA Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which includes tests in English and Math in grades 3-8 and 11 and a science test in grades 5, 8, and 11.

While it is true that these tests are required, they also present an opportunity for students to show how much they have learned by giving their full effort. The assessments provide information that can be used to determine how well students are achieving on state standards. These test scores are a big factor in calculating our placement in both state and national ranking systems, and they help us identify strengths and areas for growth in our educational programs.  

Stay tuned each week for a short article on this topic where we dive deeper into different aspects of the value and strategies for doing well on these tests. Next week, we’ll explain how a high score for current 11th-graders can exempt them from needing to take lower-level courses in college, which is an amazing opportunity.  

Budget Corner

On January 10, 2024, Governor Newsom released his January Budget Proposal, kicking off the state’s six-month budget development process. While there is a long way to go before we have an approved state budget for the 2024-25 school year, MBUSD will need to develop its own 2024-25 budget before the state concludes its process. Unfortunately, based on the information that is currently available, the District’s budget prospects are challenging:

  • Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) projections have dropped from 3.94% for 2024-25 and 3.29% for 2025-26 to 0.24% and 0.56%, respectively

  • A short-term State of California funding mechanism that has buffered MBUSD from revenue losses associated with pandemic-related enrollment and attendance declines will end in June 2024; combined with the decreased COLA projections, this means that Local Control Funding Formula revenue will drop from $67,170,719 in 2023-24 to $65,724,278 in 2024-25 (a drop by $1,445,441)

  • The Measure MB Parcel Tax expires at the end of 2023-24, and these funds are not allowed to be included in the District’s revenue projections for future years unless voters approve the renewal measure on the March 5, 2024 ballot (a drop in revenue of $2,436,330)

  • Many one-time state and federal revenue sources implemented as emergency/recovery funding post-COVID are ending in 2023-24

As a result of these and other factors, the District will need to make budgetary reductions by nearly $11.3 million over the next two years.$11.3 million is the equivalent of approximately 63 staffing positions. If Manhattan Beach voters approve the parcel tax, the amount of reductions needed will drop to approximately $6.3 million, but reductions will still be needed. 

In addition, the District must also eliminate more than ten staffing positions over the next two years due to the expiration of one-time funds provided during and in the wake of the pandemic. Together, these reductions will be significant and impactful to class sizes and to the programs that can be offered at school sites in the coming years. 

In order to ensure our budget is balanced, we will need to engage in a Reduction in Force (RIF), otherwise known as a layoff. While preliminary layoff decisions need to be made by the end of February, the District will continue to monitor developments at the state level, as well as the outcomes of the Measure MB Parcel Tax election and the MBEF Annual Appeal Campaign. MBUSD budgetary constraints are not new to our District because of the state funding structure, and these sources of local funding have become critical to our overall budget. The combined impact of all of these factors will be considered as the District develops budget and programmatic plans for 2024-25 and beyond.

In the Classroom: Robinson 3rd Graders Write Endangered Animal Reports

3rd graders in Diedra Hooper and Heather Whalley’s class were busy this week using their Chromebooks and graphic organizers to research endangered animals to produce a report. Ms. Hooper shared that students first selected a specific endangered animal and used books from their school library to research it. They utilized approved research sites to learn and understand their chosen animal and the factors contributing to its being endangered. 

As they collected information and answered questions, they also learned how to record them in an organized manner. The project serves a dual purpose, aligning with informational and opinion writing standards. It also meets the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which states that students are expected to develop an understanding of the similarities and differences of organisms’ life cycles. Some of the expectations of NGSS are that it also includes students being able to construct an explanation using evidence for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing. 

Once students complete their report, they will write an opinion piece to persuade their audience why their chosen animal should be protected and what can be done to help. 

As they collected information and answered questions, they also learned how to record them in an organized manner. The project serves a dual purpose, aligning with informational and opinion writing standards. It also meets the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which states that students are expected to develop an understanding of the similarities and differences of organisms’ life cycles. Some of the expectations of NGSS are that it also includes students being able to construct an explanation using evidence for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing. 

Once students complete their report, they will write an opinion piece to persuade their audience why their chosen animal should be protected and what can be done to help. 

Parent Talk Shares Pathways and Benefits of MBUSD Music Programs

Robinson Elementary hosted the first special “Parent Talk” session focused on the music opportunities students are offered in MBUSD. MBMS Director of Instrumental Music Denise Haslop, who is in her 25th year teaching there, talked about the various pathways available to students starting in elementary through their time at the District. Mrs. Haslop highlighted the new state-of-the-art music building at MBMS and shared with parents that students can begin their journey in music at any proficiency level. 

Joining the conversation was also MBUSD’s Visual and Performing Arts TOSA Scott Hughes. Together, they discussed the benefits of music and how it cultivates good habits. Parents also learned how the music programs are disciplinary and integrated with California’s Arts Standards. Attendees gained insights into the experiences of current music parents who shared their perspectives.

On February 13, the MBMS Band and Orchestra will perform at every elementary school, which is an annual event. The elementary school performance tour for the choir will take place on February 29. 

MBMS will have a Music Open House on March 2 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Please visit our website here to learn about the diverse music pathways we offer from elementary to high school! 

MBMS VEX Robotics Team Competes in First Tournament of the Year

MBMS’ VEX Robotics Team, the RoboWaves, competed on January 27 in the VEX Robotics Tournament in Tustin. The challenge was “Over Under,” and students competed in five matches, including a skills challenge where the team scored 162 points, securing a 12th place overall ranking out of thirty-six teams. 

The RoboWaves are also making a splash on the national level, with a ranking of 67 in Southern California and a ranking of 620 among 2,535 teams worldwide. The judging process involved team interviews and the submission of the team’s engineering notebooks. 

Thank you to the VEX Robotics team coach, Lauren Richards, and team mentors Ty Lockwood and Andrew Fan. The support from MBEF-funded Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Chuen-Wei Ng and MBMS Principal Jennifer Huynh also played an important role in the team’s success! A special thanks to all of the parents who volunteered for this endeavor. 

MBEF Hosts Engaging College Event for Costa Community

This week, students and families were invited to attend a special event hosted by MBEF. It featured Compass Founder Adam Ingersoll, who provided information on navigating college admission tests. A leader expert in this field, he discussed the ins and outs of current college admission tests, policies, and the new era of digital exams. Some highlights were debunking the most prevalent myths about testing and the best way to approach the SAT vs. ACT decision. 

Adam is now in his third decade guiding families to successful experiences with standardized testing and has been sharing his expertise with Mira Costa families for many years. He provided attendees with tools to make informed decisions.

We are grateful for MBEF and the valuable opportunities it provides, contributing to the support of our families and students on their educational journey!

MBEF’s Annual Appeal ended this week, but you still have time to donate or pledge to support excellence in education. Click here for more information.

MBEF Grant Brings Renowned Author Susan Verde to MBUSD

MBUSD is collaborating with MBEF for an exciting event coming to our community! New York Times Best Selling Author Susan Verde will be visiting Manhattan Beach on Wednesday, February 28. She will spend the day at all five MBUSD elementary schools to kick off our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Week with Transitional Kindergarten through second graders. She will share her newest book, Who I Am: Words I Tell Myself. This will inspire students’ importance of positive affirmations and celebrating self-love. 

Susan is a children’s author, and her books have landed her in the international spotlight for using literature to help everyone cultivate empathy and kindness. In addition to the school visits, MBEF will host a community event at 5:30 p.m. at Mira Costa High School. It is free and open to all families and community members, including students. Susan’s presentation will be for all ages.

To secure your spot, please RSVP to attend by clicking the button below. We are grateful to MBEF’s Educator Grant Program and our MBUSD Library Resource Specialists for making this possible. You can find the event flyer here. Pages: a bookstore will be present with signed copies of Susan's most recent book, Who I Am, as well as many of her other titles available for purchase.


Inspirational Speaker Preston Pollard Visits Pacific Elementary

Preston Pollard, a youth motivational speaker, presented at Pacific this week. He shared his journey from professional skateboarder to becoming a mentor for youth. Preston talked about how he turned his dreams into a reality, emphasized the importance of persistence in achieving goals, and encouraged students to embrace being lifelong learners.

He started the event by leading them in positive affirmations. He inspired students to hold onto their dreams and work towards fulfilling them.

Throughout the assembly, Preston focused on the value of resilience, prompting students to reflect on their gifts, and redirecting their challenges into positivity. Preston also talked about inclusivity, motivating Panthers to meet and talk to someone who may not be like themselves. 

Preston travels around the world to inspire audiences of all ages, guiding people to reach their full potential. The event was funded by the Pacific PTA!

7th Annual MBUSD International Day is Coming Up! 

The International Day Committee is calling on families to be part of the 7th Annual MBUSD International Day that celebrates our families’ diverse cultural heritage! Attendees embark on a global journey by visiting the booths showcasing traditions, flavors, games, clothing, and much more!

Our families and students are the highlight of the event, and it’s a great time to connect with the MBUSD community. Throughout the event, there will also be music and dance performances. If you would like to participate, fill out this interest form.

Last year, we had 25 countries represented. For all International Day information, visit here. Thank you to MBEF for sponsoring this event!

Application NOW Open for Mira Costa Alumni Hall of Fame!

If you know of a Mira Costa graduate who is making a difference in the world, now is the opportunity to celebrate and honor them through the Mira Costa Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame program. Nominations are being accepted through March 10, and you can find the nomination form here. There are also hard copies available at the Mira Costa office. 

Once the alumni are chosen, they will be honored during a special school-wide induction ceremony with the MCHS student body.

The inaugural program took place in 2012, and sixty-five graduates have been inducted. There was a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. This will mark the 10th Annual Mira Costa Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame program.

MBUSD Partnership for Mental Health Resources

At MBUSD, we are committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, students, and families. We want to remind everyone that there are many services available through our community partners that support this effort. 

You can access mental health services through Beach Cities Health District’s Community Services Department at 310-374-3426 x256. You can visit their resources page here.

Visit our Health and Wellness Page

Join the MBUSD Team! 

We are hiring classified and certificated staff. We’re looking for individuals passionate about 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!

Highlighted Job Openings for the Week are: 

Director of Fiscal Services


Campus Security

ASL Interpreter

For all other job opportunities, please visit here.

Upcoming Events!

Mira Costa Choirs Parent Party | February 7

RSVP Here!

Black History Month Celebration at Grand View | February 7

All District Performances

All District Orchestra Festival

Thursday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m.

MCHS Auditorium | Free Event

All District Band Performance

Thursday, February 15 at 6:30 p.m.

MCHS Auditorium | Free Event

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! 

Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  

The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on February 9.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Contact Us
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram