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Superintendent's Newsletter

January 12, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Happy New Year! 

Today’s issue highlights Mira Costa, Robinson students sharing their “I Have a Dream” message to create an art installation in the downtown Metlox ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and for another year, a Mira Costa student is named Gatorade California Player of the Year.

Spotlight on Mira Costa (Special Thanks to Mira Costa's College and Career Center Staff and the Administration Team)

This week, Mira Costa’s College and Career Center (CCC) is kicking off its Scholarship Program and hosting the first of ten informational meetings with seniors. Year to year, the CCC manages over thirty community organizations that graciously donate more than $230,000 specifically for Mira Costa High School seniors. Without their support, the Scholarship Program would not be possible. 

The Scholarship Program has a personal student profile component that members of community scholarship committees read. Each scholarship committee creates criteria for selection and carefully screens the applicants to find the appropriate candidates for their scholarships. The scholarship donors are looking for graduating seniors who may meet any of the following criteria: financial need, plan to attend a two or four-year school or trade school, have completed numerous volunteer hours, plan to study a particular major (i.e., Art, Dance, Business, Education, Language), deserve a merit award for excellent grades, and/or meet any number of additional criteria.

The College and Career Counselors are also gearing up to meet with all 10th-grade students through their English classes. During these meetings, CCC counselors will introduce Naviance, the web-based college and career counseling resource; identify personal strengths and explore careers that match their interests; and take a look at extracurricular activities that match student interests.

Staff Spotlight: Shannon Vaughan | Mira Costa English Teacher

This week, we are spotlighting Mira Costa English teacher Shannon Vaughan, a dedicated educator celebrating her remarkable 35th year at the school. She currently teaches Creative Writing, Thanatology, and English 9. Her expansive tenure at Mira Costa includes Spanish, AVID, Student Academic Support (SAS), ASB/Activities Director, and English teacher roles. Her passion and commitment to students extend beyond the classroom; she coached cheer for nine years and the dance team for 20 years. She has been the advisor for Papercut, the literary magazine of Mira Costa, for 27 years. 

Ms. Vaughan pursued a career at MBUSD while working on her masters degree at USC. Shannon says her favorite part of her job lies in the students who never cease to amaze her. “My compass has always pointed straight to the classroom, and I have never contemplated another profession. My mom, who was also a teacher, was my inspiration and why I pursued a career in education.”

She loves teaching English because she enjoys learning about a time, place, and people with her students. She hopes her passion for literature is contagious to them, serving as a guide to fostering a love for reading and writing. “I love it when we illuminate a text through personal experiences. It is rewarding to learn these life lessons through literature, and the students learn to nurture their voice in the world. In the end, teaching has also allowed me to be a lifelong learner.”

Shannon has been the link between Mira Costa students and older adults in the Manhattan Beach community for fifteen years. The Manhattan Beach Poetry Circle, part of the City of Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Department’s Older Adults Program, joins Shannon’s Creative Writing class annually and shares the poetry experience. Throughout the year, Poetry Circle members visit Mira Costa, work with students on writing poetry, and give each other feedback. 

This unique partnership involves joint public readings around town, the creation of poetry books featuring student and older adult work, and participation in programs like Coffee and Tech for seniors.

“It is important that the different generations learn from each other and form new friendships, and these meetings give everyone a sense of purpose while sharing their experiences and skills.”

MBUSD Green Initiatives Update

At this week’s MBUSD Board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard provided an update on MBUSD’s Green Initiatives. Our District has a long history of environmental awareness, with initiatives dating back to the early 2000’s. By 2012, when the U.S. Department of Education established its Green Ribbon Schools program, many practices were well-established, and Grand View Elementary School was recognized in the first cohort of Green Ribbon Schools. Four years later, in 2016, the U.S. Department of Education recognized MBUSD as a National Green Ribbon District. 

The District’s Green Initiatives include the transition to online communication and ordering platforms, the elimination of styrofoam products in our food services program, the conversion of landscaping equipment from gas-powered to electric, the installation of solar arrays at the student parking lot, Math Science building, and Athletic Complex at Mira Costa High school, and the use of recycled water for field irrigation at every school site that is accessible through the West Basin recycled water distribution system. Students at our school sites also participate in trash sorting programs to separate organics and recyclables in order to reduce landfill waste.

Some of the most recent green efforts Dr. Murakawa-Leopard highlighted during the presentation were: 

  • Elimination of single-use plastic water bottles and plastic utensils

  • Implementation of the Garden to Café Program that provides students the opportunity to harvest their garden-grown produce and have it served as part of school lunches

  • Establishment of a District-wide Share Table program to collect and donate excess, unwanted, unopened, uneaten food items to programs that fight hunger

  • The use of 100% clean, renewable energy produced by sources like the sun and wind across all schools and facilities through the Clean Power Alliance

  • Installation of thirty-eight hydration stations District-wide

  • Capturing stormwater in various ways to reuse, including the installation of permeable pavers in the Stadium Way project

  • The use of native plants in landscaped areas

View the Presentation Here

We want to thank the Food and Nutrition Services department and Director Léna Agee. We also want to thank Director of Facilities and Maintenance Paul Ruta and Director of Operations Ed Jozefecick. The green work wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of our Green Committee members!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 15

We would like to remind everyone that all school campuses and District facilities will be closed to honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 15.

Robinson Students' "I Have a Dream..." Messages Shared in Art Installation

One hundred and seventy students visited Metlox in downtown Manhattan Beach today to see their art installation come to life. Trees in the area were transformed into an art installation where nearly 300 “dream tags” were linked and hung. Students and parents created these by completing the sentence “I have a dream…” inspired from the renowned speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Participants shared their visions for a better world.

Robinson’s Dolphin Dads played an excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, and students had the opportunity to share their dreams with the audience. The dads, also part of a band, performed live songs such as “Imagine” by John Lennon.

Students were thrilled to see their dreams displayed to the public. The art installation will be up through January 19. Thank you to Robinson's parents for making this event possible, including Aimee Murashko, Alyne Kassardijian, and the Dolphin Dads - Gabe Griffith, Dan Grody, Tom Cook, and Sharon Gardner.

Tonight at 5:45 p.m., this story will be featured on KABC 7!

MBUSD Kindergarten Information Day One Week Away!

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 Monday, January 22, 2024. You can hear from current principals, teachers, students, and MBEF Executive Director Hilary Mahan.  

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. 

For the 2024-2025 school year, students who turn five on or between September 2, 2024 – June 2, 2025, will be eligible to enroll in a TK program.

All children who will be five years old on or before September 1, 2024, are eligible to enroll in Kindergarten.

Next Tuesday, we will be answering enrollment questions during a Facebook Live at 4:00 p.m. on the MBUSD Facebook page.

Click Here for Enrollment Information

MBEF Annual Appeal Deadline Weeks Away

We are a few weeks away from MBEF’s Annual Appeal deadline of January 31. We thank you for your support if you have already donated or pledged. If you haven’t, we hope you will commit to giving to MBEF to help meet its $5 Million fundraising goal with $1.5 Million left to raise. 

MBEF’s support is seen first-hand in many ways throughout the year, from funding essential programs and staffing to providing one-of-a-kind opportunities to our students at all grade levels to help them reach their full potential. 

MBUSD strives to offer our students the highest quality education; every year, MBEF meets the District’s needs. Your generosity today will impact for years to come and provide MBUSD students with hands-on opportunities that encourage active learning, critical thinking, and overall academic success. 

You can donate or pledge at We are grateful for MBEF and all that the foundation has done for the past 40 years to make MBUSD what it is today!

MBEF will host the first ever Rock the ASK on Saturday, March 16 - an outdoor concert dedicated to celebrating the incredible community support for Manhattan Beach public schools through the Annual Appeal.

All parents who help reach the annual goal of $5 million by donating the MBEF ASK of $2,000 per student registered in MBUSD schools will be invited. Rock the ASK is all about live music, dancing, and community spirit as we bring down the house to support excellence in education. 

MBUSD Parents Visit School Libraries for MBEF EXPO

MBEF’s EXPO continues to bring guardians to our elementary campuses to showcase first-hand the impact of MBEF funding. Families visited school libraries this week to see Library Resource Specialists in action. 

MBEF Executive Director Hilary Mahan says the EXPO in our schools allows parents to see their investment at work through the impact on students. Parents also get to experience the learning taking place in MBUSD. 

Next week, the science lab will be the spotlight for the EXPOs. MBEF emails the schedules to guardians, and you can also find the schedules in your school site PTA Newsletters. 

MCHS Senior Charlie Fuerbringer Named Gatorade California Volleyball Player of the Year 

We want to congratulate Mira Costa Girls’ Volleyball setter Charlie Fuerbringer for being named the 2023-24 Gatorade California Volleyball Player of the Year. She is the second Gatorade California Volleyball Player of the Year to be chosen from Mira Costa. The recognition celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the court, in the classroom, and the community. 

Charlie is the director of a local Feed2Succeed chapter, supporting people in need in the Philippines with food, clothing, and medical supplies. She has also donated her time as a youth coach and instructor. On top of this work, Charlie has maintained a weighted 3.74 GPA!

The Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee includes coaches, scouts, media, and others to help evaluate and determine the state winners in each sport. 

We also shared news recently that she was inducted into the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Hall of Fame. 

Click Here for Player of the Year Profile
Read Daily Breeze Story Here

MBUSD District Librarian Educates Students on Online Privacy and Security

Jennifer Forier visited homeroom classrooms at Mira Costa this week to spread awareness about the importance of online safety and privacy. She educated students by playing a short video she created on what to look out for, but also simple ways students can safeguard themselves online by protecting their devices, being mindful of what they post on social media, and checking privacy settings. 

Jennifer says that while she gets to see most students in the library for library orientation and introduces them to online resources and databases through their English classes, she enjoys sharing more information with students through other avenues. 

She says creating educational videos is a quick and easy way to disseminate information to all students. The videos she makes can be accessed through the MCHS library website, so students and staff can refer to the videos as needed. 

This year, Jennifer also made a video on how students can access Los Angeles County library e-books and audiobooks through the SORA app using student emails. She is looking forward to making more videos!

Meadows Elementary No Place for Hate® Committee Combats Bullying 

One of the main activities for the Meadows No Place for Hate ® program this year is encouraging students to be upstanders and learn about anti-bullying through reading. At the latest NPFH meeting this week, Principal Michelle Krzmarzick led an engaging discussion about the importance of belonging and allowed students to share their recent acts of kindness to make others around them feel welcomed. 

As part of the activity, students wrote book reviews on publications chosen from the school's library collection on anti-bullying and how to be an ally. The reviews will be posted in the library to encourage reading of the anti-bullying literature.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) No Place for Hate ® program is a framework for combatting bias, bullying, and hatred and creating a long-term solution on campuses to maintain a positive climate.

Mira Costa Biotech Program Spotlight

Students in Mira Costa’s Biotechnology three-year elective course are immersed in labs. Teacher Rebecca Ford shared that students in the first year of Biotech are starting a microscopy unit. She says they will be creating Gram-stained slides using bacterial cultures they grew. They will also prepare wet-mount slides of eukaryotic cells and study Koch’s Postulates.

Biotech Teacher Ernesto Nodado shared that students in the second year are using PCR to determine if a food product has a GMO marker. In the second year of the course, students continue with lab practice, performing more complex skills and mentoring students in their first year.

By the third year of the program, students take their knowledge into the real world by being placed in an internship program in the field of STEM. Currently, seniors are achieving success in their internships at different locations, including hospitals and research facilities. Some are even working on their independent research. 

Biotechnology is a three-year elective course where students learn many laboratory skills and scientific concepts that help them prepare for college-level classes. 

The upcoming application and interview process for interested 9th graders will begin in the spring. The application will be available on the Biotech website. Thank you to Biotech teachers Ernesto Nodado and Rebecca Ford for sharing this information!

1st Year Students Participating in a Kool-Aid Column Chromatography lab

Mira Costa Aerospace Club Reaches New Heights

The Mira Costa Aerospace Engineering Club (AEC) has created STRATA 1 - its first fully autonomous guided model rocket that club members hope will reach 820 feet, which students plan to test at the end of the month. The club was founded last year by Mira Costa student Noah Weiss and focuses on introducing students to high-level engineering projects. 

The student-led club is organized into two separate groups. One is dedicated to competition (10 members), and they compete in The American Rocketry Challenge (TARC). In this competition, teams design, build, and launch a model rocket that must meet particular goals. For example, the club’s rocket must stay airborne for between 43-46 seconds. 

The other group is made up of an additional thirty members and focuses on engineering projects, including designing and building model airplanes and programming control systems. It encourages students to pursue a career in STEM. Students in the club shared that their goal is to create real-world applications. Members have used computational fluid dynamics to predict airflow around the rocket’s movable fins and performed structural analyses. 

Students hope to exceed expectations during their upcoming competitions and qualify for nationals. You can check out their Instagram account here.

Save the Date! Upcoming Event on the Dangers of Fentanyl Use

South Bay Families Connected and Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) is hosting an in-person event about fentanyl. It will include a film screening of “Dead on Arrival,” a fentanyl documentary, followed by a panel discussion. 

In attendance will be youth from New Life House and Clarity Sober Living, who will share their recovery stories and what they wish their parents had known during that time. The event will provide an opportunity for an engaging discussion. 

Register Here

Click below for the flyer

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 19. 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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