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Superintendent's Newsletter

January 26, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Grand View, a District budget update, and donating today to MBEF’s Annual Appeal to help them reach their fundraising goal by January 31.

Spotlight on Grand View (Special Thanks to First Grade Teachers Emma Anderson, Joanne Guelff, Daniela Olson, and Principal Tara Grings)

First graders spend about 30 minutes each morning rotating through classroom centers at Grand View. This gives them the opportunity to practice the skills they’ve been working on as a class throughout the week. It is also a way to build a classroom community as students work together in groups on their different activities.

During center time, students can practice their independence while teachers meet with many small groups to differentiate instruction based on individual or small-group needs. In one center, students practice on their Lexia Reading App. This gives them tailored instruction based on their individual progress and allows them to grow steadily. In another center, students work on their IXL Math App. The IXL program also tailors instruction to meet individual needs and gives students practice with math concepts they haven’t mastered yet.

In a third center, students complete an activity called “Write the Room.” Based on the spelling pattern of the week, students have to work together to find words hung up around the room that match the pattern. These cards might ask the students to come up with rhyming words, unscramble letters, or fill in the missing letters of a word. After students complete their write-the-room, they practice their spelling words using Play-Doh, magnet letters, pasta, or beads.

First graders also practice weekly sight words with their teachers and bookshop during center time. We like to continuously hear the students read books from their individual book bags, and they get to change out their books about once every two weeks. Sometimes, their reading levels will move, and they will get to browse in a whole new set of bins. First graders love the independence and variety they have during their center time.

Staff Spotlight: Susie Howat | Pacific Office Manager

This week, we are featuring Pacific Office Manager Susie Howat. Susie started working in MBUSD in 2005 as a Special Education TSA for one year before being hired into her current position. As a former Pacific School parent, she thought it would be a great workplace. “I loved the school, teachers, and Dr. Norvell (former principal who was here for 20 years before retiring in 2007).”

After more than 20 years working in the ski industry, Susie was ready to change her career pathway and work where she lives. 

Susie says her favorite part about her job is the students and families. “I feel that I’m really making a difference for our families. I am super connected to the Pacific School and Manhattan Beach community.” She is an avid swimmer, and in her free time, she also loves riding her bike and living the beach life.

Remembering Robert Sperry

It is with sorrow that we share the sad news that one of our Mira Costa High School night custodians, Robert Sperry, passed away. Robert was with the District for a couple of months and had already made an impact on the Mustang community.

Mira Costa's staff shared that Robert was a team player and positively impacted Costa in his short time there. We send our sincere condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed.

Mira Costa Professional Development with Holocaust Museum LA

Literacy Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Taylor DiBernardo partnered with the Holocaust Museum LA to provide teacher training for the 10th grade MCHS English team. The focus was on teaching Night, a Holocaust memoir written by Elie Wiesel. The presenter gave a more than three-hour training, and it was followed by teachers spending the rest of the day collaborating on aligned lessons.

The book has been taught and read by students in their English classes for many years, and Taylor DiBernardo says this professional development was a beneficial opportunity to prepare teachers to create safe and open spaces in their classrooms for students to explore the content both in the context of history and present day.

This type of professional development allows educators to dedicate time to delve into their lessons and diversify their approaches to teaching the book.  

“This is important training because as our world continues to change, educators want to adapt our practices and teach our content in a way that reaches every student. We want students to continually practice their critical thinking and empathy skills, which will prepare them for the world, both in education and beyond,” said Taylor DiBernardo.

The Literacy TOSA position is one of many positions funded by the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF).

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.

Please watch for further updates in the Superintendent's Newsletter.

2024-2025 Enrollment is Underway!

MBUSD's new student enrollment opened this week! Leading up to the big day, despite the downpour over the past weekend, we welcomed hundreds of families to Grand View Elementary for our 2024 Kindergarten Information Day. Kindergarten teacher Megi Asano provided a glimpse into a typical day as a Kindergartener, and families also heard first-hand current student experiences from 5th grader Talar Adishian and MCHS senior Naomi Kim. Following the main program, principals and PTA members from all five elementary schools led breakout sessions to address questions from incoming families and share information about their campuses. Thank you to our families for attending this special day!

Kindergarten Information Day MCHS Student Speaker, Naomi Kim

For the 2024-25 enrollment campaign, we continue our efforts to promote messaging about MBUSD’s commitment to maximizing the academic success of all students and preparing our students for college and career success. On Monday, January 22 (enrollment day), MBUSD enrollment banners were installed, and digital boards at the Manhattan Village went live. We continue our strong partnership with the City of Manhattan Beach through their Banner Program and currently have banners hanging on two main streets in downtown Manhattan Beach, including Manhattan Beach Blvd at Morningside and Highland and 13th St.

We have also partnered once again with the Manhattan Village by displaying MBUSD enrollment information on all of their 35 digital boards. In addition, MBUSD facility cars boast enrollment decals highlighting programs and personalized learning. Through storytelling, we continue to inform and engage with our future families during the enrollment period.

Click Here for Enrollment Information

MBMS Principal Jennifer Huynh Continues Elementary School Tours

This week, Pennekamp 5th graders learned about MBMS campus life and what to expect when they transition from elementary to middle school. Principal Huynh shared information about opportunities available, from the exploratory wheel, advanced math courses, and the variety of sports offered on campus. She provided a glimpse into the bell schedule and a typical day.

A portion of the presentation highlighted the various support programs in which students can participate, from Advisory, Intervention, Review, and Enrichment (AIRE) Time, “Where Everyone Belongs” (WEB), to Positive Behavior Intervention Systems of Support (PBIS). 

Students had the opportunity to get their questions answered as well! Ms. Huynh plans to visit all five elementary campuses this school year. 

MBEF Annual Appeal Deadline 5 Days Away

We are just days away from MBEF’s Annual Appeal deadline of January 31. Your donations are vital to sustain programs for the upcoming school year. Your support through MBEF funds important educator positions and opportunities not covered by the school budget. 100% of your donations support MBEF-funded programs; all students benefit from MBEF. 

We thank you for your support if you have already donated or pledged. If you haven’t, we hope you will commit to reaching MBEF’s $5 Million fundraising goal with $800,000 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 enrichment and educational opportunities to our students at all grade levels to help them reach their full potential and prepare them for their future. 

MBUSD strives to offer our students the highest quality education; every year, MBEF meets the District’s needs through your donations. Please watch the Excellence in Education video for a deeper understanding of the significance of the MBUSD and MBEF partnership and your crucial role.

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 what MBUSD it is today! 

West Basin Municipal Water District Presents Check to Costa Clubs

West Basin Municipal Water District representatives visited Mira Costa this week to recognize the SCUBA and Eco Clubs for their volunteer work during West Basin’s recent rain barrel event that was hosted at Mira Costa last semester. West Basin presented students with a check for $3,000 and thanked them for their assistance in distributing 300 rain barrels. Congratulations! 

The two clubs will split the check. Mr. Smith says the SCUBA Club hopes to use the donation to help students get SCUBA certified or further their SCUBA education. The club plans to continue its involvement in making a difference with Heal the Bay through beach and underwater clean-up work. The Eco Club hopes to revitalize “eco-land” on campus.

Thank you to the Mira Costa teachers, Mr. Karl Kurz, Mr. Ian Uhalt, and Mr. Olie Smith, for supporting our students!

Science Speaker Series Club Hosts Northrop Grumman Aerospace Scientist 

The MCHS Science Speaker Series Club hosted its third guest of the year at the Joslyn Center in Manhattan Beach. Club President Ryan Kelley invited speaker Danielle Devoy, an aerospace engineer with Northrop Grumman, to share her accomplishments and a glimpse into a typical workday.

Danielle talked about space networks regarding communication importance and her current role in working on building a missile warning satellite. She has launched ten different types of rockets from locations all over the world! Danielle shared rocket trends and described how they are built. 

She also discussed career opportunities in aerospace. Ryan says he created this club to provide students with first-hand testimonials from individuals who have various jobs in the field of STEM and spark interest in his fellow students in different STEM opportunities and pathways.

The Science Speaker Series Club will have four more speakers this year! 

Signs of Suicide Day Takes Place at Mira Costa

Each school year, MBMS and Mira Costa participate in the Signs of Suicide program (SOS Day). This week, on Tuesday, January 22, the event took place at Mira Costa High School. The goal of this day was to educate students on the signs and symptoms of depression and help students and staff know what to do when warning signs are recognized. This is done through videos shared in the classroom, and after that, students were given adolescent depression screening forms, providing an opportunity for them to share how they felt privately. The pillars of ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) were shared with students and staff to utilize as lifelong skills. 


Once this form was submitted and reviewed by staff, students who were in need of support and mental health checks were provided with resources. More than 30 students met with mental health professionals available for SOS Day from MCHS, MBMS, Beach Cities Health District (BCHD), and CBH. Additionally, in an effort to be proactive, our local Psychiatric Emergency Team (PET) Team was on hand for any emergency situations. Students and staff were given the choice to opt out of participating. 

This program is implemented throughout the country to raise awareness about depression and suicide. 

Congratulations to Mira Costa Cheer!

The Mira Costa Traditional Cheer team placed 2nd in the CIF Southern Section championship. Coach Travis Neese says they scored 82.30 and it was a close finish as the winning score was 83.

This weekend they are competing at the Southern State Regional Championship to defend their State Championship Title they won in 2023. Very soon they will take their talents to the National High School Cheerleading Championship and will compete in the Traditional and Game Day divisions on February 9-11 in Florida!

Go Mustangs!

Logan Elliott and Iggy Im Earn Membership in the SCSBOA Band

Congratulations to Logan Elliott and Iggy Im for achieving membership in the 2024 Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Symphonic Band (SCSBOA). 

Hundreds of students from across Southern California submit auditions performing challenging professional repertoires, and only selected musicians are chosen for the exclusive opportunity to showcase their skills at the SCSBOA Conference. It is scheduled for this Sunday at the Hyatt Grand Regency Hotel in Garden Grove! 

Best of luck to both of you!

We also want to share that the California Band Directors Association chose Logan Elliott as a top musician from California to participate in the CBDA Honor Band and perform at the California All-State Music Educators Conference in Sacramento. Congratulations to Logan Elliott on also earning membership in the 2024 CBDA Symphonic Band! 

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.

Annual MBUSD Choir Parent Gathering

For a third year, current and prospective choir families are invited to attend a special get-together at Mira Costa. It's an opportunity to meet other choir families, enjoy student performances with a meal, and learn more about the MBUSD choirs! 

The event will take place at the MCHS Athletic Complex Terrace on Wednesday, February 7, from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. 

RSVP Here!

Mark your Calendar! MBUSD Music Performances Coming Up!

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

All District Choir Concert

Tuesday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m.

MCHS Auditorium | Free 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.

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! 

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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on February 2.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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