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Superintendent's Newsletter

June 2, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

Today’s issue highlights Grand View, our MBUSD Board of Trustees appointing four new administrators, celebrating our retirees, and the official 2023-24 school year calendar.

Spotlight on Grand View (Special Thanks to Marianne Slater and Principal Tara Grings)

The Grand View 4th grade team has been working as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) for years now. They collaborate weekly to share best practices and teaching strategies to support students who need extra help, and offer enrichment opportunities for students who are quick to grasp concepts. Each member of the team takes on an area of expertise to support planning and instruction.

Every year, they continue to refine ways to support their students. This year, teacher Marianne Slater designed a short common summative assessment to reflect each of the five math domains covered in 4th grade. The assessment allows the team to quickly determine whether or not students have mastered the math standards. Students are encouraged to show off what they have learned throughout the year. Then, each student is sent home with their assessment results, an individualized rubric identifying their strengths and growth areas, and given customized support resources to practice those skills over the summer. This method allows students and families to be a part of the process and removes the guesswork in determining 5th grade math readiness. 

It’s a lot of work, but Marianne says, “It’s a valuable way not only to assess student growth during the year but also see what the students mastered and pinpoint areas to review.” Parents report that these tools allow them to be active participants in their child’s learning, and they know the teacher is truly attuned to their child’s individual needs. This is personalized learning at its finest! Ms. Slater is a trailblazer in this work, and we hope to expand this method to provide common summative assessments for each grade level at Grand View. 

Staff Spotlight: Alice Hsu

Alice Hsu is in her second year working as a Learning Center Resource Teacher at Robinson Elementary School. After working in Manhattan, New York for thirteen years, Alice jokingly shared she wanted to trade one Manhattan for another! She says, “I liked the idea of being part of a smaller District where everyone has an opportunity to get to meet and know one another by name.”

She says another factor that influenced her decision to travel across the country and work here was the renowned reputation of MBUSD as a school district. As a former inclusion classroom teacher for 13 years, Alice was trained at Columbia Teachers College and co-taught her own 3rd grade class with another general education classroom teacher. 

Alice finds great joy in working with her students. “When a student faces a challenging concept, it is exciting to learn how they learn and think. Taking what they already know, I get to expose the student to various strategies that have proven to work.” 

Alice says she lives for the “aha” moments and consistently emphasizes to her students the importance of having a wide range of tools and strategies in their academic toolkit. She believes that the more options students have, the better equipped they are to overcome obstacles. 

She is proud to share that she has many achievements and says all of her accomplishments, no matter the size, have given her the life perspectives she has today. Alice has learned how to speak another language, volunteered in the pediatrics department at Mt. Sinai, taught in Haiti, and much more! “As a newer staff member at MBUSD, the teamwork I experience at the school site is exceptional! From teachers, school site principal to support providers, the collaboration to do what they do best for kids is carried out each and every day.” She also praises the amazing parent involvement, which contributes to making MBUSD an incredible community. 

Alice enjoys spending time with her family and plays tennis every weekend. She’s a skilled pianist and enjoys exploring new cuisines. 

New 2023-24 School Year Calendar

We are pleased to share the instructional calendar for the 2023-2024 school year. You can find the calendar here and on our District website

The first day of school for our students will be August 23, 2023. 

Please click the image below for PDF.

Please Take our Parent/Guardian Communications Survey!

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District is conducting a communications survey! The District wants to hear your feedback to better understand the communication channels most useful to you and also ensure communication efforts are effective. By participating in this short survey, which will only take about five minutes of your time, you have the opportunity to shape the future of our communication efforts!

Your valuable insights will benefit the District and have an impact on school site communications. Your responses are anonymous. We appreciate you taking the time to participate. The deadline is Tuesday, June 6, 2023. 

New Pacific Elementary Principal Appointed 

We are just a few weeks away from the end of another successful school year! It is with great excitement that we announce Ms. Amanda Vavao's appointment as the new principal of Pacific Elementary School. 

With nearly two decades of experience in education as an administrator and educator, Ms. Vavao has served MBUSD since 2006 in positions both inside and outside the classroom. She was an elementary school teacher for sixteen years, and her vast experience includes teaching at Pennekamp Elementary, serving as a substitute across the District, and as the MBUSD summer school Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) principal intern for grades K-12. At Pennekamp, Ms. Vavao led the implementation of a school-wide behavioral expectations program that is still there today. 

In her most recent role as the vice principal of Mira Costa for two years, she supported safety on campus, oversaw the entire student body and staff, and regularly supported students with resources and interventions. Ms. Vavao has held diverse leadership roles at MBUSD, and her enthusiasm for our community has always shone through. Not only has she been a long-time staff member in our District, but she has also been an MBUSD parent. I know she will be a great addition to the Pacific community with her proven commitment to students and her outstanding leadership skills.

Please join me in congratulating and welcoming Ms. Vavao to this new role!

Three New MCHS Vice Principals

Also at the recent Board meeting, we appointed three new leaders to the Mira Costa High School community.

I’m excited to announce an outstanding new cadre of Vice Principals joining the Mira Costa family! The new team of administrators includes:

Deborah Park, who comes from Santa Ana Unified School District, where she served as a learning and achievement specialist, curator of projects, and literacy coach. 

Raeann Marti has been a Humanities teacher for ten years at Manhattan Beach Middle School, in addition to serving in other administrative roles for the District.

Kimberly Price, who for the past 22 years has been a teacher at Pennekamp Elementary, and served in supporting roles for teachers and students.

Vice Principal Daniel Pestle will be departing Mira Costa as he relocates to Oregon with his family. It is a true loss for Costa, but we wish Mr. Pestle the best in his next endeavors. We would also like to thank retirees Dr. Carolyn Seaton and Dr. Deborah Hofreiter for stepping in this year as interim vice principals. We greatly appreciate their service!

Please join me in wishing our outgoing vice principals all the best and extending a warm welcome to our new vice principals to the Mira Costa team.

MBUSD Retirees Celebrated 

Congratulations to our 2022-23 MBUSD retirees! At this week’s Board meeting, we thanked and honored nineteen staff members. Friends, families, and colleagues celebrated the following District employees for their service to public education and dedication to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. 

The retirees are: 

Jazmin Cabuhat | Accountant Food and Nutrition Services| 7.1 Years

Jose Campos | Grounds Maintenance Worker | 38.5 Years

Evelina Collier | Instructional Assistant - MB Preschool | 27.1 Years

Karen Cunningham | Instructional Assistant - Science Lab Mira Costa | 32 Years

Pam Dellinger | Early Childhood Specialist | 17.4 Years 

Julie Hallgrimson | Special Education Teacher | 26.8 Years

Colleen Kennedy | Special Education Teacher - Mira Costa | 18 Years

Janine Madrid | Instructional Assistant Special Education - Mira Costa | 22.8 Years of Service

Refujio Otero -Magana - Ground Maintenance Worker | 27.6 Years

Cindy Mularz | Preschool Teacher | 24.9 Years

Jeff Mullikan | Plant Manager | 38.1 Years

Patricia Osborne | Food and Nutrition Services Assistant | 30.3 years

Elizabeth Porter | Instructional Assistant - Special Education | 27.5 Years

Christine Primm | Library Resource Specialist | 17.3 Years

Christine Schiraldi | Official Specialist | 8.7 Years

Sharon Shambaugh | Makerspace Technician | 13.1 Years

Crystal Stearns | Instructional Assistant-IBI | 17.6 Years

Rhonda Steinberg | Grand View and Pacific Principal | 18 Years*

Theresa Tower | P.E. Teacher | 25.6 Years

*51 years including her work in other school districts!

Thank you for your tireless service to our students and families! You can view the retirement presentation here.

Pacific Elementary Principal Rhonda Steinberg Retiring after more than Five Decades in Education 

After eighteen years of service to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District and fifty-one years in education, Pacific Elementary School Principal Rhonda Steinberg is retiring and stepping into her next chapter of life. 

Rhonda’s journey in education has been diverse and has impacted thousands. She became an educator at the age of 20! She spent twenty-six years in Simi Valley, twenty-four years as a teacher, and two years as an assistant principal, seven years as a principal in Castaic, and in MBUSD worked as a principal at Grand View and Pacific. 

Rhonda attributes her success and longevity to her colleagues. “I’m grateful for our positive collaboration, our “can-do attitude” and the consistent teamwork among staff, students, and parents.” 

During her time at MBUSD, she has made a profound impact. Rhonda is a passionate leader and created an environment where her students and staff thrived. We know her absence in the Pacific and MBUSD communities will truly be felt. 

As Rhonda prepares for the next chapter in her life, she is looking forward to spending time with her three children, five grandchildren, and husband. “As I bid you a fond farewell, please remember that all of you have been and, will always be, a very important part of my life, and, for that, I thank you.” 

We wish her the best as she begins a well-deserved retirement and the new adventures ahead. 

MBMS New Bell Schedule Approved

We are excited to share that MBMS will be on a new and innovative bell schedule for the 2023-2024 school year. 

The work of the MBMS Bell Schedule Committee efforts dates back many years, including a presentation to the MBUSD Board in 2021. Based on the feedback from the Board and all stakeholders, we are proud to present this new opportunity for our Waves. We will begin the 2023-24 school year on a FLEX Schedule.

Teachers will have an embedded time to meet regularly in their Professional Learning Communities to effectively map out curriculum, create common forms of assessments, analyze student data, plan intervention and enrichment for students, and more. We are prioritizing time for our educators to continuously engage in professional development.

Students will continue to take 7 class periods, and will have the opportunity to engage in AIRE (Advisory, Intervention, Review, or Enrichment) time with staff once per week. Based on individual and personalized needs, students will be able to participate in non-graded AIRE activities with their teachers to maximize their connection and opportunities on campus.

We plan to host an optional parent session on Monday, June 12 at 5:30 pm via Zoom for anyone wishing to learn more about the schedule and process. Please RSVP here.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) Update

We are thrilled to announce a new feature of state testing for the 2022-23 school year! Aeries and the CAASPP system are now linked to provide automatic updates to parents when individual student scores for the ELA SBAC, Math SBAC, CAST, CAA, & ELPAC tests are released. Once available, parents will receive an automatic email from Aeries with instructions on how to log in and view testing results. 


Please note that our testing window is still open until June 9, so we do have a few students still completing exams. 


If you have any additional questions, please contact your site administrator. 

MBUSD Teams Compete at Odyssey of the Mind World Finals 

Three MBUSD teams took their strong problem-solving skills to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Michigan State University recently. The global competition allows students to collaborate with others and present solutions to problems. Each team that competes chooses to solve a problem and only competes against other teams that are also solving the same problem. MBUSD teams specialized in finding a solution to the structure problem.

Congratulations to Mira Costa High School "Team B" for taking the top spot and winning the World Champion in their first year in the High School division. Mira Costa "Team A" participated for the 8th time and placed 4th in their problem-solving division after setting a new world record for a 15-gram structure at 1,270 lbs. 

We also want to recognize Pacific Elementary’s team for placing in 4th this year! It was the team’s 3rd year participating in the World Finals. 

Mira Costa Team B: Problem 4, Division 3 | Awards Ceremony: Audrey Treger, Daisei Horiguchi, Brian Fan (coach), Sierra Wolbert, Dr. Sam (Odyssey founder), Zachary Green, Charlotte Fan, (not pictured: Matthew Chang)

Mira Costa Team A: Problem 4, Division 3 | Weighing-in the balsa wood tower: Abi Seo, Ella Kim, Luke Green, Andrew Fan, Brian Chiu, Ashlyn Green

Pacific Elementary: Problem 5, Division 1 | In costume: Vivienne Schneider, Zayaan Mehrotra, Gabe Segil, Noah Segil, Campbell Park, Lara Geida

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving program that teaches students to think outside of the box while creating solutions to open-ended problems. The solutions involve students using ideas from science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). This year was one of the largest World Finals to date with 741 teams and more than 10,000 people in attendance. Thank you to all of the coaches for guiding our students!

Annual Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration

I celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Pennekamp Elementary this week. The event was a collaboration between the Pennekamp community and student leaders from Mira Costa’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Clubs. 

It featured vibrant booths curated by Costa students, each representing different Asian regions, and showcasing their unique cultures. Parents also hosted tables from Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, China, and Taiwan. There was a lei-crafting table and other hands-on activities. Attendees and students were treated to traditional Korean dance and music by the Korean Classical Music and Dance Company. 

To ensure inclusivity, the program was thoughtfully scheduled in the morning to allow for our only deaf and hard-of-hearing student community to fully participate in the festivities. The magical event was possible through the generous support of MBEF’s educator grant and the Pennekamp community. 

Congratulations to our Biotech Program Graduates! 

I was excited and impressed to see the accomplishments of the Mira Costa Class of 2023 Biotech program graduates. The unique course is a three-year elective where students commit to participating for the entire duration of the program.

Congratulations to the following students!

Benjamin Blum | UC Berkeley

Diya Dhawan | UCLA

Madison Grumley | USC

Dylan Iskandar | Stanford

Camille Jorenby | Purdue

Hrishi Krishna | Purdue

Jessica Lewin | Duke

Ava Reyes | UC Berkeley

Sophia Safa | UC Berkeley

Simran Sethi | North Eastern University

Jacob Tan | Stanford University

Ema Yakatan | University of Denver

After the ceremony, students shared with attendees their 3rd year research project. 

The three-year pathway has grown immensely over the years. This year alone there were 59 applicants for 18 spots. Students apply for the course in the spring of their Freshman year. 

Program participants have opportunities to collaborate and build connections with other students across grade levels through group labs, research projects, and monthly “Biotech Breakfasts.” 

This graduating class marks the sixth group of students to complete the three-year pathway. Thank you to Ms. Ford and Mr. Nodado for leading our students through this program. 

AP Chemistry’s Enchanting Magic Show 

For the 6th year, Mira Costa “Varsity” AP Chemistry students hosted their annual chemistry magic show for Pennekamp Elementary students in the small theater. The faces of students (2nd-4th graders) lit up as they watched our high school students take what they have learned in the classroom and present it in a magical way. The event is the culmination of the course after a rigorous year of preparing for the AP Chemistry Examination. 

The magical show wouldn’t be possible without Honors and AP Chemistry Teacher Teresa Nielsen, who gives students these unique types of opportunities to participate in and learn chemistry in different ways. There were plenty of cheers and oohs and ahs as Costa students performed classic demonstrations, but in addition to explaining the science behind the chemical reactions, they added elements of wizardry and potions, sparking interest in our students about STEAM through a lens of magic and wonder. 

Students witnessed the creation of “elephant toothpaste,” rainbow milk, and freezing flowers. The best part was that the young audience members were invited to the stage to participate in some of the magic tricks.

Teresa says, “In this rich tradition, teens are trailblazers, sparking enthusiasm for learning and a foundation of curiosity in STEAM for future generations.” 

"Touch a Truck" Comes to Meadows

Meadows TK-1st students learned about waste and recycling this week thanks to Waste Management. Through its Touch a Truck program, Recycling Coordinator Bobby Bell, who also is part of our District Green Committee, brought a new Waste Management truck to the campus. It gave students an interactive opportunity to sit in the truck and touch it while learning about the various types of waste and recycling Waste Management handles.

We are Enrolling! 

Join our District! MBUSD is a destination district that offers award-winning programs, personalized learning, excellence in teaching, and opportunities for college and career success. Some of the highlights of our programming include music and STEAM starting in elementary.

For the 2023-2024 school year, children who turn five years old between September 2, 2023, and April 2, 2024, will be eligible to enroll in Transitional Kindergarten. MBUSD is following the State of California’s Transitional Kindergarten expansion program recommendations for the 2023–24 school year. Students are eligible for TK if they turn 5 years old between September 2, 2023, and April 2, 2024.

MBUSD will work with families to determine the best grade-level placement for students matriculating from a five-year-old preschool or Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program (students entering MBUSD at age five or six who have not yet completed a Kindergarten program). Kindergarten placement will be allowed for these students.

Any student, regardless of age, who has completed Kindergarten will be enrolled in Grade 1 unless an appropriately documented Kindergarten Continuation Meeting has resulted in a recommendation for another year of kindergarten. This practice will be updated to align with any State of California attendance regulation changes. 

Learn more about enrollment here!

Upcoming Events

Click image below for flyer!

Rejoice & Sing - June 6 | 7:00 p.m.

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, June 9.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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