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Superintendent's Newsletter

March 1, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

Today’s issue highlights Robinson Elementary, student inventors from across MBUSD impressing judges at the District Invention Convention, and Mira Costa’s Drama/Tech Department receiving a top rating for its fall production of Peter and the Starcatcher.

Spotlight on Robinson Elementary (Special Thanks to 5th Grade Teachers Lori Desmond, Teresa Scott, and Robinson Principal Jackie O’Sullivan)

Robinson's fifth graders are putting their geometry skills to the test as they build their own geocities. As city planners, students collaborate to create a voluminous urban city that uses 2D and 3D, practicing plane and solid geometry. This experiential math project encompasses the 4Cs of 21st-century skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The students begin the work individually by building a parcel of land with 3D geometric shapes and then join a team to see who can make the largest class geocity with the greatest volume.  

The teams design their ideal community with roads, bridges, pools, neighborhoods, downtown areas, and skyscrapers. When they finish building the city, they compare the total volume for the community across the entire fifth grade to find the winning class. 

The class with the greatest volume will be awarded the Robinson Geocity Award. Teachers Lori Desmond and Teresa Scott say this yearly tradition is a huge hit with their students. It not only solidifies learning about volume but helps them understand the concepts of building to scale and mapping.

Staff Spotlight: Luke Olesiuk | MBMS Vice Principal

This week, we are spotlighting MBMS Vice Principal Luke Olesiuk. Luke has dedicated most of his career to education in the South Bay. Before coming to MBUSD, he was the assistant principal at Center Street Elementary School in El Segundo. He also served as a Title 1 coordinator/assistant administrator at Adams Middle School in Redondo Beach and has taught elementary science and all levels of middle school math. After spending several years in elementary education, he wanted to return to a middle school campus! 

When asked about his inspiration for pursuing his current role at MBMS, Luke shared that after teaching for many years, he was eager to make a positive impact beyond the classroom. “I have always wanted to leave the world a better place than I found it, so what better way than to work in the field of education, ensuring the next generation of young minds are as prepared as possible to take on the rigors of the world ahead of them,” said Luke Olesiuk. 

Luke credits important figures in his life for inspiring his career in education. “My mom was a teacher, so she was my original inspiration to start down my path toward making education my career. I also had an incredible 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Skutches, who always made learning fun but rigorous and meaningful at the same time. My high school band director, Mr. Sieben, also greatly impacted my desire to move into education - he was the epitome of what a ‘mentor’ should be!”

He says there is never a dull moment at MBMS! He enjoys supporting staff and students in any way that is needed. Luke attributes the success of MBMS to its incredible staff and fellow administrators. 

“The teachers and staff at MBMS are some of the most knowledgeable and dedicated I have had the privilege to work with. Despite all they have on their plates daily, there are no shortages of smiles, positive comments, and jokes to keep the days moving forward. Finally, my fellow administrators, Ms. Huynh and Ms. Cavallaro, are phenomenal. They inspire me to continue striving for excellence each day, and I know I can always count on them for whatever is needed.”

Luke also shared some proud moments from his personal life, including his wife completing her last semester of graduate school to become a school counselor. In his free time, Luke enjoys staying active through workouts and immersing himself in the wilderness, whether hiking, backpacking, or camping! Last summer, he ventured to Half Dome for the second time.

Budget Corner

At this week’s Board meeting, Trustees took the difficult step of approving a series of resolutions that included the layoff of more than 39 Full-Time Equivalent positions in MBUSD. These actions were the result of six arduous months of careful analysis and planning. The resolutions included the release of temporary certificated employees, the non-reelection of certain probationary certificated employees, and the elimination of certain management, certificated and classified positions. As part of these resolutions, the Board of Trustees authorized District staff to issue preliminary layoff notices by the March 15, 2024, statutory deadline. 

Layoff decisions were guided by a focus on maintaining the programs, services, and pathways that have distinguished the exceptional educational experience we offer our students compared to neighboring districts, as well as by MBUSD Board Goals 1 and 2, which focus on maximizing the academic success of all students, serving the whole child, and providing a climate of care that supports the well-being and safety of all MBUSD students and staff. The layoffs were also informed by Board-adopted plans, studies, and legal requirements.

Regular updates about the state’s worsening budget picture have been shared with the community in many forums. As many know, MBUSD’s per-student State funding levels make it one of California's lowest-funded districts, and, as a result, the District depends heavily on local funding. 

We thank MBEF for its four decades of support funding essential positions, enriching opportunities, and programming we wouldn’t otherwise have. Other critical local funding sources include the City of Manhattan Beach, PTAs and PTSAs, MBX, and the voters who approved our local parcel tax six years ago. 

With the parcel tax expiring this year, the outcome of the current parcel tax measure on the ballot unknown, and the State’s bleak financial outlook, the decision to make staffing reductions, among the most difficult decisions we can make, was a necessary step. The actions taken this week reflect our careful consideration of many competing priorities. 

We value every staff member, and we know that the individuals working here are what make our programs special. Behind every full-time equivalent reduction is a dedicated professional committed to serving our students and community. 

We know these reductions will have significant impacts on class sizes and the programming we can offer in the years ahead. We will continue looking for other ways to augment revenue and decrease costs to preserve and restore as much of our District programming as possible. 

While we hope that these efforts will be fruitful, the Board of Trustees was required to take the actions outlined in the resolutions now due to statutory timelines related to staffing reductions. There are many budgetary conditions that continue to evolve, and while we hope that these will result in improved circumstances, current projections indicate that this week’s actions will be the first in a series of layoff and budgetary reduction decisions that will need to be made over the coming years. The District’s second interim budget presentation will be shared during the Board meeting on March 13. 

To better understand the District’s budget, please read this Easy Reader article and Please click here for the MBUSD budget one-pager.

MBEF continues to accept donations. If you haven’t donated or pledged yet, please consider doing so by visiting here.

MBUSD Email Use Reminder

We want to share a friendly reminder to our staff and families about email addresses. If you are a parent/guardian, please remember to use our email accounts when sending messages to staff. 

Avoid using the accounts to communicate with MBUSD staff. The email convention for most of our accounts is [email protected] ([email protected]).

Also, if you are a staff member, please only use your email address when communicating with the community, parents, students, and other staff members. Our accounts are the only official email accounts for all email correspondence. 

Skechers Presents MBEF with $245,616 to Support Our Schools

MBEF was awarded a check for over $245,000 at the Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk Partner Appreciation Night. We appreciate all of our students, families, and staff who participated this year to support our schools. A portion of the money raised will also be donated to our PTAs. A special thank you goes out to our community partner, Skechers, for hosting the annual Skechers Pier to Pier Walk.

This year, there were an estimated 2,012 registered walkers representing MBUSD. 

Since its inception in 2009, the walk has raised millions of dollars benefiting local school districts, children with special needs, and its national college scholarship program. We are proud and grateful for everyone who joined this year to raise funds for our schools. 

MBEF Receives Check for Skechers Pier to Pier Walk

Left to right: MBEF Director of Development and Partnerships David Brennan, MBEF Executive Director Hilary Mahan, MBUSD Superintendent Dr. John Bowes, MBEF Board Vice President Mike Brunick, MBEF Board President Alice Kuo, and MBUSD Public Information Officer Hibah Samad.

“This is MBMS” Brings Hundreds of People to Campus

Incoming 6th grade students and their families visited MBMS during its annual “This is MBMS” event. The event provided attendees with a personalized experience to connect with staff, explore the school, hear from current students, and understand the transition from elementary to middle school. It drew more than 400 attendees!

The evening commenced with an informative session highlighting the Wave culture and showcasing all that MBMS offers, including elective options. 

Families then received individualized schedules allowing them to delve into subject areas and extracurriculars they expressed interest in during registration. They had the opportunity to visit classrooms and facilities, engaging in panel discussions with teachers, students, and parents for a truly unique experience. Check out more pictures here.

MBMS 8th Graders Read Maus

8th grade students are currently reading the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman in their English classes. The book tells the real-life story of Spiegelman’s father, who was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. Students' reading of the book aligns with their recent early February trip to the Museum of Tolerance, which MBEF funded.

The book’s historical testimonials from a Holocaust survivor provide students with a deeper understanding of this horrific time in history. In class, students analyze and discuss graphic novel conventions, such as body language and imagery, to better understand the personal impact of the Holocaust. Another key objective is to build empathy through historical perspectives in literature and to bridge the past to the present in a global community.

The Board of Trustees adopted Maus in June 2022 to add more Holocaust literature and awareness to the curriculum. The visit to the Museum of Tolerance, along with reading this novel, is to provide an in-depth, powerful learning experience. Thank you to MBMS English Teacher Jeff Lee and the English Department for collaborating on this story.

Mira Costa’s LINK Crew Leaders Visit WEB Leaders at MBMS 

Mira Costa High School’s LINK Crew visited MBMS Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) Leaders this week. WEB Leaders connected with these high school leaders during Advisory, Intervention, Review, and Enrichment (AIRE) Time as an opportunity to foster articulation and relationships between the two programs.

LINK Crew shared their role and passion for aiding others, particularly incoming freshmen and new students. They played an engaging "get-to-know-you" and team building activities that underscored the significance of collaboration. This benefits the WEB leaders in their current roles at MBMS and prepares them to continue those connections when they get to Mira Costa.

By observing the responsibilities and initiatives undertaken by LINK leaders, WEB leaders gain a deeper understanding of the impact they can make within their school community. This exposure motivates WEB leaders to aspire towards leadership roles in high school and instills a sense of continuity and mentorship within the student body. Thank you to MBMS School Counselor on Special Assignment for Student Success at MBMS and WEB Coordinator Lauren Galbraith for sharing this story! 

Mira Costa Drama/Tech Receives “Superior Rating” for Fall Production

We congratulate the Mira Costa Drama/Tech Department and students for receiving a superior rating for their fall production Peter and The Starcatcher by the California Educational Theatre Association (CETA) adjudicators. This is the highest rating possible by CETA. They competed against 67 schools across the Southern California Region, including Orange County, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and San Diego.

In addition to this prestigious rating, students were honored with individual awards for their acting and behind-the-scenes work. This included an adjudicator award, director’s award, certificate of achievement for the tech crew, and certificate of achievement for the cast! 

Adjudicator Award: Ava Ford, role of Molly

Director’s Award: Luke Fraunces, role of Black Stache; Jackson Yollin, role of Peter

Certificate of Achievement (Crew): Kelly Berman, Ava Marisa Brunner, Stephanie Canada, Sarah Dobbins, Bella Dominick, William Glavin, Avery Messina, Vita Minn, Lily Mizrahi, Seph Peters, Joshua Truong, Felix Whitlow, Lior Wolfson

Certificate of Achievement (Cast): Charlie Baboolal, Margie Conner, Chloe Estrin, Ava Ford, Luke Fraunces, Kathryn Glavin, Aaron Henschel, Zoe Meyer, Jonah Mirkovich, Jackson Yollin

The cast and crew devoted 200 hours of rehearsal time outside school hours between September and November! Bravo!

Don’t forget the Mira Costa Drama/Tech spring musical, Footloose tickets will go on sale on March 25. Please visit to purchase tickets. The show's opening night is on April 26. Follow Costa’s Drama/Tech latest updates on Instagram here.

Mira Costa Choir Tour Elementary Schools

MBMS and Mira Costa Choir students performed at each elementary school on Leap Day as a way to invite 5th grade students to join MBUSD’s exceptional, award-winning vocal ensembles.

Along with MBUSD Choir Director Kate Crellin, the middle and high school choir members provided elementary students with engaging examples of what it’s like to be in a supportive, rigorous musical program while performing choral arrangements from well-known artists such as Billie Eilish, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Olivia Rodrigo, Imagine Dragons, Beyonce, and more.

Costa’s two student-led acapella groups, Coterie and Muscle, featured their own impressive musical arrangements and helped explain how the different voice types work together to make music without any additional instruments. The vocal “beatboxing” was a definite hit with the young students. 

Students also learned about medleys and genres of music. One of the highlights was a medley of Taylor Swift songs performed by the MBMS Choir. It featured various albums, and the audience also sang along! And, of course, there was a lot of excitement from the choir students as they proudly boasted their elementary school pride!

Ms. Crellin will be at the MBMS Music Open House for parents and students this Saturday, March 2. Come by to learn more about the opportunities for all students interested in joining a musical ensemble in middle school. The event will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the new MBMS music building.

Please visit our website here to learn about the diverse music pathways we offer from elementary to high school! Thank you to VAPA Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Scott Hughes for sharing this story. 

Easy Reader Story: Mira Costa High Jazz Band Wins National Jazz Festival

The Grammy Award-winning Mira Costa Jazz 1 band finished first in the Large Ensemble Category at the 5th Annual National Jazz Festival, a prestigious competition that took place in...

Read More

Mira Costa Indoor Drumline Show “After” Brings Home the Gold

Congratulations to Mira Costa’s Indoor Drumline team for winning 1st place at the recent Southern California Percussion Alliance competition. It is one of the most competitive drumline circuits in the nation. The Drumline performed their show “After,” which is about a post-apocalyptic world, and members of the drumline are scavenging through a barren wasteland during the “after” math of a doomsday scenario. Percussion Director Kevin Tran says that the Indoor Drumline team designs a show around members yearly. 

The circuit was part of the regular season competition, and Mustangs competed against seventeen schools in their division. 

Structure of the Test: How a Computer Adaptive Test Works, and Strategies to Excel, from CAASPP to the SAT and the GRE

We have all taken traditional “paper and pencil” tests, and for many of us, that is the only type of test we have taken. Times have changed, however, and public education agencies and private companies alike have shifted to primarily digital assessments. A particular type of this is called a “computer adaptive test,” which is part of the assessment program students in California will participate in this spring.

The way a computer adaptive test works is that, based on how each question is answered, the test “adapts” by changing what the next question will be. The more questions that students answer correctly, the more challenging the following questions will be, and the reverse is also true; after incorrect responses, they are more likely to get easier questions. 

The subtlety in this format is that early questions in the test have a more significant impact on how the student performs overall because the earlier questions make bigger changes in which “track of performance” a student follows, while the later questions are more about fine-tuning the final score. An image of this would be big waves at the beginning and ripples toward the end. 

Thus, an important strategy for students to follow on this test (and many other standardized tests, for that matter) is to be extra thorough when working through earlier test questions. If students are stumped, they should “mark for review," allowing them to temporarily skip a question and return to it later. This ensures that they get the first questions right, move forward on the higher track, and save the toughest questions for the very end when they do not have as much impact on the final score.

We are just a little more than a week away from state testing beginning at Mira Costa on March 12, and Manhattan Beach Middle School and our elementary schools will start in May. It’s time for our students to show off what they have learned!

MBUSD Students Compete in a Problem-Solving Tournament

Six teams from MBUSD competed in the Odyssey of the Mind regional tournament in Los Angeles. The teams were in three age divisions, and all qualified for the Southern California State tournament. Congratulations to our students!

Mira Costa High School: Division 3, Problem 4, 1st Place

Coached by Brian Fan

Manhattan Beach Middle School: Division 2, Problem 4, 1st Place

Coached by Alice Kuo

Odyssey of the Mind is an international education program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college.

Participants apply their creativity to a range of problems, from small to large ones. They also develop team-building skills and identify real challenges without limiting the possible solutions and their potential success. The program focuses on time management, budgeting, public speaking, and much more.

Pennekamp Elementary (5th grade): Division 1, Problem 4, 1st Place

Coached by Alex Otero

Pennekamp Elementary (3rd grade): Division 1, Problem 5, 2nd Place

Coached by Alex Otero

Pacific Elementary (3rd grade): Division 1, Problem 5, 3rd Place 

Coached by: Ms. Lautanen | 2nd Grade Pacific School teacher

Pacific Elementary (4th grade): Division 1, Problem 3, 3rd Place

Coached by: Ms. Lautanen | 2nd Grade Pacific School teacher

Mira Costa Choir Students Receive Accolades

We received the great news that Mira Costa and MBMS Choir students are taking their vocal talents beyond their campuses. 

Costa choir students Jaxon Stroyke and Jackie Beaupre were accepted into the A Capella Academy. MBUSD Choir Director Kate Crellin says this program typically admits less than 10% of applicants and receives applications from around the world. The students will spend a week together prepping for a live performance, recording a full music video, and music for an album. 

In addition to this exciting news, MCHS Choir singers Audrey Sarra and Caroline Cryer were selected for the competitive American Choral Directors Association Western Division Honor Choir. They will perform in Pasadena next month along with other students chosen from across the Western division. They will join the top musicians of California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

Three MBMS choir students were accepted into the Southern California Honor Choir for the third year. Congratulations to Teddy Mason Nesbitt, Gemma Waldman, and Rachel Fein. They will perform with other selected students in May. 

District Invention Convention

Ninety MBUSD students participated in this year’s Invention Convention. The competition provides a hands-on experience that supports students in problem identification, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, and creativity skills. 4th-8th graders can participate. In order to present during the convention, inventors had to submit a prototype and also share a video about their project for judges to review. 

Throughout the night, attendees could explore inventions, and students shared their ideas, some had demonstrations or visuals. Employees from Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Google were a few of the line up of judges who chose the top inventions. Fifteen projects were chosen to move on to the Southern Region Invention Convention. 

Last year, MBUSD students Wyatt Newbill and Charlotte Fan continued to the National Invention Convention competition and won first place in their category. Thank you to STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Chuen-Wei Ng, Science Specialists Connie Lieu, and Christina Ibrahim.

MBUSD Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Week Kicks-Off

New York Times Best Selling Author Susan Verde visited MBUSD this week. She spent the day presenting to all elementary school sites, sharing the importance of mindfulness, positive affirmations, and social-emotional well-being.

Susan spread the message of kindness and caring about yourself and others. She also shared her journey as an author, inspiring students to talk about their hopes and aspirations. 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 all of us.

During the visits, Susan shared her newest book, Who I Am: Words I Tell Myself, with TK through second graders. Thank you to MBEF’s educator grant for this experience. A community event was also hosted at Mira Costa. 

This visit kicked off Social and Emotional Learning Week, occurring March 4-8 across all of our campuses. Each school site will host daily activities to support social and emotional learning!

Meadows and Pacific Elementary Celebrates Read Across America Day

Annually, Meadows Elementary has hosted a reading time in recognition of Dr. Seuss’ birthday! Students shared their love for reading with one another by reading together during an assembly. 

Principal Michelle Krzmarzick says the event has been a great learning tool for students. “Today and every day is a day to celebrate reading, but Read Across America Day is even more special because Meadows students enjoy reading books with their little and big buddies. Just as exciting, they wear their pajamas, bring a stuffed animal, and sit on blankets together while they read. It is a favorite day at our school!”

At Pacific, first and fifth grade buddies had fun reading together as well on this special day! Teachers dressed up as characters from author, Jory John. (The Sour Grape, The Cool Bean, The Bad Seed, The Good Egg, The Couch Potato, The Smart Cookie). Read Across America Day was established by the National Education Association. 

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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on March 8.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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