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Superintendent's Newsletter

March 15, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Mira Costa High School, the MCHS Boys Volleyball Team being named the Best in the West, and our youngest musicians receiving a gold rating for their talents!

Spotlight on Mira Costa High School (Special Thanks to Jonathan Westerberg, Drama Teacher and Drama/Tech Program Director, English Teacher, and ComedySportz HSL Advisor Maddie Hutchinson, Joel Carlson, Director of Jazz Bands, Badminton Coach Patty Perkinson, Assistant Coach David Levin, Assistant Coach Cindy Levin, and Cheer Coaches Travis Neese and Tim Rivera, and Principal Dr. Karina Gerger)

Watch a Portion of the KTLA Segment Here!

Today Southern California saw the fantastic programs and Mustang pride we have at Mira Costa High School as KTLA Channel 5’s on-air talent Megan Telles and the KTLA crew spent the morning from 6:00 a.m. featuring Mira Costa for KTLA's School Spirit Spotlight! They kicked off the morning show with the Badminton team! Assistant Coach David Levin and Senior Varsity Captain Alan Berkes were interviewed, and the players showed off their skills at the MCHS Athletics Complex Pavilion. Coach Levin highlighted Costa’s long history of CIF success, emphasizing badminton as the unique sport where there are coed mixed doubles.

Following this was a feature on MCHS Cheer! They shined bright with their varsity and junior varsity cheer athletes, who showed enthusiasm and a special cheer for KTLA. Cheer Coach Travis Neese discussed the team’s recent return from the National High School Cheerleading Championship. Throughout the morning, cheerleaders, LINK crew members, and Jazz musicians were part of live segments showing the top-notch school spirit.

Principal Dr. Karina Gerger was also in the spotlight. She talked with Megan about the strong academic and extracurricular opportunities offered at Costa. 

Director of Bands Joel Carlson boasted about the GRAMMY® Signature Schools award-winning Mira Costa Jazz 1, the recent accolade of MCHS Jazz Band being named champions at the National Jazz Festival, and last spring how they became the official Jazz Band of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. Vice President of Jazz 1, Ewan McPhee, and Lead Alto Saxophone in Jazz 1, Miles McPhee, shared their passion for music and recent honors at the National Jazz Festival. 

The segment concluded with a performance of an opening tune from their championship-winning performance at the National Jazz Festival called “A New Day” by Sammy Nestico. The next School Spirit Spotlight featured the Drama/Tech Department, including ComedySportz HSL! Highlights were interviews by Drama Teacher and Drama/Tech Director Jonathan Westerberg and ComedySportz HSL Advisor Maddie Hutchinson. Three ComedySportz players performed a short improvisation around the word "local news station!"

The last feature of the morning showcased our award-winning Drama/Tech Staff and students! The program includes over 120 stars enrolled in three Drama levels and two Tech courses. The most exciting part of the segment was a sneak peek of Drama/Tech’s upcoming spring musical production of Footloose! Tickets go on sale Monday, March 25.

Thank you to all of our students and staff who made this possible, including behind-the-scenes support from Cary Jordahl, MCHS Coordinator for Theater Production, and our administration team members Kimberly Price and Deborah Park. 

Staff Spotlight: Karla Yates | 3rd Grade Teacher 

We are featuring Meadows 3rd grade teacher Karla Yates! With a remarkable 24-year tenure in MBUSD, her journey began as a Reading Club teacher at Meadows. What makes this even more special is that she's a former Mustang Meadows student, and her two daughters have walked the same halls. After working in this position, she transitioned into teaching 2nd grade and says she has taught 2nd or 3rd grade at the school ever since. 

“I really enjoy working with students this age. They are so enthusiastic, inquisitive, and excited to learn new things. Every day is an adventure and an opportunity for growth with this age group, and I love it!” said Karla Yates. 

Karla’s dedication to education started way before MBUSD. She attended UCSD for her undergraduate degree and obtained her teaching credential from San Diego State. After graduating, she began teaching elementary school In Poway Unified School District and taught there for seven years. “I feel fortunate to have begun my career there many years ago. I had some amazing mentor teachers who helped me become the teacher I am today,” said Karla Yates.

Karla grew up in Manhattan Beach and raised her family here. She graduated from Aviation High School and was part of the last graduating class before its closure. She says she has a strong family connection to Manhattan Beach. Her grandparents moved to MB in 1930, and her father grew up here. 

Karla reflected on her favorite aspects of teaching and shared that she loves helping and supporting her students to learn how to persevere through challenges and work with others to achieve a goal.

“I also love seeing my students gain confidence and take risks. I'm always telling them that we learn from our mistakes and that they might not know it....yet. It's all about the power of ‘Yet’! Knowing that I'm helping inspire the next generation is an honor I don't take for granted,” said Karla.

Karla says that it’s amazing to see some of her former students who now also teach at MBUSD. She says it’s truly a privilege!

When Karla isn’t making a difference in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her grandchildren, traveling, working out, and reading!

Measure MB Parcel Tax and 2024-25 Budget Update

We are awaiting the final certified results of Measure MB, our MBUSD Parcel Tax Renewal Measure that was on the March 5 Ballot. Parcel tax ballot measures require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. We have been receiving daily ballot tabulation updates from the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office.

Yesterday afternoon’s update shows that 67.70% of tabulated ballots were cast in support of Measure MB and 32.30% of tabulated ballots were cast in opposition to Measure MB. There are still outstanding ballots to be counted, and we will inform the community of the final results once we receive certification from the County. Whether you voted yes or no for the measure, thank you to everyone who cast a vote and made their voices heard.

The passage of Measure MB will allow us to restore teaching positions that have been reduced in force. Even with the potential passage of Measure MB, though, the District faces significant budgetary headwinds. You can review the budget report provided to the community at Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Board of Trustees. Please see that presentation and report here. We will continue to keep you apprised of the State of California and MBUSD budget developments in preparation for the 2024-25 school year.

2023-2024 PTA Reflections Program Showcases Students Artistic Talents

MBUSD Student Board Members, Board of Trustees, and Reflections Winners

At this week’s Board meeting, the District honored students’ creative artwork that received the Award of Excellence (1st Place) for the 2023-24 PTA Reflections Program. Their creations reflected this year’s theme, “I am Hopeful Because…” and encompassed the categories of Visual Arts, Literature, Photography, Music Composition, Film Production, Special Artists, and Dance/Choreography. 

Designed to enhance a quality arts education, the PTA Reflections Program provides opportunities for students to express themselves and to receive positive recognition for their artistic and creative efforts. The Manhattan Beach Council of PTAs appreciates and recognizes all Manhattan Beach students who submitted entries to the 2023-2024 PTA Reflections Program. You can view a video compilation of the submissions here.

We congratulate three students whose entries have received awards at the 33rd District PTA level. MBUSD and the MB PTA extend congratulations to the following for their accomplishments:

- 1st Place Award of Excellence in the Photography category - Sophomore Catherine Curry

- 2nd Place Award of Merit in the Dance Choreography category - Junior Peyton Holcomb

- 3rd Place Award of Recognition in the Literature category - Sophomore Audrey Henry 

Left to right: MCHS Sophomore Catherine Curry, MCHS Junior Peyton Holcomb, and MCHS Sophomore Audrey Henry

MB PTA says the event could not have been done without the help of the following PTA volunteers, who chaired the PTA Reflections Program: Amanda Lutz-Beheshti (MB PTA Council), Jodi Ryan (Mira Costa), Taryn Hess (MBMS), Lisa Manley (Grand View), Erin Lutz (Meadows), Stacey Lisack (Pacific), Maria Reese (Pennekamp), Katherine Dunlap, and Tara Riley (Robinson).

MBUSD Board of Trustees Unanimously Approve Recommendations for Ethnic Studies Implementation

For more than a year, MBUSD’s Ethnic Studies Committee has been utilizing the Ethnic Studies Toolkit provided by the Los Angeles County of Education (LACOE) to guide its work in developing the California requirement for all high schools to offer at least a one-semester course in Ethnic Studies by 2025-26 school year. 

The Committee dedicated multiple meetings to reviewing and discussing important documents, community surveys, and student scheduling information which led to proposing final recommendations for the implementation of Ethnic Studies. Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo said the committee had extensive discussions around student needs and the various options for them. 

During this week’s Board meeting, the MBUSD Board of Trustees provided the final stamp of approval to roll out the implementation of the California Ethnic Studies requirement by offering a one-semester and year-long stand-alone elective options in 2024-25 and an integrated course option in 2025-26. Dr. Gonzalez-Castillo said the staff recommendation stems from survey data focused primarily on students and parents, which showed that the most preferred course offering was a one-semester Ethnic Studies course already stated in the District’s Board Policy. 

Staff also shared that the course selection process has begun at MCHS, and over sixty 9th and 11th grade students have also expressed interest in the year-long course. Starting from the 2029-30 school year, students must complete at least a semester course in Ethnic Studies to fulfill high school graduation requirements.

MCHS New Course Approval: Diversity and Cultural Studies

Trustees also unanimously approved a new course proposal at Mira Costa called Diversity and Cultural Studies, which will meet the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement. The class will provide students with a semester and year-long option. Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo shared that the name of the course reflects educating our students about diverse groups of people. The course overview area of study states, “This course will cover the cultures and experiences of the diverse peoples of the United States, using a lens from related academic fields, including history, literature, economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and political science. Satisfies the California Ethnic Studies requirement for graduation in 2029-2030.”

MBUSD staff say the course objective is to develop and enhance students' active listening skills, cultivate empathy and understanding of multiple perspectives and experiences that may differ from their own. Students will also improve their writing, reading, and research skills throughout the course. The first unit focuses on personal identity, incorporating students’ experiences. The course culminates in understanding specific groups and their historical contributions, highlighting how they overcame obstacles and impacted society.

The curriculum will also encompass local experiences of bigotry and discrimination in Manhattan Beach and the South Bay, including Bruce’s Beach, Uyematsu/Mira Costa, and antisemitism, as well as responses to date, including the Bruce’s Beach Commission, Juneteenth, and No Place for Hate.

The pilot course is scheduled to launch next year and will be officially offered in 2026, with Mr. Andy Caine as the instructor. The Ethnic Studies Committee, composed of staff, students, and parents, gathered a broad range of feedback from the community to inform the development of courses to pilot. Thank you to all the staff who worked tirelessly to create this course.

Mira Costa Stadium Way Project Update

The Stadium Way Project, a $4.6M project supported with facilities funding provided through the State’s bond program and augmented by an agreement with Kinecta, is making progress. Despite a number of challenges, including over three weeks of rain-related delays and the discovery of a variety of unforeseen and previously unidentified active and abandoned conduit, piping, and utilities underneath the 70-year-old roadway, the project continues to move forward.

Demolition, over-excavation, grading, the relocation of a backflow preventer, and modifications to the storm drain system are complete or nearing completion. The team is hard at work completing design modifications required by the discovery of the unidentified underground utilities. It is working with all subcontractors to address these issues as they arise. Although the project thus far has been an adventure, our construction team continues to assure us that a final drive will be in place for the Class of 2024’s graduation ceremony. We are grateful for the ongoing support and partnership of the team, including our architects from Gensler and our contractors with Balfour Beatty. 

School News Los Angeles County Superintendent’s Edition

The 2024-25 School News Los Angeles Superintendent’s 17th Edition has been published. 

Check out the Manhattan Beach Unified article here.

Vote NOW for our Schools and MBEF as the Best in the South Bay! 

It’s time again to support our District, schools, and MBEF by voting for them to be the best in the South Bay! The South Bay’s Best 33rd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards is underway by the Daily Breeze/Beach Reporter. This year, they have a middle school category for the first time. 

Please visit here and navigate to the education category. Here, you can enter the names of our schools in the best public school section for elementary, middle, and high schools. There is a separate category for Preschool!

MBEF is under the “Go & Do” tab; you can enter the “Manhattan Beach Education Foundation” name in the non-profit category.

Voting ends on April 7, 2024.

Vote Here!

MBMS Staff Attend Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Educational Training 

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) staff visited MBMS on Professional Development Day this week for educator training focused on reflecting, recognizing, and responding to antisemitism. During this session, speakers first shared the basic premises for learning to challenge antisemitism, and the perspective lens educators should incorporate when combatting it. 

The definition of antisemitism was shared, and MBMS staff engaged in a conversation with speakers about the different layers of the word. Following this, there was a small group discussion about why subtle incidents of antisemitism may go unnoticed within a school community and the long-term effects that can lead to normalization.

They also examined how different forms of antisemitism require different responses and the actions that can be taken to become more aware of and address these incidents. Attendees analyzed and reviewed various scenarios to discuss how they would handle particular situations of antisemitism. The ADL team provided resources and tools that staff can utilize. 

Take the LCAP Survey Today!

We invite you to participate in our annual Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Survey. Your feedback and input are essential in helping us better understand your needs, concerns, and priorities for our District. It will assist us in shaping our District's priorities and guide the allocation of resources better to serve our students, families, and community. The survey will be open until March 31.

The Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) describes the District’s goals for student learning, outlines actions and measures, and demonstrates how the District’s budget supports those goals. The survey asks for feedback on safety and behavior, student support, academic preparation, family involvement, and school leadership. We are asking all parents/guardians, staff, and community members to please take a moment to participate in the survey to support MBUSD’s vision and goals for student success! Parents/guardians are asked to complete this LCAP Survey. All responses are confidential. The District's independent research partner, K12 Insight, administers the survey and compiles the results. Thank you in advance for participating in this year’s survey! We value your input and appreciate your time. 

Elementary Honor Band, Choir, and String Orchestra Earn “Gold” Rating

Congratulations to our 4th and 5th grade Honor Band, Honor Choir, and Honor String Orchestra groups, each awarded the “Gold” rating for their performances at the Forum Music Festivals event in Fullerton on Friday, March 8. The “Gold” rating represents the top tenth percentile of playing ability and ensemble performance compared to similar music groups nationwide! 

Outstanding musicianship awards were given to Leo Tulk (4th grade) for Honor Choir, the cello and bass sections from Honor Strings, and the clarinet section for Honor Band. Music teachers Tim Nail (Honor Band), Krista Giffin (Honor Choir), and Janet Johnson (Honor Strings) were proud to share the adjudicators’ comments with their students. Some of these were: “Fantastic! Best blended elementary ensemble I have heard.” “Wonderful control” “Lovely contributions from each section.” “Beautiful, healthy tone.” “Well in-tune.” You can watch a video of the Honor Band and Honor Strings performances at this link and the Honor Choir performance of “Shenandoah” here.

After the successful performances and awards ceremonies, the honor students spent some well-deserved bonding time at Knott’s Berry Farm! On behalf of our music students, a special “thank you” to our chaperones, MBUSD staff, and parents for supporting this important program. Honor groups are only possible with the collaboration of our elementary, middle, and high school music teachers. 

Please keep an eye out for the upcoming Honor Band, Honor Choir, and Honor String Orchestra performances:

  • The Honor Choir will perform at the all-district Build a Bridge choir event on Tuesday, March 19, at 6:00 p.m. in the Mira Costa Auditorium.
  • Honor String Orchestra is on Tuesday, April 23, in the Mira Costa Small Theatre at 5:00 p.m.
  • Honor Band is on Thursday, April 25, in the Mira Costa Small Theatre at 6:00 p.m.

MBMS’ Chamber Orchestra and String Ensembles Receive Highest Rating for Festival Performance

Under the direction of MBMS’ Instrumental Music Teacher Denise Haslop, the Chamber Orchestra and String Ensembles once again impressed the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) adjudicators. They delivered outstanding performances that earned them the Unanimous Superior rating, the highest rating possible. We couldn’t be more proud of their hard work and dedication!

Denise Haslop shared that the adjudicators gave glowing remarks about the talented musicians. They ranged from “You are playing with great technique and tone” to “Bravo! A very enjoyable performance! You are clearly rehearsing effectively and achieving at commendable levels!”

Thank you to Steve Lin and Melanie Paulick, the parent chaperones who assisted in numerous ways. Additionally, we appreciate the dedication of percussion coach Jim Jones and UCLA student teacher Emma Surdilla. 

MBMS String Ensemble

MBMS Chamber Orchestra

Mira Costa Orchestras Earn Top Ratings at SCSBOA Adjudicated Festival

Speaking of top ratings, our Mira Costa High School Orchestras also earned the best rating for their performance at a Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) sanctioned music festival on March 13th in Santa Ana. The Philharmonic, Sinfonietta, Symphony, and Chamber Orchestras all earned a unanimous superior rating from the festival adjudicators.

This is the highest possible rating reserved for groups that achieve “the finest conceivable performance…worthy of the distinction of being recognized as among the very best.”

According to Orchestra Director Mr. Peter Park,"The recognition earned by our students is a clear testament to their hard work and reflects the excellence of the MBUSD music programs, from elementary through high school." Congratulations to our Mustang musicians!




MBEF Support Our Schools Day Coming Up

Next week, you can shop and dine in downtown Manhattan Beach while giving back to MBEF! Wednesday, March 20, is the Annual Support Our Schools Day.

There are 52 businesses registered to participate! Please click here for those retailers and restaurants. A percentage of the day’s sales will go towards the MBEF educator grants supporting our schools.

Click Image Below for Flyer

Mira Costa Model United Nations Compete at UC Berkeley 

The Model UN students recently showcased their debate skills at the Berkeley Model United Nations (BMUN). It was a very successful trip, with many accolades: two partnerships won the Best Delegate Award, three partnerships and one individual delegate claimed the Outstanding Award, and two partnerships and two individual delegates won the Commendation Award. 

Additionally, students from the Mira Costa Model UN program are debating at the 50th annual National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN) conference in New York. We wish them the best of luck!

Mira Costa Boys Volleyball Named the Best in the West!

Congratulations to the Mira Costa Boys' Varsity Volleyball team for bringing home the gold at last weekend's Best of the West two-day tournament at Poway High School. Mira Costa’s win marks the first time in history that a single high school has won the tournament four times. Thirty teams competed for the title, and individual athletes were also honored. Victor Loiola was named Tournament MVP, and student-athletes Johnny Dykstra and Alex Heins made the All-Tournament Team.

Mira Costa defeated Newport Harbor in the finals in two sets. With this win, the team’s season record was 16-1.

Thank you to Coach Greg Snyder, assistant Coaches Shane Stroyke, Canyon Ceman, Nick Sheftic, and former Mira Costa Boys' Volleyball Coach Mike Cook.

Read More Here
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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on March 22.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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