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Superintendent's Newsletter

March 24, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

Today’s issue highlights MBMS, our District Teacher of the Year, the Budget Corner, and From the Bargaining Table.

Spotlight on MBMS (Special thanks to Vice Principal Katie Cavallero, Counselor on Special Assignment Lauren Galbraith, Counselor Allie McLaughlin, Counselor Candice Munro, and Principal Jennifer Huynh)

MBMS staff and students continue to foster a climate of care on campus. Recently, while English teachers were collaborating on units and curriculum, administrators and counselors had the opportunity to go into 7th and 8th Grade English Language Arts (ELA) classes to deliver lessons on inclusion. This was a great way for MBMS students to have a dialogue around the topics that promote a climate of care in all MBUSD schools. 

The lesson opened with an engaging activity asking students to think about times when they experienced discrimination for being a teenager. Multiple scenarios were provided in which many had identified experiencing at least once in their lifetime. Then, students worked as a class to define what it means to be biased, both explicitly and implicitly, through a Jamboard activity and video presentation. Students thought about their own membership to groups such as ethnicity, activities, age, and more. 

At the same time, they understood that their positionalities can influence how they interact and see others. Lastly, students were provided time to reflect on their own experiences of discrimination – whether it be something that directly happened to them or something they have witnessed. Overall, the takeaway for students was that they were able to have a space to dialogue with their peers and gain a deeper sense of understanding other perspectives to build empathy, acceptance, and care for everyone around them. This lesson was derived from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) curriculum and adapted by our MBMS counselor on special assignment, tier I counselors, administration, students, and parents. 

Staff Spotlight: Rachel Welch

This week our staff spotlight is Special Education Coordinator Rachel Welch. Rachel began working in MBUSD in 2017 as a learning center teacher at Grand View and MBMS. She wanted to work at MBUSD because of the “family-oriented nature of the School District and the beautiful schools.” 

Rachel says she loves working in Special Education because she has a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students and support those who have learning hurdles, overcome those barriers, and be successful in school and beyond. When asked what her biggest achievement is, she says it’s when she sees students succeed and achieve their goals.

She is honored to support the MBUSD community and the successes that inspire her to continue to do this work. When asked what makes MBUSD a great place to work, Rachel says “MBUSD offers a high quality, personalized educational experience for all students. It’s a family-like, student-centered community where everyone is known by name!”

Rachel is a foodie and loves to travel for food!

Read more about our other Staff Spotlights here!

2023 District Teacher of the Year: Niel Leonard

Congratulations to MBMS Science Teacher Niel Leonard! He was selected as the District Teacher of the Year today. MBUSD Cabinet team and MBMS administration surprised him with the news during the school day!

Niel began his career at MBUSD in August of 2018 and says he applied to MBMS for its excellent educational system. He wanted to work at MBUSD to be closer to a region where he could teach students about taking care of our ocean firsthand, coach volleyball, and engage with the next generation of change-makers. 

Niel’s mother also was a teacher and taught for several decades, which inspired him to pursue a career in education. “I am so grateful for her and wouldn’t be who I am today without her. She taught me empathy, love of all creatures, and to be the best version of myself every day.”

Niel says he has the best job in the world and is in awe of how much our MBUSD community is capable of and what we will do in the future. He goes home feeling inspired and wanting to give his all back to the school and community. 

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo was part of the District Teacher of the Year Selection Committee that interviewed and observed the MBUSD Teachers of the Year and says Mr. Leonard impressed the committee. He designed a DNA Extraction Lab where students learned how to extract DNA from strawberries. She says, “It is clear that Mr. Leonard promotes an engaging learning environment where trial and error are supported and collaboration is key in the learning process.” Mr. Leonard has developed interpersonal connections with his students and tailors questions for each learner.

Every year, each school site administrator selects one teacher from a pool of teachers nominated by their peers. K-12 Teachers of the Year are then interviewed and observed by a team of District administrators who will select one outstanding educator to participate in the Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year competition and represent our District.

We appreciate all that you do to support our students and thank you for representing our District! Watch the surprise below and hear from students on why they love coming to Mr. Leonard's class!

We Are MBUSD: District Choir Director Kate Crellin

Our latest “We Are MBUSD'' feature shares the story of District Choir Director Kate Crellin who supports the GRAMMY® Award-winning program at MBMS and Mira Costa. As a performer, she has sung with big names such as the Rolling Stones and David Crosby while also having toured across eleven countries. 

Each unique story we highlight will share the diversity of MBUSD staff, students, and alumni who make our community what it is today! Watch video:

Budget Corner

Like all public school districts in California, MBUSD is emerging from unprecedented times. While the pandemic brought with it many challenges in numerous arenas, the fiscal environment over the past few years has helped school districts to be in a better position to navigate these waters. Since 2020, the state has provided MBUSD with over $12 million in one-time funds to provide supplies and materials required to address the pandemic and to help to meet the learning challenges that students faced. Additionally, this year, the state not only fully funded the statutory Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) as required by law, but also made an additional investment in the Local Control Funding Formula’s (LCFF’s) Base Grant, responding to ongoing concerns that the LCFF does not provide sufficient funding to pay for the basic educational needs of California’s students. While this additional investment did not bring California’s funding levels to that of the top five states in the nation (an aspirational goal articulated by some lawmakers), it does put California above the national average. 

However, the economy is cyclical, and fiscal challenges lie ahead. One-time funding has been largely depleted, state revenues are lower than projected, and the legislature is contemplating statewide budget cuts for 2023-24. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has suggested that the state may not be able to fully fund the COLA for next year, and the Governor has proposed a mid-year cut to current year revenue for schools. MBUSD is working with the City of Manhattan Beach to renew the Shared Use Agreement, which is set to expire after 2023-24. The District’s Parcel Tax, Measure MB, which provides approximately $2.5 million in funding to our schools each year, will also sunset after the 2023-24 school year. With potential reductions in state funding and uncertainty surrounding local funding sources, the District’s Multi-Year Projection forecasts budgetary risk in the coming years. This can be seen in the District’s Second Interim Budget Report, presented on March 15, which can be found here.

Between now and June 30, both the State and the District will finalize budgets for the coming year. All eyes will be on the economy, its implications for State revenues, and negotiations at the legislative level.  

Please watch for further budget updates over the next few months. 

From the Bargaining Table

On February 9, 2023, the bargaining teams from Manhattan Beach’s Chapter 126 of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) and the District concluded three months of bargaining by reaching an agreement on salary and benefits as well as several important articles in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. CSEA employees will be provided an ongoing 5% raise on the salary schedule, retroactively applied from July 1, 2022, in addition to a one-time payment of 1% of their annual salary. During the negotiation sessions, both bargaining teams worked collaboratively to solve many issues that had been affecting CSEA members. The end result was not only a settlement that was ratified by the CSEA membership and adopted by the Board of Trustees but also a solid working relationship characterized by trust and open lines of communication. We are pleased to have been able to work together so effectively and efficiently to reach an agreement with our largest bargaining unit.

The District is entering its fifth month of bargaining with the Manhattan Beach United Teachers Association (MBUTA). The District bargaining team has spent multiple sessions negotiating MBUTA and District proposals. The District bargaining team has also presented detailed budgetary information to MBUTA to help facilitate understanding of its salary proposal.

Mira Costa Student Eva Asidao Recognized as “Faces of the Future”

MCHS 10th grader Eva Asidao is selected as one of nine students in the South Bay who are making a difference in the community. Eva was chosen as a “Face of the Future” for making a meaningful impact both within and beyond their communities. Her story was highlighted in the latest issue of Southbay Magazine. We are so proud of you!

Check out the article here 

In the Classroom: “Inquiry Centers”

Pacific 4th graders in Emily Brunick’s class rotated through Holocaust “inquiry centers” that encouraged students to discuss the main focus of the learning stations which were images, photographs, video, and a song. Emily worked with Literacy Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Dr. Anna Gralnik to facilitate this inquiry-based lesson by integrating the historical fiction unit of Reading Workshop centered around the novel Number the Stars, which the students will read next. 

This collaborative work was facilitated to help students build background knowledge of historical fiction to deepen their sense of the era by discussing and sharing what they saw through the medium featured at the center. Each station helped students build the knowledge gained from the previous center. Students asked questions, shared dialogue, and also worked in a larger group setting.

Funding for the literature integration was through MBEF’s Educator Grants program that provided teacher development and collaboration with Holocaust Museum Los Angeles and will also fund a field trip to the museum.

The Holocaust inquiry learning stations, the reading of Number the Stars, and the visit to the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles are all connected to provide different types of learning experiences to the students.

International Math Competition Comes to MBUSD

Math Kangaroo, an international math competition that is hosted in seventy-seven countries took place at MBMS recently! Seventy-one math club members from 3rd to 8th grades from across the District participated in the olympiad organized by parents, math coaches, and our Secondary Math Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Julie Stuart. 

Students were given a set of challenging math problems to solve within a given time frame according to their grade level. They only used writing tools and paper to work on responses and were not allowed to use calculators. Students used their problem-solving skills and math knowledge to answer the questions! 

This competition took place in person for the first year since the pandemic. Math Kangaroo is a national non-profit organization with a mission of helping students love math! Each student receives a t-shirt, an electronic certificate of participation, and a gift. 

Thank you to Grand View Math Olympiad Coach Gillian Cato for sharing this story!

2023 Mira Costa Scholar Quiz

For the second year, I participated in the highly anticipated Mira Costa Scholar Quiz competition this week. Annually, our students, staff, and parents come together to make this event a huge success! On day 1 of the Scholar Quiz, there were 64 teams with 256 students participating. More than 250 volunteer slots are filled over the course of the tournament for the six days of the academic competition. Good luck to all of our scholars! We will see you at the final event next week.

Drama Tech Department Sweet Victory

The Mira Costa Drama Tech Department impressed the judges at the Fullerton College High School Theatre Festival where more than thirty Southern California High Schools competed in dozens of categories over the course of two days. 

The Mira Costa Green Team won first place in the Tech Olympics. Students competed in eight events during this competition that showcased electrical wiring, tool and hardware, knot tying, props quick change, tool relay, and drapery hanging. The following are the other big wins during the festival: 

1st Place - Modern Ensemble – Humorous (Teddy Glozman & Abby Brown)

2nd place - Contemporary Ensemble Humorous (Lizzy Fleming & Lia DeFonce-Martini)

3rd Place - Modern Monologue – Dramatic (Dean Spurgeon)

3rd Place – Modern Ensemble – Dramatic (Siena Fredrick & Chris Halkias)


Our Teams were Finalists in 11 categories including:

Musical Theatre - MAMMA MIA!

Contemporary Ensemble - Humorous - Almost, Maine

Classic Ensemble – Dramatic or Humorous - Much Ado About Nothing

Classic Monologue – Dramatic - Hamlet

Contemporary Monologue – Dramatic - Shadows of My Mind

Theatre Games - Team Hehe

Modern Monologue – Humorous - Odd Couple, Death of a Salesman

Modern Ensemble - Humorous - All in the Timing

Modern Ensemble - Dramatic - Closer

Acting for the Camera - Little Women

MBMS No Place for Hate® Pledge Signing 

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) No Place for Hate® Program at MBMS reached another milestone this week. Students signed the NPFH pledge which is one of the commitments to achieve a school site designation for completing the program. Over the course of the year, students and staff lead the way by designing and implementing activities that engage students in eliminating bias and bullying on campus. 

Students signed the pledge in which they promise to do their best to treat everyone fairly, to be kind, to be an upstander, and acknowledge that everyone should be able to feel safe and happy in school. Mira Costa and Pennekamp are also participating in the program to be designated as NPFH campuses. Our four schools have already been designated and are continuing the work annually.

Students Practice Pitching Business Ideas

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) students pitched their real business idea to a group of mock investors in a shark tank-style panel at Mira Costa this week to prepare for their big official pitch in April. The investors provided feedback and suggestions to the entrepreneurs to support them as they finalized their business plans. 

Students from MBMS and Mira Costa participate in the year-long program and meet every Wednesday. This year our students' business ideas ranged from a clothing brand, an e-bike battery company, a kid’s party catering business, and a mouth-watering butter brand with a variety of flavors, and an entrepreneur that wants to inspire and support youth in music through his business.

The YEA program happens annually through the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce with the support of MCHS English teacher Rachel Thomas and community members who assist with guiding the students. The academy in Manhattan Beach provides an opportunity for students who live or attend school in the Greater South Bay of Los Angeles to participate in the program that mentors participants into real, confident entrepreneurs. Students begin the program by creating a business idea, researching, and perfecting their pitch to eventually launch their own businesses by the end of the program. 

Once students are successful in completing all aspects of the program they move on to the national competition! Good luck!

MBMS Drama Romeo vs. Juliet Opening Night - Friday, March 24

We are excited to share that MBMS, directed by Electives Department Chair David Levy, is producing a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tale Romeo and Juliet! Tonight is the first night of the big show.


David Levy shares that the Romeo vs. Juliet play is about reaching out and connecting before it’s too late. “We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet but what if, instead of falling in love, those star-crossed kids were destined to dislike one another? Could their choices still affect change in the lives of the people around them?” 

Don’t miss out on this performance and join MBMS Drama Ghostlight players for this heartfelt story!

You can purchase tickets here

Makerspace Feature: Grand View

Grand View 3rd graders made lighthouses after discussing how often they play a role in books, movies, and poetry. They discussed how important the Fresnel lens was for its time and drew parallels with the radar and GPS of today. Gators learned about a famed 20th-century engineer who designed the Fresnel lens.


During this Makerspace Challenge students benefitted from using an engineering technique called flange that makes the cardboard structure stronger and more stable. They used recycled paper towel tubes that parents donated to the project.  

The students learned to 'complete a circuit' and lit their lighthouses making for a nice night light for months to come. They also learned the importance of lighthouses to guide ships carrying important cargo, food, supplies, and cattle to their destinations enabling the expansion of the West.

Upcoming Events!

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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, March 31. 


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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