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Superintendent's Newsletter

March 31, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

Today’s issue highlights Grand View, MBMS, and Costa music programs receiving top ratings by an esteemed state organization. Plus, find out which students will be taking their inventions to the California Invention Convention.

I am wishing everyone a wonderful Spring Break! I hope you have an opportunity to relax, recharge, and spend time with family, friends, and loved ones! There is still so much to look forward to in the coming weeks as we head into the final months of the school year. All MBUSD schools and school offices will be closed from April 3-7, 2023. 

Spotlight on Grand View (Special thanks to the 2nd Grade Team and Principal Tara Grings)

The Grand View 2nd grade team recently wrapped up a Writer’s Workshop opinion unit titled “Writing About Reading.” During this unit of study, students learned to write about beloved books in ways that persuaded others to love them as much as they do.

Students supported their opinions with evidence from the text such as illustrations, quotes by characters, and favorite parts. As a culminating activity to celebrate their achievements, Gators nominated their favorite book in the form of a letter and read it aloud in front of the class to practice public speaking. Students enjoyed choosing books to nominate, and sharing their opinions with their peers.

Staff Spotlight: Janet Allen

Our staff spotlight for this week is Mira Costa High School Psychologist Janet Allen! She started working at MBUSD in September 2002 as a School Psychologist at MBMS and five years later began serving students at Mira Costa. Janet has worked in MBUSD for 21 years in this capacity offering various services to our students.

Over the years, she has started many annual traditions and clubs that continue to thrive on campus offering diverse opportunities to our students. She is a faculty advisor for three clubs: Black Scholars Union, H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Educate Acts of Respect Together) Club, and Key Club. She spearheaded the annual Black History Month Assembly, which is now in its 10th year. Janet also led the H.E.A.R.T Club international service project in the Fiji Islands in 2019, where nineteen students were part of forty service hours supporting those in need. Janet served on Costa's Social and Emotional Learning Committee and is an ongoing staff leader for the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program at Mira Costa, among many other initiatives. 

Janet says MBUSD was her first choice after she completed her graduate school training because of the opportunities for growth, renowned educational programs, and the chance to work with students and families in a small community. 

When asked what her favorite part about her job is, it’s no surprise that Janet says it’s her students! “I love seeing their progress and growth over the years. I love helping students in need who are seeking to know themselves, seeking help for social-emotional development, and how to solve their problems.” She is passionate about seeing students share their joys, celebrations, and positive experiences!

Janet is a mother of twins and says it’s one of her biggest achievements along with reaching her 20-year mark in MBUSD and starting the current Peer Counseling pilot training program that gives MCHS students the opportunity to counsel other students.

In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and living life! In fact, Janet has run five marathons and four half-marathons in the last 10 years. She is a twin herself and is quite the singer! Thank you for the impact you have had on our students! 

Read more about our other Staff Spotlights here!

Robinson 5th Graders Visit Holocaust Museum 

Robinson 5th graders took a trip to the Holocaust Museum this week and participated in the museum’s “Steps to Tolerance” interactive experience. Taking place in the Youth Action Lab, students were given an introduction to Holocaust history and discussed current issues, including school bullying. 

Students took on the role of “explorers” and connected historical events to contemporary issues of respect and responsibility at school and in the community. They examined Holocaust artifacts and photographs and met the wife of a Holocaust survivor. 

The program was aligned to California’s Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and History Social Science for 5th grade. Thank you to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF) for funding this trip and these types of opportunities for our students! 

MBUSD Students Head to the Invention Convention State Finals 

Congratulations to all of our students who participated in the recent South Bay Regional Invention Convention competition hosted by Torrance Unified. Projects from Pacific, Robinson, and MBMS are now moving to the California Invention Convention. 

The inventors moving forward to represent us at the state level are: 

  • Samantha G. from Robinson - “The Silent Smart Hearing”

  • Shawn D., Jais K., Hudson K., and Talin T. from Pacific - “Investing Empire”

  • Charlotte F. and Wyatt N. from MBMS - “Terreus”

The Conservation Award presented by the water company Open Water was given to Benjamin T. and Christian G. for their “Can Crusher” invention.  

Good luck to our students! Thank you to STEM Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Tanya Sanchez and Elementary Science Specialist Connie Liu for leading our students in this work.

These students first showcased their inventions at the District Invention Convention at MBMS. 

Mira Costa Senior Dylan Iskandar Receives $50,000 STEM Scholarship

This week I had the opportunity to join Mira Costa staff and Southern California Edison Representatives for a priceless moment. We surprised high school senior Dylan Iskandar with a $50,000 STEM college scholarship that is only given to graduating high school students with big dreams of becoming difference-makers who are pursuing a degree related to science, technology, engineering, or math. There were 517 applicants from SCE’s service area and only thirty students were selected! Once Dylan completes his first year of college, he will be eligible for a paid summer internship with SCE.

Dylan hopes to attend college on the east coast and get a degree in computer science. We are very proud of Dylan and know that he will continue to excel in his future pursuits! Read more about him here.

Watch the video below that captures the special moment!

6th Annual MBUSD Math Competition

4th and 5th grade mathletes from all of our MBUSD elementary school sites competed in an individual and team round competition at the 6th Annual MBUSD Math Competition. Eighty-three students on seventeen teams competed for nearly two hours. 

There were multiple teams from each school site! 5th graders from Robinson on "Team 4th Dimension" took first place in the team round. With a tie for first place, Evan L. (Robinson) and Alicia Z. (Pennekamp) scored a 10/10 on the individual round. 

Congrats to all of the students who were honored for their individual efforts! At the end of the round, there was a tie-breaking relay! 

A selected group of 4th and 5th graders from this competition will now take their math skills to the next level by participating in the Los Angeles County Office of Education Math Field Day competition. Elementary Math TOSA, Holly Compton, MBX Math Competition Liason, Michelle Legaspi, and parent volunteers came together to make this event a huge success for the students. 

Mira Costa Students Selected for Boys and Girls State Programs 

Five Mustangs have been selected to attend The American Legion (TAL) Boys & Girls State and the American Legion Auxiliary’s (ALA) Girls State Conferences this summer. These programs are among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. 

Read More Here

Mira Costa Pool Water Filling Station Unveiling 

Representatives from the West Basin Municipal Water District visited Mira Costa this week to join us in the official unveiling of the most recent hydration station installation on campus. The water station located at the pool is the second one on campus that was partially funded by the West Basin MWD’s Water Bottle Filling Station Grant Program. It was created to provide members of the community with access to safe and reliable tap water to refill personal, reusable bottles. 

(Left to Right: Director of Facilities and Maintenance Paul Ruta, MBUSD Board President Cathey Graves, Superintendent Dr. John Bowes, Costa Athletes, Swim Coach Heidi Nelson, West Basin Municipal Water District Board of Director Desi Alvarez, MBUSD Board Member Tina Shivpuri, Dr. Karina Gerger, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard, Director of Operations Ed Jozefecick, and MBUSD Green Committee Chair Chrissie Clay.)

Special thanks to our Maintenance and Operations team for installing the system!

Skechers Pier to Pier Walk Raises $235,816 for MBEF to Support Our Schools

MBUSD and MBEF leadership joined city leaders, school officials, and other representatives at Topgolf in El Segundo this week to celebrate the success of the 15th Annual Skechers Pier to Pier Walk. Participating districts and education foundations were presented with checks for the large event that brings communities from across the South Bay together to support students.

MBEF was presented with a check for more than $235,000 that will support MBEF programs for our schools. Thank you to Skechers, the Friendship Foundation, MBEF, and our community who all rallied together to support this walk that truly makes a difference in the lives of all students and their families. This year there were a record 1,938 registered walkers representing our District.

2023 Mira Costa Scholar Quiz 

Congratulations to our Mira Costa Scholar Quiz winners! The finals took place in a packed auditorium as the Green and White teams went head to head to win the Scholar Quiz champion title! 

I was the Reader this year and it was impressive to watch our final teams answer the questions in a wide range of categories in a fast-paced environment with the White Team winning the coveted trophy. Question topics included history, geography, music and the arts, pop culture, politics, and more!

The White team included Devan Malik, Akash Mishra, Caden Coons, and Keith Daniels. They will join the ranks of other Scholar Quiz winners and be part of history as their names will be engraved on the famed trophy. 

The Scholar Quiz started with sixty-four teams with 256 students participating over six days. 

The event wouldn’t have been possible without staff and parent volunteers who filled over 250 slots during the competition. MBMS will also host its Scholar Quiz in April.

Read the MB News Story Here

Bravo to MBMS and Mira Costa Music Programs for Receiving Top Ratings!

The MBMS String Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, and Symphonic Band received the unanimous top rating of “Superior,” which is the highest rating given by the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Adjudicated Festival. Mira Costa Orchestras, including the Philharmonic, Sinfonietta, Symphony, and Chamber also unanimously earned the "Superior" ratings as well during the festival in Long Beach on March 23. This is the highest possible designation reserved for groups that achieve “the finest conceivable performance…worthy of the distinction of being recognized as among the very best.” 

Under the direction of MBMS Instrumental Teacher Denise Haslop, students impressed the judges. Denise shared that the judges’ written comments included:

  • “Bravissimo! Very musical. Very Expressive”
  • “What an amazing group, I really enjoyed this”

The festival is the musical equivalent of state-testing for music performance ensembles and they are judged by three festival adjudicators. Students perform on stage while the adjudicators evaluate the students on tone quality, intonation, blend and balance, rhythm, articulation, technique, and musicianship. 

String Ensemble Performing on Stage

Chamber Orchestra Performing on Stage

Costa Bands also shared the great news that they received the same honors at a different SCSBOA festival that took place this week, with the Costa Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Wind Symphony bringing home top ratings. Besides getting a unanimous "Superior" rating overall, they also received a top rating in Sight Reading. 

Congratulations to all of our music students and staff for their dedication! We are so proud!

MCHS Orchestras were led by Director of Orchestras Peter Park and MCHS Bands performed under the direction of Bands Director Joel Carlson

Watch the MCHS Wind Symphony Performance at SCSBOA Festival

Winterguard International Regional Championships

Congratulations to our Mira Costa Winterguard team and Band and Guard program! This past weekend, Costa hosted the Winterguard International Regional Championships which took place over two days. More than 70 teams visited our campus, and our team advanced to day 2 and received their highest score of the season. 

Thank you to our staff and parents for making this large event possible.

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

It’s that time again to support our schools and vote for them to be the best in the South Bay! The South Bay’s Best 32nd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards is underway by the Daily Breeze/Beach Reporter. In the education category, you can vote for the best preschool, public elementary school, and public high school! Besides voting for our schools, don’t forget to support MBEF in the non-profit category.

Vote here! Voting ends on April 23, 2023.

Nashville School Tragedy

We are deeply saddened by the senseless and horrific events that occurred this week at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. MBUSD sends its condolences and sympathy to the students, staff, families, and community of Covenant School who are impacted by the lives of loved ones they lost: Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, William Kinney, 9, Hallie Scruggs,9, Mike Hill, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Cynthia Peak, 61. 

While this incident happened outside of our region, the emotional effects of such a tragedy of this magnitude can directly impact our students, staff, and families. Every individual may experience this unsettling event in different ways. Students may have questions or concerns to process what happened. The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) has put together the following resources to provide educators as well as parents and guardians support in talking with students about gun violence, their safety, and their feelings. 

There are also resources to support adults who are experiencing emotional distress. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact the Los Angeles County Access Line at 1-800-854-7771 or dial 9-8-8.

LACOE also offers the Employee Assistance Service for Education (EASE) program, which provides confidential, HIPPA-compliant, mental health services for school district employees and their immediate families. EASE is a program created by educators, for educators and is available via our 24/7 access line at 1-800-882-1341. 

School safety continues to be our first priority and we are grateful for the strong relationships we have with the Manhattan Beach Police Department (MBPD). MBUSD has a variety of safety precautions that we exercise. You can find our commitment to safe and secure schools here. The health and wellness of our MBUSD community are of utmost importance. MBUSD provides numerous resources that are available on our District Health and Wellness page.

It is important to know that we have help available at our school sites. Please contact your school principal, teacher, or counselor if support is ever needed. Also, please remember, if you “See Something, Say Something.” Report any suspicious activity to officials no matter where you are. 

Our hearts go out to the victims and their families; we are here to support our community.

Makerspace Feature: Meadows

Our weekly feature is from Meadows Elementary Makerspace Specialist Crista Riccio! Her students participated in the challenge that asked students to plan, build, and test a working electric guitar. 

Students used a Makey Makey kit, cardboard, and tinfoil to complete and test the project. The challenge was aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) such as asking questions to determine the cause-and-effect relationships of electric or magnetic interactions between two objects not in contact with each other, making observations to provide evidence, and applying scientific ideas to create a device that converts energy from one form to another to name a few.

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

Upcoming Events!

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The next Superintendent's Newsletter will be published on Friday, April 14. 


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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