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Superintendent's Newsletter

March 8, 2024

Dear MBUSD Staff,

Today’s issue highlights Manhattan Beach Preschool, student mathletes competing in MBUSD’s 7th Annual Elementary Math Competition, and details on KTLA Channel 5 News coming to Mira Costa High School!

We also want to remind everyone that Sunday, March 12, will mark Daylight Saving Time. Don’t forget to move your clocks forward by one hour on Saturday night!

Spotlight on MB Preschool (Special Thanks to Director of Early Learning Shannon Huston)

Manhattan Beach Preschool frequently welcomes parents and community partners to share their careers and expert knowledge with our students. Pediatric Dentist Robin Fong and her assistant, Mayra, are one example of these partnerships and how they benefit MBP students.

Dr. Fong's annual presentation is more than just a routine visit; it's an engaging educational experience that leaves a lasting impact on preschoolers. Through interactive demonstrations and captivating storytelling, Dr. Fong introduces the children to the fundamentals of dental care in a fun and accessible way. 

The session started with a hands-on demonstration, where the children learn proper brushing and flossing techniques using oversized toothbrushes and floss. As they eagerly mimic Dr. Fong's instructions, they develop essential skills to lay the foundation for a lifetime of good oral hygiene. However, Dr. Fong's lessons extend beyond brushing and flossing. She also educates the children about the importance of healthy eating habits for maintaining strong, cavity-free teeth. She uses colorful visuals and relatable examples to explain how indulging in sugary treats can attract "sugar bugs" to their teeth, leading to cavities and discomfort. 

As the session draws to a close, each child is presented with a toothbrush and other dental goodies to take home. These practical tools serve as a reminder of the valuable lessons learned during the presentation, encouraging the children to continue practicing good oral hygiene habits in their daily lives and instilling positive habits at a young age.

Staff Spotlight: Elizabeth Ross | MBMS Humanities Teacher

Elizabeth Ross began her journey in education as an 8th grade U.S. History teacher at Palos Verdes Intermediate School. She found this role particularly enjoyable because she had the opportunity to work alongside her mother-in-law, who taught English at that time. After graduating from UCLA’s Teacher Education Program with her M.Ed. in 2013, she was hired as a 6th grade Humanities teacher at MBMS. She also taught 7th grade Social Science. 

As an English and History teacher, she loves many aspects of both subjects when teaching them to students. When it comes to English, she highlights the excitement that fills the classroom when a story plot unfolds when students are reading together. “I think about students telling me that their poems brought tears to their parents’ eyes or when they come back years later to tell me they finished a book series they started in my class. Finally, I think about the empathy my students develop by reading about the experiences of lives they have not lived,” said Elizabeth Ross. 

She says teaching History also offers its own set of joys. From the lightbulb moment students have when they realize how similar ancient civilizations are to each other or even when they learn about unfamiliar parts of the world and ancient ruins for the first time. Beyond her love for the subject, she values working with this age group during their critical period of growth. Elizabeth also shares that the MBMS Humanities team is one of a kind, and she feels lucky to work alongside them! She says they are intelligent and passionate and credits them for the teacher she is today. Elizabeth appreciates the dedication of the MBMS administration, who consistently demonstrate their care for staff and students. 

Working in education is a tradition in Elizabeth’s family. Her mom was an elementary school teacher and principal. “Throughout my life I saw the joy she found in helping her students. Also, my paternal grandparents were both secondary teachers, and my maternal grandparents were both college professors. Even as a little kid, I knew the positive impact great teachers could have.”

When asked why she chose to pursue a career at MBUSD, she said, “I am continuously blown away by the tenacity and creativity of our MBUSD students, and I truly believe they will go on to become some of our future leaders. I feel extremely honored to be a part of their education.”

Elizabeth was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is a proud Bruin. She attended UCLA for undergraduate and graduate school. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exploring new neighborhoods and restaurants, and collecting and listening to jazz vinyl records. You can also find her snapping photos of her two cats! 

MBUSD Staff Presents Model Intervention Program at State Conference

Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Dr. Jonathan Erickson, Meadows Principal Michelle Krzmarzick, and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) TOSA Patti McCullum presented at the California Department of Education (CDE) All Titles Conference this week that focused on “Serving the Whole Child Through School Transformation.” 

Educational leaders from across the state attended the conference to learn best practices related to effective programs, student achievement, social and emotional learning, and accountability. MBUSD staff led a session for over 50 participants from districts and charter schools. They showed them how the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) program, especially through What I Need (WIN) time, has yielded amazing results for students in our elementary schools. 

They shared many of the tools and processes they have created and refined and broke the group into smaller groups based on where their schools and districts were in the same journey for more targeted support and guidance. Participants left inspired and appreciated the modeling and sharing of best practices to benefit students everywhere.

Budget Corner

In last week’s Superintendent’s Newsletter, we provided information about the state budget and the need for a reduction in force. At last week's Board meeting, Trustees made the difficult decision to approve a series of resolutions involving the layoff of more than 39 Full-Time Equivalent positions in MBUSD.

By adopting these resolutions, the Board authorized District staff to issue preliminary layoff notices by the March 15, 2024 statutory deadline. 

You can find the full entry from last week's Budget Corner here. The District's second interim budget presentation will be shared next week at the Wednesday, March 13, Board Meeting.

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. A link to the staff survey was also emailed to employees.

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.

Mira Costa on KTLA Channel 5 News School Spirit Spotlight

We have some exciting news! On Friday, March 15, tune into KTLA Channel 5 News starting at 6:25 a.m. to see our Mustang spirit featured in KTLA’s School Spirit Spotlight series during the morning show! It showcases Southern California schools that exhibit school spirit and truly stand out.

Mira Costa’s award-winning Jazz Band, Drama/Tech, ComedySportz, nationally ranked Cheer team, and Badminton team will take center stage throughout the morning!

Tune in to hear from our amazing staff, coaches, and students who will be interviewed. We can’t wait to show everyone what our outstanding Mira Costa High School offers.

This is Costa Part 2

Incoming Mustangs and their families visited Costa this week to learn more about the diverse program opportunities offered. Attendees visited break out sessions and received information firsthand about each program from dedicated staff and coaches.

The personalized experience gave them valuable insights into MBX Summer School, College and Career Center (CCC) offerings, Drama, Choir, Orchestra, Band/Winterguard, La Vista, Media Arts, Tech and Engineering, and all athletics.

Thank you to MBX for hosting this event and to the Mira Costa PTSA and administration for their support.

CAASPP Testing for 11th Graders Coming Up Next Week!

Every spring in California, all public schools administer tests through the CA Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which includes tests in English and Math in grades 3-8 and 11 and a science test in grades 5, 8, and 11.

We want to remind our community that the 11th grade CAASPP tests for the State of California are scheduled for March 12 at Mira Costa High School.

Over the past four weeks, we have been sharing important information emphasizing the significance of these tests and how they impact our students when they attend college. Please be sure to share this information with your child to encourage them to perform their best. With testing starting next week, it is all about motivation and effort at this point, and we know our students will do great in this opportunity to show all that they have learned!

Here is a recap of the Superintendent’s Newsletter entries shared with more details about the testing program: 

February 2: CA Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Tests: What They are, and Why They are Important

February 9: The Early Assessment Program (EAP): How the State Tests Can Save Students Time and Money in College with High Scores in High School Now

February 16: Skill and Will: Why Showing Up and Giving the Best Effort is the Most Important Thing for Students to Do

March 1: Structure of the Test: How a Computer Adaptive Test Works, and Strategies to Excel, from CAASPP to the SAT and the GRE 

These entries were written by the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Dr. Jonathan Erickson.

Two Days Left to Apply for the Mira Costa Alumni Hall of Fame

MCHS Distinguished Alumni Logo

If you know a Mira Costa graduate making a difference in the world, you now have the opportunity to celebrate and honor them through the Mira Costa Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame program. Nominations are being accepted through this Sunday, March 10, and you can find the nomination form here. Hard copies are also available at the Mira Costa office. 

Once the alums are chosen, they will be honored during a special school-wide induction ceremony with the Mira Costa student body. The inaugural program took place in 2012, and sixty-five graduates have been inducted. This will mark the 10th Annual Mira Costa Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame program. 

New Hydration Station Installed at MBMS

We are excited to share that MBMS has a new hydration station! It’s the third station installed on this campus. Adding another hydration station reflects our commitment to providing our schools with facilities that allow staff and students to refill their reusable water bottles easily. The installation was a collaborative effort by the District and its Green Committee, highlighting our ongoing sustainability efforts. 

To date, MBUSD has 46 hydration stations across its campuses and facilities.

3rd Annual MBUSD Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Week

District-wide staff, students, and families participated in social and emotional learning activities and events from March 4-8 for the 3rd Annual MBUSD Social and Emotional (SEL) Week! Each day of the week was aligned with the District’s Social and Emotional Learning Framework, which serves as the foundation for serving the whole child. The framework displays five statements, including: 

“I achieve positive goals.”

“I show empathy for others.”

“I maintain positive relationships.”

“I make responsible decisions.”

“I understand and manage emotions.”

SEL is related to Board Goal #2, emphasizing a Climate of Care at all schools. Many highlights of the week brought the school community together. Schools created Heart Gardens and engaged in yoga time by Breathe + Learn. TekNekLab visited all 6th grade Humanities classes for a group stretch. There were mindfulness activities, rock painting, and positive messages were shared.

School sites hosted speakers on various topics. Robinson kicked off SEL Week with speaker Arlene Pellicane, who offered great tips for creating a healthier relationship with technology and managing it at home.

Robinson also hosted a Parent Coffee Talk: “Everyday Dharma: 8 Essential Practices for Finding Success and Joy in Everything You Do,” with author and Robinson Parent Suneel Gupta. Mira Costa had speaker Kenny Johnson talk to students about unleashing your potential through goal setting.

Thank you to our SEL Committee and school site leads for their efforts in making this event a success. The committee spends months to prepare for the important week. Be sure to visit our District and school social media accounts for more pictures!

MCHS Students Making Bead

Bracelets Together

Cyber Safety Cop Assembly at MBMS

7th Annual MBUSD Elementary Math Competition

Mathletes Getting Ready for Competition

Our 4th and 5th grade mathematicians competed in the District’s annual elementary math competition at MBMS. Students put their skills to the test in individual and team competitions. Sixty-eight mathletes participated, and there were 14 teams. 

During the competition, I decided to test my math skills and was thoroughly impressed to see our elementary students tackling questions beyond their grade level! The Pennekamp team won 1st and 2nd place, and Pacific received 3rd place honors.  

1st Place | The Golden Dragons (Pennekamp)

Second Place Pennekamp Math Competition Winners

2nd Place | The Uncontrollable Variables (Pennekamp)

3rd Place | Pacific Team

Mathletes Compete in Individual Rounds Competition

We also want to congratulate all of the participants and the following students who won in the individual rounds: 

1st place: Jonathan H., Michael S. 2nd place: Cameron C., Neil K., and Link L.

3rd place: Corin M., Parker S., Beckett P., Talar A., Charlotte F., Lily F., Noah F., Arik A., Ethan G.

To prepare for the big day, students practiced through MBX’s after-school Math Olympiad program, which meets weekly. The enrichment class helps students learn mathematical strategies to prepare for the competition, practice math problems, and play math games. 

Students learn math concepts and problems outside the school curriculum and gain strong teamwork experience. The winners will now advance to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Math Field Day Competition

Thank you to our Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) who led this work! These positions have been made possible through the generous support of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF). Mira Costa students also volunteered to help at the event.

MBUSD Community Attend an Evening Packed with STEAM!

The annual STEAM Night at MBMS is always a popular event during the school year. Attendees explore exhibits and engage in various hands-on activities that showcase the wonders of STEAM. This year’s event was no exception, with glass blowing, clay starfish making, shark, reptile, and bird exhibits, art integrated with math through graphing, and more!

The night also featured MBUSD’s STEAM education and enrichment opportunities, including VEX Robotics, Math in Art, 8th grade rollercoasters, and the latest student projects from our recent Invention Convention.

Thank you to MBMS PTA and MBEF for making this event possible. MBEF provides funding for numerous staff positions and programs that directly support STEAM education. This encompasses Makerspace, Science Lab teachers, Math and STEAM Teachers on Special Assignments. 

MBMS Music Open House

On Saturday, March 2, the MBMS Music team hosted an Open House for our 5th, 6th, and 7th grade families. Music Directors Kate Crellin, d’Lainey Forrester, and Denise Haslop kicked off the informational session with a fun music trivia game, followed by an overview of the Choir, Band, and Orchestra classes being offered at MBMS next year. These will include the brand-new “Intro Band” and “Intro Orchestra” classes supported by Prop 28 funding!

Numerous music students from MBMS and Mira Costa were also present to share their experiences being part of our music program and vibrant community. They spoke to the benefits of music education, including creative and artistic growth, cognitive development, and social and emotional benefits. Please check out the Open House presentation with more info on the award-winning program in case you missed it!

Pennekamp Dragons Lead Skits to Teach Being an Upstander

As part of this year’s No Place for Hate® (NPFH) initiative, student leaders performed skits depicting common campus playground scenarios that showcased a problem and an upstander solution. 

Students in grades 1-5 were able to watch the skits to learn about being an upstander. Principal Sharon Witzansky was part of the assembly. She explained and discussed solutions with the help of the performers and other students in the audience. 

Next week, several NPFH student leaders will visit TK/K classrooms to discuss using upstanding strategies to manage emotions when frustrated.

The No Place for Hate® program provides a student-led framework to address bias, bullying, and hatred. Activities throughout the program are designed to address school-based issues and create long-term solutions to help build a more inclusive and positive school culture. 

As part of the program, schools establish a committee, sign a school-wide pledge against all forms of hate, and host a series of activities throughout the year that promote and remind everyone to respect one another. 

Robinson Launches Gardening Curriculum

Gardening lessons at Robinson Elementary are blooming thanks to the newly implemented Palos Verdes Schools Garden Program. Farmer Clorissa made her first two visits to Robinson to educate and provide hands-on experiences about the school garden. Students are participating in a series of labs that teach agricultural, environmental, and nutritional sciences.

Kindergarteners learned what plants need to grow and thrive. They used this foundational knowledge to plant sunflowers and beans in the Kindergarten Garden. Students also learn about healthy foods in an active outdoor classroom environment, which helps them make healthy choices, learn responsibility, and see the fruits of their labor.

Each classroom will have two garden lessons this year. This was all possible thanks to the Robinson PTSA.

Mira Costa Volleyball Setter Charlie Fuerbringer to Receive Athlete of the Year Award

MCHS Volleyball Player Charlie Fuerbringer

USA Volleyball announced the final sixteen award winners it will honor at its 2024 Hall of Fame annual banquet and ceremony this May. Mira Costa Volleyball player Charlie Fuerbringer is one of them! She will receive the Junior Female Athlete of the Year Award and be recognized at the ceremony, which takes place one day before the 2024 USA Volleyball Open National Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

Charlie is a two-time member of the Girls U19 National Team. She was also recently inducted into the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Hall of Fame and named the 2023-24 Gatorade California Volleyball Player of the Year.


Mira Costa Surf Team Rank in State Championships

We want to recognize the students who competed in the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) State Championships in Huntington Beach recently. During the high school varsity men's final, Jonny Herrouin ranked third. In the high school junior varsity longboard finals, Chase Gaffney achieved 4th place!

The NSSA says these competitors deserve special recognition for advancing to the finals in rough storm surf conditions. In the middle school longboard finals, MBMS student Axel Silva ranked 7th place.

The National Scholastic Surfing Association is a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage and assist its members in their interest to learn and develop the fundamentals and skills of surfing competition while competing in structured and quality events. 

Jonny Herrouin

Chase Gaffney

Upcoming Events

MBEF Author Visit | Phyllis Fagell

Tuesday, March 12 | 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. 

MBEF is hosting another author visit next week! Registration is now open. Join us to hear from author and licensed middle school mental health therapist and certified school counselor Phyllis Fagell. She has written Middle School Matters and Middle School Superpowers.

She will share how you can learn how to teach kids the essential skills they’ll need to thrive now and in the future. There will also be a panel of high school students who will share their middle school experiences. To learn more and register, click here. Click image below to enlarge flyer.

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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on March 15.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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