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Superintendent's Newsletter

May 5, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

Today’s issue highlights Robinson Elementary, a 2023-24 school calendar update, and celebrating staff through the month of May!

Spotlight on Robinson (Special thanks to Erica Yerke, Jacki Masciel, and Principal Jackie O'Sullivan)

Robinson's first grade students are tying together everything they've learned this year in Writer's Workshop, culminating with a block of realistic fiction. Each student is writing a series of realistic fiction books practicing all the author skills they have learned. 

Students are creating pretend characters and adventures, getting their characters in and out of trouble, adding realistic details, adding chapters, studying mentor texts, and using quotations. Students will design a book box to display their series and it is remarkable to see how much a first grader grows academically in a year. 

This writing block will end with a writers' celebration, and family and friends will have an opportunity to hear all about each child's series.      

Staff Spotlight: Chris Harpe-Amos

This week our staff spotlight is IT Support Technician Chris Harpe-Amos! Chris was hired in this position in 2012. He applied to work at MBUSD because he wanted to work in a smaller environment. Prior to MBUSD, Chris worked for Los Angeles Unified School District. No matter the tech issue, Chris is always there as soon as he can to help out our staff! He says his favorite part of the job is that every day brings new challenges. “I never know what’s going to happen each day, and I constantly get to learn new things. I really enjoy the complex problem-solving involved.”

His supervisor Eric Sangalang says that "Chris without a doubt is a great team member of the IT Department. His commitment to his work is unparalleled, and he consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of him."

Chris serves the entire school District and enjoys working at MBUSD because it gives him the opportunity to get to know people. During his free time, he restores classic cars and travels! A fun fact about Chris is that he has been to the North Pole and Antarctica. 

2023 District Classified Employee of the Year: James Ochoa

Celebrating our staff during Board meetings is one of the best times of the year! This week we made the big announcement that our District Classified Employee of the Year is James Ochoa from the Food and Nutrition Services team! Congratulations! Thank you for your dedication and compassion to serve MBUSD.

James Ochoa began working for MBUSD in July 2022 as the Food and Nutrition Services Driver. James not only delivers the food to the schools and EDP sites, but also maintains the storage of both food and paper goods, keeps accurate records using the Food and Nutrition Services electronic inventory program, and spends many hours daily in a zero-degree walk-in freezer organizing, removing, and replacing hundreds of cases of food received each week.

Food and Nutrition Services Director Lena Agee says, “With all that James does for the District, he also maintains a very pleasant and happy disposition. Whenever late deliveries to the warehouse impact his schedule, he never complains. He just goes out and gets the job done.”

All of our Classified Employee of the Year nominees from each school site, District Office, and Maintenance and Operations were also recognized individually by Board President Cathey Graves, myself, and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Dr. Tom Stekol. 

At MBUSD we are grateful for the more than 400 classified employees who support our District. Classified employees are integral to the success of students and public education. From preparing our facilities for learning, caring for, and feeding students, to teaching them vital skills, and ensuring that schools are operating smoothly, classified employees are committed to supporting our schools and students. We appreciate you!

10th Annual Community Advisory Committee Award!

Also at the Board meeting, we honored MBUSD staff members who received SELPA’s Community Advisory Committee Award (CAC) for their exceptional work in the field of special education. The award recognizes individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the education, health, and welfare of students with disabilities in the Southwest Special Education Local Plan Area (SWSEPLA) region.

Here are the award recipients:

Director of Special Education Dr. Kris Vegas shared that the dedication from each of the awardees to their students and their tireless efforts in helping them reach their full potential has earned them this well-deserved recognition. “Your work has had a profound impact on the lives of your students and their families, and we are incredibly proud to have such talented and hardworking individuals like you as part of our community.”

You can watch the video honoring each award recipient below. Special thanks to Jessica Cornelison for creating it.

School Lunch Hero Day

The culmination of School Nutrition Week (May 1-5) is School Lunch Hero Day, which was celebrated today! Food and Nutrition Services Director Lena Agee recognized her staff with personal gifts and cards. The department works tirelessly to ensure our students receive nutritious snacks and meal options throughout the day. They truly are heroes and play a vital role in maintaining student health and wellness, and ensuring our students receive proper nutrition.

The California Department of Education (CDE) states that School Lunch Hero Day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the creative, forward-thinking, hardworking, reliable, and dedicated school nutrition professionals. We want to also welcome a new member of the Food and Nutrition Services team Michael Blouin, who started this week in the role of Food Service Supervisor for Manhattan Beach Preschool and our elementary schools. Click here for more pictures from School Lunch Hero Day!

Left to right: Maile Aiu, Gracie Reyes, Arnold Corral, Josie Miranda, Dalia Berthelli, Susan Orner, Julio Matus, and Maria Losa (front)

Stephanie Gonzales and Kara Watkins at Pennekamp

Santiago Balette, Janie Mederos, Michael Blouin at Pacific

Staff Appreciation Week 

This week was also buzzing with excitement for Staff Appreciation Week at MBUSD! Across our campuses staff were celebrated and appreciated! From lunches and events, to massages, every day was an opportunity to say thank you! The week recognizes the contributions of all MBUSD employees working in our schools and offices. We are very fortunate to have an incredible team of staff members who support our students to reach their full potential and our District’s success is thanks to your hard work and dedication.

Monday, May 1 also marked National School Principals’ Day. You can watch a video recognizing our principals here

School News Publishes its First Manhattan Beach Unified Edition!

Read about the latest highlights, achievements, and updates happening across our District! 

Click Here for Full Publication

School News Roll Call is a publication dedicated to promoting school districts.

MBEF Celebrates 40 Years Tomorrow

MBEF is celebrating its 40th Anniversary of supporting the Manhattan Beach public schools tomorrow Saturday, May 6th from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Metlox Plaza. The 40 years of support equates to over $100 million in directed funding to build a foundation of excellence in our schools. We would like to invite the entire community to join us for a special presentation, refreshments, and activities for attendees of all ages.

Click flyer below

MCHS Commitment Day 2023!

On Monday, Mira Costa students celebrated National Decision Day with their own Commitment Day recognition! Seniors had the opportunity to place a sticker to share with the Mustang community their future plans whether it be attending a four-year university, a community college, entering the workforce, or joining the military. 

There was a lot of excitement as for many it was their first time sharing what they plan to do after graduation. There will be another commitment day event in May on campus. Congratulations to all of our seniors for their accomplishments and aspirations. We are so proud! 

Budget Corner

Just as the Governor and Legislature are completing next year’s budget for the State of California, MBUSD is working to finalize the District’s budget for the 2023-24 school year. The Governor is scheduled to release his May Revision to his January proposal by May 15. This will lead to another round of negotiations at the legislative level in advance of the enactment of the State Budget for 2023-24 by June 30.

Here in MBUSD, we will continue to monitor state budget developments in order to assess potential impacts on MBUSD’s finances and will provide updates based on the May Revision at the May 31 Board of Trustees meeting. The presentation of the District’s budget for the 2023-24 school year will take place at the June 21 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

From the Bargaining Table - 2023-24 School Calendar Update

We have received many questions about when the MBUSD 2023-24 school year calendar will be finalized and published. In California, the instructional calendar is a subject of negotiations and an active proposal at the bargaining table. The MBUSD District and teachers’ union negotiations teams met today for the tenth time.

While a final 2023-24 school year calendar is not yet adopted, the District and the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers’ Association (MBUTA) have been negotiating on this item. Both parties have been bargaining over their respective proposals. We wish to share the District’s most recent 2023-24 calendar proposal with you. While this proposal should not be relied upon for official planning purposes, it does show how the District’s proposal effectively mirrors the current 2022-23 school year calendar. As soon as a final calendar is approved, we will widely communicate it. We understand the desire of families to have more certainty around the calendar, and we appreciate your patience as we work to finalize it.

MBUSD Partnering with Beach Cities Health District for Mental Awareness Month 

We are proud to partner with Beach Cities Health District during May for the community-wide “Mental Health is Health” campaign. The campaign’s message aims to decrease stigma, increase help-seeking behaviors, increase awareness of and access to resources for mental health, and build community capacity to support individuals who need mental health resources.

BCHD staff delivered mental health awareness toolkits last week to all MBUSD campuses and offices. We are very grateful for this partnership.

Click flyer below

You can navigate our health and wellness resources page here.

SouthBay Magazine Features MBUSD’s 2nd Annual Social and Emotional Learning Week 

Read Story Here

Celebrating MBUSD Mathematical Excellence

Math Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) Holly Compton and Julie Stuart accompanied twenty of our students to the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s (LACOE) Math Field Day on Saturday, April 29 at San Gabriel High School! The competition consisted of three 30-minute rounds covering the topics of Conceptual Understanding, Problem-Solving, and Procedural Skills. There were five teams representing 4th through 8th grades. 

Each team brought home awards! In total, there were nine gold winners, one silver, and two bronze recipients.

4th Grade Team: Jonathan H. (Pacific), Michael S. (Pennekamp), Neil K. (Pacific), Lily F. (Pennekamp)

5th Grade Team: Evan L.(Robinson), Alicia Z. (Pennekamp), Rylan K. (Robinson), Aakash B.(Meadows)

6th Grade Team: Sophia K., Zoey R., Zachary Z., Chase M. (MBMS)

7th Grade Team: Ayaan A., Alicia F., Avi K., Kyle L. (MBMS)

8th Grade Team: Hao L., Sam C., Katie M., Alexander S. (MBMS)

4th Grade

  • Conceptual understanding (bronze)
  • Procedural and computational skills (gold)
  • Problem solving (gold)
  • 4th grade overall winner (gold-trophy)

5th Grade

  • Conceptual understanding (gold)
  • Procedural and computational skills (gold)
  • Problem solving (gold)
  • 5th grade overall winner (gold-trophy)

6th Grade

  • Procedural and computational skills (bronze)

7th Grade

  • Conceptual understanding (gold)
  • Procedural and computational skills (silver)
  • 7th grade overall winner (gold-trophy)

Congratulations to our students, and thank you to our TOSAs, parent coaches, and volunteers!

MCHS Vocal Ensemble Take the Stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Mira Costa Vocal Ensemble was selected to perform at the sold-out LA Master Chorale High School Choir Festival for another year. At the special event that took place at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the ensemble performed alongside other high school students! In its 34th year, 750 high school students sang together.

The MCHS choir group has attended this festival for more than ten years!

Champions Again! Swim Team Dominates Bay League for 2nd Consecutive Year 

The Mira Costa swim team hosted the 2023 Bay League Championships and for a consecutive year proved themselves champions! The prelims and finals both took place on campus where teams from Redondo Union, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Santa Monica, and Culver City competed in the culmination of the Bay League competition. 

Mustangs took home the title in all four divisions including Girls Varsity, Boys Varsity, Girls JV, and Boys JV. They received 1st place in 33 out of 42 total events during the finals, breaking many Bay League and school records!

Varsity Coach Heidi Nelson says she couldn’t be prouder! “All of our swimmers competed with phenomenal energy and enthusiasm. They really came together as one team to defend our title and broke multiple Bay League and school records.” Eighteen swimmers qualified for the CIF Division 1 championship that took place in Riverside this week. Congratulations!

Celebrating MBUSD Diversity

Our 6th Annual International Day took place at MBMS this year drawing more than 500 people to the exciting event. It showcased the vibrant and diverse cultures of our families. This year there were twenty-five countries represented and five of them were new including Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Ukraine! International Day featured a colorful display of traditional clothing, music, dance, and food from all around the world. Each booth was hosted by parents who showcased their heritage and customs with attendees! The tradition gets bigger and better every year and highlights our commitment to promoting the diversity of our MBUSD community.

A special thank you to English Learner Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Christine Jewett for planning this event for another year. Also, we want to appreciate our families who donated their time and resources to provide a one-of-a-kind experience to our community!

Makerspace Feature: Grand View

At Grand View’s STEAM Expo, Makerspace Specialist Paki Wolfe had marble runs for all ages where marbles flew down multiple chutes, tunnels, and various obstacles. 

The students learned more about the force of gravity! The marble while waiting in the cup has Potential Energy soon to become Kinetic Energy. In the classroom, students are challenged to minimize the speed of the marble by using friction to reduce the velocity.

Nominate Costa Alumni into the Hall of Fame!

The Annual Mira Costa Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame nominations are now being accepted. Each year since 2012, a handful of Mira Costa alumni nominated by community members are selected as Distinguished Alumni. They are selected based on criteria and also for their contributions to their careers, life endeavors, and serving their community.

You can find the nomination form here. The deadline is May 24, 2023.

Once the alumni are chosen they are recognized at an assembly where they are officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. You can watch last year’s ceremony here. 

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, May 12. 


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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