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Superintendent's Newsletter

November 17, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

The holiday season is an opportunity to reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives. I am very grateful for the MBUSD community and honored to serve this amazing District. Thank you to everyone who works passionately to make MBUSD a great place for our students. 

On behalf of the MBUSD Board of Trustees and the District team, we wish you and yours a restful and memorable Thanksgiving holiday break! 

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Meadows Elementary, the various ways MBUSD schools recognized United Against Hate Week, MBUSD’s Garden to Cafe Program receiving its first harvest from a school garden, Mathletes from all five elementary schools, and MBMS winning top spots in a tournament!

Spotlight on Meadows (Special Thanks to Mrs. Gregorio, Mrs. Yates, and Principal Michelle Krzmarzick)

Students at Meadows are growing in so many ways! One way they are growing is by learning from each other. Every student has a buddy in a different grade. For example, Mrs. Jones’ Kindergarten class has big buddies in Mrs. Gregorio’s fifth-grade class, and Mrs. Cubillos’s first-graders have third-grade buddies in Mrs. Yates’s class. The upper-grade students meet monthly to mentor and read with the younger students. It is a special time that the students cherish. 

We are also growing our understanding of phonics through a program called Fundations. In this program, our students in grades K-2 are able to manipulate magnetic tiles to form words, use their fingers to tap out letter sounds, and “scoop up” word phrases in sentences to read more fluently.

Kindergarten students recently enjoyed a walking field trip to the local GROW store to learn how food is grown and sourced. The students also regularly take care of their garden, where corn, lettuce, garlic, and more are grown. Grow on, Mustangs!

Staff Spotlight: Sandra Ottaway | School Psychologist

In this week’s staff spotlight, we feature School Psychologist Sandra Ottaway, who is marking her 21st year at MBUSD. Her initial three years were spent at Mira Costa and Robinson Elementary.

Currently, she continues her dedicated work at Robinson and Meadows Elementary schools. Sandra says every day is different on the job, which is something she loves. Her job scope includes assessing students, counseling, writing reports, or attending meetings. She also plays a crucial role in supporting students during crises. 

Sandra has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and says she chose a career in school psychology after a fulfilling clinical internship in a school setting. Sandra values the collaborative and team-oriented nature of work at schools. Her favorite part of her job is seeing children learn new skills and become more successful. She enjoys 3-7 mile walks in her free time, or you can find her rollerblading!

Board Meeting Technical Difficulties

We apologize for the audio technical difficulties we experienced at the November 15 Board meeting during the livestream. The microphone was offline for the duration of the meeting. We immediately worked to address the issue but found out that it was a technical difficulty that needed further review. 

We apologize if this caused any inconvenience.

MBUSD Board of Trustees Adopt United Against Hate Week Resolution

This week marks United Against Hate Week (November 12-18), and MBUSD recognizes this national initiative for the second year in a row. At the November 15 Board meeting, the MBUSD Board of Trustees adopted the resolution that reaffirms our District’s commitment to building bridges to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion and having a community where everyone feels welcome. Click the image for the resolution.

MBUSD Staff and Students Stand United Against Hate

We continue to create programming and processes to ensure all students have a deep sense of belonging in our schools. This means combatting any form of hate, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Our District remains committed to educating and having a dialogue with our students to build a stronger understanding that hate and intolerance have no place in our school or community. We will continue our ongoing initiatives and efforts to cultivate support for positive and harmonious school campuses, and I want to highlight work happening towards that at Manhattan Beach Middle School.

MBMS has established a new committee dedicated to developing lessons and activities directly centered on educating our students about tolerance, empathy, and understanding of all. The first meeting included parents, students, a local rabbi, teachers, and counselors. Guiding resources for this committee will include Anti-Defamation League lessons, MBMS educator-generated content, student-focused activities, perspectives/insights from stakeholders, guest speakers, and more.

This new committee plans to meet for a second time after the Thanksgiving break. Once the focus groups are created, they will share the feedback with the MBMS instructional leadership team. 

Simultaneously, the student-led No Place for Hate committee continues to meet regularly. Most recently, they took a closer look at student surveys to address and identify on-campus concerns that students bring up through the No Place for Hate program. The initiative encourages students to assess their school climate and create activities to improve it. 

Along with this, the MBMS Jewish Club is meeting every Wednesday, and the Mira Costa Jewish Cultural Club leadership will soon meet with Principal Jennifer Huynh on how they can support MBMS students. These collective efforts are one step forward in our continuous commitment to an inclusive educational environment. This week was an opportunity for our schools to come together to participate in activities and events to show that we all stand united against hate. Our campuses distributed “MB Stands United Against Hate” lawn and window signs. 

The following are highlights from each of our schools in recognition of United Against Hate Week:

MB Preschool: Staff and students watched a “No Place for Hate” age-appropriate video that uses music to teach kindness, what it means to be in a school where there is “No Place for Hate,” and how they can tell their teachers if another child is bullying them on campus. Teachers discussed the meaning of certain words, such as bullying and kindness.

Pacific: Monday, November 13, was World Kindness Day. Pacific students were given two praise Panther Praise tickets in class to give to their peers and staff members who showed Panther PRIDE as an act of kindness. Usually, students are the ones who receive these tickets from staff, so it was a unique opportunity for students to recognize their peers for exhibiting Panther Pride.

Principal Amanda Vavao announced that 70 more students have applied to be on their No Place for Hate Committee. They also hosted an International Food Day event to share the diversity of the Panther community. Students and families shared samples of popular dishes from Armenia, France, Taiwan, India, and Mexico.

Robinson: This week, the Robinson community expanded their “Hearts Over Hate Movement.” They have been spreading love around the campus by placing small white stickers on the fingers of students, parents, and staff. These hearts symbolize that the wearer embodies the "No Place for Hate" pledge.

Grand View: During lunchtime, students participated in an activity where they were asked to answer the prompt, "If someone is mean to someone else, how can you lend a hand?" by writing their responses on a hand. The collection of responses will be displayed under a banner in the library hallway.

Principal Tara Grings and staff also created a video showcasing students’ knowledge of being upstanders and speaking up. This week, Grand View also hosted its 3rd Annual Diwali celebration for the community, and 5th graders took a trip to the Museum of Tolerance on November 16, which was fully sponsored by the PTA.

Pennekamp: 5th-grade ambassadors showcased their handmade United Against Hate Week and kindness signs on Thursday at the beginning of the school day to spread kindness and welcome families to campus!

Meadows: Staff and students celebrated World Kindness Day! They wore kindness shirts and reminded one another to be kind in their actions and words daily. Meadows’ No Place for Hate Committee plans to create a video on how to be a friend and an ally soon.

MBMS: The SEL Committee hosted a Friendsgiving during lunch today. The event included conversation starter cards to help students connect with each other and an opportunity to write reflective messages of gratitude. Friendsgiving aims to promote the SEL goal of "show empathy for others" and that empathy helps us unite against hate. 

Mira Costa: Mira Costa students participated in the No Place for Hate pledge signing activity during office hours in Mustang Mall. The NPFH Committee set up tables and posters for students to sign the pledge. Additionally, students and staff who participated received a gold star sticker to show their commitment to Costa being a No Place for Hate campus.

Diwali Celebration at Grand View 

The annual Diwali celebration at Grand View returned for the third year. The festivities were open to the MBUSD community and shared the meaning of Diwali, also known as the festival lights. Diwali means the row of lighted lamps and is a celebration that lasts five days. The festival represents the victory of light over darkness. 

International Food Day 

The Pacific community celebrated their schools’ diversity through a unique showcase of flavors worldwide. Students and their families provided food samples from Armenia, France, Taiwan, India, and Mexico to attendees. It allowed the community to try various cuisines all under one roof! This event is one of the many ways our campuses celebrate diversity.

Mira Costa Kitchen Uses School Site Harvest

First and second graders at Meadows had a proud moment this week in their garden. Students picked their harvested lettuce that was ready to be used by our Food and Nutrition Services team for lunch meals! This is the first harvest reaped and used in MBUSD’s Garden to Cafe Program. The heads of lettuce made their way to Mira Costa, where they were used in wraps! 

The program aims for all school gardens to harvest fresh produce, which is picked up and used in our schools’ kitchens. The District Green Committee and Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Lena Agee, initiated the program. 

MBMS Drama Students Heading to Sacramento

Three MBMS Drama students, Harper F., Sydney P., and Camie C., showcased their talents by performing a recent festival scene at this week’s Board meeting. After the scene, MBMS Drama Director David Levy shared the big announcement that these students will travel to Sacramento in April to represent the Drama Teachers Association as arts education advocates.

They will perform their scene in the capitol and meet with their legislators to share why they should fund and support arts education in California. Under the leadership of Mr. Levy, students will learn how to do this and work on their own time to write essays and statements they'll share. The girls were given a travel scholarship to do this. Only one acting group from each division was given the honor and the special invite, and the girls were selected from the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California (DTASC), California Educators of Theatre (CETA), and CA Thespians. Congratulations to David Levy and the MBMS students!

MBMS Drama Director David Levy, Sydney, Harper, and Camie.

Model UN Conferences Success 

The Model UN (MUN) conference is in full swing! Our students’ practice and commitment paid off during their recent conferences in Montreal, Rhode Island, and UCLA. 

In Brown University Simulation of the United Nations (BUSUN), students won the best large delegation, four gavels, and five outstanding delegates. At the McGill Model United Nations Assembly (McMUN), Mira Costa MUN was recognized as the best large delegation, and won nine gavels, five outstanding delegates, and two honorable mentions. 

At Bruin Model United Nations at UCLA (BruinMUN), Costa won the best large delegation, five gavels, six outstanding, eight honorable mentions, and six commendations. 

In early December, a cherished tradition is returning at Mira Costa, as they will welcome hundreds of MUN students for the Los Angeles Invitational Model United Nations (LAIMUN).

Mira Costa Mock Trial Team Competes

The Mira Costa Mock Trial Club was one of 122 teams that participated in the Senior Los Angeles County Mock Trial playoffs at the LA County Stanley Mosk Courthouse. After winning the first two rounds, the student-led Costa team was one of only twenty-two schools that advanced.

During the competition, student teams study a hypothetical case, conduct legal research, and receive guidance from volunteer attorneys in courtroom procedures and trial preparation. Students represent the roles of lawyers, witnesses, court clerks, and bailiffs. While they did not win during the playoff competition trial, we are proud of their accomplishments. The students were well-prepared and articulate. They demonstrated the ability to craft convincing case arguments and think quickly on their feet to respond to the opposing counsel’s assertions and questions.

The Los Angeles Mock Trial Program is an academic competition in which more than 2,500 high school and middle school students compete at the county level. The Mira Costa Mock Trial Club Co-Presidents are William Kiely and Neekou Hashemi-Nejad. Principal Dr. Karina Gerger and Costa Physics teacher Ms. Ellen Collins supported the team as District Chaperones in their competitions. 

Defense Team

Prosecution Team

Congratulations to Costa Cheer!

This past weekend, more than seventy cheer teams descended to Mira Costa for the Universal Cheerleaders Association Southern California Regional Qualifier. An event that allows teams to compete and qualify for the 2024 National High School Cheerleading Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. 

Mira Costa cheer placed first in traditional and game day routines. They received a bid for both, which means they now will compete nationally in Florida! Congratulations to the Costa Cheer teams, Coach Travis Neese, and Coach Tim Rivera.

Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council Honors Local Students

I had the opportunity to attend the Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council’s (MBCC) first Luncheon of the year yesterday at AdventurePlex, where they recognized six outstanding MBUSD students. These luncheons are always a great opportunity to see some of our stellar students being nominated and honored by their teachers for being great citizens at school and off-campus. Students, their families, principals, teachers, and MBEF staff all come together for this tradition, including students from American Martyrs. 

The student honorees were: 

Brynn McIntyre - Pacific Elementary (Presented by Kristie Rios)

Jordan Lewis - Pacific Elementary (Presented by Emily Brunick)

Talia King - Pennekamp Elementary (Presented by Ian Jones)

Kai Billet - Pennekamp Elementary (Presented by Elisa Hull)

Nikias Papademetropoulos - Manhattan Beach Middle School (Presented by Doug Branim)

Cynthia Sam - Mira Costa (Presented by Janet Allen)

Left to right front row: Kai Billet, Talia King, Brynn McIntyre, Jordan Lewis

Left to right back row: Cynthia Sam, Nikias Papdemetropoulos, Keira Kelly

Honorees with MBUSD Superintendent Dr. John Bowes, Board President Cathey Graves, Trustee Wysh Weinstein, and Trustee Tina Shivpuri

The following are some highlights each teacher shared about the student!

Brynn - Kristie Rios shared that Brynn helps other students in class and is passionate about helping others. She has never missed a Girl Scout meeting since Kindergarten!

Jordan - Emily Brunick said that Jordan works hard to make meaningful connections in the classroom and asks thought-provoking questions. He’s a leader on campus and participates in many on-campus initiatives, including being on the green team! Emily said that Jordan is an exemplary student and citizen. 

Talia - Ian Jones shared that Talia is a leader. As a Dragon ambassador, she meets with other students to find solutions to on-campus issues.

Kai - Elisa Hull shared that Kai is always prepared for class and is thoughtful of what he says. Elisa says he has great social-emotional skills and follows Pennekamp’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports PBIS school values of respectful, on-task, accountable, responsible, and safe. 

Nikias - Doug Branim highlighted Nikias’ daily effort to give 100%. He said that Nikia sets an excellent example for other students, and you can count on him no matter what.

Cynthia - Janet Allen says Cynthia is active on the water polo and swim teams. She is one of the leaders of the Pacific Islanders Club. She inspires students of all grade levels on campus. 

The MBCC hosts five lunches annually, and last year alone, it provided $28,500 in scholarships to students across Manhattan Beach. We look forward to honoring students from our other schools at the next luncheon!

Read MB News Story Here

MBUSD Math Teams Win Big at Number Tournament

Congratulations to the MBUSD math teams that participated in the Number Tournament last weekend! Students from all five MBUSD elementary schools and MBMS competed in the tournament that hosted more than 120 mathletes on 30 teams. The Number Tournament is an annual math tournament that is hosted by high school students who love math. 

The mathletes competed for two hours with individual and team math competitions. This year, MBUSD had three individual medal winners and four team medal winners:

  • Individual, 2nd place: Arik A. (Pennekamp 3rd)
  • Individual, 3rd place: Ethan H. (Pennekamp 3rd)
  • Individual, 3rd place: Anderson T. (Pennekamp 4th)
  • Team, 1st place: Arik A., Noah F., Judah F., Nicole Z. (Pennekamp 3rd)
  • Team, 2nd place: Preston C., Eric G., Ayush K., Anderson T. (Pennekamp 4th)
  • Team, 2nd place: Asher F., Lily F., Samantha L., Michael S. (Pennekamp 5th
  • Team, 2nd place: Ayaan A., Connor H., Avi K., Kellen L. (MBMS 8th)

Thank you to our parent volunteers who made this possible through coaching and support! Special thanks to Christine and Ayres Fan for sharing this story! For more pictures, please visit our Facebook page.

MCHS Band and Colorguard End Competition Season Strong!

Over the past month, we have shared the latest news on Mira Costa’s Marching Band and Colorguard competition season. This past weekend, they ended their competition season strong at the Western Bands Association Southern California Regional Championships by earning the highest score they have ever achieved in the toughest division and circuit in the western United States.

They were recognized as 1st Place in Music Ensemble and 2nd Place overall in their division. Thank you to Marching Band Director Ms. d'Lainey Forrester, Percussion Director Kevin Tran, Colorguard Director Richard Hernandez, and the rest of the staff, boosters, and parents for making the season unforgettable.

MCHS Student Anthony Padnos Leads First Young At Art Project by a Student

The cherished Young At Art organization receives project submissions from artists across the South Bay. This year, MCHS junior Anthony Padnos’ Doodle Magic project marks the first time a student artwork was selected and is being taught to docents. 

Anthony Padnos took center stage on Tuesday morning at American Martyrs O’Donnell Hall to teach docents from all five elementary schools and MBMS how to doodle, a passion he picked up during the pandemic. Padnos says he hopes his role as a YAA artist will make a positive impact on the lives of others. 

Young At Art's mission statement says its goal is to encourage each child’s creative and mental growth through meaningful art experiences in a non-judgmental environment, to develop the child’s visual perception and awareness, and to make community resources in the Arts more available to children. Anthony’s doodle passion has led him to inspire others, he now has more than 200,000 followers under the handle “AnthArt” on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

Recently, Padnos was also a speaker at TEDx Manhattan Beach. He spoke about the power of open dialogue and free expression. As an artist, Padnos is part of Model United Nations (MUN) and leads the Manhattan Beach Middle School MUN Club, mentoring students in debate and preparing them for high school programs. We are very proud of his initiative to pursue this work in the arts!

Ellen and Anthony Padnos

Read Easy Reader Story Here

Give Today to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation

What is the MBEF Annual Appeal?

Every year the MBEF Annual Appeal supports academic enrichment programs that instill Excellence in Education. From funding smaller class sizes, strong core academics, social-emotional learning with additional counselors, and specialized programs in STEAM and visual and performing arts, MBUSD families contribute to our excellent school system with annual donations. 

Please support the 2023-24 Annual Appeal by donating today!

We are grateful for MBEF and all that the Foundation has done for the past 40 years to make what MBUSD it is today! Please read MBEF’s Annual Report & Honor Roll to learn more about the impact, MBEF’s vision, and the people who supported MBEF to make a difference in our schools. 

Give Today!

Only two games remain in our offer of free L.A. Kings tickets! All staff and families receive complimentary tickets. An email was sent out to all staff and families in late September with details on how tickets can be redeemed.

The Kings will provide two free tickets (an estimated processing fee of $7.50 will apply per ticket) to each student and each staff member for upcoming games at the Arena!

You can redeem your tickets here. We hope you take advantage of this wonderful offer! Go, Kings, Go! 

Stay Updated! Download MBUSD App!

If you haven’t downloaded the MBUSD app, please do so!

You can go to an Apple or Google Play store to download the app by searching Manhattan Beach Unified or MBUSD. Once you download it, you will see a home page asking you to set up the schools you would like access to and announcements from, including the District.

You can toggle between the District and each school site screen from the top of the app. All elementary school sites have the same buttons, while MBMS and Mira Costa’s features cater to our families and students there. The app offers 42 languages from which to choose. You can update your app settings, and you can learn what is happening at the District and school site level every morning by push notifications! 

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 educational 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 December 1. Have a wonderful weekend!


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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