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Superintendent's Newsletter

September 22, 2023

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Meadows Elementary, MBMS Teacher Niel Leonard named one of the top educators in Los Angeles County, and “Meatless Mondays” is rolled out at all campuses.

Spotlight on Meadows (Special Thanks to 5th Grade Teacher Michelle Legaspi, 2nd Grade Teacher Cailin Witlen, and Principal Michelle Krzmarzick)

Meadows teachers have been getting to know their students for the past month and have been determining how best to support them academically through the use of our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). We use these questions to guide our thinking:

1) What do we want our students to know and be able to do?

2) How will we know if they learned it?

3) How will we respond when some students do not learn it?

4) How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?


Teachers use the information gathered to determine how best to utilize our WIN (What I Need) time in the classroom. Teachers assess their students and determine how well they are meeting essential standards. Highly personalized learning takes place during this time through intervention or extension activities. Students work on skills in small, dynamic, teacher-led groups either in class or in separate intervention groups. In these pictures, students are working on online assessments and practicing multiplication using the area model and the distributive property.

Staff Spotlight: Deborah Park - Mira Costa Vice Principal

Deborah Park is one of the newest vice principals to join the Mustang administration. She oversees 10th graders, testing, English, math, and more! Deborah worked in Santa Ana Unified School District as a middle school English teacher, Math teacher, and literacy coach before coming to Manhattan Beach Unified. She also spent a few years as the Curator of Projects and Partnerships for an experimental high school and most recently, as a Certificated Learning and Achievement Specialist. 

Deborah's enthusiasm for the Manhattan Beach community is evident, and she takes pride in her leadership position at Costa. “As an educator, my passion has always been project-based learning within community spaces. I am inspired by how young people like our students can become advocates, leaders, and creators by experiencing the world in spaces outside the classroom and developing interdisciplinary skills through the projects they engage in.”

As an administrator, Deborah hopes to continue the great work already happening but also find opportunities to support the team with new ideas and growth. She is working on completing her doctoral degree through the Educational Leadership Program at UCLA. Deborah says if she wasn’t a school administrator or teacher, she would have pursued a career as a chef! She enjoys anything related to cooking and food.  

Niel Leonard Named 2023-24 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year!

Congratulations to MBMS 6th grade science teacher Niel Leonard! He is one of 16 educators across Los Angeles County who was announced as one of the top teachers in the county during the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s (LACOE) 42nd Annual Teachers of the Year Awards banquet held today at the Universal City Hilton.

LACOE’s Teachers of the Year Program is the largest local competition in the state and nation. It is part of the oldest and most prestigious honors contest in the U.S. for public school teachers. Niel was selected from 68 teachers representing 64 school districts who participated in the competition. 

LACOE says the 16 educators serve as the “standard-bearers for the teaching profession and their 73,000 classroom colleagues countywide. Niel believes in providing students with exceptional opportunities in and out of the classroom. 

"I'm so excited to represent Manhattan Beach Unified School District. I'm excited to pay it forward for all the kids and parents. I'm so lucky and thankful to make it here...I want to continue being the best teacher I can be," said Niel Leonard.

Niel has been a teacher for 11 years and began his career at MBUSD in August 2018. 

To be part of this competition, Niel was first named Teacher of the Year by Manhattan Beach Unified as the District Teacher of the Year. The selection committee chose him because it was clear that he promoted an engaging learning environment where students learned through the trial and error process and were engaged in collaborative learning.

He then applied to the LACOE TOY program. In addition to being interviewed, contestants submitted essays, lesson plans, and other materials to judging panels comprised of previous California teachers of the year. At all levels, teachers of the Year contests are designed to focus public attention on teaching excellence and to honor exemplary dedication, compelling classroom practices, positive accomplishments, and professional commitment.

Joining in today's celebration and also recognizing Niel Leonard was MBUSD Board President Cathey Graves, Superintendent Dr. John Bowes, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Tom Stekol, Director of Student Services Kerry Aguero, MBMS Principal Jennifer Huynh, Public Information Officer Hibah Samad, and friends and family!

We are proud to share that Niel will now advance to the California Teachers of the Year competition. We are very excited for his accomplishments! 

Watch his MBUSD Teacher of the Year Announcement Here!

MCHS School Profile 2023-24

We're happy to announce that the Mira Costa School Profile has been updated and published for the new school year! This data-packed informational piece showcases our exceptional college-preparatory high school. College admissions officers reference this important document when considering our student applicants.

Many thanks to MBEF for designing and printing, and thanks to the Mira Costa Counseling Department for compiling the information and supporting our students on their academic journey!

“Meatless Monday” Rolls Out Across all MBUSD Schools

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District Food and Nutrition Services Team has introduced Meatless Mondays! Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Léna Agee, says “The objective of this initiative is to not only continue our existing vegetarian menu selections but also foster more environmentally conscious eating habits for the well-being of our planet.”

As part of Meatless Mondays, the team is expanding the vegetarian and plant-based meal options to cater to students of all ages while complying with the strict Federal requirements of the National School Lunch Program. 

Pacific’s Walk or Wheel to School

In other green news, Pacific Elementary's Green Team, led by 5th grade teacher Ms. Morgan Henderson, is encouraging students and families to help make the earth and Manhattan Beach a little bit cleaner, healthier, and safer by walking or wheeling to school every Tuesday. This initiative was launched last year, and each classroom has a checklist to record walkers and wheelers. There will be a prize at the end of the school year for the class with the highest participation. Last year's winning class received $25 gift cards from Skechers and Hydroflasks. 

Thank you to our MBUSD Green Committee Vice Chair Michelle Porter for sharing this story. We are excited to continue to see all of the great work our Green Committee members are doing on our campuses.

Annually, MBUSD participates in the international Walk and Roll to School Day that encourages families and staff to roll, walk, bicycle, or use any non-motorized transportation to get to school. This year we will celebrate on Wednesday, October 4, with our community partner Beach Cities Health District! We hope you will join us again this year. Each school will have a designated walking and rolling route.

Read Aloud at Grand View

Elementary Teaching and Learning Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Brittany Brashear visited Ms. Brancato’s Kindergarten class at Grand View for a read aloud. She was invited by Ms. Brancato to share a book to talk about Growth Mindset. Students learned how our fantastic, elastic brain grows as we make mistakes and learn through them! 

TOSAs provide extra support to our educators in the classroom. You can learn more about our TOSAs here.

Manhattan Beach Parks & Recreation Photo Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Mira Costa 11th grader Flora Uslaner for winning in the Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Department “Where Community Grows” photo contest. She placed 2nd in the 13-17 category for her beautiful photo “Sunset’s Glow.”

In honor of National Park and Recreation Month, the Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Department celebrated with a contest that encouraged community members to submit photos of Manhattan Beach parks. The month was about recognizing the vital role parks play in bringing people together, providing essential services, and fostering the growth of our communities. 

Along with Flora, MCHS student Daniel Greenberg will also be recognized at the October 3 City Council meeting. He created the idea to have a photo contest to encourage community members to visit and document Manhattan Beach parks. He worked with City staff to promote the competition and recruit the judges. The City plans to offer the contest again next summer. Bravo!

Teach Peace Week at MBUSD

This week, all MBUSD schools celebrated “Teach Peace Week” in partnership with STAND 4 PEACE. Our schools commemorated it through educational events and assemblies to spread awareness about peace and the United Nations International Day of Peace. The week was supported our District Board Goal 2 that promotes a Climate of Care. 

Highlights of the events were the dedication of the new Peace Poles donated by MBEF to our school sites, school visits from Model United Nations Mira Costa students, activities that united the student body, and the signing of the No Place for Hate® Program pledge, to name a few. The activities supported a safe, respectful, and inclusive learning environment. 

The week culminated with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, and Stand 4 Peace hosted a community Peace Day event that featured the MCHS Choir's first performance of the year. Mira Costa students Anthony Padnos and Hudson Sagadevan shared their experience about the MUN program, MBUSD Trustee Tina Shivpuri, MCHS Principal Dr. Karina Gerger, MBEF Executive Director Hilary Mahan, and I were also a few of the speakers at the event. 

I want to thank MBEF for donating Peace Poles to all of our campuses, which signifies a community’s hope for peace on earth. Each Peace Pole comes with a recognition certifying that 10 trees are being planted on the African Continent. Also, a special thank you to STAND 4 PEACE Co-founders, Pennekamp teacher Donna Nicholson and Karen Wooldridge, for leading this effort. You can find more pictures here.

Read MB News Story Here

Annual Green and Gold Bands Showcase

The recent Mira Costa Green and Gold Day was a huge success for another year! MBMS students experienced first-hand what it means to be in the Mira Costa Band by practicing with the Marching Band students and joining them during their traditional walk down Peck Avenue before the football game. 

The middle school students also sat with the band members and played along to “Go Big Green” to get the crowd excited. This unique experience allows middle school students to see the spirit of the Mira Costa community and a few of the programs it offers. 

MCHS will also soon start their Parade Team, which allows 8th graders to join. MBX also plans to offer an after-school Colorguard program soon at our middle school. Incoming students will be able to learn about all of the athletics and programming offered at Mira Costa during the “This is Costa” night on October 17th. 

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!

Mira Costa ASB Hosts Blood Drive with UCLA

The Mira Costa ASB in partnership with the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center hosted the annual community blood drive this week! For more than 26 years, the MCHS ASB has continued this tradition of giving back. Donators rolled up their sleeves to donate 137 units of blood.

In the Southern California region, Mira Costa is UCLA's #1 high school blood contributor. This recent drive brought in the largest amount of blood collected at any high school since before 2020!

There will be two more blood drives this year in February and May.  

Share Stories with Us! 

Do you have a good news story idea? Share it with us! There are great stories to be told across the District, from stories of accomplishment, perseverance, and noteworthy events to academic excellence unfolding in our classrooms. Please share a story with us so we can share it with our community!

Stories submitted are often shared in our publications, on social media, and with our local media partners. 

Submit your story here!

Upcoming Events

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Check out our Social Media Directory

Following our eight schools on social media and our District accounts make it convenient for you to get real-time updates, news, and information!

Here is our directory!

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 September 29. 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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