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Superintendent's Newsletter

April 12, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

Today’s issue highlights Meadows, three MBUSD Special Education staff members announced as recipients of an award recognizing their achievements, and an MCHS student who was selected for the U.S. Girls’ Flag Football National Team!

Spotlight on Meadows (Special Thanks to Teachers David Barakat, Michelle Legaspi, Karla Yates, and Meadows Principal Michelle Krzmarzick)

In grades 3-5, Meadows students are working on mastering their standards in preparation for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in May. During the assessment, they will be asked to explain their thinking and reasoning in math, compare texts in reading, and write narrative, informational, or argumentative responses. 

In Mrs. Legaspi’s 5th grade class, students compared and explained different ways to divide fractions, while in Mr. Barakat’s 4th grade class, students identified and created lines of symmetry. Mrs. Yates’s 3rd graders engaged in a deeper analysis of their current book, forming theories and uncovering patterns in the writing. 

Meadows continues to create a positive climate of care across campus. They recently invited Master Richard from All Rise Martial Arts to discuss being an “upstander” against bullying with all students. This marked the third activity for the No Place For Hate® program this year, and students reflected on the assembly by writing strategies they would use as upstanders.

Staff Spotlight: Jen Saliba | MTSS Math Teacher and Special Education Teacher

Staff Spotlight Staff Photo Jen Saliba

This week, the MBUSD staff spotlight is Jen Saliba. She serves in a unique role as a Special Education teacher at Robinson Elementary and works as a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) math intervention specialist at Grand View for 2nd-5th graders. She is also the Student Success Team Coordinator at Grand View!

Jen is fascinated by neuroscience research and how it is changing teaching practices. She says, “I am excited about the work the district is doing in the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). We are using a collaborative approach to integrate data collection and analysis, assessment, including universal screening, diagnostics, and progress monitoring, to inform decisions appropriate for each tier of service delivery. We identify problems, develop interventions, and evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions. I am intrigued by the challenge of implementing best practices to reach the highest gains for all children.”

She was inspired to work in education because of her childhood experiences and her passion to be part of the efforts to provide the best possible public education for all students. She says, “Finding and sharing methods to make inclusion successful has been my professional life’s work.” Prior to joining MBUSD, Jen taught across TK-12 grades in diverse special education settings in Chicago. This included a therapeutic day school, county program, and learning center, to name a few. Since 1999, she has held various roles within MBUSD, teaching specialized academic instruction at MBMS and three elementary schools. Additionally, Jen has been an educator for elementary Extended School Year, Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO), and supported students with high needs during the pandemic.

She is proud of her contribution to various leadership teams and curriculum committees. “ I am continually inspired by the dedication and sacrifice shown by my colleagues...I am deeply honored to work among these high-caliber professionals.”

Jen pursued a career in MBUSD because it stood out as a leader in programming and parent collaboration. Growing up in the Midwest, she dreamed of living near the beach. Thanks to her career here, she has met some of her closest friends. “I belong to a small group that has met for breakfast once a month every month for the past 24 years!”

During her leisure time, Jen spends time with her family, enjoys exploring all types of parks, and challenges herself in new ways. She recently joined a masters swim program! 

Measure MB Results Officially Certified by Los Angeles County 

We are thrilled to announce that the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office has officially certified the results for Measure MB, our MBUSD Parcel Tax Renewal Measure. All the ballots have been counted, and the measure passed with 67.74% voting "Yes," surpassing the required two-thirds majority of 66.7%. The final number solidifies the official passage of Measure MB and shows how significant every single vote was. 

We want to thank our community for supporting our students and this investment in MBUSD. We also want to thank all who voted “Yes” at the polls, including our families, former MBUSD families, staff, and community members. Your dedication has secured vital funding for our schools, and we sincerely appreciate it! We especially want to recognize the Measure MB Campaign Committee members, volunteers, and campaign contributors who devoted their precious time and resources to ensuring MB residents were aware of and educated about the measure. This effort was led by Measure MB Campaign Committee Co-Chairs Tyler Morant and Nathalie Rosen, along with Jen Dohner, Madeline Kaplan, Samantha Maynard, and Michael Unton.

We wish to thank the City Council of Manhattan Beach for their endorsement of Measure MB. We also wish to thank ballot signers Tiffany Barbara, Bill Fournell, Joe Franklin, Amy Howorth, Karen Komantinsky, David Lesser, Russ Lesser, Ro Schreiner, Ida VanderPoorte, and Tracey Windes. We also wish to thank Jim and Joanne Hunter, Charlotte Lesser, Jim Rosen, Ellen Rosenberg, Jeff Serrota, and all the volunteers who donated their time, resources, and efforts to support Measure MB.

Importantly, the passage of Measure MB brings much-needed relief to our budget in these challenging times. The renewal of Measure MB will provide critical funding, helping us restore some of the teaching positions that were at risk of being laid off. This funding, approximately $2.4 million yearly for each of the next six years, will be secure and cannot be taken away by the State. We want to reiterate that Measure MB funding will continue to be used to uphold the quality of education by:

  • Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers 
  • Protecting quality math, science, technology, reading, and writing programs
  • Maintaining manageable class sizes
  • Preparing students for college and careers

We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available on Measure MB's impact on our budget. Once again, thank you to the Manhattan Beach community for your support and dedication to our schools and students.

Congratulations to our Special Education Staff!

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC), in collaboration with The Southwest SELPA, has announced that three of our Special Education staff members are recipients of the CAC awards. Congratulations to the following:

Chau Ly and Scott Smith are Special Education teachers. Kasey Ullery serves as a program specialist for early intervention and inclusion.

The Southwest Special Education Local Plan Area (SW SELPA) CAC hosts an annual awards ceremony to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the academic, social, and/or emotional growth of students with special needs. These deserving staff members will be officially recognized at the 11th Annual Staff and Community Partners Awards on April 17. We will also celebrate their achievements during our Board meeting on May 15. 

We have MBUSD parents who are part of the Community Advisory Committee group that serves the SW SELPA. This Committee is made up of parents, agency, and school representatives, all dedicated to supporting the Special Education community.

Fourth Graders Learn about the Holocaust through “Inquiry Centers”

MBUSD fourth grade teachers began their weeklong inquiry activity focused on the Holocaust to provide a deeper level of understanding as students read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. At the “inquiry centers," students learned from various artifacts, including videos, songs, and pictures. Through these engaging centers, they expanded their contextual knowledge about the Holocaust by discussing and sharing what they observed through the medium featured at the center. 

As they transitioned between stations, fourth graders engaged in reflective thinking, analyzing the materials through the lens of the essential question: Who has the power? How do you know?

This learning is supported by MBEF’s grant, “Developing Care and Compassion Through Historical Literature and Cultural Experience.” As part of this initiative, MBEF will sponsor a visit to the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles for the students this school year. The Holocaust inquiry learning stations, the reading of Number the Stars, and the visit to the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles are all connected to provide different types of learning experiences to our students. 

Students Participate in the L.A. County Science & Engineering Fair 

MCHS students Hao L. and Jeremy T. were recognized for their exceptional science projects at the 74th annual Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair. Hao showcased the “Intelligent Fire Risk Detection System” in the Engineering Application category, and Jeremy presented “Are Electrolyte Powders Worth the Hype?” in the Chemistry category. Both students received an award of recognition.

The Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair gives awards and scholarships in thirty-six categories from Biology, Engineering, to Zoology. This year there were 694 projects presented at the fair. 

Thank you to MCHS Science teacher Ernesto Nodado for sharing this story!

VAPA Highlight of the Week: Mira Costa Eclectic Ensembles Concert

Left to right: MBUSD Choir Director Kate Crellin, MCHS Director of Bands Joel Carlson, VAPA TOSA Scott Hughes, and MCHS Director of Orchestras Peter Park

When was the last time you saw a left-handed pirate conduct an orchestra by waving a curved saber? If you came to the recent Mira Costa Eclectic Ensembles Concert, you just did! 

The Eclectic Ensembles Concert is a yearly Mira Costa Music Department tradition that centers around a wide range of musical styles in diverse ensembles that are mostly student-led and often feature student musical arrangements. This year’s exceptional performances made for an impressive showcase of student talent and creativity, as well as the more comedic sides of teacher/emcees Joel Carlson, Kate Crellin, and Peter Park. With elements of both a talent show and a formal concert, the evening was a reminder that live music has a special ability to create a sense of magic, awe, wonder, and excitement for both performer and audience member.

Music students from the band, choir, and orchestra programs delighted the packed Mira Costa Small Theatre and kept everyone guessing about what might come next. The evening kicked off with a violin sextet playing Harry Potter themes and then ranged from thoughtful duets and trios to a raucous brass and drum kit dance piece, a Chamber Winds arrangement of Debussy, full chamber orchestras, vocal features, and much more. There was even a surprise barbershop quartet tune that brought together directors Carlson, Crellin, and Park in hilarious harmony.

What made the night even more special was that it was the first year the Costa Choirs officially joined the Eclectic Ensemble evening, part of the long-term goal of representing the band, choir, and orchestra programs under the united Mira Costa High School Music umbrella.

All featured photos by Robert Minn.

MCHS Art Students Create Unique Installation 

Student Art Gallery

This week, one MCHS classroom was transformed into an artwork. Students from Art 2 and Art 3 classes created an installation that completely covered the gallery's walls and floor.

Art teacher Kate Heredia says students worked in small groups to design and paint sections of the room using tempera paint and butcher paper. Each panel was inspired by famous artists Keith Haring and Aaron de la Cruz. 

Students host different art shows regularly each month. Art 1, Art 2, Art 3, and AP Studio Art classes take turns displaying their artwork, offering a continuous showcase of diverse and creative exhibitions throughout the year!

Costa Student Art Gallery

Sophie Guitron Selected for U.S. Girls’ Flag Football National Team

USA Football has announced the initial rosters for the U-15 and U-17 men’s and women’s flag football national teams. Among the selected players is MCHS Junior Sophie Guitron, who has earned a spot on the U-17 women’s team. Sophie will be participating in the 3rd annual Junior International Cup in Los Angeles this July, where flag football will debut in the Olympics in 2028. Sophia is a wide receiver/defensive back. 


MBMS Student in the Running for Grand Prize in West Basin Art Contest

Congratulations to MBMS 8th grader Sophie Zhu for being selected as one of the top fourteen entries for the West Basin Municipal Water District “Being Water Wise Is” student art contest. 

Nearly 650 “Being Water Wise Is” art pieces were submitted this year. She is now competing for the grand prize title in the middle school category. Voting ended this week. See her beautiful artwork below! 

Meadows Elementary Harvest Used in School Salad Bar

Students at Meadows Elementary were busy harvesting all week to prepare for today’s school salad bar. 2nd graders harvested cauliflower and snap peas, and 1st graders and Kindergarteners harvested lettuce. Other produce picked from the garden included carrots and tomatoes. The produce was washed and served for lunch. This successful salad bar showcased the importance of MBUSD’s Food and Nutrition Service Department’s Garden-to-Cafe program, which allows students to grow produce in the school gardens and then have it served in school site salad bars and student meals.

Inglewood Unified Staff Visit Grand View to Observe Waste Sorting

This week, staff from Inglewood Unified School District’s (IUSD) Food and Nutrition Services, Maintenance and Operations Departments, and Grades of Green employees visited Grand View Elementary to observe lunchtime waste sorting. MBUSD Green Committee Chair Chrissie Clay, MBUSD staff, and students were part of the tour. Ella Herman and Mason Zuckerwise, 5th grade student council green reps from Grand View, highlighted the campus sustainability efforts.

The visit was for IUSD staff to observe our green work as they looked for ways to implement systems to comply with SB 1383, which requires schools to maintain mandatory commercial recycling and organic recycling programs. The law asks for schools to keep compostable and recyclable materials out of landfills.

Grades of Green, a SoCal-based environmental education nonprofit, is helping them with these efforts through recent funding they received through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Program (EJCPS).  

7th Annual MBUSD International Day | April 20

Remember to mark Saturday, April 20, on your calendar. Join us for our annual tradition of celebrating our diverse community. Celebrate our students' and families' diverse cultural heritage with us as we explore traditions, flavors, games, clothing, and more at our global booths!

Don't miss out on connecting with the amazing MBUSD community and enjoying music and dance performances. This year, we will have 28 countries represented.

Mira Costa Drama Footloose Tickets on Sale Now!

We are excited to share that Mira Costa’s Drama/Tech spring production of the musical Footloose is closer to its opening show on April 26!

Tickets are now on sale. Footloose is based on the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon. The original Broadway production of Footloose opened in the fall of 1998. It’s the 25th anniversary of the first Broadway run and the 40th anniversary of the original film. The MCHS Footloose cast is made up of thirty-six students, thirty-five crew and front-of-house members, and a band of nine musicians. 

The musical has seven performances. You can see them listed below on the flyer. 

Purchase Tickets Here!

Click image below to enlarge

Footloose, the musical flyer

The production is open to all ages. Mira Costa Drama/Tech productions are staffed with industry professionals who ensure top-quality production values, design, and student levels of tech and performance execution. 

Upcoming Event:

Click Here to Register

City of Manhattan Beach Polliwog Park Tree Project

The City of Manhattan Beach’s Urban Forestry program is tentatively beginning its Polliwog Park Tree Project at the end of April (weather permitting). It will involve removing seventeen diseased trees to maintain a healthy park canopy and enhance the park’s biodiversity. Concurrently, the City is introducing seventy-eight new trees from eight diverse species, five of which are native.

Please click the image below to learn more about the project.

For More Information, Click Here
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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on April 19.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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