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Superintendent's Newsletter

April 19, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

Today’s issue highlights Pacific Elementary, MBUSD’s District Teacher of the Year, and honors our dedicated PTA leaders!

Spotlight on Pacific (Special Thanks to the Third Grade Team, Michele Diamond, Michele Jordan, Jackie Murphy, Laurie Stern, and Pacific Principal Amanda Vavao)

Student conduct fizzy drink experiment

Pacific's third-grade students celebrated the end of their character study unit with a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory party. The students rotated through multi-disciplinary stations, each ​related to a special part of the story. 

They conducted the famous Diet Coke and Mentos experiment at the Fizzy-Lifting Drink station. Students discussed how the carbon dioxide molecules in the soda quickly attach themselves to the tiny dents in the Mentos' shell. This chemical reaction happens so fast that it pushes a huge fountain of soda out of the bottle. The third-graders were in awe of this chemical reaction!

While at the Candyland station, students practiced taking turns, giving compliments, and celebrating others, even when they weren't winning. Playing a favorite game from their younger years made this station extra special.

The Jelly Bean and Wonka Trivia station is always a favorite! Just like Violet Beauregarde, students were challenged to guess the flavors of five very different flavors of jelly beans. They also spent time reflecting on important points in the novel with Wonka Trivia. Measurement and approximation was the goal of the final Wonka station. Third graders enjoyed trying to blow their biggest bubble ever, both with gum and regular bubbles. Students measured their bubble gum bubbles to see if they could improve their initial trial. To conclude their bubble fun, they played Pin-the-Bubble on Violet. It was a Wonkalicious afternoon in third-grade! 

Staff Spotlight: Ruthie Robles | MCHS College & Career Counselor 

This week’s Staff Spotlight is Ruthie Robles! She has worked at MBUSD as a Counselor in the College & Career Center (CCC) at Mira Costa for six years. She started her career as the evening CCC Counselor and soon transitioned into her current role in 2021, working during school hours. Before joining us, she was a College Counselor at a Los Angeles Unified School District charter school. 

Ruthie says that since graduating from California State University Long Beach, she has been very passionate about helping others, especially with their journey to and through college. “I was a college advisor before I earned my counseling credential in the school counseling graduate program at Long Beach State. My experience as an advisor and my fieldwork led me specifically to the college counseling role!”

She says that MBUSD is unique because our students can benefit from its own College and Career Center, which is also open to families. The center helps students identify their strengths and pursue a variety of pathways.

“We are so proud of the work we do as a team and are committed to keeping our students and families updated as they navigate their choices for the future! We strive to ensure that students, no matter what path they are on, feel supported and well-informed.”

Ruthie added that the College and Career Center team is dedicated to providing opportunities for all students, whether its pursuing higher education, career technical education, or employment opportunities. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two young sons, who all love anything to do with sports!

2023-2024 District Teacher of the Year is Michelle Mangan!

Headshot of Michelle Mangan MBUSD Teacher of the Year

We are excited to share that our 2024 MBUSD Teacher of the Year is Meadows Elementary School Transitional Kindergarten Teacher Michelle Mangan. With an impressive forty years of teaching experience, thirty of which have been in MBUSD, Michelle’s dedication to being an educator shined through to the MBUSD Teacher of the Year Committee. She has been an educator at four elementary schools and taught PEP, TK, Kindergarten, and 2nd grade. Michelle’s journey in education began with teaching teen mothers, and she was also a teacher to abused and neglected preschoolers. 

The District Teacher of the Year Committee made the selection after interviews and classroom observations. They shared that Michelle was selected because of her passion for establishing an early learning environment responsive to student needs. She designs learning experiences that promote creative thinking, problem-solving, and exploration. The Committee also shared that she is incredibly collaborative and supports her fellow TK colleagues across the District with lesson ideas and formative assessments. 

Left to right: Meadows Principal Michelle Krzmarzick, Superintendent Dr. John Bowes, District Teacher of the Year Michelle Mangan, and Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources Dr. Tom Stekol

Michelle says it’s the most amazing gift to be appreciated and valued for what she does. She prides herself in creating a loving and welcoming environment for her students and families. Michelle’s guiding principle is, “A child may not remember what you taught them, but they will remember how you made them feel,” underscores her teaching approach. 

Michelle’s remarkable ability to connect with people serves as her superpower. She starts every school day with uplifting affirmations for her students and says she always reminds them that they each have a unique gift. While Michelle is the 2023-2024 MBUSD Teacher of the Year, this isn’t the first time she has been honored for being an outstanding teacher. She also earned the title of site Teacher of the Year during the 2019-2020 school year at Robinson Elementary. 

As MBUSD Teacher of the Year, Michelle is now in the running to be the Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. We also want to thank and congratulate all our school site teacher of the year nominees. Watch the surprise announcement below!

Thank you to our PTAs!

The Board of Trustees annually recognizes our PTAs and their leaders for their contributions! At this week’s Board meeting, Trustees presented certificates of appreciation to all PTA leaders in recognition of their dedication and hard work. Our PTA members devote thousands of volunteer hours to support our schools, contributing essential funds to enhance operations and opportunities for our students. The leaders of our PTAs epitomize the very best of what PTAs are all about. 


These amazing individuals go above and beyond to benefit our students and staff, and we are grateful for their support! During the ceremony, MBUSD’s PTA Council President Erin Levin thanked each school site PTA lead and celebrated them for their tireless efforts. She highlighted that our PTAs combined have volunteered more than 61,000 hours, and if that were to be converted into working hours, it would be equivalent to approximately $2.3M in volunteer hours this year alone. 

Our PTAs are an incredible force. They organize and fund enrichment opportunities, donate new playground equipment, support initiatives like MBEF’s Annual Appeal, and, most recently, play a pivotal role in passing Measure MB. Erin shared that they serve in diverse roles, including leading fundraising, communication experts, organizers, event planners, advocates for students and families, mediators, and much more! We acknowledge and extend our appreciation to the following PTA Presidents! 

  • Carolyn Mukai and Pennie Stepczyk, Mira Costa High School
  • Patricia Doumeng and Kelly Gordon, Manhattan Beach Middle School
  • Ankur Batheja and Tiffany Quick, Grand View
  • Cindy Marian, Meadows
  • Brooke Zipperman and Tisha Anderson, Pacific
  • Katie Ranne and Anna Bargagliotti, Pennekamp
  • Tara Riley and Katherine Dunlap, Robinson

A special thank you to MBUSD PTA Council President Erin Levin and Council Executive Vice President Jennifer Gale!

VAPA Highlight of the Week: PTA and PTSA Elementary Performing Arts Support!

MBUSD is grateful for the ongoing support of our PTA and PTSA partners for the incredible variety and quality of our elementary Artist in Residency/Performing Arts programs. 

At all five elementary schools, each grade level gets to participate in multi-week, hands-on, engaging performing arts lessons that would not be possible without the dedicated, generous support of our parent organizations. While California’s education code requires visual and performing arts instruction for all first through sixth-grade students, MBUSD is among the many districts that do not receive adequate funding to support these foundational developmental programs. 

These parent-supported programs include hip-hop, pantomime, musical theatre, Irish dance, American, international folk dance, and more. Recently, Robinson and Grand View had grade-level culminating dance performances showcasing how dance impacts our students’ learning.

Parents gathered at Robinson to enjoy and participate in Ms. Rosina Didyk’s final folk dance demonstration with students. Over ten weeks, third and fourth-grade students learned about different types of movement, various cultures, how to dance independently and with partners, and that many of the dances are tied to California’s rich history. Ms. Didyk brings a wealth of experience from her years teaching all over the country and teaches dance traditions from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. 

At Grand View, fourth-grade students shared the dances and traditions they learned through the BollyPop program founded by artist-in-residence Aakansha Maheshwari. Ms. Maheshwari’s depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for working with young children was evident in how the students enthusiastically performed several traditional and contemporary Indian dances. Through this intensive, engaging program, students got to experience and understand various aspects of the culture of India through movement and music. They also focused on becoming strong dancers with good posture, technique, grace, and confidence.

More resources for supporting arts education can be found on the California PTA website, which states the PTA “has a long history of advocating for a complete education that includes the arts for every child.” Thank you again to our parent community through the PTA and PTSA programs for supporting these and many other foundational learning and cultural experiences for our students!

Ethnic Studies Courses Text Review 

As we continue to work towards implementing Ethnic Studies courses at Mira Costa, part of the process involves parent/guardian input on the new Diversity and Cultural Studies core instructional materials for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. After careful consideration and evaluation, our Educational Services staff have recommended "A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America" by Ronald Takaki as the core text for the course's primary learning resource. 

A copy of the book is available for review at the District Office lobby, MBMS, and MCHS main offices. You can review and provide feedback on this text through May 1. If you would like to provide feedback, please complete this form by April 29. It can also be found on our Ethnic Studies webpage.

The Ethnic Studies courses will meet new state graduation requirements set forth by California Assembly Bill 101 in 2021. The bill mandates that all California high schools offer ethnic studies courses in the 2025-26 school year and that students in the class of 2030 take at least one such course before graduating from high school.

During the March 13 MBUSD Board of Trustees meeting, Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, presented an implementation plan for Board approval. The plan includes two pilot courses, which will be offered next year. The recommendation for the adoption of the core text will be presented at the May 1 MBUSD Board Meeting. 

The Golden State Wonder: Kyle Lu Joins a Basketball Dynasty

Easy Reader features Pacific Elementary student Kyle Lu, an unofficial adviser to the Golden State Warriors!

Read Story Here!

Congratulations to our Student-Athletes! 

Left to right: Alex Kurz, Kate Morley, Kalani Nelson, Justin Smith, Ian Rodriguez, Ashlyn Green, Max Ramos-Judge

Seven graduating Mira Costa seniors were honored for committing to playing collegiate sports at Mira Costa’s Spring Signing Day event this week. Coaches, staff, families, and friends came out to show support as each student was honored by their coach. The coaches shared the athletes' journey at Mira Costa, their athleticism, and where they are headed! 

Congratulations to the following students: 

Ashlyn Green | Softball | Harvey Mudd College

Alex Kurz | Beach Volleyball | Texas Christian Univ.

Kate Morley | Beach Volleyball | UC Berkeley

Kalani Nelson | Water Polo | University of Redlands

Ian Rodriguez | Soccer | Claremont McKenna

Max Ramos-Judge | Cross Country | Colgate University

Justin Smith | Rugby | University of Alabama

You can watch the Signing Day ceremony below! 

Read More Here

Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council (MBCC) Recognizes MBUSD Students

MBUSD Students Recognized During April MBCC Luncheon

Left to right: Anthony Padnos, Adelaide Udis, Quinn Maynard, Parker Seib, Molly McCluskey, and Evelyn Amezquita

Six MBUSD students were honored for being outstanding students at the Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council (MBCC) this week during their April luncheon.

This month, the following students were recognized: 

Adelaide Udis - Grand View Elementary 

Presented by Kari Pliaconis

Quinn Maynard - Grand View Elementary

Presented by Kari Pliaconis 

Molly McCluskey - Meadows Elementary 

Presented by Michelle Legaspi

Parker Seib - Meadows Elementary

Presented by Lisa Blumberg

Evelyn Amezquita - MBMS

Presented by David Levy 

Anthony Padnos - MCHS

Presented by Lindsey Valbuena 

Each teacher presented their student nominee and why they deserved the award. Grand View 5th grade teacher Kari Pliaconis commended Adelaide and Quinn for being good and kind humans. She said they do well in school and take pride in their academics.

Meadows 5th grade teacher Michelle Legaspi highlighted Molly for embodying kindness, wisdom, and hard work. Legaspi also noted that Molly makes her classroom better every single day. Our next honoree, Parker Seib, was recognized by Meadows Elementary 4th Grade teacher Lisa Blumberg. She said that Parker is a thoughtful and kind-hearted individual. He displays excellent sportsmanship and is a wonderful role model to his peers. He also was honored at a City of Manhattan Beach City Council meeting for being an outstanding student.

MBMS student Evelyn Amezquita was presented by MBMS Drama Director David Levy. He described that Evelyn exuberates kindness and is a caring individual. She is always looking to do better. She stays on task and is a fantastic writer! David shared an example of Evelyn stepping up to help him and that she is always looking to assist her teachers and classmates. 

Anthony Padnos from MCHS was honored by English teacher Lindsey Valbuena. She said that Anthony is kind and appreciates feedback to improve as a student. He has produced unique projects during his AP Seminar and AP Research courses. 

Each student also received a certificate from the City of Manhattan Beach and Senator Ben Allen’s Office. The next luncheon in May will award scholarships to MCHS seniors. 

MBUSD Mathletes Win Big 

Math teams from Meadows, Pacific, and Robinson elementary schools competed in the 17th Annual E=MC2 Culver City Math Competition! Thirty teams from twenty-five schools across Los Angeles County participated in individual and team math tournaments. Students respond to complex math olympiad word problems during the tournament. The teams are made up of 4th and 5th graders. 

Our teams earned top spots in the competition! We are proud of their achievements. Congratulations! 

Pennekamp won 1st place in the team event

The team consisted of: Lily F., Talar A., Charlotte F., Asher F., Michael S.

Pacific won 2nd place in the team event

The team consisted of: Jonathan H., Neil K., Rohan P., Nathaniel X.

The Meadows team and Robinson team also performed well. 

The following students were medalists in the individual event:

Gold Medal:

Lily F. | Pennekamp

Silver Medalists:

Charlotte F. | Pennekamp Asher F. | Pennekamp

Michael S. | Pennekamp Corin M. | Meadows

Bronze Medalists: 

Michael L. | Meadows

Rohan P. | Pacific

This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the school site coaches. Thank you to Meadows Teacher and Coach Michelle Legaspi, Pacific Coaches Hilary Grayver and Sarah Norqual, and Robinson Coaches Ben Lewis and Jody Gale.

Thank you to Pennekamp Math Coaches Christine & Ayres Fan for sharing this story.

The Meadows team | Cameron C., Josie D., Michael L., Corin M., Parker S.

Robinson team | Ethan G., Link L., Lauren L., Delia W., Blythe W.

Meadows Inaugural Super Literacy Quiz Bowl

This week, Meadows Elementary held its first Super Literacy Quiz Bowl, which challenged third-grader scholars to showcase their prowess in reading and comprehension. Students competed in a thrilling event, responding to trivia questions from fourteen books they read in preparation for the competition. Quick thinking was essential, with participants required to respond to questions within 30-60 seconds. 

This year, all five MBUSD elementary schools participated in this event. The event began at Pennekamp in 2017 and has since become an enriching experience at other campuses. Literacy Quiz Bowl was created by Pennekamp parent Jiyeon Im and former school librarian Barbara Siegemund-Broka, who has spearheaded the expansion of the tradition at our other school campuses.

Robinson hosted its inaugural Literacy Super Quiz Bowl last week. Grand View also had its first event this year. Pacific has plans to host it in May!

MBMS and Costa Choirs Receive Top Festival Scores 

MBMS and Mira Costa Choir students recently performed at the Southern California Vocal Association Choral Festival. The MBMS Sand and Sea ensemble achieved the highest honor with a “Superior” rating and nearly perfect score for on-sight reading. Meanwhile, the MBMS Ocean Wave Choral received an “Excellent” rating, coming impressively close to a “Superior” ranking, and scored perfect for their on-sight reading. This week, the MBMS Choir also performed at the Disney Imagination Campus. Go Waves!

Mira Costa Choir groups also excelled at the festival. MCHS’ Vocal Ensemble received a “Superior” rating, which was the highest score of the night! MCHS’ Choral Union earned an “Excellent” rating. They were complimented on their soloists and the group’s beautiful blend! Congratulations to District Choir Director Kate Crellin and our choir students for their outstanding performances. 

7th Annual MBUSD International Day is Tomorrow!

Don’t forget that this Saturday, April 20, is one of our most exciting annual events! Join us as we celebrate our diverse community and our students' and families' cultural heritage by exploring traditions, flavors, games, clothing, music, dance, and more!

International Day is a time for you and your family to learn about customs, traditions, and cultures of the MBUSD community from around the world.

Mira Costa Drama Footloose Opening Night April 26

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. 

Earth Week is Next Week!

MBUSD is proud to be a Green District and is excited to celebrate Earth Week 2024 (April 22-26). Each school site will have activities and events planned to highlight our commitment to sustainability during this time. You can check out Earth Week events by visiting here

Click here if you would like to participate in a beach clean-up event!

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 26.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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