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Superintendent's Newsletter

April 26, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

Today’s issue highlights Pennekamp Elementary, our 2024 Classified Employees of the Year, and Mira Costa’s new state-of-the-art pool scoreboard! 

Spotlight on Pennekamp (Special Thanks to the MBUSD Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Program staff and students, including DHH Teachers Brianni Webb, Kathy Guevara, and Laura Pepping, and Pennekamp Principal Sharon Witzansky)

The Pennekamp campus is home to the regional Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program.Unlike solely oral programs on other South Bay campuses, ours is a ”total communication” model incorporating oral and American Sign Language (ASL). The students in this class are included in various general education classrooms and events.

Monday, April 15, was National ASL Day. Students and teachers from our DHH classes visited classrooms to show students how to sign the alphabet and sign their names. A big thanks to Ms. Kathy Guevara, Ms. Laura Pepping, and Ms. Brianni Webb for organizing this experience.

Staff Spotlight: Connie Liu | Elementary Science Specialist

This week we are highlighting Connie Liu, a dedicated MBUSD Elementary Science Specialist. In her 14th year, she serves as the TK-5th science specialist at Pacific Elementary and is one of the science specialists at Grand View Elementary. She has also been a 4th grade teacher at Pacific. Before being an educator in our District, Connie previously taught in Torrance. 

She says being a science specialist has been the most rewarding role she has held. Connie’s passion for nurturing young learners’ intellects goes back to when she was also a student. As a middle schooler, she helped toddlers during Sunday School. In high school, she interned at her elementary school to help struggling readers and also worked at a preschool in Palos Verdes. Through college, she even taught English while studying abroad in China. 

“When I finally dove head-first into teaching, I realized that working with a solid team of people who care about people and quality teaching is imperative to the success of the school community. I’m so grateful to all the teachers I’ve been able to work with, especially past and present science specialists,” said Connie Liu. 

Connie says her own challenges as a student, particularly in math and science, influence her teaching today! When she was in college, she shared that one of her science professors made learning fun. These experiences helped her see the complexities of how students learn. 

“It’s shaped my mindset on creating engaging, interactive, and meaningful lessons for my students. Students are multidimensional, which means that I need to do my best to present the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in a way that my students will connect with in some way. And, when I see that spark of curiosity or asking questions for more information, I know that learning is happening.”

Connie strives to foster critical thinking. Beyond the classroom, Connie is a driving force behind exciting science opportunities offered to our students where they can apply what they are learning in the classroom. She has led the Invention Convention and Science Night efforts on our campuses. 

“These occasions allow students the chance to critically think through problems resourcefully and creatively. They also give students opportunities to effectively collaborate and communicate with peers and adults. Most importantly, students understand that their place in this huge world is important. They could be making a difference for the betterment of someone else!”

In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family, camping, hiking, and exploring State and National Parks. When they aren’t in the great outdoors, they love to go on culinary adventures!

Connie also shared that she is constantly on the lookout for creative ways to infuse humor into her lessons! “You may find me scouring the web for relevant yet humorous GIFs or science jokes such as, '"What do physicists like to eat? Fission chips!'”

We also want to congratulate Connie for being nominated as the Pacific Elementary Teacher of the Year! 

Let’s celebrate the following individuals selected as their site’s Classified Employee of the Year for their dedicated service!

Katy Yeh - Payroll Tech - District Office

Cipriano Salgado - Grounds Maintenance - Maintenance and Operations 

Jerry Trevino - Custodian - Mira Costa 

Luci Cabrera - Office Manager - MBMS

Reyna Struwve - Food and Nutrition Lead Assistant - Manhattan Beach Preschool

Teresa Rojas - Instructional Assistant - Intensive Behavior Intervention (IBI) - Meadows 

Barbie Jimenez - Office Specialist - Pennekamp 

Rodolfo Aguilar - Custodian - Pacific

Alan Elias - Instructional Assistant - Grand View 

Valerie Edwards - Teacher EDP/Makerspace Tech - Robinson

Dalia Hernandez-Berthelli - Cook - Food and Nutrition Services We want to recognize and acknowledge the hard work of our MBUSD Classified Employees of the Year recipients! Congratulations! These individuals display exceptional dedication to their roles and our community, and we appreciate their daily contributions.

We take immense pride in all of our diverse team of 387 classified staff members, who perform a wide array of work and responsibilities, from providing nutritious meals to students, to maintaining the cleanliness and safety of our facilities, and ensuring the seamless operation of our technology and systems. Our awardees will be recognized at the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting on May 15. 

Annually, top nominees from each work site are chosen by their colleagues to be in the running for the MBUSD Classified Employee of the Year title. These staff members represent various departments across our school district, including school campuses, the District Office, Maintenance and Operations, and Food and Nutrition Services.  

Easy Reader Story:

Manhattan Beach Unified Names Teachers of the Year 

Read Story Here

U.S. News and World Report Ranks Mira Costa Among the Nation’s Best

Mira Costa High School continues to rank among the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report. The 2024 Best High Schools ranking was released this week, and Mira Costa ranked in the top 3% nationwide. Our overall “scorecard” was nearly 96/100.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the highest-ranked public schools in the 2024 Best High Schools national rankings are those with students who achieved exceptional scores on state assessments for math, reading, and science.

These schools also had strong college readiness, curriculum breadth, and high graduation rates. College readiness specifically measures participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

The U.S. News reviewed nearly 25,000 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We are proud of the Mira Costa community, including our administrators, staff, and students. Annually, we share so many accomplishments of our students and staff, and this is just another great example of the impact of everyone’s hard work. 

Join the MBEF Team!

The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation is seeking several professionals dedicated to the MBEF Mission of enriching the educational opportunities for all students with supplemental funding. MBEF is hiring for the following positions: 

  • Communications Manager
  • Donor Relations Manager
  • Development Coordinator

In addition to the skills essential to each position, the ideal candidate adheres to high personal and professional standards, understands non-profit fundraising practices, and appreciates the collaborative effort required to achieve success with a small team. 

Please refer to the job opportunities on the MBEF website to learn more about the positions and how to apply. 

Join the MBUSD Team! 

We are hiring classified and certificated staff. We’re looking for individuals passionate about 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!

Our featured job opportunities for this week are:

Food and Nutrition Assistant


Campus Security

For all other openings, please visit here.

Wine Auction Tickets Going on Sale Soon!

Manhattan Wine Auction tickets go on sale Wednesday, May 1, at 6 a.m.! The highly anticipated event brings our community together for our schools, and the South Bay community anxiously awaits the day that ticket sales open for the iconic Manhattan Wine Auction. Every year, they sell out that same day. 

This year the 30th annual event promises to be another amazing evening not to be missed - filled with incredible wine and food tastings, access to spectacular auction items, and dancing under the stars to a live band. Visit Manhattan Wine Auction for details and set your reminder now for 6 a.m. on May 1! 

NEW THIS YEAR: MBEF Annual Appeal donors who met the ASK will receive an email invitation for pre-sale tickets on April 30.

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 MBUSD Board meeting on May 1.

Congratulations to the Champions of the 2024 MBMS Scholar Quiz!

Scholar Quiz Champs

This year, Ayaan A., Avi K., Shay R., and Delaney T. were crowned the big winners. The 2nd place team was Defne B., Zoey R., Katie M., and Everly S.

Two hundred fifty-six students participated this year. Study Hut sponsors the event annually and also provides the trivia questions. The topics ranged from geography to english, science, mathematics, and even pop culture. 

Thank you to the MBMS PTA for hosting and sponsoring the event. It wouldn’t be possible without your support. Hundreds of volunteers participated in it, including the MBUSD Board of Trustees, District staff, teachers, and parents. 

2nd Place Team

Costa Girls Lacrosse Bay League Champions

Congratulations to the Mira Costa Girls Lacrosse team! They are the 2024 Undefeated Bay League champions! They competed against Palos Verdes, Redondo, and Peninsula two times to earn this victory. 

Coach Maddy Morrissey shared, “Our team really trusts one another and loves being together. From freshmen to seniors, they all are close and have an incredible bond. Our team chemistry is at an all-time high heading into CIF playoffs as undefeated Bay League Champs!”

Costa Lacrosse Girls have not won the Bay League since 2012 and have never been undefeated. 

Mira Costa Drama Footloose Opens Tonight!

We are excited to share that Mira Costa’s Drama/Tech spring production of the musical Footloose opens tonight! Tickets are still 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 comprises 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.

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.

Purchase Tickets Here!

Manhattan Beach Rotary Honors our Magnificent Musicians 

MBMS Music Award Recipients

The Manhattan Beach Rotary, for twenty-two years, has been recognizing our exemplary music programs and amazing musicians. Students in 7th-12th grades participating in our strings, winds and percussion programs compete for top honors in the Rotary Solo Music Competition.

This year, eighteen MBUSD students were winners from MBMS and Mira Costa for the special Rotary Music Awards and received $3,500 in awards. First-place winners from each category showcased their talents to rotary members and the community during the Rotary meeting this week. MBMS Instrumental Music Teacher Denise Haslop introduced the first-place winners from MBMS, 8th grader Ethan Kohl in the strings category and 7th grader Ava Soloman in the winds and percussion category. She expressed the invaluable opportunity this platform provides for student development and appreciation for the ongoing support. 

MCHS Strings Award Recipients

Here is the list of all MBMS award recipients: 


1st Place, Ethan Kohl, Cello

2nd Place, Michael Hiatt, Violin

3rd Place, Evan Lee, Violin

Winds and Percussion:

1st Place, Ava Solomon, Flute

2nd Place, Ronald Mannan, Flute

3rd Place, Aarav Maggon, Bass Clarinet

Mira Costa High School Director of Orchestras Peter Park shared a few remarks and introduced first-place winners in the 9th-10th grade strings, wind and percussion categories. He emphasized the benefits of having a background in musical excellence for career readiness. Mira Costa Band Director Joel Carlson introduced first-place winners in the 11th-12th grade strings, wind and percussion categories. Congratulations to the following students!

Mira Costa High School award recipients:

9th and 10th Grade Divisions 


1st Place - Makaio Xia, Violin

2nd Place - Reese Zhang, Cello

3rd Place - Madelyn Fu, Viola

Winds and Percussion:

1st Place - Iggy Im, Flute

2nd Place- Ali Keskinel, French horn

3rd Place - Abbie Neitz, Flute

11th and 12th Grade Divisions 


1st Place - Noah Weiss, Violin

2nd Place - McKinley Xia, Violin

3rd Place - Ty Lockwood, Cello

Winds and Percussion:

1st Place - Morgan Griffiths, Clarinet

2nd Place - Christofer Nählinder, Trumpet

3rd Place - Jacob Handzlik, Flute

We appreciate the Manhattan Beach Rotary and our music teachers for making this tradition possible yearly. 

MCHS Winds and Percussion Award Recipients

MCHS Student Entrepreneur Wins Big at YEA! Investor Panel 

YEA! Investor Panel Winner Maia Rocho

Mira Costa’s junior Maia Rocha was selected as a standout from the 2023-2024 Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) class to represent her business concept in a national competition! Congratulations! The YEA!, sponsored by the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, awarded her a start-up investment of $1,700. Her business, the Doing Done app, impressed the Academy’s investor panel out of twenty other student business pitches. 

The innovative app is designed to enhance task management. It’s available on the Apple App Store and this website and incorporates effective academic success strategies. 

Maia shared that she originally made the app for students like herself to help others achieve similar success as she did by using it. During her pitch session, she presented her business to investors from Kinecta Federal Credit Union, Manhattan Beach Toyota, Manhattan Beach Rotary, and the City of Manhattan Beach. 

Other MBUSD students also made an impact during the investor panel. We want to recognize Mira Costa sophomore Reece Gordon, runner-up for the Saunders Scholar with his business, Cover Clamp. MBMS 8th grader Emily Lara-Donis received an investment for her business, StepProtect.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a national program that has existed in Manhattan Beach since 2015. It supports and empowers young entrepreneurs in making their business ideas a reality. Through its nine-month program, students develop their business ideas, write business plans, and pitch to local investors. Our MBUSD students have won the national Saunders Scholars competition in the past two years. Thank you to Mira Costa's teacher, Rachel Thomas, for serving as a YEA! Instructor since the program's inception. We also want to thank Ro Schreiner and the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce. 

Participants from the YEA! class also graduated this week! Ro Schreiner, who supports the program, says these students will continue building their businesses, including applying for DBAs and being notarized. 

Read More Here

Aquatic Athletes Benefit from a New Pool Scoreboard 

We want to thank the Mira Costa Aquatics Boosters and MBX for funding a new pool scoreboard at MCHS! Thanks to their support, it’s now up and running, greatly benefitting our athletes with a clear display and precise timing system!

The upgrade replaces an old and temperamental scoreboard that only kept track of scores and time. It now has the ability to do split times, providing aquatic athletes with their time after 100 meters. Athletes also benefit from a pace clock during practice, and it has the feature of playing videos and highlight reels. Over 200 athletes benefit from this investment, and we are grateful to everyone who made this possible.

MBUSD Celebrates Earth Week

MBUSD and the Green Committee marked another successful Earth Week (April 22-26) across our seven campuses. Our Green Committee hosted activities aligned with a daily theme to recognize Earth Week and spread awareness about the ways to protect the planet. These themes were “Meatless Monday,” “Transportation Tuesday,” “Waste-Free Wednesday,” “Thirsty Thursday,” “Fossil-Fuel Friday,” “Flower Friday,” and “Family Movie Night Friday.”

A few of the Green Week highlights included the Surfrider Foundation Club and MBMS jointly hosting a beach clean-up, MCHS students holding a clothing swap, and Grand View Gators expressing their celebration through chalk art. Thank you to our green chairs, staff, students, and families who participated in various sustainability activities.

Pacific families walking and rolling to school

VAPA Highlight of the Week: Monsters in Our Midst? MBMS Drama’s Whimsical Take on Growing Up

Who didn’t grow up wondering if monsters might live under the bed or in the closet? This spring’s MBMS Drama production of d.s.Levy’s The Monsters was a thoughtful take on the childhood fear that something might be lurking in the dark. Though breaking a few “rules,” Levy’s band of monsters starts showing up at night out of concern for lead character Ava‘s journey from childhood to young adulthood. 

Each of the MBMS actors was challenged to bring nuance and depth to their monster’s role in aiding their human charge’s development. One monster was concerned with kindness and caring, while another represented Ava’s fears and anxieties. Some monsters represented intrusive, destructive thoughts, while others channeled the behaviors of Ava’s friends so she could consider the consequences of how people treat one another. The students did an excellent job bringing this story to life.

When interviewed, graduating 8th-grade lead actors quickly moved from discussing the play to talking about why MBMS Drama is so important to them.

What is your favorite thing about being in one of Levy’s after-school productions?

“Probably seeing all the hard work pay off and you become friends with all the cast members. And then, by the time the show rolls around, you don't even feel as much pressure on the show because you're doing it with all of your friends.” - Delaney Tretiak, the lead role of Ava for both casts.

 “I would say it's just the community you build with everyone. Because you'll be seeing these people in high school, and you'll probably be working with them. And it's cool just to be able to know them through, like, the play or whatever experiences you have with them.” - Lexi Mosher, head monster “Rauni” from Cast A.

What do you look forward to in Drama Class?

“Mr. Levy. He’s really nice to everybody, and he’s a great drama teacher. So you learn lots of stuff.” - Yamano

“I feel like drama is a class in which you don't really have to worry about getting judged. Or it's just a class where you just get to hang out and express yourself and don't really have the weight of having to practice your music piece for hours until it's perfect. And you just express yourself. It's fun.” - Tretiak

MBMS Students for the 2024-2025 school year can look forward to a new drama offering thanks to Proposition 28: The Arts and Music in Schools (AMS) Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act. Mr. Levy, MBMS Drama Director, will be reintroducing a year-long Drama 6 opportunity for incoming 6th-grade students, along with two pre-COVID drama programs for 7th and 8th graders. 

Ghostlight Drama will be a production-focused class responsible for preparing a large-cast play, while Vanguard Drama will allow students to work on short plays for more intimate, cabaret-style audiences.

Bravo to the MBMS Drama students and Mr. Levy for showcasing their hard work and for continuing the tradition of robust theatre opportunities for our students! 

MCHS Alum featured in Metro Art LA Jazz Appreciation Month Celebration Tomorrow

Union Station in Downtown LA is hosting a free jazz concert to commemorate Jazz Appreciation Month! Metro Art and KJAZZ for Jazz Tracks are hosting the experience tomorrow, Saturday, April 27. 

The concert will showcase MCHS Alum Darynn Dean, and three other artists will be featured. 

It will take place from 7:30 - 11:00 p.m.

Darynn currently attends The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz and Performance at UCLA, where she is pursuing a Master of Music degree. 

Denim Day

On Wednesday, April 24, Mira Costa observed Denim Day for the 6th consecutive year. 

Denim Day falls on a Wednesday in April, coinciding with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The goal is to educate youth about consent, healthy relationships, and how to support victims. 

Our Mustang community wore jeans to show support for sexual assault survivors and raise awareness about sexual violence. During lunch in the Mustang Mall, the Healthy Relationships Committee set up a small fair with a denim flower wall, rock painting, a station to decorate jeans, and hosted activities to show solidarity and educate one another about sexual violence. Thank you to allcove Beach Cities and Venice Family Clinic for participating in the event. You can find more pictures here.

Manhattan Beach Preschool Annual Spring Concert

Manhattan Beach Preschool students put on a memorable show for their families and staff at their spring concert-themed “Songs of the Sea.” They sang a variety of songs, with some pieces being accompanied by instruments, and there was also some solo singing!

These young learners engage in weekly music lessons with Music Rhapsody, where they explore vocal techniques, harmonious singing, and rhythmic precision. They are introduced to diverse styles of music and instruments. This opportunity is possible thanks to our amazing parents who donate to fund this music program.

Upcoming Events:

Green Speaker Series Featuring Robert Fortunato | May 2

The District Green Committee invites you to attend its next speaker series event with guest Robert Fortunato, President of ForStrategy Consulting, as he presents “Making Your Home (and Your Life) Healthier, Safer, More Resilient, and Less Costly” on Thursday, May 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Grand View Auditorium located at 2617 Bell Avenue.

Robert is a highly acclaimed TedX Speaker and designer of the multiple-award-winning Green Idea House.  

Admission is free and open to the MBUSD community, including students and children.

District English Learner Advisory Committee Meeting | May 3

Please join our District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) meeting on Friday, May 3, from 9:00-10:00 AM in the District Office Board Room. Come to learn about programs and supports for English Learners and multilingual students and provide input on ways that we can improve our program. See the agenda for the upcoming meeting here.

These meetings are led by Dr. Jonathan Erickson, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and Kortney Krivokopich, Interventionist, and Interim English Learner TOSA. This is our last DELAC Meeting for the 2023-2024 school year. All are welcome!

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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on May 3.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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