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Superintendent's Newsletter

March 22, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights MBMS, MBUSD students heading to the World Finals for their strong problem-solving skills, and tickets for MCHS Drama/Tech’s spring production, Footloose, are on sale soon!

Spotlight on MBMS (Special Thanks to the MBMS Spanish Department and Principal Jennifer Huynh)

In Spanish 1B, students delved into the world of creative expression as they prepared to bring their language skills to life through skits. They were assigned to create scenarios using the target language and were responsible for crafting dialogues in Spanish by using the vocabulary they had learned in the unit. 

Specifically, students were required to use a scenario where they were shopping and needed to incorporate appropriate verb and noun agreements. They eagerly brainstormed scenarios, characters, and dialogues, infusing cultural nuances into their narratives. Students collaborated in groups, refined their scripts, perfected pronunciation, and incorporated authentic expressions. The final product included capturing these performances on video and bringing their linguistic journey and creativity to life. Below are a few images from the videos students produced!

Staff Spotlight: Chuen-Wei Ng | STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) 


Chuen-Wei Ng is in his first year at MBUSD. He brings a wealth of experience from his work in Los Angeles County, previously serving in Azusa Unified and Long Beach Unified. As our Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), a position funded by MBEF, Chuen-Wei supports teachers in STEAM instruction and innovation. In his role, he spearheads the coordination of STEAM pathways and focuses on promoting and integrating STEAM across disciplines.

He pursued his current role because he wanted to contribute to a community of educators and learners. “This role allows me to support and collaborate with teachers across various disciplines. In my role, I develop engaging science lesson material, support professional learning communities (PLCs), provide support for California Science Test (CAST) preparation, and coordinate science-focused events such as STEAM Night and Invention Convention. By working closely with community members, I strive to create an environment where both teachers and students can thrive.”

Chuen-Wei’s wanted to join MBUSD because of the District’s commitment to excellence in education, particularly in the areas of STEAM and innovation. “I saw an opportunity to contribute my skills and experience as a leader in science education and to build on the strong foundation of passionate educators already in place.”

His education journey was fueled by his passion and love for learning and science, nurtured by the inspiring teachers who guided him as a student. “I believe an asset-based student-centered form of education can make the world a better place.”

When asked about the impact of STEAM education, Chuen-Wei says it has the potential to be a powerful agent of global change. He says, “By teaching students to think critically, solve problems creatively, and understand the interconnectedness of our world, we can empower them to tackle the complex challenges our society faces.” He also emphasizes that STEAM is about developing a growth mindset, fostering empathy, and encouraging collaboration. 

When asked about his favorite part of the job, he says it’s the fantastic team of science teachers and specialists he collaborates with. “Not only are they exceptional educators, but they're also genuinely wonderful people who inspire me daily. I feel privileged to work alongside such dedicated professionals who have a passion for science education and make a difference in the lives of our students.”

In his free time, he enjoys various hobbies, such as painting, solving crossword puzzles, reading, and writing with his collection of fountain pens! He loves traveling, exploring different cuisines, and embracing adventure! 

Measure MB Passes! Thank You!

Thank you to the Manhattan Beach community for passing Measure MB, our MBUSD Parcel Tax Renewal Measure! Nearly 68% of voters cast “yes” votes, surpassing the required two-thirds majority. We sincerely appreciate the support from our community. 

As we face significant budget cuts during this challenging time, the Parcel Tax will help our current situation. It will enable us to provide critical funding by restoring some of the teaching positions that have received preliminary layoff notices and will have a positive impact for years to come. MBUSD continues to rely heavily upon this locally-controlled school funding approved by our community to retain quality teachers and core programs that benefit all MBUSD students. 

The funding will provide approximately $2.5 million yearly for each of the next six years. The State will not be able to take away these important funds. Measure MB funding will continue to be used to maintain quality 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

Measure MB also upholds local control and fiscal accountability requirements, including an independent citizens’ oversight committee and annual audits to ensure funds are spent as promised and that all funds are used for classroom instruction only and not for administrator salaries or benefits. 

While Measure MB will assist in reducing projected deficits and budget reductions, it won’t eliminate them due to other revenue challenges. These include a lower-than-anticipated Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), which has dropped from the 3.94% anticipated last June to the currently anticipated 0.76%, as well as the end of pandemic-related enrollment calculation adjustments that have, up until now, helped to protect the District’s Local Control Funding Formula funding levels. Additionally, the State’s Legislative Analyst’s Office and others have indicated that schools may face additional funding reductions as a result of the State’s current budget challenges. 

While we are confident in the outcome of the Measure MB election, we are still awaiting the final certified results, which the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder will publish in early April. Once again, thank you to the Manhattan Beach community for your support and commitment to our schools and students.

State of the City 

John Bowes Speaking at State of the City

The annual State of the City event took place this week at the Shade Hotel. I was honored to present along with other community leaders. I started off my update on MBUSD by highlighting our growing enrollment, which reveals an estimated 6,200 students (Preschool-12th grade) enrolled in MBUSD. Other highlights included the programs and accolades across our District that reflect the excellence of MBUSD, including our 98% graduation rate, high-performing music, athletics, and Model United Nations programs. 

The presentation also shared the District's high test scores, which are among the highest in the South Bay and region, and last week’s KTLA School Spirit Spotlight segments, which is just one of many times MBUSD staff and students have been recognized in the news. I shared the District’s progress with the latest Stadium Way modernization project and the completion of other facilities projects. One of the slides focused on our community partners, who are the foundation of MBUSD and support us in many ways!

The State of the City provides an opportunity for us to share the success stories of our students and staff.

Read More Here 

KTLA School Spirit Spotlight Series

Our exceptional Mira Costa programs were highlighted last Friday on KTLA Channel 5 News. Watch the videos below! Go Mustangs! 

School Spirit Featuring:

MCHS Badminton and Cheer

KTLA Segment on MCHS Jazz

School Spirit Featuring:

Jazz Band

Click Here for Feature on ComedySportz HSL and Drama/Tech

MBMS Drama Presents The Monsters | Opening Tonight!

Tonight marks the opening of MBMS Drama Department's spring play, The Monsters! It is about a young girl, Ava, who must decide whether she’s ready to grow up. Her monsters come out from under the bed and out of the closet to help her understand what growing up is all about. The play is open to the community and suitable for all ages. 

There’s still time to purchase tickets for tonight and this weekend. 

Buy Tickets Here

Show times:

March 22 | 7:00 p.m.

March 23 | 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

March 24 | 2:00 p.m. 

Mira Costa Drama Footloose Tickets on Sale Soon!

We are excited to share that Mira Costa’s Drama/Tech spring production of the musical Footloose is closer to its opening show! Tickets are on sale starting Monday, March 25! 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 opens on April 26 and closes on May 4 with seven performances.

Purchase Tickets Here

Click image below to enlarge!

Footloose, the musical flyer

The musical 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. MCHS's Footloose production is one of twenty-six production entries for the John Raitt Awards this spring.

Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council (MBCC) Honors MBUSD Students 

The Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council recognizes our students throughout the year during a luncheon that honors outstanding students. This week, I attended the third event, and the following students were recognized:

Melissa Ortega-Zelada - Robinson Elementary 

Christopher Iskander-Pike - Robinson Elementary 

Reece Goodrich - MBMS

Chloe Kim - Mira Costa 

Left to right: Melissa Ortega-Zelada, Christopher Iskander-Pike, Reece Goodrich, Philip Sznewajs (American Martyrs), Reece Goodrich, and Chloe Kim.

Teachers and staff introduced each honoree, highlighting their qualities and why they deserve the award. 5th grade teacher Teresa Scott presented Robinson students Christopher Iskander-Pike and Melissa Ortega-Zelada. She shared that Christopher is dedicated to learning and always puts 100% effort into his work. He is a great role model to other students and is very detail-oriented. Melissa was described as a self-motivator and a student who challenges herself academically. She is an individual who looks out for her classmates. Teresa particularly praised Melissa’s exceptional writing skills, noting her as a gifted and talented writer.  

8th grader Reece Goodrich was applauded for his immense growth during the school year. MBMS teacher Mike Mazurek said he has the rare quality of holding himself accountable and cares about his work. Chloe Kim from Mira Costa is dedicated to making a difference in the community. School Counselor Brittney Oystrick shared that Chloe takes action on topics that are important to her and implements ideas to make change. She is part of the No Place for Hate Committee and participated in the Ethnic Studies Committee. Brittney describes her as a leader, a beacon of hope and inspiration. 

Congratulations to our students! MBCC will host two more luncheons honoring our students in the coming months. 

MBUSD Students Showcase Critical Thinking Skills at Odyssey of the Mind State Championships 

Six MBUSD teams recently participated in the Odyssey of the Mind SoCal State Championships. They competed in various problem-solving competitions, but the highlight was Problem 4, where all three of our teams finished 1st place in their respective divisions, qualifying for the World Finals! Problem 4 focused on individual team structures that they constructed and tested. Congratulations! 

Odyssey of the Mind is an international creativity competition that helps students develop problem-solving, teamwork, writing, and STEM skills. Coach Brian Fan says the program is instrumental in developing many skills, such as confidence and public speaking, quick thinking, empathy, and leadership. The World Finals will take place on May 21 at Iowa State University. Thank you to all of our Odyssey of the Mind coaches and Mira Costa Coach Brian Fan for sharing this story with us. The teams and coaches together have put in approximately more than 3,000 hours towards meetings, preparations, and competing!

Pennekamp Elementary (5th grade): Division 1, Problem 4, 1st place: Lily F., Ava S., Charlotte F., Aviana O., Samantha L., Asher F., Camille J. Coached by Alex Otero and Assistant Coach: Mitch Karp

Manhattan Beach Middle School: Division 2, Problem 4, 1st place: Niamh A., Christian C., Beckett H., Kainoa A., Malik S., Noah C., Ashley T. Coached by Alice Kuo.

Mira Costa High School: Division 3, Problem 4, 1st place: Matthew C., Daisei H., Charlotte F., Sierra W., Zachary G., Audrey T. (not pictured). Coached by Brian Fan

Pennekamp Elementary (3rd grade): Division 1, Problem 5, 3rd place: Maeve J., Mariella H., Noah F., Elayna O., Judah F., Parsa S., Sienna K., Coached by Alex Otero and Assistant Coach: Jake Feldman

Pacific Elementary (4th grade): Division 1, Problem 3, 4th place: Davon B., Jack P., Haley N., Simrin S., Savita A., Sydney P., Danny D. Coached by Ms. Lautanen (2nd Grade Pacific School Teacher)

Pacific Elementary (3rd grade): Division 1, Problem 5, 5th place: Remington W., Grant I., Grayson M., Ben F., Nicole H., Lily N. Coached by Ms. Lautanen (2nd Grade Pacific School Teacher).

VAPA Highlight of the Week: All-District Choir Festival 

Our annual All-District Choir Festival, Build a Bridge, was a huge success on Tuesday, March 19! More than 300 of our elementary, middle, and high school choir students performed a variety of uplifting repertoire to a packed house. Each moving piece not only showcased the students’ hard work but also the evocative, emotive power of hearing students sing together. Many attendees expressed that they were “moved to tears” by the performances, which included beautiful solo and duet features.

“The Build a Bridge event is an important night for students to make connections and see that they’re part of a much bigger vocal music tradition than they may realize,” shared Kate Crellin, who is in her third year as director of the MBMS and MCHS choral programs. Mira Costa senior Kate Christensen, who is also the President of Choirs, agreed that this is always a special night for everyone and reminisced that she has been part of this event since the 4th Grade! 

Students from each of our elementary schools were featured in the Honor Choir and the 5th Grade Combined Choir, led by choir teacher Krista Giffin. Along with accompanist Fumie Kwak, The Honor Choir shared two pieces that recently earned them “Gold” recognition at the Music in the Parks Festival. 

Ms. Giffin shared that she was “very proud of the performance the students gave and all the hard work they put into it. I’m extremely grateful for my wonderful colleagues, without whom I could not have put this together.”

Director Kate Crellin led the MBMS and Mira Costa choirs through a series of stirring pieces that featured body percussion and impressive harmonies, with accompaniment by Gordon Glor and Mira Costa band students. 

The final song of the night, “Give us Hope,” was performed by the combined elementary, middle, and high school singers, so there were more than 300 voices sharing the stage to close out the show.

Visual and Performing Arts Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), Scott Hughes, says Ms. Crellin and Ms. Giffin would like to thank our district administrators and the MBUSD Board of Trustees for their commitment to the choral programs. They also acknowledge the ongoing support of MBEF, MBX, PTSA and PTA organizations Choir Booster, our student-led choir mentorship program, and the many volunteers who make these programs possible. 

MBUSD Choirs are currently preparing for:

4/11- MBMS Festival Competition

4/12- MCHS Festival Competition

4/16- MBMS Disney Performance

5/23-5/26- MCHS California Tour

Please join us for these upcoming choir events!

5/13- Robinson Concert

5/21- Pennekamp Concert

5/23- Pacific Concert

5/29- MBMS Choir Concert

5/30- Meadows Concert

5/31- Grand View Concert

6/4 - MCHS Choir Concert

MCHS Varsity Winter Guard Team Moves onto Finals in Regional Competition

MCHS Varsity Winter Guard

MCHS Winter Guard Director Richard Hernandez and Team Captain Ava Aguero

We are so proud of our Varsity Winter Guard team! They participated in the Winter Guard International Power Regional Competition in Palm Desert, advancing to the finals among twenty-five teams and securing an 11th-place finish in their division. Parent and President of the Winter Guard Booster Andrea Barker shared, “Given the talent, experience, and resources of the teams that we were competing with, we were extremely proud of their performance and placement.”

You can watch their performance, titled The Carnival is Over, here.

Neptunian Woman’s Club Awards MBUSD Students' Artistry

This past weekend, hundreds of unique art pieces and photos hung at the Neptunian Woman’s Clubhouse in downtown Manhattan Beach for the Neptunian Woman’s Club’s 44th Annual Art & Photography Show. The community and artists' families came out to see the creativity! 

This year, the club received the largest number of entries, with students in grades K-12 across Manhattan Beach submitting 209 pieces of artwork, and 134 were recognized at the show. The honorees included winners in the art and photography categories. Congratulations to all of our students!

Middle and High School Art and Photography Winners

Elementary School Art Winners

Read More Here

Vote NOW for our Schools and MBEF as the Best in the South Bay! 

It’s time again to support our District, schools, and MBEF by voting for them to be the best in the South Bay! The South Bay’s Best 33rd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards is underway by the Daily Breeze/Beach Reporter. This year, they have a middle school category for the first time. 

Please visit here and navigate to the education category. Here, you can enter the names of our schools in the best public school section for elementary, middle, and high schools. There is a separate category for Preschool!

MBEF is under the “Go & Do” tab; you can enter the “Manhattan Beach Education Foundation” name in the non-profit category.

Voting ends on April 7, 2024.

Vote Here!

Take the LCAP Survey Today!

We invite you to participate in our annual Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Survey. Your feedback and input are essential in helping us better understand your needs, concerns, and priorities for our District. It will assist us in shaping our District's priorities and guide the allocation of resources better to serve our students, families, and community. The survey will be open until March 31.

The Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) describes the District’s goals for student learning, outlines actions and measures, and demonstrates how the District’s budget supports those goals. The survey asks for feedback on safety and behavior, student support, academic preparation, family involvement, and school leadership. We are asking all parents/guardians, staff, and community members to please take a moment to participate in the survey to support MBUSD’s vision and goals for student success!

Parents/guardians are asked to complete this LCAP Survey. All responses are confidential. The District's independent research partner, K12 Insight, administers the survey and compiles the results. Thank you in advance for participating in this year’s survey! We value your input and appreciate your time. 

Upcoming Events

“Greening Your Daily Habits” | Tuesday, March 26

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District Green Committee is launching a brand new speaker series to raise awareness about environmental stewardship. The series is debuting ahead of Earth Month with guest speaker Denise Braun, founder of All About Waste. She will share how simple daily choices can benefit the environment, your health, and your wallet and will discuss her professional experiences working in the circular economy and zero waste. 

To learn more, please join us for “Greening Your Daily Habits” next Tuesday, March 26, from 7-8 p.m. The presentation will include a brief Q&A session with Ms. Braun. Children are welcome.

MCHS Festival Concert

You can catch the Mira Costa Bands and Orchestras perform at their upcoming festival concert on March 27. MCHS Orchestras will perform excerpts of their festival program. The Mira Costa Bands will also perform their festival program on Wednesday night following their festival competition at El Dorado HS on March 26th. Admission is free to the public.

MCHS Festival Concert Flyer
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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on March 29.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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