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Superintendent's Newsletter

May 17, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights Mira Costa, Class of 2024 seniors receiving scholarships, and our Facilities Master Plan Engagement Survey.

Spotlight on Mira Costa (Special Thanks to College & Career Center Counselors Caryn Ramirez, Ruthie Robles, and Principal Dr. Karina Gerger)

College Commitment Day took place at Mira Costa today. During this annual event, a map of the United States was displayed in the Mustang Mall, and seniors who have decided to pursue higher education placed a sticker with their name on the state where they will be attending college in the fall. 

Commitment Day is an exciting day for seniors because it signifies a transition to the next chapter in their lives. It's also a time to celebrate their hard work and dedication throughout their time at Mira Costa and the rigorous college application process with their fellow peers. 

Students placed stickers on a variety of colleges across the United States and internationally, including:

University of California Santa Barbara

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

University of Southern California (USC)

University of Pennsylvania 

Boston College

Cornell University

Cal Poly

Duke University

Brown University 

University of Colorado Boulder

Columbia University

University of Michigan 

Stanford University

The University of Texas at Austin

Dartmouth College

University of British Columbia

Georgetown University

United States Military Academy

and many more!

Congratulations to all of our graduating seniors! Visit the District's Facebook page for more pictures.

Staff Spotlight: Danielle Weiss | 4th Grade Teacher

This week, we spotlight our Robinson Teacher of the Year, Danielle Weiss! She has been an educator for 22 years. She began teaching in northern California before joining the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). She taught first, fifth, and eventually fourth grade during her seven years at LAUSD. Danielle has been part of the MBUSD team for the past thirteen years as a 4th-grade science teacher at Robinson Elementary. She collaborates with a partner teacher who instructs social science, and their students switch subjects four days a week. 

“This allows us to provide rich, in-depth, and rigorous instruction in these subjects, as well as integrate nonfiction reading and writing into these content areas,” said Danielle. 

She says this teaching approach helps her better understand her 4th graders’ strengths and challenges, making it easier to facilitate Professional Learning Communities (PLC) during teacher collaboration time. Beyond her teaching role, Danielle has served as a school site council member, an SST coordinator, a student council advisor, and a member of the leadership team. 

Danielle’s interest in becoming an educator was inspired by her brother, who was a teacher at an outdoor education school and showed her the connection between education and science. In high school, she had the opportunity to be a counselor at his school for a week, sparking her interest in a teaching career. 

Danielle majored in Environmental Biology and Management at UC Davis, where she explored various science opportunities, including interning in an elementary science class. She also studied abroad in Costa Rica as part of a tropical biology program and enjoyed being with her host family. “It was then that I really realized that I wanted to pursue a job in teaching because connecting with people, being around children, and seeing them grow and learn was something that I was truly passionate about. Being in a position where I get to teach science to 4th graders every day is icing on the cake.”

Danielle says that when she met her husband, he lived in the South Bay, and she was looking for work closer to her future home. She knew about MBUSD’s reputation for excellence, and when a teaching position became available, she had to apply! Her dream of becoming a science teacher soon became a reality. “I couldn’t believe it because I never expected to be able to have the job I had admired back in college! I knew that I had found a very special school and a very special place in MBUSD.”

She was recently named Robinson’s Teacher of the Year! “It has been such an honor to be selected as Robinson’s Teacher of the Year. My connection with kids and families, seeing the progress students make each year, is what fills me with satisfaction that my efforts are worthwhile. This has been a sweet journey to know just how much people appreciate the work that I do every day. It has been incredibly special and meaningful to me to know that my efforts are appreciated and that people feel I’m positively impacting their children’s lives.”

Danielle’s two daughters, May and Greta, are also part of the Robinson community and attend school there. Danielle enjoys walks, gardening, traveling, and spending time with family and friends in her free time. She also coaches her daughters’ softball teams!

Facilities Master Plan Engagement Survey

As part of our effort to update our 2015 Facilities Master Plan, we would like to hear from all community members. Our architects from DLR Group have drafted proposed master plans for each school site. These plans have been developed with input from committees from each campus and an open community meeting held on May 6 at the District Office. You can view the plans and provide your input by completing the survey found here.

These draft master plans look to the future to identify improvements to our school that will better serve our students, staff, and community. This survey is an essential component of gathering feedback. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts by May 31, 2024. Thank you in advance. 

Click here to take the survey!

Classified Employees of the Year Celebrated at Board Meeting

MBUSD Board of Trustees and Cabinet recognized our Classified Employees of the Year during this week’s Board meeting. Thank you to our Classified Employees of the Year for their dedication to our MBUSD students, schools, and community! Each school site and facility administrator/director announced their Classified Employee of the Year.

Katy Yeh - Payroll Technician - District Office 

“It’s clear that the job isn’t about processing payroll. It’s about taking care of every employee who works for the District so they can focus on doing their jobs to support our students. It would be an understatement to say that Katie is a professional in her approach to her work. She has demonstrated this year she is truly a superhero.”

Cipriano Salgado - Grounds Maintenance - Maintenance and Operations 

“His tireless efforts significantly enhance the appeal functionality of our campuses, contributing to a positive and welcoming environment for our students, staff, and visitors alike. Beyond his exceptional work ethic and attention to detail, Cipriano has a positive attitude. If you see him around your campus, rain or shine, you will see he is always hard at work.”

Jerry Trevino - Custodian - Mira Costa 

“Jerry is a hard worker who’s responsive to the needs of all staff. He takes pride in his job and is a team player who lends a hand when needed. Jerry always has a positive attitude and a smile on his face anytime you see him.”

Lucila Cabrera - Office Manager - MBMS

“Even with a long list of to-dos each day, Luci is always willing to drop what she is doing to lend a helping hand. She’s thoughtful, selfless, hardworking, and has a heart of gold. She is always trying to make other people's lives easier, even if it means making her work a little harder. Luci is a gem at MBMS.”

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

“Reyna has worked at MBUSD for thirty-five years. She welcomes staff and student helpers to the food service kitchen with a smile. She ensures that our children are fed a nutritious meal every day. Reyna is ready to support whenever she is needed with a positive attitude.”

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

“Professional, compassionate, supportive, flexible. This is how we would describe Teresa Rojas. She makes her students a priority. She listens, supports, encourages, and also celebrates with them.”

Barbie Jimenez - Office Specialist - Pennekamp 

“She is thorough, organized, and anticipates potential problems. She is welcoming and cheerful to parents, staff, and students, showing a sunny disposition and genuine care. Barbie takes pride in her work, always going above and beyond with even the smallest jobs.”

Rodolfo Aguilar - Custodian - Pacific

“We are so lucky to have Rudy on our team as he consistently demonstrates his panther pride. He is one of the most pleasant and hardworking employees at Pacific. We know we can count on him to lend a helping hand no matter the task. He is approachable, supportive, and responsive to the school community's needs.”

Alan Elias - Instructional Assistant - Grand View 

“He serves as the multi-tiered system of supports instructional assistant. He also supports our math and reading intervention teachers. This year, he successfully piloted Lexia Lab, an  

afterschool class for students needing reading intervention…thanks to his innovation and self-starter attitude, he helps fifty of our immediate students learn to read after school.”

Valerie Edwards - EDP Teacher/Makerspace Technician - Robinson

“She has worked at MBUSD for twenty-two years. Valerie plays a crucial role in nurturing creativity and promoting learning, collaboration, and innovation. Valerie encourages thinking outside of the box. She knows every child by name and can share something about each one of them.”

Dalia Hernandez-Berthelli - Cook - Food and Nutrition Services

“Dalia has consistently demonstrated her dedication, positivity, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Dalia’s willingness to go above and beyond to support her colleagues and to ensure the best possible service for our students does not go unnoticed. She creates an appealing dining experience for our students.” 

Our MBUSD Classified Employee of the Year is Katy Yeh. The eleven honorees were selected by their colleagues from each work and school site. These staff members represent various departments across our school district, including school campuses, the District Office, Maintenance and Operations, and Food and Nutrition Services.

Classified Employees perform essential work and responsibilities across the District, including providing nutritious meals to students, ensuring the smooth operation of offices, maintaining the cleanliness and safety of our facilities, ensuring the seamless operation of our technology and systems, and instructing students.    

We want to recognize and acknowledge the hard work of our MBUSD Classified Employees of the Year recipients! Congratulations! 

MBUSD has 387 classified staff members. Trustees also approved a resolution recognizing May 19-25 as Classified School Employee Week. 

New MBMS Vice Principal Appointment

Brittany Brashear Headshot

Also, at the Board meeting, the trustees approved Brittany Brashear's appointment as Manhattan Beach Middle School’s new vice principal, effective July 1. Brittany is currently the elementary teaching and learning Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) and will succeed current Vice Principal Katie Cavallaro, who will be transitioning into the principal role at Robinson Elementary for the 2024-25 school year. 

Ms. Brashear will join the MBMS administrative team with a diverse range of educational experience. She is in her fifteenth year and began her career as a middle school educator, teaching math and social studies to middle school students. 

Brittany expressed her enthusiasm and shared, “I look forward to working with all of the hard-working, committed staff at MBMS and continuing the wonderful Professional Learning Communities (PLC) work that they have begun. I am truly excited to join the team and continue fostering the academic success and well-being of each student at MBMS.”

In her new role, she will oversee the Humanities, Social Science, VAPA, and electives. She will also serve as the lead MBMS administrator for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), athletics, attendance, GATE, No Place for Hate®, and testing.

Brittany has demonstrated her commitment and dedication to our students and community throughout her tenure at MBUSD, making her well deserving of this position. 


Special Education Staff Recognized as CAC Award Recipients 

Last month, we shared the exciting news that The Community Advisory Committee (CAC), in collaboration with The Southwest SELPA, awarded three of our special education staff members as recipients of the CAC awards. This week, we recognized them for their efforts in special education. MBUSD Director of Special Education Dr. Kris Vegas introduced each of the honorees.

Chau Ly, a Special Education Teacher at Pacific Elementary, was spotlighted for being patient, kind, and loved by her students. “She helps each child reach their goals. She is encouraging, positive, and always smiling; you can tell she loves what she does.”

Scott Smith, a Special Education Teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School, was nominated for providing his students with a safe and calm environment. “He uses inclusive practices for all learners and provides high-interest lessons that keep his students engaged.”

Kasey Ullery, Program Specialist of Early Intervention and Inclusion at Manhattan Beach Preschool, was acknowledged as a helpful, collaborative, and inspiring leader. “She prioritizes and supports students, families, and staff at the preschool.” 

Our staff was also recognized at The Southwest Special Education Local Plan Area (SW SELPA) CAC awards ceremony on April 17. These awards are for individuals who have significantly contributed to the academic, social, and/or emotional growth of students with special needs. 

MBCC Scholarship Luncheon Awards $29,000 in Scholarships to MCHS Seniors

Left to right: Phillip Meyer, Gabriella Fish, Gemma Burstein, Kazimir Horasz, Abigail Seo, and Grayson Fojut.

The Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council (MBCC) awarded nine of our graduating seniors $29,000 in scholarships this week. At its last luncheon of the school year, each scholarship was $3,000, which was an increase of $500 from previous years. MBCC has specific criteria for the scholarship recipients, some of which include GPA, community service, and emphasis on environmental and art focuses.

Congratulations to the following seniors: 

Kazimir Horasz | UCLA | Financial Actuarial Mathematics

-Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council Scholarship

Gemma Burstein | Vanderbilt University | Cognitive Science/Studies

-Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council Scholarship

Phillip Meyer | The University of Texas Austin | School of Nursing 

-Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council Scholarship

Lillian Evans | UCLA | Microbiology- Focus on Pre-Med

-Manhattan Beach Coordinating Council Scholarship

Grayson Fojut | School of Visual Arts New York City | Illustration

-Joyce Davis Memorial Scholarship

Miya Ostboe | UC Santa Barbara | Marine Science - Minor in Spanish

-Desolation Wilderness Scholarship 

Abigail Seo | Boston University | Political Science/International Relations

-Manhattan Beach Police Officers’ Association Officer Martin Ganz Memorial   


Gabriella Fish | Stanford University | Pre-Med 

- Health and Wellness Scholarship (BCHD)

Nathan Colligan | University of Miami | Marine Biology

-Surfrider Foundation Scholarship 

The Health & Wellness, Surfrider Foundation, and MB Police Officers’ Association organizations choose the students for their scholarships, and the MBCC board chooses the other six scholarships.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Honors MCHS Jazz 1

LA County Board of Supervisors Recognizes Mira Costa Jazz Students

MCHS Jazz 1 received honors and awards at the recent Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, which celebrated award-winning Second District student musicians and performers with scroll presentations by Second District Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell.  

Student Vice President of Jazz 1 Ewan McPhee and other members from MCHS Jazz 1 were at the meeting. Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell announced the recognition, highlighting Mira Costa’s GRAMMY award-winning Jazz 1 for winning Division L1 for big bands from the largest schools, the most challenging division at the National Jazz Festival in Philadelphia.

During the meeting, Ewan McPhee remarked, “It was an extremely enjoyable and enriching experience. We got to see our hard work pay off in such a rewarding way.” He also expressed gratitude to Joel Carlson, the Director of the MCHS Band, for being the most skilled, dedicated, and passionate teacher and said they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this feat without his guidance. 

The Board's recognition highlighted champion-level performers and musicians in the coastal communities, including those from El Segundo and Redondo Beach Unified School Districts, who competed nationally. 

Pacific Hosts First Literacy Night

The Panther community enjoyed Literacy Night this past Wednesday. Families had the opportunity to come together and celebrate their love for reading through various engaging activities. The evening included read-aloud sessions, a bookmark-designing station hosted by MBEF, a library scavenger hunt, and more! Panthers enjoyed a magical night of hearing stories from special guest readers such as Pacific’s very own principal, Amanda Vavao, author Seth Fishman, Dr. Katie Hurley and her daughter Riley, and a very popular staff member, Mr. Dom Campbell. 

One of the highlights of the night was a drawing presentation by digital illustrator Devin Elle Kurtz, and students were able to record their voices to create Pacific’s own audiobook. The inaugural event was sponsored by the Pacific PTA and spearheaded by Literacy Night Chair Chair Seth Fishman and Pacific’s Library Resource Specialist Suzette Molinos to encourage and inspire the love of reading with students and their families. Thank you to everyone who contributed to making this event a success.

Support our MCHS Art Students at their Annual Art Show and Fundraiser

Join us for Mira Costa’s “9×12 Art Show and Fundraiser” tomorrow, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Resin Studio, 618 Cypress Ave., Hermosa Beach.

This event will feature student art from the 21st Annual All Media Exhibit as well as 9×12 art created specifically for this fundraiser. More than 100 MCHS students will be participating in the show, and artwork is from all of Costa's visual arts classes, featuring Art 1,2,3, Ceramics, Painting, Printmaking, and AP Studio Art.

These unique 9×12 pieces will be available for sale the night of the event. Local artists, student artists, and community members have joined together to create these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Click above image to enlarge!

Purchase tickets here!

Below are some pieces of artwork that will be on display!

MBEF Expo: 1st Grade Music

This week, first grade parents had the opportunity to visit music classes to observe the instruction students receive, thanks to the donations to MBEF. The MBEF Expo, which took place earlier this year, was continued this week. In Alison Timmer’s class at Grand View, students participated in rhythm exercises with sticks, singing, and conducting to Beethoven, with parents also joining in the fun.

Music classes begin for first graders at the end of January, but next year MBEF and additional Prop 28 funding will extend music learning to both first and second grades throughout the entire school year.

MBEF supports music instruction in grades 1-12. Students in grades 1-5 are introduced to a comprehensive music program with instruction in vocal, wind, and string instruments. Taught by certificated music instructors, the program fosters a love of music and serves as the foundation for our award-winning middle and high school programs.

MB News Story: Mira Costa Runners Reach Goal - With A Little Help From Friends

Picture by MB News

Click here to read story!

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month Celebration

The MBUSD community was invited to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Grand View this week! Students and families learned about the month's significance through various activities and educational opportunities. The event featured a dedicated book section where attendees could learn about different cultures and countries. There was an opportunity to learn how to make origami, bracelets out of beads, and sample delicious food and treats from around the world. The celebration also showcased vibrant Polynesian dancing and music!

The Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, China, Korea, and Vietnam had booths providing information on each country’s contributions and achievements. Attendees learned about notable Asian American and Pacific Islander athletes, celebrities, scientists, cuisines, arts, and entertainment. Thank you to the Grand View PTA for planning and sponsoring this event.

3rd Annual MBMS Mental Health Awareness Fair 

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, MBMS hosted its 3rd Annual Mental Health Awareness Fair sponsored by the school’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Committee. During lunch, students had the opportunity to learn more about some of the local resources in the Beach Cities. Students walked through the outdoor fair, collected information, and practiced asking for help. Guests in attendance included Beach Cities Health District, Clear Behavioral Health, Nami South Bay, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Thelma McMillen Recovery Center, Leah Niehaus & Associates, Friendship Foundation, and Play 2 Learn & Our Village. 

The fair also offered hands-on art activity prizes after a spin wheel, and others practiced calming strategies. Thank you to Lauren Galbraith, School Counselor on Special Assignment for Student Success at MBMS & WEB Coordinator, for planning this event.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

We join millions across the nation to raise awareness about mental health. As part of our commitment to educating the whole child and our efforts towards social-emotional learning, we know that mental health and wellness are important to the success of every student.

During May, we are partnering with Beach Cities Health District’s (BCHD) “Mental Health is Health” campaign to share resources and promote BCHD events to our families. BCHD's focus this year is on taking action to combat loneliness and fostering meaningful connections to better mental health. 

At our Board meeting this week, the Board of Trustees adopted a proclamation resolving that May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Visit Here for MBUSD Health and Wellness Resources

UCLA Blood Drive at MCHS | Thursday, May 23

Click here to register

Join the MBEF Team!

The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation is seeking 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
  • Donor Relations 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!

For all job opportunities, please visit here.

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The next Superintendent’s Newsletter will be published on May 24.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent

Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266


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