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Superintendent's Newsletter

May 24, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. Today’s issue highlights MBMS, Pacific 5th graders visiting the Museum of Tolerance, and Mira Costa Drama/Tech receiving another accolade.

Spotlight on MBMS (Special Thanks to Social Science Teachers, MBMS Equity Committee, Counselors, and Principal Dr. Jennifer Huynh)

MBMS students collaborating

Recently, Social Science 6 classes all received a Tier I lesson on “Ways to be an Ally” taught by counselors and administrators. Social Science 7 and 8 classes have integrated a similar lesson within the context of history instruction. In Mr. Beaudin, Mr. Bakalyar, Mrs. Kamal, Ms. Mackey, and Mr. Rucker’s classes, students were given examples of how they could be bystanders or allies in a situation involving a target and aggressor. Then, students made a connection with historical events and how they have impacted our society. These lessons were coordinated by the MBMS Equity Committee as well as direct support from our Student Success Counselor, Lauren Galbraith.

Standing up involves recognizing when someone is being mistreated and taking action. This can be as simple as speaking out against hurtful behavior, offering support to the target, or reporting it to the appropriate adults. Our social science teachers help our students find ways to be courageous and empathetic by using impactful history education. This is a powerful way to show that the Waves community does not tolerate bullying and by working together we can create a kinder, empathetic, and positive environment.

Staff Spotlight: Lilla Foster | MCHS Learning Center Teacher and Co-Department Chair

Lilla Foster is Mira Costa’s Teacher of the Year and has served MBUSD for nearly twenty-five years! From a young age, she aspired to have a career in education, specifically in alternative education. Her high school counselor in upstate New York recommended SUNY Geneseo, which specialized in dual certification teaching credentials. 

After graduating, Lilla moved to California to be closer to her sister. It wasn’t long before she met her husband and settled in Manhattan Beach, where her children eventually attended MBUSD schools. 

Her first job was as an educator in a Special Day Class for 4th-6th grade in an inner-city school in Los Angeles, a role she held for four years. She recalls it as a challenging yet eye-opening experience, saying, “I formed strong bonds with my students, and it was an ideal environment to gain perspective and experience to begin my teaching career.”

Lilla also taught a resource class in San Luis Obispo and Beverly Hills. When she came to Mira Costa, it was just the beginning of the implementation of the Learning Center program, and this is when she discovered she enjoyed working with high school students! 

“The Learning Center has grown significantly since I was hired, and I truly appreciate the strong sense of teamwork among the teachers in the Learning Center. It's valuable to work collaboratively and share ideas, as we all understand that learning methods and needs vary among students.”

Lilla enjoys supporting her students throughout their four years of high school. “It's great to form those connections, and staying in touch with many of them after they venture out into the world is pretty rewarding.”

When we asked her how she felt about being Mira Costa’s Teacher of the Year, she said she was surprised! “I'm truly quite honored, and it's really been a lovely experience!”

In her free time, Lilla embraces the beach community lifestyle, cherishing her group of lifelong friends and riding her bike on the Strand. 

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. Thank you in advance. 

Click here to take the survey!

MBMS Yearbook Staff Receives Jostens National Yearbook Program of Excellence Award

MBMS Yearbook students, under the guidance of their advisor, Mr. David Levy, have earned recognition for their dynamic and engaging yearbook. Congratulations! Jostens, the leading producer of yearbooks and student-created content, awarded the MBMS Yearbook class a bronze-level distinction in the 2024 National Yearbook Program of Excellence. This accolade honors yearbooks that capture a broad representation of the student body while helping students develop 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, and information and communication technologies (ICT). 

The award celebrates MBMS’s achievement in meeting specific criteria across one to three categories: creating an inclusive yearbook, generating school engagement, and successfully managing the yearbook creation process. 

Emilie and Leighton are the co-editors-in-chief for MBMS's yearbook program.

Mira Costa Drama/Tech Receives the Premier Communities for Theatre Education Distinction

Mira Costa Drama/Tech received another accolade to add to this year’s accomplishments. They were awarded the Premier Communities for Theatre Education Designation from the Education Theatre Association. The distinction was awarded to only eleven schools across the nation that received the three-year distinction for 2023-2026. Mira Costa was one of two selected in the state of California. MCHS Drama/Tech Director Jonathan Westerberg applied for this recognition.

The award was given to schools that provide teachers and students with the resources to achieve at or above standard as suggested by the National Core Arts Standards in Theatre. 

Congratulations to our MCHS administration and staff for their hard work!

Pacific 5th Graders Visit Museum of Tolerance 

This week, 5th graders participated in the Steps to Tolerance Tour at the Museum of Tolerance. Funded by MBEF, this unique, interactive, educational museum experience, designed for 5th and 6th grade students, takes place in the museum’s Youth Action Lab. They learned an age-appropriate introduction to Holocaust history and discussed current issues, including school bullying. 

As “Explorers,” they connect historical events to contemporary issues of respect and responsibility at school and in the community. Some of the powerful events during the tour are the students meeting a Holocaust survivor and hearing a personal testimony, investigating the roles of perpetrator, target, bystander, and ally in conflict situations, and voicing their opinions in an interactive bully prevention workshop.

Maia Rocha Among Top Six in a National Young Entrepreneurs Competition

We brought you exciting news last month that Mira Costa junior Maia Rocha was selected by the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) to represent the local chapter in the national Saunders Scholars competition in Rochester, New York that involved nearly six hundred students nationwide. Maia’s innovative app, Doing Done, is designed to enhance task management through comprehensive features available on the Apple App Store, incorporating “Pomodoro” and Kanban time management techniques.

The app's robust features have helped Maia support her academics, and she hopes it benefits others as well. Impressively, Maia won the semi-final round of the competition among thirty entrepreneurs. During the event, she spent time networking and refining her pitch, hoping to be one of the six businesses advancing to the final round at the Gala on the trip’s last day. Maia succeeded in this goal! 

Maia shared with us that it was an incredible experience. “I feel honored to have been a part of it. For my business, Doing Done, I coded a productivity mobile and web app that is built around the structure and productivity and motivation techniques I've learned and that have also proven helpful to my pool of beta testers.”

Maia is currently seeking Beta users to refine the app's features and usability further. Interested parties are encouraged to visit the website or download the app to participate in this exciting development phase.

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 the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce for providing this opportunity to students. We also are grateful to Mira Costa's English teacher, Rachel Thomas, for serving as a YEA! Instructor since the program's inception and supporting the program on campus, and to Ro Schreiner for her support.

Costa’s College and Career Center Prep Students for Application Process

This week, Mira Costa's College and Career Center hosted workshops to support students in preparing for college applications. The College Writing Workshop by Paul Jury and PJ Test Prep focused on various strategies for crafting compelling essays, and examples were shared. Students learned techniques to capture the reader’s attention effectively. 

The presenter also discussed words and ideas that are less impactful. Students were given an application brainstorming sheet to help generate ideas. Other workshops to support students this week included how students can maximize their summer, strategies for college searching and finding the right fit, and tips for taking the ACT/SAT.

CCC Workshop

Mira Costa Community STEAM Night

Click the image below for flyer!

MBMS’ New Garden Coming to Life 

Before and After Pictures

The MBMS campus has a new addition to its green space. Green Committee Meadows lead and parent Lilian Dunker partnered with MBMS Green Committee lead and parent Caroline Graeff, MBMS Science Teacher Niel Leonard, and students to create a garden for the community! They hope this space will bring students and staff together to grow, harvest, and come together.

This week, the last bed was installed, and picnic tables, benches, and a bird bath were built. Students have already planted cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, zucchini, and pepper. Thank you to USAgain TreeMachine, the Los Angeles County Public Works Department Garden program, and the MBMS PTA for sponsoring this project. They hope to officially open the garden on May 31.

AI Animation Lesson in Makerspace

Makerspace Program Specialist Crista Riccio shared that third graders at Grand View were challenged to create an invented character and animate it with AI. Using their Chromebooks, they took a photo of their hand-drawn character, uploaded it, and animated it using a Meta demo called Animated Drawings. 

2024 Mira Costa Graduation Information

We're excited to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2024. To help you stay informed, our Mira Costa staff have put together a comprehensive graduation website with all the key dates and events. Take a look!

Click Here for the 2024 Graduation Website!

Mira Costa Hosts Mental Health Awareness Fair

Mira Costa High School hosted local mental health professionals to support Mental Health Awareness Month. This event allowed students and school staff to learn more about some of their local resources in the Beach Cities. Local providers set up tables to share information about their services, all free or low-cost, to our students.

This initiative aims to provide essential resources for students as they transition into the summer months when school support is less accessible.

Students collected information, engaged in activities, and better understood the mental health support available in our community. Thank you to District Counselor Eliza Santarosa for sharing this story!

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. 

Visit Here for MBUSD Health and Wellness Resources

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 31.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent

Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266


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