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Superintendent's Newsletter

May 3, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

Today’s issue highlights Robinson Elementary, the MBUSD Board of Trustees accepting initial MBEF grants to bring back laid-off staff, and Katie Cavallaro's appointment as Robinson’s new principal for the 2024-25 school year!

Spotlight on Robinson (Special Thanks to First-Grade Team Teachers Jackie Masciel, Erica Yerke, Kim Winton, and Robinson Principal Jackie O’Sullivan)

Our first graders are embracing their identities as writers this month as they learn to appreciate the power and purpose of opinion writing. Students wrote a series of books that they shared with their families during a special writer's celebration.

Their books covered a variety of topics, such as why certain toys, movies, and foods are the best. They included hooks to grab the reader's attention, quotation marks, and supporting details. Robinson first-graders have become prolific writers with very strong opinions!  

Staff Spotlight: Juliet Smith | Kindergarten Teacher

This week, we highlight Pennekamp’s Teacher of the Year, Juliet Smith! She has served MBUSD for eighteen years and is a Kindergarten Teacher. Her MBUSD teaching story began with her instructing 2nd graders for eleven years before transitioning into her current position, which she has held for seven years. 

Before joining MBUSD, Juliet was an educator in Long Beach Unified’s elementary schools. Her experience there included substitute teaching, supporting students in math and reading remediation, and teaching Kindergarten and 2nd grade. 

Juliet attributes her inspiration to pursue a career in education to her husband Gary, who is also a teacher at MBUSD! He taught since he was 22 years old, and his love for teaching led her to leave her career in the business world to pursue a multiple-subject credential. Familiar with MBUSD’s reputable schools through her husband’s experience, Juliet says she applied when the opportunity was available at Pennekamp. 

“Gary works next door at MCHS, and it is wonderful to share stories of students with him. We even had the opportunity to teach the same students. We can’t ever go anywhere in MB without running into someone we know from teaching,” said Juliet Smith.

She loves the creativity and authenticity of teaching. Juliet enjoys working in early childhood education and finds it rewarding to support kindergarteners in discovering how to be students. Juliet says it’s a rewarding job! “I enjoy the honesty and curiosity of kindergarteners and like to help these students get the best start possible on their educational journey. The home-school partnership at this level is also something I enjoy. When I moved from 2nd down to Kindergarten, I was reminded of what a special year of learning this is - for all of us!” said Juliet Smith. 

When we asked her how it felt to be selected as Pennekamp’s Teacher of the Year, Juliet said her school community humbles her. “Having the respect of my colleagues and Principal means a lot to me. It has been especially meaningful to receive emails and notes of congratulations from families I have taught in past years. I am proud to be in the company of my fellow honorees. I am not in this career for recognition, but it has felt special to be noticed this year.”

Juliet loves to spend time with family in her free time and is now a grandmother! She shares a deep affinity for animals, particularly her horse Oakley. As a native Californian, you can find her exploring the coastline. 

District Classified Employee of the Year: Katy Yeh

Our 2024 District Classified Employee of the Year is Katy Yeh! She is the District’s Payroll Technician and is in her 5th year in this role. Katy has been an indispensable force since day one. When she first came on board, she joined one other member of the team who managed payroll for the entire District, making it a mighty team of two that now oversees payroll for 950 MBUSD staff members.

Katy has proven time and time again to step up to challenges and be a collaborative team member. She is described as patient, kind, and gracious. Her supervisor, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard, says Katy is deserving of this honor because of the many hats she wore this year and her contributions to the payroll division. Katy was instrumental as the Department transitioned to a new financial and human capital management system that improved operational efficiency, and she played a pivotal role. 

Her ability to rise to challenges sets her apart, even when faced with daunting circumstances. When her colleague was required to take an extended leave of absence, Katy took on the workload solo. Dr. Leopard says, “She was responsible for completing the work that is typically assigned to two full-time positions and for the additional work that came with the transition—something that, in other districts, has required hiring an entirely new person. Ms. Yeh took on this challenge with no complaints and managed all of it smoothly and successfully.”

Katy goes above and beyond to support her fellow colleagues, demonstrates her commitment to the District and its employees, and upholds the District’s standards. “For her, payroll is not just a job – she is dedicated to ensuring that it is done correctly and well.” It would be an understatement to say that she is professional in her approach to her work – she has demonstrated this year that she is, truly, a superhero,” said Dr. Leopard. 

Congratulations to our District Classified Employee of the Year! We are so grateful and proud to have you on our team.

MBUSD Teachers of the Year Honored Throughout the Week

This past Monday, the Manhattan Beach Rotary continued its 74-year tradition of honoring Manhattan Beach educators. All eight of our 2023-2024 Teachers of the Year were recognized for their exemplary dedication and invaluable contributions to MBUSD. Principals from each school site shared the magic these educators bring to the classroom and campus during the ceremony. The rotary awarded each school site teacher $750 and our District Teacher of the Year $1,000.

Also, the MBUSD Board of Trustees invited each of our Teachers of the Year to this week's Board meeting. They were appreciated for their tireless efforts, compassion, and commitment to every student. The Board President said that our teachers are the heart and soul of our community. Each of our educators is an example of educational excellence. Students from our District Teacher of the Year, Michelle Mangan’s class, also came out to support their teacher. Here are a few highlights shared by school site principals about their Teacher of the Year: 

Meadows Principal Michelle Krzmarzick presented Michelle Mangan (School site and District Teacher of the Year):

“One of the quotes she says is, 'We have kids for 180 days. And those days aren’t magic unless you figure out how to reach all students.' She has built connections with so many past and present students and families, which is why she is so loved.”

Michelle Mangan also said a few words during the meeting:

“I’m so honored to be among these educators…I have been so lucky to work with so many amazing educators, and when I look at you, you are the heart and soul of this District. Continue that because we came to be teachers because we love children, and they are our priority, and they motivate us.”

Michelle says she’s lucky to have been able to do what she loves every day for 40 years!

Director of Early Learning Shannon Huston presented Stacy Wilder:

“She’s welcoming to new team members and always goes above and beyond to support the preschool by volunteering to work at our annual events like the parent party…Her goal every year is to get them ready for Kindergarten.”

Grand View Principal Tara Grings presented Jeannette Shaw-Bueno:

“Jeannette is like a compass guiding her students to high levels of academic success. She skillfully varies her instruction using hands-on manipulatives and supports individual and small group intervention.”

Pacific Principal Amanda Vavao presented Connie Liu:

“She continually creates an amazing, entertaining, hands-on, high-quality program. Students love going to the science lab, and that speaks to the type of teacher that Connie Liu is. She is kind, knowledgeable, and approachable.”

Pennekamp Principal Sharon Witzansky presented Juliet Smith:

“Mrs. Smith is a one-of-a-kind teacher and person. With over two decades of teaching experience, she has a great perspective on the incredible growth children experience in their Kindergarten year. She skillfully and magically meets each child where they are on their developmental continuum.”

Robinson Principal Jackie O’Sullivan presented Danielle Weiss:

“She considers the whole child when making decisions, and she also looks through the lens of a parent. Danielle is an exemplary teacher. Her lessons are standard-based, child-centered, engaging, and, most of all, fun.”

MBMS Principal Dr. Jennifer Huynh presented Dana Vaccaro:

“She’s committed to academic excellence and has a profound impact on her students. Her classroom is a haven where students thrive because of her fairness, kindness, and intellectual prowess. Ms. Vaccaro’s selfless dedication extends to both her students and colleagues earning her widespread admiration.” 

Mira Costa Principal Dr. Karina Gerger presented Lilla Foster: 

“Lilla embodies the spirit of dedication, wisdom, and compassion that defines an exceptional educator. She stands out as an instructional leader advocating for and guiding students, families, and colleagues alike. She embraces the diversity of her students, recognizing that every individual deserves a chance to shine.”

The teachers received monetary awards through an MBEF grant funded in perpetuity through a directed grant from the Nichols family in MBEF’s Endowment. Teachers of the Year received $500, and our District Teacher of the Year $1,000. Thank you to the Nichols family!

District Approves Resolution for National Teacher Appreciation Week 

The Board of Trustees recognized National Teacher Appreciation Week which takes place May 6 - 10. Public education teachers are deeply committed to the success of every student. MBUSD is fortunate to have a team of skilled and dedicated teachers who promote the value of public education and are dedicated to maximizing the academic success of each student and making a positive difference in the lives of our students.

MBUSD teachers are exemplary members of the teaching profession as they work to instill in our students an appreciation of our society's cultural diversity, a love of learning, and the skills to pursue productive lives. 


Public educators use many extraordinary skills to reach and teach students. Your neighborhood educators are advocates, inventors, and problem solvers. Teachers are listeners, explorers, role models, motivators, and mentors. They are idealists and dreamers, debaters and negotiators, adventurers and mediators.


Manhattan Beach USD is proud of every one of our teachers who devote their lives daily to educating our students and providing them with the skills they will need to succeed and thrive beyond their high school years.

Thank you, MBUSD Principals!

Wednesday, May 1, marked School Principals’ Day, and we want to recognize our amazing principals—who are truly the best! They are strong leaders who serve our students, staff, and families. We recognize their hard work and dedication which is the driving force behind the growth of our schools! 

We greatly appreciate all that you do for us. 

New Robinson Elementary Principal Appointed

Congratulations to MBMS Vice Principal Katie Cavallaro, who was appointed Robinson Elementary’s new principal beginning July 1! The Board of Trustees unanimously approved Katie into this position. She has been part of the administration team at MBMS for three years and is in her 15th year at MBUSD. At MBMS, she oversaw 6th and 7th grades as vice principal. Other focus areas were the Humanities, Social Science, and VAPA departments. She also was the lead administrator for the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Committee, No Place for Hate® Committee, attendance, GATE, and testing, to name a few.

Before joining MBMS, she was an elementary orchestra teacher at all five MBUSD elementary schools. Katie says, “I am thrilled to be returning to my elementary roots, where I have spent the majority of my career, and I am proud to be rejoining the Robinson Riptide community.”

Ensuring a seamless transition, Katie will work closely with the current Robinson Elementary Principal, Jackie O’Sullivan. Jackie O’Sullivan was recently appointed MBUSD’s Director of Early Learning. We look forward to continuing to work with Katie on this new endeavor. Her proven leadership skills and commitment to our students and families qualify her for this vital role in our leadership team.

She will start in this role in the next school year. 

MBEF Grants an Initial $1,325,000 to Restore Positions

We extend our immense gratitude to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF) for working tirelessly to provide initial grants aimed at restoring necessary staff positions following recent layoff notices. At this week's Board meeting, the MBUSD Board of Trustees gratefully accepted grants totaling $1,325,000 earmarked for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. This means that we will be able to rescind some of the layoff notices and bring back staff.

This initial allocation represents merely a fraction of the substantial contributions MBEF will pledge to our District for 2024-25. MBEF will continue to evaluate additional grants and will bring a second set of proposed grants for 2024-25 to the Board later in the year based on ongoing fundraising efforts, including the Annual Appeal, other donations, and the Paddle Raise at the Manhattan Wine Auction. MBEF anticipates that its total grant award for 2024-25 will meet or exceed its 2023-24 total grant award of $6.1 million.

Typically, MBEF presents its grants to MBUSD in June, but MBEF was able to expedite its timelines due to the urgency created by layoffs to ensure these grants can be used to retain staff wherever possible. The initial set of grant proposals will provide support for the following programs:

  • A partial restoration of the elementary MakerSpace program
  • A partial restoration of the elementary Physical Education program
  • Support for staffing for the MBMS Humanities program
  • Restoration of the MCHS Counseling program, including the College and Career Center. 

Thank you to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation for its partnership in providing programs that make our schools exceptional and for supporting our schools for the past 40 years, especially when we needed it most. We also want to thank every individual who donated to MBEF—your support for our schools will be seen for years to come.

You're Invited to the MBUSD Facilities Master Plan Community Meeting!

We invite you to our upcoming District Facilities Master Plan meeting this Monday, May 6, at 5:00 p.m. in the District Board room at 325 S. Peck Avenue. 

Our architectural firm, DLR Group, will lead an engaging community workshop and presentation. We have partnered with them on the 2015 Facilities Master Plan, and we are excited to share progress on this and gather input for our 2024 plan. 

A comprehensive Facilities Master Plan is an essential part of a district’s planning process. The Plan provides the district with information regarding current and future needs for the quality of the existing facilities and renovation and expansion requirements to support the district’s educational and programmatic goals. 

Click image above to enlarge

A Master Plan also assists a district in identifying funding needs for capital improvement and developing financing options.

Your ideas will play a pivotal role in defining the visionary direction for our educational facilities. We look forward to seeing you at the meeting!

Celebrating our Food and Nutrition Service Employees

This week marks School Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week and School Lunch Hero Day!

We want to recognize and thank all of our MBUSD Food and Nutrition Services staff who provide between 3,700-3,800 meals daily across our eight campuses. 

To date, for the 2023-2024 school year:

  • 538,709 meals were served to our students
  • 81,018 pounds of produce were served
  • 159,522 cups of milk were served
  • 59,286 cups of yogurt were served  

From delivering fresh food to our schools to preparing and serving meals with big smiles while following numerous federal, state, and local regulations, our staff works tirelessly to ensure our students receive nutritious meals that support their academic excellence all year round. Thank you for all that you do.

Today also marks School Lunch Hero Day!

MBUSD Students Participate in Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Annual Math Field Day

The Los Angeles County Office of Education hosted the 40th Annual Math Field Day on Saturday, April 27, at San Gabriel High School. Twenty MBUSD students in grades 4-8 participated in the competition. 

Our elementary students who participated were the top four students of the fourth and fifth-grade winners of the 7th Annual MBUSD Elementary Math Competition. Middle School students were selected based on multiple data points and participated in practice sessions on Wednesdays during April to prepare for the event. Their hard work paid off, and they did a great job, ranking at the top for their grade level in conceptual, problem-solving, and procedural categories.

Congratulations to all of the participants! 

Conceptual Category:                    

6th Grade—gold

7th Grade—silver

8th Grade—silver

Problem-Solving Category:

4th Grade—gold


Procedural Category:

4th Gradesilver

5th Grade—bronze

7th Gradegold

The event brings together more than four hundred and thirty students across L.A. County. Thanks to Woogie Kim, MBMS Math Teacher on Special Assignment, and Brittany Brashear, Elementary Teaching and Learning Teacher on Special Assignment, who attended the competition and led the practice sessions. Congratulations to all involved! 

VAPA Highlight of the Week: Elementary Honor Band and String Orchestra

Our elementary Honor Band and Honor String Orchestra groups closed out the year with impressive final performances in Mira Costa’s Small Theatre last week. The honor groups have spent the year practicing once weekly after school, focusing on challenging musical techniques and repertoire. During their final performances, both the Honor Band and Honor String Orchestra were joined on stage by students from the MBUSD Music Mentorship program, comprised of secondary-level musicians who volunteer to work with our elementary groups.

Honor Band and Honor String Orchestra ensembles wowed audiences with their accomplishments. They played a variety of exciting pieces that included selections from their successful music festival performances earlier this spring. Elementary Band Director Tim Nail shared that it was the best Honor Band concert to date! Many thanks to Janet Johnson and Tim Nail for facilitating these important musical opportunities for our students. Additional thanks and recognition to this year’s Music Mentors, Philip Milman, assistant to Mr. Nail’s band program, and Sebastian Lee, who assists Ms. Johnson with elementary strings. 

All 4th and 5th grade students are welcome to audition for our yearly honor music groups in the fall. Selected students commit to weekly after-school rehearsals and additional extracurricular performance opportunities.

MBUSD School News Publication

Check out our second MBUSD School News Edition! We have a lot to celebrate and look forward to.

Congratulations to MCHS Beach Girls Volleyball!

Congratulations to the Mira Costa Girls Beach Volleyball team for winning a second consecutive CIF-Southern Section championship this past weekend, defeating Redondo in the Division 1 finals! 

This is only the second year that CIF has held championships for Girls Beach Volleyball, and Mira Costa has won both championships!

Congratulations also to Savanna Lau and Giselle Lau for earning 2nd place in the CIF Pairs Championship and to Taylor Deckert and Olga Nikolaeva for advancing to the semi-finals.

Last Chance to Watch Mira Costa’s Footloose Production!

Tickets are still on sale, and only two more shows left that will take place tomorrow. The musical is exhilarating and will make you want to dance! It’s based on the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon. The original Broadway production of Footloose opened in the fall of 1998. The MCHS Footloose cast comprises thirty-six students, thirty-five crew and front-of-house members, and a band of nine musicians.

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!

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
  • 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 10.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
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