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Superintendent's Newsletter

May 31, 2024

Dear MBUSD Parents and Community,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

Today’s issue highlights Grand View, a tentative 2024-25 school year calendar, and MB PTA Council awarding graduating seniors with scholarships. 

Spotlight on Grand View (Special Thanks to Kelly Borah, Greta Dever, Nancy Robertson, Jennifer Simon, and Principal Tara Grings)

Welcome to Fraction Neighborhood! As a culminating project for the 3rd grade fraction unit at Grand View Elementary, students used art, math, and map skills to design “Fraction Avenue” based on specific standards. In this well-planned community, 6/8 of the homes have a blue roof, trees grow in front of 1/2 of the houses, and cars are parked outside 3/4 of the homes.

Some houses have polka-dot curtains, and others have striped curtains. And don’t forget that 2/8 of the homes have a dog house outside. Like architects, students collaborated, planned, sketched, cut, and glued to make Fraction Avenue the best place to live.

Staff Spotlight: Dana Vaccaro | MBMS Teacher

Dana Vaccaro is the MBMS Teacher of the Year! Over the past fourteen years, she has dedicated herself to teaching 7th grade English and, for the last four years, has also led MBMS Success, a support class for students. Before becoming a full-time teacher at MBUSD, Dana was a long-term substitute teacher who taught 9th and 10th grades in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). 

Dana gained experience as a student teacher at MBMS with Rachel Thomas, a current MCHS English teacher, while working on her teaching credential. “Having Rachel as a friend and mentor during that time and beyond further inspired me in this career. I also can't miss the opportunity to mention my friend and teaching partner, Trisha Gonzalez, who makes the 7th grade team amazing to be a part of,” said Dana.

Pursuing a career in education was an easy choice for Dana, as she had always known she wanted to be a teacher from a young age and had a passion for reading and writing. “Many of my family members are educators, but my mom specifically inspired me. She worked in education for her whole career, and seeing her impact as a teacher, counselor, vice principal, and principal was impactful,” said Dana Vaccaro.

Her favorite part about teaching middle school is working with students as they become teenagers. Dana says she enjoys creating opportunities for them to have fun while they learn. “Helping students become stronger readers, writers, and critical thinkers has been fulfilling. It's always special to see how much they grow in their skills by the end of the year.”

As for being named MBMS Teacher of the Year, Dana says she has felt very special by her colleagues and community and is grateful! Outside of the classroom, Dana keeps busy spending time with her family, two sons, Drew and Lewie. She also enjoys hiking, reading, and finding new adventures to experience!

Tentative 2024-2025 School Year Calendar

We have received many questions about when the MBUSD 2024-25 school year calendar will be finalized and published. In California, the instructional calendar is a subject of negotiations, and, here in MBUSD, is an active discussion at the bargaining table. While a final 2024-25 school year calendar has not yet been adopted, the District and the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers’ Association (MBUTA) have been negotiating on this item as part of the collective bargaining process. 

Here is the most recent calendar proposal. While this proposal should not be relied upon for official planning purposes, it does show how the current proposal in large part mirrors the current 2023-24 school year calendar. As soon as a final calendar is approved, we will widely communicate it. We understand the desire of families to have more certainty around the calendar, and we appreciate your patience as we work to finalize it.

Click Calendar Below to Enlarge

Facilities Master Plan Engagement Survey Deadline Today

If you haven’t done so, please take our 4-5 minute Facilities Master Plan Engagement Survey! The survey closes at midnight - please take advantage of this last opportunity to provide your feedback. We would like to hear from all community members as part of our effort to update our 2015 Facilities Master Plan. 

This interactive survey allows you to rate and provide feedback on proposed facilities projects at each school site. Your valuable input will guide us in prioritizing plans and ensuring that future facility modernization efforts align with the needs of our students, staff, and community. Our architects from DLR Group have drafted the proposed master plans carefully, taking into account input from committees at each campus and an open community meeting held at the District Office. Your input is crucial, so please complete the online survey here.

Measures C and EE provided funding that covered about half of the needs identified ten years ago in the original Facilities Master Plan and helped us achieve significant milestones with major modernizations. However, our remaining facilities continue to age, and there is still much more to accomplish to ensure all students have the safest and most up-to-date facilities to support their learning and growth best.

This survey is essential to gathering feedback during the Facilities Master Plan process. We hope you will share your thoughts. Thank you for your participation and dedication to our schools.

Click here to take the survey!

MCHS Seniors Receive Scholarships by the MB PTA Council

MB PTA Council Scholarship Winners

The Manhattan Beach PTA Council has an annual tradition of celebrating graduating seniors with scholarships. This week, they hosted a luncheon to announce and honor this year’s student recipients, awarding them $1,000 scholarships for their hard work and achievements. The Scholarship Committee selected students based on their academic performance, leadership qualities, and community involvement at MCHS and beyond. 

It’s always exciting to hear about the incredible accomplishments of our students. The MBUSD Board of Trustees, Cabinet, MBUSD Principals, PTA members, and families came together for this occasion. 

Congratulations to:

McLean Grimes | Texas Christian University | Youth Advocacy and Educ. Studies

Scholarship Committee member Kelly Gordon presented McLean, highlighting her role as the current National Charity League Chapter president and co-president of three Mira Costa Clubs. She also shared that what stood out to the committee beyond her academic and on-campus involvement was her character. One example is that for the past thirteen years, McLean has built homes in Tijuana. 

Whitney Marsh | UC Berkeley | Political Science

Scholarship Committee member Anna Bargagliotti presented Whitney Marsh. She noted that Whitney has taken eleven AP courses during her time at Mira Costa and participates in the Model UN program. She is also a member of the National Charity League, among other community service involvement. 

Lily Stern | Cornell University | Political Science, International Relations, and Pre-Law

Anna Bargagliotti also presented Lily, recognizing her for being on the honor roll for all four high school years. Lily is a member of Model UN, winning multiple awards, and is involved with Sandpipers. 

Nate Colligan | University of Miami | Marine Biology

Cindy Marian presented Nathan with a scholarship and expressed that he stood out for his four-year honor roll achievement at Costa. Nathan is also a student-athlete on the Costa swim team and was honored as an outstanding scholar by the team. This year, he served as an ASB representative!

Jace Cortez | Boston University | Business and Mechanical Engineering

Scholarship Committee member Gita O’Neill highlighted Jace’s academic accolades, including two College Board Recognition awards and being on the honor roll. Jace is the president of the American Sign Language Club and the founder and president of Pets of the Homeless Club.

Kina Desai | Duke University | Public Policy

Amy Beheshti awarded Kina, who has taken eleven APs during her time at Costa. Kina participates in many organizations, including Beach Cities Health District (BCHD). She is a junior rowing team athlete and owns a non-profit business called “Draws for a Cause.”

We look forward to seeing these students make an impact in the world. Thank you to the MB PTA Council for the ongoing support of our students. Thanks to all Scholarship Committee members and Mira Costa PTSA EVP Pennie Stepczyk for planning this event.

Click Here for More Photos!

Congratulations to the Biotech Class of 2024

Eighteen MCHS students were celebrated for completing the three-year specialized Biotech course. This week, these students graduated from the program and were honored for their dedication and accomplishments by their teachers Ernesto Nodado and Rebecca Fox, families, and District staff. The following students are part of the eighth cohort to complete the program successfully:

  • Luke Arizpe
  • Gemma Burstein
  • Nathan Colligan
  • Sabrina Dela Barre
  • Gabriella Fish
  • Veronica Fish
  • Christopher Kinoshita
  • Nadiya Kontorovsky Wong
  • McKenzie Krauch
  • Carley Kubler
  • Ty Lockwood
  • Abigail Ostrick
  • Shivana Parekh
  • Jin Park
  • Ashna Patel
  • Jesse Simon
  • Kailena Song
  • Jaclyn Wang

Congratulations to all! The Biotech course offers a comprehensive curriculum that includes hands-on lab experience, research, internship, and end-of-the-year poster presentations. The graduates had the opportunity to showcase these third-year projects during the graduation event to attendees, which were either based on their research work or an internship they participated in. The projects included a mix of lab-based, clinical, and computer-based research. Some topics students focused on were hereditary blindness, medical technology to support cardiovascular care, and neurodegenerative disease transmission mechanisms. I was impressed by each student's clear explanations of their projects and eloquence! 

The competitive course gives students real-world experience they wouldn’t have had until college. It exposes students to laboratory procedures and research techniques, preparing them for college-level classes. There were sixty applicants this year, and only eighteen students were accepted. 



The Mira Costa Athletic Complex transformed into a hub of interactive experiences and exploration for one night this week during Mira Costa’s annual STEAM Night! The event welcomed students, staff, and families from across the District. The gym was filled with exciting exhibits and representatives. Attendees embarked on a journey to visit various tables designed to inform, inspire, and provide educational lessons. A few participants were the Natural History Museum, UCLA Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists (SOLES), Reptacular Animals Ranch, Northrop Grumman Global Summit, and Blow a Glass. 

I had the opportunity to walk an Asian Water Lizard and watch Wes Richards, the owner of Blow a Glass, create a bubble through the art of glass blowing. Principal Dr. Karina Gerger participated in his presentation by dropping the glass from a high point. 

A unique highlight of the night was seeing the success of our students in STEAM courses. Students from AP Chemistry and AP Biology shared their labs from throughout the year.

Other classes on display included Astrophysics and Biotech. Students also represented many on-campus clubs, including e-sports, Engineering, Cybersecurity, Chess, and Coding for Change. 10th grader Mason Barrett shared his future non-profit idea, “Accessible Bionics,” which aims to create low-cost prosthetics for amputees. 

New this year was the Student Speakers Series throughout the night! Thank you to Mira Costa Vice Principal Deborah Park and STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Chuen-Wei Ng for organizing this fantastic event.

Optimizing Teaching and Learning for All Students

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an MBUSD signature practice and an educational framework designed to optimize teaching and learning for all students by providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. Meadows principal Michelle Krzmarzick guided her staff through a book study on Dive into UDL by Kendra Grant and Luis Perez, which was made possible through an MBEF grant. Fourth-grade teacher Lexi Hutchinson collaborated with Patti McCullum, MTSS TOSA, to develop a UDL unit on the novel Number the Stars that incorporated these principles. Their unit aimed to enhance student learning by addressing diverse needs and learning styles.

Lexi’s class explored the Representation aspect of UDL by allowing students to choose how they wanted to engage with the novel: read individually, with a partner, on their computer with a read-aloud library, or in a small group with the teacher. Following UDL’s firm goals and flexible means, Lexi ensured students grasped each lesson's objective by inviting them to record their work in journals, participate in partner conversations, and engage in whole-group discussions. This approach catered to diverse learning preferences and promoted comprehensive understanding.

Lexi applied the Action and Expression principles of UDL by developing a rubric to assess student learning throughout the unit based on district-identified essential standards. They had various opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the novel, such as creating a book through Book Creator, writing an essay, or drawing their interpretation of the theme. Adhering to the firm goals and flexible means approach, students chose their preferred method of expression and had to include three big ideas from the book, using text evidence to support their thinking in their final project.

Manhattan Wine Auction Paddle Raise in Support Of Educators

The MBEF Wine Auction is always an exciting event that brings the South Bay community together to support our schools. A highlight during the event is the Paddle Raise, a fundraiser donated to a particular enrichment effort in our schools.

This year, the Paddle Raise is dedicated to our educators who inspire a lifelong love of learning in our children. Recent cuts to educator positions forced by the limited state budget are expected to impact our children's experiences next year. Donate to the Paddle Raise to restore educator positions now!

All donations will be acknowledged on-screen at the Wine Auction and after in the MBEF Annual Report and Honor Roll. 

Teacher of the Year: The Magic of Learning in Michelle Mangan’s Classroom 

Click Here for Easy Reader Story!

MB News Story - Mira Costa Students Earn Accolades

“It's that time of year: Mira Costa students are getting local, state, and national accolades for their achievements.”

Read More Here

MCHS Choir Wins Gold in San Francisco Heritage Festival

Mira Costa Choir Trip

Mira Costa Choir recently returned from its road trip tour! The San Francisco Heritage Festival was a four-day experience. Students visited the Santa Barbara mission performance, watched Cal Poly Choirs in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Solvang, and spent a day exploring San Francisco. They also participated in the WorldStrides Performing Arts San Francisco Heritage Festival and won gold, the top category!

The three-day festival offers students an opportunity to perform and be part of a special learning experience. It brings together young musical students from across the nation. The MCHS Choir performed to nationally acclaimed adjudicators and was inspired by their feedback!

WorldStrides hosts national adjudicated and competitive music festivals for school choral and instrumental groups in more than twenty cities across North America. Next year, the MCHS Choir will tour England and Ireland.

MCHS Student Union Celebration 

This week, Mira Costa staff and students celebrated another successful year of the Student Union, an on-campus space that officially opened in the spring of 2021. The Student Union offers support through three dedicated counselors who assist students throughout the school day. It also connects students with their fellow peers and staff and is a place for hosting club meetings, events, and activities. During the year-end celebration, District Counselor Eliza Santarosa, who oversees this unique space, shared the Student Union's impact.

Staff and students from the space host events for Denim Day, Mental Health Awareness Fair, Peer Counseling Small Group Sessions, and Social and Emotional Learning Week, to name a few. They also support parent education, new student support, and elementary group counseling. Mira Costa students spoke at the gathering to express the Student Union's difference in their lives and highlight positive experiences.

Students Compete in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

Our students competed for another year in Ames, Iowa's Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. Odyssey is an international creative problem-solving competition in which teams present a solution to a “long-term” problem and reveal a “spontaneous” problem at each tournament. We had students and coaches representing Pennekamp Elementary, MBMS, and Mira Costa. 

For the second year, students from Pennekamp participated in the competitions, and this was their first time attending the World Finals for the 5th grade team coached by Alex Otero. Pennekamp competed in Problem 4, Division 1, and placed 4th among 47 teams, getting an honorable mention at the awards ceremony. 

The solution they created was an 18-gram balsa wood structure that held 710 lbs. Their performance was about a Rubik's cube launched into space from a trebuchet and the scientists helping it find its way home.

Pennekamp Team

It was the first time the 7th grade MBMS team participated in Odyssey of the Minds and attended the World Finals. MBMS competed in Problem 4, Division 2, and placed 17th out of 49 teams. Alice Kuo coached the team. Their solution was a 15-gram balsa wood structure holding 840 lbs. The team's performance showed how scientists used various tests to help an alien identify her origin.


For MCHS, the team comprised 9th and 10th graders who competed in Problem 4, Division 3. They defended their World Championship title, placing 1st among 37 teams. Their 15-gram balsa wood structure held 1270 lbs for the top weight across all divisions at World Finals this year. The team's skit followed two marooned scientists in space as they argued whether or not it was safe to eat an alien snail. Mira Costa is coached by Brian Fan.

Mira Costa Team

The latest win marks Mira Costa as the only high school in Odyssey history to four-peat as champion in a problem/division. Congratulations to our students and coaches!

The teams spent countless hours over several months preparing their solutions and unveiling their creative performances at regional and state/province/national tournaments worldwide. This year, 676 teams from eleven countries attended the World Finals, with over 10,000 participants and spectators.

Special thanks to the parents, teachers, staff, and volunteers who made it possible and dedicated their time to seeing our students' success in this event. The MB Odyssey coaches this year were Alex Otero (Pennekamp), Michelle Lautanen (Pacific), Alice Kuo (MBMS), and Brian Fan (MCHS). 

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!

Free Mental Health Resources for the Summer

Upcoming Events

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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 June 7.


Dr. John Bowes
MBUSD Superintendent

Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266


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