At the MBUSD Board of Trustees meeting on February 3, 2021, Executive Director Hilary Mahan asked the Board to consider our students their highest priority and make decisions that value the importance of education. Too many decisions made by so many over the past the year have NOT taken our children’s learning and social emotional wellness into consideration.
February 3, 2021
Dear Trustees of the Board, Dr. Matthews, and Members of the Cabinet,
Thank you for this opportunity to address you here this evening. We each have had many conversations on the topic of our schools in the midst of COVID. I felt it was important to also address you here in this public setting.
This year has been tremendously arduous. The past twelve months are not ones any of us wished for, nor ones that we had much control over. The pandemic has impacted all of us. And it will take all of us together to get beyond it.
In my role as the Executive Director of MBEF, and a parent of three myself, I am most concerned about the impact on our children. How will this past year, and the next underdetermined number of months, impact their growth, their health, their well-being, their education?
This is ultimately why each of us serve in our roles – because we value our children and the importance of education.
We must work together to create a vision for how to best embrace our youth and their education during this difficult time – and we must do so more expeditiously. Our children rely on adult professionals to make informed decisions on their behalf. It feels to me like most of the decisions made by so many over the past the year have NOT taken our children’s learning and social emotional wellness into consideration. This needs to change now. We all have to do our part to prioritize our children – including you as board members, administration, teachers, government officials, and parents.
The priority of MBEF is to strengthen public education in Manhattan Beach by funding exceptional opportunities in our schools. We have upheld this mission for decades – funding our schools with over $80 million dollars over the years through parent and community support. Despite challenges in fundraising this year, we are still striving to reach our goal to maximize our priority – our impact on the education of our students. While the MBEF-funded programs and educators will, no doubt, have to be reduced this year because of decreased fundraising support, we will ensure our impact is great.
I implore you, as leaders in our district, to also focus on the priorities that you can impact to best meet the needs of our students. I call your attention to three particular areas:
- Advocate for our Children. As elected ambassadors for our students, you have the ability to push the county and state to acknowledge the data. Studies have now proven that transmission rates in schools are relatively low when mitigation strategies are in place and community transmission remains low. As leaders in education in the state, Manhattan Beach Unified can lead the charge in encouraging more movement in line with Governor Newsom’s recent support to open schools. We have waited long enough, and students of all grade levels here in LA County and our own city are suffering.
- Prepare for In-Person Learning Now. While advocating for our schools to open, MBUSD must be working diligently to have plans in place to open our schools safely. We are now in our 11th month since our schools closed to in-person learning. Even shifts in protocols along the way should not be preventing us from being on the forefront of welcoming all students to the highest degree possible when guidance allows. Practice now – get the plan in place to pivot and welcome ALL MBUSD students back to campus as soon as guidance allows. Nothing should be holding us back.
- Set a Long-Term Vision. Students lose out when we do not prioritize their well-being. I ask you to set a long-term vision that prioritizes all students in our district for years to come. While the pandemic is on the forefront of our minds, I ask that you still look to the future. This includes key components like finding ways to decrease direct expenses in line with revenue, creating sustainable revenue sources to support a high standard in education, and collaborating with our educators on best practices in curriculum to personalize learning. We must support a system that gets beyond the highs and lows of state funding. And we cannot afford to truly value the education of our students if we simply look at one year, or one crisis, at a time.
This community values high-quality education and the pandemic has threatened to take us off course. As always, MBEF is proud to partner with you on all of the above priorities – but it is up to you to take the lead.
Thank you for your service and dedication to the students of MBUSD.