New school board leader takes over

Ellen Rosenberg stands with members of Mira Costa’s cheerleading squad on campus last week. Rosenberg is the new president of the school board.

Ellen Rosenberg stands with members of Mira Costa’s cheerleading squad on campus last week. Rosenberg is the new president of the school board. Photo by Alene Tchekmedyian

On the third day of Ellen Rosenberg’s career as president of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District’s Board of Trustees, she was wearing a white construction hat, a shovel in hand.

She addressed the Mira Costa community at the school’s groundbreaking ceremony for the construction project that will bring a new math and science building to campus over the next few years.

The Manhattan Beach resident, with three sons in the district, has worn multiple hats over the years – in the last decade, she’s served as president of Robinson’s PTA, president of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation, and for two years, has served on the school board.

“If there’s a volunteer career path in public education, I’ve been on it,” she said, with a laugh. The Palos Verdes native moved to Manhattan Beach out of college – she received her bachelor’s degree from USC and her masters in business administration from UCLA.

Rosenberg replaced outgoing board president Bill Fournell. “She’s a great community member in terms of her commitment to public education,” Fournell said of Rosenberg. “As board president, she’s going to be fantastic.”

Fournell was sworn in to his second four-year term on the school board last week, along with Karen Komatinsky. Fournell was elected to serve on the board in 2007 and has four children in Manhattan Beach schools. Penny Bordokas was appointed to serve as the board’s vice president, and Komatinsky as the board’s clerk.

For the first time in four years this year, the district didn’t face layoff-triggering budget cuts, Fournell said. Other district milestones this year include implementing the iPad pilot and the new writing program, and beginning to offer Mandarin language courses at the middle school.

During Rosenberg’s term, she will continue to work towards the board’s goals, especially the two new goals the board added this summer, she said. Those include examining and improving student support strategies by maximizing the availability of counseling services for all students, and improving facilities, technology and equipment district-wide. “Counselors are vulnerable during budget cuts,” Rosenberg said, adding that the education foundation is supporting the guidance, at-risk and academic and career counselors at the middle and high school levels. “We wanted to make sure we were doing as great of a job as we could do, given the limited resources in the area.”

New technology has been implemented throughout the district this year – iPads are being used by one grade level at each elementary school, in the science department at Manhattan Beach Middle School and in eight different classes at Mira Costa. Later this academic year, the board will be examining the effectiveness of the iPad pilot for students and teachers to determine how to move forward. “These are the kids, at three years old, that are driving around in the back seat with smart phones, intuitively using technology,” she said. “If we don’t have something in place, were going to be missing out.”

While there has been some apprehension about implementing new technology in classrooms, which have looked the same for more than 50 years, the students have embraced the new program, Rosenberg said.

“The health of schools dictates the health of a community,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to me that kids do well and continue to do well – embracing these technologies is part of that goal.”

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