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New MBEF Director Talks PE, Counseling, and More

Oct 03, 2014 09:29AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Farnaz Golshani Flechner, the new director of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF), comes to her position with more than 17 years' experience in both teaching and leadership in the nonprofit sector. A Manhattan Beach resident, she was drawn to MBEF for its "committed and engaged population" that "plays a significant role in making the school district so successful." This year, MBEF contributed to the hiring of two new counselors at Mira Costa High School and new physical education teachers for the Manhattan Beach elementary schools. DigMB had a chance to talk with Flechner about those additions and more for 2014/15.

DigMB: When you first came to MBEF, what were some of the top concerns you heard about from parents?

Farnaz Golshani Flechner: When I first came to MBEF, parents were strongly advocating for the reinstatement of physical education throughout the elementary schools. Improving math programming at the middle school was also a priority. With the generous support of our parents and community, MBEF was able to make grants to MBUSD which helped pay for four new PE teachers throughout our five elementary schools. In addition, we’re funding a partnership with UCLA Center X focused on strengthening our math program throughout the district.

Several parents asked questions about our general grant-making process and how they can help guide what programs we fund. This is what led to the creation of the parent survey that we distributed widely to all parents.. We hope to receive as much feedback as possible in order to help strengthen and guide our grantmaking in future years. We’ve officially closed the survey so we can begin analyzing the results, but I want to make sure our parents and community know that we are constantly looking for feedback on how MBEF can do even better. We want to be as transparent as possible, and our door is always open!

DigMB: What kinds of feedback you have heard from parents/teachers about the P.E. teachers after the first few weeks of school?

FGF: A majority of parents and teachers – and certainly all students - are thrilled to have P.E. back at our elementary campuses! The K-5 teachers and administrators have been very happy with the P.E. curriculum and instruction, and parents have consistently expressed their support as well. The P.E. teachers the district hired are amazing!.

We’re so happy that we can help provide P.E. for our children – although our work is not done. We know that there is so much we can do to continue to strengthen and enrich our schools. P.E. was a priority for our community this year, and we hope that with continued feedback MBEF will continue to rise to the challenge... We want our decisions to be data backed and supported by the broader community.

DigMB: What do you think P.E. adds to a student's educational experience?

FGF: When someone is passionate about a subject, they are able to lead and teach with so much energy and inspiration. I am hopeful that the P.E. program will encourage students to develop a love for physical activity, and inspire them to “unplug” once in a while and enjoy being active outdoors. I believe P.E. will teach our students to be leaders, and true sportsmen and women who are able to win and lose with grace, and develop their non-cognitive skills, like persistence, self-control, conscientiousness and self-confidence. More and more research supports the notion that these character traits are more crucial than sheer brainpower to achieving success and happiness in life.

DigMB: How will MCHS students benefit from the guidance that these two new counselors will provide?

FGF: Our two new counselors - Judy Park and Caryn Ramirez – are an incredible addition to MBUSD and Mira Costa. Caryn and Judy work with students as they plan and prepare for their journey beyond high school – providing guidance, assistance and recommendations as they consider their future college and career options. Caryn previously served as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Southern California and is able to offer students her “insider” knowledge and expertise as they prepare to apply to college. Judy has nearly a decade of experience in this field. She previously worked with ABC Unified School District in Cerritos, where Whitney High School ranked 2nd in the state of California and 22nd nationally. Our students are very fortunate to have these two passionate experts join the district.  

DigMB: Anything else you want to say about looking ahead at the new academic year from MBEF's perspective?

FGF: It is so inspiring to see what our community has accomplished - we have taken an underfunded district in an underfunded state and transformed it into something exceptional - a true model for what public education can be.

That said, our world is quickly changing. Students today need to develop a broader range of skills and aptitudes - STEM, foreign language, robotics, coding…there are so many ever-evolving skills that our students need to have in order to be competitive in a global world. Our district and the programs that MBEF funds must continually adapt to meet the needs of this ever-changing world. I’m excited to think about how our programs will continue to evolve and grow, and our exceptional volunteer board shares that vision with me. I’m grateful to be a part of an organization and community that is so engaged and willing to partner in this effort.

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