Manhattan Beach Schools hires consultant for ‘equity, diversity and social justice’


Manhattan Beach Schools has hired outside consultants to do “anti-racism” training and work and “diversity, equity and inclusion” programming.

In June 2020, as community activists responded to the killing of George Floyd by raising issues with hostility to Black families that settled in along modern-day Manhattan Beach, Calif., in the early 1900s, local education officials paved the way for overhauls at local schools to promote “social justice.”

The article quoted school board member Jen Fenton saying that after George Floyd’s death in May 2020, board officials held a series of meetings to discuss race issues in the district. She said, “We met with alumni, current students, parents and staff over the summer and heard stories about bias and harassment occurring in our district. We recognized that we needed to do more, and in August, we rewrote our board goals to create a learning environment focusing on equity, diversity, social justice and inclusion.” 

On Oct. 7, 2020, Manhattan Beach Unified School District established a new committee to “focus on maintaining equity, social justice, diversity and inclusion within the district,” reported an article in local Mira Costa High School’s La Vista student newspaper.

Later that month, on Oct. 31, 2020, the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation, featured the efforts with a new article, “Creating an Environment Focused on Equity, Diversity and Social Justice.” It said: “Manhattan Beach Unified School District (MBUSD) has re-committed to its goal of making equity, diversity, and social justice priorities in our schools for the 2020-2021 school year. One of the methods for ensuring the goal is implemented across the spectrum is emphasizing MBUSD’s Inclusion Stand Up Commitment.”

In December 2020, the board formed the “Equity, Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusion” committee, or “EDSJI.”

On March 25, 2021, ten local officials and staff members, including the district superintendent, Michael Matthews, sent parents a letter, stating:

The one-year anniversary of the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor, the increase in hate crimes against members of the Asian and Asian American community, and the recent slaying of women of Asian descent in Atlanta continue to highlight for us as a nation the systematic oppression and racism experienced by communities of color. As a community and a school district, we recognize that we have work to do to face racism and systemic racism. We are acting on our belief and recognition of this fact. 

He said the school district had taken a series of actions:

  • “The MBUSD Board Goals have been updated to include a focus on equity, diversity, social justice and inclusion as part of creating a community of care in our district. We recognize we have a responsibility to actively oppose racism and discrimination, and guide this work with our students, families, and staff. This includes understanding, as an organization, what racism, discrimination and injustices are occurring within our own system.”
  • “In order to do this important work, the EDSJI committee has contracted with the Center for Leadership, Equity and Research (CLEAR) to conduct a needs analysis and equity audit. Dr. Nancy Akhavan Consulting, a subcontractor for CLEAR, will be conducting this audit.”

On her Twitter profile @NancyAkhavan, the consultant lists herself as an “educator, speaker, author, coach and leader” and associate professor at Fresno State, adding, “Passionate about ensuring equitable learning opportunities for all students.” On her separate website for her consulting business, she sells “Consulting and Coaching,” “Professional Development” and “Innovative Curriculum,” with a roster of 12 consultants and 25 school districts that they have “worked with.”

In his letter, the school superintendent said that “all staff groups” would be “invited” to participate in a survey on “cultural competence” in late March, with interviews with parents, high school students, staff and community members afterwards. The said the district would share its findings in “late spring/early summer.”

Following the Money

The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation also funds much of this DEI work with “Social Inclusion Grants.”

2020-21 Social Inclusion Grant Awards

Funded Grants

Grant TitleAward ApprovedSchoolGradeDescription
Equity Diversity Social Justice Inclusion Training$3,400DistrictwidePS-12A districtwide Race, Equity, and Diversity Climate needs assessment and Anti-Racism/Anti-Bias Training for all MBUSD teachers
International Day$600DistrictwideK-12A festival celebrating cultures and diversity within our district, where over 40 languages are spoken
Reading for Change$750MeadowsK-5Access to enriched library collection to foster a culture of inclusion by exposing students to diverse literature, model an appreciation of all cultures, educate students about the experiences of underrepresented groups in our community, and facilitate dialogue around diversity, bias, and the celebration of differences among students, teachers and families
Shaping Peace Together-Unified Through Education-Partership with Compton School District and MBUSD$500PennekampK-5Creation of a virtual “Peace PAL” pen pal type program for classrooms between Emerson Elementary in Compton and Pennekamp Elementary through virtual exchange and shared projects with goal to meet in person on United Nation’s International Peace Day on September 21, 2021 if safety protocols permit
Unlocking Possibilities Through Connecting with the Deaf Community$500Meadows, Pennekamp, MBMSK-8Program to support Deaf and Hard of Hearing students districtwide by learning from Deaf presenters and role models who specialize in diverse fields and backgrounds to help build confidence and a sense of empowerment in students by connecting with mentors from the Deaf community
Panther Literacy Society$850Pacific4Access to more diverse literature for fourth grade students, thus expanding the understanding of the world and an appreciation of all cultures
5th Grade Social Justice Curriculum$500Meadows5Social justice curriculum to enrich student knowledge of social justice causes and enhance their empathy when it comes to other races
Diverse and Equitable Books and Book Club$879MBMS6-8Access to more diverse and equitable books for students and teachers in the MBMS school library, as well as the formation of an anti-racist book club for students at MBMS
Black History Door Decorating$600MBMS6-8Classroom door decorating to celebrate and recognize black history month through artwork and/or video throughout the MBMS community provided safety protocols allow
History Thru Our Eyes$686MBMS8A reading program to examine and analyze the history and evolution of race and power in America and encourage a students voice and choice to develop evidence-based arguments
Link Crew$1,750MCHS9-12Support for Link Crew at MCHS, which aims to empower upperclassmen to use their experiences and knowledge to help freshmen and new students transition to high school and/or the MCHS campus
MCHS 11th Grade – Diverse Literature$4,000MCHS11Enhance inclusion and diversity with a selection of books from diverse authors for English 11 curriculum