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Pennekamp Elementary Named National Blue Ribbon School

Sep 23, 2021 03:56PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Pennekamp Elementary in Manhattan Beach is one of 325 schools in the country to be named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2021.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the recognition earlier this week. The "Blue Ribbon" title is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Cardona in a statement. “I commend this school and all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

Pennekamp went through the application process while Karina Gerger (now principal of Mira Costa High School) was principal.

“Congratulations to Dr. Gerger and the amazing staff, students and families that are part of the
Pennekamp family on this well-deserved recognition,” said John Bowes, Manhattan Beach Unified School District's superintendent, in a statement. “Dr. Gerger now leads Mira Costa High School, and Pennekamp is in excellent hands with new principal Sharon Witzansky, who we know will keep the momentum going!”

Said Gerger: “I am extremely proud of our Pennekamp teachers, staff, students and families for all of their hard work and commitment to creating a truly amazing, well-rounded educational learning experience for all. Congratulations to the Pennekamp community for the amazing accomplishments and recognition. Keep it going strong, Pennekamp!”

Witzanksy said that she was thrilled for the school, and to be its new principal. “We are honored to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School. Our teachers, support, staff, students, parents, and community have a long history of creating an environment that fosters outstanding levels of student achievement and success.”

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department invites National Blue Ribbon
Schools nominations from the top education officials throughout the United States.

Within Manhattan Beach, Robinson Elementary was named a Blue Ribbon School in 2013 and Grand View earned the title in 2015. And, looking way back, Pacific Elementary earned the honor in 1997.

MBUSD Board President Jen Fenton said that the board was extremely proud of the new honors given to Pennekamp. "This is a true testament to the outstanding programming and education that is offered to our students and represents a huge accomplishment for our district," she said.

Photographs and brief descriptions of the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools are available at

MBUSD serves approximately 6,000 students from preschool to twelfth grade at eight school campuses—one preschool, five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

MBUSD has been recognized throughout the years with multiple honors including National Blue Ribbon Schools, California Gold Ribbon Schools, California and National Green Ribbon Schools and District, California Teachers of the Year, GRAMMY Awards for music programs, and state and national recognition for high school athletics.

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