June - Hope

On behalf of the staff of Mira Costa High School I first want to thank the class of 2015 for being a joy to work with. You have been a wonderful group of students for four years. You are exactly what we want in a graduating class and your potential for greatness gives us all a renewed hope in the future of our community, state and nation, thank you class of 2015.

This year has been memorable for you. There have been successes and challenges, ups and downs, highlights and lowlights. But in the middle of it all, three members of your class reminded us all of what is really important. They organized Team Heideman and for one day at lunch the entire school celebrated life. Thank you Mr. Heideman for inspiring that in your students. In the message, if you were listening, was a message of hope. And in that spirit and as a final and loving tribute, here is what I hope for all of you as you commence the next chapter in your lives.

I hope you find time to smile and laugh everyday. Make a conscientious decision right now to be happy. It will make the good times sweeter and the hard times less devastating.

I hope you appreciate your self-worth. Self-respect and taking care of yourself physically, spiritually and emotionally will make a life worth living.

I hope you recognize and seize opportunities to reinvent yourself. If there are habits or traits you have that you’re not happy with or proud of, take this transition to the next phase of your life to make changes. It’s ok, no one will remember how goofy you were in high school, and you will grow as a result.

I hope you set goals...lots of them. Find a new hobby, read a book for fun, bulk up and get gains. Take your education as far as you can, and be the best version of you that you can be.

I hope you take the time to discover Rush, Styx, Ambrosia and Bread. If you’re wondering what food has to do with anything then you really have a lot of work to do in the music category. What I am really suggesting here is be open minded enough to know that the there is more to art and music than the garbage you all listen to.

I hope you will always be first to find the good in others and see the beauty around you. Be authentic and present in the moment. Stop fretting and worrying about things that won’t matter in 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 months or 10 years. Appreciate the now.

I hope you value being nice over being right. In the end, relationships are what matter. When your book is finished being written, no one will know, remember or care how many arguments you won. They will only know how much you cared about them.

And lastly, I hope you will be a friend to someone who needs a good one. There is more loneliness and despair in the world than you realize. At these ceremonies we always talk about going out and making a difference in the world, so let me suggest to you that this is how you get it done. Find someone who needs a good friend and be one.

Good luck and Godspeed Class of 2015, Mira Costa High School.

Go Mustangs!

Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

May - Casey Patterson #earntheday

      I had the opportunity to hear Casey Patterson speak over the weekend. If you don’t know him, you should — especially if you are associated with Mira Costa in any way. Casey is the number 1 ranked men’s beach volleyball player on the AVP tour. He, along with his partner Jake Gibb, are our top chance for gold in Rio in 2016.
     At this event, Casey was speaking to youth. There were several Mira Costa kids there. He talked for about 45 minutes, and then when it would have been easy and understandable to jet out the side door to get some rest before heading to Russia the following day, he stayed until the last kid wanted a photo. My own kids, Katie and CJ took a selfie with him:

He was great. No entourage; just showed up with his wife, 3 kids, and his parents. No pretension or show; he was great to the kids. I’m a fan now, and will be totally pulling for him in Rio.

     What he talked about was tremendous for kids. His message was how to be a winner and finisher. Winning a gold medal takes both and I believe he has the right approach. Here is a sketch, my notes if you will, of what he said:
     Build Your Team - surround yourself with positive people. Good support system and mentors. Smart people who know the way. The team has to be willing to take risks (changing the beach vb culture); no fear of failure.
     Set Goals - have a personal mission statement. It makes the path much straighter than it would be otherwise. Establish timelines with the goals to create energy. Work hard and appreciate the little victories along the way. Always have three goals you know you can easily attain, and two goals that are absolute dreams. Get motivated. It's time.
      Write a Mission Statement - must have words that trigger emotional responses. Must create a laser like focus; a constant reminder of the goal. #earntheday Remind yourself of what you want, add some things you need to get there.
      Believe in Yourself - be a finisher. Winning is a skill; it needs it to be taught and developed. Ignore "little man" - that voice in your head, or the whisper in your ear, that is always trying to bring you down, tell you your goals are stupid and you cannot do it. Ignore them.
      There is never a perfect time to start. There is something that has to change for you to start - you start seeing the possibility. You get excited about the one thing that you can do to get you on the path.
      Don't give up. Things are going to happen that you don't expect, don't quit AND don't change your standards out of desperation to succeed. Be smart, stay hungry, stay the course. Fight the doubt. In hard times, put your head down and work. Good things will happen.
      Stay true to your moral values, especially in times of crisis. It will strengthen your foundation. Win at things, but beat the game. Best performers are not reacting more quickly. They are using time differently. They are using it to get more information. The better data you have, the better result you will get. 1. Observe, 2. Process, 3. Act. Time is not a handicap, it is a lever champions use to their advantage. Manage time, don't be managed by it.

Thank you Casey for these inspirational ideas and reminders, and the best of luck to you in Rio 2016!

Go Mustangs!

Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

April - WASC - ateers, THANK YOU!

Hi Mustang Family,

After a year of hard work and preparation, our WASC visit has finally been completed. Thank you to everyone who put in the time and effort to make it great. Looking at the findings in the report, we will receive a six-year accreditation.

Our self-study coordinators, English teachers Mike McAvin and Alan Zeoli, led the process and through their leadership we put together an amazing 400 page self-study. You can see the report (minus attachments) by scrolling down on the About Us tab on the website or by clicking here:

In addition we want to thank the teachers who served as focus group leaders, writing chapter 4, and leading the focus group meetings. They also demonstrated positive, effective leadership. Thank you to the entire classified staff for preparing the campus for the visit. The WASC team commented on how great the campus looked and how smooth the visit went. Our staff made sure they had everything they needed. Thank you to the District and the Board for turning out in strength to show support for the school and its school improvement process. Thank you to the students who met with the WASC team and shared their love for Costa. The visitors fell in love with our kids. Thank you to the parents who worked on the self-study, and to all of you who attended WASC informational meetings and met with the visiting team. You will see our parents and community complimented several times below. That is extremely rare in a WASC document. Great job.

            When the WASC team leaves, they give us a Visiting Committee Report. It is about 50 pages long and validates the self-study. After reading the report, meeting with all of the stakeholder groups and visiting classrooms, they produce this document that verifies the strengths and challenges we document in the self-study. The full version can be found by scrolling down on the About Us tab on the website or by clicking here:

            Below is a summary of the strengths, growth areas and our action plan goals. We will be focusing on these items over the course of the next six years.


School-wide Areas of Strength

·      Community partnership and support from parent groups have allowed students to enjoy 
access to a broadly diverse curriculum with technological support, as well as a variety of extra- and co-curricular activities. 

·      Mira Costa offers a rigorous, standards-based curriculum for students of all learning abilities, evidence by continual growth in API, and all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators and others) have input into students’ plans for education and their routes to graduation. 

·      Students have access to a vast array of choices when it comes to curriculum and placement opportunities. In addition, they have the support system in place to help them to understand which classes are right for them, ensure appropriate placement, and they get personally developed plans for their individual needs. 

·      Campus renovations have improved teacher flexibility and student access to new technologies and state-of-the-art materials. 

·      Consistent focus on college readiness. 

·      Mira Costa benefits from tremendous community support in terms of financial assistance, volunteerism, student learning opportunities and experience in community businesses and myriad other ways. 

·      Mira Costa has a tradition of school pride and school spirit that promotes an engaged and involved student body. 

·      Diverse athletic and co-curricular opportunities enjoy tremendous success and student involvement. 

·      Strong, demonstrated leadership by the administrative team. 


School-wide Critical Areas for Follow-Up

The Visiting Committee concurs with the school’s identified areas that are outlined in the school-wide action plan. The Visiting Committee confirms these already-identified areas. These are summarized below:

  1. Increase collaboration between and within departments to establish uniformity in approaching CCSS, testing, and curriculum. 

  2. Create, administer, and analyze more standardized formative and common assessments throughout departments in order to provide common measures of student achievement, and enhance the school’s ability to determine rigor, relevance and coherency on an on-going basis. 

  3. Continue to develop classes that create a bridge to college and career readiness, through career connections, twenty-first century learning and life skills. 


In addition, the Visiting Committee has identified areas that need to be strengthened:

Trust, Respect and Professionalism remain inconsistent at Mira Costa. Some teachers shared with the Visiting Committee that there is a culture of professionalism among teachers that generally pervades the school. A collegial atmosphere among ALL needs to exist in order to carry MCHS to an even higher degree of student achievement.


Action Plan:

Mira Costa’s Action Plan/SPSA/LCAP-LCFF are excellent documents, very well prepared with specifics as to the who, what, and realistic timelines. They are based upon the “Learner” not teacher goals. There is an accountability system in place for accomplishment of the plan. The Visiting Committee recommends that the school combine all efforts into one single plan. The Action Plans presented are excellent and will carry Mira Costa High School to even greater accomplishment of the academic standards if the plans are followed. 

Existing factors that will support school improvement:

·      The school has demonstrated the capacity for ongoing school improvement in the past. Staff will need to work together and examine themselves further to sustain this improvement.

·      The administration and Leadership team is a professional, knowledgeable, and energetic team that is ready to lead Mira Costa High School to an even more superior level.

·      There is tremendous parent and community involvement to support on-going improvement at MCHS.

·      There is commitment and support of instructional programs by classified personnel.

·      The students have a positive attitude about their school, campus environment, and involvement in school activities.

·      There is a safe teaching and learning environment.

·      The Visiting Committee agrees that all of the identified areas for on-going school improvement are found in the MCHS Action Plan.

·      The VC interview with the District Personnel indicated that there will be on-going support.


Impediments to improvement that the school will need to overcome:

·      The school needs to develop an on-going collegial process to collect and review data that assists in the ongoing assessment of student performance.

·      Formal departmental collegial collaboration is limited. Well-articulated, formal collegial collaboration time needs to exist in order to move forward with improving student learning, instruction, and results.

Action Plan Goals:

Goal #1 - Continue addressing the individual academic needs of all students of all ability levels through cross-curriculum collaboration, with increased and directed focus on the middle student.

Goal #2 - Promote a school culture that focuses on educating and supporting the “whole student” in an effort to develop balanced, culturally aware, responsible, ethical and accountable citizens.

Goal #3 - Foster an environment that leads to increased student use of technology in the classroom.

Goal #4 - Focus strategies to improve performance of students who will potentially score in the lower third of the Smarter Balanced test to increase overall scores on Common Core Standards.
Goal #5 - Continue to support, through Title I funds, the success of the SAS program as measured by improved grades and proficiency of Common Core State Standards, increased homework completion, improved attendance, and greater awareness and incorporation of growth mindset, sparks, and thriving indicators vital to student success.

Go Mustangs!

Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

March - Weight a Minute!

     Recently La Vista published a pro/con opinion section about the issue of weighting AP and Honors classes for student GPAs. They did a great job and it is worth your time if you are interested in this issue.

Pro -

Con -

Go Mustangs!

Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

FEBRUARY – New Courses

      In recent years, MCHS has added some exciting new classes for students: Mandarin, Introduction to Coding and App Design, Robotics, Internship, ACE, Freshmen 101, Yoga, Tall Flags, AP Environmental and AP Psychology. With Common Core implementation and a shifting emphasis to the need for knowledge and skills necessary to understand, address and solve complex issues on a more global scale it is more important than ever we as a school seize this opportunity to develop and offer new, exciting, engaging and global courses for all students. With that in mind I am happy to announce the following new courses:


BioTechnology – This class is a 4-year pathway Academy in Science that will train students for success in a working laboratory environment. At the end of the four years, graduates will have a professional lab portfolio that matches the college undergraduate level, and will allow them to walk into any scientific lab with the skills needed to start working immediately out of high school. Graduates will have also worked as mentors, trainers, and lab assistants to underclassmen, thus demonstrating successful leadership, communication and collaborative skills that universities and companies are actively seeking. For the 2014-2015 school year there will be only one section of BioTech for 9th graders, and it will grow every year thereafter.


English Seminar – Philosophy in Literature – This will be an additional course for seniors to take in English their senior year. The course will explore existential essential questions through literature in a writing-based context. The core texts include: The Stranger, Heart of Darkness and the Secret Sharer, Out of the Silent Planet, and Point Counter Point.This engaging, rigorous English course will fit well into an extremely successful model of English Seminars that schools all over South Bay try to emulate.


AP Seminar – this course, piloted to 10th and 11th graders, allows students to study research methods, explore global topics and create thesis proposals. The AP score is based on three parts: a team project and presentation, a research-based essay and presentation, and an end-of-course exam. We are in touch with College Board and hope to offer it this fall. For more information go to


AP Research – this course, piloted to 11th and 12th graders, allows students a year to prepare a 5,000 word, college-level thesis paper on a global topic. The AP score is based on research process documentation, the academic thesis paper, and a public presentation/oral defense. This is an exciting opportunity for Mira Costa students, and hopefully there will be the possibility to publish our students in academic journals to further their potential success in the field. This course will be offered the fall following the first year AP Seminar is offered. For more information go to

AP Capstone Diploma – this is an AP pathway diploma that students may receive by taking any 4 AP classes and passing all 4 exams, plus taking AP Seminar and AP Research for a total of 6 AP classes. AP Capstone Diploma is not a class students take, it is a designation on their diploma for completing the requirements. For more information go to


AP International Diploma – this is also not a class students take; it is a designation on their diploma for completing 5 AP classes and passing the AP exams in the following areas:

2 World Languages or 1 World Language and 1 English

1 Math or Science

1 Class with a global perspective – at present our only qualifying classes are AP Art History and AP Environmental Science. The others that qualify, but we do not yet offer are AP Human Geography, AP World History and AP Comparative Government and Politics.

1 AP class of any kind, but not an additional World Language or English.

For more information go to

We have applied to be an APID school from College Board and are awaiting confirmation.


AP Computer Science Principles – from the AP website:

The course will introduce students to creative aspects of programming, using abstractions and algorithms, working with large data sets, understandings of the Internet and issues of cybersecurity, and impacts of computing that affect different populations. AP Computer Science Principles will give students the opportunity to use current technologies to solve problems and create meaningful computational artifacts. Together, these aspects of the course make up a rigorous and rich curriculum that aims to broaden participation in computer science. 

A. Computational Thinking Practices

1   Connecting computing

2   Creating computational artifacts

3   Abstracting

4   Analyzing problems and artifacts

5   Communicating

6   Collaborating

B. Big Ideas

1   Creativity

2   Abstraction

3   Data and Information

4   Algorithms

5   Programming

6   The Internet

7   Global Impact

For more information

This course does not officially launch until the fall of 2016, but we have applied to be a pilot school and are awaiting confirmation from College Board.


I want to thank all of the teachers and counselors who have helped work on these new courses. This is a wonderful time of innovation at Mira Costa and we are lucky to have the best teachers bringing their expertise and creativity to your students.



Go Mustangs!

Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

January - Year in Review

Hi Mustang Family,
    As we approach the close of 2014, I want to write and express my gratitude to all of you for a great year. Manhattan Beach and Mira Costa High School are one-of-a-kind places to live, learn and work. It is my hope you take a minute to take stock and appreciate all of the rich blessings we enjoy here. My wife Michelle and I, along with our children, wish all of you a Happy Holiday and New Year. I hope that your 2015 is better than your 2014 and so on.

Mira Costa in Review – 2014
    This year, Mira Costa continued to improve academically. We posted a 10th grade CAHSEE pass rate of 98% (English) and 98% (Math), which exceeds the state average by over 20%. For 11th graders, we have a pass rate of 93% (English) and 92% (Math), which exceeds the state average by almost 60%. Given that all students take the same test, these pass rates are astounding. What’s more impressive is that our proficiency and advanced rates are close to 90% on both portions, meaning that not only do our students pass, they are mostly showing a proficiency in both English and Math that far exceeds the state average.
    In Advanced Placement courses (AP) our program continues to grow. This year the number of students at Mira Costa who have passed at least one AP exam has grown to 661. To provide perspective: that number was 495 in 2008. We have increased the number of AP sections offered from 48 to 50 and have added AP Psychology. The total number of test takers increased to 956 this year (that number was 785 in 2011). The overall pass rate on AP exams is 80%, compared to 64% state wide and 61% nationally.
    On the SAT and ACT, Mira Costa High School students continue to improve. The percentage of students scoring above 1,500 has grown from 81% to 85% since 2008 on the SAT, and the percentage of students scoring above 21 has grown from 83% to 87% since 2008.
    In the classroom the school wide average GPA is 3.5 and on average 75% of Mira Costa students have a GPA exceeding 3.0.  Our UC/CSU readiness averages between 80%-85% and 79.6% are attending 2 or 4 year colleges right after graduation. The California Business for Education Excellence awarded Mira Costa another gold medal.
    This year we added four new official sports (hockey, rugby, girls and boys beach volleyball), so that we now offer 30 varsity sports. Close to 50% of Mira Costa students participate in at least one sport and we won league titles this year in badminton, girls basketball, girls beach volleyball, girls and boys golf, ice hockey, rugby, girls soccer, surf, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys track, girls and boys water polo and wrestling. Girls beach volleyball were CIF champions and cross country coach Reneé Williams-Smith was named Inspiring Coach of the Year from the Brooks Running Company.
    In Performing Arts we won a GRAMMY for our Music department and the Drama department captured four Jerry Herman Awards. Broadcast Journalism was a finalist for the Pacemaker Award, and their teacher, Mr. Hernandez was the National Broadcast Journalism Adviser of the Year.
    Model United Nations were National Champions again, and their adviser, History teacher Wayne Knutson, was named Outstanding Teacher of U.S. History by the Daughters of the American Revolution. And this year’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Inductees included Huntley Castner,Jeff Rohrer, Jim Lindberg, Lance Dixon, Marriane and Cormac Wibberly, and Noreen Harris Baer.
    We were finalists in Science Olympiad in only our 2nd year and Robotics went to the National Finals.
    We finished phase II of construction, PTSA bought new MacBooks for every teacher to replace outdated and broken PCs and a new marquee, new staff lounge and new school sign were made possible due to Kinecta, Top15 Agency Alliance and ASB donations.

Go Mustangs!

Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

December - Mustang Mettle
   I’ve been scared before. I’ve also been in dangerous situations before as well, unfortunately. The times I’ve been scared I have been lucky enough to have a team around me with members who were not scared and could give me courage. That has made all the difference in the world. There have been times when I was one of the ones who was not scared and I was able to provide support to others on the team. What I’ve learned is you cannot predict which role you will play. Sometimes you need support and sometimes you give it. Don’t count on being either one, but be prepared to be one or the other and act accordingly.
    Last month we all learned a little about ourselves. In the end, whether the threat was real or not, is immaterial. For some it was real, and for some it was not and that certainly factored into your fear level, though it is possible you felt it was real and yet you were still not afraid. If you felt it was real and you were afraid, that’s ok. As I said, you can never know for sure how you will react until you’re in the moment. Don’t judge others and don’t get down on yourself either way; the mind and the body are often unpredictable in unpredictable, unforeseen circumstances.
    As your principal, I learned what I need to know; your teachers and our staff love you. They decided as one voice to return to school before any Yakkers were caught, and certainly well before any “all clear” was sounded, which is still the case. By saying they were coming back to school, the teachers and staff were taking a stand against threats and against those who may want to do us harm. That is Mustang Mettle.
    Then you, the students, came back. Almost 90% of you were here the two days prior to Thanksgiving Break. If you take into account that the few days prior to a holiday are normally lower attendance anyway, then you could say the drop in attendance was almost indistinguishable. School looked and felt different during those two days for sure, but you were here. That is Mustang Mettle.
    Those two days we were all here together and I can tell you with certainty that some of us adults were nervous, some of us were fine, and some of us were afraid, but all of us were here and ready to protect you if needed. What I learned last month was that afraid or not, your teachers and our staff love you, will stand with you and will protect you. That is Mustang Mettle.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

November - Enough already

I figure you have all heard enough from me this month...


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

October - Be a goal-setter
Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up some place else.” I love the simple wisdom in this quote. Personally, I prefer not to end up some place else, so I try to live a goal-centered life. This has not always been the case. In the last ten years I have slowly matured in my ability to set personal and professional goals. What I can say for sure, and why I’m writing about it this month, is that living a goal-centered life has greatly enriched my journey.
    Not to be a downer, but have you ever considered the journey? How long do we really have? I think a good life is 75-80 years, but we are definitely living longer, which if it is a healthy quality of life, is a good thing. Nonetheless, the time is unforgivingly finite and we need to make the best of it. Also, I’m growing increasingly aware that time is relative. It seems to move faster now. Holidays come and go much more quickly. When I was a little kid, the time between my birthdays seemed to last forever. Now my age increases at a much faster rate, it seems. In the last ten years it has become more important than ever to make the most out of the time I have.
    What I do is not new. I first heard about this from a professor in my master’s program named Dr. Woolley. He asked us to set one goal in four different areas: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We all took out a sheet of paper, divided it into four sections, labeled each section with the type of goal, then wrote in one goal in each section. His counsel to us was to add another goal after the completion of a current goal. Over time, the goal setter would have a sheet full of personal accomplishments. The goals did not have to be lofty. They need to be specific, attainable, but that cause you to reach a little.
    Living my life this way has greatly enriched my journey and I recommend it to everyone. It also creates an energy around you that is infectious. Being at Mira Costa helps also in that the culture of the entire school community is a goal-based environment. Our students are some of the best goal-setters I know. They always amaze me at the savvy with which they plan their lives. They are like no group of young adults I know. Our future is in good hands.
    So, please take the challenge if you are not an avid goal setter. Make a goal in each of the areas above that will push you to be a better version of yourself. Share your goals with others, especially your family. Create an energy that has an upward trajectory. Carving out your own trajectory can often help you avoid some of the unexpected or untended twists and turns associated with life. Taking control in this manner ensures that the journey will be amazing.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

September - Shared Governance
    Last spring Mira Costa embarked on a quest to initiate new committee structures in order to increase the efficiency with which we conduct the school improvement process. We wanted to do a better job at setting goals and seeing them through to full implementation. We wanted to get more teachers involved in the shared governance process. We wanted to focus on the right work…work that would enhance the instructional program of our school. It was a difficult time - change always is, but in the end we put something together, that if executed with fidelity can be a valuable leadership structure at Costa for many years.
    We established three standing committees, guided by EdCouncil, for curriculum/instruction, school safety/culture and school calendar. The membership of the committee were invited and agreed upon with support of administration, department chairs, department members and EdCouncil. The committees will be charged by EdCouncil to work on important projects that will contribute to the improvement of the school. The teacher-leaders on each of the committees will put together proposals and plans, that once ratified, will be implemented school wide.
    The curriculum and instruction committee will work on such items as: new courses, instructional minutes/day, instructional policies, professional development, and other issues assigned by Ed Council related to the teacher-student exchange. The school safety and culture committee will work on such items as: ethics, tardies, absences, dress code, emergency plans, security, staff morale events and other issues assigned by Ed Council related to student and staff well-being. The school calendar committee systematically collects and reviews the following academic year’s calendar entries for duplications, completeness and dispersal of events.  The committee will also review existing school-site calendar when new events are requested to determine impact on school events. They will evaluate and revise the placement of alternate bell schedules (assemblies, late starts, minimum days, extended lunches etc.) to ensure continuity of classroom instruction. They are responsible for notifying and reminding department members of important events on the calendar.
    We have begun putting the committees together and they will soon begin working. We are confident that the short and long-term benefit to students will be meaningful. Thank you to department chairs your leadership and trust in the implementation of this new system of shared governance. Your work and contribution to Mira Costa is recognized, valued and appreciated.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

August – Much Going On

Welcome back to school! We are looking forward to another great year here at Mira Costa. This year our goal is to build upon all of the new programs and initiatives from last year. We will be in the second year of our Mobile Device Initiative, and with both 9th and 10th grade students adept at the use of technology to access and process learning, we will begin to work closely with teachers who want to leverage the power of technology in their classroom delivery and content. It is also the second year of PowerSchool and we will continue to use that important communication tool between teachers, students and parents. We will tailor our staff development to the individual needs of teachers as they continue to learn and utilize this important student informational system. All of our teachers and classrooms have new technology, whether it be interactive white boards, MacBook Pros, iPads or all of the above. We will continue to provide teachers the support and training they need, so that they will be at their very best for students.

This year our instructional focus will be in the area of Common Core implementation. This will be the first year of the new Common Core exam in the areas of English and Math. Every class and department will share in the responsibility of preparing our students for this assessment by focusing on the key shifts in both areas. All of our professional development this year will be focused on preparing teachers and allowing them time to work together on pacing, lesson planning and common formative assessments.

Measure BB construction and renovation is entering its final stage. We expect full completion by March, but much of the final phase will be opened to students sooner. Drama and Choir will be moving into their new rooms to start the year and we hope that Band and Orchestra will do the same during or shortly after Winter Break. That leaves the new quad, which will be completed prior to Spring Break. Immediately thereafter we will begin prepping the area north of the baseball field for the new turf field. This will be a tremendous improvement in field space for our athletic and co-curricular programs. Then…the gym, but we can talk about that later.

More pressing at the moment is that this is a WASC full-study year for Mira Costa. Our self-study and focus group leaders have been working diligently over the summer to prepare the best document possible for the visiting committee who will be here for four days in late March. We will be publishing additional information in the Spring asking you all to attend a parent/community meeting with the WASC visiting team to talk about our great school.

Lastly, it is my pleasure to introduce our new staff:

Lindsay Bullock (Math) comes to us from MBMS and she is also a girls soccer coach. She was a rock star over there and we are excited to have her back at her alma mater. José Castillo is an experienced Spanish teacher from the Bay Area. Amanda Cross (P.E.) is also a girls soccer coach as well as the girls varsity lacrosse coach. She has worked in various classrooms around the District for years and was the first name that entered my mind when the position opened. Bruce Ekstein (Science) is coming to us from Massachusetts where he taught both Biology and Chemistry at all levels including positions at Harvard University. Also in Science, Olie Smith (Science) has a Master’s degree in Natural Resources, Fisheries Biology and will be continuing the wonderful Marine Biology program including the sailing trip. Aaron Kofahl (History) is an Orange County native and will be sharing the A.P. Psychology duties with another new teacher to Costa, Tim Piper (History) who comes to us from Mission Viejo. We have two new counselors in the CCC. Judy Park (CCC) comes to us from West Covina with experience in 6-12 articulation and course planning for college readiness. Caryn Ramirez (CCC) was previously a USC admissions officer who now wants to prepare students from the other side of the process. Together they will be a grades 6-13 powerhouse. Lareina Rodriguez (Special Education) brings years of success working with students demonstrating moderate to severe special needs. Matt Wheeler (English) comes to us from El Segundo High School and is a dynamic teacher with great enthusiasm for literature and writing. Lastly, we have two new vice principals. Jon Shaw (VP) comes to us from Lafayette, Louisiana and he will be working mainly with Athletics and Activities. Marianne Ramos (VP) comes to us from Hawthorne and she will be working mainly in the areas of Instructional Technology, Testing and Data Analysis. It has been another whirlwind of a summer for hiring but we are extremely proud of the new colleagues we have brought in. We will be working closely with them in order to ground them firmly in the Costa culture and community.

            I am looking forward to getting the school year started and I am excited to see students back on campus. I hope you all had a GREAT summer vacation.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

July - Permanent Resolutions

        About three weeks ago my best friend’s one-year old daughter drowned. It was unbelievably tragic and gut wrenching. My friend and his wife were and continue to be amazingly strong. I admire their courage and fortitude. They are an inspiration to me.


        At the funeral my friend gave a powerful speech. In essence he said that many people’s lives had changed due to the untimely death of his daughter. People had resolved to make necessary changes personally, to forgive long-standing enmities and to be better versions of themselves; living ever day to the fullest, being present in the moment and grateful for what they have. His message was simple. He was glad everyone had introspectively made some resolutions but if they really wanted to honor his daughter, make it a permanent change. Let the change become a conviction and a commitment for the rest of their lives. What he said had a profound impact on me.


        Mason’s passing was unbelievably tragic. There are no two ways around it. If given the opportunity we would all pay the price necessary to reverse it. I’m convinced of it. That said: I hope we can all live our lives for Mason; be better versions of ourselves to honor him. Place importance only on things that are really important. Appreciate and give time only to the positive, and to really make it a part of who we are permanently. Be better friends, parents, children, students, teachers and…principals.


        This is how my friend and former colleague John Turner lived his life until it was cut short by a heart attack three weeks ago. John was a teacher at Marina High School and beloved by all students. He was only 37.


What a summer…




Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

June - 10 Lessons on Life from a Navy Seal
Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command delivered this commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin on May 17. Not bad for a Longhorn…

The University of Texas slogan is "What starts here changes the world."

I have to admit—I kinda like it.

"What starts here changes the world."

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.

That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com, says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime.

That's a lot of folks. But if every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in five generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

Eight-hundred million people—think of it: over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—eight billion people.

If you think it's hard to change the lives of 10 people, change their lives forever, you're wrong.

I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the 10 soldiers with him are saved from close-in ambush.

In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a noncommissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn't right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500-pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.
Enlarge Image

A Navy SEAL instructor and his class during 'Hell Week' in Coronado, Calif. Getty Images

But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn were also saved. And their children's children were saved.

Generations were saved by one decision, by one person.

But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is: What will the world look like after you change it?

Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.

And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform. It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status. Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all.

I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long, torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

But, the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships. To me basic SEAL training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—that's Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day, your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in. Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can't change the world alone—you will need some help—and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class, which started with 150 men, was down to just 42. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them. No one was over about 5-foot-5.

The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African-American, one Polish-American, one Greek-American, one Italian-American and two tough kids from the Midwest.

They out-paddled, out-ran and out-swam all the other boat crews.

The big men in the other boat crews would always make good-natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim. But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the nation and the world, always had the last laugh—swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

3. If you want to change the world, measure people by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough. Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.

But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle, it just wasn't good enough. The instructors would find "something" wrong.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed, into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a "sugar cookie." You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.

There were many students who just couldn't accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right, it was unappreciated.

Those students didn't make it through training. Those students didn't understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.

Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up as a sugar cookie. It's just the way life is sometimes.

4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events. Long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards, times that you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards, your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to a "circus."

A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit. No one wanted a circus. A circus meant that for that day you didn't measure up. A circus meant more fatigue, and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.

But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—made the circus list. Yet an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Over time those students, who did two hours of extra calisthenics, got stronger and stronger. The pain of the circuses built inner strength—built physical resiliency.

Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.

5. But if you want to change the world, don't be afraid of the circuses.

At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot-high wall, a 30-foot cargo net and a barbed-wire crawl, to name a few.

But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three-level, 30-foot tower at one end and a one-level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot-long rope.

You had to climb the three-tiered tower and, once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.

The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977. The record seemed unbeatable until one day a student decided to go down the slide for life—head-first. Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the top of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move—seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training. Without hesitation, the student slid down the rope, perilously fast. Instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head-first.

During the land-warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to San Clemente Island near San Diego. The waters off San Clemente are a breeding ground for great white sharks. To pass SEAL training, there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One is the night swim.

Before the swim, the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente. The instructors assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently.

But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position, stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you, then summon up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.

7. So, if you want to change the world, don't back down from the sharks.

As Navy SEALs, one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training. The ship-attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over 2 miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.

During the entire swim, even well below the surface, there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you. But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight, it blocks the surrounding street lamps, it blocks all ambient light.

To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the centerline and the deepest part of the ship. This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship, where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship's machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.

Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission, is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

The ninth week of SEAL training is referred to as Hell Week. It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and one special day at the Mud Flats. The Mud Flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slues—a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.

It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing-cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure from the instructors to quit.

As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some "egregious infraction of the rules" was ordered into the mud. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.

Looking around the mud flat, it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone-chilling cold. The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything. And then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song.

The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two, and two became three, and before long everyone in the class was singing.

We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted. And somehow, the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan named Malala—can change the world by giving people hope.

9. So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you're up to your neck in mud.

Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see.

All you have to do to quit is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o'clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell.

10. If you want to change the world don't ever, ever ring the bell.

To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away from starting to change the world—for the better.

It will not be easy.

But start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world, for the better.

Thank you very much.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

MAY - Henry
When times get tough, I often find myself seeking wisdom in order to inspire and remind me why we all do what we do. These words have served me well over the past month.

Don’t give away at bats
This is the last team you’ll play on
Play for fun
Respect elder players
Better be fast or strong
You’ll give a lot to get it back once it’s over
Work hard but have fun
Respect your coaches
If you’re good enough you’ll play
Be in competition but still friends
Enjoy it - Henry Pearson (2009)

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway. - Mother Teresa (Anyway Poem)

"In a time when cynicism is too often passed of as wisdom, it's perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change, that we are trapped by our own history...I reject such thinking." - President Obama (April 2014)

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow. - Douglas Malloch (Good Timber, 1971)

Being bossy don't mean you're in charge.
Being loud don't make you right. - Richard H. Dale (my Dad, in his vernacular)


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School

APRIL - Think Different


This is the original text of the groundbreaking 1997 commercial ad for Apple, written by Steve Jobs:


"When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.


Thats a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is - everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.


The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. Thats maybe the most important thing. Its to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and youre just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.


I think thats very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, youll want to change life and make it better, cause its kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, youll never be the same again."




Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School




     In my principal's message a year ago I started talking about the 12 key qualities to being a successful Costa student.  I presented half with the intent of presenting the other half at a later date. I have put all 12 here for you to read.  I appreciate all of the warm feedback received from many of you on these monthly messages.

Devotion is a strong dedication to something you love. The key is to recognizing and pursuing what you love. That is the real journey in this life. Finding your passion, embracing it then pursuing it with unwavering devotion is the great challenge of the human experience. Here at Costa we hope to do our part in helping students begin that journey.


Focus is a key ingredient to a student's development of their own story. It is important that students create a compelling story during their time at Costa. This will distinguish them from other applicants in the admissions process. Being singularly focused helps. Now, that does not mean only doing one thing but it means planning and working with the goal in mind.


Vitality is the difference in Costa kids and other kids. Our students are truly alive. They show so much joy passion in their work and activity at Costa. Watching them live and thrive in the classroom, on the stage, field, court, deck, sand, and in the water is infectious. They have made my life better as a result and I am very grateful.


Liberality means being open to new ideas and people. One of the impressive aspects of Costa is the absence of cliques. Do students group up? Sure, but they are not cliques like we know them to be. They are not closed social systems. Part of our liberality as a school stems from the versatility of our students it is common to find an athlete, taking multiple AP classes, playing in the orchestra on her way to editing La Vista. So many traditional boundaries are crossed by our students, so it is not unusual to see students from varying backgrounds associating together.


Industriousness represents an important quality in all Costa students. The ability to be a hard worker, maintain an energetic pace and find ways to get done all the impossibly different tasks and commitments can be the difference in surviving or thriving at Costa. Much of this ability comes from staying healthy. Good diet, lots of sleep, and exercise (do you even lift?) will go a long way to helping students stay successful.


Honor is a big idea but students can begin to demonstrate those qualities now in a small way. Do the right thing. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching. Take responsibility for your failures and give credit to others for your successes. Be honest in your words and true in your thoughts, feelings and actions. Carry yourself with dignity and care more for the well-being of others than for yourself.


Toughness this is not an easy school.  Students, athletes, and artists are expected to perform at a high level. Mediocrity is tolerated but not accepted.  Moreover, successful Mustangs are often those that respond/react the best to criticism.  For some students the high school is the first time they have been told they cannot do something.  Thats a difficult life lesson.  How well a student responds to criticism is largely based on toughness.  When called out by a teacher or a coach listen, regroup, and come redouble your effort.


Dependability trust and knowing that a task will be carried out without supervision is perhaps the most marketable skill in the workplace.  If you are dependable, others will want you in their organization.  The trust required in relationships cannot be overemphasized.  Students at Costa who are dependable never need to be questioned if they can balance and manage everything on their plate.  It is simply never part of the conversation.  There are no excuses in these students, just completed tasks.


Courageous in my mind, students who are the most courageous are those that go against the crowd.  They do not succumb to well, everyone is doing it.  These are the students who are active in Friendship Circle, or those that stay away from the weekend parties, or those who show their school spirit by wearing green on Friday.  These students do not think twice about being respectful and polite to me or any other teacher/staff member.  They are not afraid to be good.


Excellence we have a very good school for many reasons.  One of which is that our students understand the importance of performing at a high level.  The pride they have for our school in that way is remarkable.  Although Im wont to give them, our students do not respond or require pep talks.  They generally bring their A game all the times because they are wired that way.  It is both awesome and scary at the same time.  Our teachers and staff carry themselves the same way.  I know our teachers and staff care deeply about this school.  It is evident in the passion they demonstrate on all issues large and small.  I feel this need for excellence as the principal.  I am driven by a desire to never let the team down.


Valor commonly this term is used to describe people who put their lives at risk to help others.  Valor is defined as the strength of mind and spirit that enables a person to confront danger or challenges with firmness.  The enemy of valor is fear.  Fear comes from feelings helpless relative to a need.  A consequence of fear is usually anger, which is also need-based, so the two are related.  A person can feel fear due to helplessness but when the need is not met, and if they add blame, then anger results.  A person who demonstrates personal valor feels none of these feelings.  They have clear attainable goals, work hard to achieve success, and handle failure with resolve and renewed commitment.


Resoluteness similar in many ways to valor, resoluteness is demonstrated by a firm determination.  Valor is bravery.  Resoluteness is an unwavering will.  It is the ability to stand like a rock against uncertainty.  Students who are resolute are unstoppable forces of nature.  They are driven and focused.  They have figured out their passion and are pursuing it with every ounce of energy they possess.  These are the students that intrigue me the most in that I still have not figured out what I want to do when I grow up.  I am drawn to these students with a spirit of righteous envy.  I want to be like them because I know that they will someday soon change the world.





Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School


FEBRUARY Cassius Marcellus Clay


     It was 50 years ago this month that Muhammad Ali stunned the world by defeating Sonny Liston in the 7th round by TKO to win his first heavyweight championship.

     I have no idea what draws me to Ali. Maybe it's that at the time of the first Liston fight he was still Cassius Clay, a lanky unorthodox boxer with an uncanny left jab that he seemed to be able to throw from all angles and in all situations. Then he became Ali and it seemed his jab was to get respect. There will never be another jab like it.

     Maybe it's that he was his own man. No one handled Ali. His own trainer, Angelo Dundee, lost him the minute every fight started. To Ali, Dundee was his trainer and that ended when the fight started. Ali strategized and fought his own and out of the ring.

     Maybe it was his ability to block out the noise. Embracing Islam and speaking out against the government made him the most polarizing figure of my time. You either hated him or loved him. My Dad, for one, hated him. That started my fascination with him. What could be so bad about someone that my Dad hated worse than the Steelers? Dad was all Joe Frazier. I watched Ali closely for as long as I can remember.

     Maybe it was his fights.  I saw all of his great fights. Possibly the only positive outcome of his ridiculous four-year ban from boxing was it allowed me to be old enough to see him fight his biggest fights. I sat stunned after Ali-Frazier I when he was knocked down in the 15th and final round, cried when he knocked out Foreman and knew I had witnessed history when Frazier failed to answer the bell in the 15th round in Manila. I saw his arrogance, his brutality, his grit and his compassion. Just watch the post fight interview on YouTube after beating Oscar Bonavena.

     Just consider Ali-Frazier III. It's 120 degrees in the ring. Ali is 33 years old. Frazier is 26. By today's standards that's ancient. The fighters hate each other. Ali has been calling Frazier a Gorilla for months. "It will be a Killa and a Thrilla and a Chilla when I get The Gorilla in Manila." He vowed to bring a zookeeper to the ring to take care of Joe after he knocked him out. "Joe Frazier's so ugly, they ought to donate his face to the World Wildlife Fund!" You get the picture. At center ring Ali screamed "You're going down, Joe!" Joe smiled and simply said, "We'll see."

     The first four rounds were blazingly fast. Both fighters were trying to kill each other. A historical view will show Ali threw five times more punches in those first four rounds than any of his other fights. Joe matched him blow for blow. Late in the 5th Frazier lands a right that Ali says is the hardest punch he ever took. He survived the round but in the 6th the Frazier barrage continued and Ali, arm-weary, began to rope-a-dope. Dundee was furious. Frazier was more accurate than Foreman and Dundee screamed at Ali to get off the blankety-blank ropes.   At the beginning of the 7th round, Ali whispered to Frazier, "Joe, they told me you was all washed up." Frazier shot back, "They told you wrong, pretty boy." Ali fought through the 8th, and just before the bell for the 9th a visibly tired Ali  looked at Dundee and said, "Man, this is the closest I've ever been to dying." In this fight Joe Frazier would set an all-time record for body shots landed (100). At an estimated 1,500 lbs. of force per punch, Ali absorbed blows 53 times the force of gravity 100 times. There may not have ever been a greater feat of human will.

     In the other corner, shockingly, things were worse. The swelling in Frazier's face had begun to obstruct his vision. His trainer, Eddie Futch, gave him horrible advice: stand up straighter when approaching Ali to increase his field of vision. Ali took advantage with straight jabs to Frazier's face and by round 12, Smokin' Joe was virtually blind. After round 14 both men were done. Both feared knock out in the 15th. Here is where Ali became legend. He was willing to die for it. Frazier was not. Ali stood before the bell and bounced once or twice. Officially Eddie Futch called it but he saw death on his fighter and threw in the towel. Ali's sting. Another TKO. Ali won that day but neither fighter was ever the same.

     Ali moved like no one before or since. Lightening quick left jab. Impeccable aim. An unorthodox head weave backward that facilitated fatal counter jabs. 6'3" with and 80" reach. A brilliant tactician. A rock. A master manipulator. The best trash talker ever...any sport. A free spirit. An independent thinker. An inspiration to a generation. A boxer. An icon.


Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Rumble, young man, rumble.


It was 50 years ago this month that Muhammad Ali stunned the world by defeating Sonny Liston in the 7th round by TKO to win his first heavyweight championship.


February 25, 1964.


Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

January – Resolute

Like a moth to flame I’m drawn to the notion of resolutions at this time of year.  Yes, I’m disappointed in me too for falling prey to this irresistible urge to make a bunch of promises to myself based on feelings of guilt.  So let’s not do that!  To be resolute means to be “bold and steady, marked by firm determination.”  I like the sound of that better. Don’t you? 

“Guilt is a rope that wears thin,” wrote Ayn Rand and I agree.  It is a completely wasted emotion.  On the other hand, feelings of regret are natural.  I saw a great meme the other day. It showed a photo of a Stars Wars Storm Trooper sitting with his head in his hands. Underneath it said “REGRET – those were the drones you were looking for.”  Apart from being funny, it was true.  The Storm Trooper made a mistake, albeit a costly one, but he can get back up and head back into the fray.

That’s what resolute means to me.  It is the ability to remain steady in the face of adversity.  We all have it or experience it in our lives.  How we react to it determines are worth and character.  Do we give up, become embittered or do we stick to the plan?  Did you hear that Louisville Football re-hired Bobby Petrino?  He made some monumentally bad decisions, yet remained resolute, got back up and kept going.  I don’t like what he did, but I admire his resoluteness.

For my part I want to be resolute in my role as a husband, a father, a son, a friend and a principal.  What can I do to be better at each, celebrating better the highs and either avoiding or minimizing the effect of the lows?  That’s what it means to be steady…not too high and not too low.

The other part of resoluteness is being bold.  This year I want to write a book.  I have started putting down some thoughts but I want to get serious about it.  I have been using an iBook publishing app called Creative Book Builder. The app is great and the book should look really cool when I’m done.  The book is for new principals by a new principal.  It is lessons learned and advice, unbelievable stories from my first year and a chronicle of the transition from classroom teacher to site administrator.  Hopefully putting my goal out there for everyone to see will help me get on it.

What do you want to do?  What are you resolute about?  Hey, don’t set goals…pick one thing you’re passionate about, be bold and set your firm determination to get it done.  Good luck to you with it this year!  Happy New Year!


Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

December - Good Changes

     Not surprisingly students say the funniest things to me from time to time. High on the list was today when a young man walking by me, turned to me and said "Dr. Dale you have the most awesomest life. All you do is walk around all day and smile."  For a brief moment my back stiffened and I loaded up a speech entitled "You Have No Idea What I Do..." Luckily a little voice inside my head said "he's right, you have a pretty awesomest life."

     The Holiday season is a perfect time to find this kind of perspective. If that is the image students have of me then great. It's certainly a better tombstone epitaph. I'd rather my life be summed up as this student suggests rather than "he managed the complexities of secondary school principalship." So I embrace my role.

     Other than walk around and smile what do I do? It's a fair question because in my 4th year I should be doing a little more than that. Fortunately, this has been a transformative year in my personal practice. Over the summer I knew I wanted to make some changes to my approach at being a principal. After some contemplation it came down to love. While I liked my job I could not really say I loved my job. I decided to make some changes. The implementation of the changes has many moving parts but the concept is simple. Solitude.  I made a commitment to avoid being alone. The first thing I noticed about this job is how lonely it is. I accepted it and worked around it but at the end of the day I realized it was at the center of me loving what I do.  Time to change or perish I figured.

     I'm most often alone in my office so in the end the change I made was simple: don't work in my office alone. To reconcile this I committed to be more visible in classrooms. Because I'm half crazy I set a goal to do 3 five minute visits to each classroom every month. If you're keeping track in your head that's 309 visits per month. To put that in perspective, this is my 11th year as an administrator and I have not made that many classroom visits total over that entire time, and here I was aiming to do it each month. Because I'm the other half crazy I announced my goal to the staff when we all came back together in August. Now all eyes are on more hiding.  Good I thought.

     The goal of the visits was to be more visible.  Research in instructional leadership is clear that the visibility of the principal in classrooms directly correlates to school success and morale. I wanted to know more about what was actually happening in classrooms on a daily basis.  I needed to have a clear picture of our instructional strength and student creativity.  I preach excellence all the time but do I really know first hand that the kudos I give are real or wishful?  I wanted to know more.

     At this point it should be explained that in reality there are not 30 days in a month.  Each month has between 15 and 22 days...of school. Subconsciously when I made this goal a month was a month. Technically I suppose I could come in on weekends and sit in empty rooms 5 minutes at a time. I mean, I didn't specify in my goal that students had to be present. I backed off of this though if for no other reason than it would be creepy and The Colonel would probably divorce me. I quickly realized that this was a seriously near impossible commitment I had made and I would have to discipline myself like never before to get it done.

     The first thing I did was set up a googledoc to track the number of visits each month.  I put the teachers in the document and organized it by geographical area, I put three spaces for each month next to every teacher.  When I go into a room I put the date in the box next to the teachers name so I can keep track of who has been seen and how many times.  I also wanted to have a record of feedback so at the end of every visit I email the teacher a note of positive encouragement.  It helps to have a mobile device and wireless campus-wide.  I can track the visits on a googledoc and send the drop in notes right on the spot.  At the end of each month I send an email to staff owning my failures and celebrating my successes.  It is a combination of data and a message of lessons learned.

     The feedback from teachers has been amazing.  Most answer my drop in emails with thanks, an interesting word or two about what I saw or what I missed and some ask questions that I always answer.  I get great feedback from teachers daily about what is happening in their classrooms.  Exchanges that were heretofore forced by circumstance are now organic between educators.  It has created a wonderfully professional exchange.  Im spending way more time talking to teachers about teaching and learning, listening to their successes and struggles. Im better able to offer support they need instead of what I think they want.  I have a better idea of the real story in a classroom instead of the 2nd and 3rd hand reports I often get.  I have been able to offer some words of encouragement and teachers feel more like their principal cares about them. Im finding that teachers, though isolated by classroom walls really welcome the collegiality and interaction.

     The visits I have made, 718 to date, have already shown me what I wanted to know: I am more confident than ever about the high quality of instruction that teachers at Costa offer. They work hard every day.  They love kids and put their hearts and souls into their classrooms.  Students at Costa are talented, creative and smart.  They work really hard and are good kids in class.  It is awesome to see and it has helped me love my job.

     Lastly I hope to model what I want everyone in, around and at Costa to do:  reflect on your own practice and positionality like I did last summer.  What can you do better?  What are you willing to do to get better?  Are you willing to stretch yourself and try something you previously thought impossible?  Are you willing to make the changes in yourself, in your habits and in your practice that are needed in order to do something better and extraordinary?  I am and I hope you are too.


Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

November – Great-fall


We have had a great fall here at Costa.  Our girls cross country team won the Bay League Championship and a CIF championship. Our girls tennis won the Bay League Championship and made the CIF quarter finals.  Our girls golf team won the Bay League Championship and are competing in the State tournament.  Our boys water polo team are the undefeated Bay League Champions and the #1 seed in the CIF tournament.  Our girls volleyball team is making a playoff run and our boys cross country team made the state meet.  Our football team pounded Redondo and open their CIF run this week.  That’s every fall sport accounted for having one success or another…It’s been a great fall for Costa sports. 


Our band is winning sweepstakes awards all over the county…two so far.  They put on a great show and really bring the spirit to our games.  Our drama knocked it out of the park with The Crucible.  Hopefully you saw it.  It was a must-see production.  Our choir is recording for studios and universities.  They have really made a name for themselves in the world of choral music.  Not surprising is that their teacher, Michael Hayden, was named California State Teacher of the Year last month.


We cut the ribbon on a new building for math and science, have celebrated 7 new inductees to our Alumni Hall of Fame and have wonderful teachers implementing new curriculum, strategies and technology all over campus.  The creativity I see in classrooms is breath-taking.


There is so much to be grateful for here at Costa.  Take a moment during this season of Thanksgiving to stop and take stock of this wonderful school and community.


Great job Mustangs!


Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

October - Wow!

          I hope you had an opportunity to make it out to one or more of the Hall of Fame events. It was a great day for the students, staff and community. For me, personally, it was great to see my Costa heroes: Pina Fisher, Gary Hartzell, Bob Brigham, Joan Risse, Elroy Lang, Dick and Diana Jacobson. These great educators have contributed a combined bazillion years to Costa. Seriously, they gave their adult years to this school. That is unbelievably impactful. They were so gracious and complimentary of all of our students staff and community and all the hard work theyre doing.  One of them expressed comfort in knowing that the culture of excellence continues here. It must be a relief to feel that their years of sweat equity were not spent in vain.

          As I walk the campus I see so much great work going on. Students are settling in and getting to work. Their first few weeks were filled with challenges and change. The 9th graders had to adjust to high school life. Seniors look pretty big and hairy to a freshman.  I can tell you our newest Mustangs are hitting their stride. They are realizing their strength as digital learners and are setting the standard for their upper classmates. They are part of our growing technology use culture.

          Our 10th and 11th graders are adjusting to a construction-filled campus. Whereas they are loving the new math/science building, they are also adjusting to moving around the campus construction. By now the flow around campus is established and students are figuring out where to hang out during snack and lunch. School is considerably more rigor for them in these years but they are definitely working hard and being great.

          Seniors are setting the pace on campus. They are working with Naviance and getting into the college application routine. Homecoming is this week so the seniors are showing lots of school spirit. These great veteran students are setting the tone for the underclassmen on how to rise to challenges and show resiliency.

          Also on campus teachers are finding their stride amidst many changes. Nearly everyone right now is facing a move in or a move out. They are quickly becoming proficient with our new student information system, they are seeing more and more technology on campus and in students hands which is influencing all phases of their practice, they are working together to create a 'no walls' common core approach, and all this while continuing to deliver quality instruction day after day.

          Our support staff continues to make each day happen through the same changes and challenges. Our M&O operation is settling in with new spaces to maintain with the constant need for support. With all the teacher moves, our security staff has done a great job adjusting to a new campus footprint and always work to help teachers and students feel safe. Our cafeteria has settled in well with new student patterns for where they want to spend their snack and break time and our office staff and guidance teams have worked tirelessly to master PowerSchool in order for our students to have accurate records and schedules. It is truly a team effort.

          We continue to enjoy the best parent support I have ever seen. PTSA, School Site Council, MB/X and MBEF dedicated countless hours and dollars to support our student-centered effort. They share in our vision for excellence and providing the best possible education for our current Mustangs. Bottom line: we can't do what we do without you.

          What a fun year. It is a year so far of challenges and transitions but all of us working together to find and implement solutions is paying off big dividends. Thank you.




Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

September - Down to Business

Registration - all five days ran very smoothly due to the wonderful work of our entire front office staff and the countless volunteer hours by the PTSA coordinated daily by their president Tami Brothers and co-chairs Ellen Chao and Robyn St. Germain.   Gone are the long lines of years past.  Students all arrived at the beginning of the appointed time and were efficiently ushered through the registration process. It was truly a team effort from all these great people.


Schedule changes - senior schedule change day had some challenges. The line was long and chaotic and the seniors waited hours to be seen. We met afterward and the team came up with good ideas for the following day. The next three days were much smoother. Line numbers controlled the students outside and allowed students to come and go for their appointments and not wait on-site the entire time. Also, everyone on staff was much more proficient with PowerSchool as the days progressed. Our wonderful counselors worked hard every day on behalf of students, making the necessary adjustments to students’ schedules to meet their academic needs. By the 2nd day of school the master schedule was nearly locked in.  Every student had a full schedule.


Class balancing – this part of the master scheduling process brings the most stress and challenges to students.  Due to the complexities of master scheduling (nearly 18,000 scheduling entries) we had to make the usual additional schedule changes.  When you consider the big picture - the number of changes against the total number of scheduling entries - it seems that only a very small fraction of adjustments needed to be made.  On the other hand, if you or your student’s schedule is changed in a way you feel negatively impacts your day, the big picture is no consolation.  No one at Costa likes class balancing and making these changes is the worst part of the start of school process every year.  Nonetheless, our counselors are amazing at making sure every student gets the classes they need.


PowerSchool migration - the move to PowerSchool has added to the challenge of starting school. When fully implemented it will be a powerful communication tool of student achievement. The system will take the place of Aeries, Gradebook Wizard, Intouch and Illuminate, thus fulfilling our goal of going to one system district wide that meets all of our student information system needs.  Whereas the migration to the new system has created some anxiety, teachers and staff have quickly learned how to use it. Opening the parent and student portals is the next step which we expect to take place before the end of the 1st quarter.  When that occurs we will send out a mass communication on how to login to the system.  Stay tuned.


Safety and security - lately there has been concern about the West Hall. Students going in and out are blocked by students accessing their lockers. The Fire Marshall’s department came over and expressed no concerns.  To address the congestion during passing periods we have been working with student leaders from ASB considering solutions that will soon be implemented. For example, the north door will become an exit only for regular traffic and all students coming from PE and the portables will be routed to the entrance by the weightroom/105.  We will continue to monitor and consult on the situation, which will all be alleviated in January when the center of campus reopens.


Construction - the math/science building is open for teachers and students on time. It is an amazing instructional space!  Thank you so much for your community support through Measure BB and creating a wonderful learning environment for our students.  We are currently in phase II which is the renovation of the classrooms in the center of the campus.  This phase will be completed in December. Students will move into those rooms from the portables and other temporary rooms after the winter break. The spring 2014 will begin the demolition needed for phase III which will be completed by the fall of 2015. This will include the new multipurpose rooms for performing arts as well as the new quad.


Technology - more and more technology can be seen in classes every day. Students are allowed to bring the devices and use them in class. New interactive whiteboards and teacher MacBooks are in every room in the math/science building. Every teacher has an iPad who wants one. Plans are being made for a broader MacBook Pro roll out by the end of this semester. We now have two iMac labs with 40 computers each with a third one being planned for the north side of campus. The wireless on campus is robust supporting heavy and consistent use.  Teachers are excited about the potential of these powerful tools.


Class sizes

The average class size (mean) is 27.3.

The median class size is 29.

The mode class size 31.

I want to pass along my thanks to MBEF for their support with the additional staffing to make our class sizes low, especially in the 27 sections of English 9 where the class size average is 22:1.


Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

August - Welcome!

Hopefully your summer has been safe and fun.  Mine has been relaxing or as my kids say “chillaxing.”  Mr. Mancilla ran summer school this year, Mr. Drummond has been transitioning from 21st century teaching and learning to working the master schedule and Ms. Hofreiter has been wrapping up her 2nd Master’s degree and setting up shop for some new Special Education personnel.  As usual I’m off and running with our new staff members.  Once again we have hired the best of the best from southern California to be a part of our rock star team.  It is my honor to introduce them here to you:


Megen Anspach – Counseling

Megen was born and raised in Hawaii, met her husband here in Cali during college and they now live local with their 2 year-old son.  She has a B.A. in Liberal Studies & Psychology and a M.A. & P.P.S. from Loyola Marymount University. Megen has been a Counselor for 7 years and most recently worked for the Los Angeles County Office of Education as the Regional Occupational Counselor at Beverly Hills High School, specializing in Career Development and College Matriculation.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  “I have always known I wanted to work in education and originally thought I would be a classroom teacher. While working toward that goal I discovered my true passion was in fact outside of the classroom, in a support role. I love helping students, parents, and other teachers connect with the support services they need to deal with the issues they are faced with. I learned that by helping to remove learning barriers I could support student achievement as a School Counselor. It is my personal mission through counseling to help students optimize their success by harnessing and utilizing their unique talents, strengths, and abilities as well as the resources available. I believe that all students can learn and must be expected to achieve. I believe in the development of the whole student as well as the importance of setting high expectations. My counseling philosophy is all about finding the “right fit”. I believe in the importance of finding the “right fit” in all aspects of life. Whether it is choosing a career, a college, or a relationship it is important to be informed and selective when making that decision. I strive to open doors for students by providing access to the information needed to make those decisions, for themselves. I am really passionate about helping prepare students for the transitional phases of life whether that transition is from middle school to high school or high school to college/career and beyond. “



Kristi Branim – Counseling

            Kristi recently moved to California. She was born in Tennessee and lived there through college. After college, she started her career as a clothing buyer and moved to St. Petersburg, FL. where she eventually transitioned to a career in education . Krisit has a BS in Merchandising and Design and a Masters in Counseling. She taught middle school Family and Consumer Science and Exceptional Student Education before serving as a Guidance Counselor at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Most recently, she was the Director of Guidance at a high school in Florida.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  I became an educator because I love helping and being involved with young people. Throughout my career as a merchandise/designer, I felt that something was missing. I loved my work, but I knew I wanted to do something that had a greater connection to people. I have always loved children and worked with them as a babysitter and summer counselor, so, I got my teaching certification, went into the classroom and never looked back. I still dabble in design as a hobby in my "free" time. While teaching, I made strong connections with my students, and realized that I wanted to be a counselor. Counseling has been by far the most rewarding job I have ever had. I strive to be an encouragement to students and am always looking for new ways to be a better counselor. I constantly learn new things from my students and believe that having an open mind is extremely important- You can't reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday's junk.

Pauline Chang – Mandarin

Pauline graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a BA in Child Development and went back to Taiwan to teach immersion English Kindergarten classes. After six years of teaching Kindergarten in Taiwan, she felt the urge to learn more about education so he returned to the States to pursue a Masters in Bilingual and Multicultural Education. At the same time she obtained a multiple subject and single subject credential in Mandarin.  She has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels most recently for 3 ½ years as the Mandarin teacher at Santa Monica High School.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  Well, my reason might be a little different than most of the educators. I was bullied in my kindergarten year and didn’t really enjoy school until my college years. I was a very quiet child that teachers did not even notice if I disappeared. I always feel that only if some teachers paid a little attention to me, I would really have enjoyed school and learn much more in my earlier life. That inspired me to become an educator to make differences in other people’s life. I understand the power of little kindness such as a smile, a listening ear and a helping hand etc. I intend to offer these little kindnesses to all the students and everyone in Mira Costa. The best reward of being an educator is when I see students make difference in their own life by gaining a little bit confidence, adding a little more knowledge, knowing they are valuable etc. This is the reason that motivated me to be an educator. What I hope for the students is be able to make differences in their own life as well as others.”



Lisa Cook – English

            Lisa Cook is currently living in Long Beach with her husband who currently serves in the Navy. She received her BA in English from UC Riverside and completed graduate work for her masters and credential at Claremont Graduate University. This is her fifth year teaching all levels of English.  Most recently she taught AP English at her alma mater Artesia High School where she also coached volleyball.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  “I became an educator because I love English and I love helping people - being an English teacher is the perfect marriage of the two. I've always loved reading, and I've always loved writing, and I have a passion for my subject matter that I want to share with anyone who will listen. I was lucky enough to have some fantastic teachers growing up who showed me the value of learning and gave me the power to express myself in ways I'd never thought possible. I want to be able to do that for my students. There is nothing better than that light bulb moment where you can see you've made a difference. I want my students to genuinely know how much I care about them and their education. More personally, my mother is a teacher, and having her around after school and during summers was the best thing in the world while I was growing up.”



Laura Dahms – English

            Laura grew up in Long Beach, has a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara and a Masters in Teaching/Teaching Credential from UC Irvine. She has a specialization in Victorian and Romantic Literature, which means she loves the monster books: Dracula, “Jekyll and Hyde,” Frankenstein etc. She comes to us from teaching 9th and 11th grade CP English at Huntington Beach High School.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  I wanted to become an educator for one reason. Her name is Ms. Jain. She was my 11th grade English teacher. She challenged me individually to think outside the box. She made reading and writing almost like breathing. I always came to her class wanting more and more and not knowing what she had up her sleeve. She let me write my own essay prompts when I wanted to go deeper, she let me share the books I read in my spare time with her, and she cared about me. She even let me teach a class where I used an episode of "The Simpsons" to demonstrate all the different types of irony. She showed me that literature connects to everything in my world: this blew my mind. I want to make the same impact as she did. I want to challenge my students and break the mold that "learning is something that only happens inside a classroom." The truth is learning is all connected and it's all around us. I also want my students to feel cared for and encouraged. I'm their biggest cheerleader! I love reading, writing, and discussing literature. Now, I get to share it with others...what a dream job!



Keshia Fields – Counseling

            Keshia grew up and still lives in the Southbay with her dog Snoopy.  She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Psychology.  She also holds a PPS Credential and MA in Education with an emphasis in school counseling from Cal State Dominguez Hills.  Most recently she served as a school counselor in Redondo Beach.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  Outside of school counseling I have been a dance instructor for the past 12 years, and this is where I really found my passion for working with kids. In dance, similar to counseling, every student comes in with their own unique circumstances, and as their dance teacher it was my job to teach them new skills as well as coach them through any challenges they may have come across. Working with kids has been so rewarding that through my undergraduate and graduate education, I chose to pursue a career in school counseling. I love that I am in a career that is more than just a job. As a school counselor I have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of students. I realize that I am not just the person that sets a student’s school schedule; I strive to be a resource, a motivator, a college search engine, a listening ear, a team player, and a support system.”

Eliza Hynes - Counseling

Eliza grew up and attended school in Palos Verdes before going to Boston College where she received a B.A. in Human Development. She then returned to California and was the Varsity Girls Water Polo coach at Redondo and a substitute teacher, while going to school for an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy with a School Counseling credential at USC. She successfully completed her internship at Peninsula HS before serving for one year as a counselor at Palos Verdes HS.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t dreaming of becoming an educator. I always looked up to my teachers, coaches, and mentors, and I always wanted to be a leader for young people. I can’t think of one specific reason I became an educator; there just wasn’t anything else I ever wanted. It’s innate. My friends are all getting settled into their careers now, and most of them hate something about it -- if not all of it. There has never been a day in my career that I hated it (knock on wood...). I find so much joy in working with teenagers. They are full of excitement and passion, and they are completely stoked on the future. My job is to be a part of their journey and help them achieve their dreams. What’s not to love about that?! They inspire me to be more creative and innovative, while I can help them become more motivated and focused. Counseling can be deep or light-hearted, individual or group, quick or over time. The vast differences in approaches make each day a new experience in which I can grow and help others grow also.”


Jennifer Mireles – Art

            Jennifer was born and raised in the Long Beach/Seal Beach area. She earned her BA in Fine Arts from Humboldt State University and a single subject teaching credential in Fine Art from Cal State Long Beach. Jennifer comes to us with 4 years of experience at the only art teacher on campus at Palos Verdes Intermediate School.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  I have always loved learning and sharing my knowledge with others. The moment when I see the light bulb switch on in my students eyes is the best. I love that. Being around young people and sharing my passion for the Fine Arts is a dream job for me. I am constantly learning from my students. Watching their love for art grow fuels my passion for teaching and the fine arts.”

Eryn Schnel – Special Education

            Eryn grew up in the South Bay (Palos Verdes) and currently resides in Redondo.  She has a BA in Photography from Brooks Institute of Photography, and a BA in Liberal Studies from Antioch, Los Angeles. She earned a Special Education teaching credential and has completed half her master’s degree at Antioch as well. Most recently she taught in a special education classroom in the Pasadena Unified School District.

When asked why she became an educator she said:  I have a passion to help the children who are a bit, or a lot bit, "different" from the typical child. I am dyslexic. I always felt different from my peers because reading was sooooooo hard for me, and when I had a teacher that truly understood the way I learned best- my life changed. I am so grateful to work with children with disabilities, as they teach me many lessons. Just to name a few... 1.Slow down and enjoy the process 2.Look at what you DO HAVE, and not what you don't have. 3. Comparing your self to others is a waste of time."

Jessica Wiseman – English

Jessica Wiseman Beltran is COSTA grad who just finished her M.A. in the Teaching of English at Teachers College, Columbia University. She student taught 10th and 12th grade at The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem and 8th grade at the Salk School of Science in the Lower East Side. She graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature with a concentration in Jewish Studies.

When asked why she became an educator she said: “I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was in Elementary School. It sounds corny but it is true! I love that teaching is active and challenging. I love helping to bring out creativity in my students. I find writing to be such a powerful form of self-discovery, expression, and exploration of identity. As a writer, I find it to be the thing that saves me and makes me more self-aware and reflective. I have a real soft spot for short stories and poetry. I love being able to bring unusual texts to students and have them negotiate what is difficult or challenging. (for example- Word Salad poems- my students said to me, "These aren't poetry. They aren't even art!" but took a second look and had to rethink their whole assumption about the limits of art/literature.) I see immense value in confronting texts that validate and challenge our own beliefs and identities. I'm a huge fan of conceptual planning and I really enjoy the challenge of bringing multiple texts together and posing difficult questions to students. I see the English classroom as a place for debate and creativity. As a literature major, I can't help but love it! I’m ready to work hard and be inspired and challenged by my students.”


Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School

Fall 2013 - 

Mobile Device Initiative

 In an effort to bring more technology tools into our classrooms and to leverage student-owned technology, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District Mobile Device Initiative (formerly known as BYOD) will allow personal technological devices to be brought onto the Mira Costa High School campus and onto the MBUSD network.  Students bringing such personal devices to school must follow all State and Federal laws, the Acceptable Use Policy and the guidelines set forth in MBUSD Board Policy 6163.4.  In addition to the rules outlined in these guidelines, students will be expected to comply with all class and school policies and procedures as directed by their teachers while using personal devices.    Authorized student use includes educational purposes such as note-taking, file storage, content research and production.   Furthermore, teachers and students are encouraged to use electronic and mobile devices for sharing, access, communication and collaboration.

The mobile device initiative is the first attempt by Mira Costa to allow personally owned devices the ability to access our network and be used to facilitate the teacher-student exchange in class.  A personal technology device is any privately-owned technology that includes, but is not limited to: laptops, iPads, smart phones, iPod Touches, tablet devices,  or other current or emerging devices that can be used for word processing, wireless Internet access, recording of images/sound, email, and more. Essentially any mobile device that has access to the District’s wireless network is considered a personal technology device.  Whereas most if not all of the MBMS students will be coming to school with iPads, many other devices will serve the purpose.  Teachers are encouraged to use web-based applications when at all possible so as not to limit a students’ use due to the type of device they are using.  Here are a couple of good websites if you want a list of possible mobile devices:


The Mira Costa wireless Internet system is installed and ready for use.  Any student who has signed the appropriate use policy has access to our Internet, subject to Board Policy 6163.4.  The password to the student server on campus is MB!stu44.  We currently have a 1-gig bandwidth and can easily handle all of the wireless traffic.


Students can now use personal technology as a powerful learning and organizational device.  Some of the key ways it can be used by students include:


·       PRODUCTION:    Students can use personal technology for note-taking, writing, problem-solving, projects and portfolios.

·       STORAGE:  Students can use personal technology to store notes, documents, photos, screenshots and other essential information on their device, or better yet, in the cloud.

·       SHARING:  Students can use personal technology for collaboration and communication inside the classroom and beyond.

·       RESEARCH:  Students can discover answers or access information, real-time, in-class or at home.  This mirrors how the world operates in the 21st century.

·       ACCESS:  Students can access all information anytime and anywhere.  The backpack, textbooks and the locker will decline in importance, as all documents, data and information become accessible via personal technology.

·       FLEXIBILITY:  Students now have many new means of learning.  The learning environment is expanded and altered.  Students have more forums through which to communicate, with peers and their teachers, inside and outside of school.


So how can technology be used to engage students, enhance learning, meet the objectives of the Common Core and develop 21st century skills?  The strategies below are all excellent teaching and learning strategies that can be employed without the use of technology; however, if a teacher utilizes technology effectively with these strategies, the impact can be spectacular.


1.     Formative assessment.  There are a multitude of programs and apps which allow teachers to know, quickly and efficiently, whether students are learning the information.  Teachers can utilize that data to adjust their teaching to better meet the needs of all learners.  Teachers can give quick tests of student comprehension before, during or at the end of the lesson, and adjust their teaching based on how students learn.  As we all know, just because it has been taught does not mean that it has been learned.  We believe that formative assessment is one of the most essential elements of effective instruction.


2.     Online discussions.  There are classroom discussions that are highly effective, such as effectively taught Socratic Seminars.  But in other discussions, a few students, usually the ones, who raise their hands, dominate the discussion, while others can be all but invisible.  In an online discussion, all students are expected to participate.  Not only do students respond to teacher questions, but they also respond to others’ comments and questions.  And the teacher can see the understanding level from each student.  There are safe, secure online forums, such as Edmodo, where teachers can manage a page for only their students to access.


3.     Personalizing student learning.  With on demand assessment and instructional resources like Khan Academy and IXL Math, students can explore online programs tailored to enhance their strengths and/or address their weaknesses.  Students can receive immediate and individualized feedback.  A personalized learning environment allows students to work at their own level and pace and allows time for creativity.  Programs like Symbaloo allow teachers to organize teaching resources for their students for easy access and empower students to customize their own learning. 


4.     Creative demonstrations of learning.  Students now have a multitude of ways to demonstrate mastery of key concepts and skills.  One of our students created a California Mission using the popular video game, Minecraft!  Students can develop Keynote or PowerPoint presentations.  Students can create movies and create electronic books.  All of these examples have been accomplished already by students in our district.


5.     Exposing students to a wide variety of learning resources.  Technology can allow students to go beyond the textbook.  Teachers can develop sources using National Archives, paintings, primary sources, videos, Discovery Education, virtual science lab experiments, music, and more, and have those resources at students’ fingertips. 


6.     Using video for learning. Now students can have access to video explanations of critical topics.   Students can repeatedly watch a video explanation until they understand the concept.  Some teachers “Flip the Classroom” and/or provide access to their presentations so students preview material before the lesson or can learn on their own time.


7.     Students produce work designed for authentic audiences.  When student work is presented to someone beyond the teacher, students know their work actually matters.  Student work can be presented to peers in the class, peers across the school, peers around the nation, parents, other teachers, or even to citizens around the globe.  Students can be connected to content experts who can review their projects and provide authentic feedback.  


8.     Students deserve to leave a legacy.  This is one of the main points of technology guru Alan November.  Students can produce their own textbook.  Students can write a book containing their best work.  A class can create their own textbook or journal of learning and each student can be part of that legacy.  Again, these are all means of making student work matter more.


9.     Extending learning beyond the classroom walls.  When our students connect to the outside world beyond the walls of the classroom, they become global citizens in search of learning.  Student learning should not be limited to one textbook, one teacher, and one classroom.  There is a whole world of students, teachers, experts, leaders and people in our county, our nation and our globe from whom our students can learn.


10.  Everyday Tools.  Devices now have the capability of transforming into everyday tools that students use in the classroom.  A graphing calculator, compass, timer, camera, video recorder, binders, notebooks, and many other items can be replaced by one single electronic device.  




1.     What if my child’s device is lost, stolen or damaged?

a.     Just like all personal items, students bring electronic devices to school at their own risk.  Mira Costa High School and MBUSD will not be responsible if an electronic device is lost, stolen or misplaced.  Purchasing insurance for the device is recommended.


2.     Are there filters on the wireless system at Mira Costa High School?

a.     Yes. If you are connected to the MBUSD wireless network, or use any MBUSD device, any Internet activity is filtered. 


3.     How will I get Internet access to my device?

a.     In order to access the wireless network, students would join the MBUSD Student network and obtain the password in the Mira Costa library. 


4.     What if my child does not bring a device to school?  Is it required?

a.     It is not mandatory for students to bring a device to school.  When electronic devices are used to enhance learning in the classroom, students who do not have one will have full access to the curriculum via other means.   The District is also considering making available for checkout personal electronic devices that access the Internet.


5.     If a student needs help with a device, is there anyone at school who can provide that assistance?

a.     The library has a student-led “geek squad” that keeps weekly office hours for desk help.


6.     How can I save my work?

a.     Students can save their work on their device, or on the cloud through services such as:

i.      Email

ii.     Dropbox

iii.   Evernote

iv.    Edmodo

v.     Google Drive


7.     What about printing?  How can I print my work?

a.     While it is the hope of the District to move to more paperless sharing of assignments, teachers may require assignments to be printed.  Students are expected to print their assignments at home. In the few instances where students do not have access to a printer at home, they may email their print job to our copy room by using the address  The turn around time is the next day.


8.     What about academic honesty and classroom discipline issues?  How will teachers monitor what students are doing?

a.     Teachers will implement the same protocols they are now.  It will mean monitoring by walking around, but many teachers have already begun to adapt to the use of electronic devices.  Teachers also are sharing best practices on how to control/monitor when and where students go on their devices.  Students that use their electronic devices to break any of the rules at Mira Costa will be disciplined in accordance with our established guidelines for student discipline.



Ben Dale, Ed.D. 
Mira Costa High School



Summer 2013 - Fond Farewells and Warm Welcomes

I hope you are enjoying the summer relaxing with your kids and taking some time to get away.  We at Costa are all taking time as well when we can but there is a lot going on to get ready for your student’s return next year.

I am sure many of you have heard around town that our College and Career Center (CCC) counselors Gail Currey and Katherine Folkman have both left Costa to start separate private counseling practices focused on guiding college-bound students.  Together Gail and Katherine turned around the CCC program to make it what it is today: an amazing resource for our students resulting in admissions across the country and around the world.  We all owe them an un-payable debt of gratitude and thanks for all they have done for Costa over the last five years.

Thanks to the on-going support of MBUSD and MBEF our overall guidance/student academic support/college and career counseling program continues to grow and thrive.  MBEF places a strong emphasis on supporting students with both pupil services and college/career direction.  Please join me in welcoming our new CCC counselors – Kristi Branim and Megan Anspach.  Kristi Branim has successfully served as a guidance counselor, CCC counselor, Student Academic Support (SAS) counselor and a guidance department chair in Florida before recently moving with her family to Southern California and Megan Anspach comes to us as a successful and experienced college/career counselor from Beverly Hills H.S.  They will continue the great record that has been established in the CCC.

We also have two new student academic support (SAS) counselors: Keisha Fields and Eliza Hynes.  Both are relatively new to counseling with Keisha Fields coming from an internship in Redondo Beach and Eliza Hynes coming from her internship in Palos Verdes.  They will be focusing on students who need a little more attention to ensure their academic and social-emotional success, thus assisting and alleviating the case-load of our five returning guidance counselors – Sue Bertran, Corrine Lee-Iwai, David Beck, Jennifer Woodie, and Brittney Olson.  If you are keeping score at home this is now a department boasting NINE counselors…Thank you MBEF and MBUSD! Both groups truly support the needs of your students by providing the best and most resources possible.

We also have some welcome additions to our classroom teaching staff.  Pauline Chang comes to us from Santa Monica H.S. and will serve as our new Mandarin teacher in our new Mandarin classes.  Lisa Cook and Laura Dahms will both be teaching English coming to us from Artesia H.S. and Long Beach respectively.  Originally we were only hiring one position but again MBEF offered to fund an additional English teacher in order to keep the class sizes under 23:1 in 9th grade English and 30:1 in all English classes 10-12.  I know it’s redundant but thank you again!  Jennifer Mireles comes to us as an experienced art teacher from Palos Verdes.  She will be replacing retired long-time art teacher Peggy Zask.  And just yesterday we hired Eryn Schnel from a high school in Pasadena to replace retired teacher Barry Smith in a mild-moderate special needs classroom.

We have also hired some new coaches.  John Lapham is our new varsity girls basketball coach.  He served successfully last year as the JV coach in the same program.  Our swim program will now be headed by returning coaches Jon Reichardt and Heidi Nelson assisted by math teacher and Costa swim grad Courtney Bannerman and new counselor and PV aquatics alum Eliza Hynes.  We are still accepting applicants for varsity boys volleyball and varsity boys golf and expect to have the new coaches in place next week.

Although we miss those that leave us we are pleased to see that each opening produces deep applicant pools and competitive candidate panels.  The counseling positions alone resulted in over 400 applicants.  Thanks to the wonderful reputation of the school resulting from your support, the support of MBEF, our wonderfully prepared and hard-working students, the world-class teaching staff as well as the support of the Board, the District, MBEF, PTSA, MBx and all of our civic and community partners Mira Costa is the dream job for educators everywhere.


Go Mustangs!


Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Mira Costa High School


May - Thank you

As we near the end of the year I want to take this moment to thank our wonderful seniors, the class of 2013.  They are truly amazing.  During their time here Mira Costa has been represented with continuous success in the classroom, on the field, court, mat, sand, water, break and on the stage.  The pride they demonstrate through their performance will never be forgotten.


I also want to thank our teachers.  They are true professionals.  This is demonstrated in that though they have had a tough year as employees they continue to perform at a world-class level in the classroom.  What they do on behalf of students is truly remarkable.  I am honored to serve alongside them all everyday.


This year we inducted the inaugural class of the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. I want to thank the countless students, staff and parents that worked on this project all under the watchful leadership of Denise Anderson.  It was a great event and hopefully our students will remember hearing the inductees speak at the assembly and in classes.


There has been great progress made on the new building this year.  By August Math and Science will be moving and work will begin on Phase II.  Next year will be more difficult in that work will be going on in the interior of the campus but we will get through it together.  We are working toward a campus that is pristine and park-like – an environment we can all be proud of.


Teachers all over the campus are incorporating more technology into the teaching and learning process.  It is exciting to see what these talented educators can do.  Students are now bringing their own devices and logging on to a robust wireless network.  We have much work to do here but we will do it together.  We will continue to work as educators to bring more rigor and relevance to the teaching and learning environment.


This year has seen an abundance of success and struggles.  I take full responsibilities for the struggles with a resolve and promise to always strive to be better.  The successes, on the other hand, are through the hard work of many others.  It takes a team to make Costa the championship environment that it is.  This year we have a 913 API, a 99% CAHSEE pass rate, a 75% four and five rate on AP exams, and a 95% college admissions rate. Our students are national champions in Model United Nations, and national award winners in broadcast journalism, student newspaper, orchestra and choir. Our drama students were nominated in 19 categories for the JRAY awards and won 5 awards. Our band won sweepstakes.  Our Science Olympiad team placed higher in state than all other South Bay schools.  We won Bay league in 11 of 26 sports as well as girls beach volleyball and surf. We have recently hired 16 new teachers, 2 new VPs, 3 new head coaches, and 6 classified employees who are all rock stars.  We have many successful clubs and programs such as Junior National Honor Society and Poetry Out Loud.  PACE continues to serve the needs of our students who struggle with and to avoid addictions.  Our students donate thousands of hours giving back to their community through service and charitable organizations.  Our seniors are being accepted (95%) to college and universities across the country. 


In the end that is ultimately why we are here.  With everything that goes on, good and bad, at this time every year we send another class of students off to college.  Godspeed I say and we are so proud of you Class of 2013.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

April - Endowment

The MBEF Endowment Fund is very proud to have created a special fund for the Class of 2013. This is a fund that parents, students, teachers, friends and family can contribute to in honor of the Class of 2013. Donations will be invested alongside the nearly $9.7 million in the MBEF Endowment Fund, and when this fund reaches $10 million (which it will very soon) the return on investment will go to MBEF grants to the schools, including grants to Mira Costa. At first the amount will be small, but through the years, the entire fund will grow until it becomes a reliable, stable source of additional funds for our schools. At $15 million, the fund could throw off $750,000 --about the size of a Wine Auction only much less work (less fun, too, so we'll still have a Wine Auction).  
MBEF are soliciting gifts of $20.13 (get it?) through a donation page <>  on the MBEF website. Tomorrow we will have a post in your newsletter, an email to senior parents, and we have created a facebook page <>  which you can "like" and "share".   
The Class of 2013 Fund is something our kids can contribute to in the future as well, like in a Reunion year for example. MBEF will create similar funds for future classes. Each of these  funds will be a legacy to the stellar young men and women whose character and dreams took root here in our Manhattan Beach schools.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

March – The Ghost of Carl Fisher

As a student of the history of Mira Costa I am constantly reminded of the long shadow I work in cast by former principal Carl Fisher.  He did every job here at Costa for 15 years before serving as principal for 18 years.  To give some perspective, this is my 17th year in education and my fourth school.  Carl worked at Costa nearly that same amount of time twice…once as a teacher, coach, advisor, and counselor THEN again as principal.  That level of service and dedication is staggering.  I feel a deep sense of responsibility to him, Lloyd Waller, William Wilcox and Gary Hartzell who combined for 85 years of teaching, coaching, advising, counseling, and administrative service at Mira Costa. 

The single most amazing moment for me in this journey occurred at a boys volleyball banquet at the end of a conversation with Pina Fisher, Carl’s wife, who still lives in Hermosa.  She patted my hand and said, “Carl would have really liked you.”  Wow.  That is all the validation I would ever need.

To honor his history and memory, along with all of the other great teachers and students who have passed through Mira Costa, I have started to work on a school history.  It is far from complete but you can follow it at   on our website.  If the link does not get you there, go to About Us, then School Profile and Traditions then History on the right side of the page.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

February – If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling


It is amazing how words resonate differently at different times in your life.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

January – Happy New Year!

Well, I’m glad the Mayans were wrong.  Curiosity getting the better of me, I started checking iCal but stopped around 2360, so either Steve Jobs is wrong or we have another couple hundred years or so.  It was a long plane flight.

            To start the year I would like to review some characteristics that I feel define Mira Costa students.  There are many from which to choose, but my experience tells me that where these are found in our students they will demonstrate the most success.


Toughness – this is not an easy school.  Students, athletes, and artists are expected to perform at a high level. Mediocrity is tolerated but not accepted.  Moreover, successful Mustangs are often those that respond/react the best to criticism.  For some students the high school is the first time they have been told they cannot do something.  That’s a difficult life lesson.  How well a student responds to criticism is largely based on toughness.  When called out by a teacher or a coach listen, regroup, and come redouble your effort.


Dependability – trust and knowing that a task will be carried out without supervision is perhaps the most marketable skill in the workplace.  If you are dependable, others will want you in their organization.  The trust required in relationships cannot be overemphasized.  Students at Costa who are dependable never need to be questioned if they can balance and manage everything on their plate.  It is simply never part of the conversation.  There are no excuses in these students, just completed tasks.


Courageous – in my mind, students who are the most courageous are those that go against the crowd.  They do not succumb to “well, everyone is doing it.”  These are the students who are active in Friendship Circle, or those that stay away from the weekend parties, or those who show their school spirit by wearing green on Friday.  These students do not think twice about being respectful and polite to me or any other teacher/staff member.  They are not afraid to be good.


Excellence – we have a very good school for many reasons.  One of which is that our students understand the importance of performing at a high level.  The pride they have for our school in that way is remarkable.  Although I’m wont to give them, our students do not respond or require pep talks.  They generally bring their “A” game all the time because they are wired that way.  It is both awesome and scary at the same time.  Our teachers and staff carry themselves the same way.  I know our teachers and staff care deeply about this school.  It is evident in the passion they demonstrate on all issues large and small.  I feel this need for excellence as the principal.  I am driven by a desire to never let the team down.


Valor – commonly this term is used to describe people who put their lives at risk to help others.  Valor is defined as the “strength of mind and spirit that enables a person to confront danger or challenges with firmness.”  The enemy of valor is fear.  Fear comes from feelings helpless relative to a need.  A consequence of fear is usually anger, which is also need-based, so the two are related.  A person can feel fear due to helplessness but when the need is not met, and if they add blame, then anger results.  A person who demonstrates personal valor feels none of these feelings.  They have clear attainable goals, work hard to achieve success, and handle failure with resolve and renewed commitment.


Resoluteness – similar in many ways to valor, resoluteness is demonstrated by a firm determination.  Valor is bravery.  Resoluteness is an unwavering will.  It is the ability to stand like a rock against uncertainty.  Students who are resolute are unstoppable forces of nature.  They are driven and focused.  They have figured out their passion and are pursuing it with every ounce of energy they possess.  These are the students that intrigue me the most in that I still have not figured out what I want to do when I grow up.  I am drawn to these students with a spirit of righteous envy.  I want to be like them because I know that they will someday soon change the world.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

End of the Year 2012 - Excellence

First I want to thank everyone who dropped by with cards and gifts.  The generosity you have shown to me and my family is heartfelt.  Some of the gifts were unbelievably generous and I’m a little embarrassed to accept them so I tried to share as much of it as I could.  My wife has taught me to be a good “thank you” card writer but there were so many gifts that came so quickly and I did a poor job making a list.  I hope this can serve as a “thank you” to all of you.

As the year ends there is much good to report. Our students are better prepared than ever and graduate to the best colleges and universities, our teachers received a raise, we have no furlough days or layoffs, the new building is ahead of schedule and under budget, new technology that is mobile and wireless covers the campus, our athletic teams continue to dominate, our performing arts and media arts groups continue to win awards and honors, we continue to hire the best and brightest as new staff, and test scores are up.  Mira Costa continues to be by far the best school in the South Bay and we challenge any public school in the state or nation to provide a better overall educational experience.

Many many many people contribute to the success of our school. The best teachers prepare the best possible learning experiences and teach everyday bell to bell, the VPs, counselors and support staff works tirelessly and thanklessly behind the scenes to make Costa a great place to work and learn, the parent support both at home and at school is without parallel, our community partners care about the success of our school and continue to show their support by providing resources generously, the district office Board, administration and staff provides leadership, vision, guidance, and support unfailingly, and our students continue to perform at the highest level both inside and outside the classroom.  It truly is a culture of champions.

With this team I have all the confidence that 2013 will continue to see Mira Costa on the path of excellence.  Happy New Year!


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

November - Fish


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

OctoberWe are Costa

If you have been reading along for the last two years you know I appreciate a good football metaphor.  This month I hope to take it to a new level.  Though he would not want me to do so, I’m going to tell a story about our athletic director and head football coach Don Morrow.  This past Friday I saw him do something during the game that I have never seen any coach do in any sport, at any level, ever.

At the time we were behind 14 points prior to a dramatic 2nd half comeback.  Peninsula was driving again and the game outcome was still in question.  Our defense jumped off sides on first down making it 1st and 5.  On second down we sacked their quarterback for a huge loss making it around 2nd and 25.  On third down they completed a pass making it 4th and 4.  Now within field goal range but in clear 4 down territory, they were likely going to go for a first down instead of punt or attempt a field goal.  The umpire set the ball but surprisingly the head official signaled, “First down – Mira Costa.”  He gave us the ball! They must have counted the first down penalty as a play!

The Peninsula sideline and stands erupted.  Their head coach walked out onto the field and appealed to the head official.  I was on the sideline and unconsciously began to inch over near our coaches.  After a brief conversation with the Peninsula coach, the head official called over and conferred with all of the other referees on the field.  They talked for what seemed like forever.  During that time Coach Morrow turned to one of the boys keeping stats and asked, “What down do you have?”  The boy responded, “It’s fourth down for them, Coach.”  Don turned and walked part of the way out onto the field and continued to watch the referees conferring.  Finally the lead official stepped away from the rest and signaled – “First down – Mira Costa!”  They still gave us the ball!  The Peninsula coach wheeled and resigned to his sideline.  Anyone who knows sports knows that referees never reverse calls. 

But then Coach Morrow walked out onto the field.  He approached the head official and said something to him, to which the official responded, “Are you sure?”  Coach Morrow nodded and returned to our sideline.  As he did so, the head official reversed the call “fourth down – Peninsula.”  I was amazed…stunned…floored. Normally head coaches in Coach Morrow’s position will turn to his or her assistants, put up their hands and say, “Hey, we caught a break there.”  Not Don.

After the game I broke my personal protocol and decided to speak to the players.  I told them this story and at the end said: “Don’t ever forget what you saw from your coach here tonight.  We need more people like Coach Morrow in sports and in society.  He is a class act and runs a class organization.  That’s why you are who you are.”

The real lesson, and my point in sharing this story, came the next day.  I was talking to defensive coordinator Ray Lee at the homecoming dance, still reliving what occurred.  Coach Lee told me that it did not impact him the same way because after 20 years coaching with Don he had grown used to him doing things like that.  I’m thinking, "What?  This is the norm?" Then it occurred to me: we have great students, athletes, teachers, staff, and parents who do wonderful acts of courage, kindness, and class all of the time.  What Coach Morrow did is not the exception at Costa, it is the norm.  We are Costa.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

September - What's important to me

I feel it is good at the beginning of a new year to reflect on what is important to me as an educator.  The difficulty in such a mental and psychological exercise is the fear of omission.  These are my feelings at the moment, and I reserve the right to add to this list from time to time.  Here then, today, are four things important to me:


Kindness – it feels really great to be nice to people, even in disagreement. For starters I never want it said of me that I was the kind of person who thought nothing of hurting someone’s feelings or trampling them under foot to get my way.  My constant inner battle is waged against a mean streak so I understand fierce competitors.  Thankfully, I think being a father changed me dramatically.  I NEVER want my children to think their father was mean to people.  My only true desire in life is to set a good example of kindness to others.


Gratitude – people constantly express disbelief that anyone would want to do my job.  I always feel awkward in those situations as I search for an explanation as to why I really love what I do.  The key to loving what I do is recognizing what a truly great place Mira Costa is.  We live and work in a great community…quite possibly the greatest in the United States.  Our community and parents are supportive; donating of their time, talent, and hard-earned money to provide us the necessary resources to have a wonderful school.  No one has what we are able to provide here…no one. I am grateful to be a colleague with the best teachers anywhere.  They absolutely know what they are doing in the classroom...true professionals.  I am in awe of the endless hours they spend preparing for class and grading papers.


Striving for excellence – we all live and work in a championship culture.  Our parents and community enjoy endless success, our teachers and coaches accept nothing less than a top rating or ranking in all they do, and our students expect to go on past high school and be at the top of the pyramid in whatever they choose to pursue.  Such a championship mentality fosters a culture of intensity.  I think everyone celebrates the intensity when it is channeled in a positive pursuit and dreads the intensity when it manifests itself negatively.  Unfortunately we cannot have it both ways.  Champions are not passive. We are all passionate and aggressive by nature.  My job as an instructional leader is to help promote the intensity of our championship culture in the pursuit of excellence.  I cannot imagine doing anything else for a career.  I want to be better at it.


A passion for students – we have great kids.  I am truly grateful for the students of Mira Costa.  They are polite, intelligent, funny, talented, and the list goes on and on…  Conversations with them lift my spirits and I have a renewed hope in the next generation.  I am just their principal...I can’t imagine how amazing it is to be their teacher.  As educators I feel we have a moral obligation to do all we can for the good of our students.  Doing harm to students by not living up to our commitment to do everything possible for their success can have ramifications for generations.  I know that at Mira Costa we care about our kids and strive for their success.  This is as important to me as it is every other professional on this campus.  This is what is important to me…


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

August - New Family!

          I thought that after the 10 new teachers last year that this year would yield little or no new staff.  Boy was I wrong!  Many changes occurred over the summer resulting in the addition of  10 more new members to the Mustang Family!  I am therefore proud to introduce:


Courtney Bannerman (Math) – a Costa grad and former member of the Mustang swim and surf teams she will be teaching Algebra and Geometry and serving on the swim team staff.


Aaron Brown (VAPA) –  a new member of the staff after coming in from SCROC and saving the day last year at the semester.  He will be teaching AP Java and the computer sciences.


William Brown (English) – a teacher here for many years before moving to China to teach English.  He has returned to us and will be teaching English 3-4 and English 7-8.


Stacy Cabrera (English) – served as a reader, a daily sub, and a long-term sub here for a number of years before her dedication and persistence paid off in a full-time position this year.  She will be teaching English 5-6 and SAS.


Rob Lattimore (Foreign Language) – an unexpected interview turned into an offer to teach French 1-2, French 5-6, AP French.


Chris Lee (VAPA) – hired on the day before school started from SCROC, Chris will be teaching photography.


Teresa Nielsen (Science) – a veteran from the Fullerton District relocating to the southbay, Teresa will be teaching Biology and Chemistry.


Don Morrow (Athletics) – a winning head coach in football and chemistry teacher for 20 years, Coach will now serve as our new Athletic Director.


Ian Drummond (Administration) – an English teacher at Costa for 10 years before launching his administrative career in Culver City, he has returned to serve as an assistant principal.  His primary responsibility will be 21st century teaching and learning.


Debbie Hofreiter (Administration) – an English teacher at Costa for many years before taking an administrative position in the MBUSD office, she has returned to serve as an assistant principal.  Her primary responsibility will be communication, public relations, and marketing.


This group of new family members is an interesting mixture of first-time teachers and seasoned veterans.  They are already working collaboratively with our cohort of second-year teachers to forge a strong bond that will last into the next decade at MCHS!




Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

July - A New Year

Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year.  I know for many of you seniors and senior parents it is difficult to believe it is time to graduate.  Take the time this year to enjoy every last time you will experience this year.  For example, this is your last principal’s welcome letter!  This year can and will be very rewarding for you if you make sure to be present in the moment every day, appreciating it for what it is: your last year of high school!

We have welcomed some new staff to Mira Costa for this fall.  Ian Drummond, our new vice-principal, comes to us from Culver City where he served as an administrator.  Ian’s primary responsibility will be 21st century teaching and learning.  In the English Department, William Brown is returning to the staff after spending a few years teaching in China.  We look forward to his energy and passion for literature.  Stacy Cabrera will be remaining on staff in English as Zamira Skalkottas has taken a leave of absence to teach in Turkey!  Math and French are also going to each get a new teacher, but as of this date, we are still in the middle of the hiring process.

We are also in the middle of the construction process as well.  If you have driven by the school recently, it is beginning to look like a building…which is good.  The crew has also been working on the center of campus, rerouting plumbing in preparation for phases 2 and 3 next summer.  They also began work on the phase 2 retrofit of the finger building, primarily working on the roofing.  We are proud to report the project is ahead of schedule and under budget.  Thank you for your continued support in the improvement of our facilities.  We look forward to a championship level site to match our championship level students, athletes, teachers, staff, and coaches.

This year we will move forward another step in our commitment to 21st century teaching and learning.  Students and staff are now able to access wireless internet in nearly every classroom area on campus.  We will know more as the year progresses where the weak zones are for reception, and add access points in our next implementation.  I took a walk around campus yesterday with my mobile device, and captured a signal nearly everywhere on campus. 

We are also preparing for the fall of 2013 when our incoming 9th graders will be coming to us with mobile devices that they are now accustomed to using.  We are promoting a student-use model of mobile devices  at the high school through staff and professional development throughout this year.  The student-use model is:

Production – essay  writing, note taking, project developing.
Storage – not only information in the cloud for retrieval at any time, but keeping text screenshots, or class notes in apps like EVERNOTE.
Sharing – students can pass documents and projects back and forth, or work on them simultaneously.  There are also collaborative apps that allow students to brainstorm together on their individual devices.
Research – students can look up information real time during class discussions, or while working on projects alone or with other students.
Access – students  can work on homework or interact with the teacher, or other students, any time.  Teachers can also use the device to check for understanding outside of their instructional minutes by using Edmodo, and save class time doing so.

Flexibility – how students process the material they learn in class.

Many of our teachers have received iPads purchased by the PTSA.  Thank you so much for your continued support of this valuable resource and organization.

While we already miss the graduates of 2012, we are very excited to welcome the incoming class of 2016.  We want them to know they are coming into a culture that expects the very best from them.  They will be the next chapter in a long history of excellence.  We will watch with pride as they grow and progress from being kids fresh out of middle school to successful contributors to society on their way to major universities and colleges all over the country.


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

June - Gifts

What a great year!  I am so proud of the class of 2012 and wish them all the best.  It has been a joy being around this great group of seniors.  They make me smile everyday.  I am constantly reminded after sharing a laugh with one of them that I have the best job in the world.  I will miss this special group of kids.  The class of 2012 gave me two lasting memories:

When I interviewed for principal the superintendent asked me to describe the moment I imagined when I envisioned being the principal of Costa.  This was before he told me I was hired so he was really asking me to share what I was looking forward to the most if I was fortunate enough to be selected.  I thought for a brief moment then described a scenario where I was in the middle of a mob of kids celebrating winning the big game.  “Preferably a CIF championship,” I added at the end.  I sent him this text from Cerritos after our boys crushed Loyola in volleyball:  I just experienced what I had imagined. I can never repay our boys or their coaches for making that happen for me. 

I have three goals that I’m sure I’ll never attain but have them nonetheless.  The first is to hit a ball deep left center in Fenway Park.  I’ll settle for taking batting practice as I’m certain there’s no pro contract coming my way.  The second is to give an impassioned speech about whatever is bugging me at the time from the dais of the United Nations.  The third was to sing on the stage in Carnegie Hall.  Earlier this year I managed to slip in with our choir students when they went over for their sound check the night of their Carnegie Hall performance.  It was my first time in the building and I was looking all over the room slack-jawed.  At the end of the sound check some of the chaperones began taking pictures.  One of the students called out to me and asked me to come up on the stage to be in the photo with them.  I ran up the side and the next thing I know I’m standing on the stage right about the spot where they put the riser for Ringo’s kit in ’64.  When I took my place and they were snapping the photo I pitched my best “la” in the key of G.  I sang it quickly and only loud enough for the boys around me to hear.  They all laughed and gave me high fives, understanding fully what I had just done.  What they did not know is that I had just crossed it off my list of 3 things I’ll never get to do.

So my wish for the class of 2012 is they get back the gift they have given me. I hope they experience whatever they imagine from their next opportunity after graduation and that they can eventually achieve things they never thought possible.


Congratulations to the amazing class of 2012!


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

May - A-may-zing


11.Her smile can be seen from the Space Station.

10. Because of her… senior citizens all over the Southbay are liking you on Facebook.

9. She has an unhealthy obsession with golfer Fred Couples and actor Kevin Cosner.

8. The interactive lessons on her beta connected Commodore 64 are still relevant today.

7. She’s a vampire. Go look at The 1986 Costa yearbook staff page…she hasn’t aged.

6. She is still trying to tickle the Elmo that the PTSA bought for her.

5. Her 50 extra credit dots do not match those of the rest of the department.

4. The Hogwarts School of Wizards is alive and well in room 50.

3. She is the official face of UCLA undergraduate programs, though she never attended there.

2. She is absolutely the nicest person you will ever meet.

1. Her students and colleagues at MCHS love her unconditionally.

Congrats Linda, you're an a-may-zing educator!


Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Mira Costa High School

April - Tech

            My apologies in advance to La Vista that this month’s message has no references to my childhood, football, or my own children.  This month I want to send a quick thought about student technology use on campus.  Hopefully it can serve as a starting point for a framework to understand how students may better be able to use their own mobile devices or laptops on campus.  A student using a mobile device to assist as a learning tool has:

Flexibility – the classroom or the home are only two of many places homework may be done.

Production – essay writing, note taking, project developing.
Storage – not only information in the cloud for retrieval at any time, but keeping text screenshots, or class notes in killer apps like EVERNOTE or penultimate.
Sharing – students can pass documents and projects back and forth, or work on them simultaneously.  There are also collaborative apps that allow students to brainstorm together on their individual devices.
Research – students can look up information real time during class discussions, or while working on projects alone or with other students.
Access – students can work on homework or interact with the teacher, or other students, any time.  Teachers can also use the device to check for understanding outside of their instructional minutes by using Edmodo, and save class time doing so.



Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

March - Joe

Dear Joe,                                                                                                           

When you were one year old, your Mom and I took you to New York City.  I was the principal of Mira Costa High School, and the choir won the opportunity to sing on the stage in Carnegie Hall in a national high school choir performance.  You should know that they were AWESOME.  I fought back the tears as they sang, savored every moment, and did not want it to end.  For the entire five days in The City we took you almost everywhere with us.  You were great to have along, and we had a great time.

On the flight out you slept the first half of the 5 hour trip.  We drugged you with Tylenol and Benedryl, so you were out.  When you woke up half way through the trip, so did everyone else on the plane.  You were not screaming (crying), but you were talkative, and loved that your voice boomed in the cavernous airplane.  By the time the plane landed your Mom and I were sufficiently frazzled.

           Once in New York you were awesome.  You were all smiles and flirted with every pretty girl.  First on your list was the hostess at Angelo’s pizza next to the Ed Sullivan theater.  You also liked to go in and out of the revolving doors at the Park Central Hotel where we stayed.  You would go out, walk up and down 7th Avenue a bit, then walk back in.  It was pretty cold, but you did not seem to mind. 

We took you shopping with us to FAO Swartz, Brooks Brothers, and Uggs.  You took a walk with us through Central Park, ran around on the grass, and played in a playground.  You ate part of my hot dog that I bought from a street vendor, as well as the cheese and crackers from the corner market.  You rode with us on the subway, but not in a taxi.  Your favorite, though, was Times Square.  Your eyes were huge, and you just rode in your stroller and stared at all of the lights.

On Sunday you went with us on a very cold day to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Ground Zero.  We want you to know that Ground Zero has a very solemn meaning to our generation.  It is hard to communicate to your generation what it means to those of us alive when the Twin Towers were knocked down by feckless thugs.  To say the world is better off without those criminals is an understatement.  The Ground Zero memorial and the new World Trade Center are a testament to democracy and freedom.  Mom and I talked about you being 90 years old on the Centennial of 9/11, and envisioned you talking to your great-grandchildren, possibly on the very spot where we stood between the two pools, about being at Ground Zero with your parents just after the 10th anniversary.

My great-great grandfather, John Edward Rogerson, fleeing terrorism, crossed the plains at age 9 with the Martin Handcart Company, sitting occasionally in a wash tub with a piece of flannel around his feet to keep his toes from freezing off.  My great-great grandchildren need to know that your Mom and I stood against terrorism, and hopefully in 90 years the story will be of our victory.

On the way home you fell asleep about an hour into the flight, and slept the rest of the way (thank you Tylenol and Benedryl).  Mom and I passed the time watching your peaceful slumber, and we know, from your brothers and sisters growing up so fast, to enjoy that moment; that it will be one of our great memories of you.

Overall, you were very popular with the choir kids and chaperones, gave lots of smiles and laughs, and made our trip with the amazing Costa choirs that much more joyful.  Thanks for being the good boy that you are.

Love, Mom and Dad


Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

February - Costa Virtues

Protagoras, the Greek Sophist, on being challenged by Socrates asserted that virtue could be taught, and that wise teachers would impart the knowledge on their pupils to make them “return home better than the day they were before.”  Socrates, on the other hand, felt this to be dangerous.  Virtue, he argued, is a single good, and the possessors of it are special.  Virtue, he added, cannot be taught, and anyone professing to do so should not be trusted.  Protagoras felt that virtue had qualities associated with it, like the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth are all parts of the face. He argued that virtue, with its associated qualities could be taught, and that the responsibility of both teacher and student is to seek after, learn, and employ the best qualities and attributes.

It is possible that virtues cannot be taught, but they can definitely be exposed.  One can certainly demonstrate courage, or be found wanting it.  A person can be considered trustworthy or just, the same as another can be careless or dishonest.  I do believe, though, that part of our role as educators is to identify and champion virtuous qualities.  There are many virtuous qualities, and they all have importance.  Protagoras stated that the qualities are all necessary for effective citizenry, though not everyone need possess every quality.  It is the collective possession of virtue that makes us great.

As I read the dialogue, I could not help but ponder: what are the collective qualities that make up Mira Costa virtue?  Research into the idea of virtues yields hundreds of qualities.  After spending time considering each one, here are a few virtuous qualities I hope can be found in all of our students.  Certainly, any student feeling undue stress, or experiencing a crisis at school, can single out one of these qualities and commit to improve.  As educators we are here to teach English, math, science, social science, and the arts. We can, though, model responsibility, accountability, redemption, and other virtuous qualities.  We can in the education process expose these qualities in students through the work we require of them.  The qualities necessary for success as a Mira Costa student are:

Toughness                        Courage                      Excellence                          Valor

Resoluteness                    Vitality                        Honor                                  Devotion

Focus                                Liberality                    Industriousness                   Dependability


Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School



End of the Year 2011 – More than the Hype

I was 10 years old playing quarterback for the Pop Warner Alamogordo Cowboys.  In our second game Coach had called 28 sweep.  Our tailback, clearly the best player on the team, thought he heard 29 sweep.  I took the snap, reverse pivoted to the right, went to pitch, and no one was there.  Charlie had gone left, and there I was with the ball.  Not blessed with great speed, okay I’m super slow, I took off to the left.  Charlie and Mike (the fullback) were both running out there, and they turned to block downfield.  Starting on our own 20 yard-line, I ran 80 yards on a broken play to score a touchdown.  Charlie ran next to me most of the way begging me to give him the ball…I mean there’s only 4 quarters a game, and I was burning most of the 1st quarter on that run.  When I crossed into the end zone, I went nuts in celebration.  Just YouTube “Billy White Shoes Johnson” and you’ll get a flavor of where I went emotionally. 

As I trotted post celebration to the sideline, my Dad and my Coach were standing there.  As I ran by, my Coach grabbed my facemask and taught me the first of two lessons that would stick with me forever as absolutes.  He said, “what the heck happened with that blown call?”  I shrugged my shoulders and at that point my Dad took over with the second lesson by saying, “and when you score, act like you have been there before.  If you celebrate too much you are telling everyone it’s your first time, and you don’t expect to ever be there again.”  It is funny the things that stick with you.

2011 was an amazing year at Mira Costa and in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District.  We became a California Distinguished School, and our API soared to 911.  Forbes Magazine named us the #6 District in the nation for all home values, and #1 in the nation for home values over $800,000.  US News and World Report put Costa in the top 100 nationally for high schools teaching math and science.  The California Business for Education Excellence named Mira Costa High School to its Honor Roll of schools.  Our choirs, orchestra, bands, school newspaper, broadcast journalism, and yearbook all received national awards and honors.  Our Model UN team won a national championship by going undefeated in New York, Chicago, and Berkeley.  We had one of two student delegates from California to the US Senate (Iktae Park) and Girls Nation (Mackenzie Austin).  We had a National Merit Finalist Winner in DJ Stanfill. Guided by our unmatched College and Career Center, 2011 graduates went to universities all over the world, including many Ivy League schools, and all of the service academies.  Costa continued to dominate in athletics, winning multiple league and CIF championships, including our first tennis state champion – Maegan Manasse.  Our athletes achieved success in the classroom too, as nearly all of them received scholar athlete honors (I know because I personally hand out their certificates at every banquet).  This year saw the beginning of two important clubs on our campus – The Black Scholars Union and the Latino Scholars Union, both of which have already scored an impact with student placement to four-year universities.

As a school, a district, and a community we were able to do many things impossible elsewhere in the South Bay, state, and country due to the down economy.  We broke ground on Measure BB, a $50 million dollar local bond project to improve classroom space.  The Manhattan Beach Property Owners Association generously donated $500,000 for a new auditorium foyer.  We put mobile technology and wireless in the hands of teachers and students, hosted an amazing Tedx event, and in a time when everyone is laying off, we hired 10 new teachers.  MBUSD is still the number 3 district in the state based on standardized testing.  No school, ahead or behind us can compete with us in terms of connection and collaboration with the community; our MBEF, MBAF, and PTSA are the envy of all of our rival districts.  They would give anything, and continue to try, to be able to replicate those three organizations.  We truly are one voice in the raising of our kids.

I never did mention the broken play again.  It was a distant memory by the time we were accepting our trophy as the New Mexico state champions.  The good we had done as a team far outweighed the one miscommunication.  I’m sure there were those cynics who would want to relive it again and again – make it the story instead of focusing on all the hard work that went into being a champion.  The real interesting part is I have never forgotten it, and neither has Charlie.

Costa, MBUSD, and Manhattan Beach are all champions too, and here’s looking forward to a 2012 full of new successes.


Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

December - What's next?

My daughter Katie will be starting her senior year in the fall of 2020.  She is only in the 3rd grade now, but has an email account, which she regularly uses to communicate with her teacher about homework.  I often think about  how different her educational experience is from what mine was.  She uses her iPad to go over math concepts and reads her books through a Kindle app. 


I often wonder how different her high school experience will be from what I experience now.  This summer I stumbled upon this article online.  While not expert in any way, it is an interesting opinion on where we are possibly headed.  What a better way to end the year than looking toward the future.


21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020

Shelly Blake-Plock   


The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: ‘Our concept of what a computer is’. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we’re going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can’t wait.

The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don’t need kids to ‘go to school’ more; we need them to ‘learn’ more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn’t far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.

Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.

Books were nice. In ten years’ time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the ‘feel’ of paper. Well, in ten years’ time you’ll hardly tell the difference as ‘paper’ itself becomes digitized.

Bio scans. ‘Nuff said.

A coat-check, maybe.

Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade’s worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT — software, security, and connectivity — a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

School buildings are going to become ‘homebases’ of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN (professional learing networks) in their back pockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of school wide professional development programs. This is already happening.

There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade — in the best of schools — they will be.

Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we’ll have finally woken up to the fact that there’s no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and I.T. in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.


Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School


November - One of a kind

Hi Mustang Family,

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Like you, I have much to be thankful for – I have a great family at home, a loving spouse, and six great kids that make me more proud everyday.  

I have the greatest job in the world.  I work with the most competent, professional, and whacky people in education.  You all really make change in student’s lives, and they love you.  The challenge of Mira Costa is unbelievably fascinating and professionally stimulating.  I cannot imagine serving anywhere else.

Our students are the greatest collection of young people anywhere in the world.  We have some spectacular talent on this campus, and it’s the norm – not the exception to see some unbelievable student accomplishment.

We have an amazing community that supports our school, and constantly pushes for our continued success.  I appreciate our unique relationship, and the meaning it gives what we are trying to do here on the campus, and in the classrooms.

My hope is that all of you can find something to be thankful for, and if you do, let them know.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

October - Remembering

On Friday September 9th I read over the PA a 10th anniversary tribute to the terrorist attacks in 2001.  I have had several requests to reproduce it here.  In my mind 9/11 was personal to all of us, therefore I wanted my remarks to reflect the personal effect it had on me, and hopefully conjure up a remembrance in others who lived it:

Ten years ago on September 11th, I was surprised to see Rachel come in late for zero period.  She was a straight A student, and never late for class.  I gave her a look, and she casually said a plane had hit a building.  Confused by that, and ready to move on, I told to her find her chair and get to work.  A few minutes later, the principal, Mr. Dutton, came into my class.  I had the closest television to his office.  He had a look too, and told me to turn on CNN.  I watched in horror with my students as the second plane hit, and then in complete disbelief as both towers came crashing down.  Talking my students through the experience that day was by far my most profound teaching experience.  It was a day of days.


Now ten years removed, and looking back, I wonder if my generation has ever really recovered.  Much like my grandparents who endured the Depression only to be punished with Pearl Harbor, my generation has had the Twin Towers and the Great Recession.  We desperately need the next generation to pull us out of all this.  Therefore you students represent our hope to renew the unconquerable American spirit.  Our commitment is to get you ready.  While you’re here at Costa, we will teach you everything we know.  We hope you are willing to learn all of it, then head out into the world and BE EXCELLENT.


So today, while it is important to remember all those who lost their lives, because they dared to believe in freedom, it is also important to move on.  Let us who were there take on the responsibility to remember, but for you – the students, please help us move on. Together we will overcome for the greater good.


Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

September - Becoming Familiar

In case you missed it: it’s a brand new year!  The summer passed exceptionally fast, and I’m sure our first meeting to discuss graduation is in the next week or so.  If you have kept up with the Principal message the last few months (if not, scroll down) you know that there are many new and exciting programs and staff on the campus this year.  I visited every class the first day of school, and I can tell you we are off to another great year.  Registration came and went with precision, and the occasional long line, and nearly all of the classes and schedules are settled.

We are moving rapidly into the 21st century technologically.  The library is up and running with wireless, and the 8 teachers participating in the iPad pilot are ready to go with their wireless and mobile devices.  The PTSA purchased some additional teacher iPads, and wireless will go into their rooms, and other parts of the campus, this fall. 

With all of this new technology comes a new language.  As I visited each class, teachers were talking to students about their Edmodo accounts and dropboxes.  Students will be accessing important documents and information via these programs more and more.  It is important therefore to begin to become familiar with these sites and terminologies.  I have included five important sites to learn right away.  You may be familiar with some or all of them, and if so great!  If not, we will learn as we go together.



This is a secured communication site between your student, and the teacher. It allows the teacher to post notes, give and accept assignments and feedback, as well as initiate discussion groups. To get an Edmodo account you:

1.    Google Edmodo. If you have a mobile device get the app from the app store.

2.    Create an account with your student's email address.

3.    Search your teacher by name in the upper left corner of the homepage.

4.    Send a connection request.

5.    Enable all notifications after clicking Profile at the top of the homepage.

6.    If your teacher gives you a group code, click “Join” next to the word Groups half way down the left side of the home page.



This is web-based, or cloud, storage. It's the same as having an on-line thumb drive. You can save and access documents from any computer connected to the Internet. Your files are password protected. Teachers will be using dropboxes to share content and documents with students, because the folders can be set up for public use. In other words, a teacher can invite students to a folder where they can download and upload files. To get a dropbox you:

1.    Google dropbox. If you have a mobile device, get the app from the app store.

2.    If you are on a desktop, pc, or laptop and have googled the dropbox site, you will be directed to download dropbox.

3.    Download dropbox.

4.    Create a dropbox account using the same email address that you used for Edmodo.

5.    The dropbox should appear as an option when you attempt to save a document.

6.    A teacher will then invite your student, by email, to join a shared folder. Once accepted the new, shared folder will appear in your dropbox folder. The teacher will be able to access any documents placed in the shared folder and vice versa.



If you have a Twitter account, join us @Miracostahigh. We are tweeting the bulletin and calendar daily. Soon (next year maybe) it will completely replace the bulletin. To get Twitter you:

1.    Google Twitter.  If you have a mobile device, get the app from the app store.

2.    Create a Twitter account.

3.    Click “Who to follow” and enter Miracostahigh.

4.    Click Follow.



I personally do not have a Facebook account, so I feel some uneasiness about encouraging anyone to do so, but we do publish a monthly calendar there. To get Facebook you:

1.    Ask someone who actually has one. I'm no help here.

2.    Like us at MiraCostaCalendar.


Khan Academy

As a parent, I am forever grateful for this website. It has improved my own kids math scores tremendously.  Additionally, they all three "like" Math now. Bill Gates, in 2009, called Salman Khan "the most important mind in computer technology". The Khan Academy math program is a game changer in education. To access Khan Academy you:

1.    Google Khan Academy.  If you have a mobile device, get the app from the app store.

2.    Create a Gmail account for your student. If you're uber organized, you will use the same student email account for Edmodo and Dropbox too.

3.    Login to Khan Academy using your Gmail through Google or Facebook account.

4.    Complete modules by clicking “Examples” belowthe video.

5.    The iTunes U tab in your iTunes also has free Khan content, but your student cannot do sample problems there. You have to get the free account, as described above.



Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

August - Uncharted Waters

We have had a great summer, busy with bringing in nine new teachers to MCHS.  The process involved the department chairs, members of the various departments, and a rigorous screening and interview process.  The applicant pool was unusually deep, as most everyone is laying off teachers right now.  Going against the grain can be nerve-wracking, but it is equally gratifying to be able to provide jobs for people.  The process has produced what we feel is the next wave of superstars.  They have the amazing opportunity to be colleagues with the best teachers in the nation, and I am thankful for your expertise and experience.  They are in good hands.

We have spent time this summer researching new teacher induction programs.  Studies (Griffin and Hukill 1983; Galvez-Hjornevik 1985; Wong, 2004; Zimpher 1985) generally agree on the following components of an effective teacher induction program (in no particular order):

·      Provide study groups in which new teachers can network and build support, commitment, and leadership in a learning community (CG).

·      Incorporate a strong sense of administrative support (AS).

·      Introduce faculty and facility (FF).

·      Integrate a mentoring component into the induction process (MP).

·      Present a structure for modeling effective teaching during in-services and mentoring (ET).

·      Provide opportunities for inductees to visit demonstration classrooms (CV).

·      Set school and school district expectations for professional conduct (PC).

“Teachers remain with a district when they feel supported by administrators, have strong bonds with their colleagues, and are collectively committed to pursuing a common vision for student learning in a performance-oriented culture as they build capacity and community” (Fullan, 2003).

Keeping in mind the demands of BTSA, as well as the inherent stress of being a new teacher, we have created a program that will be embedded in their day, yet provide for all of the components from the research.  For example:

1.     The new teachers have already begun to collaborate on Edmodo, a web-based educational networking site for teachers and students to share ideas, and work on projects together (CG).

2.     The new teachers, where invited, will eat lunch on Tuesdays in the room of a veteran teacher (FF).  Teachers can sign up here to host:

3.     The new teachers will attend monthly orientations (7:00am) with a member of administration and a detailed agenda (grades, attendance, discipline, parent communication, etc.) (AS, PC).

4.     The new teachers will conduct weekly peer and departmental observations.  Their department chair, BTSA mentor, and administrator support can collaborate on the schedule (MP, CV, ET, AS).

5.     The new teachers will collaborate using 21st century learning models supported by wireless and mobile devices to introduce a challenge-based approach to curriculum, flipped lessons and paperless student-teacher exchanges, wiki-assisted academic progress and assessment, and real-time student data analysis (ET).

6.     The new teachers will report their progress in departmental and faculty meetings (FF).

7.     The new teachers will create the foundation of a career-long professional association focused on networking and continued support in the creation of common learning and technology goals, instructional vision, class rules and grading policies, etc. (CG).


So please join with me in welcoming the newest members to the Mustang Family!

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

July - New Family Members
At Mira Costa, the administration has been busy at work this summer.  Ms. Hart Spence has been running summer school.  Mr. Mancilla has been the mad scientist working the fall master schedule, Mrs. Wright has been having a baby, and Mr. Casillas has been getting to know his way around the campus.  For my part, I have been having the most fun – hiring new teachers.  We have been hiring new teachers in English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, Art, P.E., and Special Education.  It is my pleasure to introduce them.


Trevor Oystrick (Science) comes to us from Downey High School, where he taught for 10 years and recently served as Dept. Chair.  He brings vast experience of using technology in the classroom, and has been instrumental in student success for many years.  When asked why he became and educator, he said:


For me, this question is as much about why I love to teach as it is why I became a teacher.  As every parent knows, there is no better feeling then proudly watching as a student succeeds in some aspect of his or her intellectual or personal development. As a teacher, I have the privilege of experiencing this feeling on a daily basis. With exposure to over a hundred students, it can be something as simple as seeing an unmotivated student find excitement in learning, a student with a learning disability surpassing their own perceived shortcomings, or receiving a visit from a former student who is now making a positive contribution to their community. The challenges, rewards, constant learning I experience daily as a teacher is what makes it an incredible occupation that I love.  Go Mustangs!




Stefani Owen (English) joins us from Crenshaw Arts and Tech Charter High School where she was teaching 9th grade English, and working to effect change with at-risk students.  She emphasized skill development and quality writing using reading fluency and comprehension as a vehicle to facilitate improvement.  When asked why she became an educator, she said:


I chose to become an educator because my life was touched by amazing teachers and professors. I was always challenged and nurtured by these individuals and they helped me to become the person I am today. I wanted to be this type of influence for students. I enjoy introducing new ideas to them and challenging them to think outside the box. I also wanted to create opportunities for students to learn in new ways. Finally, I became an educator because I enjoy getting to know the students and learning new things from them through our daily interactions.  Go Mustangs!




Jessica Whitlock (Science) is beginning her first full year at Mira Costa.  She came to us at the semester last year to replace Ms. Barden who was expecting a baby.  Jessica had a tough assignment for a first year teacher in that she had to teach AP Bio sections to a nervous class of Mustang scholars.  She did a marvelous job of not only putting everyone at ease, but also of preparing the students for success on the AP exam.  She waits expectantly next to the school mailbox for “her” scores.  When asked why she became an educator, she said:


I can recall watching the commercials for back-to-school shopping when I was young and I remember having a feeling of excitement for the first day to come. I have to admit; to this day my favorite aisle to travel down is the one with all of the pens and post-its. Preparing for a new year in which the proverbial slate had been wiped clean was a unique opportunity to transform and improve. It was a chance to add to my scholastic repertoire and soak up all of the information that was being delivered to me. I decided to become an educator because I see myself as a life-long learner.
As any good scientist would attempt to do, I make an effort to live my life in relative balance. Obviously, this concept sometimes works much better in theory than in practice, but it is a goal I have for myself as each new school year approaches. What I find however, are endless opportunities for growth and development that push me to adjust and adapt to this ever-changing landscape that is academia. Being an educator is not a profession; it’s a lifestyle. I believe a quality instructor has a passion for her content area and that that passion is evident to her students each day. Every day I get an opportunity to explore with my students this amazing subject of science. I teach them, they teach me, and sometimes they even laugh at my jokes. I decided to enter into this lifestyle thinking that I could impact lives with my great interest in science, in the hope that more of our young people will grow up to solve some of the most serious issues impacting our natural world and those who live in it. I firmly believe Thomas Edison when he said, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” I look forward to my students astounding me and I hope I can give them the foundation from which they will build amazing things. Go Mustangs!




Juanita Diaz de Leon (Latin) joins the Mustang Family having taught Latin and Spanish at many levels grades 6-12.  She holds multiple credentials and brings an excitement and energy that is infectious.  With her joining the staff we will be able to better meet the student and community demand for Latin classes.  When asked why she became an educator, she said:


I chose to become an educator because teaching is a profession that gives me the opportunity to engage in the learning process in a direct way within a community.  The act of planning the projects and activities that will be the most beneficial to my students is itself a learning experience.  In the actual process of teaching, I not only learn about the subject we are studying in the classroom, but I also learn about the students I am teaching: I become familiar with their learning styles and their personalities.  Of course, I also become aware of my own progress as a teacher and the aspects of my teaching that I would like to modify.  Every moment of teaching is a learning moment and an opportunity for me to be present in order to create the best learning environment for all students. Go Mustangs!




Eric Schreiner (Special Education) joins the staff from Pioneer H.S. where he taught Math, CAHSEE remediation, RSP, and ED students.  He brings great ideas and incredible enthusiasm, and we are pleased to have him as a member of the staff.  When asked why he became an educator, he said:


I became a teacher because it is a profession that makes me truly happy in life. I wake up every morning feeling like I don't have to go into work because of the love and enjoyment that is shared between all my students, parents, and staff.  I also enjoy the fulfillment that is brought to me when students know I am giving my absolute best to help educate them in reaching their full potential in life. Go Mustangs!

Yoon Hearn (Science) comes to us from teaching science in Centinela Valley USD.  She has taught Biology, Physical Science, and even U.S. History.  She will fit in well and excel in a science department full of rock stars! When asked why he became an educator, she said:


I became an educator because I love learning and teaching is all about learning.  I get to share my love of Biology, and it's a thrill when students understand and really get why this subject is important in their lives.  But it is not only my students who learn.  I am constantly challenged and motivated by their questions and views.  This drives me to research and reflect and become a better teacher myself.  Over the years, I have been blessed to have amazing teachers who have shaped my life and inspired me, and I hope that I can do the same. Go Mustangs!




Kelly Donovan (Math) recently completed her student teaching, and is ready to start what is sure to be an excellent career as a Math teacher.  She has worked in advertising, and in the Science and Technology industry.  She has a tremendous energy and excitement about her, and we look forward to the great work she will do.  When asked why she became an educator, she said:


I didn’t get into teaching, teaching got into me. I love people, learning new things, problem solving, puzzles, and sports. With that, there is nothing I wish to do more than to encourage students to delve into their bright futures. I pride myself in pushing others to reach their potential while striving to achieve my own personal goals as well. By teaching mathematics I hope to encourage students to become confident in their abilities so that they can reach for the stars in their future endeavors.  Go Mustangs!

Cameron Chow (English) completed his student teaching here at Costa last winter, and immediately accepted an assignment as a long-term substitute assigned to the English department.  He did a fabulous job assisting students with their writing and reading proficiency.  We are ecstatic to be able to offer him a full-time position on staff this year. 

I come from a family of educators. My father, mother, sister and brother-in-law have all taught, or are currently teaching, in some capacity. My parent’s influence inspired me to go to college and embrace every opportunity to learn. I chose to study journalism because I felt it gave me an opportunity to continue to learn. The year after I graduated from college I worked as a broadcast journalist in the small city of St. George, Utah. As a journalist there was a frustrating lack of resolution that came with reporting the news. It did not help that most of the news I covered on the crime beat was bad news. Shakespeare once said, “The nature of bad news affects the teller.” The bad news I covered on a daily basis affected my life and made me re-evaluate what I wanted to spend my life doing. I realized what I have always wanted most out of life is to be able to have a positive influence on the way other people view the world. There is no better way to do this then by being a teacher. As a teacher I know I will not obtain fame or money, but I believe the opportunity to influence the life of a young person will be more fulfilling than a career in television. When I was in high school I had a few great teachers who I looked up to. I also had a few teachers who often appeared uninterested, uncaring and unprepared. Even as a child it was easy to recognize the difference. The teachers who truly took the time to work with me influenced my life more then they may have recognized. The examples of these teachers, along with the examples in my family, have inspired me to teach.  Go Mustangs!

Danah Kalmus (English) relocated to the Southbay this summer from Florida, where she taught all levels of high school English for six years.  She has all the enthusiasm, content knowledge, and ability inherent in every Mira Costa teacher.  When asked why she became an educator, she said:


Growing up, I had some extraordinary teachers. One in particular stands out: Mrs. Ranieri, my ninth grade Algebra II teacher. I spent the better part of my childhood and adolescence with my nose in a book, so I always enjoyed and excelled in my Language Arts classes. Math, on the other hand, was a different story. In middle school, my math study habits were haphazard, my homework was sloppy (and usually completed the period before it was due), and my class time was primarily occupied with daydreaming and writing notes to my friends. Within my first week in Mrs. Ranieri’s class, however, I learned second rate work would not be tolerated, and zoning out would not go unnoticed. She always demanded our best work and full attention, but she shared with us her enthusiasm for the subject and love for her profession. Mrs. Ranieri did what I previously would have thought impossible: she made math engaging. Soon I was carefully writing out numbers, lining up all of my equal signs, and taking great pride in the solving of difficult equations.  The change Mrs. Ranieri effected in my habits and interest was immediately reflected in my grades and had a lasting impact. I was no longer complacent with C’s; I put in the time and effort to earn A’s. In college, I still stuck to my first love, literature, when choosing a major, but when it came time to choose a profession, I thought back to what Mrs. Ranieri accomplished in her classroom each day, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. Go Mustangs!


Valerie Park (Art) comes to us as a new teacher, having recently completed her student teaching.  She is highly regarded in the Orange County art community, and in the words of a respected colleague: “the best new Art teacher I have ever seen.”  She will be teaching AP Art History and Appreciating the Arts.  When asked why she became an educator, she said:


I have a passion for education, especially high school students, because they are at this critical point in their lives, which steers them into the kind of adult they will be and I love to be a part of it. One strong teacher can change a community for the better, inspire their colleagues, and mold the minds of young people to help them see the world in a different light. It is a privilege to be able to teach art and art history. I have a deep admiration for all types of art and mediums and it’s important to remain open to various art forms, movements, artists, global arts, and performing arts so that students also reap the benefits of having the arts as part of their everyday lives. I include an awareness of multiculturalism in every lesson I teach that allows students to experience and relate to art on a personal level. I not only educate students but really it is a balance of continuing to educate myself and learn from students. Go Mustangs!

Extended Family:

Pat Escolante is the new principal of Hermosa Valley Middle School.  She comes to the South Bay from Beverly where she worked in the middle school, as well as the continuation school, as an administrator.  She lives in the South Bay, and her own kids all graduated from Mira Costa.  We welcome her to our extended family, and look forward to many years working closely together for the success of her students.

Lastly, my very good friend, Dr. Nicole Wesley is the new principal at Redondo Union.  We were vice-principals together at RUHS for three years, sat 10 feet from each other, and I came to know her as a great educator and leader.  She left RUHS around the time I did to become the principal of Adams Middle School in Redondo.  She did a great job there for years preparing her students to come to Costa, so that in and of itself makes her part of our extended family!

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

June - Commencement
  At Senior Recognition Night Bill Cooper spoke about Carl Fisher.  He said Carl stood for, and always promoted, three main ideas during his 19 years as principal:

  1. Diligent work ethic.
  2. Having well round interests and skills.
  3. A life-long commitment to education.

    I am still trying to come to grips that I hold the same office as Mr. Fisher, or Mr. Waller for that matter.  The biggest compliment I could ever be paid came from June Cope this year.  She said I reminded her of Lloyd Waller.  That’s like a journeyman rookie being compared to Jordan.

 Nevertheless after one year, I can share what I really hope the current graduating class learns from their principal:

  1. Be great.
  2. Give back.
  3. Live the entire journey.

So fare thee well class of 2011, make us proud!

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

May - Lessons from June

            Growing up, the most feared teacher at my school was Mrs. Foote.  She taught English, and no one wanted her class.  She used to pass out papers like a scene from a B first name and your grade as your last name. I dreaded her class every day. The only time I can remember my parents complaining about a teacher, which was rare of any parent in those days, had to do with some disparaging remark she said about me in front of the class.  It does not matter that she was telling the truth; my parents just took exception. Funny thing is: my reading and writing ability improved. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with her, right?

            My third day on the job, last July, was the 60th Anniversary celebration in Waller stadium. I walked around in a daze, partly because I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, but mostly because I was meeting hundreds of people curious to size up the new principal. In the afternoon I wandered into the tent set up for the 1950s classes.  The alumni from that decade had formed themselves into a circle and were listening intently to a lady who was obviously holding court. They ushered me to the center of the circle, provided a chair, and I sat for over an hour talking to this fascinating person.

            Her name is June Cope, and she is one of, if not the first teacher hired here at Mira Costa. In 1949 she was a seven year veteran at Redondo, when she was approached by the newly appointed principal, Lloyd Waller, and offered a job to come and teach P.E. at the new school which had not been named nor ground-broken. On my third on the job in day in July, she told me everything I needed to know to get through my first year - that Mira Costa is a great place with a deep, rich history and nothing but excellence is accepted.

            In preparation for this message I sought her out again. As it turns out she only lives four blocks from the school. She agreed to meet with me and allowed me to interview her. We spent another hour and a half together, and I asked lots of questions about our school. I recorded her voice during the interview, and cut a nice narrative file from it that I keep on iTunes. It will be good for me to listen to it periodically, as it contains great wisdom from a great lady. She is 91 years old now, but demonstrates great energy...probably derived from teaching P.E. for 34 years...she retired in 1977.

            During the interview she told me stories about how the students used to be scared of her. It is really hard to imagine that, as she is so kind and friendly. Then she showed me a 1977 yearbook.  Seeing the photo, I thought she looked like Mrs. Foote, and I understood how students were probably afraid of her throughout three decades at Costa. The interesting thing is that the alumni love Mrs. Cope, and invite her to all of their alumni gatherings.  June has dozens of stories about teaching the children of former students, who would talk about fearing her at first, then appreciating all they had learned from her later in life. From her stories I left with the feeling that Mrs. Cope to this day cannot think of why in the world any student would be afraid of her. I know the answer is simple, really. It is because she had high expectations and demanded excellence from her students - a Costa tradition that has carried on to the present day.

            Mrs. Cope gave me great advice, "be firm, but fair", and "make sure the students know you care about them". She told me stories about how Mr. Waller would never accept anything less than the best.  He only wanted the best people on his staff, and that was more important to him than their resume, or brag sheet. She related how he would take a personal interest in the lives of teachers. He encouraged her to "save your money", and recommended she buy a house immediately after Costa opened; a house she has kept for over 50 years.

            May is the month we remember our teachers. I have regularly sent a note to Mr. Rush and Mr. Ritchey, the only two teachers still teaching where I attended high school. Mrs. Foote is retired, but still lives in my home town.  Meeting Mrs. Cope has made me want to reach out to Mrs. Foote and thank her for helping be a better reader and writer.  I am thankful to have met Mrs. Cope, and I am a better person for person for knowing her, which is the real definition of a teacher.  As Mrs. Cope has inspired me to reach out to Mrs. Foote, I encourage all of you to do the same with teachers who have inspired you.  Honor the month of May by contacting those who taught you over the years and thank them for the priceless gifts they give.

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

APRIL - A New Era Now

            I am a first generation gamer. It was the holidays 1975, and my parents gave me a Pong (look it up on Wikipedia). My friends and I played for hours. We had no idea we were on the ground floor of a revolution.  Not long until my Pong was replaced with an Atari. I was untouchable on Defender. After a brief stop with a Commodore 64, I landed on Nintendo. I have made my way through all of the game systems. Today we have an Xbox 360 upstairs and a Wii downstairs. I do not play anymore, but my son has some sort of world ranking on Mariocart.

            The video games and technology have always been in my life, it seems, but nothing like in the last year. The aforementioned revolution is in full swing. There is no denying that technology is changing the world. My children listen to stories about my life as a kid as though they are meeting someone from another century...oh wait.

            I'm writing this month's message on my iPad.  It's an iPad 1, but I've always been old school that way. Apple sold 15 million of these in 11 months. Industry took 15 years to sell the same number of televisions (1939-1954). More powerful than the device are the apps. We are learning quickly the power of app technology. I mainly use my iPad with my kids. Some of my favorite apps for them are:

Flashgram, Flashcards, BlueNote, Doodle Buddy, Flashtopass, NumberLine, Dr. Seuss, Kindergarten, The Elements, Star Walk, NASA, Presidents, Body Scientific, Discover, PBS, Khan Academy.

            For my own usage, I have been enjoying Notability, Flipboard, and Splashtop. I have removed all my saved files from my iPad and MacBook, and transferred them to Dropbox, which has improved my processing speed significantly. I still have a 360 gig external drive as a back up, but I no longer store files on any computer device. I have also drastically cut my use of the printer. Anymore, I only print to share at committee meetings, but all of my production work is done electronically to include correcting and revising drafts. Notability will edit .pdf documents.

            As an educator, I also have concerns regarding technology. Apple, it has been said, is not trying to sell computers, they are trying to revolutionize education.  Take a look at iTunesU. Additionally, I am pursuing my doctorate at Long Beach St., and there is talk there that the CSU system is close to announcing the 24th CSU...CSUonline. What I am sure of is we are Mira Costa, and we will be at the forefront of innovation and progress.

            I know the timeline for change. My 5 year-old son enters kindergarten this fall.  He and his classmates have had access to advanced technology since birth. He is completely skilled with all forms of technology, and uses it to access knowledge quickly.  I'm firmly convinced it has wired his learning brain differently.  There is a growing body of research to support this. In the fall of 2021 his class will enter the ninth grade. Hopefully we're ready.

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

MARCH – Time

             I can’t wait.  That will be the title of the made-for-tv movie about my life.  I will give it my approval only if the “adult me” is played by George Clooney.  As a kid I always couldn’t wait until (fill in the blank).  Whether it was the holidays, my birthday, summer vacation, the start of football season, the end of two-a-days, Friday night, getting my license, or going to college, I lived in a perpetual state of wishing the clock could move faster.  Though I am much more aware and appreciative now of time, I still do it.  I have all sorts of frivolity planned after I finish my doctorate next spring. 

Though I do not wish to be a kid again, I occasionally do feel some melancholy for days I cannot get back.  I think we all do.  There are some things I would do better if given the chance, and turning back the clock could certainly bring back my Dad.  A hard of part about living is appreciating what you have now.

Now as a Dad I find myself obsessing that my kids enjoy being kids, and that they appreciate their todays.  They have figured out that not living in the moment gets them a speech from Dad.  My son recently pitched his first baseball game.  I could tell he was nervous, so I tried to convey to him how much of an honor it is to be able to pitch on opening day.  I think I made it sound cool enough that he at least appreciated the experience.  I very much wanted him to go out and have fun; I did not want him to be like I would have been at his age – just wishing it would be over soon.

I feel the same about our students.  They grow up fast.  We start talking college as soon as they get here.  I want them to find balance.  I hope they live in and appreciate the moment, while making wise choices and preparation (carpe cras, Mr. Cook) for the future.  Living in the moment does not mean doing whatever you want without regarding to consequences.  It means savoring the flavor of everyday.  You only get them once.  I want our students to give everything they have to their future, but stay focused on appreciating today.  What I am suggesting takes serious contemplation. 

To our incoming 9th graders, the class of 2015: know that we expect you to be most excellent.  You are stepping into a culture of excellence, and we expect you to contribute.  We enjoyed having all of you on our campus last week, and having your parents here last month.  Remember what I said to you both times you were here:  be the best 8th graders you can be and finish strong.  Do not fall into the trap of “I can’t wait until high school”.  It will still be here when you get here.

Seniors: you know what I am going to say here.  June 23rd will be here in due time.  You can never get this time back.  Take hold of it, and make the most out of it.  Finish strong.  The choices you make in the next couple of months have lasting effect on your life.  Contemplate carefully, and know we love and support you.


Enjoy today, live for tomorrow, and hold time dear to your heart.

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

FEBRUARY - True School Spirit

Marina High School in Huntington Beach has lots of school spirit.  The students dress up for all the whacky spirit days, they have elaborate rallies that students love, they wear the blue and gold on Fridays, they attend the dances in droves.  In short, the campus has that “old school” feel relative to student connection.  I brought that mindset and lens with me to Mira Costa.  In a September La Vista interview I was critical of the school spirit here, and cited improvement as a goal; even calling out Iktae Park for not wear green and gold on Friday!  In our typical professional and efficient way, the students, staff, and community set out to educate me.  There was no ire displayed, just proof through doing…typical Mira Costa. 

What I am getting at here is, that in my first semester, you have all shown me another level of school spirit.  I choose to call it a level and not a type purposefully.  You see, what I considered school spirit was superficial – school spirit for the sake of having school spirit, an empty shell. My observation of Mira Costa is that the school spirit exists and resides at a different level.  There is a depth to the love we have for our school here.  It is not manifested by face paint or crazy hat day; it has been forged over decades, and is revealed through excellence in performance.

Every involved student here shows a drive to be the very best at what they do.  Athletes take great pride in bringing championships to Mira Costa, students work countless hours to improve their performance out of a love for their school, club officers strive to accomplish great and wonderful service on behalf of the Mustang family, and our performing artists and co-curricular participants, like Model UN, thrive on amazing audiences and judges in the name of our school.  The MCHS staff, counselors, and teachers work above and beyond to prepare students for excellence, and to maintain the nationally recognized prestige of our school. The community, well, is truly amazing.  There is no other place like Manhattan Beach, where the parents and community place such care on ensuring the success of the school.  I hear nothing but support and appreciation about the talent and contribution of our students, teachers, and staff.  The school spirit, as I have learned, shows through in the true dedication to excellence in performance.

All this has literally opened my eyes to a different, more meaningful school spirit, and it has caught hold of me.  Like all of you, I do my part, and do my job to elevate the team.  My only fear, as I see in all of you, is never being the one to let the team down.  I pledge, along with you, to do whatever it takes to help the team.  I hope some day to match your passion.  I hope you know that I recognize that you are all giving your all.

I want to first apologize for the mistake of not recognizing the school spirit here.  Please realize that not everyone understands your depth of commitment to Mira Costa.  It is only until you’re on the inside that you comprehend it.  Secondly, I want to put the outward signs of school spirit in its proper place.  I will continue to wear green and gold on Fridays, though now it is to say “thank you”.  My green and gold will be an outward expression of an inward love and commitment to my role in the Mustang family.  To the students: dances, rallies, and sitting with The Stampede at games is part of the experience.  I know you’re exhausted from juggling a million things, but reward yourself with some fun.  You’ll have a blast!  Also, ASB puts their heart and soul into those events.  Your participation and attendance shows appreciation for their hard work.

Every one of you (students, staff, teachers, parents, community) has a role.  I want to encourage you to continue in the Mira Costa tradition of real school spirit: no matter what your role, give it your all.  Continue the tradition of excellence in performance.  Continue to show through your hard work and success what it means to be a true Mustang.  Some of you make the mistake of comparison. Stop that.  You do not have to be captain of the sports team to be a star.  By doing your job in the classroom, on the test, on the project, or on the field you are part of the larger championship team – Mira Costa High School.

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

JANUARY - You Promise?

My best friend as a kid was Charlie Ashcroft.  We were the co-leaders of an elementary age group of neighborhood boys in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  There wasn’t much to do in a small town except play football, and ride our bikes in the desert.  My parents thought a dirt bike would be too dangerous, so I had a 10-speed.  What they failed to realize is that I would jump it off ramps anyway, which was infinitely more dangerous.  Charlie had a great dirt bike, a Schwinn Scrambler, and was the coolest kid on the block because of it.  Every time we would go out to ride, Charlie and I would have the same conversation.  I would ask for a turn on his bike, and he would say before the end of the day I could ride it.  “Promise?”, I would ask?  “Yeah, promise.”, was always the response.  That ritual was very important.  I needed to hear Charlie promise.  I had a “steely” marble that was lethal in a “keepsies” game, so if Charlie ever needed it, I had to promise in return. 

The promise – do kids still do that?  I have been paying closer attention lately to see if I hear my kids committing each other to time and possessions.  It is hard to say when and where that ritual stops.  Maybe it evolves to the ‘pinky swear’, then right to accept or decline meeting requests.  For whatever reason the old promise commitment goes away.  The ritual of making promises is relegated to once a year resolutions, and we know how those go.  I take a month off from the gym in January, because by February the place has cleared out again.  I would like to propose for the New Year we resurrect the Promise.  The question then becomes: what do we promise?

I would love to make promises for other people that they would be obligated to keep, which is always my answer when asked what super hero power I would most like to have.  I can, though, make my own promises. 

I promise to always make school safety my top priority.  I want students and staff to feel safe at school.  The keys are vigilance and communication.  I strive to be visible.  Some of you know that I stand outside of school in the morning, rotating between the Artesia, Peck, and Meadows entrances.  I want students to see me smiling and ready to learn right along with them first thing in the morning, and parents to be assured that I am here at my post, but mostly I want the bad guys to see the Principal is watching.  I want them to see the angry brown bear inside me ready to come out if they mess with one of my cubs. 

I promise to be truthful and transparent.  It is funny how we all know how important this is in an organization, and my hope is that we continue to be truth-seekers and truth-revealers.  I strive to answer questions with frank candor, and always be very clear communicating purpose and intent.

I promise to always be on the side of right.  Occasionally someone will accuse me of taking sides on an issue; that, of course, I believe one side, because that’s what principals do.  The truth is that I am on the side of whoever is right.  The trouble is when neither side is wrong!  The toughest decisions I have to make boil down to who is most right, or who is less wrong…good times!

I promise to emphasize a true calendar.   This may sound like a strange promise, but how nice is it to see a school calendar, and know the dates are solid?  I want students, staff, and parents to know that we plan carefully and conscientiously, and that we show proper respect by following through on time.   A wise mentor taught me a long time ago that the key to happiness system-wide is “don’t move or cancel meetings, events, or deadlines, ever.”  Doing so creates discord and kills confidence; two things I would prefer to avoid.  If conflicts come, work it out somehow, and plan such that disasters or unforeseen catastrophes can be resolved and still make it in time.

Lastly, I promise to always insist on excellence.  Exhausting as that is, it is a “good tired”.  I enjoy so much the winning culture at Mira Costa.  Everyone expects the best and the most from each other here.  I can only hope to do my part, just the same as every one else who does their part.  We have teachers that go “bell to bell” every day, parents that donate countless hours and dollars to ensure the best program, and students that always give their all in every class, in every game, on every project, and on every test for the simple reason that they are Mustangs, and that’s what we do!


What promises are you willing to make?

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

DECEMBER - The Best Gifts!

I love this time of year.  December has always been my favorite month.  When I was a kid, I would count the days until December 24th.  In my family, we always opened gifts that night, after my Mom made tacos and we drove around Alamogordo, NM looking at the luminaries.  Doggone it if Santa didn’t always show up while we were driving around.  Opening gifts was the coolest thing ever.  My best year I received my own NFL football helmet, football, kicking tee, a HUGE G.I. Joe assault vehicle, and a Pong video system.  I’m not sure what gifts I gave that year, but who remembers such things.

My idea of gifts changed in adulthood.  I’m sure it is because the gifts are not as cool.  The microwave and bag of M&Ms my wife gave me our first holiday together will never be forgotten (or undone).  I also believe what is important constantly changes.  A good football game is a great gift, and December is full of them.  It is also fun to assemble all of the wonderful gifts my children receive (not).  I usually wait until the night before to begin the assembly process, which is a bad habit I seem unable to break.  Waking up at the crack of dawn to celebrate the gift giving also gets better every year.  All joking aside, watching my children’s excitement during the holidays is the greatest gift of all, and I would trade all of the ties and socks in the world for that blessing alone.

Recently, I have begun to wonder about true giving.  What is it that we really give of ourselves?  Though it is the holiday season, I am questioning more about what we give all year, over the years, and over a lifetime.  Here’s some thoughts:


The Gift of Mind:

Bono of the rock band – U2 gave a commencement speech at U Penn in 2004.  Mostly it was his poetic humor throughout, but somewhere in the middle he got to the point of what he wanted to say:


So my question I suppose is: What's the big idea? What's your big idea? What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing outside of the walls of the University of Pennsylvania?


I think that is a great rhetorical question. Have you ever considered your contribution?  Certainly, I feel mine is the raising of my own children.  But beyond the walls of my home, what is my big idea?  What will I leave behind that moves society forward in any way, large or small?  In politics we have a real need for original ideas.  I know 10 Mira Costa students who, if they can muster, can go out right now and make an impact.  You know who you are, and I am talking directly to you!  In the economy we will need to rethink capitalism in the next 25 years.  There are so many great ideas out there now, they just need some traction and support.  I hope we are educating our current students to go out into the economy and make courageous changes that will allow our system of commerce to continue for generations. 

Bono in his address suggests that your big idea, no matter what it is, should focus on slowly eradicating war and its atrocities from the world.  Seeking peace begins at home and in the classrooms.  We must insist that our curriculum of social consciousness and justice flourish.  Lastly, have you ever looked at stories and statistics about the global hunger pandemic?  Go to  If there is one area that citizens of our country (self included) have little to no understanding, it is the scope of the suffering.  For our students, they will be faced with solving this issue in an unprecedented fashion.


The Gift of Body:

On Veteran’s Day, the entire Dale family descended on Knott’s Berry Farm.  The park honors veterans and immediate family with free or reduced admissions.  As we walked around, I slowly began to notice limps, crutches, scars, wheelchairs, and slings.  It suddenly became clear I was walking among heroes.  It must have been difficult to enjoy an amusement park after the horrors they have seen.  The gift of body for the country, regardless of politics, is unbelievably awe-inspiring.  Being in among them in the crowded park moved me.

From the Veterans Affairs website:


·       In the last 7 years, 5,829 U.S. servicemen have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it the 6th highest death rate of the 12 wars recognized by veterans affairs.

·       An average of 18 veterans commit suicide each and every day of the year, according to recent statistics from the Veterans Administration (VA). That’s 126 veterans who kill themselves every week. Or some 6,552 who take their own lives each year. Our veterans are killing themselves at twice the rate of other Americans.

·       One quarter of the homeless people in America are military veterans. That’s one in every four. The experts say that between 20 and 30 percent of all troops returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But many of VA hospitals didn’t have the special PTSD programs that experts say are vital. Soldiers returning from Iraq are allowed to slip unnoticed into their old lives, and neither the Department of Defense nor the VA does anything to monitor their mental health.



The Gift of Spirit:

            William Ernest Henly – British poet, while exiled for three years in an English hospital for tuberculosis, wrote a poem popularized in a 2009 movie of the same name:



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


            I love this poem.  It reminds me of what is important.  Often times we find ourselves in the clutch of circumstance.  How we react to, deal with, and benefit from such bludgeonings of chance defines who we are.  When we talk about gifts, the most difficult one of all is the gift of spirit or soul.  It is tough to see, and difficult to realize the impact of human goodness.  If it seems to you that your positive contribution does not matter, may I please suggest you rethink your position. 

           Mira Costa students possess all of the qualities and resources for good.  It is my hope that they continue to dedicate themselves to excellence, and do so because it is simply who we are – We are MUSTANGS!

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

NOVEMBER - An Attitude of Gratitude

        This month is a time for giving thanks.  I appreciate this opportunity to share some things for which I am grateful.  I am going to talk about ‘back home’, so please excuse me if I lapse into that vernacular at times.

        My Mom did most (90%) of my upbringing.  As I was growing up in East Texas, she made sure I went to school, scouts, sports practices, and church on time.  She made all of my meals, did my laundry, and made sure I had every color Polo and Izod shirt (that was important to her for some reason).  She taught me manners, corrected my grammar, and made sure I called everyone “sir” or “ma’am”. 

        In spite of all that detailed upbringing, I am most like my Dad.  He taught me the big lessons in life, and when I needed serious course correction, he was there with the signpost to re-direct me.  He taught me how to communicate with people, how to treat everyone with unconditional respect, and how to see the world.  He taught me that self was second to community, and that the little acts of kindness and service have a ripple effect that grows far beyond our small speck of sand.  He taught me many big lessons, and many little ones too that seemed insignificant or second nature at the time, but that I appreciate now.

        My Dad’s classroom was the lake.  He would wake me up at 3:30 on Saturday mornings when he wasn’t fishing in a tournament.  After hitching the boat to his truck, he would come into my room, hoist me up, carry me out, and drop me in the front seat.  As we tore down some secluded back road, I would pretend to sleep, which was impossible to do over the blaring sounds coming from his 8-track deck in the dashboard.  Dad loved Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, but his favorite, bar-none, was Waylon Jennings.  On a greyhound bus, lord I’m travellin’ this mornin’.  I’m going to Shreveport, down to New Orleans.  Been travellin’ these highways, been doin’ things my way.  Born lookin’ lonesome, onry and mean.  He played it so loud I wondered if he was trying to wake up and warn the fish we were coming.  I would complain about the music, longing for some Aerosmith, Foghat, ZZ Top, or Eagles.  He would look at me and say, “you can listen to that crap all you want, but this music is in you, and some day when you come home to it, it'll be there”.  I thought he was nuts, but now 30 years later, thanks in part to Dwight Yoakam, I have come home to those old outlaw country masters.  They are a big influence on my songwriting, and I am very grateful to have been given that gift from my Dad, beginning at a young age.

        Once at the lake, it was my job to help launch the boat.  Because I was still too little to reach the pedals in the truck, I would jump back into the boat when we reached the launch.  My job was to start the Evinrude 150 once the boat started to float, and back it off the trailer.  I was doing this as early as I can remember, maybe 7 or 8 years old.  Once I could reach the truck pedals effectively, around age 12, my job was to back down the boat trailer, and Dad took over the starting and launching the boat.  I am aware now it was because he didn’t want to park and walk back to the boat if he didn’t have to anymore, but I am appreciative of the experience.  By age 15 I had my license, and he never drove again when we went together.  I have used my trailer pulling skills many times in my adult life, and there is many a band director grateful for my abilities to back a trailer.  Mainly it taught me responsibility, the need to do my part, and that no matter how old I was my contribution mattered.

        Lastly, on the lake I learned how to tie a Carolina rig, set a hook, trim a motor, the difference between a backlash and a professional overrun, and that the transom is the only true enemy a man has in life.  I’m not precisely sure what a transom is, but whenever our boat had any sort of problem, that is what caught my Dad’s wrath.  Mostly out on the lake I learned patience.  My Dad and I would fish for hours, and talk about all kinds of stuff.  We would catch some fish eventually, and head back home.

        My Dad was full of sayings that have stuck with me.  “You can’t cure crazy”.  “Some people just ain’t never gonna be happy, and they’d complain if you hung ‘em with a new rope”.  I really learned what it meant when he stood in the door of the kitchen, and asked “everybody got all they want”?  That really meant there was about to be nothing left.  He passed to me genetically his disposition.  I cannot ever remember seeing my Dad rattled or mad.  He rarely raised his voice, but lord knows I had a respectful fear of his disapproval. He had this look that would make me feel like what I had done was the most colossally stupid thing ever attempted by a human (and generally it was).  Mostly I got ‘good work son’ when I managed to get it right, and it made me feel great.

        Dinners in my house were fantastic.   My Dad’s politics are a little to the right (I’m being nice here), and my Mom’s politics are a little to the left (also being nice).  I am an only child, and I think they viewed me as a battleground state.  We had a long rectangular table and I sat in the middle of one of the long sides, with Dad on my right, and Mom on my left.  The discussions were remarkable.  Some were about politics specifically, but most were of a social justice nature.  Simply put: they would have dialogue over world-view in general; social issues, and how things ought to be.  I would quietly take sides, and subconsciously began, over time, to side with my Mom.  I did so mainly because my Dad was often better at the debate, and I would quietly root for the underdog in the conversation.  I suppose that evolved into me seeing the world from her point of view, as I quietly formulated the counter arguments to my Dad.  He knew my left leanings, never mentioned it to me directly, and decided to love me anyway.  Like music, I am sure he believed I would someday eventually come home politically.  Maybe I have, who knows…

        My Dad was a banker by trade.  I asked him once how he decided who got a loan.  He said, “I talk to them, look them in the eye, and if at any point I feel they will miss one single payment over the length of the note – they don’t get the money”.  Astonished, I asked “that’s it”?  He said that it was; sure the bank had plenty of policies, protocols, and procedures that governed the process of granting a loan, but it was the people that mattered to him in his decision.  He dealt with people, not paperwork.  In recent weeks I have had dozens of people come up to me, shake my hand, and tell me how my Dad had saved them financially when no one else would.  He was a true professional, and I seek to live up to his example.

        My Dad was a country gentleman, and a master storyteller in the southern tradition.  His stories, which were many, could capture your attention, and hold it the length of the telling.  He would be cracking up at himself by the end, and you were never sure if the story was funny, or the way he told it was funny.  Most of his stories started out “one time me and Tommy Bauer” or “one time me and John Sharp”.  They took place mainly in his native Kansas, and all of them either began or ended in a grain elevator narrowly escaping the law (who chased the boys good-naturedly in a Mayberry sort of way).  I can recite them all by memory.  There was one involving a bobcat, but that’s for another time.

        My Dad loved the Dallas Cowboys.  My first memory in life (literally) was being scared to tears as my Dad jumped up out of his chair, yelled some words I had never heard at 5 years old and kicked the front out of our Magnavox color TV after the back up kicker for the Baltimore Colts, O’Brien, kicked the field goal that beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl V.  The impact busted off the channel knob, so we stuck a pair of channel lock vice grips in the hole so we could change the station (yes, I can hear the banjos too).  I was thus raised a Cowboy fan, and even though they blow this year, I can’t give up on them…ever.  My Dad raised me that way.

        Once I heard my Dad speak in public at an event given in my honor.  The theme of his talk was being a father to me.  I cannot remember much of what he said, oddly, but I am sure it was on parental endurance and never giving up on lost causes.  About half way through he shifted to talking about the second phase of our relationship: that he felt more like a fan.  At the end of his speech, he said the time for being my fan was over, and that all he wanted to do was be my friend.  He gave that speech in 1988.  My Dad passed away last week, and I can say for the last 22 years he has been my best friend.  Over that time we talked on the phone most Sunday nights for an hour or more.  I would tell him crazy stories about things happening at school, and we would laugh together.  I’ll miss those Sunday night conversations.  From father to fan to friend, I am thankful for my Dad. He was the best there ever was.  

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School


Mira Costa – Find Your Passion Here

        Why do you what you do?  Is it just a job, or does it define you who are?  From time to time it is important to stop and remember why we all got into this in the first place.  When I reflect, I start with all those along the way that have influenced me.  The mentors we have shape who we are.  Hopefully, there are more good examples than bad; there certainly are in my life.  I owe them all an un-payable debt of gratitude.

        Mr. Ritchey – He was my World History teacher in high school.  He used to fill 4 chalkboards full of notes.  He would write in 6-font, long full sentences of notes.  He would lecture as he wrote; we rarely saw his face.  What he did, though, for me was suggest I could be more than a jock.  Mind you, being an athlete is a noble and difficult pursuit, but Mr. Ritchey saw some off-the-field intellectual talent in me.  He encouraged me to be a writer, and would load me up in his Saab convertible (the only one in Liberty County, Texas) to take me all over the state for ready-writing contests.  I never placed on a statewide level, but he made me see something in myself that I did not.

        Colonel Richard Norman – He was my company commander when I was attached to 5th Army Intelligence.  He had been an infantry lieutenant in Vietnam, and was possibly one of the best leaders for whom I have ever worked.  His strategy was to hire good people, stay out of their way, and let them apply their expertise.  His trust in his soldiers was clear.  He expected everyone to do their absolute best – not for him, but for the mission.  My biggest motivation was to make him proud of me, and I wanted to do well for him.  When the time came for me to move on, he made personal phone calls for this young sergeant, and found me a great new home - teaching.

        Jim Bauer – Jim was the head football coach, and athletic director at Littlerock High School; my first teaching and coaching job.  Jim was a former nose tackle, 5ft. tall and 5ft. wide, with no neck.  He was a football genius, a coaching genius, and a great athletic director.  I was hired as the head basketball coach under controversial circumstances, and in order that I would be accepted by the other coaches, he brought me in as the linebackers coach.  Luckily, the two linebackers were all-league, and I did not have to do much.  I may have been the worst linebackers coach ever, but to offset that I was the designated ‘gitback’ guy.  That’s the coach that constantly yells ‘gitback’ at the players on the sideline, so there’s no penalty called.  Jim knew he was investing one year of bad football coaching for the next eight to be a wonderful experience for me as a head basketball coach on staff.  Jim taught me everything I know about athletics.  He died last year, and is sorely missed.

        There were many others before – Mr. Rush (my English teacher), Mr. Brinkley (my Physics teacher), Mrs. Daniels (my Trig/Pre-calc teacher), Mr. Hunt (my U.S. History teacher), Dr. Mitchell (my Spanish teacher in college), and some since, including Goy Casillas and Paul Morrow, and it occurs to me that they all have the same in common – selfless compassion.

        I am the happiest when I see the joy in others.  Watching students succeed, or teachers feel satisfaction and personal fulfillment in their work is why I am in this business.  Hearing that parents are happy with our school is what gets me up every morning.  The trust between the community and the school is critical.  I know there will be bumps along the way, and I will have to make un-popular decisions; those moments come with the territory.  Yet come good or bad, we will continue building the tradition of excellence at Mira Costa together.  My passion is to do my part to make our school the kind of place where students, teachers, and parents can find success and happiness.  That’s our place in the community.

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School


Mira Costa - Great students!

Would you like to know what I have seen this first week?  I have met the most amazing group of students.  I have met AP kids, athletes, members of visual/performing/fine arts, student leadership, and on the whole, the most polite, friendly, and respectful students I have ever known.   Let me tell you who they are:

Our students are smart.  I saw some taking tests during zero period on the first day!  Others were engaged in deep and meaningful conversations with their teachers about relevant topics.  Others were laughing with their teachers; becoming familiar with the culture of the learning environment where they are going to challenge themselves to stretch the limits of their understanding.  Every student in every class was engaged instructionally.  My conversations with our students have been very rewarding.  They ask complex questions on a wide variety of topics.  They listen to answers, show empathy and understanding to each other, and demonstrate a depth of intellect that is unbelievable. 

Our students are talented.  I have seen the band, choir, drama, and orchestra already preparing for their upcoming shows.  What they do is incredible.  Their talent is unmatched.  La Vista, Hoofprints, and Mustang Morning News are working up some outstanding products.  I have met their student editors, directors, and advisors.  They are true professionals already as high school students.  The sports teams are ready to compete.  They all have a way of carrying themselves that clearly communicates they fully expect to succeed.  And they are huge!  Not the cross-country athletes so much, they are just fast, but the football players.  If you think football players look big from the stands, you should have the honor of walking among them on the sideline sometime.  It’s pretty intimidating, which is probably why we do not allow you to do so.

Our students are good kids.  I know that some of them are adults technically, but to me they are just big kids.  And as I have said, they are so nice and fun to be around.  Their smiles are infectious.  At a recent 9th grade orientation I said "we are a family here.  We are only as strong as our ability to lift up those who are down.  If you see someone weak being picked on, you stand up for them.  If you see someone alone, you be their only friend.  Our success as a school can only be achieved by the power of the love we have for one another”.  I know why we are so successful at Mira Costa – our students are good kids, and look out for one another.

There are many reasons why our kids are the way they are: wonderful and supportive parents and families, caring and professional teachers and support staff, and a safe and rich learning environment.  For my part there, are a few lessons I want to contribute:

1. Continue to be nice to each other.  Kindness should not be based on the status of the recipient, but on giver’s depth of character.  Let us imagine, for a moment, a world where everyone embraces kindness as a fundamental personality trait.

2.  Realize the only quality of a leader is to serve.  Take that moment and opportunity to begin a journey of giving to others; always looking for ways to lighten someone else’s heavy burden.

3.  Family is all we have.  This should be the ultimate goal of our school culture.  Create that safe space and life-long bond that is found in good families.

4.  What defines you?  Search for the moment that will make you who you are.  You never know when it is coming, so you always should be preparing.

5.  Life is a journey by definition.  Our test scores and grades are outstanding, but what is really fun to observe is the process.  Students stretching their minds and intellect to the limit.  Looking back, that is what you will always remember.

6.  Take care of your body, you only have one.  With the demands placed on you as students, it is imperative you eat right, get plenty of rest, and exercise.  Let's all look out for each other on this, so we stay healthy as we learn.

7.  Take the challenge.  Does the class seem too hard?  Then push aside the negative thoughts, and self-doubt, reach inside of yourselves and find the strength.  The outcome will be fine, but you will never forget the courage it took to get there.

8.  Live for tomorrow.  True that carpe diem is fun to proclaim, but what about carpe cras? Live for tomorrow!  The choices you make, and the work you do may have little effect on today, but could have major implications on your tomorrow.  Make the most of your opportunity here at Mira Costa!

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

Mira Costa – A great place to work! 
Everyone has been so welcoming to me, my wife Michelle and our children, as we have settled in to the Mira Costa family. Thank you so much for all of your warm, well-wishes this past week. 
I am amazed at the 60th Anniversary Celebration. Jaime Mancilla and his army of parents and volunteers put together a memorable event for the school. They all worked tirelessly out of their devotion to The Stampede. 
Part of the settling in process has involved meeting with many of you with the intent of getting to know Mira Costa. What a joy it has been to hear all of the wonderful things that happen here. I feel very honored to be a part of it, and hope to be able to contribute my share to the culture of success here. First to meet with me on my first day was Iktae Park, our ASB President. Iktae communicated to me very clearly his vision for the Mustangs 2010-2011. He is a strong advocate for unifying the various student organizations on the campus to create a strong voice for school spirit and pride. I appreciated very much learning from him, and later in the meeting, participants on his campaign staff, about what is important to students. Many other staff and community members have also stopped by to talk. From them I get the distinct impression that this is a great place to work.
Everyone is proud of the extraordinary academic achievement enjoyed here, and all recognize the combination of high quality teaching with a hard working student population. The classified staff are dedicated professionals, who have been extremely resourceful in helping me to settle in. The PTSA, MBEF, and MBAF leadership have all introduced themselves, and I get the definite sense that our school mission would be impossible to carry out without their support. 
Finally, my administrative team is an amazing group of energetic professionals. Paula, Jennie, and Jaime are briefing me constantly regarding the daily operations of the school. They love this school, and I feel lucky to be the newest part of their team. We broke ground on Saturday for the Bond Measure BB renovations. It will be important in the coming months to continue to hear the feedback and input from the school community regarding the construction project as it progresses along. We hope to be able to synthesize and effectively communicate the plans for renovation, in order to make it as painless and seamless as possible. 
 Please stop by my office anytime and introduce yourself. My vacation seems to have been misplaced somewhere between here and Huntington Beach, so I will be around the campus listening and observing. School starts September 1st, so I need all of the information, history, and background you are willing to give me. 

Ben Dale 
Mira Costa High School

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