SCHOOLS REPORT: Redondo’s Birney Elementary honored for social-emotional practices in pandemic

Birney Elementary principal Mira Baskaran reminds students to put on their masks as they arrive at school in January during the Omicron surge. Photo by JP Cordero

by Garth Meyer

Birney Elementary School received a California Pivotal Practice Award last week for its attention to students’ social-emotional well-being during the pandemic.

The honor, announced April 26, replaced the California Distinguished Schools Program for one year – to celebrate schools which operated an innovative practice in 2020-21, while much of their teaching was remote.

Schools were selected in four target areas: student engagement, technology distribution, nutrition services, and kids’ social and emotional well-being.

As explained by Birney Principal Mira Baskaran, practices used by the local school included staff-hosted Zoom lunches with students – in groups and one-on-one; Zoom classes broken into smaller groups and one-on-one; and Baskaron sending handwritten notes of congratulations and encouragement in the mail to students. She also checked in with the families of all 460 students during distance-learning. 

“You really don’t find out their needs until you say, ‘hey can we help you with anything?’” said Baskaran, in her seventh year as Birney principal. 



David Witkin was elected new school board president April 26, to succeed Raymur Flinn, who served in the position for the past year. The new vice president is Rachel Silverman Nemeth. Witkin is the longest-serving boardmember, elected in 2015. 



Redondo Union High School entered its AP testing phase this week, with 22 Advanced Placement teachers giving exams to students. Qualifying scores promise college credit and/or advanced placement in college classes. The two weeks of tests are administered by the national College Board. 



On May 16, the Redondo Beach Council of  PTAs will hold its First Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the RUHS Auditorium. Admission is free. ER


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