Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   October 1, 2020

Cold Spring School Needs New Classrooms

As a longtime parent at Cold Spring School, I can attest to the fact that the three portables installed 25 years ago are falling apart. While I do agree that the school needs these classrooms replaced, I do not agree that the $7.8 million Bond L2020 plan to construct a 6,000-square-foot building announced in your publication three weeks ago is the best way to accomplish this goal. Instead, I think the old portables should be replaced with new modular ones.

The most obvious argument for this is cost. Prefabricated/modular classrooms would be considerably less expensive than new construction. This, plus the fact that modular classrooms have a transparent, fixed price tag, as opposed to the common and frustrating knowledge that construction from scratch always, always, always runs over budget, makes them a much safer financial bet. Moreover, the need for an expensive construction management company would be eliminated, providing further savings to cost-conscious taxpayers in our community.

More important to me, however, is the environmental impact. Heating, cooling and constructing a massive building will add unnecessary energy use. In the terrifying era of global climate change, I think we have a moral responsibility to prioritize sustainable development in this planning process. Fortunately, there are myriad options of environmentally responsible modular buildings that could meet the school’s needs.

Avoiding campus disruption from major construction is another point for modular classrooms. Just think about the impact that two-plus years of construction noise, workers, and equipment throughout the school would have on our students’ learning environment. Even before COVID it would be challenging, but now the school is using outdoor space that won’t buffer the noise or debris. Prefabricated classrooms, however, could be installed in a few weeks!

Regarding the issue of safety: I’ve come to notice that the only time safety is brought up is when a few people want a new administration building. Other than that, I have neither seen nor heard any indication that people feel unsafe in our community. We live a block from the school on Paso Robles Drive. Every day, before and after school, a parade of happy kids walk, skip, scooter, and bike by, sometimes with parents or friends and sometimes alone. They enter and leave campus freely on the Stoddard side of the school. Building an administration center on the Cold Spring Road side would do nothing to eliminate so-called safety concerns of the large percentage of kids and parents who use the Stoddard entrance. If the new building required everyone to enter campus on the Cold Spring Road side, the traffic at the already crowded main parking lot would increase dramatically and I bet fewer children would mosey down my street every day on their commutes to and from school. 

I want to add that this is my first letter to any editor. I was inspired by Katherine Davidson’s letter in your publication last week. I was moved by the courage she had to publicly share her minority perspective. I am also grateful for her willingness to serve on our school board despite not having children at the school. I know how much she put into her duties because she was coaching my older daughter for the Math Superbowl back then. After every coaching session she’d ask my opinion about different issues at the school. I learned from our discussions that she was one of the parents who took the lead in getting six newer classrooms on Stoddard built years ago. 

I fear people will try to paint Ms Davidson and her letter as angry, mean, or crazy, but that’s not what I see. No, I see a real person who cares a lot about the community institution Cold Spring School is and was, a woman who is deeply disappointed and seriously concerned by her experience as a recent board member. I know in my heart that her soul motivation to serve then and to speak up now is the desire to make our school a better place. If nothing else, she deserves our respect – and she sure has mine.

Cold Spring is such an amazing school thanks to incredible teachers, great programs, and amazing families, both past and present. There are so many reasons we picked it for our two daughters. However, when we were looking at schools it was actually the portables at the entrance of Cold Spring that impressed me the most. I still remember the first time we walked on campus for a tour. I saw the beat up old portables and said to my husband, “Well, it’s clear this school cares more about what’s happening in the classroom than what’s on the facade.” I, for one, hope that never changes and that’s why I’m voting no on Bond L2020.

Amanda Rowan
Cold Spring School Mom

Yes on Measure L

As a long-time participant in local education, I strongly support Measure L on the November ballot – the $7.8 million bond for Cold Spring School. This bond is very needed to replace portables near the corner of Sycamore Canyon Road and Cold Spring Road on the campus.

Cold Spring School is a treasure to our area. It provides exemplary education for approximately 180 students in kindergarten through 6th grade. Although, like other school districts on the south coast, it is a “basic aid” district – meaning it receives funds from local property taxes rather than the state of California – the amount it receives per student is considerably less than some other local districts.

Few things say more about a community than its support for education. Cold Spring School District is fortunate to have not just one, but two, exemplary educational institutions located within it, the other being Westmont. Under Cold Spring School District Superintendent Amy Alzina, a Westmont alumna, Cold Spring School and Westmont are cooperating as never before – to the benefit of both institutions.

Cold Spring School requires more permanent building space in part to accommodate its small class sizes. This November 3, the choice is clear: Yes on Measure L!

Lanny Ebenstein
Santa Barbara

Look Before You Vote

I’m conservative and primarily vote Republican. I have voted for Democrats in the past. I don’t need to totally agree with a candidate’s political views to support him or her. I primarily look for candidates who understand how democracy works and who make some common sense. It’s my belief that individual responsibility, economic freedom and human dignity are important characteristics that distinguish democracy from other forms of government.

I readily acknowledge that modern Republican political candidates leave much to be desired, but modern Democrats are a far bigger personal concern. The source of government money is taxes. The Democrat Robin-Hood-like-mantra that success should be heavily taxed to redistribute wealth and that government should have greater control over individual lives will not create the fantasy-land democracy Democrats are attempting to sell to Americans.

We should encourage success, not penalize it. Successful people generate jobs for others. Large profits made by corporations allow them to expand and create more jobs. And, you could be a less-than-wealthy shareholder and share in the profits via stock dividends from successful companies. All one has to do is look at the wealth exiting California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to realize the disaster of penalizing success. And, with this exit of wealth, who do you think will have their taxes increased to generate needed state revenue?

I encourage you to examine the policies and proposals of both major political parties. Make your own determination as to whether or not they promote individual responsibility, economic freedom, and human dignity. Republican proposals are somewhat lacking, but, in my opinion, Democratic proposals don’t even come close to recognizing, encouraging, or supporting individuals in our democratic society. You don’t have to agree with me. Exercise your right to vote. Just be aware of what you are voting for.

Sanderson M. Smith, Ed.D.

A Successful Forum

The Coalition for Neighborhood Schools hosted an online forum for Santa Barbara Board of Education candidates on Thursday, September 17. In this age of COVID-19 changing all of routines and usual campaign practices, the forum went smoothly and each of the seven candidates answered all the questions asked.

The Coalition for Neighborhood Schools wants to thank our moderator Lanny Ebenstein, our technical support Jasper Jacobs, and all of the candidates for their participation. Over 125 citizens “attended” the forum and we thank them also for their interest in the school board race and we hope their votes will be informed by their participation.

We were pleased that every candidate supports neighborhood schools that are within walking distance for students in every Santa Barbara attendance area. They each mentioned their own experiences of walking to school and elaborated on how those experiences enhance physical fitness and mental health, create block by block friendships among students and parents, and provide environmental benefits! We could not agree more. In addition, the need for another downtown elementary school was addressed bearing in mind the community’s desire for an increase in downtown housing.

Several other questions of curriculum were also addressed at some length and audience questions answered.

For those who are interested, there will a YouTube version of the forum available soon. Please email cns4schools@aol.com and put “YouTube Forum” in the subject line, and indicate also if you prefer the Spanish version.

Voters residing between Montecito through Goleta have the choice to vote for three candidates. Although there are different elementary school districts for K-6 throughout the area, all of the secondary schools fall under Santa Barbara Unified School District. In the upcoming election, make your vote count!

Laura Wilson, President
Coalition for Neighborhood Schools

How to Expedite the Opening of More Businesses

If more people got tested for COVID-19, Santa Barbara County would be able to meet the state’s case and positivity rates to allow more businesses to reopen. The less restrictive tier allows for the expansion of indoor operations with modifications such as restaurants, personal care services, churches, movie theatres, and gyms. According to the Director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, having more residents tested for COVID-19 would lower the state requirements for the county to move from the most restrictive purple “widespread” tier into the next less restrictive red “substantial” tier.

An easy method to achieve the criteria for reopening and easing restrictions on more businesses is for the County to make it much easier and convenient for people to get tested. This could be achieved by locating mobile testing units in heavily trafficked shopping centers with a supermarket. The County, area businesses and City government agencies could partner to promote the locations, days, and times the mobile testing centers are present. To encourage people to be tested, a theme of the ad campaign could be “Help our businesses and our local economy by getting a COVID-19 test.”

Jack Friedlander
Santa Barbara

What the Pandemic Brought Home to Me

As a fairly typical baby boomer who grew up in a secular Jewish home in the Midwest, I learned about social justice and the need to give back at a fairly young age. As a teenager I attended many conferences on civil rights and became a very ardent supporter of those causes. But another issue nagged at me from a young age. It was hunger. As an idealistic young person of the ‘60s I could not reconcile how the United States alone could feed the world and yet hunger pervaded not only African countries but sectors of American society as well.

The result of that early awareness has guided my tzedekah efforts throughout my life. Also, I hate to feel hungry myself and thus don’t wish it on anyone else. I remember the pain I felt when I learned that my own cousins often ended the month short of money to buy food when they were at college. Of course they had too much pride to ask my family for help but I thought if they were food insecure there must be even more people who face this problem on a daily basis.

I tell you all of this because the pandemic in an interesting way brought this problem front and center to me in my professional life. Some of you may know that I run a small nonprofit, the Center for Successful Aging, that serves the needs of seniors in our community. In mid-March a local philanthropist called me and with great foresight told me of his concern that with the stay at home orders low income seniors would soon be hard hit and that he wanted to help some local organizations deal with the pending food problems facing seniors in our county. I thanked him for his concern but referred him to a larger organization since I knew ours would not be able to undertake such a large geographic task.

After he approached the Family Service Agency, its director called and asked me if my group would run the program from Santa Barbara to Goleta. I gladly accepted and for the past six months we have offered two programs; one offering groceries for people who can prepare their own meals and the other for more debilitated individuals who can’t prepare food. We received a government grant to offer the latter group a hot meal program and when its funder asked me how many people I’d like to serve I said, “Well, there are probably 50-60 people who are really desperate but why don’t we start with 100.” She secured the federal funding and we publicized the program to all the low income people and agencies I knew. To my shock we got 150 calls within the first three days. “Wow,” I said to myself, I had no idea that many people were food insecure.

After raising some local funds and screening all of the applicants, we were able to offer a five-day-a-week hot meal program to 115 seniors and serve the others in the grocery program. After doing some additional research I have learned that the reality is that in our wealthy enclave there is an underbelly of great poverty where over 25 percent of seniors in our county live. Too many don’t even have the funds to purchase food and others are physically unable to make food. Should seniors who lived and served our community throughout their lives and now live alone, are blind, suffer so much pain they can’t stand or don’t have the cognitive ability to cook a meal be relegated to eating something out of a can?

The pandemic has brought home to me the stark reality that food insecurity is a huge issue among seniors. I have joined a group that is bringing this issue to government, foundations and other philanthropists for all of us to solve. It was hidden before the pandemic and is now a major social issue that I feel compelled to respond to. I hope as this issue rises to the surface in the media that you will decide to add your voice in support of this important effort.

Gary Linker

Friends of Tibet

October 1, 2020 is the Global Day of Action against the CCP, the Communist Government of China, signed on by 160 groups around the world including ours, Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet (SBFOT). Groups calling out the CCP in October include Tibet supporters, Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, Uighurs (2-3 million in work prisons), Southern Mongolians, Falon Gong practitioners, freedom loving Americans and anyone in the world affected by the CCP virus. Also countries next to China like India, Bhutan and in the South China Sea report increasing border hostilities. Our very own Thepo Tulku is one of the 150,000 refugees forced to flee Tibet after the 1950 CCP invasion. We at SBFOT join concerned citizens around the world condemning China’s lack of respect towards basic human rights. Unlike people in China with no freedom of speech, you can show your support by signing on the wall at www.resistchina.org. One final thought: Chinese lives matter. We in the Tibet movement increasingly acknowledge it is not the Chinese people that the world is protesting; it’s the Communist Government of China.

Kevin Young, Thepo Tulku
Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet

Build Consensus Before You Spend

I read reporting on the Cold Spring School bond proposal. I am a seven-year alum who graduated sixth grade in 2010. I then went on to Santa Barbara Junior High where I was elected ASB Treasurer. Fiscal and voter accountability was my job at SBJH, where I experienced the difference in school cultures and wealth. I transitioned having spent years at Girls Inc gymnastics, in-band and strings which always seek money.

Resources are tight at SBJH. I remember going back to CSS to make copies and get things not available at SBJH. What I missed most: 1) classroom aides at SBJH, which isn’t efficient; and 2) better campus facilities beyond the spectacular Luke Theatre. Living responsibly within one’s budget is required at SBJH.

In third and fourth grade I was schooled in the Cold Spring portables that were bought seven years earlier by some parents to teach kids like my MIT brother advanced math; and for all students to learn foreign language, journalism, and typing. My two years in portables were made exceptional by what happened inside. We were the special class: the one assigned the portables with wonderful Mrs. Wooten.

Safety was an issue when I attended with talk of moving the office up front to the kindergarten classroom, an easy low cost swap. Never happened.

When the Tea Fire hit – while Westmont jammed into its gym to be spared – within seconds, CSS had every kid jammed into available cars headed for safety with alerts sent to parents where to fetch us. Security was again a topic. Nothing changed.

It seems Cold Spring expenditures need parents to talk to all residents paying the bills to build consensus. There are people who can’t afford any more in taxes and money must be better spent at Cold Spring. There’s no excuse for waste when needs elsewhere are great, especially now.

What happens within a school matters most. Cold Spring is a great school because the community was involved.

I’d vote no for now to figure where tax money goes and to get everyone on board. I’d exempt by request only longtime residents over age 70 without pensions who don’t have money to pay more taxes.

Alyse Adams

Kudos to Gwyn Lurie

What an excellent article “Whose Montecito?” At many different levels:

It is a measured, mature long-term view of the topic.

The writing is articulate, interesting, easy to understand the insights.

It feels wise.

Good word choices – “living diorama” snow globe of better times. Good use of examples, images.

There’s sensitivity to “a lot of people were excluded from the joys of that special time, and many suffered from the very systems that others remember so fondly.” Nice, thoughtful.

Bringing in the concept of “kaizen” – very nice. The mention of how many generations of the Chumash have been here and the concept of the Rainbow Bridge was a vivid, enlightening reminder. The idea of not looking down or back but to look forward.

Gwyn, your taking the time to writing with depth and substantive viewpoints are appreciated.

With regards,

M. Greg Stathakis

Decision Time, America

The time is near. 2020 isn’t a normal year and it certainly is not a normal election. The 2020 high stakes election is about a lot more than winning. It is about the survival of our free republic. It is a battle between socialism and freedom. And law and order and anarchy. Finally, it is about protecting and preserving the American Dream. It is up to all of us to keep America free, prosperous, safe, and strong. Hopefully rampant voter fraud (ballot harvesting, double ballots, and dumping ballots) will be kept under control.

Diana Thorn

County School Board Incumbents Don’t Deserve to be Reelected

For the first time in a generation, the incumbents on the Santa Barbara County Board of Education have opponents running against them for their board seats. The former County Superintendent of Schools appointed these incumbents and has been actively campaigning for them, claiming the County education office needs them because of how effective they have been. Keep in mind, no board incumbent or superintendent has had to run for their respective office for over 30 years.

Is it true that the board incumbents are the people this countyneeds right now because of their effectiveness? Over 30 years ago, our publicschools were first-rate. Unfortunately, since then they have been in a steadystate of decline, to the point where we are now witnessing a generation of kidsfrom this area who are graduating without the requisite academic or vocationalskills necessary to succeed in the workplace or life.

Now we would understand if some readersmight think we are exaggerating this pitiful situation with our schools, so weare prepared to cite relevant information. In 2019, only 44 percent of the students inthe Santa Barbara Unified School District were meeting the standards for mathand 54 percent for English. If you thought this was bad, you might be surprised tolearn that only 35 percent of students in Santa Maria were passing math and English.

Not to be outdone by neighboring districts, as few as 28 percent of students at LompocUnified met the standards for math and a paltry 44 percent for English. Let’s notforget Santa Ynez High School, where only 36 percent of the students are up to snuffwith math.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy to turn this around,since it has developed over many years. Logic would dictate that there isabsolutely no way it can be fixed when the same people who oversaw this sharpdecline in our schools are now asking voters to keep them in office for anotherterm. In any other positions where performance is highly valued, these incumbentswould have lost their jobs.

Finally, since most voters do not know what the CountyEducation Office does, we think it might be helpful to understand what thisbloated behemoth has become. This agency spends $58 million every year, employsover 500 people, many of them administrators, and directly oversees theeducation of 175 students. This costs taxpayers $330,000 per student. Yes, theydo some other things, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone, includingthe teachers in our schools, who would know what they are. Countysuperintendents could have used their position to pressure the district schoolsto improve their performance, but sadly they didn’t.

The voters will decide if the school board incumbentsdeserve another term in office. We believe voters deserve better schools thanwhat they are now getting. The citizenry can reclaim their schools by votingthe School Board incumbents out of office. Anything less is a vote for businessas usual.

We are two of the opponents who are energized, ready toserve and bring a fresh set of eyes, ears, and ideas with a focus on reversingthe downward trend in reading, writing and math proficiency. Also running againstCounty Board incumbents are Cage Englander and Bruce Porter in their respectivedistricts. We will foster greatertransparency and fiscal responsibility.

We will emphasize innovative programs that engage, inspire, and prepareour youth to develop skills that are relevant in today’s economy.

Lou Segal, Candidate for County Board of Education, District #6
Santa Barbara

Michelle de Werd, Candidate for County Board of Education, District #4
Los Olivos

 

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