Knowledge is Good

By Katie Cusimano   |   October 21, 2020

In the 1950s, Harold Hill sold the kids of River City a band program. In the 2020 revival, he’s selling a bond program.

Last week, while checking the Nextdoor website/app to learn which neighborhood cat was missing this week, I stumbled across some residents passionately debating Bond L2020 – Cold Spring School District Bond Measure. My kids graduated from Cold Spring School, so I scrolled.

As I read the thread, I noticed how both groups – those who wanted the bond to pass, and those who didn’t – were in agreement with the same core ideas: safe school, great teachers, smart and happy kids. Easy, right? 

In a recent presentation, broadcast to neighbors who logged on via Zoom, the Superintendent/Principal, Dr. Amy Alzina, welcomed parents and community members. Her enthusiasm was infectious. She did her best to squelch rumors she believed were false, and she encouraged the community to form a collective mindset of love and support as we move forward.

But wedged between the welcome and the love, the Superintendent chose to characterize a handful of community members – those who have publicly voiced opposition to Bond L2020 – as being “angry.” That’s fair. I know some folks who got mad because they felt their questions were being ignored.

But then, the Superintendent explained that anger is often the result of people who are hurting – and people who are hurting are often suffering from depression.

Wait, what? I logged on to Zoom to learn why the district needs $7.8 million. But before my seat cushion got warm, I got a lesson on the six degrees of psychological separation, starting with a few upset neighbors and ending with a cluster of mood disorders? That’s a pretty big leap. What’s next week’s topic? “Disagree and Get VD”?

It’s difficult to feel “love” for someone who uses her platform to disparage and further stigmatize those who might be suffering from depression – or any mood/mental disorder – especially to promote her agenda.

Since I couldn’t figure out why the keepers of Bond L2020 were being defensive with a handful of neighbors – neighbors who will be charged nearly $16 million by the time this bond is paid off – I went on a fact-finding mission.

I’m not sure whether everyone is aware, but the description on voters’ ballots titled, “Measure L2020 Cold Spring Elementary School District Bond Measure,” is not the entire Bond Measure. That’s the “abbreviated” description.

The complete “Resolution No. 2019-20/16” can be found at It’s eleven pages and reads like a Latin homily that was accidentally printed onto an old tax return. It’s loaded with fine print, legal references, and detailed language. After I read it a couple of times, it made more sense, but not in a good way.

That’s why I cannot support Bond L2020. Which is weird, because I’m a pretty happy person.

I oppose Bond L2020 because I don’t like how it offers built-in safeguards to protect those overseeing the project, yet provides little transparency – and no assurances – that promised projects will be completed.

There are lots of promises to build new facilities but, “In the absence of state matching funds… the District may not be able to complete all of the projects.”

There are lots of promises to fix buildings but, “based on the final costs of each project certain of the projects described above may be delayed or may not be completed.”

There are lots of promises to build specific projects but neither the bond, nor the District Staff, has produced a prioritized schedule, predicted timeline, or overall master plan, just lots of menu items.

There are lots of promises to repair infrastructure but, “Demolition of existing facilities and reconstruction of facilities scheduled for repair and upgrade may occur” as long as the board says it’s “cost-effective.”

Ask yourself what recourse an oversight committee has if it meets a week after your daughter’s classroom was demolished? Probably not very much, considering the members of that oversight committee will have been chosen by the Board, the same people to whom you’re giving a universal hall pass to make the decisions. 

Section 11: “the Board shall: (d) Establish and appoint members to an independent citizens’ bond oversight committee.”

Funny. If you read the mainly caps lock paragraph at the end of the bond, this pesky little detail is omitted from info about the committee.

Proponents of the bond have made it clear that funds will not pay teacher or administrative salaries: “no administrator salaries” and “not for any other purpose, including pensions, teacher, and school administrator salaries and other operating expenses.”

The thing is, this passage makes no reference to district staff – salaried or unsalaried – not being paid. Yet they were ever so specific about everyone else.

That’s because on page 8, before those “Look over here!” capital letters assure us those teachers won’t see a penny, the bond states:

“Proceeds of the bonds may be used to pay or reimburse the District for the costs of District staff when performing work on or necessary and incidental to bond projects.”

•Does this mean District staff members are eligible to earn money from Bond L2020, as long as they’re working on the very same project that “may” be paying them?

• If yes, “may” I apply for a job in the District?

• Does this include salaried and/or non-salaried District staff?

• Who determines who gets paid, how much, and when?

•If Bond L2020 passes, will any reimbursements be retroactive to include “necessary and incidental work” completed prior to the date Bond is certified?

•What types of work might be defined as “incidental” bond projects? Meetings? Lunches? Travel? Bond-bonding workshops? Bond-a-thons? 007 T-Shirts? Bail bond purchases?

My appreciation for Cold Spring School has not waned since my daughter graduated in 2008. If anything, it has increased because I’ve gained so much perspective since then. Some of my very best friends still teach there. And most of my current friends are parents I met at Cold Spring.

Cold Spring is unique because of its community. It was the little Bohemian “yin” to Montecito Union’s bigger, slicker “yang.” It was where Scott dressed up as Captain Hook and made chicken tacos on his Hibachi. Jeff ran the rickshaw. The “Spin Art” booth was a dad named Art, spinning in a swivel chair while kids gleefully squirted paint on him, and where Rose and Gaby dressed up as fortune tellers and delighted kids with what their futures would be.

We were inclusive, creative, and respectful of those who came before us, while we paved the way for those who would follow. 

Please read Bond L2020:

Please read Board meeting agendas – not minutes, which are shortened; I recommend Agenda 05-13-19:

Please visit the school on weekends and on weekdays after 3:30 pm.


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