Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   October 21, 2020

Full STEAM Ahead

There has been much discussion about how the upcoming Cold Spring School bond measure will impact the members of the school community, but it is worth pausing to consider how this measure will impact the current and future students.

Cold Spring School has a strong culture of providing students with an enriching environment where creativity and curiosity flourish. Music, drama, and art have been foundational programs of the Cold Spring student experience – allowing students to find and follow passions through exposure to a variety of models of learning.

The newest discipline to join the CSS enrichment program is STEAM, an integrated class that weaves the learning of core curriculum into hands-on engineering and design projects. Students work in collaborative teams to tackle real-world problems that have no prescriptive solution. Through these challenges, students apply content knowledge that is concurrent with classroom instruction, but the outcomes are far more substantial than simply deepening math and science skills. By working through open-ended projects, students become resourceful and strategic. Resilience grows as the fear of failure ebbs, and students become comfortable with an iterative design process. As a STEAM program, we are bold – and our message to students is Yes. Can I make a robot city? Yes. Can I build a solar powered boat? Yes. Can I restore this ecosystem? Yes. We intentionally work at the threshold of our capacity, knowing that it is in this space that we experience the most growth.

Since launching the STEAM program, Cold Spring students have installed bat boxes and birdhouses; they’ve built custom ukuleles, programmed homemade robots, planted a native garden, and designed a chicken coop for our hopeful campus food forest. The list of student projects is dynamic, and it fluctuates in response to the interests and passions of each cohort. While that means there is little resting on the work of old projects, it also means student voice and autonomy is a driving force behind the work we do. All paths point back to the kids.

I recognize that in so many ways, we are at the beginning of this journey. There are few elementary STEAM models that are as student-centered, and this is made possible by the support of the community around us. Our Westmont Science Mentor program brings university students into the classroom, providing individualized assistance to students, as well as aiding in project fabrication for our 178 (and growing) students. High school alumni volunteer weekly to maintain robots, work in the garden, and prototype projects. As a school we have been resourceful in making our STEAM program successful. A converted classroom is our lab space. Community grants through Village Properties and QAD are largely responsible for our technology tools. We have successfully made it through our proof-of-concept phase, and are on the cusp of joining the ranks of countless other public and private schools in developing a shared Art and STEAM lab that will continue to help our students grow and thrive.

Preparing students for the future is ingrained in the culture of Cold Spring. We have taken pride in how well we position our graduates to take on the world beyond elementary school. As our community considers this bond, I would offer that investing in our kids is the greatest gift we can give them – and it is an investment that will come back to us. One of the questions we ask in STEAM is, “How does my solution make the world a better place for others?” When considering the impact of this bond on the community, let us not forget that our students are also members of the community. On their behalf, we have an opportunity to cast a wider net, open more doors to learning, spark more joy, fuel more passion, and ultimately make this world a better place. Should we vote in favor of L2020? Yes.


Dr. Jean Gradias
Cold Spring School STEAM teacher

Vote Yes on L2020

We are writing to share with the community why we have decided to VOTE YES on L2020, a proposed $7.8 million school bond measure. 

The Cold Spring School community is resilient, our children are resilient, however, the school edifice is dilapidated. We have been residents and homeowners of the Cold Spring School District for about six years. Our young children attend Cold Spring School. We are active in the school as we are energized by its culture. 

The oldest standing buildings on the Cold Spring School campus were built in 1927, over 90 years ago. Expansions to the school occurred in 1954, 1958, and most recently in the late 1990s. That is to say, 7 out of 11 current classrooms were built more than 50 years ago and have outdated infrastructure. In the last 30 years, there have been no major renovations or improvements.

The two remaining portable buildings have exceeded their useful life, have deteriorated, and need replacement. Measure L2020 would allow the Cold Spring School District to replace the remaining portable buildings with new permanent classrooms to house the specialist programs and incorporate flexible, collaborative learning spaces for Cold Spring students. Today, the Cold Spring School has no capacity to add classes or reduce class size.

We have complete confidence in the competency and transparency in this project. As per Proposition 39 guidelines, a Bond Oversight Committee will be formed. The Committee shall not be made up of any employee or official of the school district nor any vendor, contractor or consultant of the school district. The purpose of the Committee is to inform the public concerning the expenditure of the bond proceeds. Finally, no funds may be expended for any teacher or administrative salaries or other school operating expenditures. We found this website to be informative: https://measurel2020.com/

The teachers and staff of Cold Spring School have time and time again shown a commitment to excellence. Perhaps we can show our commitment to our public school by voting Yes on Measure L2020. Undoubtedly, updating and upgrading our public school will have a lasting impact for current and future students.

Holly and Justin Kane, M.D.

One Can Lead a Horse (or Wolf) to Water…

Responding to W.S. Wolf’s letter which referenced mine: I am prompted to ask him, Which rock have you been living under? You want to deny there are facts (whether or not I cited them) demonstrating Donny J. Trump’s misogyny and racism?

What would you accept as facts: are his hundreds of words and actions against people of color not proof of his racism?

How about the way he treats women, using their bodies, paying them to remain silent, calling so many of them insulting names (just two days ago: calling Kamala Harris, a Black, highly educated, informed member of Congress a “monster“?)

If I cared what you thought, Mr. Wolf, I’d ask you to demonstrate how my assertions are not true. But you are not engaging in a logical debate. You seem to think that by repeatedly calling me “angry,” that it nullifies Trump’s behavior. Trump is exactly what I said he is, and whether I am sweet or rude or angry or not, Trump is still, disgustingly for the President of this country, a failed human being.

And what this country needs and wants before anything else: we want a compassionate, intelligent, caring leader.

Trump acts more like a used car dealer – and not a good one at that!

If you didn’t like my extensive list of references from Trump’s intimate friends, lawyers, and journalists confirming my assessment of trump, you have only to read this issue of MJ (October 8-15):

1. The Editor’s Letter: “Beyond Trump’s chaotic response to this pandemic, our beloved and beleaguered nation is dealing with pronounced and painful racial and ethnic divisions.” She goes on to say, she hopes this president would have strong moral principles such as honesty and decency. Read what you like into that.

Given this Editor’s place of abode and her position within MJ, I applaud her diplomacy and careful wording. But, maybe she’s angry too, because she thinks this chaos is the President’s responsibility. Just her opinion, right?

2. According to a Washington Post poll (January 2020), 83 percent of African Americans think Trump is a racist. Oh well, we can ignore them; they are definitely angry – all 83 percent of them.

3. Denying Muslims’ entry into U.S., calling Mexicans “rapists,” appointing 50 judges to U.S. courts, and NOT ONE is Black…! He did all that. But maybe that’s because all the other judges were angry, and needed replacing with white sweet judges.

4. Apart from the poor wheeler-dealer in the W.H., and according to Allison Towbes’s letter to MJ, “systemic racism and inequalities “are alive and well in our backyard.”

Well, we all knew that, but it is refreshing to see it said out loud, so to speak. Kudos to Ms. Towbes.

Unless you are blind, deaf, or dumb and/do not live in this world, there is too much evidence I could cite here to confirm again the facts I’ve named. It doesn’t matter to me if you want to say calling Trump a racist and misogynist is an “opinion”: mine, and millions of other Americans, good enough for me, particularly given. The history, knowledge and authenticity of the opinion-speakers.

After all, not everyone thinks the world is not flat so, maybe it is flat.

Just because you don’t want to attach those characteristics to Trump, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have and flaunt them.

Besides, you have agreed, you “do not approve of sexual misbehavior towards women.”

Well, Sir, persistent “sexual misbehavior” (cute phrase) equals misogyny! Or do you think a rapist is making love to his victim?

I really don’t want to waste anymore of my time on this issue. As I said, you have shown you are not qualified to debate. Your letter is confusing, makes no sense; additionally, you do prevaricate by only quoting part of one of my sentences. I don’t consider that fair game.

So, feel free to have the last say, to continue killing the messenger.

I doubt I will refer to your words again. (Incidentally, I am white, not angry, not afraid of burning in hell.) And I’ve done what words can do: I’ve led you to water.

Nancy Freeman

Picking Our Pockets

Proposition 15 will be on the November ballot and will directly affect your pocketbook by raising property taxes. Proposition 15 seeks to change Proposition 13 which was passed in 1978 and has kept property taxes stable and stopped people from being taxed out of their homes. Prop 15 will raise property taxes on all retail, commercial, and most agricultural property in the state of California. If this passes, the dramatic increase of costs will do a combination of two things: business enterprises will close and more people will lose jobs; the added tax on the commercial property will be passed on to owners or business tenants and the customers they serve; that includes supermarkets, medical offices, vineyards, office buildings, warehouses, gift shops, storage units, gas stations, hotels, and restaurants, etc. All these businesses will have to raise their prices and you the consumer will end up paying.

You can be assured the supporters of Proposition 15 will create a smoke screen by trying to portray it as a measure to “save our schools & communities” or “doing it for the kids.” The public teacher’s union and government employees (like the three Santa Barbara County Supervisors, Das Williams, Gregg Hart,and Joan Hartmann, who support the proposition) are undoubtedly supporting this new tax-raising technique as the money will primarily go to pay for their underfunded pensions.

This is a deceptive and sneaky way to pick our pockets and spend our money in ways they, the self-serving authors of this initiative, think best. We have voted for bonds that directly help schools and we pay plenty of property taxes already that go to schools and government services. Every home or business sold today at inflated prices gets a big step-up in basis which automatically fills government coffers. A typical new homeowner today pays $18,000 each year in property taxes. Remember, this deceptive ballot initiative will not appear until November 3, so expect many ads telling you to pass this measure. Spread the word and don’t be fooled. Vote no on Proposition 15, the one that wants to take the first step in changing Proposition 13 and eventually eliminate it.

J.W. Burk

Let’s Keep Winning

Cold Spring School is the number one scoring school district in the State of California, it was the most recent winner of the California Exemplary Arts Education Award, several Cold Spring teachers have won Crystal Apple Awards, and its superintendent won the ACSA Administrator of the Year Award. This is all a testament to the talent and dedication of Cold Spring’s faculty, staff, and administration.

However, despite the accolades Cold Spring has received, after being neglected for decades, the school site itself is crumbling away. One portable building had to be torn down because the floor rotted to the point of collapsing. Another deteriorating portable had a pipe burst that destroyed a year’s worth of art supplies. The electrical system is so inadequate that the school cannot install a fire system up to today’s code. Decades old cast iron pipes have complete deteriorated, so drinking water is dirty and potentially unsafe. The bathrooms constantly reek of backed up sewer water and are in desperate need of updating. All of this not to mention the old carpet, rotting beams, and other interior issues. Worst of all, when Homeland Security performed a site check in 2017, they noted that students will always be at risk so long as the administrative offices remain tucked away inside the school and not in front of school where visitors can be monitored as they enter the campus.

Moreover, with the success of the school and the new, remote workplace world we live in, families are flocking to the district. Enrollment is up over 15 percent year over year and has grown even since school started this academic year. While this has been phenomenal for home values, it presents a real problem for delivering the care and attention each student needs for success. Parents in the district demand small class sizes and a robust enrichment programs, but, as is, the school is currently using every classroom and, due to the state of the facilities, there no longer is a dedicated art room. If we want to keep class size small, we need more classrooms. If we want to continue to have award winning enrichment programs, we need proper art and STEAM rooms.

It is easy to dismiss that a school as well funded on a per student basis as Cold Spring is should not need any more money, but that argument fails when you look at the extensive amount of work that needs to be done. Despite the fact that the current superintendent came in under budget each year of her administration – and that is through the Thomas Fire, the debris flow that tragically took the lives of two students, and the pandemic – and despite the fact that the reserves have grown over a million dollars in that time, the work needed to modernize the school and keep our children safe simply costs too much to accomplish without the help of a bond.

I appreciate that asking for a bond during a pandemic is far from ideal and I appreciate that many stakeholders’ children have long since grown up and left Cold Spring. That said, I hope that others can appreciate that without a bond, Cold Spring will not be able to continue to deliver its award-winning education. There will come a time when the Board has to choose between the educational needs of our students and fixing the deteriorating infrastructure that has been neglected for so long.

Measure L is an investment in our children and in our community. One that will pay dividends well beyond increase property value. These children have been through a lot and they deserve a safe and secure environment in which to learn. I hope that everyone will vote yes on Measure L.

Thank you,

Michael Marino, Esq.

Why I Am Voting for Elrawd MacLearn

Courage, clarity, conviction. Brilliance of public speaking. These are the reasons many moderate Democrats and Republicans like myself are voting for Elrawd MacLearn for Santa Barbara Unified School District. He is perhaps the finest candidate for school board that I have seen for 10 years or more. 

Twenty years ago, I co-founded Coalition for Neighborhood Schools based on the values of parental involvement. I have found a candidate who aligns with these values.

Here are a few of the principles on which he is campaigning:

• Parents are the most important people in a child’s education

• A high school graduation requirement of a course in logic 

• Literacy as a basic civil right  

• Focus on improving reading, writing, and math skills, which are unacceptably low

• He even dares to suggest that the district reduce administration and direct some of those funds back into the classroom!

Since he announced his candidacy, Elrawd has regularly spoken out at board meetings and made blunt criticism of improper leadership and educational outcomes.   Yet never an ad hominem or trace of personal vitriol. Elrawd possesses a brilliance and a clarity in public speaking – so much so that one wonders, how is it that his major at UCLA was Biology, and not political philosophy and rhetoric?

Central to his persona is his extraordinary life experience. Elrawd’s family experienced the failure of public schools in his Orange County school district. Here is a young black man who, as the third of 11 siblings in a low income family, assumed the role of a father figure when his parents divorced, and worked graveyard shift in order to homeschool his younger siblings. He parented his younger siblings. As I said, not your typical candidate.

Our school board is presently 5-0 of one political viewpoint, and it’s not a moderate or centrist viewpoint. Elrawd will create a counterpoint on the board. Although he has fire in his belly, he possesses a thoughtful and gentle temperament. I believe he will be a very effective board member and will be deeply respected by all other members of the board.

Ask around – for all of these reasons, a wide coalition of traditional Democrats who support Laura Capps, Republicans, and no-party preference voters are all backing Elrawd MacLearn. He’s just a great guy and we need him! Find him at learnwithmaclearn.com.

Alice P. Post


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