Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   November 5, 2020

Put Our Children First

Our family moved into the Cold Spring School District on the eve of the Thomas Fire. We chose the district because we had first-hand experience with Dr. Amy Alzina’s leadership at Adams Elementary School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Her student-centered focus and educational vision is the perfect recipe for successful schools.

At Adams Elementary, during Dr. Alzina’s tenure, we experienced an amazing turn-around in student achievement. The whole child approach and loving environment that we now have at Cold Spring School were the ingredients that ultimately led to Adams achieving California Distinguished School status and National ESEA Distinguished School in 2018. To achieve the National ESEA status, Adams Elementary was ranked as one of the top 100 Title I achieving schools in the nation based upon student achievement.

In 2010, the Santa Barbara Unified School District passed a school bond to replace aging infrastructure and replace portables. At Adams, the district replaced a library that was in a portable and built a new science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (“STEAM”) classroom. Dr. Alzina was a staunch advocate for the new library and classroom because she understood the importance of investing in our schools and providing the best learning environments for our children. I supported that bond.

Cold Spring School is an older campus than Adams Elementary. In California, funding for school buildings and infrastructure is left to each individual community to fund through general obligation bonds. The school is in need of the proposed improvements. Repairing and replacing an aging fire alarm system, sewer lines and water lines are not things you want to ignore. If we have the opportunity to incorporate a new learning environment into our already amazing educational program, why wouldn’t we support that especially when the vision includes extending opportunities to children outside of our district?

Since purchasing my home, I believe we have seen the value increase dramatically. This was the same effect we experienced with the home we purchased in the Adams Elementary attendance area. As student achievement soars, so does the demand for homes in the attendance area. At Cold Spring, the mere fact that we were the first school to open will create a spike in home demand.

Measure L2020 is an investment in our community. It is an opportunity to build on the mission of the school district and Dr. Alzina’s vision of sharing best teaching practices regionally and serving children outside of Cold Spring in a deeper way. It is also about providing a safe environment for our children.

I urge you to vote “Yes’’ on Measure L2020! Our community benefits when we put our children first!

Dr. Erin Duarte

Vote No on Measure L 

I am a Montecito taxpayer who recently became interested in the school’s leadership’s request to pass another bond, L2020. After reading about it and doing my own research, I have major questions AND concerns. There is little transparency, so you have to dig deep to get information. I also just received my property tax bill with the two previous Cold Spring bonds listed that we are still paying for. Why is the list of wants and needs to L2020 essentially the same as C2008? What was the C2008 $2.4 million spent on, and why did they not have the required oversight committee to ensure the taxpayer money was spent appropriately? What I have learned recently is that there are many people afraid to voice their concerns, and only a few who are brave enough to come forward and be the voice for the ones who are silenced. Vote no on Measure L.

S. Cohen

I Do Declare

An op-ed last week promoted a document prepared by three doctors endorsing herd immunity. I was intrigued because the authors were from prestigious universities and all described as epidemiologists. The op-ed writer complained about the “non-coverage” that this statement, self-described as “The Great Barrington Declaration,” had received from “major media.” In fact, there has been considerable discussion of this declaration. First, the doctor authors received funding from a Koch brothers-funded libertarian “economic research institute” which takes issue with the majority of the American scientific community’s COVID strategies. Second, the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, has officially requested that its name be removed. “We are a COVID-safe community, we are not tossing off our masks,” Mark Pruhenski, Great Barrington’s town manager, said in a statement. Third, my Google search quickly revealed literally hundreds of articles covering the “declaration” in the mainstream media all around the world, including five in The New York Times and an extended interview with two of the doctors in the Wall Street Journal. What the op-ed writer did not mention was the scientific community’s professional review and response. Several thousand members of the Union of Concerned Scientists published a memorandum responding to the three doctors in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, known as the “John Snow Memorandum,” www.johnsnowmemo.com. I urge intelligent, educated Montecitans to read this as well as the other documents to make up their own minds. And before anyone wonders whether the author of Game of Thrones might object to the use of the name of one of the historical fantasy series’ most popular characters, take note: Dr. John Snow was a 19th Century English physician considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology and public health.

Charles C. Read

The Bear Necessities

My name is Carlos, I was born and raised right here in Montecito. My home has been on a ranch nestled in the middle of East Valley Road, Romero Canyon Road, and Buena Vista drive for as long as I can remember. My mother named me Carlos Romero after the name of the ranch I live on, Rancho San Carlos and Romero Canyon, my neighborhood.

Please know that I am a neighbor, not a nemesis. If you see me from a car, wave, if you see me at your house, back away slowly, then, when safe, make lots of noise and let me know I should move on. After all, I get hungry this time of year and will gladly relocate to a more welcoming place. Just know it is not you I am after, I am shy and like to keep to myself, but lately the work on the ranch has been discomforting to me, and the others there, such as my friends the deer, racoons, possums, and squirrels. 

I think the humans are clearing brush and dead wood for fire season and that is a good thing. But the grubs, ants, and larvae that I eat as a staple diet might be getting taken away. I am an omnivore. I eat what is easiest to find and seldom hunt live prey. So, you really have not much to worry about from me. I may be large and imposing, but when I smell food from a garbage can, I will treat it like a log with larvae and see if I can find a nibble or two.

I know I might be alarming to you, but please be aware I have rights, just like you. Please go to the following link to understand them:


Winter is coming, that is why I am constantly eating, to prepare for my yearly deep sleep, hibernation, bulking up so I will be able to snooze comfortably and be well out of your yards and streets for a good long slumber.

I know fish and game are probably setting a trap for me so they can take me to another location and that is fine with me as long as I can keep being a bear, doing what bears do best.

Carlos Romero, The Bear
Forwarded to the MJ by his friend, Michael Edwards, Montecito

Double Speak Double Trouble

I just received a letter from the Cold Spring Superintendent Amy Alzina and the Board President Jennifer Miller and I was truly blown away by their hypocrisy. They claim they “have been transparent in everything they’ve done.” Does that include changing the board rules about communication so that only Ms Miller is allowed to ask any? That is what they did in 2018 to keep certain board members from asking questions they didn’t like.

They claim to be relationship driven but have completely ignored the residents who don’t have children attending the school. In your last issue Amy Alzina wrote in favor of Bond L2020 stating, “The district’s Facilities Master Plan, dated April 10, 2006, addresses district needs and proposes the construction of a permanent building to replace the portable classrooms. This report is 14 years old. The report also addresses the site circulation issues and the need to move the administrative offices to the front entry of the school for security purposes. We agree with the recommendations made in 2006.”

If Alzina had done her homework on the history of bonds in this community she would have learned that the district residents had rejected that Facilities Master Plan twice. First in November 2006 with Bond Measure K for $14.5M then again in February 2008 with Bond Measure R for $8.5 million. It was clear then that district residents did not see a need for a new administration building at the front. My first husband Stan and I both voted for Measure C for $2.4 million. However, now I have serious concerns that there hasn’t been any of the oversight on that bond. 

Alzina talks about how they created a culture of mutual respect but in your issue last week she blamed the community for the low survey results when she wrote, “Admittedly, the response rate was low. This has to do with our community’s willingness to participate in surveys, not any fault of district staff or FM3. FM3 attempted phoning, emailing and texting the community to secure participation.” Well, I don’t know anyone who was contacted. I would have responded as would all my friends. 

Maybe instead of spending thousands of dollars on a survey of a handful of people Alzina and the board could have hosted a series of free town halls that they promoted on Nextdoor. If they had, they would have heard this history from a lot of us. Instead Alzina takes no responsibility for the poor planning, wasteful spending and ugliness this debacle of a bond rollout has had on this community.

I am signing this letter with my maiden name because I don’t feel safe in my community right now. I have already been heckled by a parade of Vote Yes on L2020 cars last weekend. I also heard from Don Miller’s neighbor that his truck was vandalized and his No signs were stolen after his letter in your paper last week. Shame on these people, terrorizing the older generation. Think of the message you are teaching your kids: do what you want, don’t do your homework, blame others and harass people with differing opinions. Their letter reads like propaganda from 1984 – full of Orwellian doublespeak. The school doesn’t need new classrooms, it needs new leadership.

Esther Greene

My Journey Leading to a Yes Vote on L2020

A little background. My Cold Spring School story is both personal and incredibly rewarding. My family chose to move into the Cold Spring School District because we heard great things about the school and the community. The administration, faculty, staff, parents, and children alike welcomed us and we quickly realized we were in a special place.

My wife and I wanted to give back, so we joined the Cold Spring School Foundation. We became foundation co-presidents the year of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow. It was then that we experienced the depth of the school’s unwavering commitment to our community and the community’s support of the school. As the song goes “we are small but mighty” and that was proven by the response of the administration, faculty, parents and neighbors. Cold Spring was a staging ground for first responders, a location to receive free trauma counseling, and it was a community filled with shovels to dig out our neighbors. We found our place and extended our family.

The leadership during this time of crisis was outstanding, despite it being our superintendent/principal’s first year, the goals were set for Cold Spring School to provide a safe and supportive environment and not fall behind academically. As a result, and despite all the challenges presented, standardized testing improved that year. Since then, it has continued to improve, leading to Cold Spring School becoming the number one school district in the state of California.

When joining the School Board last year, I experienced an administration, faculty and staff that was committed to continuous improvement, fiscal responsibility and flexibility. My tenure on the board lapped two fiscal years, and despite previous reports, I experienced a budget surplus that added reserves to the balance sheet. The administration, in conjunction with the governing Board, increased the reserves to five times the state mandated amount to ensure that when the next disaster hit, the school would be prepared.

The COVID-19 crisis was our next test. The administration was determined to respond quickly and provide the same outstanding education in a fiscally responsible manner. The administration faced an environment where costs were increasing, partially due to the immense COVID-19 related expenses, while state funding was decreasing. The administration, through their tireless and relentless efforts, presented a plan that cuts costs, protects our incredible faculty and staff, provides a safe working and teaching environment, and keeps our educational standards high. Parents were surveyed multiple times and a dual course was paved that includes online and in-person schooling options. This is only one example of their excellence and another reason why families want to live in our district.

I voted in favor of placing Measure L on the ballot because while we have a fantastic school, the facilities are in desperate need of repair and the campus is not secure. The school is over 100 years old and it continues to have facilities issues. The two portables have deteriorated, with one already having been removed since it was so dilapidated that it was beyond the point of repair. The other portable at the front of the school is in immediate need of replacing with a recent pipe burst flooding the unit. This is in addition to significant deferred maintenance that is necessary to provide a safe environment for our children.

Cold Spring School is a beacon in the community and a point of pride for all who live in the district. If housing inventory and real estate prices are an indicator of the demand to be in the school district, they support the thesis that the school is a primary attractor. The bond will support Cold Spring School to continue to be a distinguished school and improve safety for our children for many years to come. I believe that $14 per $100,000 of assessed value is a small price to pay to make a long term and permanent investment in the school to continue its long history of bringing a community together and delivering top-ranked education.

My vote is Yes on Measure L.

Eric Schiller

Cold Spring School Governing School Board Member

Thanks to the Montecito Journal for calling out that CSS Leadership had put bond Measure L 2020 on the ballot and for covering via letters there is opposition to bond passage for many verified, reasons. There are too many shenanigans going on over at CSS, too much intimidation, and too much bad behavior.

Now I hope MJ will choose to help us expose the missing money from bond funded Measure C 2008. Minutes show those funds were, and are, being spent to gain passage of Measure L 2020.

For administrators to admit to “untruths” (commonly called lies), intimidation, threats, and use minor children for political gain using taxpayer property and resources is reprehensible. CSS Leadership’s unique communications in violation of CA Ed Code and Fair Political Practices to gain public votes must be called out.

Regardless of the election outcome, the District community can thank the hundreds of volunteer hours contributed by anonymous neighbors, intimidated parents, and others researching and verifying facts to justify a No Vote to pause for a closer look.

Going forward, we can anticipate costly forensic audits. There are major problems at CSS beyond the bond. For starters, CSS deficit spending must end, parents must not be intimidated to contribute $1,200 per student to attend a public school, and students must not be used for political purposes on campus by administrators.

Denice Spangler Adams

Called into Question

I am not the type of person who writes letters to the editor, so this is out of my comfort zone, but here I go.

When I received my mail-in ballot I promptly filled it out and cast my vote.

A week later I received a political mailer that was sent to over 1,000 people in the district. It encouraged all of us to vote yes on Measure L 2020. Here’s the problem. My child’s picture was front and center on this political mailer. Not only was this photo used without my permission, but I voted no on this measure just a week prior.

I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw it. I felt outraged that my child, myself, and my vote were violated. I never gave my permission for the photo, that was taken in art class, to be shared outside of school.

I met with the Cold Spring administration and decided not to push the issue.

And then, last week, I read a post that was written by a member of the Measure L2020 bond committee stating how her child’s privacy was violated. It retriggered the anger I had felt.

The Measure L 2020 bond committee chose my son as their poster child for their cause.

Here are my questions:

Where is the fact checking?

How did this get past so many people including the district’s legal counsel?

Where is the accountability?

If they can’t manage basic marketing how can they manage $7.8 million?

Shelly Robertson


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