Why should you be interested in Cold Spring School when you’re not in the Cold Spring School District? Because what has happened here could happen in your district.
So in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, we must vote Brian Campbell and Elrawd MacLearn to the board to change trajectories. There’s a lack of trust and intimidation tactics used in most local schools, and we all know to follow the money. Let’s try to teach that families, caring communities and country matter.
At Cold Spring School in Montecito, paid leadership and its appointed board thinks it can sneak a third bond for $7.8 million onto our tax bills, adding to the other two Cold Spring School bonds maturing in 2038-39. Cold Spring has 177 students, down from 240 in 1997, with an ADA of more than $25,000 per student from $4.4 million, which increases annually as houses are sold.
Leadership chose not to inform or learn from 87% of the district taxpayers without an enrolled student. We were excluded. Don’t look for an opposition statement in the sample ballot because we weren’t told for a reason. For an overview of issues at Cold Spring School, visit www.ourstudentsdeservebetter.com
New parents move in and out of Cold Spring School District from San Francisco and Los Angeles, to take advantage of our No. 1 ranked elementary school.
Almost every decade, these new parents want a bond measure. This time it’s loosey-goosey for a 6,000 square-foot administration building and three classrooms for supplemental pull-out learning to replace three portables bought around 2002 by parents, including me.
My answer to parents: Tomorrow, for supplemental learning, go buy two to three new portables for $75,000 each or refurbished modulars for $45,000. Tomorrow, parents, find the courage to demand that one favored ancillary teacher compensated around $138,000 for 12 hours/25 weeks a year, give back the classroom designated for his/her sole Zoom perusal for its intended use by district students. This teacher can Zoom from an office cubicle, or from home, or resign: Everyone’s replaceable at that compensation rate.
To the parents of students jammed into the tiny Cold Spring School library, take back that Zoom-room for classroom use! Find your voice. Apparently, it’s easier to sneak through a bond at a cost to others.
In defense of some parents, insiders in the know are concerned and afraid of adverse consequences for speaking out. There’s much more to this bond measure than meets the bond text. There are reasons why the two top administrators and board chose not to inform 87% of district residents because they knew we’d ask questions. Something isn’t right. I have 40 years as an informed public school activist, alum, parent, taxpayer and donor at Cold Spring School, SB Unified and Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Executive Board 1980-1996.
A few weeks back after a News-Press article, Taxpayers for Responsible School Spending was created to deliver this message: Community matters! Voices matter! Money matters! Facts matter! History matters! And trust matters!
This messaging led to taxpayers calling for a Cold Spring School Audit, even a forensic audit. Various sensitive information was forward from a variety of sources. A cease and desist letter has already been sent by one of the two executives who appears under contract as school attorney, and on payroll as Chief Budget Officer, and has a private practice on West Figueroa Street that’s also somehow involved. He’s named as bond manager and has a media-published past from Oxnard.
What matters to most to district residents, as I type on Oct. 5, Cold Spring School Administration just invited PARENTS to a Wednesday, Oct. 7, Zoom meeting on their bond. A parent told “respected brick and mortar elder Don Miller,” who called Cold Spring School to ask: “If the district would invite the community this time and/or allow the opposition present?” Declined. This is not how you treat the mouth that feeds you, is it?
Why is this Cold Spring School Bond DNC endorsed? What are outsiders like Mission Canyon’s Lanny Ebenstein lobbying over in Montecito for passage and support for the two administrators running Cold Spring School?
I doubt that 87% in this district are willing to be a blind piggy bank, rather than responsible, informed owners. The anchor residents with homes are here to stay and are not concerned about rising property values because no one’s moving. Young parents who move out after fifth or sixth grade seek to drive up property values unconcerned about community impacts. Over here, student test results reflect that every solid student has one highly involved adult advocate. We provide students an exceptional place to learn how to learn, and to contribute as Americans. Taxpayers care about what happens on campus to students and staff inside our beloved school. We prepare students for success at SB Unified. New parents don’t get it.
There are many unanswered questions: What happens to the $4.4 million we send to school 177 students that increases every year as parcels change ownership? That’s double what most other schools get. Why have administrative salaries doubled and tripled in recent years? Why has administrative and ancillary staff doubled with declining enrollment from 240 to 177 students?
There are 1,084 parcels in the Cold Spring School districts, with a wide variation in valuations from $1.659 million to $30 million. What’s really interesting is the balance: 42% of properties are assessed under $1 million (216 parcels under $300,000); 29% between $1 million to $2 million, and 29% $2 million to $30 million. Only 45% of parcels take the $7,000 homeowners exemption; 55% do not.
At Cold Spring School historically, about half of the students come from just a few nearby streets, most with assessed valued parcels under $500,000: 20 from Chelham, 16 from Westmont Road, 13 from Circle Drive, 7 from Paso Robles, and 7 from Sycamore Canyon. Westmont Road has 41 affordable faculty housing assessed in the $280-$300,000 range, now generating few students. Students from these neighborhood streets typically walk or bike.
Before looking at your tax bill, take a quick look at the financial facts for my typical street with assessed values from $1-$4.2 million (average $2.5 million), with seven homes, 10 adults and two Cold Spring School students. Of the seven homes, three take the homeowner’s exemption, the other four are taxed without a vote.
• TOTAL AVERAGE 2019 Property Tax Bill for each of 7 homes: $26,818, of which $15,513 went to schools! See breakdown below. I built my home in 1985-89; the other six homes purchased by second or third owners between 2004 and 2019.
• TOTAL 1% TAX BASE ASSESSED VALUES :$17,692,092 for average assessment of $2,527,442. per parcel.
• PLUS SCHOOL BONDS ASSESSED FOR CSS, SBUSD, and SBCC: $7,556 or $1,080 per parcel
In 2019, the 1% Property Tax of $26,818 paid per parcel, excluding bonds, the average payment to fund schools was $15,513, allocated accordingly:
• $4,176 Cold Spring
• $4,276 SBUSD
• $1,500 SBCC
• $1,031 County Education for special ed, social services.
• $3,450 ERAF- Education Revenue Augmentation Fund for non-Basic Aid Districts (equity supplemental tax)
Find out where your money goes! Vote NO more money for schools! Now’s not the time.
Community, parents, teachers and learning-ready students make high quality schools! My two kids were instructed in portables and are better off because of it! One a SBHS/ MIT Alum, the other a UW-Seattle shut-out junior.
Cold Spring School alum can transition at SB Unified secondary schools: we are the school where city and Montecito meet with great economic diversity. Others from Montecito choose private high schools to avoid what’s lacking at SB Unified secondary schools for typical students: peer prepared classmates and aides in every class.
Students succeed with competent instruction, school resources, opportunity, expectations, standards, adult support, and accountability. Advanced Placement classes are essential: SB High has 45 offerings.
Let’s do our homework. Commit to participate in our schools. Vote for new leadership at SB Unified: Brian Campbell and Elrawd MacLearn! Demand better outcomes from SB Unified elementary schools to close the huge student achievement gap. No more administrators!
If in the Cold Spring School District: Vote No!
Denice Spangler Adams
The author is a taxpayer in the Cold Spring School District.