This morning as I walked my kindergartener up the Roosevelt school steps, another parent and I looked at the Spanish-tiled walls and commented on the pride we feel about the public education our children are receiving. I was a Roosevelt student in the ’80s, and back then our classrooms were those portable and temporary structures with low ceilings and bad lighting. As students, we knew we deserved better, and some of us voiced that message to the school board at the time. Thankfully, after a lot of hard work by many people over many years, and a lot of funds raised, Roosevelt was rebuilt. As a neighbor to the Old Mission, it now stands as one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen.
Our public school system is the cornerstone of our democracy. And, I believe, our local schools are at the heart of our strong Santa Barbara community. With good teachers, caring staff, and innovative academic programs that prepare this generation for the future, we have a lot to be proud of. Yet sadly, many of our schools are in desperate need of repairs that will make them safer and stronger.
It is hard to believe, but there are still more than150 portables throughout the school system — classrooms that have long outlived their intended interim status. Also, I’ve learned that the pipes that bring water to thirsty kids are decades old and crumbling — impacting both water quality and our ability to conserve it the way we should. Many classrooms have old, leaky roofs and beat-up playgrounds that are hazardous for sports and activities. And many schools are running on outmoded utilities, which means bad lighting for learning and unsafe electrical usage that is far from energy efficient.
Studies confirm that the classroom environment plays a critical role in the way children learn and impacts morale — for students, teachers, and staff. We know what we need to do to modernize our schools in a way that supports student well-being, bolsters the safety of our buildings and outdoor facilities, improves water quality, and conserves energy and water use. And we know that taking care of this overdue construction will create local jobs and give our local economy a boost. During the last major school construction effort, 100 percent of the contracts were awarded to Central Coast companies, with two out of every three going Santa Barbara contractors.
On October 10, ballots will start hitting mailboxes and voting will begin. Voters from Montecito to Gaviota have a chance to make these school changes a reality by supporting Measure I and Measure J, bond measures put on the ballot by the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Unified School District. If passed, Measure J will infuse $58 million into the district’s 13 elementary schools. Measure I will dedicate $135 million to improving the junior high and high schools, while including a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase the underutilized Armory property located between Santa Barbara Junior High School and Santa Barbara High School. Securing this property has been a priority for decades because of the enormous educational and community benefits it offers students, families — and all of us who are lucky to live here.
With an unopposed election, I will proudly be sworn in as a new member of the Santa Barbara School Board in December. I am now working hard to pass Measure I and Measure J, understanding how critical these resources are for our students — my son’s generation and beyond. I hope you will vote yes on both and seize this opportunity to make our schools safer and even stronger. You can endorse the measures and find out more information at yesforschools2016.com.