Cold Spring Elementary School District Superintendent/Principal Amy Alzina puts students at the center of her leadership. She has guided her small district through times of tragedy and change, all while ensuring every child receives an exceptional education.
Alzina shows what’s possible in education
June 10, 2024
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Amy Alzina Award: Superintendent/Principal of the Year Title: Superintendent/Principal, Cold Spring Elementary School District ACSA highlights: Member since 2007; Superintendents’ Symposium Planning Committee, 2022 and 2023; Chair, Small School Districts Committee (2021-present); Region 13 Executive Board Member (2017-present).
Small school districts are faced with a unique set of challenges, which small-district leaders must constantly work to solve within their communities, from local disasters to strategic plans. But for Amy Alzina, effective leadership has extended far beyond the borders of Cold Spring Elementary School District.
Through her statewide advocacy efforts at the State Board of Education, Legislature and CDE, as well as on ACSA’s Small School Districts Committee, Alzina has been a staunch advocate for all small districts. She has focused on critical issues such as LCAP, ensuring schools receive necessary resources, and providing disaster outreach and support. In leading her district through the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow, Alzina not only managed the local crisis but also toured the state to speak about disaster response and collaborated with other districts in the aftermath of their natural disasters.
Alzina’s commitment to professional excellence and innovation has driven her extensive work in the field of artificial intelligence, where she facilitates learning opportunities and presents across California on AI’s ethical challenges. She collaborated with the 2022 Loyola Marymount University valedictorian to develop an AI-integrated LCAP template, aiding school leaders in planning and sharing best practices for LCAP design, particularly in addressing learning challenges and supporting underserved communities.
Her student-centered, inclusive leadership extends to neighboring districts, providing opportunities for high school students to hone their leadership skills through a Cold Spring-sponsored “Leader in Me” Leadership Summer Institute and coordinating an All Santa Barbara and Montecito Schools Track and Field Meet at Westmont College. The district’s CAASPP results are a testament to Alzina’s dedication to student achievement, consistently showing year-over-year growth in student performance. In 2023, 93.88 percent of students met or exceeded the standards in English language arts, and 92.79 percent met or exceeded the standards in math. Additionally, Alzina collaborated with the community to fund a state-of-the-art STEAM and Art building, designed to support integrated project-based learning where the application of knowledge comes to life.
“For the past 25 years, she has dedicated herself to serving the children and families in Santa Barbara, consistently pursuing educational excellence,” ACSA Region 13 President Erin Roderick, director of special education at Conejo Valley USD, wrote. “Dr. Alzina has recognized the importance of a community working together to instill play, passion and purpose in each child, fostering intrinsic motivation and a love for learning.”
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? I’m a big fan of all of John Wooden’s books. My favorite quote from Coach Wooden is, “Success is giving 100 percent of your effort, body, mind, and soul, to the struggle. That you can attain. That is success.”
What’s the best advice you’ve received? “Nerves are just enthusiasm!” I’m not entirely sure of the source, but I think it might have been from a Simon Sinek TEDx Talk. I remind myself of this advice before every presentation or running competition, helping me embrace those anxious moments in my life.
What’s your best strategy for work-life balance? Stephen Covey discusses time management and prioritizing the “big rocks” in Habit 3. I firmly believe in taking care of oneself to be at your best for others. Therefore, I start every day with a four- to six-mile run, which keeps me fit and helps me organize my day. Additionally, I prioritize events that are most important to my family, like recently flying to Kansas City to watch my daughter, Malia, play in the Club Volleyball National Championships.
What are some life hacks you would recommend for a new administrator? Surround yourself with brilliant, kind-hearted people. My success stems directly from my supportive school board, hardworking teachers and staff, and my network of superintendent friends throughout the state, as well as community partners.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I was recently asked to be a lululemon ambassador. I love having the opportunity to engage the community around my other passion, running, with the support from lululemon. In addition, it’s super fun to test new lululemon clothes and provide technical feedback.
What inspired you to become a school administrator? My passion for ensuring every child receives an exceptional education from relationship-driven teachers and staff led me to public education. My personal mission statement is “To show what is possible in public education.” I love demonstrating the transformations possible when everyone commits to a vision of excellence.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are today? The most significant challenge was losing two students and their family members to the Montecito Debris Flow, followed by multiple mandatory evacuations during my first year as superintendent/principal. I managed to overcome this with the support of ACSA, my colleagues and the entire community.
What are you proud of accomplishing? I am immensely proud of the student-centered team at Cold Spring. Together, we have maintained our status as the top-performing school district in the state for five consecutive years, despite numerous challenges.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? The ACSA executive director, the Governmental Relations team, and staff have been incredibly supportive over the years. I deeply appreciate all the resources and advocacy provided, clearly reflecting ACSA’s commitment to the success of every child — a stance I am proud to support.
Through her statewide advocacy efforts , Alzina has been a staunch advocate for all small districts.
Alzina puts students at the center of her leadership.
Alzina recognizes the importance of community and striving for educational excellence.