La Cumbre Junior High School Theater Manager Gary Smith
La Cumbre Junior High School Theater Manager Gary Smith said he was thrilled that the school board plans to name the facility after Jo Ann Caines. On stage, students rehearse a scene from ‘Death of a Hot Sauce Salesman.’ (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Jo Ann Caines was a local icon of public school education, who left a lifetime of impressions and memories with her students and their families.

And now, her name is expected to live on in more than just spirit, at the school where she became so revered.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education is poised to rename the La Cumbre Junior High School theater the “Jo Ann Caines Theatre.”

The school board will hold a public hearing on the name change at its meeting Tuesday night, which will be held inside the school theatre, instead of its normal venue on Santa Barbara Street. A final vote is expected Oct. 23.

“It’s an amazing idea,” Theater Manager Gary Smith told Noozhawk. “She would never ask for anything like this herself, but she was so passionate about the arts. She was always fighting for the arts she loved.”

Caines began her career with the district in 1987 as an English as a second language teacher, then became assistant principal at La Cumbre Junior High. In 1995 she became principal at Adams Elementary school, and a decade later she returned to La Cumbre Junior High school as principal.

“Under her leadership, both schools made significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap, earning the exemplary designation of California Distinguished School, and . . .  she is remembered as a fierce advocate for the Westside community and schools,” a school board resolution in her honor states.

Longtime board member Kate Parker made the initial request to rename the theater in Caines’ honor. 

“This is a case where I truly believe Jo Ann Caines has had such an impact on the Westside, and her legacy will be ongoing there,” Parker said. “It is important for the district to honor and remember that.”

“Sometimes when you just say a name or a word, and it takes you back very clearly, Jo Ann Caines, everybody knows, everybody has some form of relationship with Jo Ann Caines,” said board member Wendy Sims-Moten. “She had expectations of everyone who came in that building, every student she had, you expected to achieve, no matter what you came from, what you brought with you, she expected you to succeed, so much that you found yourself going, ‘I can’t let her down.’”

La Cumbre Junior High School theater the Jo Ann Caines

The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education is poised to rename the La Cumbre Junior High School theater the ‘Jo Ann Caines Theatre,’ after the beloved principal who died earlier this year. (Noozhawk file photo)

Caines graduated from Peabody, Santa Barbara Junior and Santa Barbara High schools. She received her bachelor’s degree in English linguistics and Spanish from UCLA. 

She died on June 6, 2018, at the age of 70.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.