Caines named La Cumbre principal

Students graduating from Adams Elementary School and going onto La Cumbre Junior High will see a familiar face in the halls. Adams principal Jo Ann Caines will be the new principal at La Cumbre, replacing Eugenia Walters, who resigned for unnamed reasons. Walters has been on personal leave since early November.

Under Caines’ leadership, Adams earned recognition as both a California Distinguished School and Title I Achieving School. A GATE Cluster Magnet School with 78 percent minority students and 72 percent of the students below the poverty level, under Caines’ leadership Adams has often been held up as a model for low-income schools.

Caines, who is a product of Santa Barbara public schools and a Santa Barbara High grad, said she is eager to engage staff, parents, and students in building a “new La Cumbre.” In a sense she will be “going home” to La Cumbre, where she taught for many years and served as an assistant principal.

La Cumbre’s enrollment has declined to approximately 430 students and it is hoped that Caines’ solid reputation in the community, creativity and skills as a team leader will help turn that trend around.

In recent years, an exodus of students and administrative turnover has challenged La Cumbre. In 2003, Michael Gonzalez, the school’s principal for several years, was reassigned to the district office after mediators could not resolve conflicts with some members of the staff. Walters, who was then an assistant principal at the school, replaced him that year.

Under Walters, the school worked closely with the school board and other district officials on a plan to bring back many of the students who had left, in part by reinstating many of the enrichment classes.

Matt Zuchowitz will replace Caines as the interim principal at Adams.

“I am delighted to be joining the Adams School Community!” said Zuchowitz, who began this school year as the assistant principal at Franklin Elementary School and has also taught at McKinley Elementary School and Peabody Charter School.

“Having worked with Jo Ann Caines, as well as a number of Adams teachers, I know how hard she has worked to build a cohesive team of staff, parents, and community partners that are focused on the academic achievement of Adams’ students. I am looking forward to working with Ms. Caines during this transition. I know that because she will be only a stone’s throw away at La Cumbre Junior High, this will help ensure a smooth transition.”

Also getting a new assignment is Patricia Santiago, who was named interim principal at Washington Elementary School, where principal Beatrice Rubio-Cordeiro is on a long-term medical leave.

Santiago taught at several local elementary schools, including Peabody Charter School and Franklin Elementary School and most recently served as assistant principal at La Cumbre Junior High.

I’m excited about becoming a member of the Washington Elementary School team,” said Santiago. “Washington has a long history of academic excellence which can be attributed to its dedicated teachers and committed parents. It is my hope that my experience as a leader at Peabody Charter School and La Cumbre Junior High School will enhance the strong educational program already in place.”

In addition to these changes, the Board of Education also promoted Santa Barbara Junior High School’s interim principal Susan Salcido as the permanent principal at that school on Tuesday.

“I am pleased that we are able to draw from our exceptional pool of district administrators to meet our mid-year school site administrative needs,” said Interim Superintendent Brian Sarvis.

“Leaving one school for another is never easy because of the relationships that are formed. But, these are professionals who saw the larger need and accepted the challenge that accompanies change. Jo Ann Caines, Matt Zuchowicz, and Patricia Santiago will provide effective leadership and are committed to making the new transition as seamless as possible.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

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