Then: Public schooling in Montecito began in the 1830s when community-minded Victor Juarez began gathering together Montecito's children, all of whom were Spanish-speaking at the time, in his adobe for instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. His efforts became recognized as important when the numbers grew, and, in 1859 the City of Santa Barbara came up with ten acres of land on San Ysidro Road where a one-room schoolhouse was constructed. The school's population soon outgrew this facility. By 1868, the school's population was reported to be over 200 students and rooms were added to the school. In 1897, the local Santa Barbara newspaper stirred action in the Montecito community by pointing out that "Montecito has the finest grounds and the poorest school house in the county!" So, in 1900, the second Montecito School was built, just south on San Ysidro Road from its original location, a project supported by voters who approved a $5000 bond issue.
"Discipline was stern and swift," recalls Ray Romero, a student in 1912. "If a teacher gave you a licking at school, you got another one at home that night." In 1922, the Montecito School consolidated with the small Ortega School at East Valley Road and Sheffield Drive, forming the Montecito Union School and, after several fires and three major earthquakes, this institution, rich in history and culture, still stands tall as a representation of quality in education and caring. Ralph Romero, a former student of Montecito Union (1927-35), spoke the words that were in the hearts of all children who have passed through this place, "Montecito Union School was something special to me. It motivated me, taught me to do my best and take responsibility."
Now: The Montecito Union School District is a public elementary school district with one school serving children in grades Kindergarten through Sixth Grades. In 1998, the school was awarded the State of California's "Distinguished School" status. Montecito Union is governed by a five-member board of trustees and administered by a district Superintendent, a Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Students. Enrollment has risen from 264 students in 1983/84 to over 400 students today. The school boasts of a teacher/pupil ratio of less than 1/20 students in grades K-6 with a certificated teacher and a three-hour instructional assistant in each of the classrooms. In addition, the school's staff includes specialists in art, music, physical education, technology, Spanish and library. The Montecito Union School rests on an eight acre site nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean and serves the community of Montecito.