Get Riehl: Showdown at Sage Creek

by Richard J. Riehl on October 10, 2012

Sage Creek-1According to a local newspaper columnist, allowing Carlsbad’s new high school to sit empty for at least a year is the answer to the district’s financial woes. But T.K. Arnold’s argument for delaying the opening of Sage Creek High is about as watery as the school’s fictional namesake. A closer look reveals how his politics trumps his punditry.

Calling Prop 30 “Gov. Jerry Brown’s blackmail ballot” tells you all you need to know about Arnold’s political bias. But what’s equally troubling is his reasoning. In a facts-free claim, he says the district could “save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year” in operating costs that could be used to close a gaping budget hole as high as $11 million” if Proposition 30 fails. The mixed metaphor (I’m trying to picture a “high” hole) could make you chuckle if the subject weren’t so serious.

Arnold doesn’t bother to estimate the cost of letting a $104 million high school campus remain vacant for at least a year, as well as the loss of learning opportunities to students denied access to new facilities.In his quest for savings, Arnold reminds us that the old high school has been completely rebuilt and that the greatest projected increase in high school enrollment is in the low single digits. He doesn’t bother to cite actual numbers, so here are the official enrollment projections released by the district last month.

Carlsbad High School enrollment this fall is estimated to be 3,199. It is projected to rise to as high as 3,552 next fall. That’s an 11 percent increase, hardly a “low single digit.” If Sage Creek High won’t take them, CHS would have to squeeze another 353 students onto its campus. At what cost to kids?

According to enrollment projections, high school enrollment is expected to grow by as many 800 more students over the next five years, 24 percent higher than this year. And Arnold suggests opening Sage Creek High School next fall is no big deal?

When I wrote for the North County Times, community columnists were not allowed to endorse candidates for office. But it looks like “there’s a new sheriff in town,” with Arnold’s endorsement of Ray Pearson to replace either of the incumbents on the Carlsbad School Board.

He explains that declaring themselves “happy with the district’s direction” in opening Sage Creek next fall makes the incumbents unacceptable, and that Ray Pearson says he’d take the money being spent on the new high school and use it to hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.

But in San Diego County’s Sample Ballot and Information Pamphlet, Ray Pearson is not quite as forthcoming. He writes, “Now is the time to ask parents, community members and stakeholders would they prefer delaying the opening of a new high school or using the funds for classroom reduction.” Assuming he meant “and” instead of “or” it sounds like he wants to survey his constituents rather than persuade them.

But the largest assumption of all, by both Arnold and Pearson, is that delaying the opening of Sage Creek could produce the savings needed to produce the results they want.

Sounds to me like two guys who’ll be voting against tax increases and looking for justification to vote against schools.

As for me, I’ll be voting for Elisa Williamson and Kelli Moors as well as Prop 30. I agree with them that the district is heading in the right direction by opening Sage Creek High next fall.

Richard Riehl writes from LaCosta. Contact him at

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

La Costa Moms October 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

We’re going to vote for Ray Pearson for CUSD Board of Trustees. Why? Just read this North County Times article:

“Last week, Julian Charter School offered Carlsbad Unified School District more than $450,000 a year to lease 16 classrooms at the school, but district trustees decided to wait a week before accepting the offer. They said they wanted more time to review the lease they approved last month before committing to anything. The following day, the Julian-based charter school withdrew its offer….Now, the trustees have asked Superintendent Suzette Lovely to find someone else to lease the portion of the property.”

Ms. Williamson and Ms. Moors threw away $450,000.

Parent October 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm

The Board needs fresh ideas – it’s time for Moors and Williamson to be voted out of office. Williamson has stated that they “will continue to do what’s necessary to maintain a balanced budget…” Well, they both horribly failed at that recently. They both voted “no” to merge Buena Vista School into Magnolia. If they had merged BV into Magnolia, the Board would have had accomplished the following”
1) Save over $500,000 in operating expenses
2) Had the option to lease the entire BV campus
3) Still would have had 6 empty class rooms at Magnolia (even after merging BV)
4) Would have been able to move the BV Principal to Calavera Hills Elementary school. Note: This year the Board decided to have Calavera Hills Middle and Elementary share a Principal (for over 1,100 students). Today BV has a principal for only 270 students.
In addition, they completely mismanaged the process to lease the Magnolia classrooms to the Julian based charter school. Plain and simple, they both were not prepared, and it cost the district dearly. It cost the district $450,000 just because they were not prepared for the meeting. Perhaps they have worked together too long…

bernadette October 24, 2012 at 7:34 am

It is amazing that the NCTimes gives this guy, Arnold, a platform. His knowledge of the topics he writes about is superficial, knee jerk, and lacks basic journalistic research standards (i.e. FACTS)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: