Money well spent?

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

After three months and $3.2 million of Proposition AA taxpayer money, Canyon Crest Academy has a field to rival the Chargers’.

Well, maybe not quite. But to my untrained eye, it looks beyond beautiful, almost too perfect to set foot on. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous, really.

Before I focus on the outrageousness of spending millions of dollars on a field, when there are so many academic needs the money could have been used for, let’s give the San Dieguito Union High School District credit for being fiscally responsible.

The project was estimated to cost $3.9 million, but has come in well below that amount –  $600,000 to $700,000 under budget so far. That’s impressive.

Now the dark side. The district still spent well more than $3 million on a playing field.

When asked why focus on a school that’s new, Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, responds that the district is finally completing the original project that started 10 years ago when the school was built.

What was left undone, Dill said, were the fields. And now with the passage of Prop. AA and $449 million in bond money, the district can use a chunk of it to bring its newest school up to parity with the district’s other high schools.

This line of thinking assumes that all schools need to be the same, when there is great merit in schools that specialize in unique ways that set them apart from one another. This attracts a certain kind of student whose interests mesh with the school’s priorities. Distinction and differentiation, rather than standardization and conformity, define a culture for a school that makes it special.

The foundational values of CCA originally concentrated on academics of course, but with an arts and technology focus. Athletics initially took a back seat to the school’s main charter. Yet CCA’s mantra is: “academics, athletics and the arts.” I love the alliteration but is there no room for science and technology in there when that was part of the original vision?

CCA students are featured regularly in this newspaper for their incredible technological accomplishments. To ignore this facet of the school’s special focus seems a mystifying oversight.

CCA senior Eric Chen was just named the grand prize winner of the acclaimed international Google Science Fair for developing new treatments to fight influenza. Although this is arguably the crowning achievement so far for CCA’s student body, it’s not the only one. Kids there do astonishing work in non-athletic pursuits.

According to district officials, the new all-weather track and artificial turf field will serve just one-third of the student population at CCA, for kids in after-school soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and track and field. It will also be used for regular physical education.

The money from Prop. AA cannot be used for teachers or salaries and is only for facilities, materials and equipment longer-lasting than items with short life spans like Chromebooks or iPads. But surely there are other, better uses for millions of dollars that meet the bond’s legal restrictions.



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