Principal discusses Canyon Crest Academy’s ‘State of Success’ at Rancho Santa Fe event


By Diane Welch

There was a festive atmosphere at the Rancho Santa Fe home of Uschi and Taylor Crouch on Nov. 9 as Canyon Crest Academy High School (CCA) staff, parents of current students, alumni and future students, and members of its foundation gathered to celebrate the achievements of the school.

The “Evening in the Ranch” reception also recognized the generosity of contributors to the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation (CCAF) which, in part, has helped CCA raise its average Academic Performance Index (API) score to 917, the highest in the six public school districts countywide, despite being the lowest funded.

A hush fell over the room as CCA Principal Brian Köhn shared details about the school’s current and past achievements. Köhn, introduced by Rick Barrera, a father of a CCA student, spoke passionately about the school’s success.

As the first public school to break the 900 API score barrier in the county, CCA has been the highest performer for three consecutive years, said Köhn. Showing steady growth, the API has increased by 75 points over the past four years. “We are getting better every year... and I think, ‘How can the students possibly get better?’ But the kids keep doing it,” he said.

Citing published statistics, Köhn noted that Newsweek ranked CCA the 97th best high school in the USA, which translates to the top 0.4 percent in the country. It was ranked in the top 1 percent by US World News, has the highest AP (Advanced Placement) pass rate in the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD), and ranks one of the highest countywide.

For curriculum opportunity, above and beyond that offered at most high schools, CCA has programs such as robotics; QUEST, a science program that offers “real research”; Envision, a state-model visual and performing arts program; and a top-ranked athletics program. “The school is clearly working during a time that is not easy for public education,” said Köhn.

Statistics from 2010 data show that, on average, California spent $9,375 per student annually, while SDUHSD received $8,247, over $1,000 less, a formula determined at state level. “This year that amount has decreased to just over $7,000 per student. For seven consecutive years there have been cuts,” said Köhn.

This translates to just over $70 left from the allocated budget, per student per year, for discretionary spending. With the obvious shortfall, extra funding is required to support necessities such as computer labs, equipment in the theater, information nights for parents, Challenge Day, graduation ceremonies, weight room equipment, software and computer updates, referees, artists-in-residence, assistant coaches, and more.

Additionally, the annual cost for athletics programs is almost $300,000 and for Envision the cost is $150,000, alone.

“These are the things we have to fund, we can’t fund it from district money because it just isn’t there,” Köhn stressed. “This is where the foundation comes in, it has picked up where we have been left without any funds to work with anymore.”

Funding from CCAF also correlates to the success of CCA graduates, said Ashley Banner, head counselor, who also spoke. “Our students are going off to college, they are happy and they are thriving.”

Banner highlighted three very competitive schools that have shown a significant increase in successful CCA applicants this past year — CalTech, University of Michigan, and NYU. The numbers of students admitted to the UC system are even more impressive, said Banner. Overall, 80 percent of all CCA graduates go on to four-year colleges with significantly more accepted into Ivy League schools, proving that, despite the low budget, “the school is doing very well,” said Banner.

Foundation President Marty Foltyn spoke passionately about CCAF’s role in support of student achievement, setting a goal to reach $1 million in funding for this fiscal year. Barrera made closing remarks, giving thanks to those donors who have already contributed generously and urged attendees to donate. The names of contributors at the $2,500 level will be added to the recently unveiled Legacy Wall located on the school campus.

“CCA is a community. It takes all of us doing our part to make it work, to make the school special, and I can’t express enough how grateful I am for you to be here in support of our school,” said Köhn.

The evening reception was made possible by the sponsorship of Taylor and Uschi Crouch, Gary and Anna Lillian, and Nick and Vanessa Smith. Julia Marie Schorn, principal harpist for the San Diego Youth Symphony and a CCA senior Instrumental Music Conservatory student, performed. College preparatory raffle items were donated by EUREKA, High Bluff Academy, and SUMMA, and gourmet food was provided by the Carmel Valley Farmers Market at CCA.

To find out more about the CCAF, a parent-led 501(c)(3) organization, or to make a donation visit https://