Opinion: Finding Meaning 


The Importance of Competition  

You likely noticed the passing of long-time Laguna institution Annaliese Schimmelpfennig, founder with husband Paul of the noted three-campus Anneliese Schools. Of the people who have lived in Laguna, few have shaped our town in such a positive way, helping tens of thousands of children, to quote her Indy obituary, learn to “live meaningful lives.” Wow! 

Anneliese Schools opened its first campus in 1971 in a 17-room estate at 758 Manzanita. That estate had a history marked by two main events in Laguna’s development: The paving of a single-lane road through the canyon in 1915 and the arrival of Coast Highway in 1926. In 1918 a Portland, Oregon restaurateur named Claude Bronner, reportedly just out of jail and perhaps looking for a fresh start, opened the White House Café.  

Coast Highway caused a real estate boom along the coast but bypassed sleepy San Juan Capistrano, where the Richard A. Bird family had built the Palm Café. So, the Birds came to Laguna, making a generous offer for Bronner’s White House Café, which soon sported the clever sign, “Let the Birds Feed You.”  

Joe Thurston, whose family had been farming in Aliso Canyon since 1871, now enters the picture. Maybe he was tired of growing melons, but Thurston got into land development starting with his 1927 Virginia Park project—the area bounded by Virginia Park Drive, Park Avenue, Manzanita, and La Vista Drive.  

Bronner, flush with cash, bought a portion of the development and created his own subdivision, spinning off three lots and building an upscale 17-room resort at 758 Manzanita Drive. The Depression was bad for business and Bronner sold his resort bringing one of the most colorful, though lesser-known Laguna characters, Professor George Adamski, who founded a Tibetan monastery. Born in Poland, Adamski styled himself a professor of “Oriental Mystical Philosophy” and brought his “Royal Order of Tibet” to artsy Laguna. It’s a story for another column, but after a few years, the monastery foundered and Adamski moved on, finding greater fame with a trilogy of ‘nonfiction’ books about being taken on a tour to Mars and Venus in a flying saucer.  

Bronner’s resort cum monastery, passed through other hands, was a residence for a time until purchased by the Schimmelpfennigs for a new kind of school. Our children didn’t attend the Annaliese Schools, they were out of our budget, tuition starts around $15,000. But I just noticed that Laguna Unified spends more, about $23,000 per student. I’ve believed in public schools in the past, but also believe that in time, most institutions lose their way, so I also believe in the benefit of competition over monopoly.  

It’s catching my attention that Anneliese Schools offers an education for which parents are willing to pay a lot of money when there’s a free school nearby. I also noted in last week’s Indy, a grandiose project by the school district for two new pools, a parking structure, and a fancy administrative complex that has been developed without appropriate public input. This brought to mind Nobel economist Milton Friedman’s campaign for school vouchers giving parents the choice of where to educate their children. If there had been vouchers, don’t you think the Saint Catherine Parish School would still be open, offering still another choice?  

The stories found researching this column have entertained the Beautiful Wife, one of my life goals, but they’ve also brought me to a conclusion: We need competition in education and Annaliese and Paul with their dedicated team have blessed Laguna by doing this. There’s meaning in that.  

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]. 








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  1. Know your history: “Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served Black students remained chronically underfunded.

    The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religious belief, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.” – NEA

  2. Skip – a wonderful tribute and history lesson. This is an example of how locals put Laguna Beach on so many radar screens. Pride and appreciation for our unique coastal community and a commitment to educate and serve its residents. There’s meaning in that. Thank you.


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