The school defaulted on its loans the first year after the move.

California’s tight budget didn’t help.

“I don’t think we made a single payment, just because revenues didn’t come in from California as we expected,” Wagner said. “There was no money left over from the $20 million property acquisition and purchases.”

That brought Wagner and the executive team to look for options in modifying business plans.


The OCHSA Foundation, a separate nonprofit organization, helped get things going.

The parents of the students also rallied to bring the school back on its feet.

“We took the booster-club model and applied it to our entire school,” Wagner said. “The first year, the parents raised a little over a million dollars. Since that time, that number has consistently gone up.”

Wagner also credits individual donors and organizations in the Orange County community for the school’s survival and turnaround.

“Our big supporters have been Sandy and John Daniels of the Segerstrom family and Paul Musco—they are big supporters of the arts,” Wagner said. He also counts Opera Pacific, Chapman University and the Samueli Foundation as big supporters.

“The list really goes on,” Wagner said. “Those are some of the folks who have consistently written really large checks for us.”

OCHSA’s corporate sponsors include carmaker Audi, Switzerland-based Omega SA and Long Beach-based Farmers & Merch-ants Bank.

“The business community here has really been wonderful to us,” Wagner said.

“OCHSA 2.0”

If the move from Los Alamitos to Santa Ana counts as the first transformation, the school’s status now is “OCHSA 2.0,” Wagner said.

“Our school has finally stabilized itself,” he said. “The big thing I’m working on now is our 12th conservatory, the culinary arts program.”

The new program is set to launch next year, one of the reasons the school is looking at a boost in enrollment to 1,800.

“The program requires a specific facility,” Wagner said. “We’re actually taking our existing kitchen and doing a $250,000 remodeling on it over the summer. We’re going to turn it into an instructional kitchen. We’ll use it for food preparation in the morning and for lunch time. And then in the afternoon, we’ll bring the kids in for classes.”