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Welcome to San Diego. I believe that in the cities you mentioned you will have a great selection of schools - you almost cannot go wrong! Most are designated by your address, so you may have to live within the schools boundary to attend the one you choose.
Carlsbad will allow intra district transfer requests - to go to another Carlsbad Elementary school, but they don't offer out-of-district transfers.
You usually apply for the transfer between Jan1 and April before the fall start of classes. You will get a letter response in late May of your approval / denial. We have had no problem with this process for years. Greatschools.org can rank the schools for you and then you narrow it down. Of the Carlsbad Elementaries: Aviara Oaks, Kelly Elem., PacRim, Carrillo, Mission Estancia all have an API of 10 last time I checked - so they rank better academically than most schools in California! We have many friends in the first 3 schools listed and they all are quite pleased with those schools.
We, like you, switched schools in 3rd grade and have been very happy with our choice (which is included in that list above) both academically and socially. Parent participation is quite major here - it's a village feeling.
I am also familiar with all the other public elementary schools in Carlsbad too - but there are so many (more than 10) it's tough to know what to mention since I don't know what's important to you?
Feel free to ask me any questions directly at TiffanyHomes@yahoo.com and welcome to North County.
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