Stratford School eyes takeover of bankrupt Carden West
Merger could solve debt problems for local school
Another school may be coming to the rescue of Carden West, the small private school at 4576 Willow Road in the Hacienda Business Park that declared bankruptcy late last year.
A parent, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Stratford School may take over operations at Carden West as well as assuming its debt.
"It's yet to be completed (but) it seems quite likely that Stratford will be coming into town," the parent said. "They have a letter of intent with the landlord signed by both parties. They're putting the finishing touches on the lease."
Carden West is a nonprofit toddler-to-middle school; it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, claiming debts of nearly $1.8 million and assets of just $6,000, only half of that in cash, with the rest in hard assets like school desks and chairs. As of the filing, Carden West owed more than $2,600 in federal taxes and was using monthly tuition payments to pay teacher salaries.
The parent said the school amassed its $1.77 million debt over a long period of time.
"Part of it was tenant improvements on the building. There have been times when it has run at a deficit in the past and the bank has loaned money," the parent said.
The school would become a Stratford School but is likely to keep Carden West instructors, according to the parent.
"People are drawn to Carden West because of the teachers and teaching philosophy as well as its geographical location," the parent said. "Stratford has a similar teaching philosophy, and historically when it comes in, in a similar situation, it tries to retain as much of the student body as possible and interviews all of the teachers for positions at the site or elsewhere in the Stratford system."
A similar situation occurred at the Carden Academy in Morgan Hill; Carden closed its doors in 2009 but was reopened by Stratford.
Stratford has schools in Blackhawk and Danville and offers programs that run from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, according to the school's website.
Meanwhile, about half the students from Carden West have left or filed noticed that they plan to leave. The parent said it's hoped that the attrition can be staved off with the announcement of the merger.
Carden West's student population as of the bankruptcy filing was 211, down about 11% from the 2010-11 school year.
A meeting between parents, Carden West staff and representatives of Stratford was set for Wednesday night. Another parent called the deal a win-win for teachers, parents, students and both schools.