Pleasanton's Carden West school in deep debt | January 27, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - January 27, 2012

Pleasanton's Carden West school in deep debt

Private school seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

by Glenn Wohltmann

Carden West School, a small private school at 4576 Willow Road in the Hacienda Business Park, is in serious financial trouble, court records show.

The private, nonprofit school that serves toddlers to sixth-graders has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, with debts of nearly $1.8 million and assets of just $6,000, only half of that in cash, with the rest in hard assets. The bankruptcy filing also says Carden West owes more than $2,600 in federal taxes and says the school has no money in its payroll checking account.

A Carden West parent who declined to be named said the school is working to get itself out of its financial problems. He said the school is committed to remaining open until June and could stay open "if we band together and we fight off the attrition."

"We, like the rest of society, have to answer a simple question: Do we still have the capacity to believe in and fight for something bigger than our immediate needs?" he said.

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," he said, adding, "We collect tuition monthly and the teachers have all been paid in full."

Chapter 11 bankruptcies involve the financial reorganization of a business and provide protection to a debtor -- in this case, the school.

The process of Chapter 11 begins with the creation of a repayment and reorganization plan, which could also allow Carden West to cancel contracts. Creditors may propose their own repayment plan if unhappy with the reorganization/repayment plan offered by the debtor.

The school lists its only assets, other than cash at hand, as a collection of desks, tables, chairs, computers, musical instruments and choral risers.

The filing was made Nov. 3, and a hearing date for the repayment plan has been set for Feb. 28. Nineteen creditors are named in court documents.

The school has been operating out of and paying for a space that could hold as many as 400 students. That will have to change if Carden West is to stay open, the parent said. The school is close to ironing out a repayment plan to its landlord, he added.

"It (rent) is currently being paid and the next four months are being negotiated," the parent said.

Carden West's student population as of the bankruptcy filing was 211, which was down 11% from the 2010-11 school year.

The parent said the school has lost 5% to 10% of its students since the bankruptcy was announced, with a potential of 20% before the end of the year. He said parents must give 60 days' notice if they want to pull out a student.

Tuition, he said, will not go up before the end of the year.

"What we did was a campaign based on donations," he explained. "The school is running at a monthly deficit, which means you either have to cut expenses, which we're looking at, or raise income."

A visitor to the school recently claimed that the heat had been turned off and classrooms were being heated by space heaters. That, the parent said, is not exactly the case.

"The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system is finicky and in need of overhaul and has had to be repaired multiple times over the last year," he said.

The parent is urging other Carden West parents to keep their kids at the school.

"Right now, we can make it easily until June if we don't have attrition," he said.


Posted by Iceman, a resident of California Reflections
on Feb 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

They sent a 30-day notice of tuition increase on December 23, 2012 stating the tuition will go up by 25% by February 1st. This voids the contracts with parents.

They have a 50% drop in enrollment right now, and can be even more by end of the year. There is no way it is just 5-10%.

Half the board quit recently. The new board has 4 members inclued a husband and wife who control all decisions. This looks to me to be ighly unethical.

Posted by clink, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Am I supposed to feel sorry for them or cringe at their attempt to isolate themselves from the perfectly excellent Pleasanton schools ... we are very lucky to have them. I think for now I'll cringe.

Posted by Former Carden West Parent, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

Former CW parents: we have formed a Google group to get organized. Please go to the following and request membership:
Web Link

If that doesn't work, please email and request access to the group. Gita and a group of parents (including an attorney parent) are leading the coordination.

I have reached out to all the local papers. I love the suggestion above to also reach out to Valley Comunity Bank and will post your suggestion on the Google page.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Livermore
on Feb 21, 2012 at 9:26 pm

I read this and have to wonder just who this mystery parent is that has all of this financial information about the school and goes unnamed. As one of the parents at Carden West I can say first hand that there is way more information in this article than the board has shared with parents.

The article reads more like a cheerleading piece of propoganda than objective reporting for the community. It sure would be great to see an article with more than one source quoted, and with some fact checking. How about it Glenn Wohltmann? Are you up to the challenge?

Posted by Former Carden West Parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I agree with the previous post. Lazy reporting or highly suspicious relationship between Glenn Wohltmann and his anonymous parent source? Note also that the same reporter wrote the article about Stratford acquiring Carden West. Well, that was surely news to Stratford! You think the reporter would have thought to place one call to Stratford instead of willingly serving as a mouthpiece for a morally and financially bankrupt Board of "trustees". The overwhelmingly negative comments to his Stratford article have all been deleted while the blatantly false article still remains. Shame on you Pleasanton Weekly for not standing up for your citizens, and instead providing a platform to the extortion mill.

Posted by CW Parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

A number of the quotes in this article are in direct conflict with written communication from the Carden West Board and its President.

Among other things, it would be wise to print the truth behind the so-called tenant improvements, condition of the HVAC system, and attrition numbers.

Recall the quote "follow the money." There is a story here, the question is which news organization is going to unravel it?

Posted by Former CW parent, a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Jul 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

Two points. First, the 30-day notice of tuition increase did not "void the contract." Parents were still obligated to give 60 days notice before withdrawing their children. Many didn't, exacerbating CW's financial woes.
Second, many (most?) of the children at CW were preschoolers. To criticize the parents for enrolling them at CW when Pleasanton supposedly has an "excellent" school system misses the fact that Pleasanton does not offer a public, full-time preschool program for working parents. It also overstates the quality of our schools, which now suffer from higher student-teacher ratios and shorter days than in years past.

Posted by liberalism is a duh-sease, a resident of Village High School
on Jul 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

so i guess now your elite liberal preschool has a much better ration of students to teachers so what are you libs crying about now?