Carden West parents battle over tuition payments

Dispute hinges on 60-day notices for removing students

New details are emerging about Carden West, the school's bankruptcy and a fight between parents of students at the school.

Although Stratford School will begin holding classes at the site next term, it will not be assuming Carden West's debts and the two schools will not merge, a parent said on condition of anonymity. Instead, Carden West plans to close its doors at the end of the school year and cease to exist.

"Stratford will be moving into the current space effective June 1 and are in the final steps of negotiations with the landlord to finalize the deal, but will not mix business operations with Carden West nor assume any of the bank debt," the parent, who asked not to be identified, said.

"Carden West will most likely shut down once the end of the year is reached, which is May 31. Stratford will be offering enrollment applications to all current Carden West students with a founder's discount including reduced tuition for one year, as well as uniform and book credit," the parent added. "In addition, Stratford will be granting employment interviews to all current Carden West teachers."

Carden West will remain in chapter 11 bankruptcy and will have to provide its creditors with a plan to pay its debts of nearly $1.8 million. On Feb. 16, the owner of the building filed an unlawful detainer action in Alameda County Superior Court to evict Carden West, but the parent said that's a legal formality to prevent the school from renewing its lease so that Stratford can take over the building.

The school now has about 100 students; another hundred have left, and that's caused a conflict between the school, which requires a 60-day notice for departing students, and the parents who removed their children.

Another parent, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that the school's contracts with parents were voided when Carden West went into bankruptcy. That parent said the school sent a notice of tuition increase in December, asking for a 25% hike on Feb. 1.

"Giving 60-day notice(s) would have meant parents had to pay higher tuition in February. So parents gave 30-day notices," the second parent said. "On Jan. 9, the board backed off the tuition increase demand and changed it to a 'request for donation.' They stated without that money, they'll have to close the school about mid-February."

Half the board resigned about a week ago, according to the second parent, who said four people are running the school.

"Since now they are destitute, they have resort to extortion to get money. They are sending legal notices to all the approximately 100 parents that left and demanding two more months of tuition regardless of the parents situation, notice date, etc.," that parent said. "It is also important to mention the school already has one month of tuition as deposit."

Although parents who pulled their children from the school have called the demand "thuggery," the parent who spoke in favor of the school said that's not the case, calling their reaction "a mob mentality."

"There is no thuggery. ... There is a binding contract," the first parent said, pointing to the fact that the initial tuition increase was rescinded.

That parent said the school has paid $50,000 in back rent and has made arrangements to pay the remainder of $150,000 by May to keep the school operating through the end of its year.


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Posted by Member
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2012 at 7:28 am

The rest of the story, based on recollections of the public meeting: It isn't just about the parents who left versus the current Carden West board members. The board was not pushing this issue prior to this month. Instead, they were pleading with the parents who left to come back. So what changed?

1. A single local bank is the owner of nearly all of that $1.8M debt.

2. When Carden West declared bankruptcy, the bank gained certain rights to the assets of Carden West, including all contracts.

3. Many parents subsequently left the school without giving the stated 60 day notice.

4. According to the board, the lawyers for the bank and the lawyer for the current board have recently told the board that the 60 day notice clause is still enforceable. (Perhaps not surprising, given whom they are advocating for.) During the remaining months of the school, the board has the authority to waive the 60 day penalty if a parent returns for the remainder of the 2011-2012 school year.

5. According to the board, the bank has recently said that any unsettled contracts (i.e., parents who left without giving the 60 day notice and who did not come to an agreement with the current board prior to May 31 2012) will be immediately sent to a collection agency.

Is the 60 day provision still enforceable? Is (5) a real threat to one's credit? Perhaps a lawyer for a departing parent would be able to counter-argue that successfully. If the bank does indeed send the contracts to collections on June 1, many of the departing parents may have to find out.

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Posted by public school parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

I'm very sorry that parents are going through this huge hassle, but I have to ask-- why not just send your child to Pleasanton's very highly rated public schools?

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Posted by noncarden
a resident of Beratlis Place
on Feb 24, 2012 at 11:18 am

to current carden parents, due to the bankruptcy process and layoffs, the door to the school has been left open at times without an admin monitoring who is going in and out. i have observed this on various occasions. this means anyone off the street has access to your children and the school is UNSAFE. this is the primary reason i pulled my child out of the school.

also, i am not entirely certain the bank is aware of the breach of contract related to increase tuition plus the subsequent documentation sent out by the board including invoices that they were planning on increasing tuition. i also don't think they are aware that kathleen massey, the deputy director informed over forty parents that carden had breached the contract and notice was not required. the bank may also not know that the dates of the school year indicated in the contract were changed from june 15th to june 1st. they also may not be clear on the desperate nature of the emails sent out by carden indicating that the school might have to close its doors within a few weeks. there are over sixty sets of parents and growing uniting against this at this point.

i think the best thing is for everyone to be humane, let the school go, have the current carden kids go to wonderful and SAFE public schools for a few months and move on with dignity.

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Gee, after seeing what's happening with Carden West maybe our public schools aren't so bad after all, you think?

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I got my nasty letter from the school threatening me and will not pay them anymore money. And I did give notice! Why should the parents pay for the complete mismanagement of a school who failed to give the parents enough notice of the dire circumstances. Shame on them. I was just there for preschool so really didnt care about the future of the school. My kids attend the very good public school system. Good riddance CW.

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Posted by Harriet B. Hind
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

With all of Pleasanton's school so high in test scores etc (and some of the surrounding areas too), Why would anyone send their kid to a private school now days?

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Posted by Harriet B. Hind
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

With all of Pleasanton's school so high in test scores etc (and some of the surrounding areas too), Why would anyone send their kid to a private school now days?

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Posted by noncarden
a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm

the best thing for current parents to do is to leave the UNSAFE environment. hvac system needing repairs, door propped open and unattended at times for strangers to enter. kids on occasion roaming the halls by themselves when they leave their line and the teacher can't find them. this is a mess. do not subject your kids to this current carden parents. on top of that, what a stressful environment to be attending class in. they keep asking for your donations and they still never have enough money. where exactly is your money going really? does anyone know? how did a $2 million debt get built up? the whole thing is a mess. just cut your losses and better to just go to public school for a few months or another private school.

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Posted by No longer there
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Feb 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Please remember half of these children are preschoolers. No Pleasanton school district option for them and their parents are not being disrespectful to the district just going to work.
I do not believe for a second that the door is left open with no supervision. Shame on you for suggesting that. However, everyone needs to make the best decision for their family. If you do not know what is goint on just stay silent.

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Posted by noncarden
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 25, 2012 at 8:54 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff for containing unverified or personal information.)

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Posted by Mark
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Who is Besh?

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Posted by Ed
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2012 at 12:03 am

Most of the kids at Carden were in the Preschool no public school option in Pleasanton for them. Many Carden families do not live in Pleasanton.

Would you prefer you child in a class of 25+ students or 12 to 15 & under with a teacher that is able to give individual care throughout the day? All teacher's at Carden were excited about their job & the students. Carden students are grade levels above their grades & test way above average.

It is very sad to see the school close.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Grey Eagle Estates
on Feb 26, 2012 at 12:10 am

Since the bank is threatening to sue parents can they make sure they find out all the parents massie did not return key deposits to and return our money? Now we know why key deposits were never returned when we left.....

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Posted by noncarden
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm

(Comment partially removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff) something very odd is going on. i urge current CW parents put your kids in public school or another private school. they will thank you for it later on. i don't say this out of my disappointment with the board, but i am saying this because i do believe that it is in the best interest of those children that remain.

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