Monday, August 17, 2009

Official Letter From Cynthia Valdes re: Preschool Closure

Today this e-mail was posted on the L.F.C.A. website, and sent to the association members on the current L.F.C.A. e-mail list. We have been eagerly awaiting this letter and the clear understanding of ALL reasons attributing to the seemingly quick decision to shut the preschool down and are even more frustrated at the political spin this situation has taken on.

The letter received by parents 8/12 stated "financial reasons", and after reading this more specific letter it is apparent that finances were not the major reason to close the preschool, but a contributing factor.

Many of the reasons stated are quite simply unbelievable and unsubstantiated, considering the fact that this decision was brought on by discoveries made in the time span of six weeks (according to board president Jim Gardener in this letter). Read on and please leave your comments below so we can make sure everyone's reaction is clearly communicated in our next letter to the board.

(Click on the screen button in the top right of the letter frame to enlarge)
Preschool Closure


  1. I have never felt like a more insignificant part of my community than I do after reading this letter to the association. I have lived in the "association" for 27 years and am livid to hear from my board of directors that my family, because it attends a preschool that is poorly marketed and in need of repair, will not be salvaged due to to the fact that it would only "benefit" 1% of my community.
    Insensitive, irrelevant, and ironic are words that come to mind.
    1. Insensitive
    The board is hired to represent ALL members of the association, even the measly so called 1% that believe in the preschool amenity that has been providing a nationally accredited, quaility education to approximately 30 years of my community's children.
    2. Irrelevant
    If the reasons stated in this letter are true and irreversible or impossible to avoid, why insult the 14 parents who are members and 21 parents who aren't by making us feel as though our support and involvement in this school and community aren't enough to treat with professionalism and respect in the form a complete understanding of the decision in the first place? Simply sighting fiancial reasons with no further explanation? My community has never been given reason to get behind the preschool until now. Had we been notified of the threat of closure earlier, surely all of this parent involvement we are seeing today could have made a difference then.
    3. Ironic
    At Lake Forest City Counil campaigning time, Dr. Gardner spoke to the parents of the preschool about the relocation and renovation of the preschool. It was presented to staff and parents as something that would happen in the weeks over holiday break, when the students were on vacation and would be less affected by the transition. Money had been allocated for the purpose of renovating or moving the preschool, and the first priority would be to keep the children's routine consistent and any inconvenience of the project minimal. This was the story told to my community until 6 weeks ago as stated in the August letter from the board president.

    Given the 5 bullet points in this letter, I find it ironic that all of these factors came together in a mere 6 weeks. If so, I question our current board's ability to run this association without other city permits and insurance liabilities causing sudden closures. Swim team, Scouts, Tennis Club...take note, and start asking questions.

  2. Wow. As a non-member, I am unclear what the expectations of the board are, but one would presume that they are comitted to at least a 'best effort'. The fact that it took 1 week to come up with 5 bullet points, all of which should have been known factors and NOT suprises, amazes me.

    Before I mention my responses to each bullet point, I'd like to point out that the ONLY reason the board is under such scrutiny is because, rather than trust the community to VOTE on what makes sense, the board has taken the liberty to decide for the association what is best (umm has that ever worked in the history of the world??).

    Bullet #1 - "... time, energy, and money...". As far as I understand, aren't we talking about the BOARD's time and energy. Isn't that your job? If you're not up for the task, don't put yourself in the position. As for the money, parents are more than willing to pay the difference.

    Bullet #2 - We've already covered this, but just to reiterate... Your prices are too low. This is something you should already have known, or at least have looked into. The kind of losses we're talking about are easily covered with a still very competitive price. Also, regarding enrollment, this is an easy one. You guys don't advertise and it is anything but obvious that it is open to the public. We only came to know about Lakeview Learning Center from a friend who is a member. There is huge demand for quality preschool.

    Bullet #3 - (pure frustation on this one) Shame on the board for operating the preschool without the proper permit. And if they did not know, this is even more troubling and demonstrates a truly fundamental problem with the way in which the association is being run.

    Bullet #4 - Again, how was this emergency "news" to the board?

    Bullet #5 - This one is pure BS. (unless your balance sheet in your August newsletter is BS). You spend far more on landscaping and other areas than the preschool. ...and again, parents are more than willing to pay the difference.

    I appologize for my critical tone, but this is truly a disappointment. At this point my wife and I can only come out ahead. Either the preschool stays open, or it closes and we'll be happy to have NOTHING to do with your association every again. Several years ago we had the opportunity to buy a home in your association, but turned down the opportunity for fear of unsavory politics. Looks like our concerns were valid.

  3. I am almost speechless after reading this letter. Never have I been made more to feel like such an unvalued member of this association, or that the association is trying to justify its actions with smoke and mirrors. If all these issues have existed for some time, which they must have- I can't believe all of this has cropped up in the last month and a half- then why weren't all these issues laid out before the community long before this? Didn't it ever occur to the board that maybe members of the association might be able to help come up with solutions to some these issues? And why wasn't the preschool renovated with the money set aside at the allocated break as promised by Mr. Gardner? If that had been done, the preschool wouldn't be in this fix now, and the board wouldn't have to worry about finding temporary housing for the school. Why weren't permits secured a long time ago, when the money was set aside? Obviously it was known that these permits would be needed. Why was everything seemingly left to the last minute? Either there has been a hidden agenda for a long time in regards to the preschool and the proposed renovation was just B.S., or this board is grossly incompetent in its ability to do its job.
    I am also offended at being referred to as one of 14 families, as if we are the only association families that have ever attended this preschool. Hundreds of association families have put their children in this preschool in the almost 30 years it has been operating, and if left open, hundreds more will in the future. I feel as if we have been relegated to the fringe of the association, and therefor have no value. We pay dues to the association just like everyone else, and part of the reason we pay that is to support the preschool. How would the board like it if we decided that we were no longer going to pay our dues because the one thing that we value most there has been taken away. Would that be accepted? No. Even though we are only one of 14 apparently insignificant families, and only one of 1700+ members, we are still expected to pay. As far as our money is concerned, we are not insignificant, but as far as what services we will be provided or what is important to us, we are.
    I cannot begin to express how wonderful this preschool has been for our family. My oldest son loved attending there, and my youngest son, who is going there now, can't wait to go to school. He absolutely loves it there. This school has not only provided my boys with an excellent preschool education, but it has helped my oldest son build friendships with other association children. He is still going to school with children that he met at preschool, and he starts 5th grade this fall. This is something we want for our youngest son too. I can't believe that this is going to be denied him and all other current and future children attending the preschool because the proper steps weren't taken at the proper time to make sure the school stays open. I have no problem, and I am sure the other families whose children go there don't either, of paying more tuition to help the school be profitable and keep it open. As to the other issues, with proper management, they can be resolved too.

  4. This is so sad to me that the association is closing the preschool. I have lived in this community for 24 years and was looking forward to sending my daughter there for preschool as soon as she was old enough. What a shame!

  5. I am very disappointed in what Jim Gardener has to say in his letter. He has brought up several times that, based on current enrollment, the school is servicing less than 1% of its members. Well, even if the school is at full capacity with students that are members, the school only "services" 2.4% of its members. His figure does not take into account the alumni of the school, the parents that plan on sending their children to the school, or the people that have purchased homes in the area with the intention of sending their children to the preschool.

    I understand they don't want the renovations to be a financial hardship for the association. But if they closed the school over the summer when enrollment is down significantly, they could reduce the cost to relocate during construction. Also, I truly believe, that if they modernized the school and added an enclosed playground, they would be able to easily increase the tuition, be at full capacity and the school would be a money maker for the association. Something has to be done to the building and whatever they do is going to cost money, why not invest it in the school which can bring a return on their money. By the way, I don't believe they made any extra effort to market this school. I found out about the school from my neighbor, who's daughter attended it.

    My son has done so well at this school and we have such fond memories of his past year there. I hope the community can make a difference and change the board's decision. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of faith in the president. Especially after his insincere speech at our open house last year.

    Our best wishes go out to the school's staff. I feel like the board has treated them as if they are disposable, on the contrary, they should be proud to have them as teachers.

    See you Tuesday pm.

  6. I read "By itself this was not the major reason to close the preschool, but it was a contributing factor" 5 times. Have we not been told the "major" reason for the school closure? Is there an agenda to expand the weight room or convert the preschool building into another use? It would be interesting to hear the board's plan for the building now that the decision has been made to close the preschool. Is there one? It seems that any new use/construction would require money, permits, and insurance, so that leaves only the arguments that the preschool serves 1% of the association and that it has lost money over the past 5 years.

    As others have stated, the preschool has been open for close to 30 years, serving multiple generations of homeowners in the association. Assuming similar enrollment numbers and association member participation this year, conceivably 30% to more than 50% of homeowners in the association could have potentially benefitted from the preschool over the years it has operated. Can the same be said about some of the other club facilities and planned expenditures?

    As others have written and I'm sure many others have thought, why not either raise tuition or allow the preschool to advertise to stay full? An approximate $15 per month extra in tuition would cover the projected losses for the year. An approximate extra $40 per month per student would come to about $20,000 per year. Would this cover the extras mentioned in the letter?

  7. Wow, completely unbelievable. Reading this letter has solidified my thoughts that we are not in good hands with both the management company and our current board. This letter shows a great deal of ignorance, ill-preparedness, and a lack of business savvy.
    1. You seriously have decided that the benefit to the community of this preschool is based solely on the percentage of families currently attending the preschool? You have little grasp of what benefits a community.

    a. The preschool brings new families into the community. It is important that we attract new families so that our “for sale signs” read “sold” and so that we can prosper as a community from the revenue that new families bring.

    b. The preschool has served many more past and will serve many more current families. Also, according to the blog, when the community actually had a say in it, more than 90% of the people chose to sign the petition. That’s a whole lot more than 1% in that poll see a benefit.

    c. The preschool CAN MAKE MONEY and this WOULD BENEFIT 100% OF THE ASSOCIATION.

    d. The whole idea is that we are building is a community. What is a community if it does not support all walks of life? It is to our benefit to support and nurture our community in the different stages of their lives. That is a no brainer.

    2. The preschool has lost money? DO NOT USE LOSING MONEY AS AN ISSUE IF WE CAN MAKE MONEY OFF OF IT. You conveniently only point out the years that it has lost money, what about those many years it has MADE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. Oh wait, of course, you would never publicize that, how par for the course. It is a 5 star rated preschool! Lack of publicity and no raise in tuition… simple Business 101. Wow, BAD BUSINESS on YOUR part. So, now that you have decided that the well being of the children in our community was not worth your time, you will have some extra time on your hands. Will you please pick up “Making Money for Dummies”?

    3. The preschool is operating without a city permit? And you are publicizing that you just figured that out? Man, I cannot wait to meet you all.

    4. Transitioning will be costly, time consuming, and problematic? You are put on the board to solve problems, not make them. Your lack of preparedness has caused more problems. During the summer, I am pretty darn certain that there was space in the Montessori classrooms. Oh wait, that is right, you are sticking to your guns that this was only something that came up in the past 6 weeks. What a crock. If you had come to an end of ideas in order to save this great establishment, then you should have consulted the MEMBERS AND PARENTS. Your lack of effort is very evident. You set this up to fail.

    5. The insurance policy situation. This would take hundreds of hours of staff time? Seriously, hundreds of hours? No wonder we are losing money. Apparently there is a time management issue with your management staff.

    6. Thank goodness there is no #6. I could not stand for any more B.S.

    Lastly, it is clear to me that you sorely need the input of the other members in this community. In the interest of the community, please NEVER make a decision of this magnitude on your own. And, if you plan on continuing such a decision making dictatorship, please take the word “Community” out of our association name. Just name it like you are running it. “LF I: The PCM/Board Member Association”. Because as far as I am concerned, you are NOT representing a community, you are representing yourselves.

    By the way, YOU ARE DARNED LUCKY THAT OUR PRESCHOOLERS ARE JUST LEARNING HOW TO READ!! And you wonder why the youth of today does not respect the elders in our “community”.