Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rebuttal to Board from Pete Deutschman

Here I sit, 15 hours following the posting of our board’s response regarding the closing of our nationally accredited pre-school, with a deepened level of disappointment, frustration and outrage. I find comfort in knowing our community has drastically different views than that of our Board as evidence by the numerous comments and posts to the community generated blog set to keep everyone honest (http://savelakeview.blogspot.com) as well as the public poll we posted where over 85% view the pre-school as an asset to our community. I am working hard to not take the board’s letter personal, but the tone and content of this letter (based on the facts that I know) makes me feel like I just stepped into the world of politics, not the world of community enrichment…and it feels dirty. Rather than stoop into that world, I would like to focus on a resolution, as I did in my first letter to the board. First, I need to get a few facts on the table to ensure a balanced view is conveyed.

The letter, which outlines the Board’s “factors” for closing, comes on the heels of a slew of missteps and improper communications regarding the closure. The immediate closure, no warning, false expectations has caused irreparable harm to families struggling in this tough economy, kids who love their pre-school and the enrichment the program it provides and our community by discontinuing yet another asset that the association provides.

In a recent post to the LF1 Association website, Dr. Gardner responds to a post by stating…

Posted by: Jim Gardner on: 04/27/2009
Hi Frank. The HOA spends tens and
hundreds of thousands of dollars each year repairing various assets. Sometimes
the assets are specific to a tract (the wall on Miles ave) and sometimes they
are in the common area (the fire and security systems in the clubhouse). We
don't ask people to vote on each and every repair for obvious reasons. We do,
however, make it pretty clear through our minutes and meetings what it is we are
doing, and we love to hear from people, either by e-mail or, even better, at
board meetings. The preschool project has been discussed for more than a year.
We were notified that there were maintenance problems with the building that
required substantial repair. We explored several options, including putting up a
new building in that area, but the most cost efficient method was to repair the
building. Fortunately there were sufficient monies in our reserve account for
exactly this purpose.

So, to the board, seems like this is not an issue that was 6 weeks in the making. In April there was a solid understanding of what it was going to take to fix the building that housed the pre-school. This post by Dr. Gardner highlights the misrepresentation to the parents. In fact, as numerous parents already stated via emails, posts and via calls to the association directly, association members/parents were promised a renovation to the pre-school way back during the winter of 08/09. I sat there in the parent-teacher open house excited to hear about the great things my daughter would be learning in the following year and rather the time was cannibalized by Dr. Gardner’s “campaigning” for City Government. He proclaimed the repairs would begin in two weeks (this was news to the teachers/director who asked for clarification and details during his speech) and reconfirmed the boards commitment to the pre-school. Mr. Gardner, the less than 1% of the association was important enough for you to come preach to that evening…but we are not important enough to invest time into now?


Despite my frustration of the process (or lack thereof) that led to this point, I want to be respectful of the system we have in place to help govern our community. It is my sincere hope that at tomorrow night's board meeting we can seek a motion to reconsider the decision to close the preschool, develop a plan to overcome the small deficit and further explore any other logistical issues we face. Surely, the board can assist in providing recommendation regarding what implications there will be financially and what course of actions we will have to rectify it.

· It is public record that the building will be repaired, as is the case of all other assets of the lake association. With these improvements happening anyway, the real issue clearly is not the cost of the repairs as it is the relocation and potential additional insurance increases. Again, by itself this is not a major factor for closing but a contributing factor.


Why not allow the parents to help fund raise through tuition increase or other means to cover the ~$20,000 relocation fees you reference in your letter. I suggest a committee of parents and association members who can help the board/staff and share the burden of planning and execution. Like I stated before, parents are the greatest marketing asset the association has.

The association members need to see clear expectations of the pre-school. These expectations have changed over the last few years as this board changed the pre-school’s standing from an amenity to a revenue generating business (mind you it is still not-for-profit). Like any business venture, outline expenses and develop a clear business plan including;

· Marketing plan

· Fundraising plan

· Operational planning

· Contingency planning

· Recruitment and retention (staff)

· Public Relations- share how this 1% affects our community as a whole

Over the last 10 years, the pre-school has made a profit several times and that money has gone to the general fund. As an amenity, this is one of the only assets which can make that claim. It was not until the last few years that the board started pressuring the pre-school to carry on some of the additional expenses that is incurs such as electricity and water.


NO PARENT IS DISPUTING THAT THE PRE-SCHOOL SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY THESE EXPENSES. If we are going to be self-sustaining as we know we can be, the pre-school should be held responsible for these expenses. As it relates to the 1%, based on simple math, a small increase of $40-$50.00 a month in tuition would turn the pre-school profitable. Now, I say this without having seen the P&L. Despite all the requests, this has not been provided. Regardless, when profit is reached, that money (as it has done in the past) will go back to the association benefiting 100% of the association. Wait… an amenity that brings in revenue? Seems like a no brainer to me. Again, by itself this is not a major factor for closing but a contributing factor.

· You mention having a portable building on the property to house the kids during renovations for several months would be an eyesore and troublesome. Why wasn’t this an issue in the 3 or 4 public announcements you made (in person or in the newsletters) where you address the pre-school renovation. Eyesore wasn’t an issue then. In fact when you came to speak with us, you praised the “great new technology that was available” allowing the portables to be self-sustaining. I point this out again to make my point that the board’s ability to research, analyze, ask the right questions and propose a solution to the community is in question. This is the job of the board, is it not? Again, by itself this is not a factor for closing but a contributing factor.


With support from a Parent Committee we can help to educate the association members surrounding the clubhouse and who visit regularly of the temporary nature. Fortunately, this is not going to impact summer activity and presumably would happen during the slow winter period. We should continue to explore temporary space both on-site or off.

Something to think about…

We all live in a 1% world. Each of use an amenity or an asset that is important to us, our home or our families that doesn’t affect the masses. However, we are each worth more than 1%! All of that aside, your statement is clearly an attempt to rally balance sheet, newsletter reading community members who do not know all the facts that led us to this improperly handled decision. Allow me to take your math a few steps further.

At full capacity (assuming all are association members), the MOST this pre-school affects is 2.5%. This means that over the last 30 years of the pre-school’s operation, each Board has appreciated the asset, respected the affect on our community and most importantly, value all us “small players”.

· Not all go to the Easter egg hunt each year. Your labeled “1%” do!

· Not all have boats or enjoy the lake as those who live on the water…yes, even those who cruise the lake are in a 1% bracket.

· Oh yes, the 1%... Again, by itself this is not a major factor for closing but a contributing factor.

As stated earlier, I am sincere in my desire to see resolution and reconsideration by the board. Issues dealing with our kids tend to set off emotions not otherwise found in these forums. All I ask is that the board listen to the points parents and members bring up, develop a course of action that seeks to address the fiscal concerns of annual shortfall and act to keep our pre-school open. Let’s make sure this is an asset to our community for many years to come.


Pete Deutschman

1 comment:

  1. I think when we are mentioning the 1%,we need to take in consideration of programs/clubs that also don't require club membership. I know that several of the following are in this category. Why the discrimination on the preschool? (Yoga, Book Club, Tennis Lessons, Tennis Matches, Sharks, Swim Lessons, Karate, Boy Scouts). Just to name the ones on the top of my head.
    LFCA member Elizabeth