Schooling Update Sorrow

So… remember how super happy and grateful we were about our schooling this year?  How DC was flourishing, how they’re letting hir work at about hir level through early entrance, single-subject acceleration, and differentiated activities?  How socially it was all awesome.  How DC is sleeping more and learning that it’s ok to make mistakes and to try new things even if there’s a chance of messing up?

This morning we got an email saying that the school only has enough money for another month.  They need 300K in donations to reimburse all of us who pre-paid tuition and 500K to last until May.  In order to survive another 3-5 years while they get back enrollment from the mass exodus they suffered when the first headmaster died and was replaced by a lady with a completely different vision of the school 3 years ago (and they have been rebuilding), they need a multi-million dollar grant.

I want to cry.  I actually did cry right before class when my father emailed and said he’d donate a 5 figure amount to the school on our behalf.  He’s very much like FGS‘s Babci so that sacrifice means a lot, and I’m not sure if we can let him do that.  And even that amount is only a drop in the bucket of what is needed.

Tomorrow we’ll find more information.  One thing I don’t understand is why they can’t make it a K-4 or K-8 school and jettison the under subscribed high schoolers, just as if they were starting a brand new school, gradually adding on new grades.  And maybe they’ll be able to.  I don’t know.

But I really don’t know what we’re going to do if they don’t last out the year.  Or what we’re going to do next year.  We can’t go back to preschool now, not after how wonderful this experience has been.  I think that leaves the other Montessori option– the one geared towards SAHM that gets out at 2:30 and doesn’t really have after school care.  Otherwise it’s another year of preschool followed by another year of kindergarten (without single subject acceleration) and how can you do that to a kid who has already tasted (and loved) what it’s like to do second grade math and first grade language arts in an academic prep school?

Like DH said, sometimes things really are too good to be true.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , . 34 Comments »

34 Responses to “Schooling Update Sorrow”

  1. feMOMhist Says:

    oh no I want to cry with you. Fingers crossed they figure out SOMETHING that works to keep the doors open.

  2. Alyssa Says:

    Oh no :( What terrible news. I hope something works out and you, and the other parents, won’t have to worry about what other options you have.

  3. Molly Says:

    Oh God, we went through this 6 years ago. My oldest was attending the most amazing school that went under because a lack of funding. I don’t think most realize how expensive it is to run a school.
    Good luck and have a good cry…

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Very frustrating!
    Is the school not run such that tuition covers the full cost of running things for the year? If the major drop in enrollment happened 3 years ago, I would have thought that by this school year they should have been able to estimate student numbers and costs resonably well to know that they were coming up drastically short and account for this with either raising tuition or cutting costs. I would also be concerned that you first heard about this only 1 month before the money is set to run out (assuming this is the first you have heard of the situation).

    I really don’t know anything about private school funding structures so I apologize for my possible ignorance but I am curious how they would find themself in such a dire situation.

  5. Cloud Says:

    Oh! I’m so sorry. I hope something works out. What a mess for you.

  6. Kellen Says:

    How awful! It sounded so amazing! Hopefully the school can figure out something like reduced grade levels, but I’m sure DC will do well in the Montessori school. And you never know, maybe there’ll be a SAHM who will babysit DC after class too if you ask around. It’s really awful that the school couldn’t warn you about this earlier, but maybe part of their problem is not being fully aware of their costs?

    Good luck, and hopefully DC will still end up happily learning somewhere.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      None of the people we’ve talked to with accounting experience are particularly surprised that a school could suddenly find themselves short like this. Apparently accountants see non-accountants being blissfully unaware of income and outflow (and short-term vs. long-term problems) on a more regular basis than those of us outside of the accounting sector would like to think.

      • bogart Says:

        Interesting. My mom’s been working on a church finance committee where she’s been astonished to discover that one of the people more or less “in charge” cannot use Excel and does not know (or understand, even after having had it explained multiple times) what an encumbrance is. Amazing, and not in a good way.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        A definite problem in this case is a wholesale *fear* of numbers on the part of the people in charge.

      • bogart Says:

        No doubt, and I’d bet this experience is only convincing them that their fears are well justified — exactly the wrong conclusion, of course.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        At least this time they’ve reached out to parents with more quantitative skills.

      • bogart Says:

        Yes, good point. Hope it’s not too late.

  7. Anna Says:

    Yeah, I worked for a private school and the 9th grade had half the enrollment of all the other grades, yet they refused to jettison it. It was silly and financially irresponsible.

  8. Leigh Says:

    Wow, that sucks! :( I really hope your DC doesn’t have to go back to preschool and then re-do kindergarten next year. I had to repeat an elementary school grade after doing a split class and I was so bored.

  9. hush Says:

    Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear this awful news.

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Thanks for the condolences, everybody. We’re finding out more info every day and DH has joined the financial oversight committee (so far their meetings have conflicted with my teaching, resulting in DC getting to learn a bit of college-level math for social science… well, technically ze drew on the white-board while my students did in-class exercises).

  11. bogart Says:

    Oh how frustrating, I am sorry. I hope you’re able to find some solution, either within the school and its finances or outside it.

  12. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Is the school not run such that tuition covers the full cost of running things for the year?

    This is not how private prep schools run. They piece together their annual budget from a combination of tuition, grants, donations, and endowment income.

    • Rumpus Says:

      My understanding is that private schools vary significantly in what percentage of the expenses they aim to cover through tuition, but 90% was suggested as a “typical” number. When expenses can be multiple million dollars per year, the remaining 10% can be significant…and if a school keeps tuitions low to entice enrollment the gap can be larger.

      For smaller schools, finances are further complicated by the effect that attrition can have, often being scattered throughout grades. That then increases the per-student cost unless classes can be combined.

  13. Que Sera Says:

    Imhope it works out for you! What a generous offer from your father. I’m glad you have his support.

  14. First Gen American Says:

    Aww..your dad does sound like Babci. She would give her shirt off her back for something that she thought someone else needed more than her. He is awesome.

    On the other hand, bummer about the school. I don’t know what I’d do, besides want to throw up at the stress of it all. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you and hope for a solution to come out soon. Let’s just pretend for now it isn’t as big a crisis and this is just a big ploy to increase donations until you know more details. But would people donate if they know the school is closing? So, how big is this school. What would the donation/kid have to be to keep the school running? Good Luck.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      All excellent questions to which we do not yet know the answers. Well, we do know the school needs another 50 kids at its current tuition etc to break even given a regular donation year, and can fit another 130 or so students at full capacity.

  15. Renee — ramblecrunch Says:

    What a shame, and how awful for the children as well as the parents. It’s hard enough to find programs to fit hg/pg kids in the place, which is why I homeschool my daughter. It just got too frustrating trying to find an school that satisfied and inspired her. (I’m not suggesting you homeschool, certainly not. But I empathize with your situation.)

    I agree with the others that other grades should have been jettisoned or combined. Silly.

  16. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    When I read this my heart just went out to your child! I was so excited about how well they were doing in school and how happy you were just a short time ago. Transitioning to a new school now could be terrible for all of you- kids, parents, teachers who will lose their jobs.

    I’m amazed that there isn’t an accountant of some kind handling the books for a school. But as an accountant I’m always amazed by how numbers and analysis just doesn’t make sense to some people. I’m just surprised that these numbers weren’t reviewed when the school was setting tuition guidelines for the school year. Or maybe the people in charge were being very optimistic with their projected numbers.
    I know our school was thinking there could be possibly 30 kindergartners this year- we lucked out with only 19 (9 in my daughters class) but that is only 2/3 of their optimistic projection from April.

    Good luck with everything. Are they even considering fundraising? Or have they in the past- I know this is just your first year there, so you may not know. I don’t think fundraising can do as much as it once did because the economy is still unhealthy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve spent the week in meetings, so we now know that with minimal efforts they bring in 150K/year in fundraising and have brought in as much as 600K in the past (though that was the year of a capital campaign). They have several groups attacking fundraising and grant writing from many angles.

      They have a bookkeeper and a treasurer, but the treasurer is volunteer and not actually that great with numbers. They had to fire the last bookkeeper and had trouble hiring a new one.

      They were optimistic with their projected numbers, and a very popular kindergarten teacher left for another school in the summer taking some students with her.

      • Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

        When budgeting for the company I work for, I find it very hard to be optimistic. I tend to be a worst case scenario person, and we can revise if it is better than expected.

        Maybe now is a great time to add a paypal button on your blog- and you can donate all monies to the school. I know you both were against monetizing the blog a few months ago I think, but this might just be a good cause.

  17. Leah Says:

    oh, what a situation. I really feel for you guys. I would like to add my two cents, from my own experience. I moved from a challenging, interesting 4-8 science focused middle school two weeks into 6th grade. I ended up in the honors classes at a full fledged elementary. It was completely awful to go from being a middle schooler, essentially, back to elementary. That year was wasted for me, and my parents still wish they had skipped me up a grade. If the worst happens, I’d consider seeing if you can get DC into kinder or even first grade somewhere. Of course, the social dynamics are different at that age . . . but your child’s learning is important, and I think it is harder to go back once you’ve had a taste of something different.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      2nd grade (we moved) and 5th grade (they had the ENTIRE gifted/AT-tracked 4th grade from all elementary schools redo 5th grade material because they decided to stop tracking) were complete wastes. We would like to avoid that kind of thing if possible. But there aren’t many places willing to talk to us until 2nd grade at the earliest. I did talk to an elementary teacher in the district who gave us some inside information about things we can do and people we can talk to if the private school does go under, so we might be able to push harder on the public, but their first pass was, “No we will not talk to you.”

  18. Revanche Says:

    Oh goodness that’s terrible. I just spoke to a teacher friend and he mentioned that their high schoolers took it in hand to run a fundraising campaign last year to save their teachers’ jobs and they made 800K out of their $1M goal in several months. I think they did two phone and email blasts for their campaign. Granted, they are in a wealthier district than most, but I’m hoping that the committee’s got several campaigns going to fill the coffers.

    My fingers are crossed for you!

  19. Being a big donor has benefits « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] from my father donating a sizable sum to the private school that our child attends.  (Recall, the school is having major financial difficulties.)  This school thing is still taking over a major part of our lives… meetings every 1-2 […]

  20. Schooling update: Spring Semester « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] thing).  The board is weak and also not so good with numbers.  In fall, the school came out with press announcements that it was going out of business unless they raised 500K (the actual number needed turned out to be […]

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