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Posted April 4, 2005

CLOSING A SCHOOL

By Lon Woodbury
lon@woodbury.com

At 3 p.m., Friday, March 25, 2005, a shock wave engulfed the community of Bonners Ferry, ID and spread throughout the country. The shock wave originated from an announcement that all CEDU Education schools in north Idaho, California and Vermont were closing immediately. The ramifications are extensive. Hundreds of CEDU employees were immediately out of work and plunged into personal financial crisis; hundreds of parents across the country were forced back into the crisis they believed CEDU had rescued them from and many of the children began reverting to old self-destructive behaviors after learning they had to leave new found friendships, and the safe and supportive structure they had come to depend on.

In my 21 years of working in this business, I have seen several legitimate schools forced to close. In every other case, money was somehow made available to ensure the well-being of the children by an orderly closing. The CEDU closures are the first instance in my experience of a school closing as if it were a dying factory in a declining rust belt community with no consideration of the immediate impact on the children.

In my conversations since Friday with ex-CEDU staff and other professionals' familiar with the school, I am convinced the program staff, including the corporate program administrators, had no knowledge of how bad things were. They were as surprised as anyone else was. The knowledge of the real status seemed to be known only by the CEO and the semi-visible financial institutions that held and managed CEDU's debt. It is these people, the real owners, who for years were the ultimate decision-makers for CEDU; and who made the final decision to "pull the plug."

The Emotional Growth/Therapeutic schools and programs industry is unique. The demands, stresses, and dynamics are unlike any other industry. It is imperative that the ultimate decision-makers for any of these schools have personal knowledge of the industry. It is impossible to do a good job managing any of these schools if they look at the schools as just another business. I think what happened to CEDU is an example of what can happen in this industry when ownership of a school gets too far removed from the child oriented nature of the school.

Copyright © 2005, Woodbury Reports, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(This article may not be reproduced without written approval of the publisher.)


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