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Posted April 3, 2005 

CEDU School Bankruptcy and Closing

March 28, 2005

To the Editor:

As I write this, I reflect on the labors of a multitude of incredibly intelligent, sensitive and insightful people, whose help in the education and socialization of my son have led to me being on the northern Idaho panhandle, at a family ranch, at 3:00 AM, scribing a letter-to-the-editor.

CEDU, the vaunted, specialized educator of 'troubled teens' has abruptly closed its campuses nationwide. Citing the inability of the collective schools to maintain commercial viability, the board, whose fiduciary responsibility lies with stockholders, not students, chose closure as the solution to the ineptitude of their financial oversight.

I write now, with sorrow, anger, pity and disdain as my driving force, rather than the joy, hope, admiration and gratitude that was my expectation.

The folly of small-minded, greedy people to treat fine-tuned, specialized education as a simple cash-flow resource is in actuality the trigger for the atrocity perpetrated on the lives of the hundreds of staff, students and parents whose plans and goals were to turn the pained and misdirected acts of these 'troubled teens' into meaningful achievement.

CEDU was a stockholder-owned organization. As I write my letter, there is no doubt in my mind that lack of understanding of teaching, learning and learning systems, by those who analyzed the nature and quality of this investment led to decisions that created unreasonable cash-flow demands and subsequently resulted in this travesty. The true cause of this business failure is failure to know this business.

In support of my observation that especially in the Idaho panhandle the CEDU schools were vibrant and viable, I offer the current condition of the marketplace of student education, supplemental educational resources and the growing number of private study and learning enrichment and remediation centers nationally.

The current demand for individual and small-group tutoring, selected subject, and course review, and carefully focused teaching methodology among students in all grades (regardless of whether 'troubled' or not) has led to the proliferation of these financially successful education outlets. In one region of the country, a teacher-owned education-enrichment group will soon be expanded into all locations of a well-known supermarket chain. This 'cross marketing' is, of course, not like a CEDU school, but rather, shows the strength of the concept of specialized learning, beyond the model used by the famous SAT test preparation groups. Right now, there are a lot of people paying out a lot of money for specialized education.

In the case of the unexpected closing by CEDU of the campuses at Boulder Creek Academy and its neighbor Northwest Academy, both in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, the ownership displayed heartless, self-serving, selfish and callous behavior when it phoned notification of the 'right-now' status of the closure to executive staff members who were conducting a specialized workshop series designed to promote better parenting and more dedicated-to-achievement students just prior to their scheduled student visits. The ax fell as staffers struggled to sob out the words of the story while several hundred parents and students neared the final moments of an already emotionally charged week of training.

The ensuing anguish, hysteria and panic among parents too-stunned-to-believe that the wrenching decision to place a child into an emotional growth school a thousand miles from home had been suddenly rescinded and similarly among young men and women only recently coming to accept personal responsibility for scholarship and citizenship is unforgivable.

The CEDU corporate concept of continuity and caring most closely resembles a military hostility against an unarmed civilian population, and embodied all the compassion of an assault with fragmentation bombs. The carnage was horrifying. I was there, I saw it.

So as I write, I reflect on the decades of compassion administered by the generously nurturing staff members at the schools that have helped return hundreds upon hundreds of very loved children to the mainstream after the misfires of well intended parenting and the impacts of unthinking peer pressure conspired against still-developing personalities to misdirect the energies of youth.

And I compare the inestimable value of compassion against the incalculable destruction done when absentee ownership spreads the pollution generated by uncontrolled money-lust into the frail ecosystem of childrearing and education.

However harsh a punishment it may seem, to say that the names of those responsible for shutting the schools in the manner they did should be remembered forever as having undone four generations of progress in emotional growth education is to let a gutless evil slink away enjoying undeserved mercy and forgiveness with the Bankruptcy Acts as its protector.

And my reflection now includes my growing concern… my trepidation, facing a future of possibilities and uncertainties I thought were settled when I opened a pathway that included Boulder Creek…Yet, as I sit here in a snug cabin in a mountain forest, amidst the cold rain of early spring, in a darkness not quite broken by the pale suggestion of the light of dawn, I think, "Do as they would have done. Remember the lessons and use the tools… honor their love and dedication…" And I am filled with gratitude for those men and women who poured their lives into these schools so that children such as mine could blossom and grow and fulfill the 'great perhaps' of youth.

George F. Gowen III
13 Chip Lou Lane Scotch
Plains, New Jersey 07076
(Former) CEDU Parent
908 668 6831

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