Country Day’s president says team of parents will succeed

Thank you for publishing the article, “Parents Fighting to Save Country Day in Guanacaste.” This type of publicity should help the new school board find the support it needs to save the school.
As the current owner, president, and founder of CDS Guanacaste, it is my duty to set the record straight on certain elements that may be misinterpreted by the way they were presented in the article. None of these take away from the urgency, and the “call to arms” by the new parent group to do everything necessary to save a school, but they are important nevertheless.

Country Day School Guanacaste was founded in 2000 by myself and a small group of investors, after a group of Guanacaste parents petitioned us to do so. The area needed a school to serve the growing expat population and there were no U.S. accredited alternatives to choose from (and still aren’t). The parents lacked the knowhow and resources to start their own school, and CDS, which at that time was in its 37th year of operation in San Jose, stepped in to fill a need.  That is how the Guanacaste campus of Country Day School was born.

The school started in rented facilities at the Flamingo beach hotel with something like 40 students in grades 1 to 12. Over the course of 13 years, we acquired property for the school, built purpose-built facilities that rival any campus I have ever stepped on (and which I believe any visitor to the campus would agree), and did everything necessary to keep the school a going concern. Throughout those 13 years, the school ran a budget deficit every single year except one. We have funded this deficit through personal means, investor contributions, and other businesses each and every one of those years. We also covered substantial unexpected losses due to vendor fraud, acts of God, met all of our employee and other obligations, and met each and every one of our commitments, all without burdening the school with debt. That is what you do when you have a business you believe in and care deeply for, and most especially when that business is a school.

This should not be news to anyone in the CDSG community. The fact that CDSG has run deficits like this has been made clear since the beginning, and every year since. Anyone who has lived in the area for any length of time should be able to attest to the roller-coaster ride economic and population swings the area has lived through over the past decade plus.

As a business owner, and as an educator, there is nothing I would want to avoid more than to see a school close. However, there also comes a point in time when subsidizing the education of a community with your own resources, stops making any sense. That point was reached this year.

For that reason, we spent the better part of the first week in February of this year in presentations with parents, in which we shared the school’s financial figures going back several years. We did not at that time believe we would have to transfer the school to a new governing body. The purpose of the presentation was to be 100 percent transparent, to show the community (parents and staff) why it was absolutely necessary to raise tuition substantially over a multi-year period, and to explain all the cost drivers a school such as ours requires to fulfill its mission.

Unfortunately, the message we tried to convey, despite it being in black and white, fell largely (but not entirely) on deaf ears.

Fortunately, a group of parents with deep ties to the area, and with a great love and appreciation for Country Day School and its mission, reached out to us in an effort to take over the school. We agreed to find a way to do so, and on March 20th of this year, the school and the parent group announced that a “meeting of the minds” had been reached.

This group is now in the midst of doing everything necessary to save the school. CDS is doing everything it can to help them achieve their goal. The deadlines cited are very real, but they are not set because of some hard line we are trying to take. They are set by the reality of the situation which calls for a resolution to be reached in the shortest amount of time possible, because people’s lives, their plans, their own futures, depend on it and cannot wait much longer. Also, there are fiscal realities, and decisions that have to be made as a school that depend on the new group taking over. If these decisions are not made on time, they impact the following year’s programs.

We have every reason to be confident that the new group will find a way to make this transition successful, because it is too important to allow it to fail.

CDS is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Costa Rica this year. We are sorry our Guanacaste campus will have to go its separate way, but we are deeply satisfied that we did absolutely everything we could for 13 years against constant headwinds, to ensure a quality education was available to the community.  We believe, with time, the school will succeed under its new leadership, and wish them nothing but the best.

Woodson Brown,
Country Day Schoo
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