Parent Review of West Linn Community Preschool (WLCP)
Date: Sat, Mar 5th, 2011
West Linn Community Preschool (WLCP) was established in 1977 by teacher Cathy Vause as a parent cooperative preschool for children ages 3 to 5 years old. Between the 2 classes offered the school enrolls around 30 children per school year at maximum capacity.
The preschool was set up to be completely “hands off” for the teacher, and completely managed and funded by the parents of children attending the preschool. The school is setup so the teacher "teaches" 2-3 hours a day, while the parents get stuck hassling with fundraising, calling local businesses asking for donations, running the day to day operations and so on.
Cooperative preschools provide parents with the opportunity to be intimately involved in their child’s first school experience. Parents gain a better understanding of their children's individuality through observing them with other children the same age and can use the classroom experience to strengthen their own parenting skills. Additionally, parents have the opportunity to interact and associate with other parents who share their interests in the welfare of children and the community. You could arrange a play date with other children in your area, take your child to story-time at the library or take your child to the park and the experience would be very similar to attending WLCP only a little cheaper and less time consuming.
At first, attending West Linn Community Preschool might seem like a great idea.
We liked the classroom, the activities the children participated in during the school day, and the location is also a bonus. Plus, since the preschool leases the basement of Bolton Elementary School it appears as a legitimate preschool to prospective parents.
Unfortunately, West Linn Community Preschool isn’t up front about the exact details involved in their requirements because they need to enroll children to help fund the school. If you choose to have your child attend West Linn Community Preschool, you need to be aware of the many time consuming demands and expectations the preschool places on its parents.
Each family belonging to WLCP is responsible for and expected to do the following:
- Parent help in the class (approx. twice per month). This means you are required to go to the school and help out in the classroom twice a month. While it sounds innocent, when you get there you’re provided a list of chores that need to be done before, during and after school. You’re expected to be there at least a half hour before school, and must stay at least a half hour after school. In addition to the child attending the school, if you have a younger child, such as one that breastfeeds you’ll likely find that it’s not very welcome at the school and it will need to be restrained (worn at all times) for the duration of the school day while you are expected to help out in the classroom or stuck with a babysitter as you are required to have both hands free.
- Parents are expected to attend at least five (or more) two-hour evening “general meetings” during the school year to discuss fundraising, the schools budget, events happening in the school and so on. Attending these meetings is a requirement. After attending such meetings, and receiving follow up email messages summarizing the meetings, I can tell you that 5 meetings a year is overkill, especially if you don’t have readily access to a babysitter. The school provides child care during the meeting- for an extra fee. Nothing said at the meetings couldn’t have been said faster and more to the point in an email message. For a preschool – preschool, (not college) that my child attends 2 hours a day TWICE a week – Five 2-hour evening meetings a year is overkill. Evenings are precious time for working families to spend with their children.
- Parents of West Linn Community Preschool are required to participate in all fundraisers and are expected and required to meet minimum fundraising goals or pay the difference out of their own pocket. Even if you join the preschool a month after the school-year started like my family did, and the school had already begun their first fundraiser of the year two weeks prior, you’re still expected to meet the minimum fundraising goal. In this case, the school sells Christmas Wreaths each year. Parents are required to sell $350 in Christmas Wreaths throughout the months of September and October – way before the general public is even thinking about Christmas. The wreaths are as cheap as $10 – meaning you would have to sell at least 35 individually at this price to meet your minimum goal.
You’re also expected to sell at least $75 in tickets to the Peter Rabbit Breakfast and Carnival (PRB) the school holds each year. The event dates back to the spring of 1977, when parents organized the first Peter Rabbit Breakfast. The funds raised from this event were used to open the doors to WLCP that September. This event still supports the preschool and remains a community favorite for families and young children. The revenue from this event primarily fund the teacher’s salary (Teacher Cathy Vause is the only permanent fixture in the school- the only paid employee and is the registered agent of the school with the State of Oregon.)
If WLCP fails to generate enough revenue during the school year from your monthly tuition fees, enrollment fees, and various fundraisers held throughout the year, the school will require parents to participate in mandatory last-minute fundraisers at the end of the school year.
And since we’re on the topic of money, to enroll your child in the preschool you are required to pay the following fees up front:
- Enrollment Fees (per child)
- Background Check Fees (per parent)
- First and Last Month's Tuition - Up Front (per child)
It gets even better.
Keep in mind, your child will only attend the school two or three days a week. My 3 year old attended 2 days a week – for 2 hours each day. Not even a full half-day. However West Linn Community Preschool expects you to serve on a committee or on the Board of Directors. Yes, every parent of a child attending the school is expected to hold a “job” in the school. So if you’re a busy parent, this school may not be a good fit for you.
Jobs vary from serving on the board as President, to managing the school’s Newsletter, or being the Admissions Director, to Decorations for the Peter Rabbit Breakfast and Carnival fundraiser, there's a whole list of positions for you to choose from; unless you enroll late- then your stuck.
Aubrie Poppleton, the parent in charge of admissions when we became involved in the preschool didn’t fully explain what the commitment and requirements were and how overly involved and high maintenance the school would actually be for struggling, busy parents BEFORE we enrolled. The requirements were paraphrased and made to sound a lot less intrusive than they were in reality.
My wife and I didn’t mind helping out at the school- parent help days are fine with us. We enjoy being able to participate with our daughter in class. A little fundraising is understandable but we questioned having a “class job” for a preschool that our daughter only attends 2 hours a day for 2 days a week – if that.
When we joined the school we were told the “Newsletter / Website” job was available; and since I do both tasks during the day at my full-time job, that "job" at the school didn’t seem like a problem, so we agreed to enroll. Aubrie informed us 2 weeks later that the Newsletter / Website “position” had been given to someone else. We were told that we had to help out at the Peter Rabbit Breakfast assisting with decorations instead since that was the only "job" left.
At first, decorations sounds like an easy, non-time consuming task, and we would be the “assistants” to the person in charge of decorations- that’s what we were told when Aubrie tried selling us on the idea of helping with “decorations”. So we agreed. We had no other choice really since we were not offered any other "jobs".
What Aubrie failed to mention was that there would be 3 months of prep-work involved, countless meetings that take up countless hours of our time (not to mention having to find a babysitter), taking time off from work the day before the event, the time involved in setting up the event, running the event, and tearing everything down after the event, and returning items back to their owners and nursery. There was no mention of getting donations from businesses or a thick binder of instructions to follow.
Now you can see how my wife and I felt misled and deceived by West Linn Community Preschool. And we are not the only ones. The mother who was in charge of “decorations” dropped out of the school because she works at a law firm and didn’t have time to handle the commitments and expectations of the event. Initially she was just going to take her son out of the preschool for March and part of April because she did not have time to participate in the requirements for the Peter Rabbit Breakfast Fundraiser. She works at a law firm and as you can imagine there's little time for much else. Her husband brings their son to and from school the two days of the week they have school, and Audrey (the parent in charge of the event) verbally assaulted him in front of other parents at the preschool during a confrontation about his wife's non-participation in the fundraiser. That is why that family left the school.
When the mother in charge of “decorations” for the Peter Rabbit Breakfast dropped out, my wife was put in charge of it since we were the "assistants" and it was simply too overwhelming for her; she has an infant to look after in addition to our 3 year old. The prospect of having to spend the next 3 months working on the outline in the binder, taking care of our 2 kids, taking care of me, and studying for her GED test at the same time caused her (and our household) a lot of unnecessary anxiety. That's not what we signed up for.
The Peter Rabbit Breakfast should be coordinated and run by families who have children in the 4’s class (who were previously in the 3’s class) and have already experienced the event. That would make the coordination of the event much smoother as families would already know what to expect instead of going into the event blind.
I understand the Peter Rabbit Breakfast is an annual flagship fundraising and community event for West Linn Community Preschool, but asking the local community to donate a free carnival every year to cover the teacher’s salary and also expecting, requiring and demanding the parents that fund the school get 100% donations for the carnival in the first place is a bit lofty in my opinion.
Just to touch on the “donations” topic for a moment. Every year, new parents who join the school who get stuck with (or volunteer) to help with the Peter Rabbit Breakfast fundraiser unknowingly get the task of calling dozens of local businesses to ask for donations for EVERYTHING from photo paper and printer ink, to flowers, table cloths, silverware, prizes for raffles, silent auction prizes, etc.
As a parent in charge of decorations we were supposed to contact local businesses to try to get donations for our decorations job. And next year a new parent will get stuck doing the same thing. Isn’t this confusing for the businesses involved in donating? Not to mention a hassle for the businesses getting hit-up every year for freebies, and a hassle for the poor parent stuck asking.
I think West Linn Community Preschool should consider finding reliable corporate sponsors who want a steady annual tax-write off each year instead of sticking some “new” parent every year in charge of having to establish new connections calling same businesses every year pestering them for donations (and it's confusing for businesses who have to validate because its new parents calling each year, and how do new businesses know this is legitimate? There’s a lot of fraud nowadays. Anyone can make a letter or place a phone call). Are people who donate going to call the school to follow up for the sake of legitimacy? They’re doing WLCP a favor, not the other way around.
If West Linn Community Preschool had a steady arsenal of corporate sponsors they could buy things they use every year for the Peter Rabbit Breakfast (such as the Rabbit costume, camera, printer, photo paper, decorations) and not need to hassle so much with donations. Some of the companies I talked with don’t mind donating every year and the school never has to worry about being able to count on them, but even they mentioned they don’t need letters sent every year, etc.
In fact, when asked if you would help with "decorations" for the event I think its safe to say that you would assume since its an event West Linn Community Preschool holds annually, that they would have a lot of the supplies for it; sadly they do not. The school doesn't even have any storage and relies solely on past and present families to store school items at their personal homes for the event. The school doesn’t even own the Rabbit costume which it uses every year for the event and I find that extremely irresponsible especially when you can find costumes online for under $75 on sale.
Another set of parents we’ve talked with involved in the fundraiser mentioned that they felt the expectations for the Peter Rabbit Breakfast are too much. They may not enroll their child next year because of this.
There is no “buy out” option.
I would have been willing to pay more tuition money each month for much less hassle but the school doesn’t even have that option. It *should* be an option. The school demands that you as the parent participate in a "job", all required fundraising goals and meetings or simply not have your child attend.
The concept of “school” is “education” yet the fundraising aspect has taken over and overwhelmed a lot of people. It's obvious the focus isn't on "education" or concessions would have been made to keep both my family and the other family that dropped out - instead the children have to suffer and the remaining families at the school are forced to do participate in even more fundraisers since the number of families and revenue decreased.
West Linn Community Preschool isn’t teaching your child how to count or write her ABC's.
Thanks to my wife and I my 3 year old already knows her numbers and letters and wants to learn how to write… but the only stimulation she’s getting at WLCP is interaction with other kids… and painting which she already does at home... at the cost of $92 a month tuition (and tuition is increasing in fall 2011) + all of the fundraising, hassles, meetings and so on.
In addition to all of this, since every parent has a "job", they at times over communicate and you find yourself spammed to death. In 5 months time I counted over 59 received email messages. It just adds to the confusion since you have 25 people running the "preschool" instead of one or two dedicated people.
With the increasing bad economy, I had suggested that now might be a good time to renegotiate the lease on the classroom the preschool rents from Bolton Elementary to save some money. The school district needs WLCP in that classroom paying them rent every month just as much as WLCP needs their classroom. The "board" members I suggested this to showed no enthusiasm for this idea even though rent accounts for a larger portion of the schools expenses. It's a "popularity contest" with these people.
The preschool couldn't even manage to get my daughter's t-shirt ordered properly. When orders for the shirts were being placed, someone had called and left a message on my wife's phone. I called the school immediately after the message was left and spoke with someone- advised them my daughter wanted a pink shirt. Whoever it was I spoke with said it was a good thing I called when I did because they were just about to place the order. That’s the last I ever heard about it until four or five month's later when I remembered again and asked my wife what became of my daughters shirt from the preschool.
My wife didn't know and asked teacher Cathy Vause who informed her that a woman in the school office of Bolton Elementary swears to Teacher Cathy that she gave it to US, but how could she have given it to us if we have never even seen her before and neither one of us have even seen a pink t-shirt from the school? All of the other kids received their shirts, except mine. Then Nixie Krusee, the "President" of WLCP says she and her "friends" remember giving it to my daughter- yet my wife and I have never seen it and why would we have brought it up and made an issue out of it if we had? Seriously folks.
After much discussion my wife and I decided to talk to Teacher Cathy Vause about these issues to find out where she stood and to see if she could offer us a compromise. We really don't care for the "power hungry socialite parents" running the school and since this is Cathy Vause's preschool and she is the only paid employee and should have a vested interest in it, I thought I should discuss these issues with her. I found it difficult to believe a teacher of her caliber would allow a child to leave the school over this and removing our child from the preschool was not our first option.
I called the school on Thursday, February 17th to speak with the teacher but no one answered the phone so I left a message. Since I never received a callback, I emailed the teacher instead nearly a week later.
I promptly received a reply email back from Cathy stating our concerns were "out of the realm of her responsibility". Cathy is the only paid employee of the preschool's- the only permanent fixture through the years, and she chose to blow us off and make our concerns another parents problem instead; not to mention our concerns were then forwarded on to 4 or 5 other parents in the school.
So Cathy forwarded our message to the preschool's "president", Nixie Krusee who writes me stating that "West Linn Community Preschool, does not conduct business, as expressed via email. I welcome you to come into school and meet face-to-face with me, Teacher Cathy, and the Executive Board of WLCP to help solve any of your concerns and answer questions."
In fact one of the reasons we decided to talk to Cathy instead of the school's volunteer President was because the parents running the preschool act like they are in highschool and everything is a "popularity contest" amongst parents on the "board" and Aubrie and Nixie in general come across as a little too "serious and power hungry" concerning their "positions" in the preschool- and we honestly do not feel comfortable dealing with them.
Instead of politely just answering our questions, Cathy had to get Nixie, Aubrie, and several other parents involved in what was to be a very simple, straightforward discussion concerning our involvement with the Peter Rabbit Breakfast Fundraiser.
The preschool operations run by the parents are extremely over thought. It’s a preschool, not the board of a company on the NYSE. I understand the formalities of running a non-profit, but it seems like the preschool parents take everything way too seriously. A class president, a treasurer, all of the “meetings”… it’s a 2 days a week for 2 hours a day preschool people.
I replied to Cathy's email and told her I felt that since it was her school, it was her responsibility to deal with our concerns and informed her we wanted a refund for May's mandatory up-front tuition, and that we would be withdrawing our daughter from the preschool.
A week and a half later we received 2 letters in the mail from Nixie Krusee with some answers to our questions after we pulled our daughter out of the school.
She went on to state that May's mandatory up-front tuition would not be refunded. However, this was not discussed before we enrolled in the preschool. We never signed any documents stating we would not be entitled to a refund for May's up-front tuition cost until AFTER we were enrolled and then handed the WLCP handbook. If they won't refund me I'm half-tempted to return my daughter back to the preschool for the month of May since "May's tuition is applicable to May only."
Nixie and Cathy both accused my wife and I of lying about my daughter receiving her pink school t-shirt. The t-shirts were handed out months ago and they both clearly remember our daughter wearing the shirt? Give me a break. When I get home from work each night my wife and daughter show me everything she brings home from preschool and I never saw a shirt- which is why I brought it up in the first place. My wife said when the shirts arrived she assumed ours didn't that day because we had called back late when the order was being placed. Our daughter was the only one in the class who didn't have one.
She also defended the "responsibilities" expected of us by the school stating that everything was "fully outlined" when our family joined the school. Outlined yes, fully no. She states that the PBR decorations job was "fully discussed" with me and my wife "several times" although I have barely had any contact with Nixie and Aubrie or anyone else at the school, and what little contact I have had with those two individuals and a few of the parents in charge of the "Peter Rabbit Breakfast" it was most certainly not "fully discussed" to the extent that we would be required to start working on it 2-3 months in advance and required to call around town to obtain donations so the school could hold a carnival for free.
No one mentioned we would be required to read and execute this thick binder of instructions.
Nixie goes on to say that "It is remembered by our VP (Aubrie Poppleton) last fall that it was very clearly stated the benefits and drawbacks to having a Peter Rabbit job". It was stated that every family would be responsible for setup and clean up and 3 family shifts the day of the Peter Rabbit Breakfast, and we did agree to that and had no problems helping with that. However I also clearly remember that Aubrie stated that the Newsletter/Website position was filled and all that was left was helping out with decorations at the Peter Rabbit Breakfast. We had no other choice. As previously mentioned, we were not told about the binder, the 3 months of preparation (obtaining donations, etc) either... and technically we were just supposed to be "decorations assistants".
She goes on to state that "The decorations job was never meant for a two family team. One family has always in 35 years fulfilled its responsibilities." So then, how did my family end up as "decorations assistants"?
She also states that the decorations job in all aspects could be completed over a weekend of work and then helping with the actual event. Take a look at the photos below for real proof- you'll see the binder clearly stated "January/February", "Early March", "Later March", "One Week Before" and so on... so obviously there is more required than just a weekends worth of work. She's the "President" of WLCP and has no idea what she is talking about.
In addition she says that the WLCP board took over the "hardest part" of the job - "picture taking" as if we asked them to take that over for us. They told us they were going to handle that portion of the event for us since the other parent in charge of decorations had dropped out. In her letter Nixie is trying to undermine my intelligence as if we can't handle taking digital pictures. I have 75GB of digital photos (48,000 photographs) I've taken since 1997- yet I'm not capable of taking pictures. Give me a break.
I touched on this earlier- how the preschool doesn’t even own the Rabbit costume which it uses every year for their event. I said I find that extremely irresponsible especially when you can find costumes online for under $75 on sale. Nixie states that "buying a bunny costume will never be in the school's budget". But during the 2009 - 2010 reporting period the school reported total revenue of $58,871.00 to the Oregon Department of Justice, but they can't afford a $75 rabbit costume they would use every year? Again- give me a break.
Nixie also states that "all schools that are fundraising sell wreaths when we do" thereby acknowledging that "West Linn High School, Boy Scouts" and so on are competition for the preschool. The school is close-minded and not open to any ideas of improving, partially because the Teacher has been there since 1977 and she seems resistant to change, but maybe its time to find something else a little more original and timely to sell instead?
The letter we received goes on to state that WLCP will "never have a buy-out option" (again, close minded) Just because you have a buy-out option does not necessarily mean that parents don't want to be involved. But when my child attends only twice a week for 2 1/2 hours (you couldn't watch a full movie at home in that time when you factor in driving to and from the preschool), verses what they EXPECT and REQUIRE from parents, a buy-out option would be a good way for the preschool to earn extra income and would allow busy parents like myself the ability to NOT be so tied down by the school. Lower fundraising goals and not having to attend the General Meetings and maybe 1 parent help day instead of 2 per month would be worth an extra $50-$100 a month- while still allowing parents to be involved. We never said anything about "not having to work or help" at the preschool.
What's unfortunate is Nixie and Aubrie made attempts to "gang up" on my wife and I when we initially enrolled and questioned some of the preschool's practices having never been involved with a co-op school before. Instead of being friendly and simply answering our questions politely we were always being told that they wanted to talk in "face to face" in person (I guess "he said - she said" is how they prefer to do business). They didn't like that my wife and I asked so many questions and questioned how certain aspects of the operation were being run and probably felt a little threatened or intimidated by us for not going along with things unquestioned. And Teacher Cathy Vause was not assertive in discussing our concerns, choosing to pass them on to Nixie instead. The private email message I sent wasn't between Nixie and us, it was concerns addressed to the Teacher.
Since Teacher Cathy couldn't be a responsible, respectable adult and talk to her student's parents who had questions about the operations of the school she founded, the school that employs her as the only individual on payroll, we removed our child from the school... and that's what's unfortunate. Our daughter had to suffer because of it; and the fact that WLCP, Cathy Vause and Nixie Krusee deem this an acceptable way to do business is also unfortunate. Especially when we took the first step to gain clarification and ask questions about issues that were valid concerns for our family. Nixie was always challenging having to answer our questions by email.
If you take time to carefully review the preschool's website, at least as I'm writing this article, you’ll find that barely any of the facts I've discussed herein appear on the schools web site, and the information given to you when you enroll barely touches on the exact details of their requirements which is misleading and deceptive.
Had we received all of the facts up front, we could have made a better decision regarding whether WLCP was a valid option for us.
But we didn't. I at least wanted to be open and honest with the Teacher and she could have cared less.
The bottom line is - West Linn Community Preschool expects more from its parents than it is able to gives back to parents and their children in return. With all of the money the school expects parents to pay, the fundraising, the meetings, the school job, the requirements, the demands, the furlough days, all for a 3 year old to attend "preschool" 2 days a week for 2 hour days, it doesn't make sense to attend this school. Its more work than its worth... you could take your kid to a playground, story-time at the library, etc. and have the same experience with less hassles and at a fraction of the cost.
<< Back to list page -
Email this Page -