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Windrush Fate Still Unsettled, Hearing Inconclusive

Attorneys in the bankruptcy battle over Windrush School told the court Thursday that a disagreement has so far blocked an earlier announced settlement that would allow the school to stay open.

The fate of El Cerrito's Windrush School, which is trying to stay under bankruptcy protection so that it can keep creditors at bay, remained uncertain Thursday following an inconclusive hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Attorneys for the school and for creditors who hold Windrush bonds told the court that there's been a snag in the that would turn the school over to the creditors and allow it to continue operating the rest of this school year.

Unable to continue making payments due on a $13 million bond debt, the K-8 private school entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 30 to prevent creditors from seizing the school as collateral. Wells Fargo Bank, trustee for the creditors, challenged the bankruptcy protection, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oakland has been conducting hearings on the case.

In a hearing on Oct. 28, the two sides disclosed a tentative settlement that the school announced would be signed Nov. 2. The pact, however, , and the reason, revealed Thursday, is a disgreement over the school's budget, the attorneys said.

Windrush attorney Merle Meyers said there's 99-percent agreement on "the general framework of a settlement" but that the two sides remain separated by a disagreement over the school budget.

Mike Buckley, attorney for Wells Fargo, said the school's budget does not conform to standard school accounting in the view of the bondholders' analyst. "It's the lack of credibility ... that's the real sticking point," he said.

Meyers objected, saying the school views its budget as "perfectly credible."

Judge William Lafferty said that he or another judge would be happy to help serve as mediators in the dispute. Meyers said Windrush would welcome judicial mediation, but Buckley questioned whether it could be fruitful, saying that such a process would not occur in a place where needed records are located. At the end of the hearing, the offer remained extended but not yet accepted.

Buckley said both sides continue to negotiate. "The phone calls and emails are going back and forth fast and furious," he said.

The parties agreed to return to court for the next hearing at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 29. If the settlement agreement is not reached by then, then the two sides agreed that they would be prepared to continue with the bankruptcy case. The settlement would dismiss the bankruptcy.

After Windrush defaulted on its debt, the bondholders moved to seize the school property and the cash assets. The school filed for bankruptcy protection to prevent a seizure, and the judge has granted temporary bankruptcy protection pending completion of hearings.

Judge Lafferty began the hearing Thursday by saying that he had been misquoted in the press about a comment he made at the Oct. 28 hearing after the tentative settlement was announced. that he had concluded by congratulating Meyers and the school administration on the result. At Thursday's hearing, Lafferty said his Oct. 28 congratulations applied to all involved.

For more background on the Windrush crisis, you can see our past stories by clicking "Windrush School" next to Related Topics below this article. For alerts on future Windrush stories, click the green "Keep me posted!" button below the article.

mary smith November 18, 2011 at 03:07 PM
(continued from previous post) "We have received the the invitation to join in a community meeting tomorrow evening. We are committed to the goal of keeping the school open through the academic year and are fighting for that goal daily in our settlement work. We also appreciate the need for increased communication opportunities. Unfortunately, due to calendar conflicts and the fact that Merle is out of town, we are unable attend. We are sorry to miss this meeting, but will call a community meeting following the mediation, whenever it occurs. Windrush Board of Trustees"
mary smith November 18, 2011 at 03:08 PM
This is the usual IK spin. And whom, exactly, does this secrecy benefit? People who really believe that terminating IK will interfere with the settlement with WFB might also be interested in buying some oceanfront property I have in Arizona (from my front porch you can see the sea). WFB knows Ilana Kaufman by now, rest assured. They’ve been dealing with her longer than some Windrush parents, and there’s been no closure to the financial mess yet. WFB doesn’t care who presents the budget as long as it is reasonable. Nope, there is nothing IK brings to the table that someone else couldn’t bring. In fact, as I understand it, WFB reads the Patch and is aware of the impact that the stalled settlement and the board’s lack of action in firing IK are having on attrition, so there’s reason to think that removing her might speed the settlement along. WFB is relying on the pledge money, and it concerns them when they learn that because she is still here, folks are planning not to pay their pledges. WFB has no authority to remove her because their rights in the matter are purely financial. They might like to dump her, but they have no power over operational process. And that works to IK’s advantage, doesn’t it? That allows her to tell us that her presence is necessary. WFB won’t contradict her --not because it doesn’t want to, but because it has no business doing so.
mary smith November 18, 2011 at 03:10 PM
(continued from previous post) Mandatory secrecy. Think about it. Who does it benefit, really? In any other progressive community, folks would be invited in to participate in the budget re-creation process. People would weigh in. They would bring donuts and coffee and cry together over what will be lost. Can we do without this? How much do we really use this? Could that be cut? If we have a choice of (a) or (b) but we can’t have both, which would we choose? This is the usual way communities make decisions. Those who pay and work participate in the funeral. In my opinion, this paranoid insistence on secrecy (except when shouting epithets -- and then we all stand back, appalled and stunned, momentarily neutralized) is about IK’s need to remain central in every drama. If she’s the only person who has all the information, she has successfully created the fiction that she is indispensable. I’ll bet Merle Meyers knows that, but IK, as the human representative of the school, is his client. He’s bound to do what she tells him to do. So if Ilana tells Merle Meyers to tell the community that she’s indispensable, that is what he will do. But what do I know? I’m just another “motherfucking racist,” or “racist motherfucker,” or whatever it was IK shouted about motherfuckers, racists and the Windrush community in her office on 10/19 (that “appropriate” conversation).
caring parent November 18, 2011 at 08:53 PM
> Unfortunately, due to calendar conflicts and the fact that Merle is out of town, we are unable attend. So the board can't meet with the community without a lawyer now? When was the last time the board had a meeting with the entire WR community? The smartest thing the board did was to create the IRC, especially the communication team. It keeps the WR community at arm's length from them, and the spins will sound less like spins. It also keeps everyone busy dreaming the imaginary years to come for WR, while they go about their business in secrecy. Like everything else they did, no one knows until it’s done. Just check out the history of events thus far. When the budget is settled, if it does, there will be major cuts. It might be too late to do anything by then. Who do you think will decide on what to cut and who to cut?
None November 18, 2011 at 09:00 PM
She's why so many of us left the 2007-2008 school year. It's no surprise.
whatsupatwindrush November 19, 2011 at 03:37 AM
I heard that the El Cerrito Police were at Windrush twice today talking to Ilana Kaufman. Anyone know what's going on?
mary smith November 19, 2011 at 10:59 AM
Here is what I’m hearing: Since the Board refuses to do anything about her, some people went to the El Cerrito Police Department this week to report IK’s 10/19 outburst as a concern for child safety. I’m hearing that the police will be contacting Sarah Flowers to see what the Board intends to do about IK. I’m sure the Board will straighten out the police, who will soon understand that nobody should do anything until the settlement with the bondholders is finalized. A person who witnessed Head of School Ilana Kaufman’s explosion on October 19, 2011 relates the following: “I was in [an office on the first floor]…[A person] came in and asked us if we were hearing what was going in the hallway. Concerned that a child might be upset, I went into the hallway where I heard IIana yelling in her office. This is what she was yelling: ‘Mother Fuckers!!...What the fuck am I supposed to do now?...Who is going to support me now?’ She seemed to be slamming either her hands or something else down on the desk. She shouted, ‘What the fuck am I supposed to do now?...You threw me under the bus…You racist mother-fuckers, you just want to get my Black ass out of here!’ It sounded like she threw a couple of things around. …There were kids walking in the hallway (2 fourth graders and 4th grade parents)…It was about 11:40 a.m. and the kids were about to come out of their classes to go to lunch…”
mary smith November 19, 2011 at 11:01 AM
(Continued from previous post) As I understand it, even though at least one child heard Ilana’s outburst and was withdrawn from the school by his/her parent(s) the very next day, the community was at first quiet about this incident because the Board persuaded it that talking publicly about Ilana’s behavior would jeopardize the settlement with WFB. Concern burned into outrage this week, though, after Windrush Board of Trustee Member Lucy Aghadjian on 11/15/2011 stated at a community meeting that as far as she was concerned, the incident was over and done with. Aghadjian stated that Ilana had “apologized” to the community for her outburst. She also said that IK taking $80,000 was “legal.” I guess I missed the apology memo. I remember a memo in which the outburst was described as “appropriate,” and then a follow-up memo from members of the Board that cleaned up some of the misinformation in the first memo, but I don’t remember any sort of apology coming from Ilana, and nothing that acknowledged the world of hurt caused by those brutal remarks about our community, not to mention how people now know, pretty much across the board, that IK is not a leader of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, nobody but Ilana should be apologizing –and resigning. She can take her concerns about us “racist motherfuckers” to the Department of Fair Employment.
mary smith November 19, 2011 at 11:09 AM
(Continued from previous post) After helping herself to $80,000, IK is still negotiating the future of Windrush School with Wells Fargo Bank. She is the sole proprietor over the budget proposal. She continues to have unfettered access to all of the school’s confidential information in the computers and files, including sensitive information about families and children, electronic transfer information, which kids have learning disabilities, which parents are having legal issues with estranged spouses, and so on. She knows whose parents work where. She still has all of the powers outlined in school by-laws, including power to hire, fire, admit, suspend or expel. How does that make you feel? Pretty secure, eh? In light of her determined refusal to do anything about IK, I wonder how parents at St. Paul's Episcopal, where Sarah Flowers is the interim head, are feeling about Flowers' abilities. This racist motherfucker couldn’t quite believe it when someone forwarded an article, “Thriving in Independent Schools, As AISNE Guide for Educators of Color,” in which Ilana Kaufman writes (no joke): “Never throw tantrums when upset or unsuccessful. Once you abandon professionalism, you can expect to be marginalized as a lone ranger, a maverick, or even worse, someone who ‘is working through her own stuff on the school’s time.’” Time to go, Tonto.
Grandma November 19, 2011 at 05:25 PM
I challenge the Board to do the right thing NOW. This has gone on long enough. Is Merle representing IK AND the school - that does not seem right? Of course nothing seems right about this whole situation.
lisa smith November 20, 2011 at 01:09 AM
Whoever you actually are, Mary, - perhaps a long-lost sister of mine - you are quite accurate and eloquent in your descriptions. Never did I want Ilana's "black ass" out of WR, just her cold-hearted, prejudiced, power-hungry ass. And shame on Lucy - I had a much higher opinion of her prior to this current debacle.
Real Mama November 21, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Puhleeze--can someone explain--how is it not a conflict of interest for Merle Meyers to represent WR and IK??
Luke Sides November 21, 2011 at 04:48 PM
he only represents the BOT and HOS both received vote of no confidence and therefore, Merle is not really representing WR as a whole. too quiet. everyone given up? maybe everyone don’t care anymore or is busy packing. does anyone know when is the budget mediation hearing this week? nov 29 is approaching fast!
Ira Sharenow November 21, 2011 at 05:47 PM
What are the remaining issues? Are families still thinking of keeping their children at WR after January 1? Is there a reasonably likely scenario where WR survives past the end of this school year? The bondholders wish to minimize their losses. The insurance issue may be critical. Has the insurance company been paying out without complain? I assume employees and attorneys would like to continue getting paid.
Observing November 22, 2011 at 01:36 AM
Mary, While I appreciate your concerns about Windrush, I do not appreciate you making this knowledge public before I had the chance to let families and students know. I'm assuming that you are one of my colleagues, and I would have appreciated the opportunity to inform them myself as opposed to receiving emails over the weekend. You either heard this directly from me and I asked those that I told not to share. Otherwise, it was part of the rumor mill and not intended for public knowledge at that time. Please consider those that you impact with your posts here. Sincerely, David Haupert
Former WR parent November 22, 2011 at 07:46 AM
We called Dewar Insurance today to ask about the status of the tuition reimbursements. I was told that they did receive our termination form from the school, but that they have not paid out any policies yet. They are still in the due diligence phase waiting to find out whether the school will survive the year. According to the policy, Dewar is obligated to pay as long as the school remains operational, even after the bankruptcy filing. However, he mentioned that if the school was to close before the end of the year, they may pay out only a percentage. He says they will have a decision within a few weeks.
Luke Sides November 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM
any updates on the hearing that took place this morning?
Luke Sides November 22, 2011 at 10:32 PM
interesting. alot at stake for all parties.
J. Rubio November 23, 2011 at 06:50 AM
The community will find out more tomorrow from the Board.
sad parent November 23, 2011 at 07:26 AM
Well Ilana, it looks like you've finally done it. You have managed to destroy a school in just a few short years, and dragged all the families and kids through a heart-wrenching experience. I will make it my personal mission to ensure that you never get the opportunity to head another school, and once again, make teachers lives miserable and destroy a positive learning environment. You have provided a stunning example of how not to run a school-surrounding yourself with board members that were not courageous enough to stand up to you, bullying teachers, and lying to parents and children. What you have done is unforgivable, and will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Gathering Data November 23, 2011 at 07:30 AM
From the Board: "Windrush Community - Today, despite a full day of mediation with Judge Lafferty, a settlement with Wells Fargo and the bondholders could not be reached. We are disappointed, as this is not the news we hoped we would be sending you tonight. To inform you about our options going forward and what it means to the school, we have scheduled a meeting of the Community in the multipurpose room tomorrow between 12:30 and 2:00 PM. Troy Tyler and Ilana Kaufman will be there to discuss these options with you personally. We hope you can join us, despite the short notice. The Board will send an electronic communication immediately following the meeting to inform the greater community of the details discussed. We know that this bankruptcy has been unbearably taxing for all of us. Thank you for your enduring passion and love of Windrush. Windrush Board Lucy Aghadjian, Kelly Buckeley, Alana Conner, Sarah Flowers (Chair), Ilana Kaufman, John Muster, Troy Tyler"
disappointedbutnotsurprised November 23, 2011 at 07:41 AM
That's just precious. I think a lawsuit is in order.
disappointedbutnotsurprised November 23, 2011 at 07:49 AM
Anyone in the mood for more edu-babble and disengenuous Ilana-speak? Please assemble tomorrow in the multi-purpose room at the assigned time. I'm sure there will be plenty of bemoaning of the big bad bank and evil bondholders and plenty of disavowing of any accountability and responsibiltiy on the part of the HOS, Ilana kaufman and the Board of Trustees. They might even have cookies! That said, an audio clip of the pre-mediation telephone conference is available as public record. I would hope there is some similar record of what really went down with Judge Lafferty and the bondholders outside of what Ilana and her cohort Troy intend to represent tomorrow because we all know how trust worthy that is going to be. Peace and Happy Turkey Day.
lisa smith November 23, 2011 at 05:47 PM
well said.
John Smith November 23, 2011 at 07:22 PM
As the parent of 2 Windrush "lifers", both now in college, I have been following the destruction of the school with interest and sadness. A few things have become obvious. The mediation was likely to fail. Students have continued to leave the school according to comments made here-the remaining students could barely fill 4 classrooms in a school with 9 grades. There was no possible way meaningful payments to the bank could be made out of a falling tuition income even if the pledges were honored. WF knew this, I suspect, which probably explains why they have apparently not made an issue, for example, of the unearned vacation pay taken by Kaufman. From WF's perspective, it would be better if the school committed suicide than if it were murdered by WF, which doesn't want the bad publicity. I suspect the board also knew there was little hope of continuing, because their actions, and inactions, make more sense for a group positioning themselves for litigation than for a group attempting to save a school. The refusal, for example, to consider replacing the HOS, who has repeatedly been blamed in these pages for the loss of students, makes sense if the board and HOS are contemplating a united defense. Don't expect to hear about the mediation-by law it is confidential and the board, I am sure, will be happy to hide behind that.
None November 23, 2011 at 11:40 PM
I would not trust IK to serve me a happy meal at Mc Donald's, let alone run another school.
Luke Sides November 23, 2011 at 11:52 PM
anyone at today's school meeting? is it back to bankruptcy hearing for the 29th? what was the HOS & BOT reasoning in details for the failure to reach a deal besides the obvious of budget disgreement of how expenses are calculated? their next move?
WR Parent November 24, 2011 at 01:49 AM
The school is still in limbo. Today's meeting basically let the community know that there is still an opportunity for settlement, but they are planning other scenarios, including closing down the school (really the only option, IMHO). There are so many issues with revenue, pledges and tuition insurance money that its seems like a stretch to resolve. The disturbing thing is one parent started to admonish the parents who have chosen to take their children out of this difficult situation and told them they have no right to be there (at the meeting) - forgetting that they are still on the hook financially for both tuition and pledges. Very shortsighted. It would seem that the school would want as many friends as possible in this situation. How can the school survive with an attitude like that?
Ira Sharenow November 24, 2011 at 01:55 AM
From reading the online comments, it seems clear that WR will cease to exist no later than the end of the school year. My guess is that the big issues in the negotiations are the insurance money and the donations. If the school closes at the end of 2011, then there will be a lot less money available to the bondholders. How much more money will be flowing into WR if it lasts through the school year? How much insurance money per student? How many students? How much in the way of donations? It seems as though the WR board has a great deal of leverage.
Deborah November 24, 2011 at 02:56 AM
My heart goes out (and has, since this began) to the teachers, staff, parents, & children of Windrush. I thank the many of you who gave (and give) information and shared your insights here on Patch. I have enormous appreciation for the learning and caring that continued for the students at WR throughout this. As a member of the EC community and a teacher in a small school myself, I've been following the story all along. I have experienced a very frustrating time at a school when many good teachers needed to leave. But I have never encountered what you are going through. Let it be a warning to all other small schools of what can happen when there aren't enough checks and balances. Parents and staff have all had to make very difficult decisions for themselves, and I honor each of those. The position you all were put in is mind-boggling, beyond frustrating, and no one should have to go through this. Please know that many people outside of your WR Community are thinking of you and wishing the staff and parents and students all the best. My care and positive energies will continue to go out to you all.

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