GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 14, 2013

Charter eyeing property selloff

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The trustees of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School Board are considering selling off the remnants of school supplies, furniture and technology in hopes of using revenue to pay off creditors.

Though a sale date has not been set, a preview of the sale is slated for Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, just over a month after the school shut its doors for the last time amid plummeting enrollment, speculation about a pending charter revocation and a virtual halt in state funding.

Part of the closing procedures for the school includes paying off any creditors, and though the items within the leased building typically belong to the state, the state has granted the school permission to sell off what is left, according to a spokesman for the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

”The school has more liabilities than assets,” spokesman JC Considine said Wednesday. “They are entitled to use any assets they have to raise cash to pay off unpaid bills. We work with the school to prioritize what gets paid off first.”

Though board members have not publicly discussed the exact details of the school’s debts, Mick Lafata, the owner of the building leased by the charter school, is likely one of the school’s largest creditors, with over $1 million owed to him on the remainder of the lease for what was expected to be at least a five-year run. Under fire from the Department of Education, the trustees surrendered the school’s charter midway through the public, independent school’s third year of operation.

Lafata has expressed interest in keeping the supplies and items in the school as a partial payment of the school’s debt owed to him, because furnishings might make moving in easier if another school decides to lease the building.

Trustees’ Chairman James Caviston said Wednesday that the board wants to help Lafata out any way they can, but the board must decide as a team, with state input, on what to do.

”We can’t just, in an off-hand manner, say ‘Sure, we’ll give someone this, we’ll give someone that,’” Caviston said.

The sale had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but last weekend’s blizzard has caused a delay, and the board needed more time to ensure they would be following proper procedures, Caviston said.

“In order to make sure we’re doing this properly, and because of the weather, we will be announcing another time (for the sale),” Caviston said. “It’s a very large undertaking, but it’s the kind of thing, because we’re dealing with state issues, we have to be very careful with the process.”

The sale should include two pianos and other musical instruments, along with computers, laptops, books, desk, chairs, tables and almost anything else a person might find in a typical school. The sale prices and sale method have yet to be determined though, according to Caviston.

“The idea is to get the majority percentage of what we paid for it,” Caviston said.

A few schools have already expressed interest in purchasing some of the supplies and materials, and one school even inquired about buying everything. Still, Caviston invites any individuals or school representatives who might be interested in a portion or all of the supplies to see what is available at the preview Saturday.

“I would encourage anyone,” he said, “to come take a look.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.