GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 27, 2013

Charter eyes 'fixed-price' asset sale

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The Gloucester Community Arts Charter School is poised to unload its assets in what’s being called a “special sale,” but school trustes are waiting on state approval of their two-day sale method before deciding on dates to reel in cash to pay back loans, debts and creditors to the school.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has already authorized the school to sell off its assets to repay creditors that include a landlord who’s owed over $1 million on a five-year contract, and trustees who lent money — some of which went toward teacher paychecks when the state funding slowed to a trickle. Still, the state must approve the sale method that charter trustees drafted and sent in last week, according to Board Chairman James Caviston.

”The good news is, when we finally get the approval, we’ll be ready to go,” Caviston said. “We’ve submitted all the information about how we’d like to run the sale.”

The trustees’ proposal to the state details a two-day sale with fixed prices on most items, including desktop computers at $48 apiece, a reception desk priced at $900, curriculum sets and books assigned various prices, a baby grand piano appraised at $8,000 and priced at $4800, medical equipment, office furniture and most other items one might expect to find in a school.

Though the sale date has yet to be set, preference would go to offers to buy the highest quantity of one type of item, according to the proposal. The proposal includes a second sale date, and on that date trustees would accept bids on the leftover items, then use a formula — multiplying the desired quantity of an item by the price offered — to choose the bid that would draw in the most money.

The state education department had hoped the school would be closed with all loose ends tied and procedures completed by the end of February, according to Caviston. But that was “not going to happen,” Caviston conceded Tuesday.

Caviston said he was unable Tuesday to estimate the school’s acquired debt, and he said, repayment of their debts is difficult to plan before the assets sale, not knowing how much money the sale will draw.

Trustees will allocate the sale proceeds, with the help of the state’s highest education department, according to spokesman for that department’s spokesman, JC Considine.

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

The charter trustees would like to first repay charter school landlord Mick Lafata and trustee creditors, according to Caviston.

“The state has definitely approved of the people who lent money to pay the teachers get paid, and Mick is at the top of that list,” Caviston said.

In the meantime, a handful of trustees have been filling out paperwork and completing closure procedures required by the state. The trustees have reached out to school administrators across the North Shore to inform them of the sale and are hoping to draw in those buyers and any interested individuals.

“We want to get as much competition for these assets as we can,” Caviston said.

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