GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 28, 2013

Charter's sales list, prices pulled from site

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Gloucester Community Arts Charter School trustees sent their assets sale plan to the state for approval last week, hoping for a sale by the end of the month.

By Tuesday a description of the sale procedures and a listing of all the items — complete with set prices, in many cases — popped up on the charter school’s website.

Wednesday morning, however, that list and set of procedures had disappeared, with only an “empty folder” available to potential buyers and others who visited the site looking to size up potential bargains and check other “special sale” information. And the sale items and price list remained empty as of press time Wednesday night.

Charter school trustees did not return calls for comment on the vanished plan and pricing list Wednesday.

Trustees had planned, with state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education permission, to sell off what was left inside the building the school had rented, in hopes of repaying some creditors, including the landlord and trustees that had loaned money to the school in order to pay teachers salaries as state funding dropped then diminished.

A source close to the school said the application was still awaiting approval of the sale process from the state’s highest education board, leaving charter trustees dependent on that decision “in limbo.”

“There’s been a delay in getting that response for some reason,” that source said.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman J.C. Considine also failed to return calls placed by the Times Wednesday.

The state ed department had hoped to seal the charter school into history by the end of February, urging trustees to complete closing procedures by today. Though any assets left within a closed public school would usually become public property, the state approved the former charter school’s hosting an assets sale, given that their debts had piled up so high, Considine had said previously.

“The school has more liabilities than assets ...They are entitled to use any assets they have to raise cash to pay off unpaid bills,” he said.

The trustees’ proposal to the state, which was gone from their website Wednesday morning, detailed a two-day sale with fixed prices on most items, including desktop computers at $48 a piece, a reception desk priced at $900, curriculum sets and books assigned various prices, a baby grand piano appraised at $8,000 and priced at $4,800, 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 initial proposal. That proposal also included a potential 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.

Chair of Trustees James Caviston said Tuesday that he was unable to estimate the school’s total debt, between loans, creditors and broken contracts, but he said a list detailing all of the school’s outstanding loans would become available soon.

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