GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 19, 2013

Charter grants to help pay creditors

The Gloucester Community Arts Charter School is gearing up to repay some of the school’s lingering $89,266 in debts through a federal grant and an assets sale that the state approved this month, as trustees wrap up the closing procedures.

The state’s Department of Education is readying this month to release federal grant payments that can be used explicitly to pay back the creditors — mostly the school’s own trustees — who made loans to the school to pay teachers during the final weeks of its operation, according to electronic correspondence from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to school trustees.

“Because the federal grant funds are reimbursing GCACS for services already rendered and paid, no other use of these funds is permitted,” wrote Bill Bell, chief financial officer for the state’s education department.

The creditors Bell listed to be repaid through the grant include extending $15,000 to Cape Ann Medical, also listed as landlord Mick Lafata in a loan document, and another $12,000 payment to Allan Huntley, a member of the Essex County Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees. A promissory note lists Trustees Chairman James Caviston as the “lender” of the $12,000 chunk, but later lists the lender in that case as Allan and Marla Huntley.

Trustees including Jay Featherstone, Susan Hogue and Art Beane, will be paid back in full between $1,000 and $2,500 each, on their interest-free loans. The grant will also repay $3,000 to Gordon Baird, who resigned from the Board of Trustees at the close of the calendar year.

But, even after about $35,000 is dispersed to creditors, the school will remain about $54,266 in the hole. And those who trusted that a state-approved sale of the school’s assets would set the balance back at $0 will likely suffer disappointment, according to minutes from a March 11 charter board meeting, when trustees determined the sale money would not suffice. A March 5 invoice that estimated the school was in about $90,000 debt, on top of the money owed to creditors, did not include some lease payments due and bookkeeper expenses, according to meeting minutes

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