Creditors throw lifeline to school
THE Shearwater Steiner School at Mullumbimby has been given a last-minute reprieve by its creditors.
Creditors voted on Tuesday to accept an arrangement giving it another three weeks to establish its viability.
The deed of company arrangement (DoCA) offered by the school, and agreed to by creditors, indicated it was confident it could raise $1.35 million by May 25. This would pay its debt to the State Government, cover superannuation commitments and create a ‘dividend’ fund for unsecured creditors, said Jan Roskott, chairman of the board.
Rather than force the debt-laden school into liquidation, the creditors – owed more than $5 million – settled for a repayment of 10 cents for every dollar.
“None of the creditors at the meeting was happy,” Mr Roskott said. “But they agreed in order to receive some payment, to help the school to stay open, and to keep a customer for the future.”
A formal letter within the DoCA indicated the school felt it had a ‘moral obligation’ to repay its creditors – many of them local tradespeople and small businesses – dollar-for-dollar in the future, Mr Roskott said.
“This cannot be put in as a legal commitment, but we certainly feel the burden of their loss as a moral issue,” he said.
Parvita Turner, a parent and spokesperson for the school, said it was an ‘exciting’ result.
“The school is not going to close,” she said. “This gives us the possibility of a fresh start.”
Ms Turner said teachers and students had breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday. Educationally, it is ‘business as usual’ and new enrolments are coming in.
She said parents and supporters were continuing to fundraise, but the $1.35 million had been largely raised or pledged. “Some of it has not landed yet, but it has been promised and we are confident it will arrive,” she said.
If the terms of the DoCA are fulfilled by May 23, control of the school will be passed back to the directors.
Two creditors, including Ware Building, which is owed over $450,000, voted against the DoCA.
A local business owner said he had ‘no option’ but to agree to the arrangement.
Another said he was ‘still dirty’ over the way he had been treated.
“In a small community this is going to take a long time to be forgotten,” he said.