Shearwater school back in business

THE agreement putting Shearwater Steiner School back in business was signed off by administrators at 4pm yesterday.

Shearwater directors and parents were able to raise the required $1.35 million to persuade Mark Robinson of PPB, the voluntary administrator (VA), the Mullumbimby school had a viable future.

The school was so confident of being able to resume trading that it commissioned an advertisement in a Byron Shire free newspaper yesterday with a headline trumpeting ‘Shearwater survives’.

But the announcement pre-empted the decision of PPB.

PPB’s agent on the ground in Mullumbimby, Liz Fleming, didn’t sign until 7pm on Monday.

The school’s premature move to assert its viability may be interpreted as an example of the kind of disregard for formal detail that got it into trouble in the first place.

One of the new directors, Christopher Dean, was at the signing of the DoCA at the Shearwater end on Monday.

Mr Dean said Ms Fleming had told him Shearwater was the only one of the 200 schools in Australia that had gone into administration that had been able to get out of it by themselves.

He said it was a great relief to the school, which was initiating reforms such as a greater stress on educational aspects and new training for teachers.

As to its financial health, Mr Dean said: “Having survived VA means we are as clean as can be.”

He said the future of the school depended on maintaining its level of enrolments.

One of those primarily responsible for helping the school raise the money, Bharat Mitra, said recently that it was time to end the blame game among the community.

However, some of its creditors are not so willing to forgive and forget.

One, builder Mark Ware, is pursuing a civil action against former members of the school’s board to recoup the $460,000 he is owed.

“Mr Ware is investigating the liability of the former officers of the incorporated association in incurring a debt they knew, or should have known, the association was unable to pay,” his lawyer, Rick Barraclough, said.

The school had been changed from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee in early February, weeks before the VA was called in.

Mr Robinson said the decision taken at the second creditor’s meeting bound all creditors and that the directors were legally protected.



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