SVC hires firm to oversee closeout

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BENNINGTON — Southern Vermont College has retained a corporate restructuring specialist to oversee operations as the school it closes down over the summer.

Officials also announced Wednesday that SVC President David Evans will leave the post this week and has secured another position, and that the college now has enough money to cover all final paycheck obligations to its employees.

Board of trustees Chairman David Newell said Wednesday that Charles Goldstein, of 3 Cubed Advisory Services, LLC, based in Maryland, has been hired to act as a restructuring officer for the college.

Newell said Goldstein is overseeing operations during the closeout period and working with SVC attorneys, the trustees, major college debt holders, and with remaining staff, including a few office, maintenance and security personnel.

"Basically, he is the operations CEO," Newell said.

At this point, Evans is still the college president and remains on the board of trustees, Newell said, but Goldstein has taken over the management tasks.

"We know he is looking [for another position], and we support that," Newell said of Evans.

3 Cubed Advisory Services has worked with both for-profit and non-profit companies and organizations, advising and assisting them as they shut down or go out of business, Newell said.

Goldstein could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Reached later via email, Evans said in part, "I am no longer employed by the college as of Friday. I stepped down voluntarily, earlier than originally planned [June 30], in order to free up some of my salary to cover other personnel costs."

He said he expects an announcement concerning his new job will be released next month.

Faculty to be paid

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Newell also confirmed Wednesday that SVC is now able to cover its remaining obligations to employees in checks issued this week. He said that includes those faculty members who had opted to be paid through the summer, rather than receive a lump sum payment for those months at the end of the semester in May.

Those faculty members, including almost all full-time instructors, had been told in April that not enough money was left to cover their final checks, pending the sale of campus real estate assets.

But Newell said Wednesday that the college now has money to cover those salary costs. He said other contributions to SVC have been received and the two banks holding a mortgage on debt totaling more than $6 million — Community Bank and the Bank of Bennington — "have been cooperative; that's all I can say."

In addition, he cited an ongoing fund-raising effort by the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and residents to help fund final SVC employee salary costs and other expenses during the shutdown.

Two lawsuits

Goldstein's work with the SVC attorneys likely will include lawyers with Dinse, a firm based in Burlington, which is defending the college corporation against two suits filed this month in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division.

One suit, filed by Bruce Laumeiser and Elizabeth Small, founders of the Bennington Center for the Arts, seeks to annul their 2017 donation of the facility to the college and to halt any attempt to sell the property.

The college has taken steps to sell the center, which is valued assessed at about $2 million and houses art collections valued at another $2 million.

Although owned by a non-profit institution not required to pay property taxes, the main campus was assessed by the town at about $9.4 million for a dozen college buildings set on 371 acres off Monument Avenue. The property is listed for sale with TPW Real Estate of Manchester.

Evans and the trustees announced in early March that the school would close this year amid mounting debt and declining student enrollment. The announcement came after a Feb. 28 show-cause hearing on the college's financial situation before the New England Commission of Higher Education, which shortly afterward withdrew SVC's academic accreditation as of Aug. 31.

SVC is the third small private college in Vermont to announce a shutdown this year, including College of St. Joseph in Rutland and Green Mountain College in Poultney. Among reasons commonly cited were an unfavorable debt to endowment ratio and declining enrollment amid a general enrollment decline among many colleges throughout New England.

Evans has said that when the notice of the NECHE show-cause hearing was posted as required, the school's enrollment projections for next year fell precipitously — after several years of gradual increases following a sharp fall-off five years ago.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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