On Tuesday, December 18, the Bethel Schools planned to hold a sale of 90 surplus iMacs and 150 surplus Chromebooks at the High School. The event was organized by NJROTC cadets, and advertised to the public through posters.
Because of the holiday break, The Bethel Community Gazette has been unable to get official statements from school officials, but we have pieced together what we believe ocurred from published materials. We will follow-up with any further information once the key sources are available.
Per school policy, the equipment was first made available to staff and students. The expectation appears to have been that there would be many items left after the staff and students had their choice, and that the surplus equipment would be of most benefit to the public before Christmas, so the public event was scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on December 18.
Some members of the public reportedly arrived early, and may have intermingled with the staff and student pre-public sale.
When the public arrived at 6 p.m., all the items had been sold. "They did not anticipate the level of interest," according to Superintendent Carver and Principal Troetti.
Some social media reports have some individuals carrying multiple items, and at least one local website has been labeling the sale as "questioned as unethical". That outlet even sourced Town ethics guidelines rather than School Board policy, raising the question as to whether the sale could possibly have been an illegal benefit to town employees.
After reviewing the Board of Education policy on disposal of surplus equipment, The Bethel Community Gazette staff can find no evidence of unethical or improper behavior. The Bethel Board of Education policy, which closely matches State guidelines on disposal of surplus equipment, states that surplus equipment will be offered first to the Town, then to staff and students, and then to the public.
The equipment was disposed of, beginning with a Board of Selectmen meeting in November, and then offered to staff and students, and then offered to the public.
The Board of Education policy, adopted in July 20, 1992 states "When it becomes necessary to dispose of any used equipment including computers, the Bethel Public Schools will use the following protocol.
1. Equipment will first be offered to Town of Bethel at no cost.
2. Any remaining equipment will be assessed to determine current market value and offered for sale to the following groups on a first come first serve basis:
Staff and students
The general public
3. Equipment that does not sell will be offered to non-profit organizations at no cost.
4. The Director of Fiscal Services will determine an appropriate method of disposal of all remaining equipment.
Money acquired from the sale would be used as follows:
1. To cover the cost of preparing the equipment for disposal.
2. To pay for the removal of any equipment that does not sell.
3. The remaining funds will be returned to the town per the town charter."
The sale of the surplus computers was discussed and unanimously approved at a Board of Selectmen meeting on November 13. The following is an extract from the minutes of that meeting:
"Consideration of ROTC sale of old computer equipment:
First Selectman Knickerbocker made a motion, which was seconded by Selectman Straiton to approve the release of approximately 90 old IMACS and 150 Samsung Chrome books to be refurbished and sold by the NJROTC, the sale of computers would be put back into the Town' s budget per the Charter and said funds would be distributed to the NJROTC during the 2019-2020 budget. Vote, all in favor, motion approved unanimously"
The text of the December 19 letter from Superintendent Carver and Principal Troelli also identifies areas that they will address to make future disposal of equipment more transparent and less distressing should the items be as popular.
Their letter reads:
"December 19, 2018
Bethel Public Schools held a computer sale on Tuesday evening. The purpose was in providing a service to the Town of Bethel from devices, given their age and capabilities, would have otherwise been recycled. All monies from the sale of this technology is being returned to the town's general fund, per town charter. It was the NJROTC cadets' initiative to do this and the town benefited from their efforts. The sale was part of a capstone project run by students in the NJROTC program. Not realizing how popular this event would be, the project quickly became a learning experience for our students and NJROTC leadership. They regret any inconvenience this caused for those who participated, and look forward to continuing to serve the community.
We acknowledge that this was an imperfect process. Cadets are conducting an after action report and lessons learned. While very well intentioned, going forward they will set up and adhere to more explicit purchasing guidelines, including but not limited to the following:
1. They will follow advertised times. They did not anticipate the level of interest and were trying to accommodate the residents who arrived early.
2. They now know that they need to have a device purchasing limit and develop a waiting list for future purchases.
We thank the public for their support and understanding, and regret any inconvenience. Please direct any questions or constructive recommendations to Lt. Commander Dwinells of the Bethel NJROTC at firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Carver, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Principal Bethel High School"