Tony Franceschi said he long worried about the security for an estimated $18,000 worth of diesel repair equipment in storage at Charles A. Jones Career and Education Center in Sacramento.
“Things at schools have a tendency to disappear,” said Franceschi, who taught diesel technology at the school until the program shut down in 2012.
His worry, it turns out, was well founded.
On March 11, a manager at the Jones career center gave away the equipment, property of the Sacramento City Unified School District, to a friend of the school’s auto body teacher.
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Susan Gilmore, the district’s director of adult education who also serves as principal of the career center, said she learned of the giveaway only as she was leaving campus and the equipment was being driven off the site. About that time, Gilmore said, district security officers arrived.
Their arrival triggered an internal investigation, said district spokesman Gabe Ross, resulting in a call for the equipment be returned for inventory, a possible school board surplus designation and eventual auction.
District officials say that, in the end, the equipment giveaway was a mistake.
“A lot of the stuff was inoperable, is my understanding,” Gilmore said Friday. “It happened to be a friend of the teacher” who agreed to take the equipment “as a favor.”
“We have students on a waiting list who want to get into auto body repair,” she said, adding that the equipment for several years had occupied needed classroom space.
A $2,000 check left in the office for the equipment was not cashed, Gilmore said. “It was totally unsolicited,” she said. “We can’t accept any funds. As soon as I found out about it, it was returned.”
Franceschi, who taught diesel technology at the Jones center for several years until 2012, kept records of the equipment. While some was donated, he said, much of it was purchased by the district.
Taken from the site were two air jacks, one air/hydraulic jack and four jack stands capable of either elevating or stabilizing 18-wheeler diesel tractors, he said, based on recent visits to the site and conversations with career center staff.
There was a diesel engine stand and a Detroit Series 60 diesel engine, two heavy-duty transmission jacks capable of lifting 2,000 pounds, engine diagnostic equipment and assorted other heavy-duty gear and tools.
Most of the equipment, new, would sell for thousands of dollars each. Even in resale, he said, the heavy-duty equipment is worth respectable amounts.
Franceschi was hoping to teach a diesel technology course at Highlands Community Charter if the school could acquire the equipment stored at the Jones career center. When he heard the equipment was being carted off, Franceschi called Ward Allen, a Highlands board member.
Allen said he hoped to expand his charter school’s heavy-duty truck driving program to add the diesel technology component. That would give charter students, largely ex-offenders and those without high school diplomas, an edge by becoming “diesel qualified” for better-paying jobs.
When Allen learned that the equipment was taken away, he sent Trustee Darrel Woo an email to complain. Allen previously expressed interest to Woo about acquiring the equipment for Highlands.
Woo, in an interview, said the idea that the equipment was given away “is very upsetting to me.”
Ross, the district spokesman, said nothing was malicious about the episode.
“We have no reason to believe there was any kind of mal-intent, just a lapse in judgment,” he said.
“Nobody was damaged. We’re getting the equipment back. At its resolution, nobody will have been harmed.”
Call The Bee’s Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee.