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Auction Closes the Books on Classroom Castoffs

Schools: Bargain hunters cart off everything from chalkboards to Xerox machines as L.A. Unified sells off unneeded wares.


Nearly 100 home and business owners, teachers, dealers and bargain hunters showed up at a South-Central L.A. storage lot Saturday morning, each waiting to bid on hundreds of ghostly remnants of the Los Angeles Unified School District's past.

Items considered unusable, out-of-date or simply no longer needed were auctioned off by the school district, including two green chalkboards; piles of dusty microwaves; pots of various sizes; a few Xerox machines; rows and rows of scratched up school desks with blue, green and purple wads of gum stuck to the bottoms; a torn pommel horse; a few grand pianos; a set of parallel bars; ceiling-high stacks of bicycles; and tiny plastic children's chairs.

"I always say 'One man's junk is another man's treasure,' " said Quinton Dean, supervising purchasing service coordinator for the district. "The money goes to the general fund, so everyone benefits."

Such auctions are held a couple of times a year, Dean said, and the district usually earns between $25,000 and $75,000 on each one.

Inside one garage stood leftovers from high school wood-shop classes, including a giant planer, used to finish wood, and several machine saws. There was a variety of wood-shop, drafting and printing equipment, since those classes have closed in recent years because of budget cuts and schools' efforts to teach fewer vocational classes and focus instead on state academic standards.

Another garage held piles of worn typewriters.

There were rows of instruments chucked from music classes: a violin with broken strings, an electronic keyboard minus a few keys, a xylophone, a big drum and an autoharp with "Tweedy Elementary School" written on the side.

There were banged up weightlifting machines, including an arm press and a leg machine, thrown out by Belvedere Middle School. There were golf clubs, stationary bikes, rowing machines and a tennis ball launcher that sold for $10.

Tina Boyd, an elementary school teacher, went to the auction to bid on a grand piano for her home, and maybe a ladder and a lawnmower. Boyd said she didn't care if the piano had graffiti on it.

She also frequents thrift shops, yard sales and Big Lots stores, and claims she is the quintessential bargain shopper.

In fact, Boyd was mentioned in a Times' article last year after she acquired a Federal-Revival-style house for free. Boyd learned that the house belonged to the Pasadena Christian School and was slated for demolition, so she persuaded the school to give her the house.

She then paid to transport it to an empty lot she owned in Altadena.

"I don't like traditional shopping. That bores me. I can't stand it," she said. "I like to find unique stuff."

Quinton Guidry, 41, took his girlfriend to Los Angeles from the Inland Empire to browse through the pickings Saturday.

"It's interesting," his girlfriend, Tona Sapp, said skeptically.

"She has expensive taste. She doesn't understand," Guidry said with a laugh. "I'm a thrift shop, flea market type of guy."

Guidry said he attended a Los Angeles Unified auction once before and bought a soda machine for $25, which he now shows off in his home. He also bought a riding lawnmower for $35. "You can't beat it," he said.

Raffie Gevorgian, a dealer, said he attended the auction to look for equipment to fix up and resell. But he said most items don't need repair.

"You should write how sad it is that sometimes they bring brand-new stuff here, and they say it is obsolete, when our schools have so little already," Gevorgian said.

But Dean said schools always have first choice, and they are welcome to come pick up the items any time, at no cost, before they are sold to the public.

The next public auction will probably be held after the winter, Dean said. The district publicizes the event in newspapers and on its Web site.

Some shoppers, however, said they don't want the word to get out too much, because more competing bidders result in fewer cut-rate deals.

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