GARDNER (AP) -- An original Norman Rockwell painting that for years hung on the wall in a high school principal’s office before being put in storage for more than a decade is headed to the auction block.

The painting is expected to fetch as much as $2.5 million at auction later this month, but Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke says that given the recent history of Rockwell auctions, it could sell for much more.

"In December, we saw one original go for $46 million," Hawke told The Gardner News, noting that that painting had been expected to get between $15 million to $20 million.

The mayor and education officials in the central Massachusetts city hope the money can be used to set up a foundation to benefit schools.

"We have been talking about establishing the foundation for quite some time, but never had any seed money," school committee member Carol Bailey said. "This is a good opportunity to invest back in the kids."

The 1941 painting "Willie Gillis in Convoy" was gift from Rockwell to former Gardner High School principal F. Earl Williams in the 1950s. The 43-inch-by-34-inch piece depicts a World War II soldier in the back of a truck with several comrades.

It was one in a series of paintings of the fictional character, but the only one to not appear in circulation on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

It hung in the principal’s office until 2001 when it was hidden amid concerns for its safety, and most recently has been in a closet off a classroom at Gardner Middle School.

Jeremy Clowe at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge said the museum was unaware the painting existed and called it "a real find."

"We have a catalog of all the works we know of, but all we have for that one is the charcoal sketch. This is very interesting news for us," Clowe said.

The painting is currently in the hands of Sotheby’s in New York and is scheduled to be auctioned on May 21.

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Information from: The Gardner (Mass.) News.