MCSD can opt out

LEWISTOWN – A Centre County judge has ruled Mifflin County School District was not in breach of a contract with the Juniata County School District when the board of directors voted not to renew an agreement regarding the shared use of the Career and Technology Center.

MCSD terminated a long-standing agreement with JCSD regarding the CTC during a school board meeting on July 26, 2012. The Mifflin County School Board of Directors passed the resolution by a 7-0 vote.

Shortly thereafter MCSD, by and through its board of directors, filed a lawsuit asking the court to award ownership of the land to MCSD. At present, Mifflin County School District owns roughly 71 percent of the land, while Juniata County School District owns roughly 29 percent. In addition, 75 percent of the approximately 400 students attending the school are from Mifflin County School District, which also incurs 75 percent of the costs, according to court documents.

Some of the programs offered at the CTC include agriculture technology, auto mechanics, building trades, culinary arts, cosmetology and medical sciences.

The most recent ruling from visiting Senior Judge David E. Grine addressed arguments brought forth by the attorney representing JCSD during a hearing in March.

Jeffrey Litts argued that when the Articles of Agreement are looked at in their entirety, it is clearly a perpetual contract.

In Grine’s ruling he states “MCSD is not seeking to withdrawal from an existing agreement. Rather, MCSD is seeking to terminate their membership at the expiration of the (current) agreement.”

The current agreement between the two districts is set to expire June 30.

“Naturally we are disappointed with the decision and feel it misses the intended purpose of the articles of agreement. We are preparing for the next hearing and hope the court will realize how important vocational education is to both communities. Juniata County School District is committed to finding solutions so our students and Mifflin County students do not suffer or lose valuable educational time.” JCSD Superintendent Rick Musselman said.

Superintendent of MCSD James Estep said the court’s ruling validates the district’s standpoint that the agreement was not a perpetual contract.

Estep said the most important thing he wants people to know is the district’s goal was to take over management of the CTC, not to oust Juniata County vocational students.

Estep said there is the possibility Juniata County vocational students may still be able to attend classes at the CTC.

Estep said he thinks there will be an attempt to get back together with Juniata County and work something out between now and the next scheduled hearing.

Two more hearings are scheduled to take place on May 9 and 10, in the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas and the court is expected to hear testimony regarding the inventory of assets and liabilities and appraisals of the property.