LEWISTOWN - Following an executive session to discuss personnel issues, the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors on Thursday approved a new administrative compensation plan that calls for a 2.23 percent salary increase for the next budget year. The vote came on the heels of a contract agreement approved Nov. 15 that saw teachers receive an average 2.4 percent salary increase over the life of their new deal.
Thursday's vote was by a 5-3 margin. Voting in favor of the compensation package were James Hurlburt, Travis Parkes, Kirk Rager, Kristen Sharp and AnneMarie Swineford. Voting against the measure were Walter Harpster, Beth Laughlin and Mary Lou Sigler. Dr. Ruth Armstrong was not in attendance at Thursday's meeting.
"First of all I would like to thank Mr. Estep for not taking a raise again this year," Sigler said before casting her vote against the raise. "However, I am concerned about the discrepancy between administration and the principals, especially in light of the fact that we have principals that are going to be doing a lot more work. We need to focus whatever little bit of money we have on teachers and principals working directly with children in buildings day in and day out, not only teaching, but protecting."
Superintendent James Estep added that the administrative increase is slightly less than the raise the teachers recently received.
In other business, the board was presented with two concept sketches on the possibility of re-using the former Highland Park Area Elementary School building as a new location for the county's Career and Technology Center.
Architect Vern McKissick, of McKissick Associates of Harrisburg, was on hand to present the board with two options on the use of the building. Earlier this year, the board voted to end its partnership of providing CTC instruction with Juniata County at the end of the current school year.
McKissick said the Highland Park building would make a good fit to relocate the CTC for a number of reasons, including enough space to easily house the 10 programs of study currently offered and enough room for expansion in the future.
McKissick said the building measures 67,000 square feet and has a capacity to house 675 students. The current CTC building takes up 81,000 square feet and is large enough to provide 14 or 15 areas of study, which it currently does not.
"A typical vocational education program requires about 600 square feet of classroom space and 2,400 square feet for hands-on instruction," McKissick explained. "So with 10 programs you would need about 30,000 square feet, with the addition of some support space. A comparative sized building would be about 48,000 square feet. If you compare that against the 67,000 square feet you have in the building, at first pass it sounds like a fit for us."
In McKissick's options, the front of the building would be used for "cleaner" programs, such as medical training, cosmetology, child care, etc. while the rear of the building could house "dirty" programs (auto repair, agriculture, etc).
The middle of the building in the first option would not be utilized unless additional programs were introduced.
Preliminary costs to get the building in shape to house the CTC under Option 1 would be $7.5 million for the conversion, with an additional $1.3 million in soft costs, bringing the total to $8.8 million.
A second option keeps everything the same with the exception of the unused middle portion, which McKissick said would have adequate space to house all district administration personnel, thereby eliminating the current administration building. "We think we could make that work at 8,000 square feet," he added.
McKissick said if the board wanted to consider that move as well, the conversion cost to the building would rise to $8.7 million and with the soft costs added in, the total would run approximately $10.2 million.
To put those numbers into perspective, McKissick said the cost to build a new 48,000-square foot building for the CTC would run around $13.8 million in total project costs.
Paying for the project could pose to be more of a challenge than past and current projects on the books, McKissick noted.
"From what I'm hearing, state construction aid is being proposed to be dropped entirely," he said. "Had this idea been done under the state PlanCon program, there would have been approximately $2.2 million in state aid."
If there is no more PlanCon, McKissick said it would cost the district $637,000 a year for a 20-year debt service figuring on a 4.5 percent interest rate for Option 1. If the board went with option 2, the yearly cost would be $738,000, McKissick estimated.
As far as a timeline, McKissick said typically a project of this magnitude requires six months for the design phase, and another 10 months for construction.
"You're looking at the 2014-15 school year at the earliest to probably get it up and running," he predicted. "For that timeline, you'd have to decide early in the spring."
Estep asked McKissick if the board wishes to pursue this idea, what would the "drop-dead" month be in terms of going forward.
"I'd say some time in March," McKissick said. "Six to eight weeks from now because bids would need to be let to begin construction by next fall."
Harpster, the board president, then asked Chief Financial Officer Sean Daubert if the district could handle an additional $600,000 or $700,000 a year in debt service to get the project going.
"Roughly, it equals one mill (of tax)," Daubert said. "A mill is a considerable amount of money but right now we're under our debt capacity."
In other business Thursday, the board:
Approved the submission of PlanCon F as prepared by McKissick Associates, the next step in the approval process of the proposed $10 million Indian Valley Elementary Center renovation project.
Approved a resolution accepting a bid from William Rupp Jr. and Edwin E. Lash in the amount of $170,000 for the sale of the Brown Elementary School property.
Approved three students from Mifflin County High School to attend the National Association of Music Educators Eastern Division Music Festival in Hartford, Conn. April 4-7 at no cost to the district.
Approved the following additions to the custodian substitute list effective Dec. 10: Trudi Gearhart, Mitchell Jodon, Kirk Sheeder, Justin Hill, Jeffrey Condron and Mariann Filler.
Approved an agreement for asbestos removal from the boiler room at Indian Valley Elementary Center with Power Component Systems Inc. at a cost of $9,875. Daubert said the district received three bids for the project.
Approved the deletion of Nathan Bowersox from the custodian substitute list effective Dec. 11.
Approved the deletion of Erica Gutshall from the cafeteria substitute list due to other employment.
Approved Buffy Crotsley as a bus driver for E.R. Rhodes & Son Inc.
Approved Beth White and Anita Ingram as new teacher mentors for the second semester of the current school year and the first semester of next school year.
Approved the following additions to the substitute teacher list: Rebecca Swann, English; Kimberly Clark, elementary; Steven McLaughlin, social studies; and Devin Miller, mathematics.
Approved the resignation of Robinson Lauver, math teacher at Mifflin County High School; Timothy Reeder, art teacher at Mifflin County High School David Howe, science teacher at Mifflin County High School; and Cheryl Kauffman, third grade teacher at Strodes Mills Elementary School effective at the end of the current school year due to retirement.
Accepted the resignation of Amy Paulson, math and science teacher at Mifflin County High School, due to personal reasons.
Hired Susan Jodon and Tina Hale as full-time paraprofessionals.
Added Wendy Smith to the clerical substitute list.
Hired Kylie Corson as a long-term second grade substitute teacher at Lewistown Elementary School through the end of the current school year or less.
Hired the following coaches for the 2012-13 school year: Allan Hepner II, assistant spring track; Gregory Loht, assistant spring track; Jerold Schnell, junior high softball; and Travis Eckley, assistant junior high softball.
Approved Francy Becker as a volunteer swim coach for the 2012-13 school year.
Approved Gregg Wert as a volunteer junior high wrestling coach for the 2012-13 school year.
Approved a change in the Act 80 half day on Jan. 18 to a full Act 80 day.