Board votes to go forward on career center

November 30, 1999|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board voted 6-3 Wednesday to allow the administration to proceed with its plan to convince the other five school districts that it should own and operate the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

"If we can't make a commitment, we can't expect the other districts to make a commitment," board member Fred Rice said before the vote.

"I can't support it because I don't have my answers," said board member Lori Leedy. She was concerned that the cost of running the center could result in cuts in programs at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

Superintendent Joseph Padasak presented the plan to the board, which calls for purchasing the building, grounds and equipment of the center from the Technical School Authority, a six-member board made up of representatives of the districts - Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Shippensburg, Tuscarora and Fannett-Metal.


First, however, Chambersburg will seek the approval of those districts for the plan. Padasak said his "aggressive" timeline calls for the boards of the other five districts to submit letters of intent to approve the sale of the school and Chambersburg's takeover of operations by June 30. A transition team would be created by September and Chambersburg would take over the center in 2008-09.

The school districts have not made the investment necessary in recent years to meet the demands of industry or the needs of students for a quality career education, Padasak said. "That leads to decreased employability for our graduates out of that facility," he said.

Thirty years ago, the center had 1,250 students and a waiting list, according to the presentation. This year, there are 808 students, about 330 from Chambersburg, and Chambersburg had to give the center an extra $250,000 above its share to keep programs from being cut, he said.

The plan will be taken before the center's Joint Operating Committee tonight. John Fitz, a Waynesboro School Board member and also a member of the joint Operating Committee, saw part of Wednesday's presentation, but ventured no opinion on how the proposal might fare tonight.

The school is appraised at $5.6 million, but Chambersburg would not have to pay all of that figure, since its share of the center is about 40 percent, Padasak said. The district would, in stages, invest $24 million on expanding and modernizing the vocational part of the building, he said.

That does not include an academic wing that the district could eventually add to accommodate its comprehensive academic and career program at the school, he said.

Board member Renee Sharpe asked whether the district could afford to buy and operate the building without having to put the issue before voters in a referendum, which is required under Act 1 if a tax increase exceeds a cap set by the state.

"We do have in our Act 1 bond scenario the ability to build both the career element and the academic element," Business Manager Rick Vensel said. "We would get a debt exception for it if we owned the building."

Board members raised questions about the economic effect on the district if enrollment projections fall short and Chambersburg ends up bearing the cost. The plan projects as many as 800 Chambersburg students with the other districts sending 500 to 700 students on a tuition basis.

"What I'm uncomfortable with is us owning all the risk," Board member William Tolleson said.

"I don't see how we can't do something like this," board member Joel Happel said.

"Do we quit on it now before we allow Joe (Padasak) to work some magic?" Board President Thomas Orndorf said.

Orndorf, Rice, Happel and board members Stanley Helman, David Sciamanna and Norman Blowers voted to proceed with the plan. Sharpe, Leedy and Tolleson cast the dissenting votes.

How they voted

The Chambersburg School Board Wednesday voted 6-3 to allow the administration to proceed with its plan to convince the other five school districts that it should own and operate the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

For: Thomas Orndorf, Fred Rice, Joel Happel, Stanley Helman, David Sciamanna and Norman Blowers.

Against: Renee Sharpe, Lori Leedy and William Tolleson.

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