The Carbon Career & Technical Institute Joint Operating Committee voted Thursday night to approve the proposed 2014-2015 operating budget calling for $7,535,016 in receipts and expenditures.

Four of five county schools, Jim Thorpe, Panther Valley, Lehighton, and Palmerton, voted unanimously in support of the budget while the Weatherly School District voted to reject it.

Jeffrey Deutsch, CCTI business manager, said the 2014-15 spending plan represents a 3.7 percent increase in expenditures, but no increase in funding from the five sponsoring school districts.

As a result, CCTI will utilize its reserve fund balance to make up for the difference on the expenditures side, Deutsch said.

The committee also approved $210,000 in spending for the Carbon Alternative High School Diploma Program. The tuition rate for the program was set at $7,000.

The proposed operating budget for the Adult Education program was established at $147,414.

The committee voted to advertise and seek bids for the purchase of a new three-quarter ton pickup truck with plow.

Members heard presentations from both faculty and students regarding the many success stories stemming from the educational opportunities offered at CCTI.

Rachel Strucko, coordinator of the SHINE program, presented the committee with an overview of the merits of this after school experience designed to engage students in hands-on learning in the technical and scientific fields.

SHINE stands for Schools and Home In Education and seeks to make strides in school climate, student behavior, and academic performance.

Strucko explained that the SHINE Afterschool program has been ranked in the top 15 of "thousands" of after school programs nationally.

SHINE focuses student learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: an initiative known in Pennsylvania schools as STEM.

Strucko credited CCTI directly with the success of the program saying, "Using a technical facility and industry professionals" led to greater success for the program.

Strucko described two notable projects undertaken by students as models of STEM work. K-5 students recently used 3D printers to collaborate with medical professionals and make models of the human heart. Further, older students are currently working locally with Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Nesquehoning, in building two, fully functional sidewinder racecars.

More than 50 students from all Carbon County school districts participate in this four-day-a-week program.

The committee recognized two students for their achievements in recent automotive technology competitions. Zach Zawara, Palmerton, and Tyler Wentz, Lehighton, spoke to members of the committee regarding their competitive experiences. They acknowledged that they earned the opportunity to network with service managers from the Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Dealers and have earned over $7,000 in scholarships to the Universal Technology Institute.

Zawara and Wentz's teacher, Hal Resh, congratulated them and stated that next month they will earn certification in Pennsylvania state safety inspection.

Continuing the acknowledgment of student success, CCTI principal Brent Borzak explained that CCTI currently has 26 students working in cooperative settings with local businesses and several others engaged in job shadowing.