Members of the Lehighton Area School Board were offered a brief update on the CCTI building project at Monday's meeting. School Director Dave Reinbold and Business Manager Jeff Deutsch joined representatives from Godshall and Kane Architects for the presentation.

Representatives from Godshall and Kane Architects explained that the new addition will expand the building's classroom space and add parking spaces near the rear of the building. Instructional areas that include public interaction, including the salon and restaurant, are being pulled to the outside of the building to limit public access to the rest of the school. The addition will also provide a larger, taller carpentry workshop that allows students to build two-story mockups.

Additions should be done by the end of March.

Reinbold also addressed CCTI's budget for the 2010-2011 school, which the board planned to vote on that night. He noted that the budget was a 4.6% increase from last year, due mainly to contracted salary increases and higher teacher retirement contributions and medical premiums.

"A lot of the costs that are driving your budget are driving our budgets as well," added Deutsch. He noted that Lehighton's payment to the technical school will increase $18,000, or about 1.25%. District payments are calculated based on the number of area students enrolled.

The board unanimously approved the CCTI budget later in the meeting.

Teacher's Association president Bruce Koch also addressed the board, asking why the association will no longer be provided copies of the board agenda, addendums, surplus items, and check registry before monthly meetings. He was told earlier in the day that he would no longer receive these items before they are approved by the board during public meetings.

Board President David Krause noted that this was the first he had heard of the issue. Solicitor William Schwab advised the board members not to comment, as these items are part of ongoing negotiations in the teacher's contract.

"I don't understand why we can't have these items. It's never been a problem in the past," said Koch, stating that this was a past practice and not a part of the new contract.

Schwab again advised the board to refrain from commenting.

Koch expressed concern after the meeting, noting that the district has always provided access to this information for review before meetings. He did say that the Teacher's Association has added wording in its contract to make the viewing of these items official.

"This is not privileged information. It's public information," he said. "Now this stuff is considered secret. It has nothing to do with negotiations."

The board also recognized the success of several students, including the high school chorus and FBLA members.

The chorus recently returned from a trip to Disney World, where they performed with the Disney Orchestra, took part in the Disney Sings program, and performed on the Waterfront Stage in Downtown Disney. Several students also made a studio recording, and they shared a clip of "The Lion King" with animation and vocals featuring Lehighton soloist.

Nearly a dozen students from the high school FBLA also thanked the board for their support. The group recently competed in the FBLA Regional Leadership Conference, and top winners from the conference will be going to the State Leadership Conference this spring.

Students elegible for the state competition include Darrin Arndt, sports management; Kara Beck, business law; Dave Behler, business law; Stacey Kerschner, accounting I; Alex Matika, sports management; Jordyn Miller, word processing II; Brianna Oswald, business calculations; Alyssa Schleicher, word processing I; Tim Sulzer, spreadsheet applications; Erica Wenrich, business communication; and Madelina Zurn, public speaking II.

During the business portion of the meeting, the board agreed to hire Gregory Mousseau as the district's conflict counselor at the hourly rate of $130 per hour. Conflict counsel is needed when solicitor Schwab has a conflict with a district matter, and to serve as a second solicitor for student or faculty reprimands. Moussea will replace Steve Serfass, now a Carbon County judge, as the district's conflict counselor.

The board also accepted the resignation of Grace Greco, Title I Reading Specialist; Betty Armbruster, High School Math (25 years of service); Marianne Garfield, Mahoning Elementary Special Education (8.5 years of service); Kathleen Merluzzi, Mahoning Elementary Kindergarten (33.5 years of service); Connie Kistler, paraprofessional (7.5 years of service); and Sharen Ace, Executive Secretary to the Business Administrator (21 years of service).

Krause thanked those resigning for their years of service and dedication to the district.

Under new business, vice president Larry Stern requested that the district apply to be part of a different athletic conference league.

"I would like the district to pursue again admission into the Colonial League. It would be best for the district, and best for our students," he said. Lehighton is currently a member of the Mountain Valley Conference League.

Krause agreed, noting that participating in the MVCL often means that students must leave school early and miss class time to travel to athletic events.

"With travel expenses the way they are, and budgets they way they are, I think this would be a good idea," said Krause.

The next school board meeting will be held on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.