SCRANTON -- The Scranton School District stands behind the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County with respect to possible legal action against Riverside School District's move to pull out of the consortium, officials reaffirmed last week.
"Riverside's decision will cause irreparable harm to the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County and its students," board member Nathan Barrett said during a Sept. 4 meeting at which the board voted unanimously to contribute toward CTC's $18.1 million renovation project.
The board also voted to participate in a countersuit against Riverside if one is filed, which Superintendent Bill King told Go Lackawanna he expects will happen.
"They just decided to pull the plug and leave the consortium, yet they passed the 2012-13 CTC budget, which includes the renovation project," Mr. King said of Riverside's Aug. 21 lawsuit. "They have commitments on other CTC projects: a new roof, a new printing press; they have obligations all over the place."
Riverside Superintendent David Woods declined to comment on any matters related to his district's suit or the possibility of a countersuit.
"I respect Bill King. He's a good man and a good superintendent," Woods said. "He's doing what he has to do for Scranton, just as the other superintendents have to do what they think is right and just for their districts and their students."
CTC is a consortium of nine area districts. In addition to Riverside, its members are Carbondale, Dunmore, Forest City, Lakeland, Mid Valley, North Pocono, Scranton and Valley View.
Riverside filed suit in August to cut ties with CTC, seeking a judgment that it has the right to pull out under terms of the 1968 agreement that state the pact ends "when there are no capital expenditures outstanding."
At the heart of the case, however, were concerns about the CTC project cost, with Riverside's suit contending that district "does not agree with the majority of the participating (CTC) members … that it is appropriate to incur debt of $18.1 million in order to reconstruct or rehabilitate the building housing the center."
Riverside's board previously voted against the project and against a related bond issue, and Woods has said on several occasions that his district cannot afford a price tag of $109,000 each year for the next 20 years as a result. In response, his district made arrangements to send its career technology students to the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center in Plains Twp. – a move that also will save Riverside more than $36,000 in the first year alone due to reduced tuition and transportation costs, Woods has said.
With Riverside out, Scranton and the other Lackawanna CTC districts will have to pay more for the building project than they planned. In Scranton's case, that could push the district's cost to as much as $397,000 per year for much of the project's life.
What Woods was able to confirm is that Riverside students began attending classes at Wilkes-Barre CTC on Sept. 4, as planned, while some students were still attending Lackawanna CTC, also as anticipated. He did not have the exact numbers immediately at hand. Initial estimates suggest that as many as 40 tech students could switch to the Luzerne County facility.
"I think overall things went well," Woods said of the new arrangement, other than working out some transportation glitches – not uncommon at the beginning of every year, he said.