MOUNT CARMEL - The presentation of a Keystone placard recognizing Mount Carmel Area Junior High School for achieving its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for the 2011-2012 school year and debate over increasing the salaries of athletic coaches highlighted Thursday night's Mount Carmel Area School Board meeting.

Dr. Kevin Singer, executive director of Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU), presented Greg Sacavage and Lisa Varano, junior high and senior high school principals, respectively, with the Keystone award and praised the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students for achieving AYP on the Pennsylvania State School Assessment tests.

Singer also commended teachers, administrators and school board members on the achievement.

Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Bernie Stellar said the Keystone placard will be hung in the lobby of the Richard Beierschmitt Auditorium.

"This is something you really have to earn," Singer said. "It's a great accomplishment. There is great pride in this community and coming here is always one of my favorite drives with the beautiful churches and mountains."

Singer, a native of Kansas, thanked the board for inviting him to make the presentation.

Resignations, salaries

After directors unanimously approved the resignations of veteran assistant varsity football coaches Robert Veach and Gary Howanec and thanked them for their dedicated service, the board failed to second a motion to increase the salary of longtime assistant football coach and teacher Joseph Ahrensfield from $2,200 to $4,200 to reflect additional duties he will assume with Veach and Howanec resigning.

Board members said they wanted a breakdown of what Ahrensfield's increased duties will be before granting him the raise and instructed Sacavage, who also serves as athletic director, to invite head football coach Carmen DeFrancesco to next month's meeting to explain why he recommended the pay hike.

On 6-2 votes, board members approved hiking the salaries of track and field coach Michael Farronato from $3,500 to $4,100 and swim coach Sharon Stankiewicz from $1,100 to $1,900. The adjustments were granted to reflect Farronato's six years of experience and Stankiewicz's nine years of experience. Stankiewicz assumed the position left vacant by Barbara Shamansky.

Approving the increases were Directors Robert Muldowney, Donna James. Raymond Kraynak, Dr. Ray Kraynak, Michael Rovito and Michael Brinkash. Charles Mannello and Thomas Ditchey voted against the increases. Board member Joseph D'Andrea was absent.

Ditchey said, "We're voting to give dollars away without any information. You better open up the vault because everybody is going to hit us for raises."

Pete Cheddar was approved as a volunteer assistant football coach on a 5-3 vote, with Mannello, Ditchey and Dr. Kraynak voting "no." Ditchey said he had nothing personal against Cheddar, but believes there are already enough football coaches on the staff.

Also on a 6-2 vote, former Mount Carmel Area High School athletic director and assistant football coach Michael Kogut was approved as a volunteer throwing coach with the track team, pending proper clearances. Mannello and Ditchey voted against the appointment, citing concerns about Kogut's clearances.

Budget

The board approved a 2013-2014 proposed preliminary budget in the amount of $16,655,345.35 and make it available for public inspection with the intent to adopt a preliminary budget next month.

Later in the meeting, directors unanimously passed a motion not to raise taxes in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Directors approved the CSIU 2013-2014 general operating budget in the amount of $1,183,369.

NRG Controls North Inc. was approved to furnish card access upgrades at a cost of $4,900.

Mannello was once again appointed to serve as the district's representative on the CSIU Board of Directors.

Holy Thursday

Mannello was the lone board member to vote against amending the current school calendar that calls for students to be off Easter Monday instead of Holy Thursday.

Mannello said he thought it was terrible that students have to attend school Holy Thursday.

When James, who is the board president, told him that the amendment was requested by the students, Mannello said, "I don't like that students are putting their two cents in school board business. Who is running the district?"

James said it is important to separate church and state when making such decisions.

Other business

The board approved the expulsion of two high school students without citing reasons for the action.

Klacik & Associates of Shamokin was hired as district auditors for 2012-2013 ($14,000), 2013-2014 ($14,500) and 2014-2015 ($15,000). James voted against the motion because she wanted the board to only approve a one-year contract.

District financial consultant Charles Mannello told the board they will be saving money by changing auditors.

The board hired Samantha Pavloski as a part-time personal care aide at $8.25 per hour for six hours per day.

Board members approved the resignation of administrative assistant Nancy Joraskie and approved long-term substitute elementary teachers Patricia Geist and Bryanna Ditchey. Thomas Ditchey abstained on the vote involving Bryanna Ditchey because she is his niece.

Tracy Rhodes of the MCA Junior Swim Program inquired about the status of the high school swimming pool that has been closed due to mechanical problems and other issues.

Maintenance director Dave Fegley said repairs are ongoing and other issues must be corrected before the pool will reopen, but he could not say when that will be.

James announced the high school track, basketball and tennis courts will be open to the public April 1.