OESJ head put on leave

OPPENHEIM-Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District Superintendent Laura Lawrence was placed on paid administrative leave at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.

According to Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational?Services Superintendent Pat Michel, the board voted 4-3 to place Lawrence on leave.

Michel said he could not provide the reasons for the board’s decision due to possible pending litigation.

“I think I know why, but the issue is this is really a thing between her and the majority of the board,” Michel said.

According to a news release, board members Cindy Breh, Neil Clark, William Lints and Susanne Sammons voted in favor of placing Lawrence on leave. Members Keith Handy, Lee Quackenbush and Renee Swartz voted against.

Michel said until the dispute is handled one way or the other, an interim superintendent would not be brought in.

Michel said he would fill in as acting superintendent for a brief period.

“[The board will be] searching for an acting superintendent for me in the next couple of weeks,” Michel said.

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Michel said this situation has nothing to do with Dan Russom, a former Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School superintendent who was placed on leave along with Chris Fatta, St. Johnsville, Oppenheim-Ephratah’s former principal and former head of the D.H. Robbins Elementary School in St. Johnsville.

Both men were placed on leave in February as Michel and then-Interim Superintendent Lawrence began an investigation into complaints against the men. Russom later retired and Fatta later resigned.

Lawrence was selected as the OESJ superintendent in May. Lawrence served as the St. Johnsville Central School superintendent from the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, and served as deputy superintendent prior to that. Before becoming superintendent, she was the principal at St. Johnsville’s elementary?school for six years.


According to the release from the district, Michel confirmed the state Department of Education is investigating past grading and promotion practices in the former Oppenheim-Ephratah district, adding the state’s investigation is unrelated to Lawrence.

“We are prohibited by the state from discussing this investigation at this time,” Michel said in the release.

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