OESJ superintendent placed on paid administrative leave

By WKTV News

(WKTV) - The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Board of Education voted 4-3 Wednesday to place Superintendent Laura Lawrence on paid administrative leave.

Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel will serve as the acting OESJ superintendent until further notice.

Board members would not discuss why Lawrence was placed on leave, citing it as a personnel matter. 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 it.

Lawrence was selected to be the first superintendent of the newly formed district in May. She had served as the St. Johnsville superintendent in the 2012-13 school year and was deputy superintendent before that. She had served as principal at St. Johnsville's David H. Robbins Elementary School for six years. Lawrence is a Little Falls native, who taught at the Little Falls City School District's Benton Hall Academy from 1990 to 2006.

The Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School had placed the previous superintendent, Dan M. Russom, on paid administrative leave in January. St. Johnsville's D.H. Robbins Elementary School's principal Christopher Fatta was also placed on leave at that time. Those administrators were placed on leave following complaints.

Also Wednesday, Michel confirmed the state Department of Education is investigating past grading and promotion practices of the former Oppenheim-Ephratah district. He added the state's investigation is unrelated to Lawrence.

"We are prohibited by the state from discussing this investigation at this time," Michel said. "Once the investigation is complete, details will be released as appropriate."



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