District set to negotiate with official

ST. JOHNSVILLE – The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Board of Education will negotiate with Superintendent Laura Lawrence, who was placed on administrative leave earlier this month for undisclosed reasons.

The board voted 4-3 Monday to have its attorneys negotiate with Lawrence, who earns $108,000 per year.

Parents, faculty and students attended the board meeting, hoping to state their grievances and hear details about the superintendent’s paid leave, but school officials refused to talk about the issue or allow members of the public to speak at the meeting.

Board President Susanne Sammons said the board would not allow public comment because it was not on the agenda. Board member Keith Handy suggested an amendment to the meeting to listen to parents’ concerns, but the board rejected the motion, 4-3.

The board went into a closed executive session and then returned to open session and voted to go forward with negotiations.

Sammons declined to comment, directing all questions to Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Patrick Michel.

Some members of the public called out to the board, saying “We voted for you” and “Don’t make this an Oppenheim versus St. Johnsville issue.”

Handy said the board should allow public comment.

“I think it is very shameful that they didn’t allow it,” Handy said. “When you get a group of citizens that come out to express themselves and support what they believe, not allowing them to make public comment is shameful. You can take from that your own understanding as to why.”

Handy said he couldn’t comment on what occurred during the executive session or why Lawrence was placed on leave.

Michel, who is acting superintendent for the district, said parents would be allowed to speak at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Wednesday’s meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school.