District seeks acting superintendent

ST. JOHNSVILLE – The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Board of Education will interview candidates for acting superintendent to fill the role of the existing superintendent, who was placed on paid administrative leave for undisclosed reasons.

Patrick Michel, superintendent of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, has been serving as acting superintendent since the school board placed Superintendent Laura Lawrence on paid leave early last month.

“We are putting the finishing touches on the search for an acting superintendent to replace me,” Michel said.

As the BOCES superintendent, Michel has to monitor 14 school districts.

“I need to be able to be freed up,” Michel said.

He said the district has received nine applications for acting superintendent, and he plans to send copies of the applications and resumes to members of the Board of Education for review today.

He said the board will have a meeting to discuss the candidates and set up interviews.

Michel said he suggested the acting superintendent should stay on until the summer.

“It is really up to the board,” Michel said.

Michel said both the acting superintendent and Lawrence will be paid.

He said the going rate for an acting superintendent is between $350 and $500 per day. Lawrence, on paid administrative leave, earns $108,000 per year.

The exact salary for the acting superintendent has not been determined.

Michel said he is not being paid extra to fill in as acting superintendent.

He said the new superintendent would not be an interim, but an acting, superintendent. Michel said the district can’t give anyone the title of interim superintendent until the district works out the issues with Lawrence. Michel said he did not know whether Lawrence would be allowed to come back to work for the school district or how long she will be on paid leave.

“I can’t speculate on that; it is completely up to the board,” Michel said.

Parents and residents of the district at a school board meeting Wednesday again asked the board for a reason for Lawrence’s administrative leave, but board members would give no reason.

“I would love to sit up here as a person and tell you many things,” board member Renee Swartz said. “But because of the educational law, we can’t tell you things.”

Swartz understands why people want to know, she said, but the law prevents certain information from being released.

“We can’t discuss it,” board President Susanne Sammons said Wednesday.

On Nov. 16, the board voted 4-3 to have its attorneys negotiate with Lawrence.