District names new head

OPPENHEIM – The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District Board of Education has hired a new acting superintendent, who will lead the district while Superintendent Laura Lawrence remains on paid leave.

The school board on Monday voted unanimously to hire Thomas Gallagher.

Gallagher, who has previous experience as a superintendent, is scheduled to work for the district until July and be paid $500 per day.

The school board placed Lawrence on administrative leave in November for undisclosed reasons. She continues to earn her $108,000- per-year salary.

Gallagher said he has several plans for his tenure.

“What I am trying to do is tap into the resources I have seen,” Gallagher said. “I am trying my best to move forward, educationally. That is really my goal for the short time I am going to be here.”

Pat Michel, superintendent of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, has been serving as acting superintendent for the district in Lawrence’s absence.

He recommended the district hire an acting superintendent.

Neither Michel nor school board member Keith Handy were at Monday’s meeting. Board of Education President Susanne Sammons said Handy had her he approves of appointing Gallagher.

Renee Swartz, a OESJ board member, said it’s important the district has a leader who could be at the school each day.

“I believe Mr. Gallagher can do that; he is phenomenal,” Swartz said.

According to a news release, Gallagher began his career as a teacher and reading specialist in East Brunswick, N.J.

After teaching for 10 years, he moved into school administration, serving as a central school principal before accepting his first superintendent’s position in Wood-Ridge, N.J., in 1984.

In 1994, Gallagher accepted the position of superintendent of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, where he worked for eight years before accepting the superintendent’s position in the Rome City School District. He retired from Rome in 2007.

Since then, Gallagher has served as the interim superintendent for the Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union in Poultney, Vt., and the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union in Arlington, Vt.

District and school board officials have refused to say why the district placed Lawrence on paid leave.

Former Superintendent Dan Russom retired from the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School after he was placed on leave.

Chris Fatta, Oppenheim-Ephratah’s former principal and former head of the D.H. Robbins Elementary School in St. Johnsville, also was placed on leave and then resigned.

The board has said the administrative leaves of Russom and Lawrence are unconnected.

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at acleveland@leaderherald.com