Issue creates big distraction

In the long run, the merger of the former Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts should benefit students and taxpayers.

Unfortunately, though, the newly merged districts did not get much of a honeymoon during their first school year together.

In November, the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District Board of Education voted 4-3 to place Superintendent Laura Lawrence on paid administrative leave.

While Lawrence continues to earn her $108,000-per-year salary, district officials continue to maintain their silence about why she was placed on leave.

Keep in mind, the school board in May unanimously picked Lawrence to be the first superintendent of the newly merged district.

However, just six months later, the majority of the board decided Lawrence needed to be placed on paid leave.

To make matters worse, district residents now get to pay for an acting superintendent. The school board on Monday voted unanimously to hire Thomas Gallagher to fill the job.

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

It seems unlikely Lawrence will be coming back to the school district.

The school board has already voted 4-3 to have its attorneys negotiate with Lawrence.

We hope the district gets the situation with Lawrence resolved as quickly as possible – and reveals why the majority of the board felt the need to pay an administrator to do nothing.

While the district will need to find a permanent superintendent, let’s hope it will be someone who lasts a while. Situations such as the one OESJ finds itself in has to distract other administrators, teachers and parents from every school district’s top priority: the education of students.