School district head steps down

OPPENHEIM – Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School Superintendent Laura Lawrence has stepped down from her job after being on paid administrative leave for nearly six months.

Attorney Kevin Luibrand, who represents Lawrence, said an agreement was reached between the district and Lawrence.

Keith Handy, an OESJ school board member, said Lawrence’s resignation was effective last Friday.

Neither Luibrand nor school district officials released the terms of Lawrence’s resignation.

School district officials also have refused to say why Lawrence was placed on paid administrative leave.

According to a news release emailed by the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Lawrence’s dedication to students and contributions to the community are noteworthy.

“Ms. Lawrence led the school district through a difficult merger process and worked very hard on a successful launch of the new district,” the news release said, referring to the merger last year between the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts.

“Ms. Lawrence has many accomplishments and has achieved many goals not only as an administrator but also as a teacher during her career in education. The [OESJ school] board thanks her for her service to the school district,” the news release stated.

“Ms. Lawrence thanks the Board of Education for the privilege of serving as superintendent of schools of the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District and one of its predecessor districts. She has always enjoyed working with the staff, volunteers and community members to ensure that all students in the district have the best opportunity to reach their full potential. She wishes the school district well in the future and is confident that its leaders will continue to act in the best interest of the students and community,” the news release stated.

Handy said he was opposed to Lawrence’s termination and wanted to see her return to her job.

“But through the information that came from the negotiation process, it became evident to me that it was in the best interest of the district and Ms. Lawrence’s situation to agree to this settlement,” Handy said.

Luibrand said Lawrence has not told him about her plans.

“It is fair to say she [will] consider her options,” Luibrand said.

Lawrence was placed on paid administrative leave in November 2013 after a board vote of 4-3 for unspecified reasons.

Lawrence has been receiving her salary of $110,500 a year.

The district hired interim Superintendent Thomas Gallagher in January. He is paid $500 per day.

Handy said Gallagher will continue working as superintendent for now.

Lawrence was named superintendent last May.

She served as the St. Johnsville Central School superintendent from the beginning of the 2012-13 school year and as deputy superintendent before that. Before becoming superintendent, she was the principal at St. Johnsville’s elementary school for six years.

The school board voted April 10 to give Lawrence until 5 p.m. April 11 to decide whether to accept a settlement offer to step down or face civil charges. School officials refused to provide any details about the offer. Negotiations continued after the deadline passed.

Attorney Joseph A. DeTraglia, who represents the district, Gallagher and OESJ Board of Education President Susanne Sammons could not be reached for comment this morning.