The Times
  • OESJ board to review applicants for acting superintendent

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  • ST. JOHNSVILLE — The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Board of Education will review nine candidates who have applied to serve as acting superintendent for the district.
    At the board’s Dec. 4 meeting, Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel, the school district’s current acting superintendent, said once the board members have reviewed the candidates’ information they will decide which candidates to interview and finalize a timeline for the hiring process.
    “We are putting the finishing touches on the search for an acting superintendent to replace me,” Michel said during the meeting. “I need to be able to be freed up.”
    Citing the demands of his schedule, Michel said he advised the board to hire a full-time acting superintendent for the merged district that began operations on July 1.
    The board voted 4-3 on Nov. 6 to place OESJ Superintendent Laura Lawrence on paid administrative leave. On Nov. 18, the board voted 4-3 to direct its law firm to begin negotiations with Lawrence concerning her employment status with the district.
    As it is a personnel matter, Michel has said the board members’ reasons for placing Lawrence on administrative leave will not be discussed publicly.
    “I’d love to sit up here as a person and tell you many things, but under educational law we can’t tell you things. I really wish there could be some understanding of that from the public,” board member Renee Swartz said during the Dec. 4 meeting.
    She added while she understands why district residents and parents want to know why Lawrence was placed on leave, the law prevents certain information from being released.
    “It’s the way it is. It’s not personal. It’s the law,” said Swartz.
    “The fact that you guys made a motion and are entering into negotiations, which are going to the cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars when you voted 6-1 in September to approve her, that’s overwhelming,” said district resident Donna Springer.
    “It concerns me. That’s fiscally irresponsible for you to do that. I think those of you that can’t get along should get out of the way, resign and let people that can run the district effectively for the kids do so,” Springer added as she addressed the board on Dec. 4.
    “The board members made a decision, every single one of them, and they each voted their own way based on information that we as a public don’t know,” said district resident Mary Ann Charon. “They have a lot more information than we have.”
    “The decisions we make are based on information you are not privy to by law,” board member William Lints said to the audience in the OESJ High School auditorium. “We ask you to be patient and stop the insulting remarks all over the Internet and in the room. You are not privy to what we are privy to, and you have just got to respect that.”
    Page 2 of 2 - In his statutory role as representative of the state Education Department, Michel is required to assume the responsibility of superintendent in any HFM BOCES’ 15 component districts when the position becomes vacant.
    He serves as acting superintendent at no cost to the district.
    The salary for Michel’s replacement as acting superintendent has not been determined.
    In other business on Dec. 4, the board voted 5-1 to table two resolutions that requested approval to not allow audio or video recordings in executive session and required all tape recordings and a list of the individuals who received the recordings of the executive sessions on Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov. 20 to be given to the board president.
    Lints said new information has come to light concerning the recording of executive sessions, including a 1997 decision by the commissioner of education that states his reasons why he is not in favor of taping executive sessions.
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