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Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
From left, OESJ BOE member Cindy Breh, President Susanne Sammons, and BOE member Renee Swartz.


OESJ Board gives ex-superintendent a deadline

Friday, April 11, 2014 - Updated: 12:47 PM


C-S-E Editor

OPPENHEIM -- After a 90-minute executive session during a special meeting of the OESJ Board of Education Thursday, the board announced that it would provide former district Superintendent Laura Lawrence, placed on administrative leave Nov. 6, until Friday evening to accept a final settlement offer following months of stalled negotiations.

A second resolution passed by the board stated that charges will be filed against Lawrence if the offer is denied.

The first motion, read by BOE President Susanne Sammons, explained that extensive contract negotiations between the district's attorney, Joseph DeTraglia, and Lawrence's attorney have been unsuccessful. Therefore, the board agreed to make a "final" offer, with all members except Cindy Breh approving the motion.

The board also approved a second motion stating, "whereas an investigation has undertaken and the board has considered the investigation as well as Ms. Lawrence's employment agreement with the district, now therefore it be resolved that the board of education hereby refers charges against Ms. Lawrence … if the settlement offer is not accepted in writing by 5 p.m., April 11, 2014."

This motion was approved by board members William Lints, Cindy Breh, Neil Clark, and Sammons, while Renee Swartz, Keith Handy and Lee Quackenbush voted against it.

When questioned regarding the terms of the final offer and potential charges, Sammons referred all inquiries to DeTraglia, who said "negotiations to this point are not successful, but the board has authorized a final settlement offer to be made."

DeTraglia said he's "unable to comment" regarding the details of the settlement offer.

When asked to detail the charges that could potentially be issued against Lawrence, DeTraglia said, "there is no charge in effect at the moment," explaining of the second motion "it is for the purpose of having the final settlement offer extended."

He said, "the board is prepared to authorize charges, but no charges have been issued." When questioned about who the charges would be filed with, whether it be law enforcement or a higher educational authority, DeTraglia said, "this is a civil matter, not a criminal matter."

He said, "It is a personnel matter and we are respecting her privacy."

He concluded, "I'm constrained from speaking in any level of detail."

St. Johnsville resident Colleen Bartlett, following the meeting, commented on the potential charges, asking, "Why does it take six months to bring charges forth if you have charges? Are they make believe?"

She continued, "How is this helping the school district if you're dragging this out? Isn't there more important things we should be doing? We should end this and get on with this supposed merger."

"The four board members that always vote 'no'", Breh, Clark, Lints and Sammons, Bartlett confirmed -- "they're just dragging it on and on and on. If she's done something, then say that she's done something. If you don't have anything, leave her alone and let her get back to her job and to the children who love her. She's a good superintendent. She's a good person. She doesn't deserve any of this."

When questioned about whether the board will make the charges against Lawrence public should the latest settlement offer be denied, BOE Member Keith Handy responded. "That's a good question. I do not know."


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