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Joshua Thomas
From left, OESJ BOE members William Lints, Cindy Breh, President Susanne Sammons, Rennee Swartz and Neil Clark.


OESJ Board in final contract negotiations with ex-superintendent

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - Updated: 9:46 AM


C-S-E Editor

OPPENHEIM -- Contract negotiations are ongoing between ex-OESJ Superintendent Laura Lawrence and the OESJ Board of Education, which, after a 90-minute executive session last Thursday, offered Lawrence less than 24 hours to accept a final settlement offer following months of stalled negotiations.

The board also passed a resolution last Thursday stating that unnamed charges would be filed against Lawrence, placed on administrative leave Nov. 6, should the settlement offer be declined.

"A settlement is in progress", said Joseph DeTraglia, an attorney representing the OESJ School District Board of Education, late Friday evening.

On Tuesday, DeTraglia said that no further details were yet available, though the negotiations remain in progress.

The first motion read during last Thursday's meeting by President Susanne Sammons explained that extensive contract negotiations between OESJ officials and Lawrence, represented by attorney Kevin Luibrand 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."

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."

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."

After being hired as superintendent of the merged school district in May, 2014, The OESJ Board of Education placed Lawrence on paid administrative leave during a Nov. 6 board meeting. The board has never publicly cited a cause for the decision, stating repeatedly that no comments could be made regarding personnel. 

Until a settlement is agreed upon, Lawrence will continue to receive her contracted $110,500 annual salary, while interim Superintendent Thomas Gallagher, hired to lead the district in her absence, is paid $500 per day.


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