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Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
From left, BOE Member Cindy Breh, BOE Member William Lints, BOE President Susanne Sammons, Acting Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel, BOE Member Renee Swartz, and BOE Member Neil Clark.

Joshua Thomas
OESJ student Tamara Romeyn addresses the board during Wednesday's meeting.


Board to begin search for acting superintendent replacement

Thursday, December 05, 2013 - Updated: 10:15 AM


C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- During Wednesday's OESJ Board of Education meeting at the OESJ High School Auditorium, Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patrick Michel said the board would soon begin reviewing nine candidates to replace him.

Michel explained that a search for a new acting superintendent must begin, as his responsibilities as Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES District Superintendent are such that he must soon vacate the temporarily appointed seat.

The board also voted (6-1, with Cindy Breh voting "no") to table two resolutions, 8 and 9 on the evening's agenda. Resolution 8 requested a motion for the "approval to not allow audio or video recording in executive session, effective immediately." 9 called for a "motion to request all original tape recordings and a list of all individuals who received the recordings of executive sessions on Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov. 20, and any additional tapings, to be turned over to the OESJ Board President, immediately."

An attendee, during public comment, asked why the board chose to table the two resolutions, noting that they'd previously voted to allow recording in executive session.

BOE Member William Lints said that since executive session recordings were approved, "new information has come to light." 

While he didn't discuss its contents, Lints said the audience could refer to a "1997 decision by the commissioner of education that states all the reasons he is not in favor of taping executive sessions," which, he said, could be found online.

Again, it was stated prior to public comment, wherein each person wishing to speak  for the allotted three minutes had to sign up and put a "y" next to their name, that "personnel matters will not be addressed in public sessions."

Still, numerous members of the public requested details surrounding the late October board decision to put former superintendent of schools Laura Lawrence on paid administrative leave.

BOE Member Renee Swartz explained, "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 to the public."

Swartz said, "It's the way it is. It's not personal. It's the law."

Former St. Johnsville Board of Education president Donna Springer said of the decision regarding Lawrence -- who she said had a 30-plus-year, successful educational career -- "the fact that you guys made a motion and are entering into negotiations, which is going to cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars when you just voted in Sept. by a vote of 6-1 to approve her — that's overwhelming." 

She added, "It concerns me. That's just 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."

A few gavel bangs by BOE President Susanne Sammons did little to hush the crowd's applause.

Lints stated, in response, "you aren't privy to what we're privy to and you've just got to respect that."

He continued, "The decisions we make are based on information you are not privy to by law," adding, to the entire audience, "we're asking you to be patient and stop the insulting remarks all over the internet and the room."

Conversations also took place regarding a board decision made at a previous meeting to designate two polling places within the merged district. As such, the district will ask residents to register within the school system, while they are not required to do so to vote in school elections. 

The new system was referred to by an attendee as "confusing."

Robert Peruzzi said, "It's a waste of time," asking, "why are we spending money on something that's not going to amount to anything?"

Swartz said the initial intention was to "bring more voters to the sites," and to provide a second polling place for senior citizens that are unable to travel to the merged polling location.

The board, as promised at the last meeting, answered a question posed by student Tamara Romeyn, who asked the council during the last regular meeting's public comment session to name three things they've done to improve the district.

Sammons said that Romeyn, after being asked to submit her question to the superintendent of schools, submitted three, though she said, "as a courtesy to you -- we recognize the passion you have for your school -- and therefore we will respond to all questions submitted."

She said, "in order to keep the meeting on track and to conduct business of the board of education in a timely fashion, we will respond as a corporate body, not as individuals.The board of education does not hold any power as individuals, rather, the board can only accomplish goals and objectives as a corporate body."

The accomplishments of the board, Sammons said, include, but are not limited to, the fact that they "hired three additional, excellent new principals as well as teachers." The board, the statement read by Sammons said, budgeted for teachers to receive extra training, allocated money for the completion of the high school gymnasium, and melded programs previously only available in one of the two districts, also returning numerous cut classes to the curriculum.


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