The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Board of Education voted Thursday to give embattled Superintendent Laura Lawrence until 5 p.m. today to accept its latest settlement offer or else face formal administrative charges.
The board’s vote on the deadline was split 4-3, according to board member Keith Handy. The vote was along the same lines as the November vote that placed Lawrence on leave.
Handy, who voted against the deadline and leave, confirmed the votes Thursday night, but declined to comment further.
Lawrence’s attorney Thursday night responded by saying there was a possibility of an agreement by the end of today. But he didn’t see there being a deadline.
Attorney Kevin Luibrand said the two sides have been negotiating for more than a month, but no agreement has been reached. “We will continue to work,” Luibrand said.
“I don’t consider it an accept or reject proposal,” Luibrand said. “I consider it a negotiation process and we’ve been negotiating in good faith.”
Regarding the possibility of formal charges, Luibrand said, “I would hope that they don’t take that route, because there’s not a basis for [charges], none whatsoever.”
Luibrand said Lawrence has done a “terrific job” in the transition from two school districts into one. Residents of the former St. Johnsville and Oppenheim-Ephratah districts voted in 2012 to merge.
The board placed Lawrence on leave in November just six months after she was appointed superintendent and given a three-year contract. She has received full pay since. Her contract doesn’t expire until June 2016.
Board members Cindy Breh, Neil Clark, William Lints and Susanne Sammons voted in favor of placing Lawrence on leave in November and for the deadline Thursday. Handy, Lee Quackenbush and Renee Swartz voted against both the leave and deadline.
In January, the board appointed as acting superintendent Thomas Gallagher, who has served as superintendent for districts in Rome, as well as in New Jersey and Vermont. His appointment runs through July.