Geoffrey D. Touretz, the principal of Lawrence High School, has been suspended pending a recommendation from Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. John Fitzsimons to the board of education for further disciplinary action, according to Board President Murray Forman.
School officials would not comment on why Touretz was suspended. “On the advice of counsel, I am not at liberty to discuss any personnel matters with you,” Fitzsimons told the Herald.
Forman said that high school administrators, including assistant principals Roseann Epp, Dr. Jennifer Lagnado and Sean Coffin, have assumed Touretz’s responsibilities. Epp is a 1977 Lawrence High graduate.
“The high school remains a safe and wholesome environment for our students,” Forman said.
“If there is anything discovered in any investigation that may be a transgression of any laws,” said the school district’s attorney, Albert D’Agostino, “the appropriate authorities will be contacted.”
D’Agostino would not address the Touretz case specifically, other than to say that the “wild rumors floating out there are way beyond anything that is factual” and that “the investigation has piqued the interest of local law enforcement agencies.” He added, “It is a matter of a process, and we are investigating.”
“As of now, there is nothing we can comment on,” said Chris Munzing, a spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Touretz was not at his desk last Thursday or Friday, according to District Athletic Director Pat Pizzarelli, who also serves as president of the Association of Lawrence Administrators.
Reached at home, Touretz said that though he would like to speak and dispel the rumors that he thinks are “mostly dramatically untrue,” he would not comment, except to say, “I will let the facts speak for themselves.”
Touretz, who lives in Jericho, has been the principal at Lawrence for the past seven years. He was the principal of Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station before coming to Lawrence, and was a special education teacher before that.
According to New York State Education Law 3020-a, all charges against a tenured employee, which Touretz is, must be made in writing and filed with the district clerk. The clerk then notifies the school board, which decides whether to bring a disciplinary action against the employee. The employee is typically suspended with pay while awaiting a hearing, unless he or she pleads guilty or is convicted of a felony involving the sale or possession of a controlled substance.
The hearing process is similar to a trial, with a hearing officer presiding, a pre-hearing conference, and motions and a hearing completed no more than 60 days after the pre-hearing conference unless the hearing officer decides that a limited extension is needed. A decision is rendered within 30 days of the end of the hearing.