KINGSTON — In what was almost surely among the shortest meetings on record, the Wyoming Valley West School Board accepted the resignation of embattled high school English teacher Lauren Harrington-Cooper at a special session Wednesday morning.
Harrington-Cooper was charged on Dec. 18 with one count of institutional sexual assault in connection with several alleged contacts with an 18-year-old student, all in her car, occurring in December. She was charged with a new count of the same crime earlier this month in connection with a 17-year-old student, with the alleged sexual contacts occurring in November.
Harrington-Cooper was suspended without pay after the first charges. Preliminary hearings have been set for Jan. 29 for the first charges and Feb. 4 for the second charges.
Superintendent Charles Suppon had said last week that Harrington-Cooper, 31, had waived her right to a “Loudermill Hearing,” a legal right prior to termination of a teacher intended to give the teacher a chance to respond to any allegations. On Wednesday, he said the district had been notified by the teachers union that Harrington-Cooper would submit a letter of resignation, and that district attorneys recommended the board accept it.
The board voted unanimously to accept it, with three members absent and one, James Fender, participating via phone. Suppon said Harrington-Cooper may be entitled to some pay for unused sick days, but no other benefits would apply.
She faces likely discipline from the state Professional Standards and Practices Commission as well. In such cases, the commission often either suspends or revokes a teacher’s license, or the teacher surrenders the license in lieu of discipline.
Suppon said the district has submitted a formal complaint to the state department of education notifying PDE of the charges. Suppon said Harrington-Cooper may also loose most of her pension. “I think in the end she may only be entitled to pension money that she herself put into the fund,” he said.
Teachers pay a relatively fixed rate — currently around 7 percent of salary — into the pension fund. District’s pay a rate that varies depending on the health of the fund, dropping when the fund is flush and rising when reserves are short. Since 2000 the rate for districts has climbed from near zero percent at the end of the 1990s market boom to an expected 21.4 percent in the 2014-15 school year.
The board cast only one vote Wednesday on a single resolution that included accepting Harrington-Cooper’s resignation as well as three appointments and one job posting:
State Street Elementary Assistant Principal Barry Rogers as acting elementary director of special education beginning Wednesday, with a pro-rated stipend of $5,000 beyond his current salary; Tara Carey to assistant principal at State Street Elementary school, effective Wednesday, at a salary of $60,000; Erica Drevenak as high school English teacher at a salary of $41,722; and posting for a half-time guidance counselor to serve three elementary schools — Chester Street, Schuyler Avenue and Third Avenue — at half salary and with half benefits.