Orange Center school replaces superintendent who killed himself amid child abuse investigation

The Fresno BeeJune 13, 2014 

Orange Center Elementary has a new interim superintendent/principal, just a week after its former leader killed himself amid allegations that he had engaged in sexual activity with a student.

Camilla Sutherland, a school improvement coordinator for the Fresno County Office of Education, took over as the single-school district's top administrator on Wednesday. Sutherland has worked in the county office for eight years and previously served as a principal in Central Unified.

In the week since former administrator Lance Clement, 42, shot himself at his Hanford-area home, Sutherland has talked with parents and teachers to help rebuild morale in the small rural community just a mile south of Fresno.

When some students return to campus Monday for the district's summer program, Sutherland said counselors will be on hand to help them understand what unfolded.

"There's a lot of very sensitive issues and I'm being very sensitive of the parents' needs, the students' needs, the staffs' needs," she said. "It's a difficult time."

Clement was under investigation for reportedly calling students into his office on a regular basis and for inappropriate gift-giving. He was placed on administrative leave June 4 -- the last day of school for students.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for his home after finding the hard drive missing from Clement's school computer. Law enforcement officials say Clement fatally shot himself on the morning of June 6 as sheriff's detectives showed up to search his home.

Officials have said an investigation is ongoing. Kings County and Fresno County sheriff's offices did not return phone messages left by The Bee on Friday.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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