Scarborough High School Principal David Creech submitted his resignation suddenly and without giving a public reason on Friday amid an intensifying community dispute over new school start times that are set to take effect in the fall.

Creech’s action followed a heated Board of Education meeting on Thursday, when the Scarborough Education Association issued a statement against the change in start times. Opponents say the district’s plan to adopt a later start time for high school students will hurt younger students and cause other problems.

While the circumstances of Creech’s resignation, effective June 30, and his position on the new start times are unclear, parents and community groups on social media are connecting the two issues.

Creech’s wife, Michele Bellfy Creech, posted a statement Saturday on Facebook that was shared on a public page titled “Scarborough School Supporters Advocating for a Start Times Plan Compromise.”

David Creech

Her post acknowledged the outpouring of support that Creech has received since Friday, including a #WeStandWithCreech social media campaign, an online petition to reject his resignation and a public protest planned to be held at Town Hall at 7 a.m. Monday, Feb. 26, when students return from February vacation.

“Please understand that this is NOT his choice and he was forced to resign by the SI (superintendent),” she wrote. “He loves the staff, students and parents of SHS and does not want to leave. He is heartbroken and wants everyone to know how much he appreciates the support.”

The post said Creech has received hundreds of supportive emails but didn’t have time to respond because he was working all weekend at the state high school basketball tournament.

“I know he would love to make a statement to the community but his hands are tied and he has been advised not to,” his wife wrote. “He is so sorry that the community is having to deal with this. We are all strong together.”

SCHOOL OFFICIALS HOLD BACK

Asked to comment on Creech’s action, Superintendent Julie Kukenberger issued the following written statement via email Sunday afternoon:

“I understand that this news may be surprising to some of our community members. This is a personnel matter; therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to discuss the details. Please know that our students’ best interests are always at the center of our work.”

School board Chairwoman Donna Beeley sent a separate statement:

“I am aware that the high school principal has resigned and that the superintendent has accepted the resignation pursuant to school board policy. As with any school leader resignation, questions, concerns and rumors can develop.”

The board, superintendent, other administrators and teachers “will continue to focus on our students who are entrusted to our care,” Beeley said.

Pressed for further comment, Beeley declined to say whether Creech’s position on new start times contributed to his resignation or when the board might be scheduled to discuss the matter.

Beeley said she would provide a copy of Creech’s letter of resignation but had not as of Sunday evening. She said Creech’s resignation is effective June 30.

Creech didn’t respond to an email request for comment.

In a statement to the board on Thursday, teachers’ union president Justin Stebbins wrote, “The association believes that this is not the right time to implement this dramatic shift in school start times.”

Stebbins said union members doubt the veracity of research claiming benefits of later start times for high school students, as well as the results of a community survey, and they’re concerned about problems the change might cause.

TWO ISSUES ‘INTERTWINED’

A post Saturday on the Scarborough School Supporters Facebook page linked Creech’s resignation to the dispute over start times:

“The two issues of School Start Times and the Creech Resignation are likely intertwined. … No matter what your personal feelings may be regarding the school times issue, Principal Creech should NOT be collateral damage for voicing his concerns and supporting his teachers. He is a valuable and beloved leader by many and that is exactly what this community needs right now.”

A petition opposing the new start times on the website change.org speculated that there may be additional reasons for Creech’s sudden resignation.

A former assistant principal at Kennebunk High School, Creech became principal of Scarborough High School in 2013.

The school board approved the change in start times last April, based on research that suggests high school students with later start times have improved mental health and reduced rates of automobile accidents, truancy, absenteeism and substance use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Classes at Scarborough High School now start at 7:35 a.m., followed by the middle school at 7:45 a.m., grades 3 through 5 at 8:20 a.m., and kindergarten through grade 2 at 8:50 a.m.

Under the new bell schedules, high school students will start at 8:50 a.m., middle school students at 9 a.m., and elementary school students at 8 a.m.

By Sunday afternoon, nearly 1,000 people had signed the petition at change.org, which states:

“While we fully support the leaderships’ intention behind adjusting school start times, we strongly believe that the proposed schedule is too severe and will create multiple problems for every age group.”

Opponents of the change are worried about longer bus rides, earlier pickup times for young students, impacts on after-school activities and the need for additional after-school care.

 

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