Scarborough High School Principal David Creech declined to respond Monday to questions about why he suddenly submitted a letter of resignation last week amid growing controversy over a pending change in school start times.

Creech’s position on the new start times, set to take effect in the fall, remains unclear, but parents and community groups on social media are connecting the divisive issue to his resignation, effective June 30.

Opponents say the district’s plan to adopt a later start time for high school students will hurt younger students and cause other problems.

Creech sent this response Monday to an email request from the Press Herald for an interview about why he resigned Friday without giving a public reason:

“I am very proud of Scarborough High School. I love our students and staff. I greatly appreciate SHS families and the support given by the Scarborough community. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as principal of Scarborough High School for the past five years and I am sorry that my service to the school will have to end this way.”

Creech didn’t respond to a follow-up email that asked specific questions about why he resigned, whether he was forced to resign, whether he supports the change in school start times, what his future plans are and whether he’s getting a severance package.

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

In it she said her husband asked her “to convey how humbled and overwhelmed he is with all the support. …This is tremendously hard on Dave and on our family, but the support makes it easier.”

She said her husband is taking time “to think about his options and his next move.”

‘FORCED TO RESIGN’

In a previous post shared Sunday on the Scarborough School Supporters page, Creech’s wife said that “he was forced to resign by the SI (superintendent)” and that “he would love to make a statement to the community but his hands are tied and he has been advised not to.”

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger and Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Beeley issued separate written statements Sunday saying that Kukenberger had accepted Creech’s resignation and that they were acting in the best interests of students.

Neither would address questions about the circumstances of Creech’s resignation, saying that it was a private personnel matter.

Beeley also wouldn’t say when the board might be scheduled to discuss what to do about the pending vacancy. She said she would provide a copy of Creech’s letter of resignation, but she had not as of Monday afternoon.

Creech has experienced an outpouring of support since Friday, including hundreds of emails; a #WeStandWithCreech social media campaign; a change.org student petition signed by nearly 1,200 people who want the school board 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.

Creech’s action followed a heated school board meeting Thursday, when the Scarborough Education Association issued a statement opposing the change in start times.

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

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.

The Scarborough School Supporters Facebook page linked Creech’s resignation to the dispute over start times, saying “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.”

PRINCIPAL SINCE 2013

Another change.org petition, signed by nearly 1,000 people who oppose the new start times, also 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.

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.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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