Scarborough’s school board chairwoman finally responded to growing controversy surrounding a principal’s recent resignation, defending herself, other board members and the district superintendent against the criticisms of a newly formed political action committee that is trying to unseat them.

Donna Beeley’s written statement sheds little light on why Scarborough High School Principal David Creech suddenly submitted a letter of resignation Feb. 16 – a move that his wife and his lawyer claim was forced by the superintendent, and one that has sparked a political firestorm in the town of roughly 19,000 residents.

Creech then tried to rescind the letter after an outpouring of community support, but so far the school board and superintendent have upheld the resignation, which is effective June 30.

Beeley’s statement attempts to fend off an official petition effort, launched Tuesday, that aims to remove her and board members Cari Lyford and Jodi Shea from their positions.

The recall petitions, started by a group with a Facebook page titled “Road to Renewal,” cite the board members’ “incompetence” as the reason they should be unseated. However, a post on the group’s Facebook page said its main objective is to force the resignation of Superintendent Julie Kukenberger and the reinstatement of Creech.

“This recent wave of criticism that has been leveled at (Kukenberger) has been very frustrating,” Beeley wrote in a statement sent Wednesday night.

“The general public is only able to hear one side of the story due to the confidentiality required in dealing with personnel matters in a school district,” she continued. “Social media and news outlets have promoted a narrative that due to the confidentiality required has been one-sided. That one-sided coverage paints a distorted picture for all involved.”

Donna Beeley, Board of Education chairwoman

Beeley said that, as the school board’s leader and a town resident for 38 years, “it is very unsettling to see the discord affecting our town as a result of an employment matter.”

Beeley said she and other board members work “countless hours in numerous subcommittees with one goal of making the best decisions possible in the best interest of students.”

Now, she said, the board must defend itself and Kukenberger, “who was overwhelmingly selected just under two years ago by our citizens and school leaders to lead the important work ahead in K-12 education in Scarborough.”

DEFENDING BOARD, SUPERINTENDENT

Kukenberger “is an impressive educational leader, smart and passionate about doing what’s best for children,” Beeley said. She also has worked to be accessible to all members of the school community, and has advocated locally and at the State House for “reasonable school funding and responsible school budgets,” Beeley said.

“The board will continue to inform the public to the extent possible on this divisive matter,” she said. “Meanwhile, we will continue working on the upcoming budget season, contract negotiations and keeping our students safe. Our staff members will continue the high-quality work they are doing each day in every classroom.”

The people behind the “Road to Renewal” political action committee have a much different view of Kukenberger and the three school board members targeted by their petitions.

According to the Facebook page, it’s “a group of Scarborough, Maine, citizens organized to address a crisis in our school system. This crisis was brought on by actions and inactions of our superintendent of schools and specific members of our Board of Education. Here you can learn about actions, events and activities that we are working on to remedy this crisis, including the removal of our superintendent of schools and certain Board of Education members.”

The group has until March 26 to gather at least 2,622 signatures of registered town voters (25 percent of the local turnout at the last gubernatorial election) on separate petitions for each of the three board members. If the petitions are successful, a recall election to remove the board members from office would take place in May.

‘THE LAST STRAW’ AFTER MONTHS OF UNREST

Paul Johnson, one of the group’s leaders, said more than 40 people are circulating the petitions. He said group leaders signed paperwork to become a political action committee on the advice of Town Clerk Tody Justice because they would be raising money to pay for lawn signs, requests for public documents and other campaign activities.

Johnson said the roots of unrest reach back more than a year, when the district developed and the board approved controversial new school start times, which allow high school students to start later but require younger students to start earlier. Conflict over a new proficiency-based grading system also fanned the flames.

“Principal Creech’s resignation is just the last straw. It’s a big straw, but it’s just the last straw,” Johnson said. A lifelong resident and parent of a third-grader, Johnson operates a tutoring agency and teaches math part time at Cheverus High School, an independent school in Portland.

He was moved to help start the “Road to Renewal” group and the petition effort after seeing more than 400 people turn out for a recent school board meeting, where many spoke in support of Creech.

He also noted that Creech has the backing of Scarborough High School’s lead teachers, who have written two letters to the school board urging its members to block the resignation. Creech, who has been principal since 2013, was a finalist for principal at Falmouth High School last year.

“Good principals are hard to find,” the teachers wrote. “SHS currently has one who enjoys the strong support of his staff, the respect of the parents and students of Scarborough, and a clear record of successfully managing change in a difficult climate. If a principal as talented as David Creech is allowed to be pushed out of his position, then it will be clear that we have truly lost our way as a district.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.