Superintendent Julie Kukenberger speaks Monday at a school board meeting to address school start times. She has been criticized for refusing to allow high school Principal David Creech to rescind his resignation. Staff photo by Derek Davis

SCARBOROUGH — Teachers at Scarborough High School voted overwhelmingly Monday to express no confidence in Superintendent Julie Kukenberger, who has drawn criticism for her handling of Principal David Creech’s unexpected resignation last month and other policy matters.

Hours later, during a school board meeting where one member walked out in protest, Kukenberger introduced a compromise proposal that could replace controversial new school start times set to take effect in August.

The no-confidence vote on Kukenberger was 83-1, according to the Facebook page of the Scarborough Education Association.

No reason for the vote was posted, but a document provided to teachers before the vote listed improvements Creech has made at the high school and concerns with the way Kukenberger has interacted with the community.

Scarborough Middle School teachers are expected to take a similar vote Wednesday, followed by elementary school teachers next week.

Monday’s afternoon vote preceded a hastily called school board workshop that attracted more than 250 people to the Wentworth School cafeteria.

The stated subject of the evening meeting was new school start times that are divisive because while they will allow high school students to start later, they will require younger students to start earlier.

Scarborough High School Principal David Creech speaks at Monday’s special school board meeting to discuss later school start times. His resignation has triggered a no-confidence vote against the superintendent and a recall effort aimed at three school board members. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Kukenberger made no mention of the no-confidence vote before pitching a compromise proposal that she said would minimize community upheaval. But while the compromise was warmly received by many, the pending loss of Creech took center stage.

‘OUR BELOVED PRINCIPAL’

Several speakers chastised Kukenberger and school board members for failing to respond to earlier calls for compromise, which they said had been encouraged by Creech, “our beloved principal.”

“This is what we’ve needed for a long time,” said Christy Zavasnik, a Spanish teacher at the high school.

“Let’s not lose sight of the collateral damage – bring back our principal,” said Kristen Nilsen, a library technician at the high school who resigned this month to finish a graduate internship.

Several high school students, parents and others spoke against the new start times, and several people spoke in favor of them. Still others urged school officials to develop a plan that would unite the community.

During the workshop, school board member Jacquelyn Perry warned that she wouldn’t tolerate additional comments about Creech and walked out about halfway through the two-hour meeting.

“This meeting was not about Mr. Creech,” Perry said outside the cafeteria. “It was about start times. I don’t intend to sit around and listen to people disrespect the board of education.”

Asked about Creech, Perry said “the ball is in his hands. He resigned. The board has no recourse.”

Creech submitted his letter of resignation about a month ago without saying why he stepped down, though his wife and his lawyer say he was forced by Kukenberger. He tried to rescind the resignation following an outpouring of community support, but Kukenberger has declined to accept it.

The school board has refused to meet with Creech and has backed Kukenberger, who became superintendent nearly two years ago.

A former assistant principal at Kennebunk High School, Creech became principal of Scarborough High School in 2013. Last year, he was a finalist for a the principal’s position at Falmouth High School.

BOARD MEMBERS TARGETED

Donna Beeley, Board of Education chairwoman

School board Chairwoman Donna Beeley was absent from Monday’s meeting. She and board members Cari Lyford and Jodi Shea are the targets of a recall petition effort aimed at unseating them.

A group of residents has formed a political action committee, “Road to Renewal,” that is gathering signatures to force a recall vote on the three board members.

However, the group has said that its real goal is to oust Kukenberger and make sure Creech stays beyond his June 30 resignation date.

Following Monday’s meeting, Kukenberger said she was unaware of the no-confidence vote and declined to comment on it. Creech also declined to comment.

The school board ended the meeting without voting or indicating a clear direction on the school start times.

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 start times set to take effect in August, 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.

Under the compromise start times Kukenberger pitched Monday evening, high school and middle school students would start at 8 a.m. and elementary school students would start at 8:50 a.m.

Creech and other principals seemed to welcome the compromise proposal. The issue of school start times has been scheduled as a topic on the school board’s April 5 meeting agenda.

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

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