Three Scarborough school board members who were roundly removed from office Tuesday in the town’s first-ever recall election responded to the will of voters with a mix of disappointment, pride and hope that the community’s schools can one day heal from the months-long controversy.

But any healing could be months away as a school board hobbled by three vacant seats and an embattled superintendent faces important decisions on how to move forward, which could include getting a budget passed.

Donna Beeley, left, issued a statement Wednesday saying that while she, Cari Lyford, center, and Jodi Shea “are disappointed in the result of the election, we join with the rest of the board in accepting the will of the majority of people in our community who voted.”

Recalled by a two-thirds vote at the polls, Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Beeley issued a statement Wednesday afternoon on behalf of the board, including the two other members who were removed, Cari Lyford and Jodi Shea, and the four remaining members.

“Although those of us who were recalled are disappointed in the result of the election, we join with the rest of the board in accepting the will of the majority of people in our community who voted,” Beeley said in a brief email.

“This has been a difficult and divisive time for the Scarborough School Department,” Beeley said, “but we know that the dedicated professionals who make up our administration, teaching and support staffs have always placed the best interests of our students and our schools first and that they will continue to do so.”

Beeley said further, “We are hopeful that all stakeholders will be able to work together to continue the good work that this board has accomplished and is committed to doing in the future.”

The vote to remove Beeley was 3,086 to 1,496 (67 percent); Lyford, 3,047 to 1,535 (66 percent); and Shea, 3,040 to 1,550 (66 percent), according to Election Warden Allen Paul.

The Town Council is expected to certify the election results next Wednesday, which is when removal from office would take effect.

A follow-up election will be held to replace the unseated members for the remainders of their terms. Beeley’s second three-year term ends in November, and Lyford’s and Shea’s terms end in November 2019.

FIVE BOARD SEATS UP FOR ELECTION

Whether that election is held in November or sooner will be decided by the remaining four board members: Jackie Perry and Mary Starr, whose terms run through November, and Hillory Durgin and Leanne Kazilionis, whose terms run through November 2020.

Perry – who was first elected in 1977, has served on and off since then and will be termed out in November – was rumored to have threatened to resign if the recall was successful.

“At the moment, I will stay on the board,” Perry said in an email Wednesday.

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said in an email Wednesday. “It is my hope that all of this energy and momentum will be used to move the community forward in a more positive and productive direction.” She would not discuss her own future plans.

Regardless of how the remaining board members decide to replace the recalled members, the town now has five school board seats up for election this year, which could result in a largely inexperienced board.

The turnover also opens the door to newcomers aiming to oust Superintendent Julie Kukenberger, who declined to answer questions about her plans Wednesday, including whether she would resign from the $135,000-per-year job she’s held since mid-2016.

“Scarborough residents have voted,” Kukenberger responded via email. “It is my hope that all of this energy and momentum will be used to move the community forward in a more positive and productive direction.”

STRONG VOTER TURNOUT TUESDAY

The recall election drew about 27 percent of the town’s 16,761 registered voters – a solid turnout for an election on such a focused topic that has divided the community since February.

A local political action committee mounted the recall effort after Scarborough High School Principal David Creech resigned suddenly Feb. 16, effective June 30, and Kukenberger later refused to let him rescind his resignation letter, which he says she coerced.

The Road to Renewal group successfully circulated petitions targeting Beeley, Lyford and Shea for “incompetence,” although the stated reason on its Facebook page was to keep Creech as principal and get rid of Kukenberger.

Another Facebook-based group, Scarborough Sharing Truth on Recall Matters, formed to fight the recall effort and support the superintendent, despite concerns about the handling of divisive changes in school start times and proficiency-based grading.

Several recall supporters who gathered in the Town Council chamber for the vote count were pleased with the outcome, which was announced around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“This means 4,500 people in town care about what’s happening in our schools,” said Paul Johnson, a founder of the Road to Renewal group.

Johnson said he sees the successful recall as a show of support for Creech and a referendum on Kukenberger’s leadership, suggesting that she should resign.

Johnson also said several members of the Road to Renewal group are interested in running to replace the recalled board members.

Lyford and Shea also issued written statements Wednesday.

“Obviously, the results of the vote are disappointing,” said Lyford, who has served 2½ years on the board, including the remaining year of a previous member’s term.

“From the beginning of this process, my foremost concern has been the well-being of Scarborough schools and students,” Lyford said. “I hope that our schools continue to grow and thrive from this point on. This process has been extremely hard on my family, and I so appreciate all of our friends, neighbors, and community members who have supported us and opposed the recall. I hope the community will stay engaged and pass the school budget on June 12th.”

Shea, who is serving the second year of her second three-year term on the board, issued a brief response.

“Although this is not the outcome I had hoped for, I would like to thank all of the citizens who came out and supported me today,” Shea said. “I am proud of my time on the board.”

SCHOOL BOARD’S NEXT STEPS UNCERTAIN

What happens next could vary widely and offers no guarantee that it will heal a divided community.

Under the town charter, the board could ask the Town Council to hold a special election this summer or wait until the next general election on Nov. 6, which would be allowed because it’s less than six months away from May 16, when the council is scheduled to certify the recall results.

With three members removed, the board will still have four members needed for a quorum to conduct business. However, the town charter also requires at least four affirmative votes to pass any action, so a four-member board needs unanimous votes to get anything done.

The vote on whether to hold a special election could be the first of many challenges facing the board with fewer members.

The proposed $50.3 million school budget for 2018-19 is up for a validation vote on June 12, and in recent years Scarborough voters have rejected the first draft several times. Last year it took two budget rewrites and three votes to pass.

The council is considering an $87.7 million budget for municipal, school and county services that’s up 4.13 percent over current spending. The tax rate would increase from $16.49 to as much as $17.27 per $1,000 of assessed property value, adding about $235 to the $4,947 annual tax bill on a $300,000 home, according to town projections.

“In the coming weeks, we will need to determine our next steps while continuing to keep the interests of our students at the heart of our work,” Durgin, the school board’s communications chairwoman, said in a prepared statement. “There are sure to be many challenges ahead and we hope the community will have patience as we prepare to navigate this new and uncharted road together.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard