The Winthrop School Committee has hired a former Scarborough administrator to serve as interim principal of Winthrop High School this school year, filling a position that opened earlier this summer.

David Creech started the job Aug. 16, after his predecessor, Sarah Landry, spent just one school year as the high school’s principal. In June, Landry accepted a job as the principal of Sylvio Gilbert Elementary School in Augusta.

Last February, Creech helped spark an uproar in Scarborough when he resigned from his position as principal at Scarborough High School, then claimed that the district’s superintendent had forced him to resign or be fired, according to reports by the Portland Press Herald. Parents and teachers in Scarborough who backed Creech expressed dismay about that outcome.

Creech did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Monday. On Tuesday, he plans to hold an informal meet-and-greet with families at 5:30 p.m. in the Winthrop High School cafeteria.

Creech’s wife, Michele Bellfy Creech, responded on Facebook to an outpouring of support that was expressed last week and this week on social media.

“I read him all your comments and it means the world to him,” she wrote. “We will never forget the support from the Scarborough community. He is excited about his new position and to be working for a supportive and strong superintendent. Wish it was closer to home, but we will make it work.”

The Creeches live in Kennebunk, where he was a high school teacher and assistant principal before he went to Scarborough.

On Facebook, the reaction to Creech’s being hired in Winthrop was a mix of regrets that he has moved on and anger at how the Scarborough school district handled the controversy.

“Congratulations, Winthrop. You just won the lottery with this amazing man as your interim principal,” Karen Loisel wrote on the Facebook page of the Road to Renewal.

The Road to Renewal is a citizens group that was organized this year “to address the crisis in our school system brought on by the actions and inactions of our superintendent and specific members of our Board of Education.”

“Winthrop High School is so very lucky to have this incredible leader. I’m so grateful that the Winthrop superintendent was willing to see through all this mess and give Dave this opportunity,” added Amy Johnson Glidden.

“Huge loss for Scarborough, but a big gain for Winthrop,” Karen L. Lafferty posted.

Cornelia Brown, interim superintendent of the Winthrop School Department, described Creech as “an outstanding educational leader.”

He has a master’s degree in education leadership from the University of Southern Maine and has worked as a mathematics teacher at schools around southern Maine, according to Brown. He also has coached basketball, cross country, and track and field. For the last 17 years, he’s worked as a high school administrator.

He will receive $76,000 for the 189 days that he works for the Winthrop School Department, according to his contract.

“He is an articulate and passionate supporter of secondary education,” Brown said in an interview. “He is a strong student advocate. He has a considerable amount of experience at the secondary level, as a teacher and administrator and coach, and he’s just an all-round great guy. We’re really lucky to have him.”

The Winthrop School Committee unanimously voted to hire Creech on Aug. 15. Virginia Geyer, chairwoman of the committee, did not respond to phone call on Monday.

The committee originally offered to hire another person for a permanent principal’s job, but after that person declined the offer, the committee decided to advertise for an interim principal, Brown said. The advertisement attracted four applicants.

When Creech left his previous job, it divided the Scarborough community, according to a series of newspaper reports.

Many families came to the principal’s defense, and his lawyer suggested that he was being forced out because he backed staff members who disagreed with new district policies on proficiency-based learning and school start times.

“He cares about you as an individual, not just as a piece of the school system. …” one student said last spring, in support of the principal.

At one point, Creech unsuccessfully tried to rescind his resignation.

The district’s superintendent, Julie Kukenberger, and Scarborough school board members declined to speak in great detail about the events leading to Creech’s resignation, citing the confidential nature of personnel matters.

However, Kukenberger has disputed parts of his account about the conversation that led to his resignation. She told the Portland Press Herald that the conversation didn’t happen out of the blue and that they previously had discussed some problems.

In Winthrop, Brown said that she was not concerned by the circumstances under which Creech left his Scarborough job, and she referred to the Winthrop School Committee’s unanimous vote as evidence of the group’s support for him.

To search for a new principal, the district convened a special committee that included Brown, a local parent, two teachers, another principal from the district, and a member of the Winthrop School Committee.

Officials were impressed by Creech during his interview, and his references spoke highly of him, Brown said.

Press Herald Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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