Assistant principal tapped as interim head of Scarborough High School

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SCARBOROUGH — Longtime Assistant Principal Susan Ketch was appointed by the School Board on Tuesday to fill in for one year as the interim principal at Scarborough High School.

The vote was unanimous among the four board members who remain following a recall of three members in May. Ketch’s salary is yet to be determined, Superintendent Julie Kukenberger later said.

Not everyone supported the decision. During public comment, several people asked board members to appoint former Principal David Creech, saying the move would extend an olive branch to a divisive community.

The board also on June 26 held a closed-door meeting concerning Kukenberger’s “contract/evaluation.” The beleaguered superintendent’s three-year contract expires next June; there was no vote taken, as the board did not return to public session after deliberating.

Ketch has been a teacher in the district since 1984, first as a teacher of music and theater. She earned her master’s in education from the University of Southern Maine in Educational Leadership and has been the assistant principal at the high school since 1997.

Kukenberger said Ketch has been instrumental during her tenure at the high school in ensuring students are successful, and those she works with say they admire Ketch’s caring and professional attitude.

Standing to address the board, Ketch thanked the panel for their confidence in her ability to lead. She said since she started teaching in the ’80s with a salary of $12,060, she has always believed in the community and the students, whom she described as “amazing in every way.”

Ketch said she also believes in school staff, from those who bring children to school safely and provide meals, to those that teach in classrooms.

“Thank you for your faith in me; I will give it my best,” she said after the one-year contract, effective July 1, was announced.

Ketch will replace Creech, who served in that role for three years before resigning in February. Creech later attempted to rescind his decision, saying through his attorney that he was forced to resign by Kukenberger over professional differences. The Board of Education did not reconsider the resignation, and, as a result of public outcry, three board members were recalled on a claim of incompetence in the way they handled the situation. Kukenberger has also been roundly criticized for her stance on changing school start times and her role in Creech’s resignation. In addition, a vote of  “no confidence” in both her and the school board was cast by the teachers’ union this spring.

With the removal of former Chairwoman Donna Beeley, and members Cari Lyford and Jodi Shea, four members remain until the November election seats a new panel.

When Ketch was announced as Creech’s successor, resident David Cleary, who was active in the effort to oust the trio from the board, rose and told the remaining members they “should be ashamed” before pounding his fist on the podium.

A murmur of disapproval over the fact the board did not appoint Creech was also heard in the audience.

Creech’s attorney, William Michaud, said in an email Tuesday before the meeting that Creech continues to consider all available options, including offering to serve as the interim principal. “We are disappointed that the school district is still unwilling to allow him to withdraw his resignation despite overwhelming public and faculty support for his continuation as principal at Scarborough High School,” he said, adding it was particularly frustrating given Scarborough had been unable to select a suitable replacement.

In a letter to the board, Kukenberger, faculty and parents of high school students, Assistant Superintendent JoAnne Sizemore, also part of the hiring committee, said interviews were conducted June 14 and 15 with five out of 12 applicants. None of the applicants were offered a second interview.

The committee was comprised of Ketch, Sizemore, and teachers Sarah Blaisdell, Annie Reiner, Michelle Shupp, Albert McCormack and Kelly Allen. Also serving on the committee were support staffer William York, School Board member Leanne Kazilionis, Middle School Principal Diane Nadeau, parent Will Blanch and two students.

April Sither, Ketch’s former student, a 1999 graduate and a member of the Road to Renewal political action committee, said after the meeting she is confident Ketch will do a “great job” in her new role, but added she is disappointed by the board’s decision not to appoint Creech.

Sither said the faculty trusts Ketch, and an internal hire was a better approach than looking outside the district. However, she remained convinced Ketch’s appointment will not bridge the community divide.

Sither added that Road to Renewal is aware of four candidates who intend to seek a seat on the Board of Education in November.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Scarborough High School Assistant Principal Susan Ketch was appointed Tuesday to serve as the interim principal for the 2018-19 school year and replace David Creech.

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