Petition seeks to oust 3 Scarborough school board members

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SCARBOROUGH — Three petitions are seeking the removal of several school board members following a contentious meeting where the resignation of Principal David Creech was not reconsidered.

The petitions, taken out Monday, targets Chairwoman Donna Beeley and members Jodi Shea and Cari Lyford for removal. The petitions must be returned by March 26 and include 2,600 signatures, or 25 percent of the voting body in the last gubernatorial election, said Town Clerk Tody Justice.

As dictated in the town charter, once the signatures are certified, a public hearing before the council is called, and after that, the council has 30 days to set a date for a special election. Justice said in her 28 years working for the town and school district of Scarborough, she has not seen a removal referendum.

At the polls, there must also be at least 3,000 voters, or 30 percent of registered voters in town.

Paul Johnson, a parent and member of a group called “Road to Renewal” started the petition movement, filing an affidavit at the Municipal Building Monday. Johnson said this is not a “scorched earth” approach, adding the group has no personal disagreement with board members.

“We know they work tirelessly, we know it’s a thankless job. We don’t really want to do this,” he said, but added there has been incompetence specifically relating to the management of the superintendent, Julie Kukenberger.

Johnson said about 40 people are helping to circulate the petitions, but it is unclear how many signatures had been collected as of Wednesday.

Johnson said the petition is a means to an end, a strategic move to replace school board members and seat a more impartial board who will ultimately remove Kukenberger.

The three members were singled out because Beeley is the chairwoman, and both Lyford and  Shea have served on the communications committee, Johnson explained.

He said communication with the public has been poor, and many residents feel as though their input has not been considered. Johnson said the board should work collaboratively with the superintendent, but instead has let Kukenberger set policy at the middle and high school, including the earlier start time plan, a new grading system, and most recently, the resignation of Creech.

In an email responding to a request for comment, Shea said she has no plans to resign.

“I am not sure why Donna, Cari and I were targeted, as no explanation was given. The reason cited was “incompetence.” I am not incompetent. I have spent the better part of nine years trying to make Scarborough one of the best places to educate our children – from president of the Primary School PTA, to founding the Race to the Point, to being a founding member and board member of the Scarborough Education Foundation, to the last four  years on the school board fighting for strong school budgets for our students, staff and schools,” she said.

Shea said the petitions are short-sighted, and the ripple effect will have a lasting impact on the town and school district.

Lyford and Beeley did not respond to a request via email for comment.

Beeley’s term is up in November, and Lyford and Shea’s terms run until November 2019.

More than 300 people attended the School Board meeting March 1 to show support for Creech, who claims he was forced to resign two weeks ago.

Speakers described a fractured school system and community and urged transparency, compromise and healing. The board ultimately rejected reconsideration of Creech’s resignation after hearing 90 minutes of public comment and meeting for more than an hour in executive session.

Creech’s attorney, William Michaud, in a statement last week said his client is disappointed by the outcome of the meeting and will consider his options in the coming days. At the start of the meeting, Beeley told the public Creech’s resignation was irrevocable.

Michaud said the resignation was coerced, and not voluntary. He said it was the result of a professional dispute, and Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger told Creech if he did not tender his resignation, she would not recommend renewal of his contract.

Kukenberger has not provided a specific reason for the principal’s resignation, saying it is a private personnel matter.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net.

Scarborough High School Principal David Creech speaks with supporters at last week’s school board meeting, where the board decided not to reconsider his resignation.

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