2018-05-18 / Community News

Process of moving forward begins now

Recall Vote
By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

Following an unprecedented election that saw the removal of three board of education members, Scarborough residents and town officials must now pave a path forward, the first step of which is determining when to hold an election to replace the recalled board members.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin across the board, Donna Beeley, Jodi Shea and Cari Lyford were voted out of their positions on Tuesday, May 8.

Town council was scheduled to certify those results of the election Wednesday, May 16, at which time the three recalled members’ terms would officially end.

Hillory Durgin, board of education member and new communications chair, wrote in a press release the following day thanking the recalled members for their time on the board and that their experience will be missed.

“Whether you are pleased or disappointed in today’s outcome, we hope that you will continue to actively participate by contacting us, attending meetings and engaging in local elections,” Durgin wrote. “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. 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.”

The board of education can still take action with the remaining members, but all four must be present in order to form a quorum and the decision must be unanimous.

Due to planned vacations, the soonest the next board of education meeting could take place is Tuesday, May 29. Durgin said this meeting will include the discussion and decision on when an election will be held to replace the recalled members. Since the Nov. 5 election is less than six months away, the board could decide to hold the election then.

Paul Johnson, a spokesperson for the group which led the recall effort, Road to Renewal, said his group will eventually endorse three candidates for the board of education and so far has heard as many as eight different people express an interesting in running.

However, he said he doesn’t want to discourage anybody from running, even other individuals associated with Road to Renewal, as the more candidates involved means more options for residents.

Johnson said he’d like to hold the special election before November, but considering how much effort went into the most recent one, he doesn’t want to make the next election date a point of contention.

“We put the board in a position where they’re going to have to vote unanimously to renew the superintendent’s contract, which typically happens over the summer,” Johnson said. “Considering what we pulled off and the mandate we have, I’m confident they’re not going to volunteer to vote unanimously to extend (Kukenberger’s) contract. In our minds, we achieved our objective. We also encourage the board to take a vote of no confidence on Julie Kukenberger and encourage Julie to bring back David Creech.”

In an email to the Leader, Durgin wrote that the school board will decide when to hold the election before taking up future issues.

Kukenberger did not return a request for comment.

Board member Jackie Perry wrote in an email she was disappointed in the results of the election.

“The recall was based on false pretenses and should not have been supported,” Perry wrote. “But, the voters have spoken and we will move on. We will discuss plans at our next meeting. It will be interesting moving forward.”

Johnson said Road to Renewal is still committed to holding a community gathering event this month and the town might host it so that the event feels more neutral.

“I don’t think we’ll be giving people a stage to air their grievances,” Johnson said. “I don’t think that would be productive. I picture more of people selecting certain tables or parts of the room to discuss particular topics. There’s a lot of pain in town from previous events. Hopefully we can try to move forward but the format would be tricky.”

While it’s unclear whether or not Creech could be reinstated as high school principal at this point, Johnson said that would be a positive outcome for the town from the recall process.

“The most positive part coming out of this is that more people voted in this election than the budget election last year,” Johnson said. “That says a lot. At this point if we recap where we are, we have a principal who’s out of a job, a whole school year full of turmoil, and three board of education members have gone through the recall process. Sixty seven percent of teachers voted no confidence.

“Sixty-seven percent of (voters) voted to recall the board of education members and by extension a referendum on what’s going on in the school system. One person in the town can make a simple decision that would put something positive at the forefront of all this negativity of the last year and a half.”

Staff Writer Grant McPherson can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.

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