Scarborough Schools Meltdown Continues…

“No Comment” mode

More on the Creech Breach

What is the School Board doing?

Impact on High School Accreditation?

It’s been more than a week now since the School Board meeting at which residents blasted the new school start times and the announcement the following day of the “resignation” of High School Principal Creech.  Here’s an update on the current situation and some important additional background information that has come to light.

The School Department and School Board are in radio silence mode.  It’s “no comment” to every question.  Probably on the advice of lawyers.  But that gives school leadership a great excuse to do what they are best at doing – not communicating with the public.  And we must say they’re doing a bang-up job of it.  Plus, don’t you love it when lawyers are running the show?  That always creates an environment conducive to cooperation and reconciliation.

More on the Creech Breach…

The circumstances surrounding why Principal Creech was offered the resign-or-be-fired option by Superintendent Kukenberger have not been clear.  While they remain unclear, a fuller picture is beginning to emerge.  It’s possible that “philosophical differences” or perhaps “style differences” may have arisen between Creech and Kukenberger soon after her hiring as superintendent in July, 2016. 

Creech applied for and was a finalist for the high school principal’s job in Falmouth in the summer of 2017.  Which means he applied for that job within about a year of Kukenberger’s arrival.  Perhaps that was merely a coincidence.  Or perhaps not. 

One definite source of recent tension between the principal and the superintendent was a disagreement on the proposed implementation of a “standards-based” grading system.  Here’s our two-paragraph layman’s summary of the issue:

Scarborough schools are engaged in a multi-year project to implement “proficiency-based education,” a State-mandated system of instruction, assessment, grading and academic reporting.  (God bless the teachers!)  Part of that mandate is to implement a new “standards-based” grading system. 

The group of high school teachers who were asked to make recommendations for the new grading system wanted to maintain the traditional 0 to 100% grading scale, along with introducing the new 4-point “standards-based” scale (basically: exceeds, meets, partially meets or does not meet expectations).  They reasoned that the traditional scale should be retained in order to provide colleges with more comprehensive student grades.  They argued that not retaining it would put Scarborough High students at a significant competitive disadvantage in college admissionsKukenberger apparently wanted to ditch the traditional grading system altogether.  Creech sided with the teachers, and as a result he was given the resign-or-be-fired choice.

We obviously weren’t there, but the letter to the Superintendent from the teachers who were working on the grading system suggests that the above account is fairly accurate.  [Readers who may have more direct knowledge of what occurred are encouraged to share any insights by using the “Reply” function at the top of this page.]

So what’s the School Board doing?

As we mentioned, it’s been more than a week now since the noisy School Board meeting and the Creech “resignation” announcement.  So has the School Board swung into action to address the crisis of public confidence?  Have they held an emergency meeting – either in public or in executive session?  Apparently not.  There’s certainly been nothing about a meeting (or any sort of communication about the current situation) on the Board’s website or the online School Department calendar.  Oh, well, there’s a regularly scheduled School Board meeting coming up on Thursday, March 1.  What’s the big rush anyway?  At this point you have to wonder if they’ll even discuss the situation then…  (Can’t you hear it now: “On the advice of our attorney, we will not be discussing any of the issues the public cares about.”)

Some School Board members have apparently been left more or less in the dark about what’s happening.  It must have been a rude awakening for new members of the School Board to observe the lack of public information and the appearance of institutional paralysis.

The Brazilian three-banded armadillo rolled into a defensive ball.

As part of their armadillo strategy, the School Board has also declined to meet with a group of High School teachers to discuss the forcing out of Principal Creech.  That would have to be done through the teachers’ union, said the School Board chair.  Ahh, communications and transparency!  Not to mention, flexibility!

We should note that despite the ongoing meltdown, the current edition of the Scarborough Board of Education Newsletter came out a few days ago.  Lots of stories about the great things the kids in the schools are doing.  But not a word about what the adults are up to.  Frankly, it’s the adults we’re concerned about these days.

NEASC Accreditation of the High School

Timing is everything, as the saying goes.  And one of the very unfortunate aspects of the timing of the current meltdown of school administration and governance is that the High School is right in the middle of its reaccreditation by NEASC, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.  This is a once-every-ten-years event that is supposed to certify that the high school is up to snuff.  It’s sort of a basic seal of approval that many colleges look to as they evaluate the students they will admit from a school.

As High School principal, Principal Creech is the point person for the accreditation process.  Fortunately, the on-site visit part of the evaluation has already taken place.  Now they’re drafting the report of findings.  One can only wonder what the evaluators from NEASC will make of the current messy management/governance meltdown.   The evaluation focuses on seven areas, one of which is “School Leadership and Culture.”  We hope NEASC will put one of their most diplomatic writers on that section of the Scarborough report.  Look for the report this spring… unless NEASC decides it would just be too embarrassing to have to address this issue in its current state of discomposure.

A recall in the offing?

There has been some scuttlebutt about potentially recalling one or more of the School Board members.  This is not an easy process, nor one that should be undertaken lightly.  The reality is that about 2,600 signatures would have to be collected within a 20-day window to have a recall election.  (The exact number of signatures required is 25% of the number of Scarborough residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election.)  Given the School Board’s handling of this situation so far, a recall effort doesn’t seem at all far-fetched.

A rally in support of Principal Creech is scheduled for 7am on Monday, February 26, at Town Hall. 

To avoid delays, drivers who use Route 1 in the Town Hall area should find an alternative route.  Of course, there is no alternative route, so just bring along an extra granola bar, bagel or donut and enjoy the show!

Thank you!

 Our sincere thanks to you for reading this blog.  And a special thank you to all those who have reached out with information or encouragement.  Both are greatly appreciated!

That’s it for now.  Happy trails until we meet again!

Be neighborly,

TT Hannah


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