A Kennebunk High School employee hired to manage the school theater and direct plays resigned shortly after being investigated for using a fake Facebook profile to contact students and parents, but now says he won’t leave his job.

Michael Herman, manager of the Kennebunk High School theater, submitted his resignation in writing Jan. 31, days after school officials investigated complaints from parents that he contacted students through social media in violation of district policy and under false pretenses. Herman said Monday he was given the resignation letter and asked to sign it, but has since decided to stay in his current position because of support from students in the theater program.

It was not immediately clear how the school district would respond to his change of heart.

Herman also is director of operations for MaineStage Shakespeare, a nonprofit Kennebunk-based theater company that is collaborating on the high school’s upcoming production of “As You Like It.”

Superintendent Katie Hawes was notified of the fake social media profile after parents who belong to two Facebook groups realized Herman created it using his school district email address. Using the name Carol Lewis and a photo of a woman from New York, Herman friended multiple students and parents and joined Facebook conversations about the theater program. Some parents had been critical of the plays Herman chose and the involvement of professional actors and community members in “As You Like It.”

School district policy prohibits employees from any communications with students or minors for non-school-related purposes. It also prohibits employees from using a forum for communicating with other school users or outside parties “to solicit, proselytize, advocate or communicate the views of an individual or non-school school sponsored organization.”

In an email to a parent, Police Chief Robert MacKenzie said he did not see “a criminal nexus” with the activity and it will be left to school district officials to look into it as a personnel matter if deemed necessary by them. Herman has not been accused of writing anything inappropriate to students.

Herman said creating the Facebook account was indefensible and the result of “weakness and desperation” after a small group of parents mounted a “witch hunt” against him because they disagreed with how he ran theater productions.

“It was a very, very dumb way to handle this,” he said. “I am in no way defending my actions. I made a mistake and I’m very sorry for it.”

Hawes said Monday she could confirm Herman had resigned from his position effective March 30, but said she could not say if he was disciplined because it was a personnel issue. She also said all district employees undergo background checks when they are hired. Hawes said she was not aware the resignation had been rescinded.

Leslie Trentalange, the parent who notified Hawes and contacted police, called Herman’s activity “unsettling” and said she was disappointed with school officials’ response to the situation. Hawes notified parents of students who accepted friend requests from Herman’s fake profile, but Trentalagne does not believe all parents were notified based on conversations with acquaintances who were Facebook friends with the fake account but had not heard from Hawes.

The same day Herman resigned, Hawes sent a letter to parents regarding the creation of a fake Facebook account using an RSU 21 email address. The letter did not identify Herman as the profile’s creator.

“The police determined that is was not a legal issue. We fully investigated the situation and determined that the person used poor judgment and violated our internet use and staff and conduct policies but, most importantly, that no students or staff were ever at risk,” the letter said. “We take these matters very seriously and took immediate steps to address the situation.”

In a Jan. 26 letter to school officials, the police chief and school board members, Herman acknowledged creating the fake profile to gain access to two closed Facebook groups, “KBK Moms” and “Not Quite KBK Moms,” and apologized for his actions. He said he and his wife, Rachael Yoder, tried repeatedly to join the groups but were denied, so he created a fake profile after hearing he was being discussed in the groups.

“Through the fall (and winter thus far), we were hearing through close friends on a very regular basis, that there were negative, inflammatory and inaccurate discussions about both of us and the theater program in these social media groups,” Herman wrote.

In an interview Monday, Herman said he and his wife have felt targeted by a small group of parents since the beginning of the school year, when he began his job and Yoder was hired to direct the spring play. Yoder also is the adviser of the high school Interact Club. The couple approached the school administration to talk about the online comments and criticism and received the support of school officials, Herman said.

Herman said his resignation “wasn’t something I was allowed to do on my own and freely.”

“I was handed a letter that was written not by me and asked to sign it,” he said. “I was surprised when I was approached with the letter during a rehearsal and asked to sign it.”

After students in the production of “As You Like It” heard about his resignation and asked him and Yoder about it, Herman started thinking about the message that leaving was sending to students. He said he and Yoder were moved to tears by the letters of support students, parents and others in the community have sent to them, school officials and the school board.

“For us it really came down to what this is teaching the kids. This is telling the kids that bullying is OK,” Herman said. “We’re telling the kids that when it gets hard, we’re going to leave you. That didn’t sit well with us. We felt like we’d be abandoning them.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian