Kennebunk school officials announced Wednesday that a theater manager who came under fire for his use of social media is leaving his job at the district and will no longer be involved with the winter musical production.

Michael Herman, who was hired by RSU 21 to manager the theater and direct plays, was investigated by school officials for using a fake Facebook profile to contact students and parents in violation of district policy. He signed a resignation document provided to him by school administration, but later said he would not leave his job because of support from students in the theater program.

Superintendent Katie Hawes sent a letter to parents Wednesday announcing that it is “in the best interest of the district to discontinue Michael Herman’s involvement with the production, effective immediately.” His employment as theater manager also ended Wednesday.

“I believe the current situation and its level of disruption to the educational learning environment have become untenable,” Hawes wrote. “As superintendent of schools, I am responsible for ensuring a safe and secure learning environment for all students, and I have based by decision on that primary responsibility. Given the impact that this situation has had on our school district, Michael is in agreement with my decision.”

When asked if Herman would drop out of the production but stay on in his position as theater manager, Hawes said, “No. He’s parting ways with us.”

Hawes said Rachael Yoder, who is assistant director and Herman’s wife, will continue her involvement in the play.

Herman said Wednesday afternoon that he, Yoder and Hawes talked earlier in the day and agreed that Yoder would take over as director of the play. He said he was less concerned about his own employment than ensuring the production would go on without interruption because of the controversy over this Facebook activity.

“I was not as concerned for myself, but for the kids and how important the show is for them,” he said. “I said if everyone has a problem with me then let’s me take it out of it.”

Herman admitted that he created a fake profile to join two Facebook groups of local parents, some of whom had been discussing the plays Herman chose and the involvement of professional actors and community members in “As You Like It.” 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.

Herman called it a “very very dumb” decision and said he could not excuse his behavior. He also criticized some of the parents for what he called a “witch hunt” directed at him and Yoder.

Hawes was notified of the fake social media profile after parents who belong to the Facebook groups realized Herman created it using his school district email address.

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.”

Parents upset with Herman’s online activity pushed school officials to fire him, while theater students and their parents sent letters supporting Herman and describing him as an inspiring and inclusive.

“I’m obviously very disappointed that things didn’t work out differently,” Herman said Wednesday.

In her letter to parents, Hawes asked the community to focus on the play “rather than the division that the situation has caused.”

“I trust that my decision will now allow us to focus our energies on the success of the play and the hard work of our students actors,” she said.

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