SCARBOROUGH — Four remaining Board of Education members decided Tuesday against holding a special election this summer to replace three members who were voted off the panel this month.

Board members Jacquelyn Perry, Hillory Durgin, Mary Starr and Leanne Kazilionis voted 3-1 on the question of calling for a special election before the regular November election.

Kazilionis provided the sole vote in favor of a special election as the next step to address a controversy involving the superintendent and the high school principal that has divided this community for months. It would have taken four votes in favor to hold a special election.

A majority of board members and several residents who spoke at the evening meeting said the town needs time to heal before jumping into another election, even though it will mean having five seats up for election in November.

Starr, newly elected board chairwoman, said she was concerned about holding an election “so soon after all the acrimony of the last few months.”

Starr and others also said waiting until November would give the town plenty of time to attract and elect qualified candidates.

And while some said holding a summer election would be challenging because many people have vacation plans, Kazilionis said it would be difficult for four board members to shoulder the work of seven members through November.

On May 8, in the town’s first-ever recall election, voters decided overwhelmingly to remove three of the longest-serving current board members.

The vote to remove former Chairwoman Donna Beeley was 3,086 to 1,496 (67 percent); Cari Lyford, 3,047 to 1,535 (66 percent); and Jodi Shea, 3,040 to 1,550 (66 percent).

Follow-up elections must be held to replace the unseated members for the remainder of their terms. Beeley’s term ends in November, and Lyford’s and Shea’s terms end in November 2019.

Other members whose seats are up for grabs this November are Perry, who is termed out of office, and Starr, who said she hasn’t decided whether she will run again.

Under the town charter, the remaining board members could have asked the Town Council to hold a special election this summer. Instead, they decided to wait until the next general election on Nov. 6, which is allowed because it’s less than six months away.

With three members removed, the board still has four members needed for a quorum to conduct business. However, the town charter also requires at least four affirmative votes to pass any action, so a four-member board would need unanimous votes to get anything done.

A local political action committee mounted the recall effort after Scarborough High School Principal David Creech resigned suddenly in February, effective June 30, and Superintendent Julie Kukenberger later refused to let him rescind his resignation letter, which he says she coerced.

The Road to Renewal group successfully circulated petitions targeting Beeley, Lyford and Shea for “incompetence,” though the stated reason on its Facebook page was to keep Creech as principal and oust Kukenberger.

Another Facebook-based group, Scarborough Sharing Truth on Recall Matters, formed to fight the recall effort and support the superintendent, despite concerns about the handling of divisive changes in school start times and proficiency-based grading.

Road to Renewal leaders said they saw the successful recall as a show of community support for Creech and a referendum on Kukenberger’s leadership, suggesting that she should resign. They also said several people were ready to run to replace the recalled board members, and acknowledged that changing board members wouldn’t necessarily bring their desired results.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Road to Renewal member Kristen Nilsen said she was upset that the remaining school board members didn’t speak about community concerns that led to the recall, especially Creech’s pending departure.

The district has advertised Creech’s position, seeking “a progressive, innovative instructional leader” with “excellent communication skills, a strong commitment for high quality teaching and learning and the ability to balance the needs of students, staff, families, and community stakeholders.”

Ideal candidates also must have “a collaborative approach to leadership, a clear sense of vision, and a desire to contribute to a dynamic school and district leadership team.” The application deadline is Monday.

The vote on whether to hold a special election could be the first of many challenges facing the board with fewer members.

Starr and others urged town voters to focus on and support the proposed $50.3 million school budget for 2018-19 that’s up for a validation vote on June 12.

Scarborough voters have rejected the first draft of school budgets several times in recent years, including the 2017-18 budget, which took two rewrites and three votes to pass.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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