Superintendent Julie Kukenberger speaks at a school board meeting. DEREK DAVIS/Portland Press Herald

SCARBOROUGH — Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger, who in two years on the job became a lightning rod for critics of school policies and administration, will step down when her contract expires in June.
Kukenberger announced her decision at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
She was hired in April 2016 after serving as an assistant superintendent in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
Kukenberger initially came under fire during school department budget discussions, and for her support of revised school start times  and proficiency-based education.
The criticism heightened after the resignation of Scarborough High School Principal David Creech last February. Creech, who opposed the start-time changes, later tried to rescind his resignation, was denied, and claimed Kukenberger had forced him to step down for reasons still unknown to the public.
In March, nearly 70 percent of the Scarborough Education Association voted no confidence in the School Board and Kukenberger. Soon after the union vote, a petition drive started by a group called Road to Renewal ended in the recall of three board members: Jodi Shea, Cari Lyford and Donna Beeley.
During the recall campaign, police in April investigated threatening letters sent to Kukenberger and her family.
Kukenberger’s contract was an issue in the campaign leading up to the Nov. 6 School Board election, when four of the School Board’s five new members were supported by Road to Renewal. Several said her contract would be a primary concern for the new board.
In her statement to the board Thursday, Kukenberger said, “I would be remiss not to mention the contention that has gone into this school board election and the recall this past spring. One of the issues that have been repeatedly raised is my contract.
“Missing in the conversation has been if I would be interested in staying past June. Given the challenges this board faces and the need to focus 100 (percent) of their time on doing what is right for our children, I want to take this issue off the table,” she continued. “So to be clear, I will not be seeking a new contract or an extension in any form from this board.”
Also on Thursday, the school board elected Leanne Kazilionis chairman for 2019. Newly elected board member Nicholas Gill was appointed vice chairman during his first meeting on the panel.
Kazilionis is in the second year of a three-year term.
“I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with the entire team and superintendent,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us … (and) I’m grateful for the confidence the team has in me.”

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