2019-02-08 / Letters

Board’s actions appear underhanded

To the editor,

I am writing in response to the RSU 21 school board’s recent actions regarding Kennebunk High School Principal Sue Cressey. The board had promised that, if they voted to accept Superintendent Kathryn Hawes’ recommendation that Cressey’s contract not be renewed, they would make Dr. Hawes’ reasoning public.

Otherwise, Dr. Hawes’ reasons for not renewing Mrs. Cressey’s contract would remain confidential. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the board can’t seem to even abide by the spirit of its own promises. Instead, they took the cowardly and underhanded route of renewing Cressey’s contract for one year, thereby not requiring them to release Hawes’ reasons for terminating Cressey while also, ultimately, satisfying Hawes that Cressey’s remaining time in the district would be short.

Reportedly, Cressey asked for two more years instead of just one. Anyone planning for retirement or who knows someone planning for retirement knows that an extra one or two years in the workforce can make an enormous difference, especially considering Social Security and Medicare eligibility requirements.

I don’t know if Cressey’s request for two years was based on these kinds of considerations, but given that she made the offer, she clearly felt comfortable leaving in two year’s time.

Thus the board’s actions, likely spurred on by Hawes who seems to run the board, looks not just underhanded and cowardly, but also spiteful and mean-spirited (behavior that is quite common under Hawes’ leadership). This is especially true given board member Rachel Phipps’ comments to the Coast Star that indicated that the decision to force Cressey out was not related to performance.

This is indeed troubling. We, as taxpayers and parents, expect Hawes and the board to make decisions based on performance and qualifications. Period.

As an educator, I understand that there are nuances within those categories, but it seems that extending Cressey’s contract by one year instead of two only puts her in an impossible situation next year.

How is she to effectively run the school knowing that she is not leaving on her own terms?

This incident is, unfortunately, only the latest in a string of such incidents. By my count, at least six employees of the district have been forced out in recent years without being afforded due process.

While there may have been good reasons to terminate some of them, the manner in which each termination was handled was underhanded and cowardly. During last year’s fiasco surrounding former theater manager Michael Herman, the board repeatedly maintained that they did not get involved in employment matters aside from hiring and firing the superintendent.

Yet, here they are doing exactly what they repeatedly claimed wasn’t their job. It seems that the board’s job is to protect Hawes.

Herman (and the five others) did not, apparently, pose as large a threat in their minds as Cressey.

Otherwise, the board appears to have entirely abnegated its duties (they have, for example, shown zero interest in resolving a rather large and troubling accounting error that I brought to their attention last spring).

Hawes works for the board, not the other way around. And while the board may be a governing body and not a representative one, they are still elected to their positions and can be replaced.

Ian Durham

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