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Portland, ME School Superintendent Suzanne Lukas' Job In Jeopardy

Superintendent of Portland, Maine schools raised the ire of a lot of students and their families a couple weeks ago when she denied Justin Denney his diploma because he blew his mom a kiss as he crossed the stage.

"There's no fooling around up here," she told Denney, and sent him back to his seat empty-handed. She also cracked down on students who inflated some beach balls and a giant rubber duck, and one student was nearly arrested.

Needless to say, a lot of people were upset at the way Lukas handled the graduation at Bonney Eagle High School that day, and many angry reactions followed.

In my column from June 18, I said, "(I)f I were a betting man, I would wager Superintendent Lukas won't be available to distribute diplomas next year or any year after that."

It looks like I may be proved right. In a story on, Ben Bragdon says that Lukas' future is on the line. The school board voted this past Monday to set a meeting to evaluate her performance.

Lukas has been the superintendent in School Administrative District (SAD) 6 since 2004, and has just finished the first year of a five-year contract that paid her $118,000.

Apparently, she was widely sought after too.

"We must have interviewed three or four dozen people in Kennebunk, and there was unanimous support for Suzanne's abilities, her intelligence and her leadership. She was very highly thought of in Kennebunk," Bruce Avery, chairman of the search committee told the Lakes Region Weekly on June 11, 2004.

And now, thanks to a couple poor decisions on her part, her actions have become national news, she has been humiliated and embarrassed, and her career and future are in the hands of someone else with more power than her.

That just sounds so familiar. I can't quite put my finger on where I heard it though. . .

I've got mixed emotions in this story. On the one hand, Lukas was doing what she thought was right, and she could very well lose her job for it. On the other, she embarrassed students in front of an auditorium full of people and sent a few away empty-handed for very minor offenses.

While I love irony and poetic justice, I can't help but feel sorry for Lukas. Her entire career may come to a humiliating end because she's got control issues.

Maybe now she knows what she put her students through.

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  1. My+ son just went thru a very similar situation except it was a very red nuck high school dean of seniors at his high school and forunately he graduated but the dean has had her contract put up for review along with new principal of my son's former high school. When are are we going to get back to common sense anse sense ability.

  2. Erik Deckers This is a bet I would of taken from you. And still will since no evaluation has taken place as of yet. Mostly because you did not try and investigate the actual facts of the incident, instead you just researched articles about her hiring. It is purely a sensationalized headline, no irony or poetic justice. The student was flaunting some fake honor cords made by his MOM, not authorized or given to him by the school. Did you seriously think the diploma was denied for blowing a kiss to his mom? And the diploma was not denied, just the formal presentation at the ceremony. But the student refused to pick his diploma up at the school. The student then kept saying he had no diploma for over a week, while giving multiple interviews. Did you know the code stated that if a student did not get his diploma at the ceremony, it was to be picked up at the school the following Monday? The only humiliation is of the student by himself and his parents. Oh and there is signicant amounts of humiliation on those who got punk'd by Justin Denney and his family. It appears you are also a victim of Justin Denney. The majority of the people are still behind her. I think only 200 out of the 20,000 were at the meeting in support of the student

  3. It's a shame that those leading our children are frequently so intolerant and hidebound. What Superintendent Lucas did isn't grounds for dismissal, but it was still inappropriate and unfair. She owes that student an apology for her behavior. The bigger problem is that she doesn't see this fact. Her inability to admit a mistake and make amends is far more significant in my view. I wouldn't want someone like that in a position of authority over my children.

    As of mid-July, the board has endorsed the Superintendent's actions. No further evaluation of that event is planned.


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