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Posted on Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor Pioneer High Principal Michael White called to active duty in Army Reserves

By David Jesse


Pioneer High School Principal Michael White stands in the school gymnasium. He leaves for active duty at the end of the month.

Angela Cesere |

As he walked the hallways on a recent day, Pioneer High School Principal Michael White was stopped by several members of his staff.

They didn’t lobby for new books or chat about a student. Instead, they offered good luck wishes and told White they hope to see him soon.

But they’re not sure when they will.

At the end of the month, White is leaving the Ann Arbor high school to head to Fort Benning, Ga., to begin a scheduled 12- to 18-month deployment in the U.S. Army Reserves. However, he says there’s a good chance he could be gone for two years.

White currently serves as a drill sergeant with the 3/330th Infantry Battalion, 4th Brigade. He’ll spend the first chunk of his time at Fort Benning, training infantry soldiers for combat. Then he could be shipped to Iraq or Afghanistan to train Iraqi or Afghani troops.


Principal Michael White stands by a set of lockers at Pioneer High.

Angela Cesere |

“I love the military,” he said. “One of the most patriotic things you can do in this country is to be in the military.”

Ann Arbor parent Terry Johns said he thinks it’s great White is serving.

“It’s a good example for kids that being in the military is a good option,” he said. “I hope he’s safe there. He’s done a good job turning Pioneer around.”

This is White’s second time around in the military.

After college, he served from 1982 to 1986 in the U.S. Rangers as part of a special operations unit. He was then in the reserves until 1993.

White left the reserves when he and his wife began having children, and he concentrated on his career as an educator.

He rejoined in 2006, after a trip to a military base with his sons, who were then juniors in high school.

It didn’t pique their interest in the military. But it did for White.

“I was extremely excited,” he said. “(My wife) agreed I could go talk about it (with a recruiter).”

Taking advantage of a program for people over 40 to join, White signed on. He turns 50 in July.

A runner who kept in shape with daily 6- to 10-mile runs, White didn’t have a problem meeting the physical requirements.

“It allows me to feel like I’m contributing to this country,” White said. “Not that I don’t here (at Pioneer), but this is different.”

White became principal of Pioneer at the start of the 2007-08 school year, not long after re-enlisting.

“The first year was very difficult to balance the two,” he said. “I really have to balance my demeanor here and there. My personality as a military person does blend in here, but also my personality as an educator blends in there.”

While he’s gone, assistant principal Tamber Woodworth will take over as the principal. She’s been working with White this school year to gradually assume more responsibility for running the school.

White will be in the school until Jan. 29.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, graduate from college and join the military,” he said. “I’ve done all three, but not in the order people normally do it.”

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.


don sleeman

Sun, Jan 24, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

I have taught and coached for 42 years at Pioneer and Michael White, who I have known since he competed against us while a student at Jackson High, is the best principal I have worked with in those 42 years. As an Air Force vet I understand very well his feeling about serving in the military. Go there, do it, and come back to doing it here.


Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : midnight

Sorry for being selfish but I'm sorry to see him go. My son has only had wonderful things to say about Mr. White at Pioneer. He's made a remarkable contribution and it's visible in many ways. I only hope he's back quickly and safely.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

Godspeed Mr. White. Thank you for your service to this country.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.

Actually, those that oppose war here are looking out for nobody but themselves, and to further their agenda(s). This is a 'volunteer' Army and each recruit is made well aware that they may be called to serve when they enlist. Although most would probably prefer not to go, it was their choice. What these Heroes now need is support from the homefront rather than political spew. Mr. White is doing something he chose to do. There are other forums available for the anti-war front to debate your politics and utter your various conspiracy theories until you can't see straight. Some class should be shown towards Mr. White and his FAMILY via well-wishes, this article is not the place for rhetoric and "deliberately unpatriotic" rants (a direct quote from early post). My apologies to Mr. White. Again, Godspeed.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

Godspeed Mr. White. Please don't let these distractors concern you. You are admired and we will be here to welcome you back.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

IF war isn't politics I don't know what is. A wonderful example might also have been for him to refuse to go, as many american soldiers have...some are in jail right now, some are in exile, some are touring the country organizing to stop these criminal wars. Mr White demonstrates a sacrifice that most feel is for the good of all. It's a sacrifice, to be sure. For the good of all? That's debatable. That debate IS for the good of all, so don't ignore it just to idolize a man. We need money for jobs and education, not for war and occupations. Bring Mr White & all the soldiers home now!!


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:54 a.m.

Get off the politics,and wish this man God speed.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 12:45 p.m.

Hats off to Mr. White for making an amazing contribution to Ann Arbor and to our country. The students couldn't have a better example. I also have to say that I met Mr. White this past summer at a friend's summer BBQ. It blows my mind that he's almost 50. I thought he was in his early 30s. The way he has taken care of himself humbles me almost as much as his personal sacrifices for the nation.

Old Salt

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

As a WW II Veteran I have a question. When Army reservests are called up to active duty and must leave their position as Michael White will for 18 to 24 months must he and his family live on Army pay or does the United States Army make up the difference between his Army pay and hia income as a school principal? I certainly hope so. Thousands of reservests have been called to active duty. God Bless you Michael White and all who served our country


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

Please folks, let us not turn this forum into another war debate. This man knew when he signed on the dotted line there might be a chance he was called up. He is doing what he feels is right for him and his family. Let's congratulate him on being a man first and wish him well. He needs our support now much more than he needs our opinions.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

Thank you, Mr White, for your service. You are doing something that I regret not doing myself. Hopefully, in addition to the good you are doing for our country, your service in the reserves WILL be educational - perhaps it will educate some of the residents of the Peoples Republic of Ann Arbor about the real world. Or, I hope they will at least realize that your service, and that of so many others as selfless as yourself, is what enables then to live in their fictitious "Bush lied" and "no war for oil" world. Safety and strength to you always.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 9:06 a.m.

Thank you for your service Mr. White. You are an example of a true American. We look forward to your safe return.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 6:25 p.m.

I don't believe in war, but I do believe in you and your contributions. Your family at home, school and Ann Arbor wish you a safe tour and return.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

So, most of the federal reserves go to war and the pentagon. Now, they're just reaching in and taking talented staff members directly out of the schools. What's next, the draft? Mr White said his military service is a different kind of contribution to "the country" than working for education. That's for sure! The latter is useful and productive. How about: money for jobs and education not for war and occupations? Or, lower the voting age to 16? Okay, end of my truly, deliberately "unpatriotic" rant. I hope Mr White is safe.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Best wishes, Mr. White! Thank you for your compassion and attention to students at Pioneer. We'll all better for your being there.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 9:38 a.m.

Mr. White has focused on student achievement at Pioneer and personally talks to each student who does not do her/his homework, makes sure that the school is safe and encourages those who work at the school to get their jobs done, rather than spending time on discipline and petty concerns. Statistics show the school has improved in both teacher and student achievement during his tenure according to information presented at student meetings. Students say he spends most of the day walking into classrooms and watching lessons in an informal way so that students and teachers can have positive interactions with him and know that he cares. He is an excellent example of what an educator should be.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

What a fine example for students and Americans in general. This educated gentleman sees fit to give back to this country when so many do not. He has my utmost respect and best wishes for him and his family.