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Posted on Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 6:04 a.m.

Former Willow Run building supervisor files lawsuit, says he was harassed and fired for being white

By David Jesse

Former Willow Run Superintendent Doris Hope-Jackson forced district building and grounds supervisor Todd LaPrairie to work in an unheated building with no working bathrooms or water as part of an attempt to rid her administration of white men, LaPrairie alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.

“(LaPrairie’s) reassignment and eventual termination by Dr. Hope-Jackson were both motivated by race,” the suit says. “Dr. Hope-Jackson also removed and/or pushed out other white employees from their positions with the Willow Run school district and created a hostile working environment for employees based on race.”

LaPrairie is white. Hope-Jackson is black.


Todd LaPrairie says he was reassigned to shuttered Thurston Elementary School.

Melanie Maxwell |

The lawsuit names both Hope-Jackson and the school district as defendants. Hope-Jackson didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Hope-Jackson and the current administration spent all of Wednesday at Willow Run High School for due process hearings in which Hope-Jackson is charged with multiple violations of district policies and her contract.

The school board is attempting to fire her for, among other things, allegedly misappropriating district and federal funds. She was demoted in December and has been on paid administrative leave since February. LaPrairie earlier testified during the closed hearings, which are scheduled to last until the end of the month.

Hope-Jackson has sued the district, alleging she is being fired in retaliation for reporting a confrontation between herself and board President Sheri Washington to police. Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputies took an informational report, but deemed the allegations non-criminal and closed the case, police records show.

Washington said she hasn’t seen the lawsuit and hadn’t been aware it was filed until a reporter requested comment. She declined to say whether she believes LaPrairie was fired because he’s white, citing the ongoing hearings against Hope-Jackson and the multiple lawsuits.

“I know Todd was a good person,” she said. “He knew how to do his job. He knew Willow Run. He had respect from other employees. You took a 30-year veteran and reassigned his duties to a green rookie.”

Washington said she and fellow board members talked after LaPrairie was fired about the slip in maintenance at the buildings, including grass that wasn’t mowed and snow that wasn’t removed over the winter.

LaPrairie’s attorney, Jennifer Salvatore, said he has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and retirement because of his firing in 2009. She said the date of his firing made him ineligible for an early retirement incentive from the state.

“He has been a loyal Willow Run employee for 30 years and doesn’t want to see the district hurt anymore,” she said. “All he is asking is that this injustice is rectified.”

Parent Malek Lockwood, who had two sons graduate from Willow Run and has a child currently in the district, called it “one more example of how (Hope-Jackson) ruined this district.”

“The district is broke and now we’re going to lose this case and have to pay money we don’t even have,” Lockwood said.

The allegations

LaPrairie spent the first 20 years of his Willow Run career working in a variety of positions in the maintenance department before becoming interim supervisor of transportation in January 1998. He was promoted to the position of supervisor of buildings and grounds in September 1998.

LaPrairie got good marks from five different superintendents and business managers over the years, he said in his lawsuit, including one in June 2007 from then-Superintendent Ron Ciranna.

But that began to change in the fall of 2007 when the district hired Hope-Jackson, LaPrairie alleges in his suit.


The lawsuit accuses Hope-Jackson of harassing, scrutinizing, and treating LaPrairie and other white employees poorly.

“Within a year of her coming to the district, she had pushed out or fired three of the four white men on the administrative council,” the lawsuit says. “When (LaPrairie) refused to resign his position, Dr. Hope-Jackson engaged in a campaign to drive him out of his job.”

In April 2008, Hope-Jackson evaluated LaPrairie as “sub-par,” the suit says.

“One of the reasons cited by Dr. Jackson is that the hot water did not reach the faucet quickly enough in the administration building,” according to the lawsuit.

Later that year, LaPrairie took time off under the Family Medical Leave Act for shoulder surgery. When he returned on Oct. 28, 2008, he was told his job was eliminated, and he received a “special assignment” in Thurston Elementary School, a closed building with no heat, water or bathroom facilities, the lawsuit says.

From December 2008 until mid-April 2009, LaPrairie’s work consisted of organizing and taking inventory of furniture and supplies, distributing the supplies to teachers and eventually arranging for the remainder of the supplies to be auctioned off.

On June 30, 2009, LaPrairie was terminated and was told by Hope-Jackson that his position was eliminated, the lawsuit says.

“In fact, his position was not eliminated,” according to the suit. “Rather, (LaPrairie’s) responsibilities as supervisor of buildings and grounds were given to a less qualified, African-American male.”

And LaPrairie was far from the only white Willow Run employee to suffer racial discrimination at the hands of Hope-Jackson, his suit alleges.

He names eight other employees he says were discriminated against. In several of the cases, the lawsuit alleges, white employees were demoted and replaced by less qualified black employees or were treated unfairly by Hope-Jackson.

Examples alleged in the lawsuit included a school nurse who quit, a teacher who was demoted and various administrative assistants who were written up.

The district

In addition to suing Hope-Jackson personally, the lawsuit names the school district, asserting that it should have known Hope-Jackson was engaging in “racial discrimination, FMLA retaliation and harassment of employees.”

LaPrairie’s lawsuit accuses the district of failing to properly investigate and address a pattern of discipline and terminations that suggested illegal discrimination and harassment.

Washington carefully sidestepped placing direct blame on Hope-Jackson for the situation, but said someone - perhaps even the school board - should have listened to LaPrairie and acted.

“For his cries to go unheard is poor district management. This is the fallout,” Washington said. “I knew this day would come.”

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



Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

Heard that Re. Jackson was in Wayne last week. Didn't see a rally for the plight of an individual being harrassed because of race. That guy at Willow Run was white. Enough said.


Mon, Aug 23, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

Todd LaPrairie was always a professional over the 25 years I knew him, back when there was WR Pride abounding throughout the entire Ypsilanti community. It is so sad to see a great academic community fall apart under dictator-like leadership that cost WR so many good employees, students, parents, and community supporters. I wish no more harm to WRCS, however, I fully support Todd LaPrairie getting back his well deserved and earned restitution. Too bad y others did not file suit also as there are many more who have a legitimate case. Best wishes,Todd


Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

@Albert: Jesse nor Al would show of this event because there are no cameras.


Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 12:49 a.m.

I attended Willow Run Schools from 1965 until 1971. The elementary schools were run well at the time. However, from middle school through high school the education was less than steller. My father who was a minister in the community made several visits to the high school in an attempt to locate a class where I could learn geometry. At the time the class was taught by an alcoholic whose teaching method was to write the answers to any problems on the board. Kids played cards during the class while the teacher sat at his desk in a drunken stupor. This is just one antedote from my life. I'm sure many others could offer similar stories. In those days, parents who had the financial resources (which my folks did not have then) moved their kids to schools outside the district. Fortunately for me my father took a pastorate in Alma. I learned more in the one year (my senior year) there than the 3 years at WRHS. If a community wants a good education for their children, they must be proactive and demand it. If the board members and administration are not cutting it, they should be relieved of their posts ASAP. it's nearly impossible nowadays to make a living with only a high school education.

Informed and Educated

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

Excellent letter Shela.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

i could be wrong, albert, but i interpreted AnnouncerMan's comments as pro-building supervisor. i think they were just pointing out that it is unwise for the school board to make public proclamations during a lawsuit. I could be wrong though. This man should get his job back if he so chooses and be reimbursed for all that he has lost, imho.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 7:54 a.m.

@The AnnouncerMan007. You are amazingly unaware of having resposibilities to a family and/or household? Did you consider how the man would pay his bills? Maybe your independently wealthy, but since the man wants his retirement, I don't beleive he is..... really, who is the naive one here. Also, If the roles were reversed in this situation, we would inundated with lectures from Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton regarding the evils of slavery and discrimination on the national news and calling for everyone involved to be fired. The track record for our society shows the firings would happen post haste.......How long will this man wait for justice and peace of mind for himself?

Monica R-W

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:46 a.m.

The problem with Willow Run Community Schools is the people that are in charge of the district-i.e.-the School Board. They hired the Doris-Jackson, regardless of the various warning incidents at her previous school districts. They should be terminated by the voters of the voters of the Willow Run Community.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:23 p.m.

Takes place more then you could guess.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 6:04 p.m.

This school district should be disbanded. As it is already on life support, the time has come to pull the plug!


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 5:14 p.m.

Don't be surprised to see Ms. Hope-Jackson hired by the Ann Arbor Public Schools as a building principal or some kind of "assistant superintendent," or better yet, as a highly paid "consultant" for"diversity" issues. She's right up their alley.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

@Eddie Murrow Why is it you think that, if one is not on a school board, one is not qualified to level any criticism against anything having to do with a school system. I have seen you imply or outright state this before. I'm sure I am not alone in rejecting your premise. Look at these posts. Among them are people who have worked with the plaintiff, have also experienced the racism of blacks against whites (which I agree should not be called "reverse discrimination", @Blue Marker, for the very reason you cite), and/or who have professional experience that is relevant. Your blanket statement lumping them all together as hypocrites with illegitimate comments is offensive and egotistical.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 3:36 p.m.

I'll bet there will be some parents in Ann Arbor who will be following the results of this lawsuit very closely. I can't imagine what the Willow Run parents must have endured during this woman's reign.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 3:18 p.m.

Why would they get rid of the white guy? This isn't Detroit.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 2:59 p.m.

Don't know the District or the people involved, but as an attorney--this looks like a real good suit. The insurance company should get their checkbook ready. And the District should get ready for the ins. company to argue this type of conduct isn't covered by the policy.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 12:41 p.m.

I am a 1999 alumnus. Mr. LaPrairie may indeed win his lawsuit, but I doubt he will get any cash. WRPSD is for all intents and purposes depopulated and defunded. The high school is shiny and new, and nobody attends it. Well, all right... no one that can escape attends it. We are witnessing the death of a once proud school district. Quite frankly, within a few years a petition will be passed about to dissolve the board and give the assets of WRPSD to WISD, Lincoln, or AAPSD. Have any of you been to West Willow? Fed Ex and Kalitta are buying empty houses at fire sale prices. Willow Run Airport is going to expand as part of the Aerotropolis project. Stop being angry at the board. Their time is up.

ronn oneal

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

So will this Hope-Jackson be charged as a hate crime? Do not start to think that this the frame of mind that all african-americans think. I believe that every person should be judged on the way they treat and respect fellow humans.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

Willow Run Needs a new School Board President. She just for sure lost this lawsuit for Willow Run. No matter what her thoughts are or feelings toward Hope-Jackson, she should have remained quiet. I hope that her board address this matter with her by asking her to step aside.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

this strory makes you want to run out and buy a home in the Willow Run District so your kids can benefit from this Mecca of higher learning....NOT! Those kids and families deserve better Shame on the school board and leadership in that district! The state should shut them down and allow families to choose another district for children.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

Willow Run School District deserves its own reality t.v. show.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

This also sounds like several employees had their civil rights violated. A federal investigation seems appropiate.

Blue Marker

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

I hate the team "reverse discrimination". It suggests that discrimination has a typical direction and in this case that direction has been reversed. Discrimination goes in all directions equally. It's done by men and women of all colors all the time.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 11:19 a.m.

Why is it I always feel the need to take a shower after reading about Willow Run Schools? Good luck Mr. LaPrairie, I hope you win big time.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 10:46 a.m.

Step up to the plate hire him back right now! Give this man his job back, the recall all board members, they tolerated this behavior!


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

Yes, Ann Arbor needs to pay attention to this as well!

Jay Allen

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 9:38 a.m.

@Shela L. Moore. WOW!!! Awesome! That was well thought out and well written. I hope you get answers to your many questions that you deserve!


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

Read the lawsuit...this is not the first time she has been sued and fired for discrimination and breaking the law. She has a long history of campaigning against white people. Why was she hired in the first place???


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 9:33 a.m.

I hope Todd wins to draw light on reverse discrimination. As someone else stated, Ann Arbor Public Schools could be next.

Shela Moore

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

Willow Run Community Schools Attn: Board of Education RE: Laconda Hicks & Doris-Hope Jacksons Terminations, Related Lawsuits Dear Board of Education: Although I find it an unpleasant task, I feel that I must bring to your attention a problem that myself and several other parents, alumni and taxpaying community members have with the current state of affairs of Willow Run Community Schools. The most pressing issue is the appearance of continued incompetence that the Board of Education has displayed with regards to its baby steps towards releasing Laconda Hicks & Doris Hope-Jackson from employment with the district and then addressing the issues of the current lawsuits arising from their tenure. During the most recent Board elections it was a widely addressed fact that there was tension on the Board with then Superintendent Doris Hope-Jackson. The entire focus of that election was to bring new blood and vigor to the Board in order to give a more oppositional presence to the faction on the Board that clearly supported Doris Hope-Jackson and her decisions. This tension was due to destructive decisions she made unilaterally without the benefit of the Board of Education, district, teachers, staff and most importantly the children being kept in the forefront. The Board now has a more diverse group of community representatives, alumni and parents who have a vested interest in the school district, so make the changes necessary to move past this persons destruction. Do what is necessary with regards to hearings, but there must be an end in sight and soon. After the hearings for Laconda Hicks were concluded, was that information forwarded to the police for their own investigation? In my opinion, with such blatant evidence as published in the news, criminal charges of fraud or at the very least felony embezzlement should be in place? Or was this a means of publicly humiliating Ms. Hicks for some egotistical, vengeful gain of the Board of Education? How does that benefit the children and taxpayers of Willow Run Community Schools? During your meetings, it was discovered and published in the Ann Arbor News that district time and district and federal funds were misappropriated. These funds must be paid back to the children and tax payers of Willow Run Community Schools. When will this occur? Furthermore, was there a budget and a timeline setup for these hearings? Have you met or exceeded that timeframe and/or budget and by how much? What will or have the children of WRCS lost in programming and/or supplies due to this elongated process? With regards to the current hearings for Doris Hope-Jackson, I ask the same questions. Are these hearings a means to disparage Doris Hope-Jacksons already pitiful reputation by kicking her publicly while shes already obviously down or is there a substantive goal to be met at the end of these hearings? When or will she be terminated? When is the projected end date for the hearings? What is the expected result? Will the evidence discovered by the Board of Education be supplied to the local police to review for their own investigative purposes into potential criminal activity, i.e., civil rights/racial discrimination, embezzlement, fraud, harassment, etc.? Due process has been served. The simple act of having the hearings has satisfied this requirement, now a decision needs to be made or this was all a waste of time, energy, and valuable, irreplaceable resources that could have been applied elsewhere in the district. There was much applause and patting on the back for the Board of Education in the new when it was expressed that Dr. Joe, Youssef Yomtoob would be brought back to the school district on a consultant basis. What is his exact position, duties and description? Is there a monthly reporting of his duties? What is the term of his consultant contract? Are there any duties that intersect with other members of the Board of Education or Administrative staff that could have been completed without the additional fiscal expense of Dr. Joes contract? Where were the funds for his salary allocated in the budget? Again, I ask what the students will lose in programming and/or supplies due to this expense. What has he brought to the table at this point, other than a positive remembrance of past relationship ties to the community? Since Ms. Lisiscki accepted the Interim Superintendent appointment, could some of these tasks be completed by her in the short term? Naturally, I do not want to cause trouble for the district that helped make me who I am today. However, I think its important to see how you are being perceived from the community you were elected to serve during this process. I am sure you will understand my points, and I hope that the Board of Education will internalize the thoughts behind this letter, expedite these hearings, wipe the slate clean and apply a more thorough and efficient due diligence process to a search for a new, fully qualified and capable Superintendent. Sincerely, Shela L. Moore, WRCS Alumnus 1995 & Parent

Jay Allen

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

@Cash, your post is dead on. Why is anyone talking? This just goes to show the lack of professionalism that has been laid out by others here in this thread. Here is the part that gets me. Now PLEASE, take RACE out of it as I do not what happened in regards to RACE. But if the following is true, this is enough to warrant some type of litigation: "to work in an unheated building with no working bathrooms or water" Is anyone this naive in today's society? [shaking head]et al, off course erm's ghost is in here.......


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

Wow this is crazy!!! Every since shes been in office things have been crazy!! Our willow run community needs to wake up! I graduated from willow run high school and have also lived in the community and i have watched this lady manipulate and push people around and out of there jobs!! We have lost a great Athletic director which was not allowed to speak up and run our programs!! We have also lost great basketball coaches from the community that care about our kids but were not given the opportunity to coach due to this lady and the way things were handled!! Its time we take our schools and communties back!!!!!!


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

This is my first comment on, but this story motivated me to join in order to comment. Being a former Willow Run employee for 16 years, these stories always catch my eye. I worked with Mr. LaPrairie for years. He was well-liked by employees, a reliable and hard-working man. I've been gone from the district now for 15+ years, but it's still sad to sit back and watch what is happening there. So many mistakes have been made by a lot of people in authority. I could cite other "personnel" screw-ups in the past, but to do so would serve no purpose now. To deprive someone of their retirement is unconscionable. I wish Todd well. I think he has a good case and a good chance of winning.

Out soon

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

Todd LaPrairi, I hope you win this suit! You are correct in stating you were, "far from the only white Willow Run employee to suffer racial discrimination at the hands of Hope-Jackson". I know of support staff at the middle school who were also treated this way for being white and it was one of the reasons our daughter does not go to Willow Run any longer!!!!! Good Luck!


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

pay attention AAPS, this could be you soon.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

The lesson here is that school districts should outsource everything. In that environment, you never have to worry about backlash because people feel mistreated. Whether the allegations are true or not, this is another perfect example of why the way schools are run is a miserable failure.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:45 a.m.

One has to wonder what else will surface from the Hope-Jackson disaster. If the school board is alleging she misappropriated federal funds, are the feds investigating that? Are any police agencies looking into even some of the allegations made against her? There have been a lot of good people victimized by Hope-Jackson's administration. Is any of this going to reach a resolution? Come on, already!

The Picker

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

The entire school board should be on trial (1 For hiring this incompetient that they knew came with this kind of baggage (2 For turning a blind eye to this criminal racists behavior. Shame on you all!


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

And the beat goes on...


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:07 a.m.

Good for you Todd! I hope you win.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

I don't know folks. Not to put the race card in play, but the Principal at Dicken (African American) in Ann Arbor still has his job after violating state laws along the way. Could she get away with it as well if the claims are true? Interesting to see how this plays out. What if roles/races were reversed?

The Black Stallion3

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 5:42 a.m.

This man will win this law suite with no problem. You can not treat people this way and expect to get away with it. The district will pay dearly for this.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 5:31 a.m.

Anyone on the school board should not be talking to the media when a lawsuit against the district has been filed, much less making statements that assist the attorney suing the district. This is the president of the school board?? Basically saying the district is guilty as charged! Good Lord. Stop embarrassing us, the taxpayers of the district.