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Posted on Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Trustee's request to review football brawl investigative materials prompts spirited discussion

By Danielle Arndt

An Ann Arbor school board member still has questions she would like addressed about how the district handled the Pioneer-Huron football brawl this fall.

Trustee Simone Lightfoot asked to review the investigative materials and video footage that Ann Arbor Public Schools officials used to determine how to discipline the adults and students involved in the Oct. 12 on-field fight.


Ann Arbor school board Trustee Simone Lightfoot would like to discuss the Huron-Pioneer football brawl investigation in more detail with district administration. file photo

"When one of our babies, our students is thrown into the legal system as a result of something that happened in our district, on our grounds, I think we have a responsibility to do our due diligence," Lightfoot said at a school board meeting Wednesday night.

"... Every picture we saw showed a bunch of adults. And in the end, it is one child, one senior, who was on his way out, who has this outcome."

Pioneer High School student Bashir Traevon Garain, 18, was charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, which are felonies, and two counts of assault and battery, which are misdemeanors, for his alleged part in the brawl.

Lightfoot said she realizes the legal process is outside of the district's purview, but she wants to make sure the actions AAPS took with regards to coach and student discipline were equitable.

A post-game argument between Huron coach Cory Gildersleeve and Pioneer coach Paul Test led to the massive fight in October. Both coaches received one-game suspensions from the district. Pioneer defensive coordinator Vince Wortmann, who shoved Gildersleeve and started the physical altercation, was fired as a result of his actions.

Two students under 18 also are expected to be charged in juvenile court with two counts of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder, a felony, and two counts each of assault and battery, a misdemeanor.


Ann Arbor Superintendent Patricia Green reads aloud a story about pajamas to students at Logan Elementary last December. Green and school board Trustee Simone Lightfoot had a testy engage at Wednesday's board meeting. | Melanie Maxwell

At Wednesday's meeting, Lightfoot said she is not satisfied with the amount of information the school board has received about the brawl and the subsequent investigation. She pushed for more transparency, leading to a spirited exchange with Superintendent Patricia Green.

"Like how many people were involved in this thing?" Lightfoot said. "How many of us actually know the answer to that?" she asked her fellow trustees. She said she finds out more information in the media than from the district.

Lightfoot requested that an "update" on the outcomes of the investigation be scheduled for an upcoming board meeting and for an additional discussion to take place on the district's policies for handling these matters.

Lightfoot added she would like to revisit the brawl's discipline decisions now that the investigation is complete and it is out of the district's hands.

But Green said there are limitations to what can be shared publicly.

Lightfoot asked Green what it means, then, when the media reports the investigation is complete.

"I'm not sure what the media means when the media reports that. I'm not telling them that," Green said Wednesday. "We're not continuing to investigate. If something were to come up (in the police or prosecutor's investigation) that we did not know in our investigation ... that would become part of our record."

"This is getting to be confusing," Lightfoot said, adding she just wanted a simple yes or no. "I'm not talking about the police. I am so clear..."

Green said the Ann Arbor Police Department had to subpoena the district's videos from the brawl and other investigative materials it desired to use in its legal investigation.

Lightfoot asked what kind of a time frame the administration would need to gather the materials and make them available to view.

"I would say, if you can get in touch with me, so I can get in to the right people … it's not just sitting in my office. I'm going to need some time to organize it," Green said.

Lightfoot said she doesn't want the "run around" and she is trying to be courteous to administration and find out how long they need to pull the materials together for review. She said she just wants to know how long it might take — "A week? Two?"

"If you want it in a week, I'll put everything on the side and … give it to you in a week," Green fired back.

Board President Deb Mexicotte jumped in and suggested the materials be made available after the holidays and the subject of the brawl was dropped.

Earlier in the conversation, the board agreed to discuss the brawl as a sort of case study on student discipline policies at its Jan. 23 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Lightfoot did not want to limit the committee discussion to only student discipline, however. She also wanted to discuss the coach discipline piece and policies for discipline investigations in general, she said.

"I also want to know about the policy that came in around the incident itself, … how the staff worked on this and the policies and considerations that were taken, what led to our decision," Lightfoot said.

But other board members were not in favor of this, noting the policies already had been discussed after a presentation that took place at the Nov. 14 Committee of the Whole meeting.

On Nov. 14, the athletic directors from Ann Arbor's three comprehensive high schools talked about the athletic codes, policies and procedures that regulate coach and athlete behaviors in the district.

During the meeting, board members made several suggestions to administration for improving these policies, including adding language to ensure suspended coaches do not practice with their teams.


From left: Ann Arbor school board trustees Andy Thomas, Christine Stead and Glenn Nelson at a past meeting. At Wednesday's meeting, not all board members agreed with Trustee Simone Lightfoot's hot pursuit of more information on the Huron-Pioneer football brawl investigation. file photo

Board members expressed a plethora of opinions about what could have been done differently during that discussion, Secretary Andy Thomas said at the meeting Wednesday night.

"We turned all that over to administration with the intent that, at some point, there'd be a review of the supporting regulations. I don't think we're at the point where administration is ready to bring that forward," Thomas said.

Board members also pointed out that Lightfoot had to miss part of the Nov. 14 meeting and came in halfway through the athletic directors' discussion.

Trustee Glenn Nelson told Friday he thought another talk about the district's adult policies would be "plowing the same ground twice."

"I think a rereview so quickly of the adult (discipline) is letting this take over our agenda more than it should," Nelson said. "We have a very full agenda around educational programming and budgeting."

Nelson said he understands Lightfoot's desire to know more about this topic and encouraged her to continue her exploration. He said he personally has no desire to review the investigative materials.

"But I hope that kind of diversity of interest strengthens us (as a board)," Nelson said. "I'm happy when a trustee does want to look into things more. And I want to know about it when they find something. But I don't feel like we all have to do those sort of 'deep dives' on every subject."

During the meeting Wednesday, Lightfoot said she plans to sit and review all of the investigative materials and she has no problem asking questions at that time, "But I want us to be very public about this issue."

At the very least, Lightfoot said she would like an update about the professional development the athletic directors recommended for coaches in the wake of the brawl. She said funding for this concerns her because the board has been told there is not enough money to provide adequate professional development for teachers.

In an interview Thursday, Lightfoot told she does not feel like she is interjecting herself into personnel or administrative matters by having these expectations for reviewing what happened. She said board members owe it to their constituents to have the same amount of information as the media and others in the public when something tragic like this happens. And she said it should be the administration's duty to keep them informed.

"The idea that the superintendent can bring (this topic) back at her will is completely unacceptable to me," Lightfoot said Thursday. "We have a new superintendent, a new cabinet and new policies that have been put into place. This would be how we make sure all of this newness is passing the muster." requested to speak with Green about the football brawl investigation and about the conversation that took place during Wednesday's board meeting. Green declined to speak with a reporter, and AAPS Communications Director Liz Margolis issued the following statement instead:

"The district's response to the conversation at the board meeting this past Wednesday is that we always welcome Trustees to come in and meet with staff and to view documents they are interested in. We will be fulfilling the recent request from a few Trustees to view the documents from the Huron/Pioneer Football incident."

Nelson said Friday he definitely felt the "intensity and the electricity go up for a short bit" during Wednesday's meeting. He said he wasn't sure what to make of it, but was happy to see it resolved.

Trustee Susan Baskett said Thursday she hopes it was just the long meeting and the late hour that led to the frustrations at the board table.

Baskett also has questions about the way the football brawl investigation was handled and the equity of the discipline. She said she plans to review the investigative materials as well.

Lightfoot added she has concerns about Green's attitude toward her personally and about her reluctance to make the materials available. Lightfoot said she sees a pattern in Green's demeanor "anytime we're trying to do our due diligence; it's seen as micromanaging."

"Dr. Green will write requests down from some trustees and not pick up a pen with other trustees," Lightfoot said Thursday. "... I've heard concerns from our community about her approach to communication and to experience it firsthand in a very public manner, it was disappointing. ... I think it's an indication of what some of our families experience.

"I want the public to know, I feel them when it comes to Dr. Green. It's on my radar."

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

The public has a right to know, Ms. Lightfoot has the right know, what is the secret here? Hand over the information and stop arguing about it. Are we hiding something?


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

Teachers and parents are saying that the way Trustee Lightfoot was treated by Super. Green is the way they too have been treated by her. This is something that the board should be very concerned about, and I hope the kinds of remarks described here will be included in the super's "need to improve" on her next evaluation. Why does she think she can treat our board members, families, and staff like this? Does the board think this cavalier behavior is acceptable?


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 11:14 p.m.

Well, I'm glad that finally someone on the board is getting a taste of what we're been subjected to in the classroom with Ms. Green. We (the teaching & site administration staff) cannot understand how someone so insulated from the day to day operations of schools, and someone so lacking in basic communication skills can be in the position for which she was hired. Like the saying goes: "we were here before she arrived, and we'll be here after she does her damage and then leaves." How many superintendents have fit into that statement? Answer: 4 of the last 5. AAPS has a very expensive and unfortunate habit of hiring superintendents who do damage and then leave town with their tails between their legs.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:03 a.m.

If the reporting in this article is correct, Green's response to what seems like a reasonable request is indeed troubling. Why the hostility and defensiveness? I can think of some poor excuses but no good reasons for Green's reaction. We expect our families and our board and staff to be treated with respect. This will not do.

Basic Bob

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:44 a.m.

The school board has been reluctant to direct the administration - they think of it as micro-managing. In this case, they have not criticized the superintendent or the people who work for her. They have asked for information that is pertinent to the image and legal obligations of the school district. The superintendent should quit stonewalling and give it up. It is no ones fault but hers if the information is not in one place, or can't be gathered in an hour. There must be a "file". She is clearly trying to evade the request from the people she works for - the school board. This is insubordination. Perhaps she feels that the board can't be trusted, or that anything she sends to them might be FOIA'd and subsequently released to the public. That is not her responsibility to make that decision. What does she need weeks to prepare - a redacted version of the actual files?

Joe Kidd

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

I would prefer a more common sense superintendent who would take the job for one half the current pay over one paid at this level which implies in the class of "smartest people in the world." Perhaps a more common sense board too. They hired her.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Thank you Trustee Simone Lightfoot.

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

I applaud Ms. Lightfoot's efforts to bring some transparency to this very hushed affair. The handling of the incident is more troubling than the incident itself, and speaks volumes about the lack of transparency in this administration.

Joe Kidd

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

Two thoughts on this. One, I have no issue whatsoever with Ms. Lightfoot's request, in fact I am surprised she feels the need to make it. The board should have been fully briefed on every aspect of the investigation, after it went to the prosecutor's office. That should have been done before any decisions were made public to answer board members questions. Second to refer to high school students as "babies," or children is an indication, IMHO, that she is out of sync with the behavior issues that are prominent in AAPS schools, and how people develop. At some point students have to be taught not only academics but how they are expected to act in public.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

This comment sums it up perfectly!

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

'"If you want it in a week, I'll put everything on the side and … give it to you in a week," Green fired back.' That is bullying, and foot dragging. Those of us who have worked in the corporate world know the pattern very well. Anyone who files a lawsuit will likely get those materials under subpoena. It should be troubling to everyone that these materials are so poorly organized that it would take even a couple of hours to produce them for a board member to review. It makes me wonder if all of the materials are properly secured against being "lost".


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Release the video, AAPS. Enough obstruction. What are you trying to hide?


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Possibly as many as three people have lost their jobs over this, plus we have a young man charged with two felonies. The public deserves transparency, and AAPS is interested only in further opacity.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

It is nice to see that the new superintendent is as arrogant and condescending to a trustee as she appears to be with everyone else. At least she is consistent.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

I have never seen a baby assault anyone with a crutch. An 18 yr old football player is no baby.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

you are RIGHT, there are no babies in high school!!!!!

David Cahill

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

Good for Trustee Lightfoot! I hope she breaks through the iron curtain of secrecy that the administration has built around this incident.

Patricia Lesko

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

"If you want it in a week, I'll put everything on the side and … give it to you in a week," Green fired back. Dr. Patricia Green is misleading and bullying Trustee Lightfoot, as well as the public. Is the Superintendent really telling us that only a staffer paid $275,000 per year can fill a public records request made by a Trustee? Really?!? Had Lightfoot filed a FOIA, by law that request would be filled by the lowest paid staffer capable of copying and redacting the materials. Green, off the top of her head, estimates it would take her 40 hours to gather together the requested materials from an incident that took place less than 60 days ago? Obviously, the District needs to hire someone to clean off Dr. Green's desk, tidy her office, and show a woman with a Ph.D. how to file materials alphabetically for more efficient retrieval. The Trustees saddled themselves with this somewhat arrogant woman who has repeatedly shown she not favor transparency when it comes to public records requests. To Trustee Lightfoot we might say, "Welcome to the Party." The Trustees can rectify Green's attacks on public records transparency very easily by greatly relaxing the District's policies concerning FOIA, and greatly expanding how much material will be provided free of charge to District residents who file FOIAs. Trustees can also instruct Dr. Green to put the District's checkbook and credit card statements online. Simone Lightfoot is absolutely doing the right thing in informing herself and the public.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Ms Lightfoots heart is in the right place and it always has been, I say Thank You for this, as well as Ms Baskett! Thank You both for all you do!! Keep up the good work!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Well at least one person now sees the empress has no clothes.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Good for Lightfoot! She is right..a student is charged with a crime while the coaches get a couple of game suspensions. Now we hear that two more students will be charged. The school board deserves to know what happened, they should view the footage. Green's attitude is appalling!

Joe Kidd

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

The coaches failure is in not teaching the players fighting will not be tolerated up front. You cannot charge them for crimes committed by another person. If the students went off the handle and broke the law, only can be charged. In order to charge the coaches you would have to prove they were complicit with the crime like telling the students to do it.

Albert Howard

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

'Transparency' is not in Patricia Green's vocabulary.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

My, my, my! Would Green accept this type of insubordination from her principals? I think not! Go figure.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1 p.m.

The "baby" in question is an 18 year old adult who was the only one in the fight brandishing a weapon.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

If we don't considering all the other kids brandishing their helmets as weapons too, of course.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

Wrong! The players on both sides were reacting to what looked like a physical confrontation involving 3 coaches. AAPS needs to release the video.

Unusual Suspect

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Students may have taken that as a reason to start fighting, but that's no justification. The fact is there wasn't a fight going on between the adults, but the students did start a fight.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

Unusual, despite what the report said, angry adults who were making physical contact with each other started the brawl.

Unusual Suspect

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

kms, go back and read previous articles. It was determined by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor that the adults did not start a brawl. There was a single physical action that was deemed appropriate defensive force.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

How many students are charged with serious crimes? This case deserves scrutiny. The adults started this brawl and students are being charged. Yes, everybody should be held accountable for their behavior but at least let the school board see the video.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Hoy many times this year has she stood up for students before this? I think she's just looking for her 15 minutes.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

"If you want it in a week, I'll put everything on the side and … give it to you in a week," Green fired back.' Given the magnitude of public interest in this episode, (the public that funds the school system and pays Patricia Greens salary) if she needs a week of singular focus to gather the information on the incident she is either stonewalling an elected official or she is incompetent at her job.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

On the questions about the media reporting the investigation being over: Here's the story that included Superintendent Pat Green's comments (and letter to the community) about the initial phases of the investigation having been completed: We'll ask the district to clarify whether there was a subsequent phase that has not concluded.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

This was a disgrace.EVERYBODY involved in the brawl and the coverup should be canned and the kids involved should be suspended permanently.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Those pesky government regulators are at it again, but they'll be soon subsumed by the surging mob.