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School Board member investigated after district complaint filed

After an over four-month long investigation into School Board Vice President Ahmed Ismail, it was uncovered he engaged in retaliatory behavior against two female Grosse Pointe North High School administrators. This happened during a private conversation held by a former GPPSS employee during the 2022-23 school year.

Lawyer Kevin Sutton of the Miller Johnson Law Firm was retained by the Grosse Pointe school district to conduct an independent investigation regarding an HR report filed by two North administrators in late August 2023.

The investigation was initiated after comments made by Ismail to “push out” the two administrators from their jobs at Grosse Pointe North High School.

This followed Ismail’s request to name the newly constructed Grosse Pointe North baseball field after Frank Sumbera, a Grosse Pointe North baseball coach that was terminated at North in 2018 per the two-page executive summary obtained by The Tower in a FOIA request.

This summary is only a sliver of the full 27-page investigation conducted by Sutton. During board meetings, members of the community have called for a release of the full report, including Maureen Krasner, a parent of two South alumni.

“It would be good to clear the air so there’s transparency around (the investigation) as to what happened and what the taxpayers paid for that investigation,” Krasner said. “It sounds like it was a really thorough investigation that was done. I think it would be important to see, including Vice President Ismail, for everybody to see the contents of that report.”

During the Feb. 6, 2024 regular school board meeting, the Board voted in a 5-2 vote to not allow any school board member or community member to access the document.

“I don’t really understand why the school board is not being more open about it to move forward and do better,” Krasner said. “I would think they wouldn’t want any administrator or teacher or any employee of the district to feel like they had been targeted and retaliated against.”

Since the board vote, many community members have been trying to get ahold of the 27-page report, including Board Trustee Valarie St. John.

“The reason I think it’s important to let the public read it, or at least the board, is because the board exercises oversight,” St. John said. “Our legal role according to the State of Michigan is to exercise oversight over the district. If (school board trustees) were not allowed to read investigative reports—that cost a lot of money—then I am concerned that we’re not exercising our fiduciary duties, and doing a good job.”

During public comment at the Feb. 27, 2024 regular board meeting during public comment many community members expressed their desire to see the full report.

“It gives the appearance of a lack of transparency,” St. John said. “I understand why the community is concerned when these complaints are brought forward against the trustee and it’s not addressed from what they can see.”

When Superintendent Dr. Jon Dean stepped down in August 2023, retired Grosse Pointe School deputy for business and operations Chris Fenton served as interim Superintendent, making him the main administrator during the investigation. After the end of the investigation, Fenton dismissed Sutton’s finds in his determination statement, obtained by The Tower via FOIA, and concluded Ismail does not need to face repercussions for his actions. School Board Vice President Ismail has served many nonconsecutive terms as Board President and Vice President since 2004 and has lived in Grosse Pointe for much of his life.

“I can emphatically deny that I wanted to ‘push out’ any administrators,” Ismail said in an email to The Tower. “I am not involved in the evaluation of our administrators. As the final report and as Superintendent Fenton’s final determination show, there was never any attempt on my part or on the part of the school board to do so.”

Ismail stepped down as board president last fall after serving as school board president since 2022. Kevin Sutton’s investigation continued from Sept. 14, 2023 to Jan. 4, 2024.

“The findings of the investigation were clear, then Superintendent Fenton’s final determination was clear: under our school system policy, the Superintendent’s determination is final. ” Ismail said. “ I consider the matter closed.”

Ismail expressed his desire for the community to accept Fenton’s determination, despite the whole report not being made public.

“I have done my best to apologize for any angst that the misinterpretation of my comments to a staff member have caused, and have offered to meet with the complainants to clear the air on any issue they have with me,” Ismail said. “I have known them both for close to twenty years. They taught my two sons at North and are excellent educators. I hope that they will accept my offer to sit down and resolve any issues they have with me.”

However, community members still want to know what the full report entails and if the investigation had anything that the summary did not highlight.

“I would like to see the school board demonstrating what we expect from our teachers and from our students, which is kindness, respect and leadership,” Krasner said. “I just don’t see that happening in this situation.”

***If you have access to the full report or know any information that may be valuable to The Tower, please email [email protected]. The Tower has filed multiple FOIA requests to obtain the HR report.

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Julia Roeder '25
Julia Roeder '25, Supervising Web Editor
Whether it’s The Rolling Stone, Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, or Tyler the Creator, Julia Roeder ’25 is guaranteed to have seen them in concert. All eyes envy her as she walks into the journalism classroom wearing merchandise she bought from the concert the night before. When she’s not listening to her favorite artists, she spends most of her time jamming out on her own guitar, being your average aspiring popstar. Besides her still-amounting popstar career, Roeder is also the Supervising Web Editor of The Tower. This is Roeder’s second year on staff and she is looking forward to continuing her role and being involved in the community and school. “I love Tower because you’re informing the community of what’s going on and also getting to know people on staff,” Roeder said.

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