Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Saline DPW building come D O W N



Just returned from the Maple Rd site, across from the library, where the old DPW plant is being demolished. Very cool. Under sunny skies, a bulldozer chewed through the crumbling roof and cement walls, kicking up a dust storm of debris, pushing shards of materials around the site and building a pile of steel and bricks.H&M Demolition of Holland is handling the $75,900 job over about four-weeks. Moving forward, Saline!

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween Happenings



It's Halloween and lots of activities are going on in Milan. I attended a Halloween party for children this afternoon at the Milan American Legion. The children were so cute, from 14-month-old Tyler Cavins of Milan dressed as a lion to 4-year-old Samantha Barker of Belleville as the tooth fairy and the good witch Ashley Schrock, 10, of Ypsilanti, who came with her grandma, Hope Schrock, a lifelong Milan resident.

We captured video for our Web site, so please check it out. The kids really are adorable as they played miniature golf, hit a ghost pinata filled with candy and painted pumpkins while dressed as dragons, princesses, witches and ghosts.

The American Legion organized the event, and provided hot dogs, juice boxes and treats. Phyllis Russell, president of the Ladies' Auxiliary at the American Legion, helped put together the event and was happy to see us there as we took photos for the newspaper and video for the Web site. I thanked her for her community service. In its fourth year, the Halloween party is a great event for children and a way for the legion to connect with the younger generation and greater community.

Later this evening, the Legion is holding a Halloween party for adults. It's from 8 p.m. to midnight and includes karaoke. If you get a chance, head over there and enjoy the fellowship. They're a friendly bunch of people.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Rewarding Business



The 12th annual Business Enterprise Awards Gala presented Oct. 25 by the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce was a nice evening for not only the recipients -- Bemis Farms Preschool and JAC Products Inc. -- but all local business owners, community leaders and business professionals as they came together as a group to recognize innovation, strong business tradition and a commitment to community. I was impressed with both winners and was particularly touched by the emotions deeply felt by Tammie and Priscilla King, who became teary-eyed while accepting the award for small businesses. Video of the presentation can be viewed on our Web site.

The selection criteria for the Business Enterprise Awards includes a substantial history as an established, successful business; demonstrated commitment to the overall health and productivity of the Saline area; demonstrated commitment to provide customers/clients the best possible service and/or product; consistently follows ethical and fair business practices; contributes to the betterment of the community through volunteer effort; and a Saline Area Chamber of Commerce member in good standing.

The Saline Reporter won the award in 2000. Last year's winners were American Aqua and Evangelical Home-Saline and Brecon Village.

Larry Osterling, executive director of the Saline chamber, and Tim Simpson, chairman of the Business Enterprise Awards, served as masters of ceremonies. Bill Martin, director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Michigan, was guest speaker. Martin, a captivating speaker, even to someone who's not a big sports fan, was to speak on the subject, "Collegiate Athletics Today," but seemed to concentrate more on renovations at the Big House. He talked about the $70 to $80 million project, which will get under way Nov. 17 and wrap up in 2 1/2 years, and how it will be paid for. Check out the video below, where he says the premium seating that will be provided will pay for the project at the 80-year-old stadium. Martin also talked about the $13 million in athletic scholarships the athletic department, with no help from the general budget, pays for annually to attract the best athletes from across the country.

video

The night's program was interesting and it was exciting to see local businesses recognized for all of their hard work, dedication and contributions to the community. The dinner at Stonebridge Golf Club was excellent, as well, and I, as well as my tablemates, were appreciative of the mints provided after our garlicky mashed potatoes and green beans.

I encourage you to mark your calendar for next year at about this time for the 13th annual Business Enterprise Awards Gala. This event is a great networking opportunity for business professionals, as well as a nice evening out for any community member. Let's show our support of local businesses, not only by using their services and buying their products, but also celebrating their successes.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Last Saturday for Saline Farmers Market


I believe the Saline Farmers Market finishes its season this Sat, Oct 27. Pumpkins, homemade apple pie, squash for baking, mums, root vegetables for roasting, early Christmas shopping. Hats off to Nancy Crisp, market manager, for another wonderful summer. See you there! Here's a pic I snapped in July of Mr. Hughes. He and his daughter, Patti Henes, bring beautiful produce every week. Isn't he a friendly fellow?

Michigan Avenue cones coming down!

All of Saline will celebrate tomorrow as the construction along Michigan Ave gets a RED LIGHT. According to an email from MDOT via the Saline police and our wonderfully communicative Mayor Gretchen, the lines are due to be completed today and the lights should be cycling normally Thurs. This is amazingly good news. How many curse words have you let fly while waiting, not so patiently, to and from the high school? I'll be one of the first to kiss the black roadway on Thursday morning...if in fact the road is cleared of construction as announced. I won't believe it 'till I see it. Then, we'll all let out a collective sigh of relief. Kudos to MDOT for finishing a month early, I guess.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is your teen drinking?


Red Ribbon Week is being observed this year from October 20-28. It is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign the country. The children in Saline area schools will participate in activities to enlighten and educate them to the danger of drugs and alcohol. Ask your children to share with you what they have learned this week. Read through the materials they will bring home and use this occasion to open a loving conversation with your child about your concerns and expectations involving living a drug and alcohol free childhood.

As a parent you are your children’s first line of defense in helping them choose to make good decisions. In a recent survey on underage drinking, teens reported that parental disapproval is the #1 reason they choose note to drink. Here are some additional strategies you can use:

Bonding: Children who feel close to their parents are less likely to drink.
1. Create a positive loving home environment – model kindness and respect. Plan fun activities as a family
2. Have daily positive interaction – notice and acknowledge the good in your child
3. Notice your child’s emotional well being – watch for signs of excess stress or depression

Boundaries: Unclear rules and expectations leave kids vulnerable
1. Teach the risks of underage drinking - begin talking with your children early, before age 8
2. Set clear rules and expectations – emphasize that alcohol use and possession is illegal before the age of 21
3. Help kids to choose friends wisely – get to know your kids’ friends and their parents. Having peers who drink is the single greatest risk factor for underage alcohol use
Monitoring: Trust but verify
1. Know your child’s activities – it is your responsibility to know where your children are, who they are with, and what they are doing
2. Ensure an alcohol free environment – call hosting parents to check that there will be supervision and no alcohol on premises
3. Maintain monitoring practices – drop in unannounced. The occasional surprise visit lets your children know you can arrive anytime
Staying involved isn't easy. Parents are busier than ever before. Yet making the extra effort listed above will make a powerful difference in keeping your child drug and alcohol free. The result is a child that can grow up addiction free, with a healthy, fully functioning brain. A little extra effort now will save a lot of time, grief, and effort later. For more information, click on parentsempowered.org

Written by Gretchen McCann, Communication Director for SCRUD -Saline Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Newspaper Holds Candidates Forum


About two dozen Saline residents turned out Tuesday for a City Council candidates forum organized and sponsored by the newspaper. While I was disappointed in the low turnout, I hold out hope that more people will become informed about the local candidates running for office Nov. 6 because the forum was taped and will be broadcast on local cable station 18. In addition, video of each candidate and what they had to say at the forum is featured on The Saline Reporter Web site.

Staff Writer Sue G. Collins deserves special recognition for organizing the event. She arranged for us to rent the space, have the forum televised, drafted the questions and notified all of the candidates. She also, bless her heart, made sure the candidates had everything they needed, including bottled water. She made it so easy on Staff Writer Brian Cox and myself that all we had to do was show up and do our jobs -- Brian to write the story and me to capture video. Brian should be lauded for covering the event while technically on vacation. Now that's dedication. He plans to post the story on our Web site under breaking news as we didn't have enough room in this week's print edition to squeeze it in, in addition to being past deadline. We're so lucky at The Saline Reporter to have both of them on staff.

While our video coverage of the event features introductions by each candidate -- incumbents Alicia Ping, Glenn Law and Terri Sibo-Koenig, and newcomers Patrick Ivey and Sal Randazzo -- as well as their answers to specific questions, we can't post everything from the two-hour forum. That's why it's best for voters to attend these informative events. I learned a lot about each candidate, and I don't even live in the city, so I won't be voting. But the knowledge I gained will give me a better understanding of how local government works and the personalities involved as the council moves forward.







One question from the audience was about Saline's so-called "parking crisis." I had to chuckle about that as I have never had a problem finding parking in Saline or, funny enough, in Dexter, when I covered that town, where people there also complained that there wasn't enough parking. I give props to the three incumbents who all asked, "What parking crisis?" Both Terri and Alicia said they were not convinced there is a parking crisis, pointing out that they would know because they live downtown. Terri said she is out and about in the downtown area four to five times a week, on weekends and weekdays, all times of the day and night. She said she would be thrilled, as would the merchants and local leaders, if all the spots were filled, but it's just not the case. She also took the opportunity, on video and local cable, to urge residents to shop locally and support downtown businesses. Good for her to take advantage of the venue to promote local businesses. They need all the help they can get during these tough economic times in our state.

Sue also took advantage of the cable broadcast to promote the newspaper's Web site, blog, local videos and efforts to regularly post breaking news on the site. She also encouraged viewers to write letters to the editor and utilize the community newspaper as a forum for open debate and discussion. Her efforts to help promote the newspaper come from within and appear, to me, to demonstrate a real passion and strong belief in the importance of a free press in society. Kudos to her and all of our readers who support our efforts and are actively engaged in their community by not only keeping up on local events, decisions and discussions through the newspaper, but also by participating in the community.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Copy of the Incident Report

This item, obtained by our reporters, is provided below in its entirety.
In the interest of protecting the privacy of the minor/student involved, however, a small portion of the testimony has not been reprinted.


Saline Area Schools
INCIDENT REPORT

by Ben Williams, Principal
Rob White, Athletic Director

The purpose of this report is to present the findings from the investigation that was conducted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007.
Summary
On Monday, August 27th, 2007, around 6:30 p.m. in the evening, Mr. White received a call from Jared Falkowski, Head Freshmen Football Coach. Jared described an incident that had taken place toward the end of their practice that day that would be considered Gross Disrespect by a student-athlete toward a coach. The student-athlete in question is Student X, and the behavior, as Jared described it, was directed toward the coaching staff.

Discussion
Mr. White requested that the coaching staff who witnessed the behavior by Student X document what they observed. Those three reports (from coaches Jared Falkowski, Mike Burchyett, and Brian Buchanan) confirm that with fifteen minutes left in practice, the players were given a water break. After that water break, they started the last ten minutes of conditioning. A few minutes into the conditioning, Student X yelled at Coach Buchanan, "We never get any water." To this statement Coach Buchanan replied that he had just received a water break and could have more water once conditioning was over. Student X was glaring at him. Coach Buchanan asked him if there was a problem, and he continued to glare, then when Coach Buchanan walked away, he yelled, "F--- you!" Coach Burchyett came right over and said, "Student X, we have a problem." His reply was, "Yeah, and my parents are going to sue you to h---." At this point, Coach Falkowski told Student X to go to the locker room and remove his equipment. Coach Buchanan noted that Student X did not stop to get water on his way to the locker room. As practice was wrapping up, around 5:30 p.m., Coach Buchanan went to the locker room to check on Student X, who was still visibly upset. Student X's locker is right by the door. Coach Buchanan stood by the door as he told Student X that he needed to calm down because he just wanted to talk to Student X. Student X said, "(this portion of the testimony has been deleted to protect the student's privacy.)" Coach Buchanan told him that football was a serious commitment and that if he wasn't having fun he should inform his parents. At this point, Coach Falkowski arrived in the locker room as he was leaving practice and Student X repeated his statement about hating football and how his parents won't let him quit. Coach Falkowksi told Student X he would talk to his parents.

Student X's brother was there to pick Student X up, and after talking to Student X, the brother went to the coaches' office by the football field to ask about what had happened. Coach Falkowski asked him for his father's cell phone number and told him he needed to discuss it with Student X's parents. Student X's brother provided the phone number then walked away saying "f---ing morons," or "f---ing idiots" in front of many players.

Investigation
Ben Williams, the building principal, and Rob White, the athletic director, and Coach Falkowski met with Mr. and Mrs. X and their three sons, on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the incident. During the meeting, Student X denied swearing or ever stating that he hated football and that his parents wouldn't let him quit. In fact, he denied all of the coaches' statements about what happened that afternoon. During the meeting, each of the family members began making various allegations against the freshmen football staff. Mr. Williams and Mr. White assured the family that they would be investigating the entire incident further, including the their allegations. The family was told that Student X was on a hiatus from practice until the investigation was concluded. They were assured that the investigation would be conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Immediately after the meeting ended, Mr. Williams and Mr. White interviewed five freshmen football players whose names the X family provided as witnesses to corroborate Student X's story. Also interviewed were the four freshmen football coaches and the full-time athletic trainer.

X Family's Allegations
The student-athletes participating in freshmen football are not given ample opportunities to hydrate.
Findings
Of the five players interviewed (whose names the X family provided), all five said any time they wanted water or needed water they felt like they could get water. They did not feel like the amount of water was being restricted. Coach Falkowski provided the practice schedule from the date in question and there were many water breaks scheduled. The full-time athletic trainer, Jaime Coral, said that the entire football program makes water available all the time and provides many opportunities for student-athletes to drink. She stated that the football staff does a tremendous job providing opportunities for student-athletes to stay hydrated. And she is at every practice and every competition.

X Family's Allegations
Coach Falkowski uses abusive and derogatory comments as a form of intimidation toward student-athletes, such as "You're a bunch of f---ing p---ies," and "If it's not a stick in your eye, get your a-- on the field," and "You don't need water, it will make you stronger," and "Stop being a f---ing p---y all the time," and "You do not deserve water, you did not work hard enough."
Findings
Of the five players interviewed (whose names the X family provided), all five adamantly stated that none of the coaches had ever made such statements, nor had they ever singled out any one athlete with derogatory comments. They also stated that the coaching staff uses praise more than criticism. Of the four coaches interviewed, none of them had ever heard any of the coaching staff make those comments that the X family described.

X Family's Allegations
Student X missed the water break because he was talking to Coach Bianci and was really sent to the locker room during the conditioning for being disrespectful for asking for water.
Findings
Coach Bianci remembered having many conversations with many players during practice, but could not recall whether he was talking to Student X during the water break right before conditioning. Of the five players interviewed (whose names the X family provided), all five of them stated that they know when water breaks are, and that they always get a water break before conditioning. A couple of the players stated that Student X doesn't like conditioning and has a pattern of messing around before conditioning starts and dragging his heels, such as stopping to tie his shoes, etc. In this interview with the five players, it came out that during conditioning (before the incident started), Student X said to his teammates, "F--- this. I don't want to do these sprints." In addition, the five players interviewed, as well as two of the coaches who were nearby, stated that Coach Falkowski sent Student X to the locker room after Student X yelled "F--- you," and "My parents are going to sue you to h--l," not after a request for water.

X Family's Allegations
Student X never swore.
Findings
Of the five players interviewed (whose names the X family provided), two of them thought that Student X was saying "F--- you" to a teammate. Three of the players were sure he was saying it to Coach Buchanan. All five heard him swear. Coach Buchanan and Coach Burchyett heard him swear and were sure that Student X was saying it to Coach Buchanan.

X Family's Allegations
The freshmen football staff are in violation of MHSAA rules by not allowing Student X to get water immediately when he asked for water.
Findings
Of the five players interviewed (whose names the X family provided), two of them said they heard Student X ask for water. Three of them never heard Student X mention water. Of the four coaches, only Coach Buchanan heard Student X mention water, and he didn't think that Student X was asking for it right then, he heard Student X say, "We never get any water." In addition, the MHSAA does not have a rule about water that schools must follow. The paperwork the X family brought with them that they printed off from the MHSAA website is a suggestion, not a rule. Exact wording on the material entitled Preseason Alerts is that "Coaches and administrators should review the material and also consider similar procedures . . . "
The material then states that for "Proper Conditioning in Hot Weather, heatstroke and heat exhaustion may be preventable if the proper precautions are taken. Probably the best method is to have water available at all times and to allow the athlete to drink water whenever he/she needs it. Never restrict the amount of water an athlete drinks, and be sure the athletes are drinking the water." As previously stated, the five players and the trainer interviewed strongly believe that the freshmen football staff is following the MHSAA suggestion provided on their website.

Conclusion
Based on the investigation conducted by Mr. Williams and Mr. White, they conclude that the freshmen football staff have broken no rules, nor have they conducted themselves inappropriately or without regard to student-athlete safety. Mr. Williams and Mr. White do conclude that Student X did conduct himself with Gross Disrespect by cussing and threatening staff with lawsuits during practice.
The Saline Athletic Department's Rules and Regulations, which every parent and athlete are provided, states that "The behavior of Saline student/athletes will be held to the highest of standards. Athletes must understand that they represent the community and the school. Proper behavior in school, at athletic contests, and during bus rides shall be exhibited at all times. Coaches will deal with poor sportsmanship, vulgarity, and other forms of poor behavior and disrespect. Any action by athletes that violates behavior standards will result in appropriate discipline ranging from corrective action prescribed by the coach, to suspension from competitions(s), or expulsion from the team.

After discussing the best interest of the program and appropriate discipline for Student X with the four freshmen coaches, Mr. Williams and Mr. White concur that Student X should be expelled from the freshmen football team, effective immediately.

It should be noted that Student X may try out for another sport in another season this year if he so chooses. However, prior to participating in another sport, Student X must pay his pay-to-participate fee, which has not been paid yet this year, or he must fill out a scholarship form prior to tryouts.

It should also be noted that there has been an issue this year with the X family not wanting to pay admission fees at sporting events. It should be understood that when any of the X family comes to sporting events in the future, they must pay the admission fee like everyone else.

Ben Williams, Saline High School Principal
Rob White, Saline Area Schools' Athletic Director


Letter from football family's attorney regarding incident

Saline School System
Re: Student X
To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this letter as a result of a student's expulsion from the Saline Football Team. The parents of the student initially contacted me because of my familiarity with historical issues they have had with the Saline School System, and perhaps more importantly because of my familiarity with their son, Student X. They contacted me for advice and for a review of the situation. I have reviewed the summaries and incident reports, including investigation reports that the Parents were provided with from the school system. The Parents have advised me that there is going to be an appeal hearing to reconsider this matter. After reviewing the relevant document and discussing the matter with the Parents, I offered to write a letter on Student X's behalf to ensure that certain elements that I think are important to the appeal process are considered.

A review of the incident reports and procedure followed by the Saline High School might give a reader the appearance that proper procedures were followed and that the investigation was completed appropriately. I believe that casual review, however, cannot stand up to meaningful scrutiny. I further believe that even a casual review reveals that a full expulsion of Student X for the entire football season is unusually harsh under these circumstances.

I will address my last conclusion first, and then discuss why I think the investigation, particularly in these circumstances, was inappropriate. If we assume, however, for a moment that all appropriate measures were taken and that everything put in the summaries and investigation reports is true, it still appears to me that even on the face of it, an expulsion is unduly harsh. It appears that Student X was expelled for complaining about water and allegedly cursing. Even assuming that the implication of what is in the reports is true, the question remains, is cursing at a coach sufficient to suspend a player for an entire year? The field interviews documented on August 28, 2007, admit that even coaches will utter curse words. The statement is that they will not be directed at a player. It is extremely unlikely that at any practice or game a curse word will never be uttered. The question becomes, were the curse words in this instance significantly worse to justify the expulsion? I would question whether there is a clear policy on cursing, which is understood by the players and coaches. Maybe, if a player cursed directly at a coach, it may warrant a discipline. I question, however, whether in instances of cursing, there is (or should be) a warning system in place. It does not appear from any of the reports that Student X was ever given any warning or told to step in line, or to "watch his mouth." It appears that he uttered the single expression, "f--k you," and was expelled for the entire year without warning.

As alluded to above, however, even if all of the statements and implications are true, coupled with the fact that the school lost the tape of Student X's testimony where he completely denies cursing at the coach, I think there is a legitimate question as to whether the punishment was too severe, and whether Student X simply should have received a warning or other less drastic action. There is no mention in any of the reports, whatsoever, about expectations issued to players, or expectations regarding cursing, whether any warnings were ever issued to any players. The lack of these elements, however, is only the tip of the other problems with the interviews and the implications made therein. There was no reference made to any other incident triggering this behavior other than asking for and being refused water.

I believe it must be clear and cannot be refuted that any investigation conducted by a principal or anyone in the school is necessarily going to be biased towards supporting the behavior of the coaches. This does not imply any intentional wrongdoing or intentional bias on the part of anyone involved. It is simply human nature, and it is what it is. We must review the reports and actions by school officials, however, understanding that bias. Similarly, as it is human nature to recollect events in a light that is most favorable to one's self, we must review any statements made by parties involved, understanding that bias. This applies not only to coaches that are being questioned and under scrutiny, but also to other participants, including Student X himself.

[deletion to protect child]

As indicated, when reviewing the information put forth, recognizing those inherent biases, numerous additional questions arise. I will first address the issue of water. The reports imply that water was available throughout the entire practice. The athletic director states that they ensure that athletes have adequate water. Of course it is the job of the athletic director and coaches, given the past history of the Saline Schools, and knowledge of the dangers of dehydration, to ensure that the players have water. Unfortunately, making water available does not ensure that any specific player gets water. What is lacking is any specific indication that anyone made sure not only, that Student X got an opportunity to get water, but that he actually did get water. These are, after all, high school students, and Student X is a high school freshman. What is clear from the report, and from some of the students involved, is that Student X clearly complained about not getting water. In the reports, Coach Buchanan states that he clearly heard Student X state, "we never get any water." Coach Buchanan did not respond by asking Student X, "why did you say that, there is plenty of water over there." He responded by stating, "you just had a break, get water at the end." Thus, there was clearly a statement reflecting a need for water, which was responded with, "You can get it later." If water was clearly available, wouldn't a coach wonder why a player would state, "We never get any water?" If you ask Student X why he made that statement, he can tell you. It is because during the last two supposed breaks, he did not get an opportunity to get water. Moreover, Student X will clearly state that when he needed to get water, he was told no, he could wait.

While there is a statement that there was water available during the entire practice, simply having water bottles out does not mean that an athlete can leave the field anytime they want and go get water. I suspect if you ask every player, "can you leave practice at any point in time and go over and get water whenever you need it," the consistent answer would be "No", just the way Student X was told to wait. It is understandable that practice would not be productive if players would come on and off the field. However, when a player clearly indicates a need for water, a question as to why should at least be asked. It does not appear that there was any attempt whatsoever to see whether or not Student X had a legitimate complaint about water.

The interviews and reports also conclude that statements by the players were inconclusive, and makes mention numerous times that the players questioned were those whose names Student X provided. When you ask Student X about this specifically, he will tell you that he was frustrated and feeling dehydrated at the time and was not fully conscious of who was near him. He gave names of those he thought might be near him, but adamantly will state that he was not specifically aware of who might have heard him, or who had not. When he gave 5 names, it was his best guess as to who may have been near. This was conditioning where players were in random order. Therefore, the continued implication that the 5 players were specifically those whose names were provided by him is definitely misleading. Nevertheless, some players interviewed clearly heard him ask for water. Because some indicated they did not hear him ask, cannot and should not cause one to conclude that he didn't ask or even that it raises an inconsistency. Those individuals did not make the statement, "I was near Student X, could hear what he was saying, and I never heard him ask." What they were asked was, "Did you hear him ask," to which they answered "No." There was no follow-up question to say, "Had he asked, were you close enough to have heard him?" There was never even a question asked of those students as to whether they were in a position to hear Student X ask for water. Therefore, to say that because three students didn't hear him ask creates an inconsistency is simply false.
Moreover, one specific student heard a coach say, "C'mon xxxx, suck it up, wait 'till after conditioning." It is very probable that nobody else was within earshot to hear this, or that they were so involved in their own conditioning that they were not paying attention to what Student X and the other coaches were doing. Clearly, the statement of an independent student with such a specific quote must be compelling.

In addition, certain of the players who were around him did hear Student X cursing. There is an inconsistency as to who he was cursing at. Despite the inconsistency, it does not appear that anyone attempted to really clarify the inconsistency. It does not appear that anyone asked the students, "Why do you think he was cursing at players and not the coaches?"

Moreover, what I believe is most interesting is that all of the players interviewed and all of the coaches clearly reported that Student X was upset, angry and agitated. It does not appear anywhere that there was any attempt by anyone to find out why Student X was so irritated and agitated. What is also lacking completely in the report is any statement that this behavior by Student X was consistent with his behavior at other practices. That absence raises the largest question for me in this incident. There is no indication whatsoever that there was a historical problem with Student X. If this rude behavior was consistent with prior behavior that he exhibited at practices, I would have expected a reference to prior incidences, parental notification and documentation or warnings about the behavior. This was not the case. Therefore, if this was not consistent with his normal behavior, and this had not been a problem in other practices, why wasn't Student X's behavioral difference questioned? If Student X normally behaved like other teammates, why wasn't a red flag raised, and why didn't someone question what was going on when he was so clearly agitated and frustrated on this day?

The conclusion of the incident report conducted Tuesday, August 28, 2007, states that the staff did not conduct themselves without regard to student athlete's safety. Every single coach, however, noted that Student X was agitated, and reported that he was cursing, and they sent him to the locker room. It appears that a coach went in after him at some point, but initially they sent Student X to the locker room by himself. Again, because there is no reference to any prior behavior, and we must assume that the behavior on this day was an aberration, why didn't anybody raise any question as to whether there was any medical or other reason for Student X's behavior? Again, we do know that he claims to have asked for water and at least one other team member specifically heard him ask for water. The coach admits that he heard Student X state, "we never get any water." Any coach or athletic trainer should know symptoms of dehydration include not only fatigue but frustration and irritability. In an email from Jared Falkowski to Rob White, he clearly reports that after the practice, when he went into the locker room, Student X was still visibly upset. He also notes the following about Student X; "bloodshot eyes, breathing extremely heavy, speaking with an angry tone in his voice." This was after practice was over and at least ten minutes after Student X had been sent to the locker room. I question why no one addressed whether any medical issues existed if Student X had physical symptoms which included bloodshot eyes and breathing extremely heavily. It does not appear that anyone asked if Student X if he was ok, had a headache, or had any other medical symptoms whatsoever. He was never checked by the trainer, there wasn't any medical attention given, his parents were not notified and he still was not given water.

The bottom line is Student X was clearly exhibiting physical symptoms that were inconsistent with his normal behavior. Those symptoms are consistent with dehydration. They could also be consistent with other conditions, but none of them were pursued, least of all dehydration, which on a hot summer day when he clearly asked for water, should have been addressed. In any normal child, these issues should have raised questions. It does not appear that any of these items were pursued. As indicated, it also does not appear that any follow-up questions were pursued to clarify any of the supposed inconsistencies in statements. What the investigation report is peppered with is self-serving statements about how everything was done right.
Again, the purpose of this is not to imply malicious intention on anyone's part, but simply to point out that perhaps the investigation and the actions were not as complete and as thorough as they could have and probably should have been. This investigation was not about any and all practices and water policy. It should have been specific to this incident.
As stated above, Student X's appearance and condition on that day should have raised questions in any normal child. As the school should be aware, however, Student X is not a normal child. Student X has certain specific medical issues. Those issues have been made known to the school for years. Nowhere in the report is there any indication that anyone took any of these issues into consideration. There is discussion in the report about the Parents questioning Student X's 504.

[deletions to protect the student's privacy]

Based upon the incident reports and investigation, it does not appear that there was any accommodation for or even any awareness of any of Student X's issues. Student X's parents were not even notified of the incident until one day later.

Based upon the apparent biases in the investigation and the clear inadequacies, coupled with the fact that there was no effort to accommodate Student X's specific needs, the disciplinary action he received was clearly inappropriate. I believe the coaches need to have better information and training about Student X's needs, and to make the simple accommodations that are required. I feel there needs to be a cooperative effort to work together, so that in instances were Student X is concerned, he has a plan of action that he can follow to ensure that it does not get out of hand. In light of his specific needs and the failure to address them or to show any concern whatsoever to whether he could possibly have been dehydrated on that day, I think the discipline should be overturned. I strongly urge you to consider these issues as you go through your appeal process.

Very truly yours,
CATHERINE A. RIESTERER

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Geltner's passion




Beverly Geltner gave a passionate statement this morning at Union School.

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See Geltner's address to board members online

Wow. What a steamy morning. At 9am, Dr. Beverly Geltner (superintendent, Saline Area Schools) addressed the Saline school board and a crowd of 150 parents. You can hear Geltner's words at http://www.salinereporter.com/. She glared at the crowd. She was defiant. She had a message and wanted to tell the board she had followed their policy before reinstating an expelled freshman football player. She's now on paid admin leave and Scot Graden is stepping in. Check out the video.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Passionate positions in frosh football issue and CROP Walk notes

At every turn, during the last four days, folks in Saline have been voicing their opinion on who's to blame for the resignation of the SHS freshman football coaches and linked issues. Seems the moms waiting for their little ballerinas at dance class were all abuzz with questions, comments and "you've gotta be kiddin's." At the bus stop Friday morning, parents wanted the scoop and all were in support of getting these boys back on the gridiron. Parents are feverishly passionate about their children's rights and it's human nature, I think, for people to go batty about their territory, schools and...the rights of All Americans to play football! I say good luck to our elected school board representatives, SAS admin and all the parents who are fighting for what they believe. Monday morning will bring some big news. Check out www.salinereporter.com for breaking news (how's that for a plug!!).

CROP Walk -- a bit over a hundred folks walked the three-mile loop in downtown Saline this afternoon to raise awareness for the hunger issues in our town, our world. My sweet daughter, two pals and an energetic grandfather of one of the girls trekked. There was whining. There was sweat. Luckily, there was also some understanding among these 10-year olds that children in some parts of the worls have to walk three-miles for their drinking water. I think I noticed them all hold their water bottles a little tighter when we were talking about that. Hats off to Sue Burt and her committee for organizing this again this year. Hats off to the church ladies (love those gals) at the Methodist Church who crock potted up some fine sloppy joes, salads and snacks.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Timeline of Freshman Football controversy

The events leading up to the cancellation of the Saline freshman football season began back in August and came to a head the first week of October, according to an incident report obtained by the Saline Reporter. Other dates were provided by Saline High School principal Ben Williams in an report to the school board Saturday morning.

Aug. 27:
(approx. 5:30 p.m.) A Saline freshman football player is said to have swore at a coach during a conditioning practice. Approximately an hour later, head coach Jared Falkowski reports the incident to athletic director Rob White. White requests statements on the incident from Falkowski, assistant coach Mike Burchyett, and assistant coach Brian Buchanan.

Aug. 28:
(approx. 1:30 p.m.) White, Falkowski and Saline High School principal Ben Williams meet with the athelte and his parents. The student denies any swearing. The family accuses the coaches of denying the player water, of using abusive, intimidating and derogatory language, to the student-athletes and of violating the Michigan High School Athletic Association guidelines on hydration. Williams and White assure the family that an investigation into the incident would be held. The athlete was put on hiatus from practice pending the investigation.

After the meeting, Williams and White interview five freshman football players who the family said were witnesses of the incident and could corrobroate their son's story. The administrators also interview all four freshman coaches. Based on the interviews with athletes and coaches, Williams and White conclude that the freshman football staff broke no rules. They further conclude that the student conducted himself with "Gross Disrespect by cussing and threatening staff with lawsuits during practice." Williams and White uphold the coaches' decision to expel the student from the freshman football team.

Sept.
Over the next month, the family appeals the decision and meets no less than three times with Superintendent Beverley Geltner. Dates of the those meetings have not been obtained.

Oct. 1
Williams receives an evening phone call from Geltner, informing him she has new information on the incident. They arrange an 8 a.m. meeting for the following day.

Oct. 2
(8 a.m.) Geltner meets with Williams where they review MHSAA guidelines for hydration and Geltner announces her decision to reinstate the student. Assistant coach Mike Burchyett resigns later that afternoon in objection to the reversal. Freshman football practice is cancelled.

Oct. 3
Sometime during the day, according to a letter from the team doctor obtained by the Reporter, Geltner has a phone conversation with Dr. Sean C. Adelman, in which they discuss in general terms hydration policies for athletic practices and games.

Prior to lunch, Geltner meets with Falkowski to discuss the status of the freshman football program.

After lunch, Geltner meets with Williams and White, at which time they tell her they have heard rumors that the other three freshman coaches might resign. Williams requested additional police presence on campus from Pittsfield Township, expecting student and parental emotions to run high. Prior to practice that afternoon, the coaches announce to the players they are stepping down. Practice is canceled. The Adrian game scheduled for the following evening is also canceled.

Oct. 4
7:15 a.m. Williams holds a crisis management meeting at the high school, anticipating upset students and parents. There are no incidents. Williams decides it would be "prudent" to provide the reinstated football player a security escort as needed throughout the day.

William and White begin considering options available to save the freshman football season. They find no good answers.

Oct. 5
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Graden, Geltner, board president Lisa Slawson, and deputy superintendent of curriculum Betty Rosen-Leacher meet on and off to discuss options. Shortly before 4 p.m., the district announces the cancellation of the freshman football season.

Oct. 6
8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. A special school board meeting is held in the Union School gym. Nearly 200 parents, coaches, teachers, and students attend. More than 30 address the board, many calling for the superintendent's dismissal.

11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The board confers in closed session.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at Union School.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Newspapers Win Awards

The Saline Reporter and The Milan News Leader have won a total of six awards in the Michigan Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. Please join me in congratulating reporters Brian Cox and Jerry Hinnen for their reporting, as well as freelancer Daniel Fenech for his cartoons, which helped The Saline Reporter capture first place in the editorial pages category.

The local newspapers competed in a circulation class ranging from 4,001 to 10,000, and were among 144 Michigan newspapers that entered. There were more than 3,660 entries, which were judged by the Wisconsin Press Association, so this was a tough competition. The Gaylord Herald Times won Newspaper of the Year in our circulation class.

The Saline Reporter grabbed first place for its editorial pages. Judges commented that the entry, which included three samples, contained a “great mix of content –– editorials, columns, cartoon, letters to the editor, etc. Timely topics and nice layout.”

Sports reporter Jerry Hinnen won first place for sports columns in The Milan News-Leader. Judges commented, “Columns were very well written, interesting and entertaining.”

Hinnen also won third place for sports coverage in The Milan News-Leader. Judges commented on use of graphics and photography, calling the sports section a “good piece of work.”

Reporter Brian Cox won honorable mention in the spot news category for his piece, “Tourney Nixed,” on the cancellation of a “Halo 2” tournament at Saline High School. The judges commented, “Thorough reporting on a tight deadline. You helped readers understand the situation and even gave the uninitiated a brief view of video games.”

Freelance reporter Chris Wright won third place for the article “Built Ford Tough,” which appeared in both newspapers. The story featured Saline resident Jim Roles, who retired from Ford Motor Co. after 50 years.

The Saline Reporter also won honorable mention for Chelsea reporter Ed Freundl’s regional piece, “Serious social studies,” which judges called “thorough and enlightening” and “a nice change of pace from the usual school coverage and enterprise topics.” The article ran in all of Heritage Newspapers’ western region publications and was required to be entered in the highest circulation class it was published.

In addition, Heritage Newspapers’ News-Herald, based in Southgate, and Dexter Leader, won Newspaper of the Year for their individual circulation classes.

In all, Heritage Newspapers’ western region publications, which include newspapers in Saline, Milan, Dexter, Chelsea, Manchester, Ypsilanti and Belleville, won 32 awards in the contest. Dexter grabbed nine, Manchester had nine, Chelsea won eight, Saline won three and Milan took home three.

To read individual results or more comments from the judges, visit the Michigan Press Association’s Web site at www.michiganpress.org.

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