Tom Tolen /

The resignations of two assistant superintendents from the Brighton Area Schools within two months has sparked questions about why half of the top level administrators have left the district in such a short period of time.

Earlier this week, WHMI News submitted two Freedom of Information Act Requests to the Brighton Area Schools to hopefully shed some light on the reasons for the departure of former assistant supt. of business and finance Michael Engelter and former assistant supt. of human resources Chad Scaling.

The district issued its response late Friday afternoon.

In his letter of resignation, Engelter - who held the post of assistant superintendent of finance for about four years - cited instances where "BAS Board members created hostile work environments for (himself) and others.” Engelter indicated that he reported them to his “superior” (Supt. Matt Outlaw), who shared them with board members. Engelter cited a work environment wherein “via texts and calls upwards of 20 per day, (Board Vice President) Bill Trombley has caused BAS staff as well as outside contractors and vendors to work in a hostile environment laden with vitriol.

"As chair of the Facilities/Bond Committee, Mr. Trombley derides anyone even tangentially connected to district construction and/or operations. Not meeting Mr. Trombley’s expectations/demands often leads individuals to receiving profanity-laced, rage-filled tirades. Numerous of these occurrences have been reported to, and witnessed by, fellow board members with no action taken.”

Engelter further accused Trombley of “driving around until locating the subject of his intended harassment and ridiculing the individual in front of anyone present. Reports of his ‘abhorrent’ behavior, which violates the board’s Code of Ethics Policy 2302, have resulted in no action by the board,” he stated.

Asked about Engelter’s comments, Trombley went on the offensive, saying that Engelter and Scaling weren’t performing the way a professional in their positions would be expected to perform his job. Trombley contends that Engelter didn’t typically bring his computer to board meetings and mostly spoke from memory rather than notes. In a presentation on the budget this past spring, Trombley claims that Engelter “was off by a few million dollars.” In regard to bond issue projects, Trombley asserts that Engelter “paid one contractor double the amount that they were supposed to charge. They were supposed to charge 5% on change orders and billed the Brighton Area Schools 10%, and he wrote a check which cost the district $40,000.”

In his letter of resignation, Scaling said that, “The mistreatment of administrators, both cabinet members and other administrators and directors, has created a toxic culture and impedes the important work of the district…The level of toxicity created by these few board members and their lack of professionalism will continue to impede the work of the superintendent and others. Without any indication that this behavior will cease, and as a person who places a high degree of importance on respect, integrity, and professionalism, the right decision was to resign from my position with Brighton Area Schools.”

For his part, Trombley claims that Scaling was on vacation too much and was regularly absent from board meetings, saying, "We had to give a Title IX case to a substitute (since Scaling wasn’t available.)”

Engelter, in his resignation letter, also pointed an accusatory finger at one of the two newest board members - first-year Trustee Andy Storm - saying that, “(John) Conely and Mr. Storm were specifically named as board members seeking to immediately terminate most of the current BAS administrative cabinet.” Attempts to reach Conely and Storm for comment on the allegations contained in the letters were unsuccessful.

Engelter also claimed that at a May 4th meeting,”The district cabinet met with Mr. Trombley and Mr. Conely. During this meeting these two board members demanded the termination of several staff members…regardless of professional evaluations or administrative processes.” According to an informed source, these people primarily involved administrators, but also teachers and a coach.

Engelter said the board members in question claimed that they “had the votes” to end their employment. Engelter also maintained that the last item at the meeting on May 4th involved a request that Supt. Outlaw respond to their previous demand that he resign, the rationale being that “the district was not moving fast enough.” It was claimed, Engelter asserted, by Trombey and Conely that they “had the votes” (Engelter’s words) to terminate “the targeted persons." In point of fact, Outlaw and the assistant superintendents have “just cause" provisions in their contracts, as opposed to being “at will” employees, therefore requiring a legally defensible reason if they wanted to terminate any, or all, of them.

Engelter also contended in his letter that the board failed to do its job in the matter of the conduct of a teacher involving questionable financial issues. He said the district hired an outside forensics auditor, but claimed the investigation was dropped due to pressure from “particular board members (who) disregarded all findings and recommendations, including those from the auditor they hired.” Engelter said, “It was clear to district administration that we were being told to back off.” As a result, he said the investigation was suspended.

WHMI reached Supt. Outlaw Friday afternoon but he declined to comment on the allegations contained in Engelter’s and Scaling’s resignation letters, instead referring media calls to Board President Roger Myers, who Outlaw said has been designated as the board’s official spokesman. Myers, also reached Friday afternoon by WHMI, issued a prepared statement but said he would comment “no further.” The statement reads:

"The BAS Board of Education recognizes that every employee in the district should be treated in a professional, respectful manner. The conduct to which Mr. Engelter and Mr. Scaling refer in their resignation letters is obviously unacceptable in any organization, and it is unfortunate that Mr. Engelter and Mr. Scaling resigned under these circumstances. They were respected, valuable employees, and we wish them success in their new roles.

"Brighton Area Schools remains a very attractive district for central office leadership positions, and we received applications from several highly qualified professionals for both positions. One of the positions has already been filled with the recent hiring of David Jones as the Assistant Superintendent for Finance, and it is our expectation to approve the hiring of our new Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at the Board’s September 11 meeting. In addition, our classroom and support positions are well-staffed for the 2023-2024 school year and our entire group of professionals is focused on providing the best possible education for our students this year."

School district parent Jason Lemerand says the board should not be blamed for the resignations of Engelter and Scaling. The parent of four BAS students, he tells WHMI that, “When an entity grows from $50 million to $100 million in spending it does warrant a high level of scrutiny, in my opinion. Upon review of the board meetings I did observe Mr. Storm questioning spending and other financial policies. He did not appear out of line at any time."