Creekside Elementary School Principal Tracey Sahouri will remain on the job as she fights a charge that she knowingly allowed underage drinking during her child's graduation party in July.
Hartland Superintendent Janet Sifferman said after reviewing the police report and interviewing people familiar with the incident, the district has at this point decided to wait for the outcome of the court case before taking any employment action. She said Sahouri's stellar record as a teacher and administrator with the district also was a factor.
"There's just a lot of questions out there as to exactly what happened," Sifferman said. "It's just enough question in our mind, especially when a person has a history in the district of doing the right and the ethical thing and looks you in eye and says 'I'm innocent I did not do this.' This is the United States of America. That's what it is about."
Not guilty pleas were entered for Sahouri and her husband, Raed, Monday during an arraignment at 67th District Court in Fenton as their attorneys waived the reading of charges. District Judge Mark C. McCabe set a 8:30 a.m. Sept. 1 pretrial conference. He also set $1,000 personal recognizance bonds for each defendant.
Police say the couple knowingly allowed underage drinking on the property of their Argentine Township home at the July 9 party, but the couple said uninvited guests brought the alcohol. They've said once they became aware of the underage drinking when a teenage girl needed medical assistance, they took action to stop it and called authorities.
Matt Norwood, Sahouri's attorney, said it's likely a trial wouldn't occur until this fall, possibly in November.
"We're looking forward to our day in court," Norwood said. "We'll be able to disprove any case they have."
The Hartland Patch could not reach the Genesee County prosecutor, who is now handling the case instead of the Argentine Township attorney, for comment Monday morning.
Violating the party host law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine. If convicted, Sifferman said both she as superintendent and the Hartland Board of Education would have to make a determination on her employment status, under the district's code.
Sifferman said the district also would reconsider the matter if any new information comes to light or if a plea agreement is reached. Barring that, the district's investigation is on hold.
Sahouri, who has been Creekside principal since the school opened in 2002, has been back to work since Aug. 15 when all school administrators returned from summer break. School begins Sept. 6.
Sahouri's initial ticketing has generated a lot of online comments from news coverage with people both supporting her and calling for her to lose her job. Sifferman said she'd be willing to talk to anyone concerned about the decision to allow her to work.
"It's a difficult situation when you're in a position that she is in," she said. "She has done a good job for our district and has been a good principal and we believe firmly will continue to be a good principal."