Vito Jordan never had a chance.
Jordan’s five-year tenure as Detroit Renaissance’s boys basketball coach was finished the moment Verynda Stroughter was named principal at Renaissance, records show.
In a series of emails between Stroughter, deputy superintendent Iranetta Wright and other Detroit Public Schools Community District administrators, Stroughter showed a determination to hire River Rouge coach Mark White as Renaissance’s basketball coach, even before her first meeting with Jordan, and she made a deliberate attempt to make the process look “clean.”
To that end, in the cash-strapped Detroit school district, Stroughter and Wright created an administrative position at Renaissance for White that would have paid him over $72,000, in addition to his coaching salary.
To clear the path for White — who had a rumored sexual relationship with Stroughter — Jordan had to be removed from his coaching position, and Stroughter, who didn’t leave her job at Birmingham Seaholm until late August, wasted little time addressing that detail.
“It’s a straight conspiracy,” said Jordan, 33. “The principal and the assistant superintendent were in on this. It’s in black and white. There’s not any more speculation.”
Neither Stroughter nor Wright responded to Free Press requests for interviews.
Like most school districts, coaches in the PSL are on 1-year contracts and serve at the discretion of the principal. But even knowing that, this case raises ethical issues about some administrators in Detroit Public Schools, particularly Stroughter and Wright.
In a sense, Jordan could be viewed simply as collateral damage because Stroughter, either of her own volition or under orders from the central office, was intent on hiring White as soon as possible.
In the first email obtained, dated Sept. 4 with the subject line “Mark White-Resume,” Wright wrote to Stroughter:
“As discussed. Can you reach out to him today possibly and schedule a time for this week.”
Stroughter responded: “Will do!”
Jordan pointed out that discussions of getting rid of him must have begun before school began.
“If you look at the emails it says: ‘As discussed.’ They said it on Sept. 4,” Jordan said. “That was the first day of school. I had never even met this lady.”
Four days later, on Sept. 8, Wright asked for approval to create the position of Dean of Culture at Renaissance with funding coming from the “GF contingency.” That evening, superintendent Nikolai Vitti approved the position.
“It’s a Dean of Discipline-type job,” Jordan said. “Renaissance wasn’t approved to have one because they don’t have discipline problems.
“All of it got approved in one day.”
Three days later, on Sept. 11, Stroughter learned that the position had been approved and wrote to Wright: “Great! You do quick work. He said it’s not posted. Does this information mean it will be? Also how do I proceed with the coaching position? I’m ready!”
That was the day she informed Jordan he was fired, but assured him he could interview for the job.
On Sept. 15, Stroughter submitted White’s resume and wrote: “Please extend him an offer letter.”
On Sept. 19, Alvin Ward, director of athletics for the district, sent a memo to all principals and athletic coordinators stating that all current PSL boys and girls basketball coaches must reapply for their jobs. (It wasn’t immediately clear how many of those coaches actually reapplied).
Jordan filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking more than $500,000.