By Charles Sercombe
The Hamtramck Public School District Board of Education has had a change of mind.
At their Jan. 4 meeting, the board, despite the protests of some members, moved their regular monthly meetings as well as their Committee of the Whole monthly meetings (COW), to Mondays instead of Wednesdays.
But, at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the board did a reversal and went back to their long-standing Wednesday schedule – with one change. The meetings are now moved up from formerly starting at 6:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For years, the board’s regular monthly meetings were always on the second Wednesday of each month. The same applied to the COW meetings.
To be clear, the regular monthly meetings are on the second Wednesday of each month, and the Committee of the Whole meetings are on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
That wasn’t all that was discussed at the meeting, which at times saw Board President Jihan Aiyash having to vigorously gavel down teachers’ thunderous applause.
Board Vice President Sal Hadwan seemed to open a door when he welcomed input from teachers and staff about district operations.
“We want you guys’ input,” he said. “We want you to reach out if you feel like you want to reach out. Follow the chain of command, of course, but we’re always open to hear your concerns, or questions, or comments. We want to make sure out students are getting what they need and what they deserve.”
Teachers didn’t hold back.
And, they had concerns about what happened at the Jan. 4 meeting. At that meeting, some on the board considered hiring one of two unnamed candidates to take over the duties of superintendent.
According to sources, one of those candidates being considered was Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed, who has been put on suspension for the past year by the board, pending an investigation that has yet to be explained.
The district is currently under the management of Interim Superintendent Nabil Nagi.
Ahmed originally took a few months off for medical reasons, but a prior version of the board then took a further step and prevented her from coming back. Ahmed has since filed a lawsuit against both the district and the teachers’ union.
The Review reached out to Ahmed for comment on possibly coming back, but she did not respond.
After Ahmed left, a number of teachers complained about her management style, as did some of those of her administration, especially the director of Human Resources, whose employment contract was not renewed.
That director has also filed a lawsuit against the district.
Toni Coral, president of the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers union, was the most outspoken. She reminded the board about prior resignations by teachers and staffmembers in response to Ahmed’s policies and management.
She said that there was a “mass exodus” of 23 teachers in the fall of 2021.
Coral questioned why the board would consider bringing back Ahmed.
“Why did the board president (Jihan Aiyash) and board allies dismiss the concerns of district employees about an important issue, an issue as important as who’s leading the district?” Coral said.
“This is our lives, and we are deeply impacted by the choices the board makes.”
She continued, saying that there is still a shortage if teachers in the district, as well as in the nation:
“When people leave because of hostile attitudes from elected officials, we will struggle to fill those vacancies. … Why would the school board president and board allies essentially tell district employees that they, you, don’t care about us?”
She also ended her comments with this:
“Which boardmembers will reach out to a drowning staff to help? Which board members will attach rocks to our feet?”
It’s board policy to not respond to comments.
Posted Feb. 3, 2023