By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck teachers hit the streets this past week.
They were outside their school buildings, before and after classes, to protest the return of Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed.
Ahmed was asked to come back by a slim majority of school boardmembers. Ahmed returned Monday; she had been on suspension for over a year.
This was the second time the board entertained a resolution to have her come back. The first vote, last month, failed, but the second vote, last week, succeeded, with Boardmembers Jihan Aiyash, Salah Hadwan Daz’Shavon Hall and new member Abdulmalik Algahaim voting in favor.
Boardmembers Regan Watson and new member Victor Harris were opposed to the motion. Boardmember Moortadha Mobaid was absent.
Boardmembers never said why Ahmed was suspended, other than to say, at that time, that an investigation was being undertaken. The board also never said what the investigation was about, nor what it concluded – if anything.
The board has also not said why they wanted Ahmed to return.
During the past year, Interim Superintendent Nabil Nagi had been in charge.
Nagi told The Review that he returned to his former position in the administration.
Ahmed did not return messages for comment.
However, Ahmed posted a letter to HPS families that she had returned, and looked forward to guiding the district forward.
Ahmed has a pending federal lawsuit against the district, accusing some board members and the teachers union of defamation, conspiring to remove her, and various violations of federal discrimination laws.
Ahmed initially took time off for medical reasons, but just as she was prepared to come back in January of 2022, she was told not to return. She has remained on the payroll during this time.
The board’s latest vote happened under circumstances that the HPS teachers union is questioning. The board’s vote happened during a Committee of the Whole meeting, but the resolution to restore Ahmed was not on the agenda.
“If the board is so certain of its decision to bring back Mrs. Ahmed, why did they not place the resolution on the agenda and allow people to comment on the matter before the board voted?,” said Toni Coral, the president of the Hamtramck teachers union, in an email to The Review.
“Is the board officially signaling that it doesn’t care about anyone’s, particularly employees’, opinion? The process they used was patently undemocratic.
“If employees do not feel valued or respected, morale will plummet and employees will leave. The board’s behavior will hurt students.”
In prior board meetings, teachers and administrators criticized Ahmed and her Human Resources Director for their management. They complained that a number of staff members were given abrupt job changes that they were not prepared for.
A number of teachers and staff members resigned during Ahmed’s tenure while superintendent. Ahmed took a medical leave of absence over a year ago, but when she attempted to return a few months later, the board rejected that move, and suspended her with pay.
The HR director was let go after her contract expired. That person is also suing the district.
The board’s vote to return Ahmed raises a question about whether it violated board policy, which follows Robert’s Rules of Order when it comes to parliamentary actions.
In the recent vote, Vice President Salah Hadwan made the motion to bring back Ahmed. He had previously voted in agreement to reinstate Ahmed, but that first vote failed.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, only the prevailing side of those who voted against reinstating Ahmed could have brought back the resolution for reconsideration.
The recent vote also happened under questionable circumstances. The district had closed down the day of the vote because of weather conditions. The committee meeting, which was posted in accordance to the state’s Open Meeting Act, went forward without it being broadcast.
The return of Ahmed comes at a time of turmoil in the district.
Nagi was recently named in six lawsuits from staff members claiming discrimination and other allegations.
The district is now handling 12 lawsuits, some of which are aimed at Ahmed and the former Human Resources Director.
On top of the legal matters, the district is struggling to fill several vacant special education positions.
Teachers are complaining that they have to deal with some students with severe behavioral issues, such as biting, spitting and acting up, while teaching other students in their class.
“This is destroying the mental health and happiness of both staff and students,” said Amanda Lesko, a teacher at the early Childhood Center.
She added: “Students are destroying classroom material, furniture and other things,” and said “Teachers are getting physically harmed.”
That wasn’t the only action taken at the recent committee meeting.
A slim majority of the board voted to strip Boardmember Regan Watson of her role as treasurer of the board. That’s an action practically unheard of in the board’s history.
She was replaced with new Boardmember Abdulmalik Algahaim.
Watson did not respond to an email asking her for comment.
The recent actions of the board appear to show a division among boardmembers.
Posted March 3, 2023