By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck Public School teachers say they come to work every day, and they are now demanding school board members do the same thing.
Last Wednesday, about 40 members of the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers (HFT) met in the parking lot adjacent to the district’s administration building, where board meetings are held, to protest the board’s absenteeism.
The board had scheduled its regular meeting for last Wednesday, which was the day after Hamtramck voters once again overwhelmingly rejected the district’s request for a millage renewal.
But that meeting had previously been canceled without explanation.
“Tonight, they will not face the public,” said HFT President Toni Coral. “They are not doing their job. We want the board of education to remember we show up when they don’t show up.”
The HPS Board of Education has canceled four of their regular monthly meetings this year, and six of their monthly Committee of the Whole meetings.
The board’s next scheduled regular monthly meeting is for Dec. 13.
The Review reached out to Board President Jihan Aiyash and Vice President Salah Hadwan for comment, but neither responded.
Aiyash, who is the sister of state Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), was also absent for just about all of the board’s meetings in 2022 but never gave an explanation for her absence.
Boardmember Regan Watson has not attended a board meeting since February when, in an unprecedented moved, she was stripped of her position as Board Treasurer.
She was removed — after the board initially re-appointed her to that position — when new boardmember Abdulmalik Algahaim objected to her for following the board’s long-standing policy on the treasurer’s role. Algahaim was then appointed to that position.
After the beginning of this year, Hamtramck School Board members gave themselves a yearly salary raise of over 700 percent, justifying it by saying that it would attract quality candidates to run for the office.
Board members had been paid a nominal $700 a year stipend, but raised it to $6,000 a year, with the board president getting an additional $1,000.
After rewarding themselves with a salary hike, the board then mysteriously canceled one meeting after another.
The board’s failure to meet comes at a time of crisis for the district. Not only did voters twice rejected the district’s millage renewal request, but teachers and staffmembers continue to resign from their jobs.
A number of former employees have cited a “toxic” work environment, created, they say, by district Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed and some members of the board.
Ahmed also spent the year 2022 away from work, first on a medical leave and then after being suspended by the board for reasons never explained (other than to keep saying that there was an ongoing investigation).
During her leave, Ahmed was still paid her salary.
When Ahmed returned this year, she was awarded with an extended contract and a salary boost of $50,000 a year. She now makes $195,000 a year, plus an additional $24,000 a year to supervise the district’s Recreation Department.
Ahmed also has a pending lawsuit against the teachers’ union and some members of the board of education. The board did not require her to withdraw her lawsuit in order to come back to her job.
During the teachers’ protest, they frequently broke into a chant: “Give back the money,” in reference to the superintendent’s and board’s pay raises.
HFT President Coral said the board has “walked away” from their jobs.
“We need a whole new board,” she said.
Rounding out the half-hour protest, teachers chanted:
“Who are we? HFT. What do we do? We show up.”
Posted Nov. 17, 2023