By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck city councilmembers aren’t the only ones seeking pay raises.
Last week, the Hamtramck Public School Boardmembers also proposed increasing their annual compensation.
But there is a difference between the two groups: The city council stipend increase requires voter approval to change the city charter regarding council salaries.
The school boardmembers, on the other hand, had it easier: they didn’t need voter approval, and approved their increase at their meeting last week.
But the pay raise caused division among some board members, and pushback from teachers.
Boardmembers Mortadha Obaid and Regan Watson voted against the increase, saying that the positions are largely voluntary.
“We all came to this position as a volunteer job,” said Obaid.
Watson stressed that board meetings need to be more focused and go on too long. Sometimes the meetings can last two hours or more.
She added that the board needs “to get better at what our actual tasks are here, and I think we’ll move a lot quicker that way.”
The pay increase was first revealed on the HPS teachers’ Facebook page. The board had been paid $700 a year, while the board secretary and treasurer received $750 each.
The initial proposal was to increase boardmembers’ salaries to $5,000, and $6,000 for the board president. But the board agreed with new member, Victor Farris, who suggested upping it to $6,000 per board members and $7,000 for the president.
He said that, after doing some research, he concluded that the current pay rate is “probably why the board might not be so good,” and added that it would attract more “serious” members.
Those voting in favor of the pay raise included Farris, President Jihan Aiyash, Abdulmalik Algahaim and Daz’Shavon Hall.
Vice President Salah Hadwan was absent.
While board policy calls for regular attendance, Aiyash missed most of the meetings last year, and never provided an explanation for her absence.
Teachers blasted the pay raise, and also the fact that, at a previous meeting the board held during an ice storm that closed the district for the day, they did not broadcast it, and did not include a resolution to bring back Superintended Jaleelah Ahmed from an indefinite suspension on the agenda.
George Hloros said that, while boardmembers talk about being open and transparent, their behavior “contrasts that.”
He said the board includes non-agenda items as a way “to avoid democratic debate.”
Hloros also criticized the board for twice refusing to fill a special education teacher position that is needed in the high school because of financial concerns, yet voted to increase their salary.
Toni Coral, president of the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers, said the board opted to “enrich” itself, “instead of using the money to do something for students.”
Jessica Madden said she has volunteered her time taking students on ski trips without financial compensation. In tears, she lashed out at the board, saying “Now I know what you stand for. … You created division tonight.”
Madden added: “I can’t trust you have the best interests of our students.”
Superintendent Ahmed called for unity.
“I hope we can come together as a unified force to focus on the true issues at hand,” she said.
Ahmed further said that she hopes the district “partners together and tackles the issues, not each other.”
Ahmed has previously filed a lawsuit in federal court, last May, against some members of the board, past and present, and the teachers’ union for conspiring to get her fired and other issues.
During her suspension, which lasted over a year, Ahmed was still paid.
Asked if she could provide the status of the lawsuits, Ahmed told The Review that she “cannot comment on legal matters at this time.”
Ahmed also stressed that “I can say that the district continues to focus its attention on further strengthening its academic programs and making critical improvements to our buildings to ensure our students have access to the resources they need to thrive.
“We continue to review how best to utilize the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds available to the district so that our students are learning in a safe, warm and welcoming environment that helps them reach their potential.”
Posted March 17, 2023