Members of the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers gathered in the rain Wednesday outside the district’s administrative offices. Many held brightly colored, expertly lettered signs. One said: ‘Where are you hiding out School Board?’
HFT President Toni Coral shouted to the crowd, “What do we do?”
“We show up!” they answered.
But she said, the board is not showing up.
Wednesday’s regular monthly meeting was canceled because the board said it would not have a quorum. The Committee of the Whole meetings are canceled for November and December.
Coral says that means the board is not doing the district’s business.
“This month, they will not meet to approve new hires, to approve any large purchases, to approve any improvements or repairs that we need in the district. The board is not showing up.”
And, Coral says, the board is neglecting its duties after giving itself a huge raise this year. In March, they voted to raise $700 annual salaries for members and the president’s $750 pay to $6,000 and $7,000, respectively. That’s more than an 850% raise. This tiny district now has some of the highest paid school board members in the state.
The high board salary is an even bigger deal right now. This week voters refused to renew a millage that is worth around $750,000 a year for the district. That money could have been used to repair the district’s old buildings or to provide heat for portable classrooms. Now those costs would have to be paid from the general fund that pays salaries and buys supplies.
“That bond last night was rejected because the community does not believe in the leadership of this district,” Coral told rallying teachers. “And I don’t think they should.”
The district has had a tense relationship with its teachers union for several years. The union says the administration retaliates against staff when criticized, that it uses unethical hiring and firing practices, and that it neglects schools and students. Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed even sued the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers accusing it of trying to get her fired.
HFT President Coral says now it’s time to take teacher’s concerns to the community.
“We need a whole new board. One year from today, one year from now, two school board positions will be available,” she said. “So, we’re here to tell them we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”
Jihan Aiyash, the president of the school board and the sister of State Rep. Abraham Aiyash, will have to give up her seat or run to keep it next year. Vice President Salah Hadwan’s term also ends in 2024.
Hamtramck School Board members did not respond to WDET’s request for comment about the canceled meetings. The Board’s next scheduled meeting is set for Dec. 13.