Hamtramck has saluted the former superintendent of its public schools, Tom Niczay, hailing his years of service to students and successful efforts stabilize the district financially and accommodate the growing diversity in it.
After 11 years as superintendent, Niczay has raised academic standards, all while increasing language resources for the thousands of immigrants that had come to call Hamtramck their new home.
But after more than four decades in education, Niczay decided to retire.
Hamtramck lauded his contribution, crediting him for improving the state of the schools, which has improved the quality of life in the city.
At a farewell ceremony at Kosciuszko Middle School in Hamtramck last month, educators, community activists and parents came together to thank Niczay for his efforts.
Jaleelah Ahmed, who has succeeded Niczay to become the first Yemeni American woman superintendent of a public school district, said she learned a lot from Niczay’s experience, pledging to follow in his footsteps.
Passing the baton
For his part, Niczay praised Ahmed, saying she was the right, qualified candidate to lead the schools after him.
“I’m very confident passing the baton to Mrs. Ahmed. Hamtramck will hopefully live on forever,” he said at the event.
Niczay added that the district may not be perfect, but it is home to people who care about each other. He also said that he is not responsible for the schools’ success by himself.
“Truly, it’s teamwork, not just one person,” Niczay said.
Indeed, the district now has an $11 million budget surplus – a far cry from the $5 million deficit it once faced.
Besides the academic achievements, Niczay helped bring Detroit City FC, a semi-professional American soccer club, to Hamtramck.
The football club now plays at the Keyworth Stadium, which is owned by the schools, after embarking on a $900,000-project in partnership with the district to renovate the stadium.
School Board Trustee Moortadha Obaid said Niczay renewed the public’s trust in public education and helped overcome major financial challenges.
“We would have liked him to stay longer, but we really wish him luck going forward,” he told the Yemeni American News.
Obaid said Niczay did not only leave an impact on the schools but on the entire city, making the community more active and attractive to businesses.
The president of the Hamtramck Board of Education, Magdalena Srodek, also lauded Niczay.
“What this man has done for the district is immeasurable. You live and breathe Hamtramck schools. You just can’t retire from being awesome,” she said.
At the celebration, Yemeni American News publisher Rasheed Alnozili presented Niczay with a traditional Yemeni dagger – known as Janbiya – as a symbol of appreciation from the Yemeni American community.
Alnozili called for renaming one of the schools in the district after Niczay.
“Mr. Tom a man who knows the value of education and inclusion,” Alnozili said. “He was able to steer the ship to safety and help it thrive despite the challenges. This city and this community will never forget what you have achieved.”
Back in December when the Yemeni American News sat with Niczay for an interview, he said he will stay connected to the district, but rather he will be away from the daily operations to move forward with his family.
“I will work hand-in-hand with the new person that comes in… I’m not leaving Hamtramck but it is time to relieve myself from the day-to-day operations of the city at the end of June,” Niczay said at the time.