YAN – Hamtramck
Over the past decade, Hamtramck Schools have been working to accommodate the growing number of Yemeni students in the district with more resources for ESL programs, recruiting qualified educators from the community and improving communication with parents.
And with several Yemeni Americans elected to the school board and more staff members in the schools, the community became a part of the core of the educational operation in the district, not only as students, but educators and policymakers.
Now, a Yemeni American woman will lead the public schools in Hamtramck – a stunning development that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
Educator Jaleelah Ahmed was appointed as superintendent on May 15. She will start her new job on July 1, replacing retiring superintendent Tom Niczay, who served in the position for more than 11 years.
In her first public statement after the appointment, Ahmed said she is looking to strengthen the bonds between everyone involved in the schools to continue the progress of the district and ensure the best education possible to students.
“It is an honor to serve Hamtramck Public Schools and I look forward to collaborating with the school board, staff, families, community and organizations,” Ahmed said in a statement.
“Collectively, we will make a difference in the lives of our students. It is an exciting time for us and I am thrilled to work with so many talented people to ensure that students receive the maximum opportunities for them to thrive in a global society.”
The community was overjoyed by the appointment, which came weeks after Yemeni American activist Adel Mozip was selected to serve on the school board in neighboring Dearborn.
Hamtramck Councilman Saad Almasmari said Ahmed’s appointment will strengthen the presence of the Yemeni community while empowering the entire city.
For his part, journalist Yaser Alarami said the news was “historic”.
“A new page in the history of the Yemeni community in the United State has been written by the appointment of Jaleelah Ahmed as the superintendent of Hamtramck Public Schools; she is the first Yemeni American to become superintendent across the country, and the first Arab in Michigan,” he wrote on Facebook.
Other community activists also flooded social media with congratulatory messages for Ahmed, noting the importance of the representation for Yemeni American women.
“The goal is to have the most qualified person,” said Yemeni American News publisher Rasheed Alnozili. “And we were all lucky that the right person for the job is a Yemeni American woman. It is time to unlock the leadership potential of the women in our community.”
Alnozili noted that Ahmed’s appointment is the product of years of engagement and activism by community members in the district. After all, three Yemeni Americans already serve on the school board. They have been elected after taking initiative and running for office in the past years.
“It’s a part of an evolution that the Yemeni community in America is undergoing,” Alnozili said. “Jaleelah’s appointment in Hamtramck after Adel Mozip’s appointment in Dearborn show that Yemeni Americans are on the right path. Hard work does pay off.”
Serving with passion
While Ahmed has made headlines as a Yemeni American appointee, her personal qualifications are exceptional. Those who know her laud her leadership skills and passion for education for all children.
She has more than two decades of experience in the field. She has been the English Language Development director for Hamtramck Schools since 2016. Before that, she served as a principal and district resource teacher, bilingual teacher and Title I specialist.
Ahmed has a bachelor’s degree in English, master’s in education with a K-12 Educational Leadership Endorsement as well as endorsements as a K-12 Literacy Specialist and in ESL.
Back in December, Ahmed told the Yemeni American News that she hope that Niczay’s successor will lead with the same passion, and we are sure that she will.
“We have a district where parents are committed to their children’s education,” she said at the time.
“At the same time, it’s a high-poverty district, so a person that has empathy and understands the needs in our district and understands how to meet those needs – that would be a huge quality that they would have to fill in his big shoes.”