By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Hamtramck Public Schools is now leaving the crossroads of a few changes – labor talks between administration and the teacher’s collective bargaining unit are continuing, COVID-19 restrictions are relaxing, federal grant dollars are being allocated, and then some.
In an interview, Interim Superintendent Nabil Nagi spoke with the Yemeni American News about these directions HPS is taking. Many past challenges are well on their way toward a solution, like the concerns brought forward by the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers.
Among the Federation’s concerns were shifting staff positions in the district and the impression that internal candidates were not being considered for administrative roles. The talks between the district and the Federation of Teachers continue, but Nagi says he feels positive about their direction these discussions are taking.
“These have been some challenging times for all of us,” Nagi said. “…We are committed to the partnership with our teachers and look forward to moving forward together. And that’s a key word together. So I’m very positive about the about the outlook, and making sure that we’re doing the right thing for everyone.”
What’s possibly a stroke of luck for the district is Wayne County’s decision to ease mask requirements in educational settings. This promising sign of a new stage in the COVID-19 pandemic has eased restrictions for schools, allowing them to decide their own mask requirements for students and staff.
“We’re making the mask mandate optional, but highly recommended,” Nagi said. “We’re providing N95 masks if necessary for staff and students as well… We’re keeping a pulse on things to make sure we’re making the best choices possible for our students, staff and community.”
Federal grant dollars were made available to school districts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamtramck itself received more than $55 million in federal grant funds. So far, a majority of the funds have been allocated to repairs made to some of the historic buildings that are still being used.
Those upgrades are focused on HVAC and ventilation issues that administrators have said makes students uncomfortable and learning difficult during extreme weather. “We have to upgrade a lot, especially because of COVID, the circulation of air, the windows… So a lot of the funds provided are to update all the AC And HVAC equipment in all the buildings.”
Although Nagi said he couldn’t speak much about Superintendent Ahmed’s relationship with the district, he did seem to express his gratitude for her time leading the district into the point where it is now.
“During Mrs. Ahmed’s time at HPS, many great systems were developed and we’re grateful for that and for her leadership,” Nagi said.
Nagi did talk about how he’s been acclimating to the role’s responsibilities over the past few months. As he continues in this role, he says that he’s sometimes learning as he goes. He also said that he feels confident in the team that’s been supporting the district’s efforts.
“I am extremely grateful for the entire HPS family, who have made the transition successful for not only me, but the entire organization,” Nagi said. “We’re currently solid in our staffing and working together to move forward and make the rest of the school year a success.”
There’s a lot of projects going through the district that Nagi expressed excitement over. With the lessons learned over the COVID-19 pandemic, HPS plans to continue a hybrid relationship between students and technology.
“At this point, as a one-to-one district with laptops – every child having one – we’re trying to integrate and train more for 21st century learning that encompasses more than just the computer use, but STEM and STEAM,” Nagi said.
And more importantly, Nagi sees room to grow the relationship between the schools and the broader community. The district plans to encourage community engagement from “all corners of our community” explains Nagi.
“We’re currently working on, and plan on implementing as soon as the weather gets warmer, we plan to be out there in the community and meeting with different folks from backgrounds and hearing what they have to say, no matter if it’s a small percentage, minority or large percentage,” Nagi said.