Nov. 6 elections: Dearborn School Board candidates answer our questions

Two full-term seats on the Dearborn School Board are up for grabs, and the race has four times as many candidates as available seats.
The crowded election has some familiar faces, as well as newcomers into the world of politics.
The Dearborn Board oversees all of the city’s K-12 public schools, and it serves as the board of trustees of Henry Ford College. The board works with the community, parents and students to improve the schools. It approves major financial and educational policies, selects the superintendent and college president and supervises facility issues.
Put simply, the elected board represents the people’s power in running their own tax-funded schools.
For Arab American and immigrant communities, which are typically young, public education is vital. This election matters. Each trustee will serve for six years, leaving a lasting impact on the city and its future.
Trustee Jim Thorpe is seeking re-election. Former school board member Roxanne McDonald is also running. Former candidate Adel Mozip, who came close to winning in the 2016 election, is vying for a place on the board again. Activist Amy Fedama is looking to make history by becoming the first Yemeni American woman to win an elected office in the history of Dearborn.
Veteran trustee Mary Lane has opted to run for a partial two-year term to fill the seat of Judge Mariam Bazzi who vacated her position on the board in 2017 to serve in the 3rd Circuit Court . The seat had been temporarily filled by business Celia Nasser, who was controversially appointed by the board last year. Nasser is not seeking re-election. And Lane will not face any competition in her bid for the partial term seat.
We sent a set of three questions to all the candidates. Below are their responses. As we asked them to keep their answers brief, some responses have been edited for space and style.
1-Can you introduce yourself to the voters?
2-Why do you think the people of Dearborn should vote for you?
3-What would you change about the current state of affairs of the schools?

Dearborn – The Yemeni American News

Adel Mozip
1-My name is Adel Mozip and I’m a father, software entrepreneur and an active citizen who loves Dearborn schools and Henry Ford College. I was raised to value the importance of education.I am running for a Board seat to strengthen our schools and empower our students. As a leader of technology, leadership and community service youth programs I have guided youth in effectively achieving their goals in education to become successful. As co-founder of a non-profit organization that promotes higher education, I believe my experiences and expertise will be an asset to the Board.
2. I believe Dearborn voters need someone on the Board of Education who reflects their concerns and aspirations. I am a great listener and a great doer. When Edsel Ford was ranked in the bottom 5 percent of high schools statewide, I successfully worked with Superintendent Brian Whiston and stakeholders to turn their achievement gap around. In 2017 Edsel Ford’s graduation rate was 95 percent. Our kids deserve a proven leader on the board…. I am not running for a seat so it would be a stepping stone for another office nor I am running for the money.
3. The top challenges in the K-12 system is student safety, quality education and the effectiveness of programs. I would like to see programs evaluated by the board and funded based on their effectiveness. I would also ask to track key progress indicators for these programs. My top priority for Henry Ford College is retaining students and full-time professors. Enrollment has decreased for HFC and the number of full-time professors is below what is expected. I will ask the college president to draft new ways of improving the academic experience and to work with stakeholders on a long-term strategic plan.

Afaf Ahmad
1. I am a long time Dearborn resident with two daughters who were products of Dearborn Schools. I am a passionate activist for community and education. I have received several leadership and outstanding activist awards for working with community members on issues such as women’s empowerment and children’s rights. I am the recipient of the first place award for an investigative report in the UAE about the importance of the relationship between parents, education and students in 1998. I have earned a Bachelors Degree in Arts and I am currently an active Journalist, Graphic Designer and Radio Host in Dearborn.
2. I am running for school board in Dearborn because I want to work to improve the quality of education for students and parents. My priorities are student safety, quality education and equity in curriculum and resources among all of DPS students. One of my concerns is the overcrowding at the high school level. The Dearborn population continues to grow and we need to find long term solutions to serve our students. I am also concerned about college readiness in our district… I would also like to [improve] parent involvement..
3. I have been an advocate against the over-testing of our students for many years. Currently the teachers in our classrooms are teaching to the test. I feel that students and teachers do not have the adequate time to learn what is necessary for success. We must reduce the amount of testing that our students undergo so that they have enough time to learn. Then the testing will become more accurate in terms of testing the students knowledge as opposed to what we made them learn for the test.
Amy Fedama
1. My name is Aman (Amy) Fidama, I was born and raised in Dearborn. I am married to Walid Fidama and we have eight beautiful daughters. I’m a community activist, a member of the PTA, recently elected as secretary at Fordson High School (PTA). I’m also an active member of the 12th Congressional District Democratic Organization, the Dearborn Democratic Club, a Democratic precinct delegate for District 16 and a member of NAYA and other local community organizations.
2. My passion, dedication and desire is to serve the students and residents of Dearborn. As a mother of eight daughters, I understand the importance of the excellent education that my daughters had and continue to have in the Dearborn Public Schools and I want to make sure that other Dearbornite students receive the same opportunities. My priority is to provide our students a healthy and safe environment where they can grow, learn and compete.
3. Some of Dearborn public school buildings are almost a century old. They are outdated and badly need updates. The infrastructure of other schools need to be upgraded. Some schools need to be brought up to speed with current information technology. We need to provide a healthier meals for the kids. While addressing the needs of our children and their schools, we also need to be fiscally responsible and not to overtax our residents.

Billy Amen
1. A lifelong resident of Dearborn, I have lived in the South, East, and West end, attending Oakman Elementary, Bryant Middle School, and Fordson High School. Since 2001, I have served as the COO for HYPE Athletics where my career has been devoted to serving our youth and where I am responsible for near 200,000 children a year. I have dedicated near 20 years to our children; as a football coach, precinct delegate, SAFE mentor against substance abuse, and previously a school paraprofessional for years. I have committed my life to our children’s challenges, and will continue to do so.
2. On November 6, voters will be responsible to vote for individuals who will protect the future of their kids. As a product of our school system, I also work hand in hand with our children every day, helping them overcome their unique challenges and struggles. Our children have been my life’s work for almost two decades… Currently as the COO of HYPE Athletics, I am honored to protect, program for, budget, and mentor almost 200,000 of our children each year. My experience and commitment to ensuring each child reaches their highest potential is why I deserve your vote.
3. Our schools must be the safest places within our city, and while our current administration has been successful, I have a zero-tolerance policy for indiscretions. Parents send their children to school to learn, and no parent should need to worry for their children after sending them off; our first responsibility as a board is the physical and psychological safety of your children, from the world outside and within the school. I will work to implement stricter policy on safety and counseling, ensuring our children are safe from the elements entering schools, whether that be individuals, harmful substances, or bullies.

Cyndi Parrelly
1. I recently retired after 30 years of service in the Dearborn Public Schools and Henry Ford College. I served as Stenographer at the Schools and HFC Board of Trustee meetings for much of that time – and as Executive Assistant to two HFC Presidents. In those roles, I learned a great deal about the Schools and College policies, practices, and the reasoning behind them – as well as the day-to-day operations of the Schools and College.
2. Given my 30 years of experience in the Schools and at the College, I can provide the Schools, College, and community with insights that few candidates have ever brought to the School Board. I am very concerned about school safety, a nationwide problem, and will work with staff and community members to assist the Schools’ Safety Committee… I will continue to be accessible and responsive to student, staff, and citizen concerns. At HFC, I have been heavily involved in serving veterans and assisting all students in achieving a quality education which can lead to secure, good paying jobs.
3. I believe that both the Schools and HFC are providing a good education and future to those students and adults we serve. We have good leadership in Superintendent Maleyko and HFC President Kavalhuna. However, there is always room for improvement. I will strongly support improvement in curriculum, teaching, methodology, and programs. I believe in improvement but not fads or change for the sake of change – especially when tax dollars are at stake.

Jim Thorpe
1. I am Jim Thorpe. I am 45 years old and a lifelong Dearborn resident, graduating from Dearborn High. I moved back to Dearborn after college and have worked in the city since 2001. I am married with a daughter in eighth grade at Bryant and a son in sixth grade at the STEM middle school.
2. I believe people should vote for me based on my experience in the district. I became active in our schools in 2002 and have served Dearborn on the education foundation, curriculum council, strategic planning committee, and on the ballot campaigns for the SMART bond and hold harmless millage. I was elected to the Board of Education in 2016. Since being elected I have strived to do what I believe is in the best interest of the students and tax-payers I serve. I serve with integrity, humility, and open-mindedness. I would appreciate your support – and your vote on Election Day.
3. In my opinion, two issues for the district would be retention of qualified employees and helping families that are new to the community. I want to make sure staff feel appreciated. We recently renewed contracts with all the employee groups in the district, increasing their pay… I will continue visiting schools to listen to staff share their ideas and concerns for the district. Secondly, we have many families moving into our community who need additional attention and resources. The district needs to continue working with our community partners to make everyone feel at home in Dearborn.

Khalil El-Saghir
1. I am a father of two daughters who attend Dearborn Public Schools. My wife and I are active members of the Dearborn PTA, advocating for parents’ involvement and engagement in schools. I have been working in the field of education for the past 18 years, and I am currently an Education Consultant at Wayne RESA. I am a certified teacher, with master’s degree, and a doctorate candidate. I have served on numerous educational organizations and committees, including at the Michigan Department of Education. Additionally, I am a U.S. Army veteran and a former Dearborn Police reserve officer.
2. I think the people of Dearborn should vote for me for two reasons. First, because the school board does not have any K-12 educator, which means decisions made lack educator’s perspective. Having an experienced and highly qualified educator would be highly beneficial to the deliberation and decision-making process, which will eventually help the board make informed decisions and cope with the challenges our district is facing. Second, I am the most qualified candidate in terms of education level, certifications, long-term experience in teaching, educational research and data analysis, community activism, and a wide-range of network with educators beyond our district.
3. Our schools are facing mounting challenges. The educational achievement gap among our elementary schools is at a historical level. The majority of our high school graduates are not career or college ready and, thus, must take many remedial college courses. Our experienced teachers and support staff are leaving the district, or the profession altogether, at an alarming rate. These, and many others, are challenges that require immediate attention and adequate solutions. As a trustee, I will work diligently to ensure equitable distribution of educational resources, make career and college readiness a top priority, and reverse teachers’ turnover.

Roxanne McDonald
1. My name is Roxanne McDonald, I graduated from DHS, received two associate degrees from HFCC and a bachelors from Lawrence Technological University. My husband Chuck is an electrician and our three sons attended Dearborn schools. I’m very proud of the stellar reputation I’ve build and was raised with integrity and a strong work ethic. This year I was honored with the Gene Brazell Community Role Model Award and in 2016 I received the Michigan Symbol of Excellence in Good Governance.
2. I’m a proven leader, certified by the Michigan Association of School Boards and served five years on the Board of Education. My heart for service and passion for education have led me to volunteer my time and talents to numerous Dearborn organizations, for more than 20 years. I have the knowledge and experience to successfully serve in this vital role. All students deserve an outstanding education and I wish to continue preparing our students for a rewarding and successful future.
3. Class size affects student success, classroom management, and much more; keeping them low must be a priority. Dearborn students can earn a diploma and associate degree in five years at no cost, giving them a competitive advantage and also addresses the high cost of college. I wish to expand these programs and give the same opportunities to students interested in education and other fields. We must also provide more opportunities, like skilled trades, for students seeking alternatives to traditional college.

Mary Lane
1. I am Mary Lane, a candidate for the 2-year partial term for Dearborn Board of Education. I was first elected to the Board in November 1999. I chose to move to Dearborn because this is a vibrant community where my husband and I raised 2 sons and a daughter, who have become productive adult citizens working as engineers. I have been very active and volunteer in schools, neighborhood, and other organizations. My family has been very involved in public education for a long time and I believe it has made our country great.
2. I ask for your vote on November 6 because I have served the Dearborn Public Schools district and Henry Ford College well over the last 18 years. I can contribute my knowledge of what has worked and what things we have tried before. Besides an historical perspective, I read widely about education and can bring much information, with my own adaptations to Dearborn.
3. Of course, the most important change would be for the state of Michigan to fully fund the actual cost of educating our children and young adults (including higher ed and training). A fact-based, non-partisan group has researched and determined that it truly costs $9590 per year to educate an average child. Our state has been underfunding education for years, particularly as we know that it costs more for children in poverty, trauma, and English language learners. A high-quality education is critical for all of our futures and must be a priority, as is paying master teachers.