Outgoing Hamtramck Schools’ superintendent Tom Niczay hails district’s progress


The Yemeni American News

After four decades of working in the district, Niczay will be leaving his post at the end of the school year. Speaking to the Yemeni American News, Niczay pledged to still help the schools and his successor. At 65 years old, he said he promised his family to move forward.
“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.
The district has managed to maintain academic standards, as more students whose primary language is not English, including thousands of Yemeni immigrants, joined the schools.
“We don’t have any schools with academic concerns. Of course, we want to do better… we are making very good progress and that’s no small thing,” Niczay said.
Concerns were raised last month about Hamtramck’s water after the city issued an advisory because elevated lead levels were found in two homes.
Niczay said the schools have already communicated to the community that the schools’ water, which is regularly tested, is safe.
The schools are also encouraging parents to test their water at home for free through the city of Hamtramck.
“But also on the bigger picture, we’re still concerned about the homes,” he said. “It’s one thing to say the water is lead-free in the school system, but if a child goes home and there is lead in the faucet in the kitchen that’s not good, so we’re encouraging every family to make sure there is an opportunity to get the water tested for free through the city of Hamtramck.”
Niczay highlighted a $900,000 project in partnership with Detroit City Football Club to renovate Keyworth Stadium, which is owned by the schools. Detroit City FC has adopted the stadium as its home.
“We’re very excited by it, and once the masterplan is developed and secured then the next job is to make sure that we get the funding to implement whatever is in the masterplan, whatever the community wants whether they want soccer, walking paths, bike paths… the city of Hamtramck and Kathy Angerer, the City Council and the School Board are working in partnership for this to happen,” Niczay said.

‘Great guy’
Hamtramck School Board Trustee, Moortadha Obaid, said it was “really sad” that Niczay is leaving the job, he lauded the superintendent as a “great guy”. Obaid credited Niczay for steering the schools to a financially healthy position after the district was in deficit.
“Tom had worked hard to bring a lot of good things to the district and to the city,” Obaid said. “I’ll give you an example which is DCFC, the soccer club. Tom helped bring them to Hamtramck. The city is active. A lot of people come and see the city and that brings potential to Hamtramck and even for business owners they are very happy with these developments.”
Obaid also praised Niczay for working with the city council and community organizations to renovate parks and community centers.

‘Leads with his heart’
Jaleelah Hassan Ahmed, English Language Development director at Hamtramck Public Schools, said Niczay “leads with his heart”.
“In the past three years that I’ve been in this district it’s been an honor to work with him and for him, and to learn so many things from him and his leadership style,” she told YAN.
She said the superintendent understands the needs and talent of people in the district.
“It was bittersweet,” she said of Niczay’s retirement. “I say that because the commitment and dedication that Mr. Niczay has devoted for our district is to be applauded and no one deserves to retire and seeing the next journey more than he does. But it was very difficult because as I started to learn and work on a variety of different projects with him and just getting acquainted with his leadership style and getting so much done, it was hard to learn that you know someone else will take his place.”
Ahmed hopes that Niczay’s successor will lead with the same passion.
“We have a district where parents are committed to their children’s education. 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.”