Eight candidates vying for two seats on DPS Board of Education

aman-fidama-copyBy ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Nov. 6 general election ballot will be stacked with eight candidates vying for two seats on the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education.

The two victorious candidates will serve six-year terms.

The candidates are Afaf Ahmad, a journalist and radio host; Billy Amen, Hype Athletics director of operations; Khalil El-Saghir, an education consultant; Aman Fidama, an activist and volunteer; Roxanne McDonald, a former board trustee; Adel Mozip, a software entrepreneur; Cyndi Parrelly who is retired from DPS and Henry Ford College; and Jim Thorpe, a financial advisor and current board trustee.

Each candidate was asked three questions with a 100-word limit for each. Mozip, Ahmad, Parrelly, Thorpe and  El-Saghir did not respond to the questionnaire by press time.

Question 1: What skills, strengths, education or experience do you possess that make you a qualified candidate for the position you are running for?

billy-amen-copy    Amen: As the COO of Hype Athletics, I’m grateful to be responsible for more than 3,000 of our children weekly. I budget, program for, protect, and mentor children within our district, while simultaneously responsible for two complexes with hundreds of staff and support personnel. Prior to Hype, I worked in our school district’s special needs department for several years, working first-hand with our gifted children. In my passion, I’ve been a coach for many years at various age levels, mentoring our children, and reinforcing the good values at home. My entire life has been rooted in working with students which has given me a unique insight into their unique challenges.

Fidama: I have a unique life experience which is different from all other candidates and sitting trustees. I was born and raised in Dearborn, I was fortunate to attend Dearborn Public Schools despite social and cultural difficulties. I worked very hard to afford my eight daughters the best education that Dearborn Public Schools and Henry Ford College affords.I lived, dealt and understand the many challenges that students and their families face as they try to assimilate in our new culture and attain a good education to compete, excel and succeed.

McDonald: I have a heart for service and a passion for education. I’m certified by the Michigan Association of School Boards and have had countless additional hours of professional development in education related subjects such as; strategic planning, legislation, finance, school law and more. I’ve spent more than 20 years serving Dearborn in many capacities and currently serve on the board of directors for the Goodfellows and the Dearborn Community Fund. I was raised with integrity and a strong work ethic; my tenure as a trustee on the board of education was defined by good governance, fiscal responsibility and academic excellence.

Question 2: What will be your priorities if you were (re)elected?

Amen: My focus is on school safety; I believe the only fear a child should have at school is making it to class on time. Our schools must be safe; our teachers must be able to focus on creating engaging, inclusive classrooms. I would heavily focus on curriculum, particularly on engaging educators, administrators, and parents in jointly deciding a solution. I encourage our students to attend college, but I realize not all want to, and for those choosing not to, we need to build technical programs supporting the next generation of highly skilled laborers. Our students deserve 21st century answers to their 21st century challenges.

roxanne-mcdonald-copy    Fidama: My priority is to provide our students a healthy and safe environment where they can grow, learn and compete. Some of Dearborn Public School buildings are almost a century old. They are outdated and badly in need of updates.The Infrastructure of other schools need to be upgraded as well. Some schools need to be brought up to speed with current information technology. We need to provide healthier meals for the kids.I would work hard to get families in the community involved and understand the situations because we need a strong support team to help our students succeed. Quality education and Fiscal responsibility will always be my focus. We need to constantly look at ways to improve the delivery of education while not over burdening the tax-payers and residents. I will be diligent and reviewing all programs for effectiveness and making sure resources are allocated appropriately.

McDonald: It is vital to maintain effective security without compromising the warm and welcoming environment, conducive to learning that our students deserve. I truly believe in individualized education; we must understand how each child learns, identify their strengths and weaknesses and provide the programs and support they need. We have great programs for gifted students at the secondary level, but need similar programs for our elementary students. Our aging buildings, although well built, must be maintained and repaired. I wish to expand our tuition free programs and provide more opportunities for students seeking alternatives to traditional college, such as skilled trades.

Question 3: Why should people vote for you?

Amen: Directly working with students my entire life, I uniquely understand the challenges students face; I hear it directly from them every day, in the schools and on the field. I’ve worked in our school system, supporting our children with special needs and coaching our young adults, reinforcing the great values instilled at home. This position is paramount because we are electing someone to truly be a voice for children, the majority of which cannot vote, and we must represent them with someone who has listened to them. Our students face new challenges such as school safety, educational equity, access to technology, technical programs, and I will prepare them for it.

Fidama: I am running for Dearborn Board of Education because I believe the greatest opportunity we have to shape our future is by investing in our youth. This is my first time running for public office and I’m excited to take on this challenge. As a mother of eight daughters who benefited from the quality education we have in our city, I feel it is time for me to give back. Throughout the years, I have donated my time and skills to teach ESL classes, tutor students and provide translation services to immigrants. I have reached a point in my life where I have more time to give and I’ve chosen this position because I believe my experience can help improve the district and benefit our students.

McDonald: I’m prepared, from day one, to successfully take on the challenge of serving our community in this crucial role; because I’ve already done it and have done it well. Shortly after being elected to the board, the college needed a new president and faced a huge financial crisis. Enlisting help from our stakeholders, we oversaw a successful $16 million turnaround at the college and were able to substantially add to the district’s general fund. I am a proven leader with the knowledge and experience to serve Dearborn; I wish to continue preparing our students for a rewarding and successful future.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)