On Monday, the Crestwood School District held the last Board Meeting of the summer where they approved and appointed several administrative positions for the 2012-2013 school year, which begins on September 4. But the highlight of the meeting didn't come until the end of the agenda, when during the public comments section, community members were able to address their concerns of the ongoing debate with the alleged mistreatment of Arab Americans within the school board as well as address comments made by Board President Donna Ancinec at the last meeting might have left a few parents displeased.
|Rashid Baydoun addressing issues in front of the school board during the meeting held on August 27.|
"I'm not trying to offend anyone but the purpose of appointing people is not to promote any religion, nationality, culture...it's to find the best person that we can chose to serve this community, and in this case, Hamid fit the bill....so It's not about whether you're Arabic or Greek or Polish, it's about the whole Crestwood District and we really want to pull the whole Crestwood district together...i think it's offensive to Hamid to think that he was put in that position because of his ethnicity or religion which wasn't the case," Ancinec stated during the last meeting.
One of the achievements Ancinec was boasting about during Monday's meetings was that the school board will now have to practice in making sure their new hiring are all ESL certified within three years. Previously, parents were complaining that the district was lacking in the bi-lingual departments and did not have the proper and adequate staff to handle the growing number of bi-lingual students within the district.
However Baydoun tells us that this wasn't an achievement that the board did on their own, and it was actually through a recommendation given by the U.S. Department Education Office of Civil Rights, who did an extensive investigation on the district and came up with the resolution as a way to solve some of the problems. Since the previous meeting, Baydoun has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of the communities various complainants. When taking the podium to speak to the board, his frustration could be heard.
"These problems tend to persist due to the ongoing lack of professionalism and the lack of ability of some school members to acknowledge the concerns of parents, students and community members. We are willing to communicate and at times we just want to see you reach out. We are the taxpayers and the one's that are actively participating in these meetings," Baydoun stated in front of the school board.
Amir Saleh, a treasurer of the Dearborn Heights Community Organization, a group that was created by community members to further address and resolve the issues at Crestwood, took the stand during the public forum and addressed the board members about how some locals feel about practices within the district.
"When we approach you about hiring, we don't want you to hire one of us because we are Arab, we want you to hire the best for the district and the best for our children. Be fair with hiring. Be like other districts. This school board is facing a big problem...if you are being investigated by the Department of Justice, you know there is a problem," Saleh stated.
President Ancinec did make an attempt to reach out to community members at the end of the meeting when she announced that a "come together committee" would be formed by the Superintendent, which would involve both the high school and middle school parents, with a purpose to address all the concerns and ideas that they might have. Those concerns would then be brought back to the school board meetings where they could be discussed on the agenda.
Many parents seemed pleased by the announcement, with one parent even telling TAAN that the school board has made some steps in the right direction compared to where they were a few months ago. Baydoun remains cautious and says that community leaders should continue to monitor the school board, hoping there can actually be some substance behind the announcement.
"I personally think this is going to continue to happen until there is a change in their mind-set. They are trying to paint our community as antagonistic outsiders...why do we have to go so far just so we can get our elected board to address our issues? We need to work on making the board more transparent and inclusive," Baydoun stated after the meeting.