DEARBORN HEIGHTS - On Monday members of the Crestwood Board of Education, and the district’s superintendent met at Crestwood High School to discuss information published in an article by The Arab American News (TAAN) this month on Hamid Soueidan, who was appointed to the board in August.
Soueidan is currently a candidate for the Crestwood School Board (CSB). TAAN has been conducting interviews and writing articles about candidates running in the Nov. 6 general election.
The board’s President Donna Ancinec addressed concerns about the article on behalf of two board members who were not identified, and she claims they had issues with it.
Soueidan says he received a call from Ancinec regarding complaints from board members, and was asked whether he preferred having an open or closed meeting to address them.
Ancinec mentioned speaking with an attorney from the Michigan Association of School Boards prior to the meeting about how to handle the situation.
The public meeting was well attended by Arab American residents of Dearborn Heights. “There are flat out mistruths in this article,” Ancinec said.
The first issue she addressed was over the article stating Soueidan was once class president while attending Crestwood High School. Soueidan said he was class president during his sophomore year, the article didn’t provide the grade he was in at the time he held the position. In a recent meeting, the president praised his credentials, however.
|ommunity members packed a special meeting that was called for by the school board to address content in an article published by The Arab American about Hamid Soueidan’s election campaign. PHOTO:Natasha Dado/TAAN|
The article quotes Soueidan as saying, “When I had the opportunity to be appointed on the school board, I wasn’t sure at first. But then I realized the community was facing some tough issues that every kid deserves to have in a public educational system…from the right to receive a quality public education, to the right to get proper nutrition. I felt so many people in the district not just Arab Americans were deprived from the old qualities of the educational experience.”
Ancinec says the statement is contrary to what Soueidan told the board when he was appointed. “What this statement here says does not reflect what he said to us when he went for the appointment. He wanted to be part of good things and head in the right direction, and he was very supportive of things that we had done,” she said.
Hamid said the statement was misread, and includes the term, “when,” indicating the new attitude emerged after he was appointed, and not while he was being considered for the position. “What it says is when I had the opportunity to be appointed, now, not before, I wasn’t sure at first, but then I realized after I was appointed.”
Ancinec says the article states that Soueidan supports Zaineb Hussein’s campaign, who’s also a CSB candidate, but not running up against him. Ancinec says Soueidan had initially thrown his support behind Hussein’s opponent.
“He made it very clear, very clear that he was backing Mrs. Ward, but I don’t care who he backs…you can’t play it both ways. You can’t lie like that,” she said.
Ancinec also noted that Soueidan had changed his position on getting halal meat served to students in the district, and was initally against it. In the article Soueidan shows support for bringing it into the district.
Soueidan says he was once told halal meat wasn’t allowed in the district because of an equal protection order. He said he eventually did research and found out that wasn’t true. “I would just be careful about playing both sides of the fence,” Ancinec said.
Speaking to The Arab American News, board member Ed Garcia said he didn’t have a problem with Soueidan changing his position on issues, because generally candidates do change their stance on issues after doing research and learning more about them.
He indicated that when he first read the article, he also had questions about it, but called Soueidan to personally get them answered. He said after Soueidan explained the article’s content he was fine with it.
In the article Soueidan says he wants to work on addressing wasteful spending.
The passage reads, “Soueidan says a major issue he wants to work on that he has brought to the district’s attention is wasteful spending. After reviewing the district’s budget plan, he noticed an air conditioning project that was estimated to have cost over $23,000. However, according to Soueidan, he says from competitive bidding he was able to cut the cost down by half…”
Soueidan says once again the article was misread, and he stated that he brought it to the district’s attention, and it wasn’t implemented. Garcia said he remembers Soueidan bringing it to the attention of board members once.
“That’s what I brought to the district’s attention and I believe I did. We talked about that, remember?” In response Ancinec said, “I still think you left the misconception that you came flying in with a cap and are saving the board from throwing money around…and we don’t know how to go out and budget things.”
This is not the first time an article published by TAAN about Soueidan was discussed among board members. According to members of the community when an article was published on Soueidan’s appointment to the board, it was brought up at a school board meeting because it allegedly created the perception that Soueidan was only appointed because he’s an Arab American.
However, the article indicates clearly that he is the first Arab American to be appointed to the board, not that he was appointed because he’s Arab American, publisher Osama Siblani explained.
"We always cover Arab Americans and Chaldeans when they assume public positions, and Soueidan is no exception," Siblani added.
Soueidan’s appointment to the board was of great interest to the paper’s readers, and local Arab Americans who regarded it as historic considering no Arab American has ever served on the board although Arab Americans make up an overwhelming majority of the district’s students.
“I don’t read this paper, because I heard that there are misconstrued ideas in it, so it doesn’t make me angry, and it doesn’t make me feel bad about anybody or anything because I love all people,” board member Colleen Krizanic said.
At one point during the meeting speaking to Soueidan, Ancinec said, “I’ve never had a conversation between you and I personally, I have avoided that.”
“The board needs to focus on real issues that affect students, that’s why this community put them in power. People from the community have called me complaining about what was brought up at the meeting. Some called it immature and silly, and said it isn’t the way a governing body should present itself,” Dearborn Heights Community Organization President Hassan Bazzi said.
Soueidan said he plans on responding to some of the accusations made at the meeting, and challenging them to the fullest extent of the law. He says many things were in violation with the board’s policies.
The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating practices by the Crestwood School District.