DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Crestwood School Board Trustee Danielle Elzayat, who was appointed to her position in 2020, is now seeking election to a full term.
Elzayat, who was elected president of the board by her peers earlier this year, started her career at the Wayne County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2007. She was promoted to chief of staff in 2014.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been heavily involved in the county’s COVID response.
“I witnessed many families struggle to keep their children and loved ones safe,” she said. “I have since accepted the role of director of Health, Safety and Security at Dearborn Public Schools; and although we are in the recovery stage today, getting our schools back up to speed is an ongoing challenge.”
Elzayat, a “Crestwood mom”, has three daughters who are graduates of Crestwood. She and her husband, Amad Elzayat, started the Amity Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at giving back to the community.
Elzayat graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2006 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and communications. She also completed master’s coursework at Wayne State University in bilingual and bicultural education.
“It has been my pleasure to serve the families in our community,” she said. “I am running to advocate for the health, safety and security of our students, faculty and staff and to support all the programs that will improve the literacy levels across our district. In my role as chief of staff of the Wayne County Department of Homeland Security, I experienced firsthand the struggles our students faced while learning in a pandemic environment and the impact it had on our families.”
In her experience, Elzayat said she has the passion needed to make the tough choices and the job is not done.
“I was determined to work with the school board members to find solutions to the issues caused by staffing shortages, virtual learning, access to technology and others,” she said. “Ultimately, I believe that the education our children receive in K-12 schools shapes their potential and I bring the experience and passion necessary to provide them with the resources they will need. The job is not done. We have ongoing staffing issues, our teachers are underpaid and our students’ literacy and numeracy levels are declining. In my second term, I plan to tackle these issues head-on.”
Elzayat said she wants to focus on three big issues she believes are impacting the ability of school employees to deliver quality public education to students: Funding, safety and security, and post-pandemic recovery.
“First, we need funding for infrastructure and salaries,” she said. “Our buildings do not accommodate the number of students we have and our teachers and staff are underpaid. Second, we have to prioritize the safety and security of our students and faculty. And finally, literacy and math proficiency levels have dropped across the state of Michigan during the pandemic. I am committed to bringing our students back up to speed, but this can only be done if we provide for our teachers additional funding, safe work environments and reliable support staff.”
She also cited technology as another important point of focus.
“I believe we have to work on expanding technology support to all homes,” she said. “As a school district, we are now a one-to-one district with Chromebooks, but more can be done to provide our students with access to WiFi in their homes. Additionally, the individual development of each student is a priority for me. I believe that we must take into consideration the backgrounds and experiences of individual students while supporting their growth journey in the classroom. I don’t believe that this should be limited to literacy and math levels, but should also include social and other factors. This wholesome approach to supporting the student will ensure that no student is struggling on their own. And finally, I believe that hiring and retaining more teachers will be critical for improving equitable and inclusive education.”
Since being appointed in 2020, Elzayat said she feels that the board has been able to work together in a way that it never has before and that it has operated transparently, communicated openly, encouraged one another’s ideas and passions and always leaned on the community members for feedback.
She said she believes her fellow board members elected her president because she promoted a safe work culture that fostered creativity and encouraged collaboration and that, together with the other board members, they were able to improve security, enhance technology and work with partner organizations to provide programs for the district.
“Professionally and throughout my career, I have become well versed in public entities,” she said. “While serving as chief of staff at the Wayne County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, I learned the complexities of budgets, grants and political agendas. While co-founding the Amity Foundation, I worked on securing and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and, more recently, partnered with the Dollywood Foundation to secure a multi-million dollar endowment. I am committed to applying my skills and education to all the tough decisions the board will make. We will continue to focus on spending the maximum amount possible to support our students and also support our staff with competitive pay.”