By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Candidates running for the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education answered questions created by Fordson High School Arab Student Union during an election forum Oct. 10.
Seven of the eight candidates running for two 6-year full-term seats participated in the forum, as did current Trustee Mary Lane who is running unopposed for a partial two-year term.
Candidates at the forum were Adel Mozip, a software entrepreneur; Afaf Ahmad, a journalist and radio host; Billy Amen, Hype Athletics director of operations; Cyndi Parrelly who is retired from DPS and Henry Ford College; Jim Thorpe, a financial advisor and current board trustee; Khalil El-Saghir, an education consultant; and Roxanne McDonald, a former board trustee.
Candidate Aman Fidama, a activist and volunteer was absent from the forum held in partnership with the Fordson Parent Teacher Student Association in the FHS cafeteria.
All the candidates in attendance answered questions about post-secondary readiness, community involvement, outdated text books, setting budgets, districtwide air conditioning, aging facilities, transpiration needs, representing the community as trustees and resolving issues.
One of the questions asked by the students was, “Besides our 95 percent graduation rate, which we are proud of, to what degree are students in this district on track for postsecondary readiness? How do you know?”
“According to the numbers the district put together, I’m going to be a little bit off on this we’re 56 percent ready on the English language and 52 percent ready on mathematics,” Thorpe said. “I might have flipped those two around, but 50-50. What that exactly means, they say that 75 percent of the graduates should be able to get a C in a college math or english language class. So we’re still looking to do more things to make sure that people are not only college ready, but also career ready.”
“What I noticed is that the high school students are not ready for colleges, most of them,” Ahmad said. “We need to set the bar high and have the children and the students challenged in classrooms and provide programs where they are ready to start college and attend.”
“I can tell you all that college readiness is a nationwide problem, issue, concern it’s not just here,” Parrelly said. “I know that from being on the other side at the college and the students coming in that a large percentage have to take the developmental classes in order to take college English and math. I think the dual-enrollment program can definitely help you be ready for college and also the college 101 classes offered at the high schools would be a plus as well.”
“We’re trying and we’re doing a lot of great things, but I want to go off the board a little bit because I don’t think every student is necessarily college bound and I mean that because some students are seeking alternatives to college,” McDonald said. “My husband is an electrician and he has earned a really good living in the skilled trade so I think we also have to offer those opportunities to our students. We do a good job with the collegiate academy and it’s time to help students develop their career path early.”
“When you say we’re not college ready, it means that our students are going to either universities or colleges and taking remedial courses and the reason for that is because they’re not prepped to take those assessments exams,” Mozip said. “I’d like to increase presence of colleges and universities here and we’d like to involve all the students. Most of the time, the universities would be looking for the top notch, most achieving students but we’re forgetting about the people who are in the middle or bottom.”
“We measure this as a district, we’ve put in curriculum, we have resources, great teachers and really good programs,” Lane said. “Whether any individual is on track for college or for career depends a lot also on their own maximizing their potential meaning themselves being prepared. We know we have a high rate following graduation for students, that most of our students do go to college. I think we’re doing a good job, how do I measure that? I talk to people, I examine what people are doing and I also try to recognize that not every student is going to test well so I’d like that to be a consideration as well.”
“If you look at what the state says, it was at 22 percent last year so that’s close to 1 in 4 students being ready for college,” Amen said. “Some of the things we can do to help prepare our kids for college is updated books, using technology, focusing on the facts. Like Roxanne said earlier, some of our students aren’t looking to go into college, they might want to go into something with their hands as far as electrical work or plumbing or millwrights. Those are some of the instructional programs that maybe we need to bring back, we need to focus on.”
“Yes, our graduation is at 94.6 percent, but 80 to 90 percent of our students go to college and they have to take remedial college courses, they have to take math and English and this is the most important indicator whether our students are ready or not,” El-Saghir said. “We need a better alignment of the curriculum at the high school and college, we need updated books, we need enough counselors because our rate of student to counselor here in the city, in the district as well as in the state are really very low.”
Parts of the election forum can be viewed on the Team City of Dearborn Facebook page. For more information on the election, candidates or proposals go to vote411.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)