By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Almost 30 students and parents made their voice heard in support of the Stout Theater Company and its director, Rashid Baydoun, who is scheduled to return to the program this week.
Baydoun, who is also the Stout Middle School Restorative Practices coordinator, stepped away from the role in December. A post on the Stout Middle School blog by Principal Gregory Oke and Assistant Principal Daniel Blessing on Jan. 14 announced Baydoun’s return.
“We are happy to announce that Mr. Rashid Baydoun will be returning to the Stout Theater Program next week,” the blog post read. “We apologize for any undue stress this has caused students and our school community. Mr. Baydoun needed some time away from extracurricular activities to attend to a few matters and he will soon be ready to continue his involvement with the theater program at Stout.”
According to the post, Baydoun continued to work with students during the school day as Stout’s Social Responsibility technician over the past several weeks.
“We are pleased that he is returning to the theater program and look forward to future productions featuring our talented students,” the post read.
Oke and Blessing thanked the school’s faculty sponsor, Lisa Cronin, for continuing to plan and supervise theater activities over the past few weeks.
“We would also like to thank the parents, community members and former students who have lent their support to the the theater program on an ongoing basis,” the blog post read. “We also appreciate the leadership and support of the entire Stout school community who continue to support every student in and out of school.”
During the Dearborn Public Schools Jan. 14 Board of Education meeting, Supt. Glenn Maleyko said he understands the importance of performing arts and that the district is discussing implementing similar theater programs at other middle schools.
“I just want to mention that I appreciate the dedication and hard work of the performing arts in our district. They do great work, we see great things and even through the current school accountability system doesn’t necessarily have a measure to look at that we always valued that in Dearborn,” he said. “They’re important and we know they are.”
Oke emphasized the pride Stout has for its theater program stating it’s been a wonderful program for students. “We really appreciate kind of the community effort that has gone behind the program — so many people both in this school and in the community have played in its success,” he said. “We have theater actives ongoing last weekend and planned for this week as well.”
He also added that school personnel are very happy that the individuals who had been leading the theater program will continue to do so.
“The theater program is something that has had a positive impact on so many students both in our schools and across the district,” Oke said. “It’s a program that I believe needs to be supported moving forward and has always been a priority of mine when we’re looking at extra curricular offerings.”
Among the almost 30 students and parents who spoke in support of Baydoun and the program during the meeting was Stout Theater Company President Kaitlin Bell. The eighth-grader said when she first came to Stout she was the shy girl who always sat in the back and never wanted to speak out, but that all changed after joining the program.
“My past few years at Stout and my experiences with the Stout Theater Company I have learned to build my confidence and to learn to be able to talk in front of people that I don’t know or what they’re going to think of me, but I have learned to not care and to do me — that I am who I am meant to be.” she said. “Without Stout Theater Company I feel like I probably would have failed a couple of projects, a couple projects in seventh grade that were based a lot on how we presented.”
Bell continued to say that because of the theater she learned how to make eye contact with her audience, to be able to project, to breathe when necessary.
“I’m very thankful for my journey in Stout and Stout Theater Company and the friends I have made because of Stout Theater Company,” she said. “Stout Theater Company, despite its name, is not a company, it is not a community, it is not a mere extracurricular activity, we are a family.”
State Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Dearborn) also spoke during the board meeting telling the crowd and trustees that she hears their concerns as a senator who is advocating every day for education in the state.
“It’s programs like this who actually allow for the students to have that voice, to have that outlet and to be able to mirror this with their academic studies and so we definitely want to make sure that we continue to fund programs like this and make sure that we advocate for our students,” she said.
“I am just elated by all the students here today who are making their voices heard on behalf of their director of their program director and definitely we want to make sure that they continue to have their voices heard at the state level.”
Trustee Mary Petlichkoff told the audience that the board is committed to preserving the program and providing the same kind of support and excellence that school and community have enjoyed in the past.
“We can’t speak on individual personnel issues and we can’t comment on the reasons why people have done or not done things in the past but we will tell you as board we have no interests other than serving the school community and in providing the best possible experience for everyone involved,” she said.
“I want to make sure that you understand that we’ve heard your voices, we’ve responded as well as we could during the circumstances and that we can’t give any more response than that at this time so I do want to make sure that you understand that the program will continue on as you have seen it in the past.”
Trustee Hussein Berry said he received calls about what was going on with the program, but could not respond to things parents and employees allegedly told him. The calls prompted Berry to ask the board for a report of any complaints over the last three years that came out of because the theater company to the building or district.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])