Ahmar Contests for Ann Arbor School Board

By Adil James, TMO

CIMG3827_2Farmington–September 28–Ahmar Iqbal is contesting for a school board seat in Ann Arbor.  There are six contestants for two seats that are up for reelection, including the two incumbents.

Mr. Iqbal seemed to exude some confidence and certainly a lot of knowledge of the Ann Arbor School District in an interview Wednesday with TMO.

Unfortunately there is no polling in School Board elections, and so it is difficult to estimate one’s impact.

“It’s hard to say,” he explains, “there is no polling, a lot of candidates, it’s hard to establish name recognition–but I’ve been going to school board meetings, knocking on doors, meeting community leaders.”

Iqbal’s knowledge of the school district is the most impressive feature of his campaign, showing his seriousness in seeking one of the available seats.

He rattles off the relevant facts, for instance that there are 3 high schools, 16,000 students in all grades, with a budget of $185 million. 

He speaks about his plans for the future, emphasizing plans to build on the Jewish community’s Hebrew instruction program that is available to Ann Arbor students-similar programs for other languages should exist, he argues.

He trades on his strength in finance–his main focus, he says, is to more responsibly manage the district budget.  “We have to get all the resources that are our due.  We have to be more prudent in other budget areas so we can hire more teachers, reduce class sizes. 

He speaks of his own children’s experiences at the public schools, explaining that their class sizes are from 30 to 39 students.

Following are some of the key points from Mr. Iqbal’s promotional brochure:

Why I am running for the school board?

My finance experience involving over $2 billion of projects, gives me a chance to address the biggest challenge facing Ann Arbor schools — how to fund a great education.  I want to use my finance expertise in exploring how we can more responsibly manage our school system to provide a great education for all our kids.

My goals if elected to the school board?

I want to move the discussion from the current “survival” and “community reactionary” mode to how can we provide a great education to all our students.  How can the “Educated in Ann Arbor” brand be recognized as a world leader in providing a robust, diverse and challenging education?

I would like us to find the money to (1) hire more teachers and reduce class size; (2) explore a longer school calendar; (3) commence foreign language from grade one.

At the same time, we must maintain equity for all students and approach education as a holistic development including character and confidence.  School busing should be available for all students including 7th hour. 

Summer online education programs should be encouraged.  In collaboration with parents and mentors, an actual education plan should be developed for each student and visited regularly.  This plan should not only include student expectations, but also input from parents and teachers as well as mentors.

My 100 day plan if elected to the school board?

1.    Create advisory committees on issues concerning the parents and the community.

2.    Competitive bids on all school contracts.  In the most recent school board meeting on Sept. 14, two contracts worth over $400,000 were approved without multiple bidding.  We must be prudent with all of the district’s money.
3.    Regular “coffee hours” by the administration, board members and principals to engage the community and explore collaboration opportunities.

4.    Actively advocate Lansing lawmakers on keeping the school aid fund for K-12 only as well as reforming local funding options for school districts.

5.    Celebrate our successes and positive attributes.  Not only student achievements, but faculty and community recognition as well.