Dania Bazzi, center, has been settling into her role as the West Bloomfield School District Superintendent.

Dania Bazzi, center, has been settling into her role as the West Bloomfield School District Superintendent.

Photo provided by Kendra Montante

New WBSD superintendent discusses aspirations for the district

‘I was ecstatic to get the job’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 30, 2022

WEST BLOOMFIELD — New West Bloomfield School District Superintendent Dania Bazzi said she was “very happy” in her previous role as the superintendent for Ferndale Public Schools.

It was a position she had held for approximately five years — one she wasn’t necessarily looking to replace.

However, when she learned that Gerald Hill, the previous WBSD superintendent, was set to retire, Bazzi decided to seize a potential opportunity to be the district’s next leader, as she thought it would be a good fit for her.

In April, the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education unanimously approved terms of a contract for Bazzi.

“I was extremely excited and humbled,” Bazzi said. “There’s a longstanding tradition within (the) West Bloomfield School District; I believe since the inception as a school district, I’m the ninth superintendent, and it was exciting to know that it’s a school-family atmosphere, that we’re going to work towards our goals as one team. So I was really ecstatic to get the job. I was humbled that they believed in me and felt I was the right person to lead the district at that point.”

Stacy Brickman is the president of the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education.

“As a board, when we reflected on all of Dr. Bazzi’s accomplishments, one thing was very clear — that she always puts students at the forefront,” Brickman said. “No matter what the decision is, the best decision for students is always at the forefront. It’s very clear.”

Despite working with what she described as a great team of educators during her role with Ferndale Public Schools, Bazzi had reached “one of those points in life” where she decided that it was time to set her sails for a new horizon.

“West Bloomfield opening had a unique set of advantages,” she said. “It was an opportunity that I knew I would regret if I didn’t see where the path took me. … If it was meant to be, things would work out, and if it was not meant to be, then it wouldn’t. So I was willing to accept … but also not be afraid to go after your goals and go after a district that you believe is a good fit.”

Bazzi shared some of the specifics of what appealed to her about the job.

“I was really excited, in terms of the district’s portrait of a graduate, the fact that they focus on a whole-child approach,” she said. “Obviously, academics is very important, and we are an academic institution and take that very seriously, but at the same time, we know that executive functioning skills are very important for our students to move forward. … Academic excellence is always a priority, but at the same time, we’re focusing on essential skills for our students that they need to be successful as they leave our district. So in addition to academic results, there’s a deep focus on what we call the four Cs. … The four Cs focus on core competencies, which include being a great communicator, collaborator, critical thinker and contributor.”

Bazzi added that, “Those core competencies, when I did my research about the district, really resonated with me.”

West Bloomfield School District Assistant Superintendent for Learning Services Scott Long shared some of his thoughts about Bazzi.

“Dr. Bazzi is laser-focused on student learning that addresses all students,” Long stated via email. “She leads by example. Dr. Bazzi maintains high expectations for all, while supporting staff to be the best versions of themselves.”

WBSD Director of Educational Equity and Inclusion Sonja James also shared a positive evaluation of Bazzi.

“She has a vision for equity and inclusion,” James stated via email. “Her goal is to create learning environments that are productive and inclusive for every student and staff member at WBSD.”

Since taking the reins in West Bloomfield, Bazzi has been impressed with what she’s observed from the district’s teaching staff. She has also gotten a feel for how involved community members are within the district.

“The community sees the schools as the heartbeat of the community,” Bazzi said. “All of the municipalities that we work with have been overwhelmingly supportive of the district and our students, whether that be through a bond project, our sinking fund, school activities, athletics, and school plays and fine arts; our community always shows up (for) our kids and provides a lot of support. So the community is a bright spot within the district and gives us that family atmosphere.”

Bazzi said that the district is strong financially and has a rainy day fund in case things get “bumpy.”

She also pointed out that a district strategic plan was approved this past June.

“It focuses on academics; it focuses on our learning environment; it focuses on our personnel; it focuses on our community engagement; and it focuses on operation and finance. So, obviously, we want to continue to work towards our goals, our priority objectives, in each of those five areas,” Bazzi said. “I think making sure that we monitor this plan and implement it with fidelity is our next big charge as we look forward. (The) strategic plan is nice; it looks really nice on the website, but we really have to make sure that we’re implementing it with fidelity.”

Bazzi expressed confidence in the plan that is in place.

“It’ll drive the work of the district, and it’ll be our guiding path to ensure that all of us are rowing in the same direction, so that we get positive outcomes for all of our students,” she said.

When asked about the direction of the district, Brickman said that she is extremely hopeful. The district’s strategic plan was also on her mind.

“Dr. Bazzi was also a part of that process because when we hired her she was able to participate in May (and) June for our strategic planning sessions,” Brickman said. “It has outlined our future for the next three to five years, and I’m very confident that we are all moving in the same direction or we will be moving in the same direction throughout this process. … It’s an exciting time, I believe, for our school district.”

From Brickman’s perspective, the WBSD is on a “very strong path.”

“Where the schools at one time worked more independently, we are becoming more of a school system, where we’re all moving together in the same direction, which should improve student achievement and efficiencies in our district to achieve our goals,” she said. “The other thing is opportunities for kids — making sure our facilities are aligned with the education that we want to provide our students. … Those things, I believe, will give us a clear path over the next three, five, 10 years, and that’s still being defined.”

A strong learning environment can go a long way toward creating positive outcomes, and based on the feedback Bazzi has been getting, the district has just that with Abbott Middle School, which opened this year.

“I’ve received huge amounts of positive feedback, with regards to that building,” she said. “It really is a special learning space, and you should see when students enter that building, seeing it for the first time — their eyes light up. It really was well done, well designed and designed in a way that would allow us to match the educational programming that we wanted to achieve.”

Bazzi, who is married and has two boys, grew up in Wayne, Michigan. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in teaching, mathematics and social studies; an education specialist degree in curriculum and instruction; and a doctorate in philosophy, curriculum and instruction from Wayne State University.

Bazzi was the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators 2022 Superintendent of the Year.

She has been enjoying her tenure as the WBSD’s superintendent.

“The job has been fantastic,” she said. “I’ve been welcomed with open arms. … The laughter of our students filling the hallways has made the transition very smooth and very enjoyable. I’ve enjoyed going to football games, family fun nights (and) being present in the community and letting them know that I’ll always have an open-door policy, and that I deeply care about their children and want to do what’s best for them.”