Minneapolis school board adds Somali-American

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2013 - 7:04 PM

Mohamud Noor balances three jobs and fatherhood as he’s about to add Minneapolis school board responsibilities.

 

The Somali community feted Mohamud Noor a week ago in a familiar place for Noor: the Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside area of Minneapolis.

It’s where he went on his second day as an immigrant to Minnesota. He made the pilgrimage to the Somali version of a settlement house there and got a membership card and his first Minnesota ID.

Now Noor runs that agency, the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, as its volunteer interim director. That’s atop his full-time day job with the state. He’s also a husband and the father of four ranging from 5 months to 7 years.

Now he’ll be juggling one more job, one for which his work at Coyle helped vault him to the top of a four-way competition to be appointed to the Minneapolis school board, a job he assumes Tuesday.

The 35-year-old succeeds the late Hussein Samatar. The school board gave Noor the edge over Samatar’s widow, Ubah Jama, who is also a relative of Noor’s wife, Farhiya Del. Both Noor and Jama say that the awkwardness of that competition is behind them; she attended the reception last week at Coyle marking Noor’s pending swearing-in.

“I’ve told her, ‘Make sure, please keep me on my toes, and if I’m doing the right thing, please support me. And if I’m on the wrong track, please guide me.’ ”

Jama said she won’t run for the seat when its term expires next year. Noor said he hasn’t decided for sure that he will run, wanting a few weeks in the job before he decides. The district lies between the Mississippi River and Interstate 35W, generally north of E. 36th Street.

For now, Noor is the state’s lone Somali-American official in public office, as was Samatar. That’s only until Jan. 6, when Abdi Warsame joins the Minneapolis City Council.

‘Work to do’

The agendas articulated by the community at the reception and Noor in an interview include quality early childhood education that’s culturally specific, better after-school services, more Somali-speaking educators and other teachers of color, and schools that welcome diverse family and community members. The after-school options for students should give them academic help that some parents can’t, enrich their opportunities and divert middle and high school students from the streets.

Noor’s advocacy for improved computing skills for students isn’t surprising. As soon as he found a first job at Macy’s, Noor was saving for a computer, and he has honed his skills since. He finished his four-year computer science degree at Metro State and now manages computer systems for the Minnesota Department of Human Services that welfare workers use.

Evenings, he continues the daytime work of the confederation’s outreach workers, which one evening brought women seeking work, looking to modify a child-support order and find culturally specific family counseling.

His job puts him at the center of a Somali immigrant population that has made Minnesota its state of choice. He’s made their journey. Now, he says, his passion is making sure other children get that chance that he and his two oldest children have.

As activist Saciido Shaie told him during last week’s reception, “You have work to do.”

 

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

Twitter: @brandtstrib

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