Siad Ali formalized his entry into the District 3 race for school board in a well-attended announcement Saturday at the Phillips Community Center.

Judging by the mostly Somali-American crowd of close to 100, the Somali-born staffer for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar can claim fairly broad support. The most notable figures there in terms of school board politics were Mohamud Noor, the district seat's current holder, and Ubah Jama, the widow of Hussein Samatar, who held the seat until his death in August.

Noor's presence lends credence to the rumors that he's decided that his political future lies elsewhere, possibly in a run for the area's Minnesota House seat. He was just appointed a board member two weeks ago. Jama also sought the appointment.Ali is the first announced candidate for District 3 but Abdulkadir Dahir Abdalla, a charter school educator, plans a late January entry

Also present for the announcement were school board members Rebecca Gagnon, who's seeking reelection citywide, Kim Ellison, who ventured over from her North Side district, and Ali supporter Robert Albee, chair of the Ventura Village neighborhood group.

Ali touched on familiar themes for school candidates; partnerships between the schools and neighborhoods and businesses, more youth mentoring and more equity among student outcomes,  He also said he favors better pay and benefits for teachers.

But he lingered most on the achievement gap. Acknowledging unhappiness with racial differents in achievement, he said he's not running to blame anyone but to ask the community to redouble efforts to narrow the gap.

After paying tribute to Samatar, Ali outlined his personal history. He arrived in the United States in 200 after living for eight years in India, where he said he earned masters degrees in commerce and business administration. He began working as a temporary laborer, but later became a bilingual program assistant for Minneapolis schools. He went on to become a state job counselor in Owatonna, an adjuct faculty member at Riverland Community College. He served on that city's Human Rights commmission and the local board of the hospital. He works on immigration issues and community outreach for Klobuchar.

Showing he's picked up some chops from American pols, Ali closed his speech with, "May God bless the United States.  May God bless Minneapolis."