by Dennis Dalman
St. Cloud school board candidate Hani Omar-Jacobson said she firmly believes her communication skills, along with her bilingual and bicultural background, would be beneficial for the students, teachers, staff and parents in the school system.
She is one of seven candidates vying for four seats on the school board in the Nov. 3 election. Those seats are now occupied by Al Dahlgren, Shannon Haws, Jeff Pollreis and Monica Segura-Schwartz. All of those, except for Pollreis, filed for re-election.
Hani and her family fled the war in Somalia, in east Africa, when she was only 8 years old.
Omar-Jacobson, 35, is a public-health nurse for CentraCare, with her job title being community health specialist. She and her husband, Nathan Jacobson, have four children – Gabriel, 12; Leyla, 9; Eli, 7; and Isaac, 2. The two oldest attend North Junior High School; Eli goes to Westwood Elementary School.
Omar-Jacobson has lived in St. Cloud since 2005 when she accepted a position at Whitney Senior Center working with a program to serve local senior citizens called Building Bridges, Opening Doors. She, her husband and other Whitney staff developed the program, which went on to win the St. Cloud Mayor’s High Five Award for excellence in community service.
Later, she enrolled at St. Cloud Technical & Community College to study nursing. Since then, she has earned degrees for licensed practical nursing and registered, as well as an associate’s degree from SCTCC and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Cloud State University.
While attending school, Omar-Jacobson worked full time for District 742 at Talahi Community School and Apollo High School as a bilingual paraprofessional. She also has experience working as an LPN with the CentraCare Women’s and Children’s Clinic and as an RN at the CentraCare Family Health Clinic.
“In my present role (as CentraCare community health specialist), it is my goal to promote health and wellness in Central Minnesota,” Omar-Jacobson said. “I seek to use my communication and critical-thinking skills to work with the community and other (school) board members to elevate our public-education system.”
The St. Joseph Newsleader asked Omar-Jacobson questions about student diversity, problems of bullying and the ongoing debate about the value of written tests.
Every child, she said, deserves access to quality public education. Her bilingual and bicultural backyard, she added, gives her skills and insights to work with people and to help them find solutions.
“The many perspectives I have as a middle-class working mother, a refugee daughter and a public health nurse will serve me well as I seek to close the achievement gap, bridge communities and serve children,” she said. “I understand what disadvantaged children and their families are going through as that was my own family’s experience.
If children are provided the tools and space they need to learn and thrive, she said, they will achieve their goals and become influential members of the community.
“As a school board member, I will work to bring our community together and strive to create a better, healthier experience for all our children.”
Omar-Jacobson said her goal is to enforce to the fullest extent, with the help of the superintendent, a zero-tolerance policy in regard to bullying.
“As a public health nurse, I know how bullying can be detrimental to a child’s mental health and development,” she said. “I also want to develop bullying-prevention programs that will teach children the effects of bullying and teach healthy coping skills for those who have been affected by it. Together, we can be proactive in partnering with students to come up with creative ways to stop bullying.”
Assessment tests, Omar-Jacobson said, can be good tools to measure students’ progress because they help district and families identify areas that need improvement. However, she added such tests should never be used to determine a student’s worth and potential for future success. The test results, she explained, can be over-applied because of bias, causing many students to be unfairly excluded from certain classes and programs in which they could otherwise succeed.
Some other issues and programs Omar-Jacobson said she would like to improve and strengthen include student achievement, early-childhood education and college-and-career readiness.
“As a school-board member, the primary way I can work to accomplish those tasks is by working with the superintendent to create measurable goals and creating a culture of accountability for student success.”