by Dennis Dalman
Omar Abdullahi Podi, a candidate for the St. Cloud school board, believes a community center would provide after-school educational programs and skill learning to supplement what students learn in classrooms.
Podi is one of seven candidates, including three incumbents, vying for four open seats on the school board in the Nov. 3 general election.
Born in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia in east Africa, Podi, who is 40, moved to St. Cloud in 2012 after attending a community college and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He is currently a student at St. Cloud State University where he is majoring in political science.
Podi is president of the Waite Park Somali Community Association and volunteers and does volunteer work for it part time. He is married to Nafiso Omar Mohamud.
Podi had been employed by the Coleman Co. in Sauk Rapids but was laid off because of the ongoing Covid-19 virus crisis. That virus, he said, has adversely affected him and all the other people in the area, especially members of the Somalia-immigrant community.
Podi gave his responses to the following questions for the Newsleader:
How can you help ensure every child has full access to the best education so no child is left behind?
If elected, Podi said he would represent all students without respect to color or national origin.
“These are all our children, and we need to help all of them – not only Somali-Americans or those from the east African community.”
The first thing Podi would do, if elected, is to meet personally with as many parents as possible to find ways to ensure the safety of children in schools and then to fine-tune strategies so no child is left behind in education or in other ways.
A community center for children and parents would allow students to learn all kinds of skills with help from parents and education experts, as well as providing them a safe place for after-school recreation and the playing of team sports.
“No parent wants his or her child to be homeless or in prison or living too extravagantly,” he said.
One way students could succeed, he suggested, is to encourage them to learn sports and participate in athletics. He said other people in the world, such as the British and Spanish, generate billions of dollars in sports activities.
“Why not our children?” he asked.
How can you help guarantee a zero-tolerance policy against teasing, taunting and bullying is not only emphasized but consistently enforced?
Podi said he would support policies to strengthen efforts to prohibit any forms of bullying in all schools in the district.
“Bullying has caused several suicides for some children and caused others to leave the schools,” he said. “We need to look forward and create a safe space so children can have fun without bullying or harassing each other. We will create a sports team and give money prizes for those who win games, and we will create a channel where children can give their hopes and learn from other students who are already successful.”
Please address two or three school issues you care most about and what you would like to do to make changes (if any) regarding those issues?
“The east African community feels no one is representing them in the school district,” Podi said. “They will be given help if I am elected, and parents will explain how their children can be helped to succeed. We need to show all of them (students, parents) that we are all in the same airplane.”
“I want to say hi to the people of St. Joseph and ask for their votes on or before Nov. 3,” he said. “If I get elected, I will come back to ask you how I can help, and I will continue to have meetings with you and have discussions with you before I make any decisions. Thanks for your help, and I will continue to have good contacts with you.”
Podi was not available for a photograph.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.