Election 2020: Seven Vying for Four St. Cloud School Board Seats
ST. CLOUD -- Three incumbents, three newcomers, and a repeat runner make up the field of candidates running for four open seats on the St. Cloud School Board.
Current board Chair Jeff Pollreis decided not to run for re-election meaning there will be at least one new face on the board next year.
Hani Omar Jacobson is a 15 year resident of St. Cloud. She was born in Somalia and grew up in Georgia after her family immigrated in 1993.
Jacobson studied nursing at St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical and Community College and says her passion for public education and public health is what compelled her to run for the board.
I know that if students and young people are given the opportunities to really become successful, with hard work they too can become successful, and that's really why I decided to run - to advocate for our community, for all of our children.
Jacobson has four children currently enrolled in the district. She says if elected, she wants to work toward closing the achievement gap to create equal opportunities for all students and increasing mental health services for students.
Andrea Preppernau is originally from California and has lived in St. Cloud for 18 years. From 2003 until 2015 she worked for the St. Cloud Area School District and she is currently working for the Princeton Public School District.
Preppernau says she wants to see more creative thinking when it comes to decisions in the district, especially given the changes that have been made during COVID-19.
I just want to help contribute to some innovative thinking and some problem-solving. I'm totally open to outside the box thinking, and I do think schools can sometimes be very stuck in a well we've always done it that way so let's continue to do it this way kind of mindset.
Her daughter was a 2020 graduate of Tech High School, and her son is currently a junior there. She says if she is elected, she wants to take more opportunities to listen to the voices of St. Cloud students and families.
Omar Abdullah Podi was born in Somalia and has lived in Minnesota since 2012. He is currently studying political science at St. Cloud State University.
He says he is running because he feels like the voices of the city’s Somali community are not being properly heard by the current board.
We don't have anyone who'll fulfill the gap. They always come to us and they say this is the issue we need to fix, we need to do this, we need to do that. At the same time, they never call you back.
Podi has worked for various non-profits in Minnesota and Missouri to support Somali youth and help keep teens out of terrorist organizations. He has also served as a community organizer in St. Cloud.
Scott Andreasen is making another run for the school board. He has been active with the St. Cloud Area School District in a variety of ways over the last few years including PTA, site council, planning committees, and the board finance committee.
He says if he gets elected he wants to work toward equity between the high schools.
We have got a fabulous new high school at Tech. Apollo is 50 years old and it really needs to be remodeled and it can be done at about a third of the cost of building a new school.
All six of Andreasen’s kids have gone through the St. Cloud school system. He is a semi-retired Private Investigator and says his schedule lends itself nicely to being on the board.
Al Dahlgren is running for his third term on the board. He is a small business owner and says the thing he’s most proud of accomplishing over the last four years is a consistently balanced budget.
The whole budget side of things - I've been very involved with that ever since I got on the board, and since I've been there we've had eight straight balanced budgets and we have a very healthy fund balance.
Dahlgren says he is not running on a particular issue and does not appreciate agenda-driven candidacies. If re-elected he wants to continue working to provide a high-quality education to all learners in the district.
All four of his children attended St. Cloud schools.
Monica Segura-Schwartz is running for her second term. She was born in Columbia and moved to St. Cloud in 2001. She says she originally ran because she wanted the board to better reflect the diverse student population present in the district.
They only had one woman on the board and everyone was probably over 60 years old, so I thought that we needed to have a more balanced board, a more diverse board.
Segura-Schwartz also spent 10 years working with Catholic Charities advocating for immigrants and refugees.
If re-elected, she says her goal is to put more focus on bolstering arts education by building up more diverse offerings, increasing exposure, and identifying and breaking down barriers that may stand in a student’s way.
Shannon Haws is also running for her second term. She manages a home health care company in central Minnesota and previously worked as a teacher and swim coach.
Haws was the only mother on the board when she was elected four years ago and says the board should not be without that perspective.
The perspective that I have raising four children - you know, putting kids on the bus, taking kids off the bus, talking to teachers, being in the classrooms, being in the lunchroom, the playground - I understand the impact of all the decisions that the school board makes.
She is proud of the work the board has done including the completion of several new buildings, the funding of junior high busses for after-school activities, and the student lunch debt policy. If re-elected, she hopes to continue to build on that progress.