Said chosen for District 191 vacancy
District 191’s first Somali American School Board member will be a homegrown product of the district.
Suad “Sue” Said won appointment to the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage board Dec. 10, the unanimous choice of board members naming a replacement for Jen Holweger, who resigned in October. Said and Brandon Neuerburg, both of Burnsville, applied for the vacancy.
Said arrived in the United States with her Somali immigrant parents at age 3 and graduated from Burnsville High School in 2005. She ran for the board in November, one of two Somali American candidates — a first for the district — in a five-way race for three seats. Said finished fourth.
“I am truly amazed that someone like me who just was trying to make it through high school and move on with life is actually going to be on the board of the district she graduated in,” said Said, 34, who has gone by “Sue” since high school. “Looking at how far our district has come, I really am very proud. I’m so proud to be a part of this, belong here, and get people to be comfortable with who I am, with my weird name. It does take educators and community members to give people like me an opportunity to really succeed, to see that representation happening for younger Somali kids now.”
Said was the board’s clear choice. A motion to nominate Neuerburg for the vacancy had no second. Board members then voted 6-0 for Said.
Said will be sworn in on Jan. 14 along with November election winners Eric Miller, the lone incumbent, Anna Werb and Toni Conner. Conner will be the board’s second African American member and first since the 1980s.
“Over the last year we’ve talked about how we as a district and as a board need to recruit and retain staff of color,” board Chair Abigail Alt said in an interview. “Similarly, as a district and as a board, we really need our students to see themselves in their leaders, and given the large Somali community and the engagement of our local Somali community, we’ve accomplished that representation both through community support during the election and also through the appointment process.”
Said described herself as a collaborator during her interview with the board, Alt added.
“The work of a school board is to collaborate and work across our differences, and I think she’ll just be a really great fit,” she said.
Said will serve for all of 2021. She said she hasn’t decided whether to run in a special election the district must hold for the seat by next Nov. 2. The winner will serve the rest of Holweger’s term, which ends in January 2023.
Said and her husband have two children at Gideon Pond Elementary, one at Nicollet Middle School and a 1-year-old in the Ready to Grow program at Diamondhead Education Center.
She has a degree in social work and is a workforce development specialist with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. She’s been reassigned from employment counseling to processing unemployment claims during the pandemic, Said said.
She attributed her fourth-place finish in November to the noise of a busy general election and an inability to campaign as much as she would have liked because of COVID-19.
Said and Hodan Ahmed finished fourth and fifth in the election.
“With someone with my type of background and my type of name, it does take a lot more pursuing than a person that doesn’t have that type of background,” Said said. “I wasn’t able to reach a lot of community members because that interaction with missing. There’s only so much you can do when it comes to virtual forums.”
She said she sought support from parents she’s come to know in the schools as well as local mosque leaders and Somali businesses.
“A lot of our outreach in the Somali community is really based around, ‘Let’s meet up and have coffee,’ ” she said. “Due to COVID, that was really hard.”
Looking ahead to the issues she’ll face next year, “Budget seems to be the one that’s screaming louder than anything right now,” Said said.