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St. Paul Public Schools to open new East African elementary magnet school

WCCO digital headlines: Morning of May 16, 2023
WCCO digital headlines: Morning of May 16, 2023 01:35

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- St. Paul Public Schools announced Tuesday that a new East African elementary magnet school will open in September 2023. 

The PreK-5 school will have a distinct focus on the cultures and languages of East Africa, specifically the countries of Dijbouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, and the languages of Somali, Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, Arabic and Swahili. 

SPPS is home to some of the most diverse schools in the state, with East African students making up approximately 7.5% of the district's K-12 enrollment. That's approximately 2,400 students. According to census data, 2.7% of the population in the Twin Cities metro area speak an East African language at home. 

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"This is a great step for Saint Paul Public Schools as we work together to provide an essential and meaningful opportunity to welcome more families into the state's second-largest school district," said SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard. "This is something our community has been wanting for some time, and I am so proud to be taking this momentous step forward, together."

The new East African magnet school will join an array of other language and culture programs in the district, including immersion programs in Mandarin, French, Hmong and Spanish, along with longstanding American Indian studies program and new Karen language classes

The new school will be headed by Dr. Abdisalam Adam as principal. He has been with St. Paul Public Schools since 1997 in a variety of roles, most recently as an assistant principal at Highland Park Senior High School.

Adam's educational background has strong Minnesotan roots. He received his Doctor of Education and Administrative License from Bethel University and his Master's in Curriculum and Instruction from St. Cloud State University. 

Adam received a B.A. in English as a Second Language from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. Adam has lived in Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia in addition to the United States, and speaks Somali, English, and Arabic. 

"I'm beyond excited and honored to welcome students from all cultural backgrounds to this program. Educators know that a strong multilingual and multicultural education provides children with unique skills that set them on a path to succeed in a variety of careers," said Adam. "This program will enrich all Minnesotans as we educate children who can help our state and country build bridges with East Africa to expand our friendships and global economy."

Adam says he is guided by the Somali proverb, "Lack of Education is Lack of Light," and believes every child has the right to a world-class 21st century education. 

Local lawmakers share Adam's perspective. 

"It is essential for students from marginalized communities to see themselves reflected in the academic environment. When students feel a sense of belonging and acceptance it improves their ability to engage with their peers and teachers," said Representatives Samakab Hussein and María Isa Pérez-Vega in a statement on Tuesday, "Research has shown that when students see representations of themselves, it shapes how they imagine their place in the world now and in the future."

The school will open in the former Jackson Elementary building at 437 Edmund Ave. W. in St. Paul for the 2023-2024 school year. You can learn more about programs offered and how to enroll here.

Families are invited to Midway Peace Park at 416 N. Griggs St. on May 19 from 5:30-8 p.m. to meet Adam and register for the upcoming school year. 

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