Sun Prairie Area School Board
Two 3-year terms
Marilyn Ruffin, incumbent
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? I have been the Vice President and President of the parent group of our elementary school as well as the President of the parent group of our middle school. I have also served on the Parent Leadership Council, Boundary Task Force and School Space Planning Committee for the district. This has allowed me to form relationships with people throughout the district. I have also been attending board meetings since June and meeting with lots of community leaders, district personnel, and parents to learn as much as I can.
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? The district needs to start focusing more on the relationships between student and teachers. Teachers and staff need to be allowed the time to get to know their students. These relationships will allow teachers to connect with students who are disengaged from their learning and provide them with ways to learn that will encourage them be excited about school. Teachers and staff also need to be provided with professional development time that discusses implicit biases so that we can make sure we are providing all kids with an education that is equitable.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? With a teacher shortage in Wisconsin this will become harder and harder for a school district to do. The district needs to focus on culture in the district. If teachers don’t feel appreciated and fulfilled, it is hard to retain them. There also needs to be work done to make the district more desirable for a diverse workforce. We need to continue our Grow Your Own program which helps people employed by the district become teachers. Recruitment in the larger universities and urban schools may also help us attract more diversity.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? Number one is staff compensation. It would be ideal to find money to employ more support staff, social workers, etc to help with all the mental health issues in the schools.
Number two is classroom materials. We need to make sure that we are providing teachers with adequate materials to teach their kids.
Number three is funding for building and updates. Our district is growing by leaps and bounds and we need to have money to build new buildings as well as money to update older buildings so that everyone can learn in a safe environment.
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? I have a Masters Degree in Computer Science from California Polytechnic University. Over the past 15 years, I worked for NASA, The Walt Disney Company, Wolters Kluwers and I am currently a Lead Architect for the Innovation Lab at QBE. I have been volunteering for the Sun Prairie and Madison school districts the past year and a half to promote career options in technology. My family is highly invested in the district; my wife is a teacher in the district and my children attend one of our many amazing elementary schools.
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? I would like to see the district address the disparities in achievement in several ways. First, I would like to see the district hire more minority teachers and staff to support the increasingly diverse population within the district. With over 50 languages and dialects in the district, Sun Prairie can no longer be considered a small rural town. I would also like to find ways to promote advanced learning programs for economically disadvantaged students who do not have access to the same resources as other students do at home.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? I think the district should start recruiting earlier via student-teacher partnerships created with local universities and with the goal of finding the diverse, qualified educators our district needs. At my current and previous companies, the best recruiting practice is utilizing interns. You get them introduced to your culture, find the top talent, and then stay connected until they graduate. The relationships you build through this process are invaluable. Our district will grow in its diversity and having educators with similar backgrounds benefits our district by creating a inclusive body that values different cultures and backgrounds.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? We need to focus on having enough funds to hire teachers, keep our student/teacher ratio, and build the physical capacity necessary to support the students with the city’s growing population. In other words, we need to keep pace with our growth. Simultaneously, it is imperative we are financially responsible to ensure our students and families can access a high quality educational experience for many years to come. Finally we must find ways to bring back support staff to allow teachers more time in the classroom.
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? Elected Sun Prairie School Board Member in 2015
Voted Deputy Clerk, 2016 & 2017
SPASD Primary & Secondary School Space Planning Committee since 2015
Active and highly engaged in Sun Prairie African American Parent Network
Certified Sun Prairie & Madison area Substitute Teacher w/ B.S. Electrical Engineering
Current Board Member of Madison Links, Inc, a non-profit organization committed to educational, civic and inter-cultural programs and projects for K-12 students
Past Chairperson of Madison Links' "Service to Youth" facet, sponsoring 8th grade Girls Conference & African American Student Recognition Program
Married with both sons as Sun Prairie High School graduates: 2015 & 2018
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? The District must continue to ACKNOWLEDGE and OWN that disparities do exist in student achievement between our Whites and Students of Color. Must have a “no more excuse” mentality.
Has there been any courageous conversations about this educational gap and why it's CRUCIAL that "our entire village" must address it head-on in order to solve it?
With a fully funded strategy, ideas include hiring a more diverse workforce, creating student peer-to-peer mentorship, developing future plans on what happens after students graduate from high school and finally engaging our parents & community partners in the process for an overall team approach.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? Not only expand funding to “grow your our own” Teachers, for instance, but just as we travel to other schools to view education models first-hand, we must also invest in visiting HBCU (historically black colleges & university), as a strong suggestion, to effectively recruit there, as well.
Caution, however, simply recruiting more Teachers (& staff of color) only gets them in the door; we must pay equal attention to creating the CONDITIONS to keep them such as building a strong support network, ongoing development opportunities, mutual respect and effective, encouraging communications in order for ALL to be part of a solution team.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? 1. Spend to attract and retain high quality faculty and staff
2. Spend on personalized learning to retain skilled Teachers as well as ensuring students stay/continue to be engaged
3. Spend on maintaining and updating facilities as needed in addition to keeping our students safe at all times.