“It’s a big deal to put your hat in the ring … to put yourself out there where you are under the microscope and open to criticism,” says Gloria Reyes, deputy mayor for the city of Madison. “But I’m passionate about this. I’m ready.”
Reyes, who has served as the mayor’s liaison to several city agencies including the Department of Civil Rights, the Madison Police and Fire departments and the city attorney’s office since December of 2014, has announced that she will running for Seat 1 on the Madison Metropolitan School District School Board. She will challenge current Madison School Board vice president Anna Moffit.
Reyes has been urged to run by friends, community members, and educational activists and officially made the announcement at the LASUP (Latino Support Network of Dane Co.) meeting on Dec. 20. She really realized she had the passion for education, she says, while representing the mayor on the city of Madison’s education committee.
“I think within my current role as the mayor’s education liaison, I’ve really recognized the correlation between our community’s challenges and our schools’ challenges. They are a mirror of each other,” Reyes tells Madison365. “The root of where my passion lies is with our students. There are students who have so many challenges and face so many obstacles and feel like there is no future for them.
“I’m doing this for all students, but there are students who are just don’t feel like they fit in, they don’t feel welcome and they don’t feel like it’s an inclusive environment. Their voices aren’t being heard,” she adds.
The daughter of migrant farm workers, Reyes has herself gone to school while being hungry, facing many challenges, and living in poverty. “Expecting our children to leave behind all of those challenges of home before they get to the classroom is tough and it interferes with your concentration and your ability to learn,” Reyes says.
Reyes says that she has personally seen how many great teachers have made a difference here in Madison. “Our teachers spend so much time day in and day out with our kids here in Madison. They are so passionate. They put their all into it,” Reyes says. “I know firsthand just by having teachers in the MMSD who never gave up on me – teachers, social workers, and staff. I’ve seen so many great teachers in our public schools.”
Reyes graduated from Madison East High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science and law and criminal justice from UW-Madison. For 12 years, Reyes was a police officer and a lieutenant for the Madison Police Department. Reyes founded Amigos en Azul, an outreach program of police officers to Madison’s Latino community. She also has been the board president of the Dane County Chapter of the Latino Peace Officer Association.
“Public safety is a critical component of my experience. I feel like we are constantly blaming our law enforcement and our teachers for what is wrong and we have to look more broadly if we really want to deal with root causes and build a stronger community,” she says. “We cannot isolate ourselves and blame just one segment of our community for the achievement gap.
“We are going to have to take a holistic approach for preparing our public schools for the future. Our city is changing. Our city is growing dramatically in population and becoming more diverse,” Reyes adds. “I think that this is the right time for me. I bring a very interesting and varied perspective from my own life and work history from my time in school to my work in law enforcement to my current role with the City of Madison. I’m able to see and understand how public schools are such a critical component of the well-being of our city.”
In her spare time, Reyes is a mentor for AVID/TOPS, a college readiness program for middle and high school students. She also is very active in the Madison community including a stint as the former president of the board of directors for Centro Hispano of Dane County, an agency on Madison’s south side whose vision is to help Latino families aspire upward to reach their personal goals and dreams.
“We are preparing the future of our city right now. We are preparing our students to join our workforce and it is imperative for us to be active in what’s happening in our schools and in our community,” says Reyes, who has a son who graduated from East High in 2016 and a daughter currently in MMSD. “These young people are our future and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to help make them successful.”
The MMSD School Board election will take place on April 3, 2018. There will be a primary on Feb. 20 if more than two candidates enter the race.
“I’ve been very committed to being a public servant for this community and the reason for that is that this community didn’t give up on me. It provided me with a lot of opportunities for my family when they really needed it,” Reyes says. “I am a good example of what a school system can do for somebody.
“The Madison School District has a lot of challenges right now. I know what those challenges are and I’m ready and willing to face them. I’m really thinking of the big picture on how we need to plan ahead,” Reyes adds. “Like I said, the community has invested in me and this is another opportunity to give back. I’m asking the community again to support me and continue to invest in me – trust that I will be the voice of all – parents, teachers, students. We have some great students and great teachers in our district. We need to support them.”