“I believe that representation matters,” said Alwyn Foster, one of three candidates for the Sun Prairie School Board. “I believe to see a Black man and a Black individual at the Sun Prairie School Board table is significant because when I sit there, little brown faces and other little faces that look like me — Asian, Hispanic, Black, people of color — and say, ‘Well, this is an opportunity for me, as well.’
“I think it communicates to them that somebody knows what they are going through, somebody knows what it’s like.” Foster continued. “And not only that, it communicates that the city is not only growing — because Sun Prairie is the fastest growing city in Wisconsin — but it’s also evolving and changing, and that’s important not only to grow but to evolve and change and to get better.”
Foster is running on the notion that the school board should reflect the population of the students it is serving.
“I want to help the families of color in Sun Prairie to achieve their goals and their dreams and most of that starts with education,” Foster said. “Our district is 40 percent non-white, so it’s important for us to be intentional about dealing with those minority groups.”
Currently, the only BIPOC person serving on the nine-person board is Deputy Clerk Marilyn Ruffin.
If elected, Foster plans to address what he believes to be two pressing issues: reestablishing trust between the board and their constituency and voicing the concerns of Sun Prairie’s communities of color.
“There have been situations throughout the years that, from listening to parents and listening to teachers and listening to admin staff, I’ve come to understand that there’s a lot of distrust with a district,” Foster said. “Part of that is because in order to gain trust you have to build transparency. It’s transparency then trust. When trust comes in, then you can build the community. We can build the community and fill this trust. So I want to work to help to establish that.
“I want to help to keep teachers and administrators of color. And I think having somebody on the board helps with that because it gives them a voice. But not only that, it says that there’s someone at the table that’s thinking about me, my needs, my experience, my perspective,” he added.
As the Substance Abuse Counselor and Service Facilitator for Anesis Family Therapy and an officer from the Tellurian Mental Health and Behavioral Health program, Foster noted that he has an acute understanding of how home life can affect school life.
“I bring [the] understanding [of] trauma-informed care,” Foster said. “I bring an understanding of what happens in the home. It doesn’t spill over into the classroom, it comes into the classroom. It’s in your shoes, it’s in your bag, it’s in the way you talk, it’s in your ability to pay attention. It’s in your decorum in the classroom.”
Foster also noted that, as a newcomer to the Madison area, he can be a fresh set of eyes to those on the school board who may be “used to how everything is.”
“You probably don’t want to vote for me if you think Sun Prarie is doing everything that it possibly can do to help its students,” Foster stated. “But many people feel when they walk in the classroom that, ‘you know what, we can improve.’”
As a father of four, Foster further emphasized the importance of the school board as a support system for both kids and families, especially those in underserviced communities.
“I’m running for kids who don’t have all the structure that my children have been able to have,” Foster said. “I’m running for families who would love to sit down all day and educate their children online, but they have to be at work. They can’t work in a home office and remotely. You can’t work remotely at Walmart. You can’t work remotely when you’re working at Pick and Save or when you’re working at a fast-food restaurant.
“We need to put supports in place,” Foster continued. “We need to understand that we need to think about that when we’re making decisions at the 5000-foot level,” he adds. “How is this going to affect not only people who might have two parents in the household, but let’s say both have to work outside the home, how do we support them?”
As part of his campaign, Foster is hosting a Facebook Lives via his personal Facebook page as well as discussing with local community people and business owners about their concerns regarding the Sun Prarie School Board.
“If you got a small business, Sun Prairie Area School District matters to you. If you’re hiring, guess where your talent pool is. It’s coming out of Sun Prairie High School,” he says. ‘So whether you’ve got kids or not, you’re hiring admin staff, you’re hiring therapists, you’re hiring nurses, you’re hiring clinicians, you’re hiring people, managers, supervisors, and those people. If they’re not coming to the table with a certain level of knowledge and understanding, not only are we failing our community, we’re failing our businesses.
“I envision a district where all families, including families of color, are growing and developing, where the kids are being students, but more importantly, they’re being greater citizens,” he adds. “Because they’re not going to be students forever. They’re going to be citizens, and we want to prepare the family to achieve their dreams and their goals and work together and know they’re supported by their district and they’re seen by their district. So they can look back on their time at Sun Prairie Area School District and say, ‘Man, I wasn’t a part of a great school; I was [part of] a great community.’”
More information about Alwyn Foster and his candidacy can be found here on his Facebook page.