Wayne Strong is hoping that the third time is a charm.
“I’m super excited because I’m feeling like I’m getting a lot of support, even more so than the previous two times,” Strong said on Sunday as he officially kicked off his campaign for Madison School Board. “There have been a lot of people urging me to run and wishing me well in my candidacy. I’m so honored to have the support of all the people in this room. I’m so blessed to know that there are so many people who still believe in me and what I have to offer.”
Surrounded by wife, community members and parishioners at S.S. Morris Community AME Church, Wayne Strong officially announced his candidacy for Madison Metropolitan School Board Seat 7.
This will be the third school board campaign for Strong, who is the director of workforce development at the Urban League of Greater Madison.
“I feel like this district is in a good place right now in terms of making some real progress in terms of providing the support we need to our students – particularly our students of color who continue to lag behind in terms of graduation rates and test scores,” he told the crowd. “While the district has made some progress in that area, there is still a lot of work to be done. I think that given my experience and my commitment to education and my body of work that I’ve done in the community, I will be very helpful in terms of providing the type of leadership we need to propel this district forward and to make this district one of the best districts not only in the state, but in the country.”
Strong reflected on his very competitive race with former School Board Member Dean Loumos back in 2013 where he ended up losing by a razor-thin 278-vote margin.
“Dean and I have become like best friends since we ran against each other. It was such a close race and I have the utmost respect for him. That election was very close,” Strong said.
Michael Flores, a Madison firefighter and paramedic, defeated Strong by a larger margin the following year.
Since then the board composition has changed quite a bit and is now made up of a majority of people of color.
“I think the current make-up of the board is really good and I’m excited to be a part of it. I think we can make a lot of progress there,” Strong says. “The main thing that I’m going to be focused on in this campaign is the achievement gap. We continue to lag in that regard.
“In addition to that, we need to make sure that we continue to provide teachers with the resources they need to do their jobs in the classroom,” he added. “If they don’t have the resources, it’s difficult for them to teach students to the level that we want them to be taught.”
Strong is a former Globe University criminal justice program chair and a longtime Madison police officer and lieutenant. He has also done extensive volunteer work in the community. For decades, he has headed up the South Side Raiders football and cheerleading program where he has coached and mentored hundreds of youth.
Strong said that school safety is important for him.
“I know that there are a lot of discussions right now about cops in the schools. I understand that,” Strong said. “I can tell you that from my own personal experience as being one of the African-American police officers to work as an educational resource officer in the school district that I felt my role was pivotal because the black and brown students in that school, when they saw me, they looked up to me and they thought I was a proper role model.
“And we weren’t there to arrest kids. We didn’t run citations or do any of that stuff. We were there to be a resource for the students to talk to them about how they can keep themselves safe and about what their rights and responsibilities were,” he added. “As officers of color at school, we are meant to be a mentor and a role model for our students of color … not to arrest.”
The Madison Metropolitan School Disrict’s School Board seats are at-large, so a candidate can run for any seat they choose.
“I really dislike this thing where we have to declare a seat. I wish we didn’t have to do that,” Strong said. “If there are three seats, the three top vote-getters should get those seats. I think it really restricts candidates.”
The general election is set for Tuesday, April 7 where Strong will face off against incumbent Nicki Vander Meulen, unless another person enters the race to force a primary.
“My whole life has been about education and working with young people,” Strong said. “I’m going to fight tooth and nail for our students and make sure we have the best of what we have to give them.”