Sun Prairie Schools Deal with
Expansion and Diversity
African American elected to the Sun Prairie school board and indeed, the first African American to ever hold elected office in Sun Prairie. Ruffin is in a unique
position to help steer Sun Prairie’s growth and determine what kind of community Sun Prairie will be a generation from now.
Ruffin is an unapologetic cheerleader for Sun Prairie and its schools.
“As we continue to grow and as more families build homes in Sun Prairie or open enroll in Sun Prairie schools, we want them to feel that they made a good choice
and a good investment for their children,” Ruffin said. “I know I am. I am happy that our sons were able to experience Sun Prairie schools. They both graduated and
they are both on to college. That’s what I want to see for all of our students.”
With the addition of two new elementary schools, with each housing 350 students when they opened and have the capacity to serve 500 each, there will be a need
for greater capacity on the middle and high school levels sometime in the future.
“Sun Prairie may get its second high school in a few years because with all of the children who are a part of these nine elementary schools, there is no way they are
going to fit in the high school,” Ruffin said. “There isn’t enough capacity. There are two middle schools. More than likely, there will be nine elementary schools, three
middle schools and more than likely two high schools.”
It isn’t just the physical capacity that Ruffin is concerned with; it’s also the capacity of the schools and the community at-large to support good outcomes for all its
children. For example, the high school is changing its schedule format for the 2018-2019 school year.
“This year, we’ll be starting out block scheduling and block scheduling is allowing our students to stay in the class longer than before,” Ruffin said. “There is less
transition between classes. You are establishing a relationship more with the teacher. You have more instructional time with the teacher. This is new. This is
something we have not done before, but we know that if you keep doing the same things and expecting a different result is not going to happen. We have to try
different methods. It is similar to what goes on at La Follette.”
Ruffin is also working to ensure that Black students are being fully engaged in their school communities.
“The African American Student Union is becoming more popular,” Ruffin said. “Our African American Parent Network is growing. We’re making more of a presence.
We had excellent Black History Month programming this past school year. That was huge because Sun Prairie had each school doing their own program. This past
school year, it was a collective effort with all schools and the district making it a point to collaborate. It was a district-wide celebration of Black History Month. We
partnered with some of the Black organizations for the Black History Month celebration. We’re going to continue that type of partnership. We also had the HBCU tour
gathering for our students in Sun Prairie. We finally got to have our base in Sun Prairie. A lot of the fraternities and sororities came out to Sun Prairie for that. And I’ve
talked to the Madison Metropolitan Links about doing a student recognition program in Sun Prairie. I’m going to spearhead that.”
Ruffin is also concerned about the opportunities that Black and other students of color have in the community for their personal development and to be engaged in
positive, non-school-hour activities. Ruffin leveraged her position on the Sun Prairie school board to pass a resolution in favor of the city of Sun Prairie assisting the
Boys & Girls Club in establishing a club in Sun Prairie.
“The Boys & Girls Club would not have been brought up had I not been on the school board,” Ruffin said. “And as the Boys & Girls Club comes up with the city
council, we need more people of color wanting to step up to be a part of that. If we had people of color on the city council, it wouldn’t be an issue. It would have been
like, ‘Boom, the Boys & Girls Club is in the best interest of our children. $200,000 isn’t anything. Consider it done.’ But it has been taking weeks with the discussion
and going back and forth on whether it should be done. We’re trying to say, ‘What is for the best interests of our kids here?’ When the unfortunate gas explosion
occurred in Sun Prairie in July, the whole community came together. Whatever needed to be done, it was done. People were volunteering. People were giving items
for people in need. And then you get down to what is happening with the Boys & Girls Club and everyone is questioning. ‘Should the city spend $200,000?’ Wait a
minute, we just did this for Main Street. We’re Sun Prairie strong. Surely I didn’t think it would be a draw-out process. We’ve had to wait weeks for the city to approve
In Ruffin’s view, Sun Prairie is going to have to invest in its young people, all of them. It’s a matter of what the citizens of Sun Prairie want their city to be. Do they
want all children to be developing, participating and contributing to the best of their ability? Or will they put off an investment until they are forced to put more money
into their juvenile justice system. Sun Prairie is at a fork in the road where it can decide which road to take.
“If we don’t address having our students having an affordable place to go after school, then where are they going to be,” Ruffin asked. “They are going to be hanging
out on the streets. They are going to be hanging in places where people don’t want them to be. What is the cost of not having the Boys & Girls Club? You can continue
doing what you’re doing and in five years or even sooner, you will come up with an issue that may not be easily handled if you don’t deal with it right now. Here’s the
And with the Boys & Girls Club programming that works collaboratively with school districts, there is no decision in Ruffin’s mind.
“We have AVID now and we’re expanding AVID,” Ruffin said. “But now having the Boys & Girls Club, we could have career opportunities. I know there are after
school programs at each of the clubs. But I’m talking about it being expanded. Right now, there is no programming for middle-school-aged students, these pre-
teenagers. And that’s where issues can really start, if you don’t have anything for them to keep them engaged after school.”
Sun Prairie and its schools are on the grow. Perhaps it was providence that Ruffin became involved when she did. Ruffin encourages other people of color to
become engage in Sun Prairie’s public affairs. By being involved, Ruffin and others can ensure that Sun Prairie grows in a positive direction for all of its citizens.
Marilyn Ruffin is the first African American to be elected to the Sun
Prairie Area School Board and to hold elected office in Sun Prairie.
By Jonathan Gramling
Over the past 20 years, Sun Prairie has been on the grow. Since 2000, its population has
grown 58 percent to 32,820 in 2016. Much of that growth has occurred north of Hwy. 151. And
with that growth comes a growing school population. Eight years ago, Sun Prairie opened its
new high school. And last week, it opened two new elementary schools, Token Creek on the
city’s far east side and Meadow View on Grand Avenue on the city’s west side periphery.
Also with that growth, Sun Prairie’s demography has always been evolving with its
communities of color growing at higher rate where one out of five Sun Prairie students is now
a student of color. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the grand opening for Meadow
View Elementary School. The parents and students who turned out seemed to represent every
continent on Earth.
Marilyn Ruffin seemed to be in the right place at the right time in 2015 when she was the first