Savion Castro Is Running for His Appointed MMSD Board Seat
Seeking Educational Justice
Savion Castro attended Kennedy Elementary, Whitehorse
Middle and La Follette Higfh Schools
before attending UW-Madison as a PEOPLE Scholar.
“The PEOPLE Program is so powerful, social change through education,” Castro said. “We need more folks to be affected by it.”

It was a year ago that Castro graduated from UW-Madison and took a job as staff to State Representative Shelia Stubbs as Stubbs assumed her post in January. Last
fall, Castro left Stubbs’ office and got a job working for the UW Odyssey Project. He works with k-12 students on Wednesday nights helping them learn to express
themselves.

“I enjoy working with young people,” Castro emphasized. “I like helping young people discover their own voice because I think with voice comes agency and
agency is action and hopefully that action is for positive change. I like building up young people so that they can be change agents in the future as well.”

One of my first workshops was on My Words Matter and how words can be powerful in telling your story,” Castro continued. “And then we have gone through a few
different projects on telling your story through art and on expressing love and emotion through art as well. We have students build art projects for loved ones in
their family in different activities and projects like that. It’s pretty much focused on how we can foster positive identity through these different reading and arts
projects. Expression comes in a variety of ways. Expression through physical dance and art can help you synthesize your own person.”

Castro views education as a liberating force, a way for people of color to move beyond their present circumstances, to achieve equity through education.

“I’ve always had a special relationship with education,” Castro said. “I think education for me, as a Black boy in Madison, became a necessity to have full
ownership of my body and my destiny. It became a necessity to control my own destiny because I didn’t have inherited wealth or inherited status. I saw education as
a means of self-defense and self-affirmation. I know that is important for a lot of people who look like me and it is so important for any Black or Brown person that
they have a means to education, not just in the traditional classroom, but in the outside world as well.”

Like everyone else, Castro learned about Mary Burke leaving the Madison school board on the news. He gave it some thought and then fate seemed to intervene.

“There was a written application, about 700 words,” Castro said. “I submitted it on a Friday afternoon, the day of the MG&E explosion and fire. I actually had that
afternoon off. I went for a run and thought about it. And I decided to submit it. It was a feeling of an intense passion that I had to take this opportunity. The school
board received them on July 19th, the deadline, and then they had the weekend to deliberate on their choice. And they made their selection on the following Monday,
July 22nd.”

Castro was one of 28 people to submit an application to be appointed.

“I was tempering my expectations,” Castro said. “I was prepared to be disappointed. I don’t like getting my hopes up. I don’t like to get too high on the highs or too
low on the lows.”

Castro was in the audience that night watching the board deliberate. And then it was officially voted on that Castro would be appointed to serve in Mary Burke’s seat
until the 2020 spring elections.

“It was surreal when my name got bandied about,” Castro said. “For me, the room went kind of silent. It was kind of like a loud ringing noise in my head. It was a
surreal moment.”

Castro went to work immediately.

“That week, I met with a lot of stakeholders,” Castro said. “The next week Monday, I was sworn in. I met with stakeholders and staff. The first thing was to meet with
staff to get a sense where they thought things were at. It was in a time of intense change where we are picking a new superintendent right now, planning for a
referendum and broadly Madison schools are in an intense period of change where we haven’t always been. Now we are a majority Black and Brown school
district. That has been a recent change. Now a majority of our student population is on free and reduced lunch. It hasn’t always been like that. We have to reorient
our focus and our purpose on what we think the objective of public education in Madison has to be.”

Next issue: Issues facing MMSD
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling

As we stand in front of O’Keeffe Middle School on Madison’s east side taking this issue’s cover
photo, it struck me how symbolic the photo was. Savion Castro is running for the Madison school
board, trying to get elected to the school board seat he was appointed to last July. We were standing
in front of an aging school that is representative of Madison’s overall aging — and increasingly
antiquated — infrastructure. And Castro is an example of new leadership percolating up that has
experienced the best and the worst that the Madison Metropolitan School District has to offer.

Castro was born in Beloit, but moved with his mother and siblings to Sun Prairie and then to
Madison during his early elementary school years. He attended Kennedy Elementary, Whitehorse
Middle and La Follette High Schools. It was in middle school when Castro’s academic course was
set when he enrolled in the UW PEOPLE Program.