1. Please tell us a little about yourself (family, children, where you grew up, educational background, career path, etc).
My name is Tyra Virden and I have 2 children in Upper Darby school district. I grew up in a small town in northern New Jersey and I have lived in Drexel Hill for 7 years. I decide to stay in the Philadelphia area after graduating from Temple University in 2000. I taught in Philadelphia public schools for 8 years teaching Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and co-teaching a special education 3rd grade class. After leaving the Philadelphia school district, I worked as Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) and with a disability rights nonprofit advocating for people with disabilities entering the workforce. I am now a social worker/caseworker with Delaware County Children and Youth Services.
2. Why are you running for School Board?
I am running for school board because I have a passion for education. I have worked to ensure that my children receive a great education and I want all children to have an excellent school experience. I believe my background enables me to view the district from many different perspectives, as a parent of 2 children receiving special education services, as a social worker that works with children in some of the most dire circumstances and as an educator who has taught children in one of the toughest areas in Philadelphia.
3. What do you see as the strengths of the Upper Darby community, and separately, the School District?
Upper Darby is a community that comes together to fight for what is right. We all want to see Upper Darby Township succeed and become a beacon of hope for all surrounding communities. The school district is part of the community and the community is part of the district. Upper Darby school district has a long history of educating many students who go on to become accomplished individuals.
4. What do you see as areas of concern or needed growth of the Upper Darby community, and separately, the School District?
I believe the areas of concern for the district and the township are communication and collaboration. We need better communication between administration and staff and from school to the community at large. Our teachers need to collaborate with one another among the schools and better collaboration with community services outside of the district. We also need to tackle the issue of violence in the Upper Darby community.
5. Please talk briefly about what you see as three important priorities for education reform at a policy level and your position on these issues.
- Student achievement- It is a fundamental responsibility of each state government to ensure that all children receive an appropriate education that enables them to become productive members of society. It should be of utmost importance that we build upon proven best practices that increase student achievement. Policy makers should encourage schools that are doing well to share what they are doing so that others can build upon their strengths.
- Funding equity- In order to increase student achievement we must make sure that all of our schools are properly funded. The military in not expected to be a strong force without funding, a Fortune 500 company does not increase its bottom line without investments and a school should not be expected to increase student achievement without the proper resources needed to make that happen.
- Professional development- Along with adequate and equal funding, we must make sure that there is an effective educator in front of every child. Great teachers are not born, they are developed through deliberate practice and training. Teachers need to be given time to collaborate and have consistent, relevant professional development.
6. Please talk about three critical issues you would like to see the School District address over the next couple of years.
- Student achievement- Student achievement in Upper Darby has been relatively stagnant for the last few years. Administration and the school board should take a long and honest look at what is working in each school and what isn’t working. We need to assess every teacher and principal to help those that need help and provide encouragement and recognition to those that are doing an exceptional job.
- Building confidence in our schools- We cannot allow the community to lose faith in the district. Mistrust sets in and it is difficult if not impossible to overcome. We build confidence in our schools by being transparent and effectively communicating with all stakeholders.
- Race relations- Race relations in this district seem like the, “elephant in the room.” Most people understand that there is to an “us vs. them” mentality but no one wants to talk about it. We cannot move forward with the ever increasing diversity and not have a conversation about race and ethnicity. How do African American, Latino, Asian American parents and students feel about this district? Do they feel included, respected….? We don’t know because no one has ever asked. It is time for a conversation.
7. Is there anything else you would like the voting community to know about you?
It is the mission of a school board to create an atmosphere of hope, transparency, and stability, problem solving and preparing for the unexpected. We need to make sure that we are choosing board members that will put children first and respect the values of the community. This community cannot continue to elect the same people and expect different results. It is time to elect people that will stand up for education and the community it serves. I ask for your support.