We’re back with another Q&A session, this time with Lexington’s Tyler Murphy. He made waves by winning his race for Fayette County Board of Education last fall, and he’s continued to make a name for himself as an education and equity advocate since then. Enjoy!
Garris: Hey Tyler! Thanks for joining us. For those who may not know you well yet, you’ve been very active on social media about your role as a board member. Why do you think it’s important for educators to speak out on behalf of their students?
Tyler: I think it’s important for people to be engaged and informed, especially about an issue as critical as our public schools. And that includes the individuals most impacted by the decisions made by the state legislature and school boards—our teachers and students.
And it isn’t easy to keep up with something like the school board; it’s not often on everyone’s radar. So I try to use social media to help inform the community and provide them access.
Garris: Definitely. Social media can be a powerful tool. So as a board member, I want to ask you just a little bit about local control and what that means to you. I feel like everyone gets caught up in federal education changes, likely just because DeVos is such a lightning rod, but I actually feel like what we do at the local level is really what’s influencing our kids the most. Can you talk a little about your experiences with that?
Tyler: Education is complex and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Every child, every school, and every community is unique with their own set of needs and solutions that work for them. That’s why local control and the engagement of stakeholders is vitally important. And it’s also why we must rely on the professional we hire to educate our students—our teachers and educators. We have much to learn from their input because the classroom is the most impactful unit in the education setting.
So much of a child’s learning is also impacted by the community beyond school, which is why we have to engage parents and families, as well as our community partners. I see board members as conduits between all of these constituencies to help strength dialogues focused on supporting student learning.
Garris: That’s great. Very powerful words there. Okay, so lastly, what would you tell anyone thinking about running for school board next year? Any words of advice?
Tyler: One of the ironies of politics is that people know the least about the level of government that impacts them the most—the local level. So it’s key to be informed of the issues: show up to meetings, ask questions, seek input from stakeholders and gauge their concerns. But at the end of the day it’s about grassroots engagement—take your message directly to the people and explain why the race is important. So often I had people tell me, “I don’t have kids in the district.” But everyone has a stake in the success of every child. When our teachers are empowered and engaged, everyone benefits. When community partnerships with our public schools are enhanced, our community is made stronger. Explaining those stakes is key. And having those door-to-door conversations keeps you grounded and focused on the people for whom you’re working.
We definitely agree. Thanks for your time, Tyler!