Plano ISD Trustee Lauren Tyra never had any interest in getting into politics. She was content working as a professional scientist and raising a young family. But when she realized the school board no longer included anyone with a STEM background, she felt compelled to get involved.
“The opportunity came up, and I just thought I should try to make a difference and help the school district any way that I can,” she says.
Tyra was elected with 62% of the vote May 1, the only non-incumbent to win their race. She replaced former board president Tammy Richards, who did not seek re-election after serving three terms.
Being involved in the district is not a new experience for Tyra. She grew up in Plano and graduated from Plano East Senior High in 2003. She went to college, married a fellow Plano native and embarked on her career. After earning her doctorate degree in 2017, she went into the world of venture capital.
The firm she works with invests in healthcare technology. People present them with ideas. It falls upon Tyra’s team to evaluate the merits, conduct research and decide which ideas to pursue. She compares it to the television show “Shark Tank,” but with medical devices.
While she was getting established in that field, her husband entered the military and earned his law degree. Their careers took them to several locations, mostly across Texas. When their son began to approach school age, they wanted him to be in a school system that would give him the best chance to succeed. That motivated them to move back to their hometown.
“We wanted him to have the same education opportunities that we had,” she says. “We feel like the education we received in Plano set us up to be successful in higher education and our careers.”
She says that seeing the school system from a different perspective has been interesting, to say the least. Much has changed since she was a student. The makeup of the community has evolved, campuses remodeled and teaching methods reimagined.
Then there is the matter of being a public figure in the city where her parents still live. Her mom, who was not especially active in politics, now pays close attention.
“She’s called me before and said, ‘I can’t believe they are saying mean things about you,’” Tyra recalls.
Since moving back to Plano, she and her husband have made getting involved with the community a top priority. Both are Scout den leaders and active members of the PTA. He volunteers on a city commission while she mentors students pursuing science degrees in the University of Texas system.
Tyra now has a 6-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. She admits that it can be challenging to find the right balance between family, career, school board and other obligations. Sometimes it’s just a process of making a to-do list and checking things off, one item at a time.
Over the years, she’s heard many talks from famous female scientists encouraging their colleagues to just “plow through and do it.” While she agrees with that mentality, she also believes it’s OK to admit sometimes that it’s difficult. It’s a message she hopes her kids will one day comprehend as well.
“Hopefully they understand that I am trying to serve the community and serve the schools, and hopefully they will be proud of that when they get older,” she says.
One of the most eye-opening aspects of her experience on the board so far is the magnitude of the decisions she is faced with every day. Over the course of her career, she had ample experience reviewing legal briefs, working on oversight committees and managing massive budgets. Serving on the school board involves many of those same tasks but on a completely different scale. It’s a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.
“You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in budgets, and the decisions that we make as trustees impact 57,000 students, faculty and staff of the district as well as their families,” she says. “It gives you a moment of pause because of the magnitude of what you are doing and really makes you want to get it right, because when you get it right, you get it right for tens of thousands of kids.”