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Meet Dara Tilghman of DFW Private Education in McKinney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dara Tilghman.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was new to Dallas and very anti-private school. However, my husband and I saw the size of the schools here and thought this might be worth exploring. I searched many websites, Niche, GreatSchools, Texas Private School Review, Yelp and more. None of them really gave me what I was looking for. I wanted a bio of the school, stats, video, fair reviews and a direct source of contact. So, I created an FB group, it became a community where parents could connect with each other and share information. We talk about uniforms, addressed school rumors, curriculum, financial aid and most importantly, what our options are.

I tried to create it but I realized this was an FT job! There are a lot of schools here, different types and had I known about them all I would’ve likely explored more of them. I tried to list every open house, every school but it was honestly just humanly impossible. Members of the group began to ask “when do you sleep?” The other question that came up was “why isn’t there a simpler website for something like this?” I knew schools wouldn’t create anything like this because they have their own site to run and they’re competitors even if they’re friends behind closed doors. I had about 4 or 5 different members of the group approach me directly and suggest I should make it a website and every single time I shot it down.

Then, Abbie Alter from Plano Moms reached out to me and asked to talk with me and write a blog piece for her. I wrote the blog and she told me that she thinks this could be a website and proceeded to explain how I should go about it. I listened to her and gave it serious thought. The follow up to that was my pastor at One Community Church did an entire series on “Know Your Why.” It covered winning at work and knowing your purpose and your strengths an weaknesses as well. So, I spoke to my husband and I decided to do it. In November 2017, I began reaching out to schools and letting them know what was coming started building the website. At the time, I think many schools were like “who is she?” I began to build a following on Twitter and IG and eventually FB so some of those schools just closely paid attention. I officially launched the website Feb 2018 and I now have a directory of 14 schools with more signing up every month.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The hardest part was earning the trust of schools. I’m new and I’m an outsider, so I have to meet with every single school in person (unless they prefer not to) and let them get to know me and my story. This means missing certain events with my own kids but like many things with parenting, it’s a sacrifice.

The worst part was the person who tried to attack my character. This was based on what they “think” they know about me which is how I know it’s someone who doesn’t actually know me. They did this anonymously and it put me and the schools I work within a strange position but because I’m comfortable with who I am I was not afraid to talk about anything and the schools were not afraid to support me and stand behind me. The schools really are the heroes in this story by teaching the world to not let labels and negative people deter you.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about DFW Private Education – what should we know?
I list and promote private schools and local educational resources for those in our community. If you are a private school, I list your events, I promote them online and in person every chance possible. I help schools foster relationships with these parents as I form them. I meet with parents, allow them to text me and they ask me all kinds of questions. Also, when there is an issue between a parent and a school I try to keep the conversation open so that it can be resolved as best as possible. I screen all reviews as they come in. A couple of times, I’ve had parents who’ve had an issue with a school and If the review is fair I allow it to go live but I do let the school know it’s coming so that they have the opportunity to respond directly on the website. I also reach out to the parent and ask them if they’re willing to talk with the school. The fee that schools and other professionals pay is annually based and very affordable.

In addition to the directory listings and promoting schools, I list resources like pediatric therapists, adolescent mental health professionals, tutors, educational consultants and specialists and more. This further supports the idea of caring for the whole child. I’m also putting together an event in the fall for prospective African American families and my partnered schools to help address the lack of African American enrollment in our local private schools. What makes this different is schools get to tell their story, and my relationship with parents is organic. Lastly, I do not work with daycares or mother’s day out programs. There are hundreds of daycares and MDO’s and there are so many publications that will make it easy to find them. I find when these private schools are grouped with those organizations in various events in publications they’re often overlooked. This is specifically for the DFW based private schools.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Well, I’m a God believing woman so he gets all the credit always and I continue to walk in faith. My husband and family & friends have been a huge support system through this all. They’ve been encouraging and held my feet to the fire on the days I was a little tired and wanted to do nothing. Abbie Alter with Plano Moms is and continues to be amazing. I call on her when I need to bounce an idea and as busy as she is she helps. My website designer! David Russell with Red Spot Design. I’m pretty sure I’m his most annoying client (lol) with all that said, he’s fantastic!

Lastly, the Facebook Group! DFW Private Edu Families has been AMAZING. The parents specifically are just awesome and I can’t say I’d be here without them. I could not appreciate them more if I tried.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Covenant Christian Academy, Crown of Life Lutheran, Providence Christian School of TX, Trinity Christian Academy, Cistercian Preparatory School, Selwyn School, Dallas Christian School, Key School, Cambridge School of Dallas, Prestonwood Christian Academy North, Guthrie School

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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