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Our Team

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Beth Lewis

Chair

Beth is a Rodel Exemplary teacher who has taught 5th and 6th grade in Arizona for 9 years. She began her career as a legal writer for Corpedia, a business ethics firm located here in Phoenix. She holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Education from ASU. She believes all of her students, as well as her 5- and 6-year old children, deserve a fully-funded education.

Dawn Penich-Thacker

Communications Director

Dawn began her career as a U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer, serving in Strategic Communications at the Pentagon and elsewhere. She holds a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Linguistics, with which she teaches and publishes on Political Rhetoric and Professional Communication.  She has volunteered on local, state and national campaigns since 2006.

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Catherine Sigmon

Finance Manager

Cathy is a 20-year resident of Arizona with a background in business, retail, product development, and project management. Her father was born in Bisbee and her great-grandfather was a foreman at the Copper Queen Mine, so she has a deep attachment to the state. As a retail buyer and international sourcing manager, she managed over $50 million in annual sales. She has a BA from Boston University and an MBA from Norwich University. She finds spreadsheets relaxing and dreams in Excel.

Melinda Merkel-Iyer

Managing Editor

Melinda has developed and managed editorial content for 27 years. She has contributed to publications in a wide range of industries, from health care, journalism, advertising and entertainment to professional services and the faith sector. When the Arizona State Legislature is in session, she writes the Iyer Report, a plain-language overview of the session’s notable bills, for concerned citizens statewide.

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Sharon Kirsch

Director of Research & Training

Sharon began her career in Higher Education Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC, and later served as Communications and Community Outreach director for a national healthcare management company. With more than 20 years of experience at public universities, she teaches and publishes on women’s literature, poetics, and public discourse. She is the mother of two school-aged children and believes that the people of Arizona, not out-of-state interests, should make decisions about the shape of public education in our state.

Alison Porter

Campaign Manager

Alison has worked on a number of grassroots political campaigns, starting with the unprecedented, successful recall of Russell Pearce in 2011, and more recently helping to elect education-focused candidates Sean Bowie and Mitzi Epstein in Legislative District 18. She serves on the board of LD18 Democrats and works to assist other districts in adopting practices that have led to record-breaking civic engagement. Alison believes that grassroots organizing is the cornerstone of preserving our democracy for future generations, and that every child has a right to a strong public education.

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Kate Tice

Webmaster & Digital Artist

Kate began her volunteerism for SOS prior to the signature gathering phase in April 2017. A proud public school teacher with 15 years experience, she  has taught in Arizona for 10 years. She holds a BMus from the University of Massachusetts and a Master's from ASU, both in Music Education. Kate strongly believes that high-quality, public education should be well-funded and accessible to all Arizona students regardless of ethnicity or economic resource.

Raquel Mamani

Latino Outreach Coordinator

Born and raised in Nogales, Arizona,  Raquel graduated from University of Arizona with a degree in Special Education and Rehabilitation.  She has taught Special Education and Spanish.  After having twins, Raquel left the classroom but later returned to volunteer and serve on the PTO board. She is passionate about ensuring a quality public education for all Arizonans and works tirelessly to educate and spread awareness to our  Spanish-speaking communities. 

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Allegra Fullerton

Maricopa County Field Co-Coordinator

Allegra is an Arizona native and has served in many roles with Save Our Schools Arizona from volunteering as a circulator, statewide volunteer coordinator, c4 director and is now one of our Maricopa County Field Co-Coordinators. She continues her work with SOS AZ as she believes the continued disinvestment in public schools threatens the stability of the nation and the state of Arizona. Her background as a classroom teacher showed her that to make the greatest impact on education, work is needed at the policy level. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Administration with an emphasis on eduction policy at ASU and is a co-founder of communtiy advocacy group that specializes in issue based policy work.

Jessica Wani

Maricopa County Field Co-Coordinator
Jessica firmly believes that public education is fundamental to a strong democracy and a robust economy.  Jessica is married to Daniel Wani and has two children, she is the co-owner of a community advocacy firm that focuses on raising the platform for social causes and empowering others to engage their inner grassroots warrior. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University and her Juris Doctorate from Touro Law School. Jessica practiced law in New York and Arizona before pursing full time community advocacy.
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Sarah Richardson

East Valley Regional Lead

Sarah Richardson was born and raised in Arizona, where she attended public schools in Tempe and Chandler and graduated twice from Arizona State University. Sarah has a bachelors in business administration with a minor in French and a certificate of international business. She also has a Master's degree in education. Sarah is married to Mark Richardson, the Executive Director of The Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts, and has three children ages 9, 7, and 5. Sarah currently is an adjunct business professor for Northern Arizona University and the State Education Outreach Director for Save Our Schools Arizona non-profit. She volunteers as a lead presenter with AZED101 to fulfill her passion for education advocacy.

Shari Griswold

Central & N. Valley regional lead

Shari left her corporate career as a national trainer to become a pre-school teacher and now engages young minds at Paradise Valley Cooperative School. Her dog, Tinkerbell, is an education activist in the community along Shari’s side. Shari is passionate about public education because over 90% of children in Arizona attend public schools and all children deserve an opportunity to attend strong schools. Shari helps support and organize hundreds of volunteers for events across the state to support Save Our Schools’ mission to build strong public schools for a stronger more prosperous state.

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Kristin Roberts

West Valley Regional Lead

Kristin Roberts is a high school English teacher who has been honored to teach in Arizona public schools since 2007. She is driven by her passionate belief that all students are capable of greatness and deserve a high-quality and fully funded public education. Kristin is a National Board Certified Teacher with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cedarville University in Ohio and teaching credentials in secondary English education from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. 

Julia Watson

Prescott & Yavapai County Area Regional Lead

Julia is a native Arizonan and a lifelong educator with an undergraduate degree in business from Arizona State University.  Her Master's in Education and Master's in Counseling are also from ASU in Tempe.  Her experience also includes software consulting, grant writing, and teaching communication and speech at the college and university level.

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Tyler Griesbach

Kingman Area Regional Lead

Tyler is a second year music teacher at Black Mountain School in Golden Valley, AZ. Originally from Mississippi, Tyler learned the importance of properly funded education.  Now that he resides in Arizona, he is intent on making sure that students in this state have every opportunity possible made available to them through public education. 

Talia Baca

Yuma Area Regional Lead

Talia is currently in her senior year at Arizona State University majoring in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English. She was born and raised in Yuma, Arizona and stayed there to pursue her higher education through Arizona Western College and the ASU-Yuma program. She will begin teaching at a high school in her hometown in 2019. Talia has a passion for helping others and cannot wait to be a role model for her future students. She is grateful to be given the opportunity to talk to her community about ways to make public education a priority in Arizona. 

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Stephanie Hamilton

tucson & southern arizona regional lead

Stephanie, a wife of a public school teacher and a mother of three children attending schools in Tucson Unified School District, has spent the last three years advocating for public education. She is a substitute teacher, a volunteer coach, and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA having served as a youth pastor and the Executive Director of Montlure Presbyterian Church Camp. She is very happy to be serving the children of Arizona in this capacity.

Leah Porter

Flagstaff & northern arizona regional lead

Leah was born and raised in Arizona, and is deeply grateful to have attended public school for the entirety of her schooling. She attended Scottsdale Community College and is now pursuing study in yoga. She strongly believes that diversity, teacher-student empowerment, engagement, and a wide range of activities are integral as components of public education. Understanding the importance of this development in students, and knowing that funding is essential to providing positive, diverse experiences for students of all backgrounds, she is passionate about making change to ensure future generations have all of this and more in their schooling. 

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Anne Ellsworth

Interfaith outreach coordinator

Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth serves as the Interfaith Outreach Coordinator for Save Our Schools and is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. She and her husband are raising their two children in Tempe, where public schools continue to serve as the the heart of their community. Pastor Anne is also a lead presenter with a non-partisan educational presentation and is available as a guest preacher and small-group facilitator for your faith community. She believes public education is an essential conversation for the faith community: Budgets are moral documents, and how we fund our schools reflects how we care for our neighbors and nurture democratic principles.

Missa Foy

White Mountains Regional Lead

Missa spent her first years out of college as a teacher in Detroit.  Where she spent 4 years educating 8th graders.   Since having children Missa moved to Arizona and became a stay at home mom.  Missa volunteers in many capacities at the local public school her daughter attends.  She has served on multiple boards for non- profits and has made service to her small community an important part of her life.  Missa works to promote positive change through collective action in her role as a community organizer.  Missa is committed to the power of grassroots organizing. 

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Brian Schaumloffel

administrator

Brian started working for the Save Our Schools campaign during the start of the petition gathering phase in May of 2017. That summer, he oversaw the unprecedented signature gathering effort to stop voucher expansion as the senior intern and assistant campaign manager. Brian currently serves as the administrator for the PAC, overseeing the distribution of merchandise, administering events, and providing strategic analysis for the campaign. He is also pursuing a dual degree in economics and biology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. In particular, Brian is interested in studying topics such as political economy, the economics of genetic resources, and the history of economic thought.

Cait Cady

Intern

Cait is a proud graduate of Arizona public schools and is currently a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, studying political science.

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