OUR TEAM / EQUIPO
Statewide Outreach Director
Nicky is a mother of five and strong advocate for Arizona’s public schools. She began her work in public school advocacy in Arizona seven years ago as a parent group officer and eventually moved over to lead parent group advocacy efforts across the state. She has done extensive work organizing in rural communities and has developed a strong understanding of the needs of Arizona’s rural public schools and communities. Nicky previously served as the Community Outreach Organizer for a statewide K-12 policy coalition and as a rural organizer leading teams of parents and teachers for an Arizona non-profit addressing children’s needs statewide. She is currently the Statewide Outreach Director for Save Our Schools Arizona. Her previous background in social work and community engagement gives her the tools necessary to encourage community members, parents, and teachers to engage in advocacy efforts to address the needs of Arizona’s classrooms. Reach out to Nicky at firstname.lastname@example.org
Melinda Merkel Iyer
Melinda has developed and managed editorial content for over 30 years, contributing to publications in a wide range of industries from health care, journalism, advertising and entertainment to professional services and the faith sector. Her knack for summarizing complex legislation in everyday language helps thousands of people across the state engage with public policy, mobilizing and inspiring them to become citizen lobbyists. As Policy Director and Legislative Analyst for Save Our Schools Arizona, she advocates for good public policy that serves the 1.1 million children in Arizona’s public schools. Melinda is a product of Arizona public education from elementary to college, the parent of two children in public schools, and a fierce advocate for public education as the backbone of our democracy. Reach out to Melinda at email@example.com
Co-Executive Director / Research Director
Sharon is a mom, a teacher, and a public education advocate who believes that the people of Arizona, not out-of-state interests, should drive policy about public education in Arizona. She serves as the Director of Research and tracks efforts in Arizona and across the nation to dismantle public education. With more than 25 years of experience at public universities, she teaches and publishes on women’s literature, poetics, and public discourse. Sharon holds a BA and MA in English and Philosophy from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and a PhD in Poetics from the University at Buffalo. Reach out to Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Lewis is a mom, public education advocate and K-12 policy expert who fights for a fully and equitably funded school for every Arizona child. As Director of Save Our Schools Arizona, Beth works to bring parents, educators, elected officials, business leaders, and community members together in support of Arizona’s public schools, which strengthen our communities and our great state. Beth has taught elementary and middle school in Arizona for 12 years, and has been named a Rodel Exemplary teacher and Tempe Diablos Teacher of the Year Finalist. She holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Education from ASU. Reach out to Beth at email@example.com
Communications Director / Directora de Comunicaciones
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.
Operations and Finance Director
Cathy is a 25-year resident of Arizona with a background in publishing, retail buying, product development, international sourcing, and project management. Her work as Finance & Operations Director for Save Our Schools Arizona involves ensuring financial stability through budgeting and reconciliation across platforms; overseeing the organization’s growing database; managing operational governance, compliance, and record keeping; and strategic allocation of funds to achieve organizational objectives. Her father was born in Bisbee and her great-grandfather was a timekeeper at the Copper Queen Mine, so her roots are authentically Arizonan. She is the mother of two grown children, both of whom benefitted from good Arizona public schools when education was adequately funded. In addition to co-founding Save Our Schools Arizona, she is a co-founder of Civic Engagement Beyond Voting, a statewide nonprofit that promotes engagement with state government. She has a BA from Boston University and an MBA from Norwich University. Reach out to Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Arizona and Tribal Outreach Coordinator
Joe Bia Jr grew up on the Navajo Nation in the beautiful community of Kayenta, Az, nestled along the southern edges of Monument Valley, UT. Joe is a proud husband and father, cat-lover, quasi-student, school board member, community leader, and Native entrepreneur in the non-profit Change Labs incubator program. After spending a career of 18 years in banking in California, Alaska, and Arizona, Joe returned to his community to volunteer and help make positive change his community by becoming involved, starting with the public school system that helped inspire him to lead a life of helping others, advocating for equity, fighting for cultural preservation among the Native community, and sharing economic opportunities. Joe is now working on bringing the important issues facing Arizona public schools to the rural Native communities where he comes from.
Marketing Coordinator & East Valley Coordinator
Rachael is an Arizona native, mom of three, and educator. She grew up attending public schools in Tempe and graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in History and Master’s in Secondary Education. She returned to teach History and Government at her alma mater where she discovered a passion for education advocacy. She is currently not in the classroom but continues to educate parents, teachers, and community members about education policy and issues in the East Valley. She also serves as the SOSAZ Marketing Coordinator, helping to manage social media and develop projects that highlight the importance of public schools.
Tribal Outreach Consultant
Nadine is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico. She grew up in Tucson, attended Cholla High School, and graduated from Arizona State University. During her 17-year tenure at the Arizona Department of Education, Nadine held several positions including Program Specialist for Title I and Director of Indian Education. She served 22 tribes supporting over 90,000 Native American students, the majority of whom attend public schools. Nadine has extensive experience working with tribal governments, school districts, and community organizations throughout Arizona. She proudly serves as a Tribal Outreach Coordinator for SOSAZ and organizes a series of enlightening presentations called Indigenous Perspectives.She is also the founder and CEO of the Southwestern Institute for the Education of Native Americans (SIENA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving Native American students and parents, as well as educators of Native students.
Daniel is a local small business owner who focuses on digital media and marketing. Daniel joined the team in 2020 to help with digital content and now is thrilled to be the new Digital Coordinator. Daniel works daily to help spread the Save Our Schools Arizona message online and is happy to be a public education advocate and supporter.
Northern Arizona Outreach Coordinator
As a lifelong resident of Prescott, Arizona, Kari is dedicated to helping educate and empower people that live in small, rural communities on the importance of public education. She and both of her daughters attended the public district schools in Prescott. Kari works throughout Northern Arizona presenting and educating parents, retirees, and educators. Her work is driven by the belief that all children deserve access to quality and equitable education opportunities. Public education allows each individual to reach their fullest potential and discover their passions in life!
Latino Outreach Coordinator
Raquel was born and raised in the beautiful border town of Nogales, Arizona, and is the mother of 13-year old twins. She has taught for 12 years in 3 different states, including special education for 10 years and 2 years teaching a dual language Spanish class. When her children started kindergarten, she returned to volunteering on the PTO and working as a substitute teacher. Raquel has been involved with Save Our Schools Arizona since 2017, and is passionate about sharing the information she has learned about the history of education funding in Arizona, especially to the Spanish-speaking community. Raquel believes strongly that a quality education is a necessity for a healthy democracy.
West Valley Coordinator
Kristin believes in justice, love, and community. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Kristin has been honored to teach in Arizona’s public schools for the past 15 years. Her upbringing, her faith, and her experience as a teacher all motivate her to continue working to build a better Arizona for future generations. Kristin is a National Board Certified Teacher with a master’s degree in educational leadership from Arizona State University. She has been organizing her community to advocate for strong public schools since 2017.
Latino Social Media Specialist
Christna was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona and is a proud product of public education. She has been part of the mariachi community for the past 13 years and is currently a student at the University of Arizona. She is focusing on Family Studies and Human Development and Spanish. Christina hopes to one-day help students the way her teachers helped her.