Save Our Schools Arizona Network focuses on issues that impact the quality of education provided to children in Arizona’s public schools.
By tracking and interpreting changes, improvements, and outcomes related to public education in Arizona, we provide information, data and analysis to help people across the state understand the crisis facing Arizona’s public schools.
Explore our website and read about efforts to stop the nationwide push toward privatization of public education and our continued fight against profit-driven education reform. You will find in-depth analysis of Arizona’s school funding challenges and efforts to improve student achievement.
We are a non-partisan, community-based organization supporting strong
public schools for a strong Arizona.
- Research public education issues affecting our state in an objective, fact-based manner
- Engage Arizonans around the topic of public education by sharing research and initiating dialogues around the state
- Collaborate with other local and national education and community groups, business partners, and other leaders to build support for public education in Arizona
SOSAZ Network Bios
Sharon Kirsch, Director
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.
Beth Lewis, Director
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 6- and 7-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.
Catherine Sigmon, Operations and Finance Director
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, Editorial Director
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. Melinda is a product of Arizona public schools from elementary through college, the parent of two school-aged children, and a fierce advocate for public education as the backbone of our democracy.
Kate Tice, Digital Director
Kate has developed many websites, including the SOSAZ Network website, as well as social media video content. Kate is proud to be a public school teacher with 15 years experience, 10 of which have taken place in Arizona. She holds a BMus from the University of Massachusetts and an MM 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.
Nadine Groenig, Tribal Outreach Consultant
Nadine Groenig 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. During this time, Nadine honed her outreach skills working with tribal governments, school districts, and community organizations throughout Arizona. She is the founder and CEO of the Southwestern Institute for the Education of Native Americans (SIENA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving students, parents, and educators of Native American students in Arizona and beyond.
SOSAZ Network Board
Ylenia Aguilar, President
Ylenia Aguilar is Vice President of Strategies 360 Cultura and currently serves as the Governing Board President in the Osborn School district.Ylenia is the proud parent of Brock who attends Phoenix Coding Academy and Felix who attends Clarendon elementary. Ylenia works as the Education Organizer for English Learners for UnidosUS, the largest Latino Civil Rights organization in the nation. Ylenia is an advocate for quality education and believes that diversifying the curriculum with multicultural education allows for all students to be validated in their education.