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Meet Our Team

Beth Lewis,

Beth is a Rodel Exemplary teacher who has taught 5th and 6th grade in Arizona for 8 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.

    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. 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.

    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.

    Allegra Fullerton,
    Field Manager

    Allegra joined the core team after successfully mobilizing thousands of volunteers during the petition drive phase of the campaign. Her success as a community organizer stems from many years as program director for an educational summer camp in California. An Arizona native, she returned to her home state to raise her children near their grandparents where they will proudly attend public school. She is working toward her Master of Public Administration degree at ASU, with a focus on education policy, and assists nonprofits in public affairs.

    Kate Tice,
    Webmaster & Digital Arts

    Kate began her volunteerism for SOS prior to the signature gathering phase in April 2017. She created both the former and the current SOS sites, 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 serves on the board for LD18 Democrats. 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.