Meet Our Team

Beth Lewis,
Executive 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.

Melinda Merkel Iyer,
Policy 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. 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.

Catherine Sigmon,
Operations 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.

Sharon Kirsch,
Research 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.

Kate Tice,
Digital Director

Kate began her volunteerism for SOSAZ prior to the signature gathering phase in April 2017. She created both the former and the current SOSAZ sites, as well as social media video content. Kate has served as an educator for nearly 20 years, 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.

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.