Principal for a Day
I had the pleasure of serving as Principal for a Day at Arizona School for the Arts (ASA) on October 27 via a program put on by HandsOn Greater Phoenix. The newly revived/revamped program this year paired about 25 business leaders and principals, and is designed to foster more meaningful, longer-term relationships between the participants
I became aware of this opportunity through my participation in Valley Leadership and was delighted to be selected and paired with Leah Fregulia Roberts, head of school/CEO of ASA. This pairing speaks directly to my passion for the arts – my day job is as manager for individual giving at the Musical Instrument Museum, and I serve on several music-related boards, as well as perform as a flutist and singer. My Principal for a Day experience began with a great training session led by HandsOn Greater Phoenix president & CEO Rhonda Oliver and youth program manager Sharifa Rowe which covered everything from the similarities and differences within the operating frameworks of schools and businesses to education in Arizona today to the building blocks of an effective partnership.
During my day at ASA, I had the pleasure of meeting not only with Leah but also with arts director Laura Apperson, principal Sara Maline Bohn, chief development officer Lyn Marquis, and student ambassador Alex Nunez. I learned about the history of the school, the unique challenges facing charter schools, and was invited to sit in on a construction meeting over lunch (regarding the new building which is currently being constructed ASA’s campus). The day ended with my favorite experience – a tour of arts classes in progress during which I got to peek into a theater directing class and ballet class, as well as choir, band, and orchestra rehearsals. Check out this video from Know99 TV to get a peek into what my day was like!
I came away from the day inspired and invigorated to see so many students receiving rigorous academic instruction and also passionately pursuing their study of the arts. I learned a great deal about how charter schools function, and was impressed by the statistics that Leah shared about ASA’s last graduating class (who received $2.5M in scholarships, 10% of whom were National Merit scholars, and 50% of whom qualified for AIMS scholarships.)
Whether these students go on to pursue careers in the arts or not, they will be lifelong audience members, advocates, and champions of the arts. And I have no doubt that many of them will pursue careers as performers or in roles that are connected to the arts in other ways. I look forward to a continued relationship with ASA and to exploring the many ways in which MIM and organizations I am involved with can collaborate with the school. I am happy to report that Leah and I have scheduled monthly meetings to keep the conversation going, and have already had our first follow-up meeting to start discussing ideas including:
- Exploring opportunities for ASA students to perform at MIM
- Promoting internship opportunities at MIM to ASA students and alumni
- Encouraging ASA alumni to volunteer at MIM
- Holding a career fair at ASA in which we would bring various emerging nonprofit leaders in to talk about all of the career opportunities in the non-profit world, especially focusing on those within the arts.
I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in a Principal for a Day program to do so. While the challenges facing schools today are daunting, there is much to celebrate, and I applaud the great work that the team at ASA is doing right here in our own backyard.
Maureen Baker is the Manager for Individual Giving at the Musical Instrument Museum, serves on the board of YNPN Phoenix and on the core team of Emerging Arts Leaders of Phoenix, is a co-founder of Classical Revolution PHX, and is a member of Valley Leadership Class 33. Maureen is also flutist and co-founder of the Siroccan Winds wind quintet and a member of the soprano section of Scottsdale Choral Artists.