Arizona Has More than 1.1 million K-12 Students

It’s Time to Put them First

Equal Access

Every day A Child Doesn’t Have Access to A better Learning Environment, is a Day We are failing.

Modify the existing open enrollment system so Arizona families can easily apply to attend the school of their choice, regardless of attendance boundaries, with transparent, simple enrollment processes.

Expand transportation options for students to access more school and learning options by incentivizing district and charter schools to explore transportation innovations and efficiencies, such as parent flat-rate programs, rideshares, and transportation resource sharing.

Innovation is no Longer Optional

  • Remove the red tape preventing innovation from taking root.
  • Give school leaders the autonomy needed to create unique, effective learning environments.
  • No one model or system of schooling can have a monopoly over opportunity.

Transparent Results

Public Data is Essential, Not a Nice-To-Have

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents deserve clear information now more than ever about their child’s progress and school’s performance – both academically and where dollars were spent.

This is the time to challenge the status quo. We can no longer sit idly by while students languish in a school where they will not thrive.

-Emily Anne Gullickson, President & Founder
Great Leaders, Strong Schools


Bipartisan advocates for community-driven K-12 education policies where students are the top priority. 

Governing Board Members

President & Founder

Emily Anne Gullickson, J.D., M.Ed.

Emily Anne brings a unique background of executive, advocacy, legal, and teaching experience to Great Leaders, Strong Schools. She also serves as the founder and CEO of sister organization A for Arizona and has a long track record of prioritizing students’ interests – especially students in high poverty communities – in all that she does. She began her journey as a middle school social studies teacher, Teach For America – Phoenix corps member and has since served as the inaugural Arizona Alumni Leadership Board President, organizing the 1,000+ alumni community across Arizona.

Emily Anne was recently recognized by the Arizona Capitol Times and Arizona Capitol community as a 2020 Best Political Rising Star, Inaugural 2019 Women Achievers of Arizona – Nonprofit Leader, and 2019 Breakdown Breakout for being one of the sharpest political minds in Arizona under 40. The Arizona Republic recognized Emily Anne in their Fall 2018 “Who’s Next: 21 Educators Shaping Arizona’s Next Generation” spotlight and was a Greater Phoenix Chamber 2017 ATHENA Young Professional Award Nominee.

She actively serves on the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network Leadership Council and was in their last national Leadership Institute cohort. She recently led the Arizona Chamber Foundation, overseeing three major initiatives including A for Arizona, Chamber Business News, and the Arizona Industry Fellows. Under her direction, the Foundation published critical policy briefs and research on topics dedicated to expanding economic opportunity in Arizona such as K-12 education reform, water and the Drought Contingency Plan, and trade with a focus on the USMCA and its impact on Arizona.

Last year, Emily Anne was an inaugural fellow in R Street Institute’s Foundations of Conservative Policymaking Fellowship and a member of the Fall 2018 American Enterprise Institute Leadership Institute. She had prior public policy and advocacy fellowships with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Leadership for Educational Equity as well as relevant legal clerkships with a focus on education law at the City of St. Paul and Kane Education Law, LLC.

Using her experience as an educator, legal advocate, and policy leader, Emily Anne is devoted to changing the narrative of what’s possible for students in Arizona and the nation.

Vice President, Government Affairs & Advocacy

Matthew Simon

Matthew brings a diverse set of experiences from not only within the classroom, but also the state and federal government to Great Leaders, Strong Schools. Matthew started his career in education as a high school life science teacher in Earle, Arkansas as a Teach for America Mississippi Delta corps member. While teaching in rural Arkansas, Matthew became acutely aware that even in our most rural schools children deserve to have access to high quality learning opportunities that included Advanced Placement courses.
After his teaching commitment with Teach for America, Matthew stayed in Arkansas to work for the newly created Teach for America Arkansas Region where he trained, coached and developed 40 teachers in north eastern Arkansas. Matthew supported teachers in all grade levels K-12 and in subject areas ranging from music, English language arts, science, math and Spanish language. During this time, Matthew gained valuable insights into how different school systems were impacting children. The unique rural context showed how limited options spanning a large regional area were impacting students.
Matthew returned to his home state of Arizona in December 2014 to serve as the Arizona State Senate Education Research Analyst and then ultimately the Arizona Senate Majority Policy Advisor for Education. During his time at the Arizona legislature, Matthew was pivotal developing robust policy solutions for students in Arizona. This included a complete overhaul and reform of Arizona’s teacher certification system, implementing a new results based funding system for schools, expanding school choice options for students across the state and working with stakeholders to create the first in the nation statewide menu of assessments.
Matthew most recently served as Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), where he managed both the Washington D.C. and Surprise, AZ district offices. As the top policy advisor to the Congresswoman, Matthew was able to build on his state level experience to learn about the inner workings of the federal government. 

Matthew is a native of Tucson, Arizona and is a proud product of Arizona’s public education system. He received both his B.S. in political science and his Master of Public Administration from Arizona State University.
Matthew is unwaveringly committed to use his experience from the classroom and state and federal government to ensure that all students have access to the best school that works for them to reach their unchartered potential.

Impact Associate

Bettina Norton

Bettina brings unique expertise in campaign finance, non-profit compliance, digital media and storytelling to the organization.

Prior to joining Great Leaders Strong Schools, Bettina wore several hats with Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a nonprofit leadership development organization that inspired and supported a network of civic leaders working to end the injustices in our education system and ensure every child has access to an excellent education. She managed and oversaw the compliance and reporting for 20 Political Action Committees and supported more than 200 political candidates per cycle, ensuring every candidate engaged with LEE remained in compliance throughout their campaign journey.

In addition to her compliance work, Bettina also played a key role in planning and executing candidate video productions in several regions across the US, capturing their unique stories and vision of change. As a direct result of her media work, the organization was able to support candidates in over 40 states with new and innovative ways to promote each candidate and provide intentional support for their campaigns.

Bettina began her journey on behalf of students at Teach For America – Phoenix, developing her non-profit compliance, marketing, and operations expertise. As a native Arizonan, former Sun Devil and youth who benefited from the state’s robust school choice options, Bettina remains devoted to celebrating what’s possible and relentlessly working to ensure every child has access to a high-quality education in the State of Arizona and across the country.

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