Our Story: Then & Now

A for Arizona has a vision to build an education system in Arizona that prepares every student to succeed in the competitive global economy and contribute to their local community.

Our story began in Fall 2013, when former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan decided to flip the traditional approach to education policy upside down and see what might happen if we leveraged best practices from the business community to focus intensely on scaling what works in K-12 schools. In collaboration with now Chief Executive Officer Emily Anne Gullickson, the A for Arizona initiative set out in Spring 2014 to learn from Arizona’s roughly 100 high poverty, high performing schools who were quietly laboring and defying the odds.

Over six years, A for Arizona got to know agile, passionate principals and system leaders across the state. Our growing team watched these schools intentionally help high poverty students catch up academically – giving them access to the life choices that only a great education can provide. Our work was built around elevating these educators’ voices, developing policy ideas and research to support and accelerate their investments in the lives of every student.

It has always been our belief that businesses have the obligation, opportunity, and capacity to foster greater student achievement, build an educated workforce pipeline, and protect our future economic vitality. A for Arizona originally harnessed the power and influence of the business community through a strategic partnership with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Arizona Chamber Foundation, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and their member organizations.

Our work continues today as an independent 501(c)(3) organization. As employers, innovators, and investors in the future, we remain committed to ensuring business leaders stay engaged as education champions. We aim to continue to educate and build wider support from the business community on the ambitious, aggressive, and comprehensive education reform possibilities designed from the needs and best practices of Arizona’s exceptional educators

The future is bright in Arizona and it’s time to get back to work.

With a laser focus on sustaining, growing, and expanding excellence, closing the achievement gap is no longer just an aspiration.

Now more than ever, A for Arizona serves as a national and local model for what's possible for students. We champion innovative ideas for student success, investing in and scaling what works to make Arizona the best state in the country at providing all students an excellent education.

John Donahue

Chairman of A for Arizona

Founder &Chief Executive Officer

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


(952) 334-2734


Emily Anne is the Founder and CEO of A for Arizona, bringing a unique background of executive, advocacy, legal, and teaching experience to the organization.

Prior to launching A for Arizona as a stand alone 501(c)(3), Emily Anne served as the Chief Executive Officer at the Arizona Chamber Foundation and Executive Director of the A for Arizona initiative. Emily Anne played a leading role in growing the two-person research shop into a thriving foundation with 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. At A for Arizona, Emily Anne designed, implemented, and facilitated first-of-their-kind initiatives and solutions to rapidly increase the number of low-income students attending Arizona’s top-performing public schools.

Emily Anne was recently recognized by the Arizona Capitol Times as an Inaugural Women Achievers of Arizona – Nonprofit Leader and 2019 Breakdown Breakout, recognition for being one of the sharpest political minds in Arizona under 40. She was identified in 2018 by The Arizona Republic as an educator to watch that’s shaping Arizona’s next generation and was a Greater Phoenix Chamber 2017 ATHENA Young Professional Award Nominee.

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. She currently serves as an Executive Board Member and Vice President of Membership Initiatives for the Grand Canyon Council Boy Scouts of America and on the Auxiliary Board for notMYkid. She actively serves on the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network Leadership Council and is the only representative from Arizona in PIE’s current national Leadership Institute cohort. Emily Anne is also an inaugural fellow in R Street Institute’s Foundations of Conservative Policymaking Fellowship and was a member of the Fall 2018 American Enterprise Institute Leadership Institute.

Chief Strategy Officer

Matthew Simon


(520) 730-9510


Matthew brings a diverse set of experiences from not only within the classroom, but also the state and federal government to A for Arizona. 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.

Manager of Grants Compliance and Marketing

Bettina Norton


(602) 561-0735


Bettina is the Manager of Grants Compliance and Marketing, bringing unique expertise in campaign finance, non-profit compliance, digital media and storytelling to the organization.

Prior to joining A for Arizona, 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.

Board of Directors


John Donahue

President & CEOPositive Recovery Solutions

Board Member

Lee Benson

Founder and CEOExecute to Win

Board Member

Derrell Bradford


Board Member

Jennifer Mellor

Chief Innovation OfficerGreater Phoenix Chamber & Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation

Board Member

Amilyn Pierce

Vice President Government AffairsArizona Diamondbacks

Board Member

Luis Ramirez

PresidentRamirez Advisors Inter-National, LLC

Board Member

Aaron Smith

Director of Education ReformReason