SySTEM Phoenix was founded in 2014 by two Teach For America alumni, Angelica Cruz & Nicole Fernandez, both of whom taught in Central Phoenix and witnessed firsthand the need for students to learn how to think critically, problem-solve, and become active in their communities. After traveling the country to visit the best STEM schools, Ms. Cruz & Ms. Fernandez opened SySTEM Phoenix in August 2014 to bring the opportunity for a rigorous, college-prep STEM school to Phoenix students.
SySTEM Phoenix Leadership
Melodie Brewer, M.Ed., Principal / Chief Executive Officer
Melodie Brewer has served in many capacities in public education for over 17 years.
Ms. Brewer received a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University. During her time as an elementary school teacher, Melodie developed a passion for using technology in her classroom. She soon became the staff technology mentor on her campus, working to train her colleagues on how to best integrate the latest technologies into teaching and learning. She was lucky enough to continue her teaching and mentoring duties as she assisted in the opening of one of the first Integrated STEM Concept Schools in the Valley in 2007-8. She later went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, also from Arizona State University, in 2010.
After seven years in teaching, Ms. Brewer moved out of the classroom and into the role of Technology Integration Specialist, supporting 24 campuses in her district. She also helped to open a second STEM Concept School in 2012-13, as the school’s Instructional Coach. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member for ASU, instruction and evaluating future teachers.
Ms. Brewer is passionate about preparing students for college and the 21st century workplace, developing skills as a problem solver, collaborator, creator, and critical thinker.
Ms. Dayna Gilmore, Director of Special Education
Ms. Greene, English Language Arts
Ms. Gosar, Mathematics
Mr. Howell, Social Studies
Mr. Sukley, Science
Mr. White, STEM
Mr. Vargas, Office Manager
Our Governing Board
The Governing School Board is comprised of individuals from across the valley with expertise in a variety of areas of charter school governance, including finance, operations, marketing, STEM instruction, and community engagement.
Catherine M. Freericks, Ed.D., Chair
Dr. Cathy Freericks has lived in Arizona since 1981. She is a University of Oregon undergraduate where she was a music education major, specializing in piano and French horn performance. After teaching for five years in the Phoenix area, Dr. Freericks completed her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Arizona and took a position as a school administrator. During this position, she was recognized for her efforts in the fight against drugs, and she was asked to serve Governor Mofford in the newly formed Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse. At the completion of that term, Cathy completed her Doctorate degree in Education Leadership and Policy Studies from ASU and begin teaching at ASU’s College of Education. In this capacity, she supervised student teachers, taught classes for both undergraduate and graduate students, and was responsible for developing the DELTA Doctoral Program for working administrators. Dr. Freericks currently works for Read On Arizona – a non-profit organization focusing on early literacy and language development. She is also an educational consultant and instructional coach and serves on the school board for the charter school, SySTEM Phoenix.
Doris Roman, Founding Board Member
Doris Roman is a seasoned educator with over 25 years in STEM education with many years working with K-12 programs sponsored by universities and industry. Doris has held various positions such as Coordinator, Director, Assistant Dean, and faculty at several colleges and universities with many positions also serving K-12 programs with a focus on college and career readiness. She has served as a key player with the national MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program and served as part of the team to start the first community college program, as well as the Director during her tenure at Arizona State University (ASU). Doris retired as an administrator from higher education to take care of her terminally ill mother. She returned to the K-12 arena in 2006 with the state chapter of Communities in Schools, a national dropout prevention program serving Title 1 schools. She held positions at Excelencia Elementary and Riverside Elementary, where she worked closely with their science fairs and designed, developed, and delivered a Weird Math Club (WMC) to help students improve in math. During the 1st year of WMC operations, the students increased their math skills by over 60%. Doris has taught business and STEM courses at various colleges and with K-12 programs. In addition, she has served as a Principal Investigator on several contracts and grants helping ASU secure over $4 million in grants for STEM education. Doris has won numerous awards throughout her career, including Educator of the Year in New York, Inductee of 100 Hispanic Women, and the Martin Luther King Somos El Futuro award. Ms. Roman is committed to the empowerment of our youth, specifically our underrepresented youth who will become the future leaders of our great nation.
Jeffery Patterson, Treasurer
Jeff is a CPA with over ten years of experience in providing audit services. Jeff currently works as an Audit Supervisor for Henry & Horne, LLP with a primary focus on auditing government and non-profit entities including school districts, charter schools, cities, towns, counties, and state agencies. Jeff also performs training presentations both at Henry & Horne and at various conferences including the Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO). Prior to joining Henry & Horne, Jeff was a Senior Accountant for another firm where he specialized in governmental financial and compliance audits of municipalities, school districts, grant schools and state entities. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Phoenix and Masters in Business Administration with an Accounting emphasis from Utah State University.
Raz Yalov, Secretary
Raz Yalov is the Co-Founder and CEO of ZCast. Bringing more than 25 years of experience in the software and information technology industries, Raz Yalov has unique expertise in working with large enterprise customers and R&D teams as well as hands on experience and small startup teams.
Mr. Yalov spent close to 10 years at 41st Parameter, a Scottsdale based fraud prevention startup that was acquired by Experian in late 2013. Prior he spent 6 years at Mercury (acquired by HP) in various leading positions within the R&D and Managed Service Operations Groups. Mr. Yalov also worked at Edunetics, an ed-tech company that revolutionized the computerized class-rooms in the early 90s and was acquired by Steck-Vaughn Publishing Corp in 1996. Mr. Yalov received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and computer science from the OU University of Israel.
Francine Hardaway, Chair of Development Committee
Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998. Prior to Stealthmode, she owned two marketing companies, and served as Director of Worldwide Press Relations for Intel and the CMO of Innovative Environmental Products. Francine was an Entrepreneurial Fellow of the Eller Entrepreneurship Center at University of Arizona, and was a founder of Social Media Club Arizona and the Arizona Software Association. She is co-founder of the blog USHealthCrisis, and blogs for Fast Company, Huffington Post, and the Stealthmode Blog.