Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO Eileen Sigmund is leaving the organization after more than 11 years at its helm.
Sigmund told the Arizona Mirror that, after more than a decade as the association’s head, it was time for a change in leadership. She said that she and Jay Heiler, the chairman of the association’s board, have been discussing her potential departure for more than a year.
Sigmund’s last day with the association will be Nov. 30.
In a letter on Wednesday sent to the association’s mailing list, Heiler praised Sigmund’s work with the organization. When she first joined the Arizona Charter Schools Association, it was still in its infancy, he wrote. Since then, he continued, charter school enrollment has tripled in Arizona, and the association has its own headquarters, is in a strong financial position, provides operating expertise for charter schools, and “has developed data capabilities which have advanced the educational discussion for our entire state.”
“Eileen’s relentless energy, her passionate leadership and her heart for children have contributed immeasurably to Arizona’s educational landscape, and she has made a gift of these things to countless thousands of students she will never meet,” Heiler wrote.
Sigmund’s departure comes at a critical time for charter schools in Arizona, which have faced a slew of bad press and controversy in recent months. The Arizona Republic has reported that a charter school owner made millions through no-bid contracts to build his own schools, that state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, is poised to make millions by selling for-profit charter schools he operates to a nonprofit entity, and that the wife of a top official at the Arizona Charter Schools Association was paid to recruit students to a charter school using inside information obtained by her husband.
Calls for reform to the state’s charter school system have grown louder in the wake of those revelations, and state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, plans to propose new reforms in the upcoming legislative session if she is re-elected. The Arizona Charter Schools Association, Gov. Doug Ducey, Attorney Mark Brnovich and others have joined those calls for reform.