Arizona School for the Arts principal inspires students, teachers to think creatively
2017 Charter Transformational Leader of the Year: Sara Maline Bohn
By Jamar Younger
For Sara Maline Bohn, no idea is too far-fetched.
The Arizona School for the Arts principal is always willing to sit with her teachers, students and fellow administrators to discuss a new plan or innovation, and figure out how to make into a reality.
Bohn uses her infectious enthusiasm and sense of humor to encourage her fellow educators and students to engage in challenging work, try new methods and persevere through difficult situations.
As a result, she has helped cultivate a welcoming, inclusive campus culture where students, staff and the community try new ideas, grow, and learn from mistakes.
Bohn’s efforts have led to her recognition as the 2017 Arizona Public Charter School Transformational Leader of the Year.
“Sarah has very flexible thinking,” said Leah Fregulia, head of school and CEO of the public charter school, which serves 850 students in grades 5-12 near downtown Phoenix. “She’s a master of formulating ideas and taking action.”
Bohn started teaching at the school in 1997 and began leading immediately, developing the school’s French curriculum, advising the school’s first graduating class and organizing its first retreat.
“It was a charter school and I wasn’t familiar with charter schools,” said Bohn, who started her teaching career in higher education, reflecting on when she was first hired. “The questions they asked were really focused on students and focused on bringing together people who really knew their content.”
She eventually rose to vice principal before taking the reins as principal in 2008.
After her promotion, Bohn was immediately tasked with making sure Arizona School for the Arts maintained its small school vibe as it prepared to move to a bigger facility while doubling the number of students to 850 and expanding its grade level to include fifth grade.
“As we grew, we incorporated more voices into the discussion, more voices into the decision making. Listening to feedback was critical,” she said.
The school, along with Bohn herself, experienced new challenges, but she viewed those as opportunities to grow and improve.
She encouraged the same approach with her students and teachers.
“She believed in me more than I believed in myself,” said Ann Kaufman, an eighth grade English teacher.
Kaufman arrived at the school with no teaching experience, but she credits Bohn with helping her transform into a leader who helps other teachers on campus.
“Sarah is really supportive of new ideas and innovations,” said Kaufman, whose been teaching at Arizona School for the Arts for the past decade. “She will do whatever it takes to put those plans into motion.”
Bohn has also inspired students to explore leadership opportunities.
“In everything that we do, all of the teachers and all of the leaders, they’re preparing us to be leaders,” said tenth grader Tyler Rountree.
Rountree, 15, is taking piano lessons this year, and participates in yearbook and mock trial, which has opened his mind to future career opportunities, he said.
Bohn has served as a major source of encouragement throughout his time at the school. She champions success and growth for all students and teachers and has earned the respect of the entire community.
“She really encourages me to produce my best work,” he said. “I truly think she is a one of a kind person. People like her don’t come around that often.”
Meet the 2017 Charter Award Winners
Reid Traditional Schools’ Painted Rock Academy is a K-8 back-to-basics charter school serving 612 students in north Phoenix. The high performing public charter school sets a high academic bar for students, and believes – given the right tools – all students can achieve success.
Sara Maline Bohn is the principal at Arizona School for the Arts, a 5-12 charter school serving 850 students in Phoenix. Through her mission driven decisions, Sara champions success and growth for all students and teachers and has earned the respect of the entire community.
Suzanne Drakes is the Assistant Executive Director at AAEC Early College High Schools, a network of six charter schools serving 1,700 students. Suzanne is often seen on school campuses, working with principals and teachers to determine the academic and building needs of each school.
Bonnie Weppner is an ELL kindergarten teacher at Pioneer Preparatory School: A Challenge Foundation Academy, a K-6 charter school serving 580 students in Phoenix. Bonnie helps scholars realize their language potential in English, while still embracing their heritage.