Did you know in Arizona taxpayers have choices about where to direct their state taxes? If you have a desire to help families afford the education they choose for their children, sit back, listen and be inspired. You are listening to Creating Future Leaders with Catholic Education Arizona.

 

Introducing Katie Lyon

 

Deb Preach:

Welcome to Creating Future Leaders. I’m Deb Preach, I’m the Chief Development Officer at Catholic Education Arizona. Catholic Education Arizona is a school tuition organization that turns tax credit contributions from individuals and corporations into scholarships for students. At CEA, we create future leaders. Today’s guest is here to promote great things happening at her school, St. Mary-Basha. Mrs. Katie Lyon is in her first year as principal at St. Mary-Basha and her first year in the administration of the Diocese of Phoenix. Welcome to the program. Katie, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you came to arrive at St. Mary-Basha?

 

Katie Lyon:

Thank you, Deb. So yes, my name is Katie Lyon and I actually started my teaching career out here at the Kyrene School District. And then I moved to California in 2007, where, for the past 14 years, I was working at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at St. Timothy School in West LA. I fully intended on coming back-it took a few years-but now I’m back with my husband and my family and we’re just excited to be in Arizona again.

 

What Sets St. Mary-Basha Apart

 

Deb Preach:

And we are so excited to have you. You’ve been part of the St. Mary-Basha community for a few months now. What would you say is the most striking or unique aspect of the school that makes it stand out from the others?

 

Katie Lyon:

So St. Mary-Basha actually has a long standing tradition, they’re celebrating their 77th year. So they’ve been around for a really long time. And I would say one of the things that really stands out to me is when I meet families-they went to St. Mary-Basha’s, and now their kids are going. We even have some of our teachers who are alumni of St. Mary-Basha’s. So I really love that family aspect on how it’s full circle, and that these families continue to come back. So it tells me as the principal that the school is doing something right that makes these families continue to come back generation after generation.

 

Deb Preach:

I agree with you. The times that I’ve been fortunate to be out at St. Mary-Basha for different presentations and things, the sense of community that is there at the parish and the school are just inspirational. And I would love other parishes around our diocese to see what St. Mary-Basha has to offer in the way of community building.

 

Excellent. So tell me what has been different about being back in Arizona, compared to your time teaching and leadership in the Catholic schools in California.

 

Katie Lyon’s Work at St. Mary-Basha

 

Katie Lyon:

Obviously, COVID has changed things a lot. California was dealing with it in entirely different ways, so sort of coming to Arizona and having a little bit of a different mindset of how we’re approaching keeping our community safe and our kids safe. That’s been a bit of an adjustment, but I’m loving it. It’s about having the kids back in the classroom. For me, that’s what’s so important. Having the kids back in the classroom, our teachers are doing what they love in person. And so just supporting the community has been a big mind shift. For me, I think in terms of that, it’s also just great being in a leadership position. It’s different than being in the classroom. I’ve been in the classroom for 15 years. And so now stepping out and seeing things from a new viewpoint and focusing on how we can continue the great things that are happening at St. Mary-Basha’s has been a focus I’ve been looking at for the past couple months.

 

Deb Preach:

And what do you hope to accomplish this year as a school leader at St. Mary-Basha? What’s your goal?

 

Katie Lyon:

My biggest goal is continuing what you were talking about with the community there. I feel that last year the families had a lot with not being allowed on campus, and there was really that disconnect with the community. So I’m just coming in this year, and I’m here to listen to people and to let them know that it’s going to be okay, we will come out stronger at the end of all of this, and that we’re still a community. And finding ways to invite them back in so that everyone feels that sense of family still.

 

And then one of the wonderful things about St. Mary-Basha’s is, like I said, 77 years! That’s not a drop in the bucket. They have a long-standing tradition of culture and the way they’ve done things, but they’re also looking at how can we improve and so I love that about the teachers, that they’re open to infusing new ideas into what already makes our school great.

 

Deb Preach:

Katie, you’ve lived in a couple of different states that had no form of school choice legislation, including California. Here in Arizona, tax credit legislation makes affording a Catholic Education possible for any family that wants it. When you first heard about this legislation that we had in Arizona, especially where you were in California, how did you react to understanding that families have the ability to fund their education?

 

Katie Lyon:

I was completely blown away. So I am a mother of three children myself, they all attend St. Mary-Basha Catholic School. And when I heard that, I just I can’t understand why that’s not across the nation. To be able to provide every child and every family that wants a Catholic education, I think, is such an amazing opportunity. And so that we can do that in Arizona. I mean, we have great schools, great charter schools, great public schools-but we have great Catholic schools, and every family should have the opportunity to send their child to an amazing Catholic school.

 

Catholic Education Arizona’s Partnership With St. Mary-Basha

 

Deb Preach:

That’s exactly what we say. We want everybody to have the education that best meets their need, regardless of their family’s income. And thank you to the State of Arizona for agreeing with everyone or at least those of us that believe in it, so that we know it’s within reach. So we have quite a partnership together with St. Mary-Basha. Let’s talk a little bit about how we work together to help each other. And of course, we have other STO’s that you work with as well, because we all know it takes a village to do all of this. So let’s talk a little bit about that.

 

Katie Lyon:

Right. So I know at St. Mary-Basha’s, we work closely with you guys, we invite you out to the campus, you have an opportunity to speak to our families to really just share what are STO’s and the different ways that families can apply for them and qualify for them. We work closely with our Finance Director Naty who’s amazing, and just informing families that everyone, even those families who think they don’t qualify, our job is to show them that you probably do. And this is how we can go about it. And so we have a wonderful relationship in which you guys help us spread the word to all of our families. And you walk them through it, too, so you don’t just give the information. CEA is amazing about really coming into the school, and not only providing the information, but also how to go about applying and that process.

 

Deb Preach:

One of the things that amazed me recently at your school (we were there for back to school night or curriculum night that you were presenting at) was the number of families that have relocated to Arizona from a variety of places that really and truly didn’t know that this was something that could happen. So the ability to talk with them, and make them understand that every family, no matter what, qualifies for at least one scholarship.

 

And the qualification guidelines-that’s based on something from the Arizona Department of Revenue, that’s not something that one of the STO’s just magically puts in their head. The idea for the ones that are based on low income qualifications, that’s a state requirement as state law. Of course, there’s the original tax credit, which doesn’t matter what your income is. And then there’s a new scholarship to CEA that we have a fund for which is called the Disabled Displaced Scholarship. We are excited about that. We have a large corporate contribution that came in this year that we were able to secure for Disabled Displaced, meaning students that have an IEP, 504 Educational Plan, or wherever a foster care child is at any time the state of Arizona can qualify for another scholarship now. So getting the word out, especially to these new families, but also all your veteran families, is crucial for us.

 

Katie, you mentioned earlier that there’s a number of families that believe that they wouldn’t qualify for scholarship assistance. That’s a huge misperception that we spend a lot of time trying to clarify, because there is no reason that any family cannot fully fund their tuition, regardless of their income. And we are here to help them do that and explain to them how it works. So if you’re listening St. Mary-Basha families, any other family, you need to contact us so we can help you. There’s no reason that you should be paying tuition out of your pocket.

 

So tell me a little bit more about your school enrollment. Are you looking for grades? Do you have room? How can people get in touch with you if they want to take a tour?

 

Enrollment and Extracurriculars at St. Mary-Basha

 

Katie Lyon:

Absolutely. So we definitely have open enrollment going on. We’re really looking at students in our preschool, so our three and four year olds. We have room in that grade, and then our Kindergarten through 4th grade. Our 5th-8th is almost at capacity, but we do still have a couple seats up there as well.

 

But we would love to have families just come by, take a tour of the school, and see the amazing things happening in the classroom. You can do that by contacting our admissions director, Laurie Fisher, send an email to admissions@stmarybashacatholic.org. Or you can give a phone call to the school, but we would love to have families come out to see the school, take that tour, get their questions answered, and meet with myself and Laurie. You know, we’re excited to show people what we’re doing at SMB and how they can be a part of it.

 

Deb Preach:

And in addition to the outstanding academics that you offer, tell me a little bit about your extracurriculars.

 

Katie Lyon:

We have a ton of extracurriculars. The students are involved in sports with the Diocese. So right now, we actually have our girls volleyball going on and our boys flag football. And shout out to those guys. The girls have a game today, all of them, and our boys actually won their first game yesterday. We’re excited.

 

But then in addition to sports, if sports are not something that students are interested in, we have after school Robotics Club, we have Chess Club. We have our YES Program-which parents really like-it’s the ability, if a parent’s working late, that their kids can go to our Young Eagles Soaring Program after school. They get some homework help and some social time. It’s an amazing program.

 

Deb Preach:

I believe you have a Pastor that dabbles in some video and media, right?

 

Katie Lyon:

Father Dan is amazing. He has all of the fun toys. All of our church masses are streamed throughout the entire Diocese. So if you see a mass through the Diocese of Phoenix, chances are that is St. Mary’s and Chandler parish that is streaming that mass. And Father Dan, he’s just amazing. He helps out the school. He is a person who we see on campus almost every single day. And I love that, because the kids really get to build that relationship with him and help form that faith formation that makes our schools stand apart from the other schools in the area.

 

Deb Preach:

Father Dan, in case anybody doesn’t know, is an alumni of the Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Schools. So he’s proof of what gets produced by our great schools like St. Mary Basha.

 

To learn how you can create future leaders with Catholic Education Arizona, visit www.CatholicEducationArizona.org or call us at 602-218-6542. I want to thank Katie Lyon for being part of the podcast today and for all she’s doing at St. Mary-Basha. I wish you, your staff, and your students all the very best this year.

 

Also, thanks so much to all of our listeners for hanging out with us today. It’s always a great day at CEA, and we’ll see you next time.

 

You have been listening to Creating Future Leaders with Catholic Education Arizona. For more information visit us at www.CatholicEducationArizona.org.