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Getting to know Gina Mehmert

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

I've known Gina for about five years. We first came together at Orange Grove Middle School, where we served together on the Family Faculty Organization (FFO) - Gina as President, and I as Secretary. Since then, I have had the privilege of volunteering many hours with Gina. She truly went above and beyond her responsibilities as FFO President. She easily became the go-to resource for all things involving by-laws, events, planning, budgeting, and all the many layers of details it takes to make sure the staff and students were well-supported under her term. To help others get to know Gina as well as I know her, I peppered her with questions and am sharing her unedited responses here.

Gina, can you share a brief biography to give our readers the opportunity know a bit more about your background?

In work and in our community, I have a reputation for leading with integrity, empathy, and respect. I possess an innate ability to connect with people, listen attentively, and forge relationships. I’m also an incredibly strong people leader with a track record of leading and inspiring teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

I’ve honed these skills throughout my career as a marketing executive. For the past 20 years, I’ve led strategic marketing and marketing operations for some of the biggest names in healthcare and technology, including GE Healthcare, HP, and Poly. Most recently as Vice President of Global Marketing with a Series A health-tech startup, I’ve collaborated with leading radiologists around the world to use artificial intelligence to enable earlier detection of breast cancer.

My diverse background - including living and working in the USA, Europe, and the Middle East - helps me bring a fresh perspective to my work - both professional and philanthropic. I’m known as a breakthrough thinker who brings a unique viewpoint and identifies innovative ways to connect with target audiences. I also possess a well-honed ability to build trust through transparency and integrity, and to interact effectively with disparate groups of people to achieve challenging goals.

I received my BSc with Honors in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and my MBA in International Marketing from the University of Bristol in England. I’ve had the privilege of attending GE’s renowned global leadership institute, successfully completing the “Activating Strategy and Culture” course and “Men Advocating for Real Change”, a course that challenges all genders to become more aware of unconscious bias, its effects on inclusion, and how to develop more inclusive organizations.

What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve on the school board?

My professional experience and my experience as a dedicated school volunteer ensure I’m well prepared to serve on the school board.

For example, in my work I've gained first-hand experience working with Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards to set goals, track progress, and hold people accountable for delivering on the goals. This work is similar to the remit of the CFSD Governing Board. I've also gained immense experience in bringing together diverse perspectives to find common ground.

I also have a great deal of experience as a dedicated volunteer with our CFSD schools since our oldest son began kindergarten 13 years ago. As a family, we place a high priority on community engagement. Early on, I decided that I wanted to invest my philanthropy time in a way that would be visible to my children - to role model for them what it truly means to engage in our community. That ethos led me to become an active classroom volunteer for many years and then to lead Orange Grove’s FFO as President for a number of years. And it’s that same desire to be a positive role model for my sons that inspires me to run for school board.

How long have you lived in CFSD?

We've lived here for 13 years. We emigrated to Tucson from the United Kingdom, and we chose this school district due to its stellar reputation for student success.

In fact, my husband flew over from London during the Kindergarten Show and Tell week and visited all four elementary schools. He was so impressed by every one of them, and when he returned home he said we could easily choose any of the four schools and our kids would have a wonderful education.

What experiences have you had with CFSD up to this point?

My experience with CFSD runs deep. We are strong public education advocates, and our children have attended CFSD schools since kindergarten: Manzanita Elementary, Orange Grove Middle School, and Catalina Foothills High School.

Our oldest son graduated this past year (May 2022) from Catalina Foothills High School and will be attending the University of Arizona Honors College, where he plans to study public policy. Our younger son is a sophomore at Catalina Foothills High School.

Our children are very different academically and socially, and yet they have both been able to thrive. It’s one of the things I value the most about our district - that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, the district empowers the staff and teachers to meet each child where they’re at, working with them to foster that love of learning that we all hope our children develop.

Our family’s experience with CFSD has been incredibly positive. I firmly believe that it takes true partnership between parents, administration, and teachers to create the environment for our children to thrive. And the district’s willingness to partner with the community it serves shines through - even during tumultuous times like we’ve weathered these past couple of years.

Tell us more about your experience volunteering with our CFSD schools.

Sure! Our oldest son began kindergarten at Manzanita 13 years ago, and a few days later I began volunteering in the classroom - often with our younger son "helping" me. This continued throughout the many years that we had children at Manzanita. Highlights included making super-sized papier mâché bugs in multi-age, hosting an annual English Tea Party for fourth graders studying the American Revolution, and helping to create the beautiful Ben's Bells Be Kind mural during our youngest son's last year at Manzanita.

Once our children reached middle school, I shifted my focus to the FFO (Family Faculty Organization) and was elected President, a position I held for three years and then a subsequent year as Past President. During my tenure, I led the transformation of OGMS’s “Pick Up and UnPack” event (the annual back-to-school orientation and registration) and introduced a series of parent education events on topics ranging from nutritional needs of middle schoolers to juvenile law. I also significantly expanded our base of volunteers and partnered with our Direct Donations Chair to achieve and exceed our fundraising targets year after year.

In April 2019, the OGMS administration and the CFSD Governing Board recognized me as a “Super Volunteer” - a great honor that really made me pause and reflect on why volunteering with our schools is so important to me. I've found myself return to this quite frequently lately, as I considered whether and why to run for Governing Board.

What motivated you to become a candidate for the CFSD school board? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

My parents were the first college graduates in each of their families, having grown up on Iowa farms. They instilled in me a deep appreciation for education, igniting a curiosity that has formed my career and my personal life. My drive to be a lifelong learner is what fuels my passion to become a member of the CFSD Governing Board.

I firmly believe in public education and its role in ensuring access to and equity in education for every child. I also strongly believe that every child deserves an equal opportunity to thrive regardless of race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, zip code, or physical or academic ability.

My goal as a future school board member is to partner with my colleagues on the board to continue to foster an inclusive environment in each of our schools - an environment where every student, every teacher, every aide, and every staff member feels seen, heard, and engaged.

If elected, what are 3 priorities you hope to accomplish in the next four years?

One, I will advocate for more mental health support for our students and faculty. I'll engage our community to understand what additional support we need, and identify specific ways to deliver that support.

Two, I will work hard with my colleagues and the administration to continue to foster an inclusive environment where every student has an equal opportunity to thrive - regardless of race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, zip code, physical or academic ability.

And three, I will focus on renewing and strengthening the relationship between the Board and parents. I'll actively listen to parents' concerns, make objective and informed decisions, and lead with empathy.

What do you see as the role of a school board member? Is that happening in CFSD?

Everything a board member does should be focused on helping to ensure the best education possible for every child in our community.

The Arizona School Boards Association clearly lays out the responsibilities of board members. These include setting the vision and mission for the district, establishing the structure to ensure all students are served, supporting the alignment of resources to meet the goals, and ensuring accountability. My professional experience prepares me very well to carry out these responsibilities. I’m adept at collaborating with stakeholders to create strategies that propel the organization forward, and then creating structures and processes to allow excellent execution of the strategies.

Perhaps the part of the role that attracts me the most is that of advocacy: Being an ambassador for public education in the community, and leading by example in fostering a culture of collaboration and respect. My track record during my tenure as FFO President is a testament to the high value I place on this responsibility and to my ability to succeed in creating such an environment.

You ask if this is happening at CFSD. Absolutely it is. We would not be such a high-performing school district if we did not have a team of strong, experienced school board members who take their responsibilities seriously. That said, I also believe in continuous improvement, lifelong learning, and curiosity. We can and we should continue to look for innovative ways to fulfill our core mission - ensuring every child has an equal opportunity to thrive.

In our society as a whole, we’re seeing more divisiveness and contention, and less respect and collaboration. Sadly, no one is immune. Here within CFSD we’ve seen that hostility directed at board members, administrators, teachers, staff, and even students. It is more important than ever for those of us in leadership positions to model civic engagement that embodies civility, respectful discourse, and consensus-building. As a school board member, I very much look forward to working with my running mates - Amy Bhola and Amy Krauss - and the rest of the board to move us forward and to strengthen the bonds between our district and our community.

What differentiates you from the other candidates?

My diverse background differentiates me, and that background has shaped me into a person who strongly values and advocates for diversity and inclusion. This in turn ignites my passion for working with the school board and administration to continue to create safe, inclusive schools in our district where every child feels they belong and where every child can thrive.

I've lived, worked, and traveled across the United Kingdom, Europe (Western, Central and Eastern), the Middle East, Central and South America, and of course the US. In every country, I immersed myself in the culture and people.

I’m the wife of an immigrant and the mom of immigrant children, having moved to the US when our sons were young. I acknowledge that my family has the privilege of being white European immigrants, so our experience is very different from that of so many others.

I’m a proud LGBTQ+ ally.

I’ve found that this wide-ranging experience differentiates me as a leader: I tend to bring a very diverse perspective to my work, I look at problems differently, and I bring more creative solutions forward. I make an overt effort to foster inclusivity, listen with empathy, and find moments of connection.

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