PUSD Education Foundation’s First executive pledges to increase dollars to benefit students

At the time of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Tami Phillips rounded up her family with brooms to go and sweep up shards of broken glass from a street corner as fires still burned throughout the city.

She traveled to Vietnam to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. Former President Jimmy Carter was part of the volunteer troupe.

She spent many a night serving meals and offering assistance to those living on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

All to say that the 61-year-old recent transplant to Prescott from the greater Los Angeles region has a heart for building up the least and the lost. She invested more than three decades in nonprofit leadership commandeering the resources needed to provide for them. Her husband, Randy, is a retired nonprofit executive and both of their adult children, Scott and Kimberlee, have inherited a philanthropic spirit, she said.

Her latest venture proved an unexpected one, but is exciting as she sees big possibilities. The Prescott Unified School District Education Foundation hired Phillips to be their first-ever executive director.

“We are so excited to have Tami. She is a gift,” said Foundation Board President Krista Carman. “Her credentials and experience are well beyond what we really could have hoped for. We are just very fortunate that she and her husband decided to retire in the Prescott area and she still wanted to work.”

Phillips’ impressive resume includes 25 years as a Junior Achievement executive, six years as the agency’s executive vice president of development. She then spent two years as an executive with Habitat for Humanity and the last seven years as the vice president and chief development officer for The Midnight Mission Inc., a human services organization located on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.

“It’s very exciting,” Phillips said of her new post. “I want to be able to use my skills to bring my new community together.”

She said she sees this job as one that will enable the school district to intervene with students before they end up needing the nonprofit services of which she has become so familiar over her career. By leveraging community resources to enable students to be successful at a young age, Phillips said the district can live up to its motto of “Every Child, Every Day.”

In its three years as an all-volunteer effort, the foundation has raised more than $300,000 that has been donated back to teachers and students in a variety of ways.

Phillips has no doubt she can significantly improve the foundation’s fund collection so that every teacher with an innovative idea can get a grant. She plans to invest a lot of time meeting with the business community as well as with fellow nonprofit leaders on how best to assure all children have what the educational tools they require so they can go to college or into a career prepared and poised for success. Her intention is to generate both one-time and legacy gifts so as to enhance what the district can offer with a state funding formula that lags well beneath the national average. She expects to be spending most of her time in one-on-one or group conversations with everyone from retirees to business leaders on the personal benefits they reap from a proper investment in education.

She wants to know that every child has what it takes to pursue and succeed in whatever career path they choose.

In Phillips’ career, she has rubbed shoulders with lots of dignitaries — she went to high school in Hollywood with Jermaine Jackson who as a senior was voted most talented and best dressed — but she would much prefer to be in a classroom where children are learning what they need for their future.

In the wealthiest nation on earth, Phillips said she thinks it is a “crime” that teachers are forced to spend hundreds of their hard-earned dollars to supply students with necessities. The interactive nature of today’s education system requires a community investment to ensure students have access to the ever-emerging technology they require to compete locally and globally, she said.

Prescott Unified’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Moore said the district so appreciates what the all-volunteer foundation has brought forth to benefit students.

To now have someone whose sole job is to bolster what the district can afford through its budget process “can only help PUSD and its students,” Moore said.

The foundation decided to hire a full-time professional because members knew there was “the potential to do so much more” than what well-intended volunteers with young children could do on their own, Carman said.

Carman did not have immediate access to Phillip’s salary, but said she knows it is far less than what someone with Phillips’ experience is eligible to be paid.

“We are just so fortunate that at this stage of her life salary didn’t matter,” Carman said. “She was excited to take on a young organization and help us develop and grow.

“We’re ready for the next big thing, and I really think she is going to get us there.”

By Nanci Hutson, The Daily Courier
Originally Published: February 16, 2019 7:39 p.m.