Greg and Pam Miller have always been fueled by a passion for education and, especially, children.
The Millers were in the midst of demanding careers, with Greg working in the civil engineering industry and Pam in banking, but that didn’t stop them from volunteering up to 30 hours a week at their children’s schools.
Their volunteerism didn’t stop with their children. Pam served on the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board and as President of the United Parent Council, while Greg currently serves as President and charter school representative of the State Board of Education.
The Millers were pioneers of school choice, opening Challenge Charter School in 1996, just two years after the Legislature approved historic legislation bringing charter school education to Arizona. Their Glendale elementary school has been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, National Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform and is consistently ranked among the state’s top public schools.
Because of their servitude and contribution to Arizona’s charter movement, the Arizona Charter Schools Association is honoring the Millers with its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The couple, who is celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary this year, are stood at the forefront of the state’s charter movement, as they were involved in the preliminary political discussions that led to the passage of Arizona’s charter law in 1994.
They also worked with State Rep. John Allen to create successful bills that allow a charter school operator to serve on the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and State Board of Education.
“They’re just always there to support anybody. They’re thoroughly supportive friends and advocates of the entire movement,” said Former State Superintendent of Education Lisa Graham Keegan, who is currently executive director of A for Arizona.
Their years of volunteering and serving on committees allowed them to pull from various endeavors and use those experiences to build their own vision of a productive school where tough decisions revolve around student needs.
It’s known as a ‘kid-first’ philosophy at Challenge.
“That’s why we’re here, is to take care of those kids,” Pam Miller said. “We have to educate everyone that we can reach. Every child out there is my child.”
Although the Millers have influenced the statewide charter movement, they’ve probably made their biggest impact on their staff, students and parents at Challenge.
“Kids who come here know their behavior matters. Teachers know they will be supported,” said Tammy Neitch, a master teacher who teaches second grade at the school. “They want parents to feel like they are part of the Challenge family. And you stick with your family.”
For Sabrina Calderon, Challenge provided a viable choice for her six children when she found herself unsatisfied with some of the nearby schools.
Now, 20-years later, Calderon works on campus and has five grandchildren that attend the school. She has forged a close bond with the Millers.
“They’ve always been there,” she said. “It literally feels like they could’ve been my parents.”
This is the first in a series of blogs about each of our charter award winners. Find all of the 2015 award winners here. You can find out more about Challenge Charter School here. Want a behind the scenes look at our 2015 award winners? Click here.