Speak to any of our leadership team or administrators, and you will quickly realize they are absolutely committed to the mission, vision and values of our school. The quality of ASA begins at the top and is embraced in every classroom. Delivering outstanding academic results while also providing a top-notch performing arts experience and also maintaining high-academic results is no easy task. Our leadership team’s diligent work is an inspiring  testament to ASA’s success.

Why ASA?
These people – adults and young people- inspire me everyday with their vision, creativity, and passion.

Leah Fregulia is the Head of School and CEO for Arizona School for the Arts where she was a founding faculty member when the school opened in 1995. She served as the school principal for nine years, and has led the organization in her current role since 2007. Her leadership has helped to establish the school as one of the top academic schools in Arizona and in the nation while maintaining a dual focus in the performing arts. Ms. Fregulia has worked to develop partnerships that uniquely position ASA in the Phoenix downtown arts and culture network. Prior to moving to Arizona, she taught in a variety of innovative public and private educational settings in California, Seattle, and New Orleans. Along with her teaching and administrative certifications, she holds a M.S. from the London School of Economics in England and a B.A. from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California in English and Anthropology.

Ms. Fregulia is the 2015 Athena Public Sector award recipient and a 2016 Piper Fellow through the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Hance Park Conservancy, Arizona Citizens for the Arts.  She is also a member of the Phoenix Community Alliance, and Valley Leadership Class 35.

Degrees & Schools Attended
B.A. English and Anthropology – University of the Pacific
M.S. Anthropology – London School of Economics
Arizona Administrative Credential – University of Phoenix

Why ASA?
I find myself extremely grateful for the opportunity to have served in a role of a consultant at ASA during the 2022-2023 school year as it gave me such wonderful insight and captured my heart. I discovered collaborative and thoughtful faculty, amazing young people with big dreams, immense academic and arts talents, and a commitment from leadership to growing and transforming the community to meet the pressing needs of the 21st century. I did not want to miss an opportunity to be on that journey with ASA and contribute to the growth and excellence. 

For over 15 years, Elma has been a significant leader in urban education. A former high school English teacher, Restorative Justice Director, and a district-level administrator, Elma has led and transformed institutional policies and practices impacting disproportionate discipline, behavior and mental health interventions, and school culture and climate. She is a dynamic facilitator, a passionate advocate for students, a bold systems leader, and a relationship-centered restorative practitioner.

Elma is a graduate of Arizona State University with an undergraduate degree in Justice Studies and graduate degree in Secondary Education. She studied trauma, forgiveness and restorative justice at University of Cape Town, South Africa under the direction of the former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners. During her time as a classroom teacher, she seamlessly integrated restorative values and practices into her classroom management and community building practices fostering high levels of learning and engagement. Her restorative classroom practices landed her in Chicago leading the work of developing and implementing a Restorative Justice Framework for Chicago Public Schools. When Elma left Chicago in 2016 as the RJ Director of Umoja, she did so having successfully designed and implemented a comprehensive school-based restorative justice model in six Chicago Public Schools and significantly impacting exclusionary practices and disproportionate discipline. In 2016, Elma transitioned back to Phoenix to serve in the role of a district administrator over student support services at Phoenix Union High School District where she created, directed, and coordinated social emotional learning, mental health and behavioral health services, restorative practices, multicultural and diversity education, and alternatives to suspension programming. By way of Elma’s innovative and bold leadership, the district is now equipped with a comprehensive student support services model, restorative discipline framework, and a teaching and learning framework reflective of the whole child approach. Most recently, Elma has been a committed thought partner and coach to schools seeking to transform their systems and build equitable, anti-racist, restorative, and inclusive school cultures and climates.

Elma is married to her best friend and is a proud mama to three beautiful bicultural, biracial, and bilingual kids. She is also an avid cook who secretly wants to have her own cooking show on Food Network TV, and a born Bosnian who still speaks her native language and regularly practices the customs and traditions of her culture.

Total Years of Teaching Experience: 6 years

Total Years of Administration Experience: 7 years

Schools Taught At: Arizona State University, Skyline High School, Western School of Science and Technology

Degrees & Schools Attended
B.A. in Justice Studies [Human Rights and Peacebuilding], Arizona State University, 2007
M.Ed. [Secondary Education], Arizona State University, 2012

Why ASA?
The dual focus of exemplary academics and high-quality arts programs offered at Arizona School for Arts embodies my core values as a music educator, arts advocate, and lifelong learner. As a former ASA parent, I understand the value of the educational opportunities provided to the students which foster creativity, excellence, and investment in others.

Dr. Jennifer Cady was born and raised in Nebraska, where her mother was a teacher for thirty-six years. She graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in music and began her teaching career in California working as a band, jazz band, and orchestra director. She continued her teaching experience in Arizona when her family moved to Phoenix in 2005. As the recipient of a national art award, along with earning acting roles since the age of five, she has an appreciation for all of the Fine Arts. Dr. Cady decided to become an administrator specifically to advocate for arts programs and to support teachers so they could build the caliber of programs that advocated for themselves. 

Dr. Cady’s primary instrument is the saxophone. She enjoys performing professionally – most recently with the Flatwater Jazz Orchestra, a big band from Nebraska. Her favorite instrument to play is the piano. Dr. Cady is an avid reader and is a die-hard Cornhusker fan. She collects historic family photographs and is the proud mother of Abigail, Reed, and Ryder. 

Total Years of Teaching Experience: 12 

Total Years of Administrative Experience:

Total Years at ASA: First Year

Schools Taught at: Long Beach Unified School District – Bixby, Buffum, and Tincher (3 years); Deer Valley Unified School District – Canyon Ridge (1 year); Dysart Unified School District – Rancho Gabriela, Parkview, Canyon Ridge, Western Peaks, and Cimmaron Springs (8 years)

Education and Degrees Earned: 
Ed.D in Educational Leadership – University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2024
M. Ed in Educational Leadership and Supervision – Arizona State University, 2009
B.A. in Music – University of California Los Angeles, 1998 (summa cum laude)

Why ASA?
ASA is my past, my present, and my future. As an alumna of the Class of 2009 I bring a unique lens to all aspects of my work. Not only can I relate to my teaching colleagues but I can relate to the students that I interact with as I have walked a very similar path. Although I am no longer teaching Social Studies at ASA my teaching experience very much impacts the day to day decision making that I find myself in during my present time as an ASA administrator. My teaching experience influences many of the conversations that I have with my colleagues and informs the types of support that I provide with interventions and support in the classroom. Finally, ASA is my future as I work with the leadership team to create a unique and rigorous learning environment for all students that cross our threshold.

Emma Popish was born in Luton, England but grew up in Phoenix and attended ASA from 6th-12th grades (Class of 2009). After taking some time off from school to work, she earned her Associate of Arts in Elementary Education with Highest Distinction at Phoenix College. She then moved to Tucson, where she went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Magna Cum Laude at the University of Arizona. Before joining the ASA leadership team, Emma taught 8th and 9th grade Social Studies for a combined 7 years in the classroom. During this time she also served 2 years as the Honorary Alumni Board Member. In 2020, Emma became the 9th grade team leader, while also working on her Masters in Educational Leadership. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her MEd from Northern Arizona University in 2022. Starting with the 22/23 school year, she transitioned to ASA’s Senior Leadership Team as the Dean of Academics.

Total Years of Teaching Experience: 7

Total Years at ASA: 9

Total Years of Administration Experience: 2

Schools Taught At: ASA

Other Teaching Experience: 3 Years in Summer Programs

Education and Degrees Earned:
A.A Elementary Education – Phoenix College, 2013
B.A. Elementary Education – University of Arizona, 2015
MEd Educational Leadership – Northern Arizona University, 2022

Why ASA?
I was most excited to join the ASA family because of the equal value they place on arts and academics. I believe the arts provide an incredible foundation for students as they prepare for college and beyond. I am excited to be surrounded by students, staff and families that value the arts as highly as I do!

I grew up in sunny Phoenix and have been involved in dance, choir and theatre since the age of 11. After completing a degree in Theatre at Arizona State University, I landed my dream job as a Character and Parade Performer at Walt Disney World in Florida. Working at Disney connected me with families from around the globe; the joy of being around children everyday brought me back to ASU to seek a Master’s in Special and Elementary Education. From there, I landed yet another dream job: teaching middle school theatre. I taught theatre full time, directed school plays and hosted a theatre club. I soon realized my love for leadership and recently completed a third degree at ASU, this time in Educational Leadership: Principalship. 

Total Years of Teaching Experience: 7

Education and Degrees Earned: 
Bachelor of Theatre- Arizona State University- 2013
Master’s in Special and Elementary Education- Arizona State University- 2015
Master of Educational Leadership- Arizona State University- 2021

Why ASA?
I am honored to serve the ASA community and I am proud to be a life-long lover of the arts! This is a community that inspires creativity, broadens perspectives, fosters culture and deepens our understanding of the world. 

Veronica Neal, a former high school and college dancer, earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Los Angeles in 2004. While in Los Angeles, Veronica interned in the Education Division at Los Angeles County Music Center. She assisted in the coordination of programs such as the Spotlight Awards, a nationally recognized performing arts competition for Southern California high schoolers and Very Special Arts Festival, a free inclusive arts celebration event for children of all abilities from the Los Angeles Unified School District. This experience inspired Veronica to continue working with children with exceptionalities, and she entered the field of special education in 2010. Veronica continued her education, obtaining a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 2010 and another master’s degree in Education Administration and Supervision in 2017. In between these years, Veronica worked as a Special Education Teacher, Exceptional Student Services Coordinator, 504 & ELL Coordinator and Administrator. Most recently, Veronica worked as a Regional Exceptional Student Services Coordinator with Vertex Education, the education management company for one of the largest charter networks in the state of Arizona, Legacy Traditional Schools. Veronica acted as a special education coach and operational liaison to multiple LTS campuses in the West Valley region. 

Veronica married her college sweetheart and they are parents to three fun-loving teenage souls nearly 20 years later. Parenting an exceptional child has shaped Veronica into a compassionate, resourceful and solutions-centered educator who pursues an equitable education for all. She is a member of the Council for Administrators of Special Education and a member of the Council for Exceptional Children. Veronica enjoys quality time with her family, exploring new places, and watching movies, musicals and performances of her favorite dance troupes. Veronica equally enjoys being her family’s historian and amateur genealogist.  

Teaching Experience: TOTAL 8 Years: Fowler, Isaac, Tolleson and Avondale Elementary School Districts, Great Hearts Academies

Administration Experience: TOTAL 6 Years: Great Hearts Academies, Vertex Education

Total Years at ASA: 1

Education and Degrees Earned: 
B.A. Liberal Studies, California State University, 2004
M.A. Early Childhood Education, University of Phoenix, 2010
M.A. Education Administration & Supervision, University of Phoenix, 2017

Why ASA?
I am a lifelong believer in the importance of the arts as a major component to a well-rounded education. ASA is the gold standard, not only in the quality of the curriculum, but in the outstanding and supportive community that nurtures its mission.

Carolyn Smith is native New Yorker and majored in Photography at SUNY-The Fashion Institute of Technology, but found her true vocation as an administrative professional at Macy’s New York, planning internal meetings for the division. Having worked in both nonprofit and for-profit companies, including the American Heart Association, Heart Havens, and NRI Staffing Resources in a career that has spanned fundraising, event planning, operations, payroll and human resources, the common thread and her joy has always been the support of the community in which she works.

Development & Marketing

Why ASA?
It doesn’t take long to realize that ASA is a special place with remarkable students, faculty, staff and board members committed to the advancement of performing arts and education. Students grow into intellectual, creative, reflective, and engaged leaders who are ready to take on the world. They make a difference in our community by moving human emotions and minds with their art and academic achievements. One can’t help but be inspired by their possibilities!

Leslie Religioso comes to ASA with an enthusiasm for building community, connecting with others, and developing mission-focused fundraising opportunities to influence growth, drive success, and make a positive impact.

Before joining ASA, Leslie was the Director of Special Events at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona. In this role, Leslie directed and oversaw their fundraising events program, implementing leading practices in the areas of partnership/sponsor cultivation, individual giving and donor relations, volunteer and committee engagement, marketing, communications, and event logistics that contributed to the organization’s year-over-year fund development success for 11 years. Leslie began her professional non-profit career at CancerCare, a national social services organization based in New York City. There she gained knowledge and experience through various fund development roles that ignited her passion for non-profit work.

Leslie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Boston University. A mom to a young son, you’ll likely find Leslie and her husband exploring the Phoenix Zoo, local aquarium, or Children’s Museum; they can’t wait to share the joy of the performing arts with him soon! He already sings a repertoire of songs/nursery rhymes at the top of his lungs, so maybe he’s destined for choir or theatre!

Total Years at ASA: 4

Degrees & Schools Attended
B.A. Economics minor in Business Administration – Boston University, 2003

Why ASA?
As a classically trained vocalist, the arts and education have always been extremely important to me. Through ASA’s incredible faculty and staff, students can cultivate their outstanding accomplishments within the arts, while also achieving academic excellence.

Min holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and English Literature from Hope College in Holland, MI. She is originally from Michigan but has lived in Arizona since 2012. Min has extensive experience working in both print and digital advertising agencies and before joining ASA in 2020, Min served as the Marketing & Outreach Manager for the Epilepsy Foundation Arizona, providing programs, support, and services for individuals and families affected by epilepsy, statewide. During Middle and High School Min attended Interlochen Center for the Arts majoring in both Vocal and Musical Theatre Summer Programs. Min can be found volunteering, traveling, posting on social media, and spending time with her two cats, Nahla and Aria.

Total Years at ASA: 4

Degrees & Schools Attended
B.A. Communication and English Literature – Hope College, 2011

Front Office & Enrollment

Why ASA?
I believe in the mission of the school, and love the ASA culture and community. More like family than co-workers.

Why ASA?
ASA attracted me by its dedication to enriching students’ lives with an alternative approach to learning led by the expression of the arts. I am here to be able to give students, families, and staff the greatest experience at this unique school where we are all able to do what we love. Coming from a family of performers, where I myself dance, sing, and play guitar, being in this environment is incredibly fulfilling to me – a place where I am constantly surrounded by art, and by others who hold the same values as me. You’ll always see me with a cup of coffee in my hand and a smile on my face!

B.S. Public Health – Northern Arizona University (2021)

Why ASA?
ASA has created an environment that encourages learning performing arts and curriculum. The students and staff all show a passion for growing and striving for excellence! I am excited to work in a school where students can express themselves without judgment.

Mrs. Leon’s family encouraged her to follow her painting, drawing, and singing passions. As an adult, she found comfort in her artwork and felt inspired to continue her work when she saw students practicing performing arts. She also felt encouraged to follow her passion for helping others through her education. Mrs. Leon is working towards becoming a therapist! She has over seven years of experience in childcare and two years of experience working in a school.


Why ASA?
I chose to work at ASA because as a Social Worker, educator, and a parent I feel it is important to allow students an opportunity to incorporate what they love doing into their learning environment. I am a firm believer that when students feel successful at extra-curricular activities such as piano, dance, choir, band, or theatre, it helps boost their self-esteem. In return, this allows students the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed academically. Social Emotional Learning is important to me, and I am excited to join the ASA community where I can help support this value.

Veronica Cons was born and raised in South Phoenix and has a passion for working with children and families. She has been a Social Worker for 13 years and spent nine of those years in a school setting in two different districts. Focusing on Social Emotional Learning and building partnerships with outside agencies. Prior to working in a school setting, Veronica worked for the Department of Child Safety.

Content/Grade Levels:
School Social Worker

Total Years of School Social Work Experience: 15

Total Years at ASA: 2

Schools taught at: School Social Worker at Martin Luther King Preschool, Lowell Elementary School, and Percy L. Julian.

Education and Degrees Earned: 
Arizona Department of Education-School Social Worker PreK-12 Certification
Arizona Department of Education– School Counselor PreK-12 Certification
University of Phoenix -Master of Business Administration, 2012
Arizona State University- Master of Social Work: Emphasis in Child Welfare, 2009
Arizona State University-Bachelor of Social Work: Minor in Communication, 2007

Why ASA?
ASA is my family, my community.  I love to empower students to discover their strengths and vision for their lives.

Having joined ASA in 2002, Liz Wakeford is a lifelong educator and college counselor with a passion for helping young people discover their college/career pathway by understanding their values, interests, and skills. The process for college and career exploration begins in 8th grade, where students learn about their strengths and how to discover the types of careers and colleges in which they would thrive. Mrs. Wakeford regularly meets with college admission officers from around the country and offers informational seminars for parents and students. She is ever expanding the college program and is in the process of developing a robust College Compass program that will focus on college preparation for students in grades 5-12. A graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, Mrs. Wakeford received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education K-12. She is a professional member of Rocky Mountain Association of College Admissions Counselors and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors.

Content/Grade Levels:
College Counselor/8th-12th Grade

Teaching Experience:
TOTAL 22 years: Kent Island Elementary School (Kent Island, MD) 2 years; ASA 19 years

Total Years at ASA: 22

Education and Degrees Earned:
B.M. Music Education (K-12) – Meredith College, 1990

Business & Accounting

Why ASA?
Everyone shares the same vision and is dedicated to the success of those around them.

Elizabeth Shaw is a native Phoenician.  She attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Theatre.  After completing her studies, she began a 20+ year career with several Fortune 500 companies that included leadership roles in Human Resources, Training and Development, and Finance.  Prior to ASA, as a lifelong lover of dogs and cats (the animals, and the musical) Elizabeth owned and managed a boarding kennel in Taos, New Mexico.  Family and community motivated her return home to Phoenix in 2018. Now, after dreaming of a career in theatre as a child, she has come full circle and uses her finance background at a performing arts school.

Why ASA?
ASA is a place to build relationships and be a part of a team of supportive colleagues.  I’ve always had an interest in arts and education, which drew me to the mission of the school. 

Tisha Clark comes to ASA with 25+ years of experience and an extensive background in business and accounting.  She earned a BA in Business Management from Northern Arizona University.  She has over 10 years’ experience in government and public accounting work both in Arizona, Texas, and internationally.  Tisha is an Arizona native and enjoys hiking, attending concerts and theatre, traveling and spending time with family and her grandchildren.  

Education and Degrees Earned: 
A.A. Eastern Arizona College, 1996
B.S. Business Management  – Northern Arizona University, 2010

School Operations

Why ASA?
I love ASA because of how it treats its students, staff, and community members.

Eden Lewkowitz grew up in Phoenix, where he attended Brophy College Preparatory.  He then attended Northern Arizona University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with an extended major in history.  Mr. Lewkowitz then was recruited to teach English in Incheon, South Korea.  In 2010, he began teaching at Magnet Traditional School in Phoenix. While at Magnet Traditional, he served the education community as vice president of the Phoenix Elementary School District Classroom Teachers Association and as the founding chairman of the Arizona Education Association’s eSWAG committee. He has been teaching at ASA since 2015. Mr. Lewkowitz is very excited to be teaching at ASA where he can bring his innovative approach and love of history to his students.

Education and Degrees Earned: 
B.A.-Extended History-Northern Arizona University, 2009

Why ASA?
I believe that not everything can be taught conventionally, and ASA is a great monument to that. The focus on the arts is phenomenal and provides so much room for the students to express themselves as individuals. The faculty’s ability to nurture the minds of the students with art to make them productive model citizens really stood out to me. I want to be a part of something that can better society as a whole, and ASA is that place.

Jacob Castro, originally from Texas, has worked in both Arizona charter and district schools for more than  5 years.  He provided support to students and teachers in and out of the classroom, including being an art teacher.   He also worked for several years in IT support for a national company.  He looks forward to utilizing all of his skill sets at ASA serving the school-wide community.