By Brian Powell
Over a cup of coffee, an associate told Kim Hartmann that she had heard being on the Scottsdale Unified School District governing board was the most thankless job in the world.
Hartmann responded: “Absolutely, you are right, but it’s also the best job I have ever had.”
It’s been less than two years since Hartmann ran for public office for the first time, earning a seat on the five-person SUSD governing board that oversees 30 elementary, middle, and high schools, and more than 24,000 students.
Both before and since being elected in 2014, the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy Fellow has made her mark by bringing innovative ideas to the district, leading to an increase in tax-credit donations and new partnerships between area businesses and Scottsdale schools. She also served as legislative liaison for the Scottsdale Parent Council, where she represented the parent community at the Arizona Legislature.
Hartmann says she is passionate about public education and wanted to serve the district that educated her children.
“Personally, it’s my pay-it-forward plan,” she said.
For the past five years, she has served as CEO and founder of KCH Solutions, which specializes in business transformation, change management, capacity building, and leadership development for major nonprofit clients. Previously, she was a partner with Anderson Business Consulting and worked for Dell.
Hartmann hopes to become a statewide leader, and that prospect was one of her motivations for applying for Flinn-Brown.
“I’m absolutely open to what being a state leader might look like and I want to find the right place to create the most value and high-impact sustainable change,” Hartmann said. “And that’s a part of Flinn-Brown—figuring out what that might look like.”
A longtime management consultant, Hartmann and another volunteer parent responded when state funding for schools began to decline during the Great Recession. They went to each of the 30 district schools and worked with the parent organization and principal to develop a community message to increase the state tax-credit donations that support extracurricular activities in public schools.
“We branded it and created an online payment option of $33.33 a month for families that did not want to spend $400 at one time,” she said.
In the initiative’s first two years, the district’s collections increased from $2.2 million to $2.7 million, and today the district is over $3 million per year in collections.
In April 2015, as a governing-board member, she helped co-found with the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce a new group, Business United for Scottsdale Schools, which describes itself as a business-to-education partnership program. The goal is to promote education in Scottsdale as a pipeline and magnet for economic prosperity and expose students to mentorships, internships, and professionals visiting classrooms.
Hartmann is also working on a gathering data to see what percentage of SUSD students are graduating from college within six years of high-school graduation. Working with a Flinn-Brown Fellow she met during her cohort, Hartmann is studying data from Arizona State University to develop plans to increase college attainment and college graduation in the district.
In 2015, she participated in the Flinn-Brown Academy, which was launched by the Flinn Foundation in 2010 to help develop state-level civic leaders. Hartmann said Flinn-Brown helped her hone in on data and perspectives and further understand complicated agencies, while providing interesting conversations and context.
“It was such an amazing experience and we were exposed to thought leaders and policy at a level that allows us to be more informed and think more holistically about the state,” Hartmann said.
Hartmann also finds time to serve on the boards of the Arizona Foundation for Women—for which she is the board’s vice chair—the Charros Foundation, Combined Metropolitan Phoenix Arts and Sciences, and the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence, among other groups.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from ASU and is a Certified Public Accountant.