Nogales Unified Principals

Judith MendozaJudith Mendoza
Principal, Nogales High School

Judith Mendoza-Jimenez is an example of how someone growing up in the Ambos Nogales area in a rural border town can achieve great heights. She was born and raised in Nogales, Sonora; she attended school there up to the fourth grade before immigrating to Nogales, Arizona.

Mrs. Mendoza-Jimenez is a product of a warm caring family and the Nogales Unified School District. After graduating from Nogales High School in 1996, she attended and graduated from the University of Arizona in May of 2000 with a Bachelors of Science in special education and rehabilitation. She joined the NUSD family in July of 2000 by taking a teaching position at Nogales High School where she taught special education.

While at Nogales High School, she was a curriculum leader and served on the School Improvement Team, Safety Committee, as a class sponsor, and created the Successful Kids Improving Life Long Skills (SKILLS) Club where students with special needs were integrated into the school’s community.

She received a masters of arts from the University of Arizona in May of 2005 in special education and rehabilitation. In 2008, she earned a masters in education in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University and joined the Nogales High School administration as assistant principal in July of 2009. She was very instrumental in the implementation of a school-wide professional development intervention and in helping NHS achieve its site goals by meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

In March of 2011, she took the reins as interim principal and applied and was subsequently accepted for the position of school principal for the 2011-2012 school year. Mrs. Mendoza-Jimenez will continue working diligently with her administrative team to raise student achievement and to make Nogales High School a great place to learn, teach, and work.

Joel KramerJoel Kramer
Principal, Pierson Vocational High School

Joel Kramer is proud to serve as the principal of Pierson Vocational High School. According to Mr. Kramer, “PVHS is a place that is focused on technology and real life experiences. The staff and teachers have truly worked on creating the idea of family with the students. The PVHS staff believes that young adults can reach their full potential through hard work, creativity, and differentiated instruction.” This year, PVHS is offering more computer-based activities and lessons during school and after school that will challenge students. Through the use of positive computer instruction plans and 21st century skill building activities, the PVHS staff will continue their efforts to improve academics, school climate, and job and college opportunities for students. Mr. Kramer supports, facilitates, and takes responsibility for this focus and determination!

As the principal of PVHS, Mr. Kramer is serving his 20th year in the Nogales Unified School District. Prior to becoming the principal at PVHS, he was an administrator and athletic director at Nogales High School for eight years and served as a co-director of adult education for two years. Before becoming an administrator, he spent nine years teaching at the Alternative High School, which was part of NHS, and coached baseball and golf. He also spent a year riding horses with Vision Quest from Billings, Montana to Elfrida, Arizona and to Evanston, Wyoming where he worked as a teacher/principal.

Mr. Kramer received his B.S. in education from the University of North Dakota in 1987 and a masters degree in educational administration. His administrative credentials were earned at the University of Phoenix in 1995. In addition to his principalship at PVHS, Mr. Kramer also served as a school board member in the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District in Rio Rico through December 31, 2008.

Liza MontialLiza Montiel
Principal, Wade Carpenter Middle School

Liza Montiel has served as principal of Wade W. Carpenter Middle School in the NUSD for three years. One of her major management responsibilities is school safety. Another responsibility includes school reform to raise academic achievement. She is a major advocate for having a clear vision of how schools could serve its students, parents, and community in empowering all stakeholders to achieve success.

Liza was born and raised in the community of Nogales and is a product of the school district. After graduating in 1983 from NHS, she attended the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico and received a B.A. in elementary education with a minor in Spanish. She then moved to Dallas, Texas and started her career as a teacher in an elementary school. After earning her M.A. in bilingual education from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and receiving her certification in educational administration from the University of Texas, she moved back to Nogales and started her administration career as Title I and Title VII director with the NUSD. She served as principal of Lincoln Elementary School for several years before moving to Wade W. Carpenter Middle School.

Joan MoleraJoan Molera
Principal, Desert Shadows Middle School

Joan Molera is the principal at Desert Shadows Middle School. Her responsibilities at Desert Shadows includes: curriculum, instruction, supervision, teacher and staff evaluation, professional development, budget, retention and promotion, parental involvement, community relations, co-curricular activities, facilities and maintenance, state reports, library services, and health services. Ms. Molera's focus is student achievement in reading, writing, math, and character education. Committees meet regularly to review data and refine instructional practices based on these goals. Under Ms. Molera’s leadership in the past five years, Desert Shadows Middle School has made AYP and has been identified as a performing school by AZ Learns. Ms. Molera is loyal to the school and community; she has high expectations for herself, students, teachers, and staff.

Ms. Molera has been committed to NUSD #1 for over 20 years, with 14 years as an English teacher and coach (tennis and pom poms) at Nogales High School and six years as an administrator. Earning a bachelors degree from Cornell College in Iowa, Ms. Molera moved to Nogales in 1987. She earned a masters in English at the University of Arizona and her principal certification from Northern Arizona University in 1999. Currently, she is enrolled in a doctoral program in educational leadership at the University of Arizona. Her dissertation will be on effective programming, curriculum, and instruction that best meets the needs of the gifted and talented population.

Lucina RomeroDr. Lucina A. Romero
Principal, Lincoln Elementary School

Dr. Lucina A. Romero recently began as principal at Lincoln Elementary School in the Nogales Unified School District. As the new principal, Dr. Romero is charged with keeping kids as the focus of every decision and being the key change agent to ensure that changes are introduced and sustained in an effort to raise the academic achievement levels for all students at Lincoln Elementary. Lucina is in charge of the administration of all affairs of the school within district policy and procedures including: implementation and evaluation of instructional and operational programs, budgeting and fiscal responsibilities, personnel, student and staff supervision, listening to the stakeholders, providing opportunities for staff to make the transitions during the time of change, facilitating parent involvement, and creating positive community relations.

Dr. Romero has dedicated 30 years of services to the community of Nogales in various capacities. She is a true Nogalian, born and raised in the community along with eight brothers and sisters in a Mexican-American household that valued hard work, education, and most of all, family. Lucina is a product of the Nogales school system and after earning a Bachelors of Science in early education at the University of Arizona in 1979, she started her career as a teacher at A.J. Mitchell Elementary School. In 1982, she earned a masters of arts in education degree with a concentration in special education from the University of Arizona. Throughout the years, Dr. Romero advanced to the position of assistant principal at the elementary level for six years, to principal for eight years, assistant superintendent of Nogales Unified School District for two years, and now principal at Lincoln Elementary. She earned her doctorate from Northern Arizona University in 2006.

Aissa BonillasAissa Celeste Bonillas
Principal, Mary Welty Elementary School

Aissa Bonillas was born in Nogales, AZ. She attended Mary L. Welty Elementary, Wade Carpenter Middle School, and Nogales High School. Ms. Bonillas graduated from NHS in 1999. She went on to continue her education at the University of Arizona, graduating in 2003 with a double major in Political Science and Secondary Education and a minor in Spanish. Ms. Bonillas began working at Nogales High School in August of 2003, teaching Spanish for five years and AP Government for one year. While teaching at Nogales High School, she also coached the dance team from 2003 to 2005. Ms. Bonillas received a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership - Administration and Supervision from the University of Phoenix in 2007. She also served as the Honors Coordinator from 2007 to 2009, overseeing the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program. Ms. Bonillas then became the Assistant Principal at Nogales High School in 2009.


Wil AriasWil Arias
Principal, Challenger Elementary School

Mr. Wil Arias has an extensive background in education. He has served as an instructional assistant, classroom teacher, and administrator in Tucson area schools for 17 years. As instructional assistant, Wil worked with a literacy team focused on interventions for struggling readers. Upon receiving his teaching degree, Wil taught history, social studies, and health at the high school and middle school level. In addition to teaching, he coached middle school wrestling and cross- country. Mr. Arias’ administrative experience includes having served as a middle school assistant principal, middle school principal, and director of transportation for Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona.

Mr. Arias thoroughly enjoyed his time working with students and families and, as a result, joined the University of Arizona in 2011 to further his work in education, youth, and families. Wil served in the capacity of curriculum specialist for the Arizona Center for Research and Outreach in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He supported research projects focused on employing best practices for engaging students in learning. In addition, he collaborated with his colleagues to create professional development resources focused on positive youth development.

Mr. Arias received his bachelor of arts degree in secondary education from the University of Arizona and earned his master's of education in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. Mr. Arias is currently a member of the doctoral program at the University of Arizona, majoring in educational leadership with a minor in higher education. His studies focus on strategies that support teachers with instruction by providing a format for reflection and introspection. His areas of expertise are establishing and maintaining a professional learning community based on collaborative planning and examination of student work. Wil firmly believes that quality instruction will assist students in their journey to higher education, career, and life.

Annette BarberAnnette Barber
Principal, Coronado Elementary School

Annette Barber, Coronado Elementary School principal, joined the Nogales Unified School District more than 30 years ago. She started her career as a special education teacher and later became a Title I director, assistant principal, and principal at A.J. Mitchell and Mary L. Welty Elementary Schools before opening the doors for the first time at Coronado Elementary in 1989. As principal, she has used “Back to Basics,” strategic planning, and the development of action plans to improve student achievement.

Mrs. Barber believes that the underlying foundation of the education of her students is to educate each child in a safe and productive learning environment. Maintaining an open door policy allows students, faculty, parents, and other school affiliates to communicate with her openly at any time. Mrs. Barber graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelors degree in elementary education with a minor in special education. She later completed two masters degrees; one in special education and a second one in administration followed by an educational specialist in administration degree.

Michelle OlquinMichelle Olguin
Principal, RM Bracker Elementary School

Michelle Olguin is the principal at Robert M. Bracker Elementary School. Mrs. Olguin strongly believes that every child has the ability to learn and grow. As principal, she ensures students experience a nurturing environment so that they can grow academically, socially, and emotionally. She knows that teachers are the key to having a successful school and does whatever she can to support their miraculous daily efforts. Working with parents as partners in the education of the Bracker DOLPHINS is a large part of how she supports her teachers and students.

Mrs. Olguin earned a bachelors degree in elementary education from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1990. She began her career in Nogales Unified as a student teacher at AJ Mitchell. After graduating from Purdue, she worked for eight years as a primary grade teacher in the bilingual programs at AJ Mitchell. She went on to get a masters degree in administration from the University of Phoenix in 1998. Afterwards, she transferred to RM Bracker in 1999, where she worked as a second grade teacher and reading specialist until 2003. In the fall of 2003, she became the district coordinator for the highly successful Reading First program. Michelle worked with the principals, teachers, and students at four RF elementary schools. She is very proud of the awesome accomplishments of her staff and students. In 2008, the school was named a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, based on the tremendous academic growth of the students over a five year period.

Molly AlcarazDr. Molly Cassidy
Principal, AJ Mitchell Elementary School

Dr. Molly Cassidy recently began her work as the principal of AJ Mitchell Elementary. In this role, she is dedicated to serving the students, families, and teachers at AJ Mitchell and does so by maintaining high expectations while supporting and celebrating success and diversity. Dr. Cassidy also commits to providing a safe, rigorous, and mutually respectful environment where students can reach their highest potential.

Dr. Cassidy was drawn to AJ Mitchell Elementary for several reasons, one of which is her passion for quality education. This passion has been the driving force of both her educational and professional accomplishments. Dr. Cassidy attended the University of Arizona and dedicated herself to her personal education which resulted in her earning a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education, a masters of arts degree in language, reading, and culture, and a doctor of education degree. Furthermore, Dr. Cassidy has earned a principal certificate, K-8 teaching certificate, structured English immersion endorsement, and English as a second language endorsement. Although Dr. Cassidy is proud of these educational accomplishments because of their personal significance, she is even more enthusiastic about them because they have empowered her with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to create and sustain successful educational opportunities within the communities she works.

In addition to her educational achievements, Dr. Cassidy has developed a solid foundation in many areas that are essential for success as a building administrator. Recently, she created and established a local school district’s first alternative high school program. During this experience, she managed and coordinated the alternative high school program, implemented and monitored the curricular programs, and implemented a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports model for behavior management. Dr. Cassidy has been a K-6 English language development teacher and a fourth grade teacher. Additionally, she serves on the board of directors at the United Community Health Clinic of Southern Arizona.