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Mission Statement

Ware an inclusive and transformative learning community that cultivates creativity and critical inquiry. Come as you are; we’ll grow together.

Habits of Hands, Heart, and Mind

The FALA Habits of Hands, Heart, and Mind are five values, or ways of being, that guide students throughout their time at FALA and beyond. In the classroom, during performances, by doing service, during personal interactions, or through creative projects, students at FALA embrace and embody these Habits and faculty and staff at FALA use these habits to guide their educational decisions and practices.

Common Good: Building a functional community by evaluating the impact of individual actions on the rest of the group and making decisions accordingly.

Connection and Collaboration: Working with diverse concepts, techniques, objects and people to further meaningful intellectual and artistic understandings.

Investment: Demonstrating a commitment to education and learning by taking responsibility for personal success and making significant contributions to FALA.

Creativity: Pushing the boundaries of accepted understandings and ideas by making innovative interpretations, connections, creations, and productions.

Critical Inquiry: Seeking out, analyzing, and synthesizing different perspectives and allowing these perspectives to change individual understandings, thought processes, and actions.

Karen Butterfield


Karen Butterfield is the founder of Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy (FALA).

After charter school legislation was passed in 1995 with the opening of 50 charter schools across the state, Karen started drafting her vision of FALA becoming initially, part of the FUSD umbrella, focusing on rigorous academics, the visual and performing arts and true service learning integrated throughout the curriculum. But that was not going to happen under FUSD at the time. At the time, Karen was an art educator at Coconino High School, after serving as the district-wide art coordinator for 21 years. The journey to opening the school for grades 9-12 in August, 1996 stemmed from critical research, planning and opening partnership doors with the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA),

Knowing there was strong interest from parents, students and the community to develop FALA, Karen then went before the State Board of Education with FALA’s charter application, which was unanimously approved in January, 1996. She and her new FALA governing board team had less than 6 months to find a site for the school.

The intergenerational partnership with FALA, MNA and the Peaks Senior Living Community brought both institutions state, national and international recognition, including having been recognized by President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and The White House, the Arizona and US Departments of Education, and the international museum community – to name a few. FALA was also the first public school to receive the Arizona Governor’s Arts in Education Award (The Honorable Governor Jane Hull).

Beginning in 1996 on the first day of school, and each year after, we held the Native American Friendship Dance, a tradition led by the Benally-Jones Family, with all FALA and MNA staff participating. She remains in touch with many of FALA’s current and former teachers, students and parents, and enjoys the invitations to special FALA ceremonies and events.

Karen is currently providing technical assistance and support to our region’s four southwestern state departments of education (AZ, CO, UT, NV) with the West Comprehensive Center (WCC) and Policy Center at WestEd. Her prior educational policy background also includes providing technical assistance to nine states on educator effectiveness issues on the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO’s) Education Workforce team. Karen earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees (educational leadership) from Northern Arizona University, graduating with distinction, including having been the recipient of an honorary doctorate. She has been recognized numerous times for her work in education, including having been named the 1993 Arizona Teacher of the Year, the National Art Education Association’s Outstanding Teacher in the Southwest Region twice, N.A.U.’s Outstanding Doctoral Student, the Governor’s Arts in Education Award (Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy), the Flinn Foundation’s Most Influential Educator (twice by former FALA students Jacob Stevens and Ashley Davidson), including many other awards/recognitions.

Karen is married to Ernie Butterfield, who was by her side every step of the way with the development and opening of FALA. They have two beautiful daughters, Amanda (a physical therapist in San Diego with husband, Chris DeRosa) and Katie (a 5th grade teacher in FUSD, and married to husband Robb Krause). Karen and Ernie are also the proud grandparents of Braxton and Brinley DeRosa and Sadie Krause.

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Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy

Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy

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