Lily Tram is making history as the newest appointee to the Gilbert Unified School District school board.
Tram is believed to be the first Chinese American to be appointed or elected to any school board in Maricopa County, said Ted Carpenter, deputy superintendent of Maricopa County Schools.
"It's been all over the local Chinese papers," she said.
Tram said she decided to apply for the vacancy left by Traci Klein in February because she wanted to do something for the community.
"My kids are in the school district, and I wanted to give back to the community," she said.
Tram was appointed by Maricopa County earlier this month after a drawn-out, two-month appointment process that some board applicants and district officials found confusing. Tram is now one of three current Gilbert school board members appointed to fill vacancies.
Her first school board meeting April 8 was an "experience," she said.
"I didn't get home until midnight," she said.
By happenstance, the Gilbert school board used Tram's first meeting to suggest the Arizona School Boards Association's delegates back changing the law to have local school boards fill their own vacancies, not county school superintendents, as current procedure dictates.
She's filling a term that is over at the end of the year. Tram said she is leaning toward running for the open seat "at this point."
She's looking forward to using her financial expertise on the board, especially as budget talks begin.
Tram is a senior financial services manager for Arizona State University. She has worked at ASU since 1989 as an accountant, director of fiscal and business services, and financial accounting manager.
She has a bachelor's degree in management, and a post-BA in accounting, both from ASU.
Edalia Kousari, associate director of financial services at ASU, said the department was "all excited" when Tram was appointed to the Gilbert board.
She's known Tram for about 14 years, since the two started as entry-level accountants at ASU. After they both were promoted to different departments, they worked apart for a couple of years. However, in November, they both just happened to come back to the same department on the same day.
"She's always helpful. She's a great resource for me," Kousari said. "I think it's wonderful that she got this position, with her financial background. I'll think she'll be great."
Tram has been married since 1991. Her husband, Tri, is a database manager at ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business.
They have three children in district schools. Lynn, 15, is a Mesquite High School freshman. Don, 12, is a seventh-grader at South Valley Junior High School, and Tom, 6, is in first grade at Ashland Ranch Elementary School.
When Tram was younger, growing up on the west side of Phoenix, she would often visit the Phoenix Chinese School for after-school activities. Now, she volunteers at the school, doing any needed clerical work, at 24th Avenue and Indian School Road.
It's a way to practice her Cantonese and socialize with other Chinese Americans.
Tram is an Arizona native, born in Phoenix. She graduated from Alhambra High School in the Phoenix Union High School District.
When she's not working or volunteering, Tram said she enjoys spending time with her family, watching movies, biking, hiking and traveling. She also is an assistant coach of her daughter's volleyball team.