Forward Arkansas — a cooperative effort by the Winthrop Rockefeller and Walton Family Foundations and the Arkansas Board of Education — is seeking participants in a survey on Arkansas education.

The survey samples opinions on the state of education today and on what’s needed to improve it.;


You can find the survey at the group’s website, (link fixed) It doesn’t take too long. My own summary: We rank low in education; we can do better; improvement of home life and school leadership are more important than test scores, new strategies and politicians; I’m skeptical about the universal value of some of the ideas held dear by many of those leading this effort, particularly charter schools.

Following is the group’s news release with information about participants and leadership.


ForwARd Arkansas, a strategic partnership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas Board of Education, today urged educators, parents, students, community leaders and policy makers to visit its new website and complete an online survey on how to prepare Arkansas students for success in college and/or the workplace. Arkansans are encouraged to complete the survey on by mid-February.

“As ForwARd works to improve our state’s education system, it’s critical that we get feedback from those who know our schools best—our students, teachers, parents and local community leaders,” said Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “Following careful review of this feedback, we will be able to develop a strategic plan for consideration by policy makers that will help advance education in our state and move Arkansas forward.”


The survey was designed by ForwARd as a mechanism for all Arkansans to participate in the process; a tool to determine the public’s commitment to a stronger education system; and a way to get a sense of the geographic differences in perceptions about our state education system.

ForwARd has brought together a diverse group—geographically, professionally, racially and socioeconomically—of Arkansas leaders to lead its statewide outreach. Through meetings, advocacy group outreach, and social media, the steering committee will encourage stakeholders from across the state to share their feedback and complete ForwARd’s online survey at

Later this month, ForwARd will release The State of Public Education in Arkansas, a report of the baseline data on the state’s educational outcomes. The steering committee plans to complete and release the comprehensive strategic plan by late spring 2015.

Members of ForwARd steering committee include Shane Broadway, Toby Daughtery, Kim Davis, Bill Dillard III, Marcy Doderer, Matt Dozier, Bob East, Sen. Joyce Elliott, Melanie Fox, Lavina Grandon, Johnny Key, Tom Kimbrell, Ginny Kurrus, Michele Linch, Hugh McDonald, Justin Minkel, John Riggs, David Rainey, Scott Shirey, Ray Simon, Kathy Smith, Ladonna Spain, Bob Watson, Sherece West-Scantlebury, Darrin Williams, Kenya Williams and Diana Gonzales Worthen.


About ForwARd Arkansas

ForwARd Arkansas was established as a strategic partnership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas Board of Education to help enhance student outcomes and educational opportunities. ForwARd aims to develop a comprehensive plan to guide state policy for P-16 education, with a focus on schools in academic distress. For more information, visit
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ForwARd Arkansas Steering Committee Members

· Shane Broadway is the director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He has served as a member of the Arkansas State Senate and State House of Representatives, Speaker of the House and member of the Senate and House Education Committees.

· Toby Daughtery is the lead recruiter and outreach coordinator for The STAND Foundation.

· Kim Davis is the director of economic development and external relations for the Northwest Arkansas Council and a member of the State Board of Education.

· Bill Dillard III is vice president of Dillard’s, Inc. and serves on the board at eStem Public Charter Schools and the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation.

· Marcy Doderer is the president and CEO of Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

· Matt Dozier is the president and CEO of the Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Initiative and former teacher at North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville.


· Bob East is the co-founder of East-Harding, Inc. and owner of Advanced Cabling, Inc.

· Sen. Joyce Elliott is a current Arkansas State Senator and former member of the Arkansas State House of Representatives. During her time in the General Assembly, she has served as Senate Majority Whip, vice-chairman of the Senate Education Committee and chairman of the House Education Committee.

· Melanie Fox has served on the Little Rock Board of Education, Little Rock Public Education Foundation Board and Little Rock PTA Council Board. She is co-founder of J&M Foods.

· Lavina Grandon is the founder and president of the Rural Community Alliance and a retired teacher, with extensive experience in rural schools.

· Johnny Key is the associate vice-president of university relations at the University of Arkansas system, former member of the Arkansas State Senate and State House of Representatives and former chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

· Tom Kimbrell serves as superintendent of Bryant Public Schools. He was the former commissioner of education for state of Arkansas, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators and superintendent of the North Little Rock and Paragould school districts.

· Ginny Kurrus is the former state president of the Arkansas PTA, president of the Little Rock PTA Council, and long-time Little Rock School District volunteer.

· Michele Linch is the executive director for the Arkansas State Teachers Association. She is a former science teacher and director of the Arkansas Leadership Academy’s Teacher Leadership Institute.

· Hugh McDonald is the president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, Inc. and former director of the Arkansas Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Education.

· Justin Minkel is a former Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Milken Educator and Teach for America alumnus. He currently teaches at Jones Elementary in Springdale.

· John Riggs is the president of J.A. Riggs Tractor Company. He has been a member of the Arkansas State Senate, president of the Little Rock School District Board and member of the State Board of Career Education.

· David Rainey is the Assistant State Director of the JBHM Education Group and serves on the Arkansas Rural Development Commission. He is a former member of the Arkansas State House of Representatives and House Education Committee.

· Scott Shirey is the founder and executive director of KIPP Delta Public Schools and a Teach for America alumnus.

· Ray Simon is the former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, chief state school officer for Arkansas, superintendent of Conway School District and math teacher at North Little Rock High School. He recently formed a consulting company focused on education policy and practice.

· Kathy Smith is a senior program officer at the Walton Family Foundation, responsible for education initiatives. She has also served as a high school English teacher and secondary curriculum director.

· Ladonna Spain is a school improvement specialist and school improvement zone leader for the Arkansas Department of Education. She served as Gifted and Talented and Advanced Placement Coordinator in the McGehee School District and taught in the Tiller School District, Delta Special School District and McGehee School District.

· Bob Watson is the former superintendent of El Dorado Public Schools. Well known for his innovative leadership in the south Arkansas community, he helped launch the El Dorado Promise and pass a bond initiative to build all new facilities in the district.

· Sherece West-Scantlebury is the president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. She previously served as CEO at the Foundation for Louisiana, program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and has extensive experience with community development, public policy and advocacy and public service.

· Darrin Williams is the CEO of Southern Bancorp, Inc. and former member and Speaker Pro Tempore of the Arkansas House of Representatives.

· Kenya Williams is co-chairman of the Strong-Community leadership alliance and works closely with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. She is also a member of the South Arkansas Adult Education Advisory Council.

· Diana Gonzales Worthen is the director of Project RISE (Realizing and Increasing Student Excellence) at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.