The executive director of ForwARd Arkansas, a public-private partnership aimed at increasing student achievement in Arkansas, is stepping down.
Susan Harriman is resigning as the organization’s executive director and will be taking early retirement, citing family medical issues. Harriman made the announcement Thursday, Nov. 14, and her effective day of resignation will be Wednesday, Dec. 4.
“Throughout my career in education, I have seen firsthand how students can be set up to succeed, but also where critical gaps still exist,” Harriman said in a statement. “Our work at ForwARd to address these inequalities has been both challenging and rewarding. I am confident that this organization will continue on its path to help propel Arkansas as a leader and innovator in public education and a change agent in closing the student achievement gap within a generation.”
Harriman was appointed executive director of ForwARd Arkansas in 2016. Previously, she served as the Arkansas Department of Education’s policy and special projects director. Before her ADE role, she served as the National Center for Education Achievement’s director of state services, as well as the Secretary’s Regional Representative at the U.S. Department of Education and founding executive director at the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation.
During her tenure, ForwARd Arkansas has secured an additional $3 million in permanent funding for the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) pre-kindergarten program. The organization also supported the Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship and the expansion of community schools in the state.
“Throughout her tenure at ForwARd Arkansas, Susan has worked to advance public policy and accelerate progress in education by leveraging state, federal and private resources to pilot innovative approaches that can potentially be replicated statewide,” said Kathy Smith, chairperson, ForwARd Arkansas Board of Directors and senior education advisor, Walton Personal Philanthropy Group. “She leaves with us a sound strategy and infrastructure for moving this important work forward – an experienced team, as well as partnerships across this state with leaders in education, philanthropy, business, nonprofit organizations and government.
An interim executive director is expected to be named by the ForwARd Arkansas Board of Directors before the end of 2019. A nationwide search for a permanent executive director is slated to begin in early 2020.