Department Leadership

 

Tony Wood

Deputy Commissioner

Wood brings years of experience as a dedicated school administrator in Arkansas. As deputy commissioner, he focuses on a variety of departmental matters, including finance, legislation, and relations with school districts. Wood was named to the position in 2010 after serving 18 years as superintendent of the Searcy district. He previously worked as deputy superintendent for the Little Rock district and superintendent of the Kensett district. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harding University in Searcy and is a native of Columbus, Miss.

 

Deborah Coffman

Chief of Staff

Coffman assumed the role as chief of staff in June of 2013. She serves as the liaison for the State Board of Education and organizes the Board’s monthly meetings. She also facilitates activities of the Office of the Commissioner and coordinates special projects in support of the department’s strategic initiatives. Before she accepted the position, Coffman served as the director of Professional Development for the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). In that role, she collaborated with many stakeholders to provide quality professional learning opportunities to Arkansas educators. She has also served as literacy program manager for ADE, instructional facilitator for Pocahontas Public Schools, literacy specialist at the Northeast Education Service Cooperative and elementary teacher at Hoxie Public Schools. Coffman holds a bachelor of science in education and a master of science in education from Arkansas State University. In addition, she has previously served as an adjunct professor, GED instructor and private school educator. Coffman is a native of Black Rock.

 

Cody Decker

Assistant Commissioner, Research and Technology

Decker began working for ADE in 2009 as the ADE coordinator of special projects and later as the director of information systems. He was responsible for several successful major information systems projects, including the ADE Data Center and the statewide longitudinal data system. In his role, he will lead the division of Research and Technology and serve as the agency’s chief information officer for information systems. Previously, Decker worked for Dawson Education Service Cooperative and Environmental and Spatial Technology Inc., commonly referred to as the EAST Initiative, in Little Rock. An Arkansas native, Decker has a Bachelor of Science in Information Science, a Master of Science in Information Quality and is pursuing a doctorate in Information Quality from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

 

Mike Hernandez

Assistant Commissioner, Fiscal and Administrative Services

Hernandez, former Danville School District Superintendent, began his career with the ADE in July of 2013. In his role, he will oversee the agency’s finances and the distribution of funds to public schools.  Previously, Hernandez served as high school principal in Yell County, math teacher and coach at Fountain Lake High School, Hot Springs Middle School, Danville High School and at Marion Abramson High School in New Orleans. Hernandez holds a bachelor of science in biology, a master of arts in mathematics education and educational leadership, and is in the doctoral program at Harding University. He is a native of Arkansas.

 

John Hoy

Assistant Commissioner, Public School Accountability

Hoy was hired in 2011 from the Monticello district where he served as assistant superintendent for two years. His division is responsible for holding districts accountable under No Child Left Behind, for complying with state educational standards and monitoring desegregation and equity. He previously worked as federal programs coordinator for the Lee County district, as principal at Hughes High School, and as a teacher in Forrest City and Atlanta. A native of Hughes, Hoy has bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist degrees from Arkansas State University.

 

Karen Walters

Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources, Educator Effectiveness and Licensure

Walters manages a variety of operations including the agency’s facilities, teacher ethics investigations, and teacher licensure. She was hired to the position in 2011 after four years as superintendent of the Hector district. Her resume includes stints as superintendent, principal, and teacher at the former Evening Shade district, as assistant superintendent of the Bismarck district, and as a teacher at St. Paul Elementary in Pocahontas. A native of Evening Shade, Walters has a doctorate from Harding University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Arkansas State University. 

 

Megan Witonski

Assistant Commissioner, Learning Services

Witonski leads the effort to focus support for teaching and learning in Arkansas schools. She has served as superintendent for the Wickes and Elkins School Districts.  She was principal of the Wickes and Mena School Districts.  As a classroom teacher, she worked for the Bryant School District.  She is past vice-president of the Arkansas Rural Education Association. Witonski has a P-20 educational leadership doctorate from Harding University. Her bachelor’s, master’s, and educational specialist degrees are from Henderson State University. Witonski is a native of Stuttgart.

 

Jeremy Lasiter

General Counsel

Lasiter heads the department’s Legal Office, handling lawsuits, legislation and rule-making. He’s worked for the ADE since 2008 and previously served as an assistant attorney general, defending state agencies in federal and state court. His military experience includes being a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. A native of Pulaski County, Lasiter has a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University and a law degree from the UALR Bowen School of Law.

 

Kimberly Friedman

Communications Director

Friedman joined the department as the director of communications in August 2013. In her position, she coordinates agency internal and external communication efforts. She previously served as the communications director for the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, a position she held for 12 years. She also worked as a reporter for The Pine Bluff Commercial and as a page designer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Friedman received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway. She grew up in DeWitt, located in southeast Arkansas.

 

Michelle Griffin

Legislative Service Director

Griffin has served the department for over 25 years in various capacities. As legislative services director, she’s the agency’s liaison with legislative staff, helping facilitate meetings and information requests. She began in that role during  the school funding debates of 2003 and has also had positions in the Department’s legal office, personnel office and with instructional services. A native of Little Rock, Griffin has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a master’s from Webster University.

 

Susan Harriman

Policy and Special Projects Director

Harriman plays a key role in managing special projects such as No Kid Hungry and STEM Works which includes the New Tech Network High Schools and UTeach teacher preparation program. She’s been with the department since 2010. She previously worked for the National Center for Education Achievement, ACT, the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Education Reform Caucus and Texas Public Education Reform Foundation, the Arlington Independent School District, and Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. Harriman earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a master's degree from the University of North Texas. She is a native of Texas.

 

Related Files

Alphabetical List of Topics

Common Core