State Board Members
Jim Cooper, a former member of the Melbourne School Board in Izard County, brings the valuable perspective of parents and patrons of rural schools. He is the current chairman of the State Board of Education. Cooper was born in Russellville and graduated from Melbourne High School. He attended North Arkansas College in Harrison and received a bachelor's degree from Harding University in Searcy. He owns Cooper Administrative Services, which provides long-term care management services for several nursing homes.
He is a frequent visitor to the state Capitol as a strong advocate for nursing homes in his role as the Arkansas Health Care Association's legislative committee chairman. Arkansas Business named Cooper to its "40 Under 40" list in 2004. At Melbourne schools, he's been a volunteer golf coach and booster club president. He is also secretary of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center Board.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee appointed Cooper to the State Board in 2006. His term expires in 2013.
"There is much more to education than test scores," Cooper says. "Every single child should be considered: from poor to rich and from low-functioning to genius. And, of course, from rural to urban."
Cooper lives in Mountain Home with his wife, Lisa, and has five children.
Brenda Gullett, a former state legislator, wants the State Board to do everything it can to "support and empower" schools as they implement the Common Core standards. "I believe that this board has taken tough stands to resist educational options that would not be in the best interest of the students," Gullett says. "I am very proud of that."
Gullett is the current vice-chairman of the State Board. She was born in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Aldine High School. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston. She is the owner and operator of Brenda Gullett Associates, which offers corporate training in customer service, communications, and leadership development. She previously worked as a drug prevention director for Shreveport/Bossier schools in Louisiana and in the same role in Pine Bluff.
She served on the Jefferson County Quorum Court from 1992-1998, in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999-2000 and in the Arkansas Senate from 2001 to 2004. During the historic special session on education reform of 2003-2004, she was vice-chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Governor Mike Beebe appointed her to the State Board in 2007. Her term expires in 2014.
Gullett and her husband Robert live in Fayetteville. They have two sons.
Joe Black, a banker, believes good schools lead to prosperous communities. Black was born in Newport and graduated from Newport High School. He received a bachelor's degree from Arkansas State University and a master of business administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is president of Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Southern Bancorp, the largest rural development bank in the country. Capital Partners helps develop economies and schools in struggling areas.
"The 21st century economy requires a different educational product than its 20th and 19th century predecessors," Black says. "Education is not a static product line, but instead has to be upgraded and tweaked from time to time to meet the needs of the market place."
Black's previous occupations include being economic development officer for Arkansas State University and an aide to former U.S. Rep. Blanche Lincoln. He most recently served on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and is on the board of Delta LISC, a non-profit provider of affordable housing in the Delta.
Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Black to the State Board in July, 2011. His term expires in 2018.
Black lives in Newport with his wife, P. Darlene Black, who teachers in the gifted and talented program at Newport Elementary School.
Samuel Ledbetter, a former state representative known for keen insight into the law and the state budget, believes that every student is entitled to a world-class education "no matter where in Arkansas that child attends school." An attorney, Ledbetter was born in Camden and graduated from Camden Senior High School. He attended Hendrix College in Conway, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado, and obtained a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Ledbetter was named the best environmental lawyer in the state in 2000 by the Arkansas Times. He is a past vice president of the Sierra Club's Arkansas chapter and a former Arkansas Wildlife Federation board member. He is a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Civil Jury Instructions.
He served six years in the Arkansas House of Representatives (2001-2006) and was voted by colleagues as co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee during the 2005 session. Governor Mike Beebe appointed him to the State Board in July 2008. His term expires in 2015.
"Giving every child the skills to succeed in college is the most important thing our state can do for its citizens," Ledbetter says.
Ledbetter lives in Little Rock with his wife Nancy.
Alice Williams Mahony, a tireless supporter of education in the state and her community, is vice president and co-founder of the El Dorado Education Foundation. The non-profit organization has raised more than $1.5 million to fund grants for innovative teaching and a Teacher Excellence Program. A native of Union County, Mahony graduated from Junction City High School. She has a bachelor's degree from John Brown University in Siloam Springs and a master's degree from Harding University in Searcy.
She helped research the El Dorado Promise Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to graduates of El Dorado schools, and co-founded the district's annual Academic Signing Day, which has been featured in People magazine. Furthermore, she helped advocate for the building of a new El Dorado High School and campaigned for the money to fund it. "We passed the first millage increase in El Dorado in over 30 years by a 78 percent approval margin," she says.
The Women's Foundation of Arkansas named her Woman of the Year in Philanthropy in 2009.
Governor Mike Beebe appointed her to the State Board in 2008. Her term expires in 2015.
Mahony lives in El Dorado and has five children.
Toyce Newton strives to eliminate the achievement gap. She says the state must continue to provide innovative and proven practices to help schools, communities, and families. "There cannot continue to be disparities based on factors such as race, gender, geography and socioeconomic conditions," she says.
Newton was born in Crossett. She graduated from T.W. Daniel High School in Crossett and received a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. She is the president and chief executive officer of Phoenix Youth & Family Services Inc., a non-profit community development organization. She previously worked as a youth service coordinator for Delta Counseling Association and as a caseworker for the Department of Human Services.
She is a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission's Salute to Greatness Award and was chosen as one of the Democratic Party's African-American Women on the Move.
Governor Mike Beebe appointed Newton to the State Board in 2009. Her term expires in 2016. She's proud that the board in 2010 voted to participate in the Common Core State Standards.
Newton lives in Crossett with her husband Herman, and has three children.
Mireya Reith diligently works to bring the inclusion of diverse perspectives to the development of Arkansas's education programs and policy analysis. "As someone who grew up in a bilingual home in Arkansas, I recognize that there are more than 40,000 students who speak languages other than English at home in the state, and their success in education is important for shrinking the state's achievement gap and improving graduation rates," Reith says.
Reith graduated from Fayetteville High School, received a bachelor's degree from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and received a master's degree from Columbia University in New York City. She is currently the executive director of Springdale-based Arkansas United Community Coalition, an immigrants' rights organization that supports immigrant integration and community development.
Reith has had a 14-year career in the field of international political development which has spanned five continents, working with American nonprofit organizations and the United Nations. Since her return to Arkansas, Reith has worked to bring her international experiences to her home state through efforts including developing a Latino youth civic association called the New Latino Movement, and directing Hispanic outreach for the state Democratic Party during the 2010 election season. Reith proudly served her state and country as a municipal development volunteer with the Peace Corps in El Salvador.
Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Reith to the State Board in June, 2011. Her term expires in 2018.
Reith lives in Fayetteville, where she returned in 2010 to be near her mother, Amanda Reith, and sister and brother-in-law, Claudine and Eric Specking.
Vicki Saviers offers the State Board her many years of valuable experience as a frequent volunteer for educational groups and charitable causes. Saviers was born in Little Rock and graduated from Southside High School in Fort Smith. She briefly attended Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, before receiving a bachelor's degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is the former executive director of the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock.
Her many civic activities include having been chairman of the 1997 Little Rock Central High 40th Anniversary Committee, president of the Central High and Pulaski Heights Middle School PTAs, a board member for Arkansans Education Reform, and a board member for e-Stem Public Charter Schools. She also serves on the board of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
"I am particularly interested in the department's work to improve student achievement in chronically failing schools," Saviers says.
She was appointed to the State Board by Governor Mike Beebe in January, 2010. Her term expires in 2016.
Saviers lives in Little Rock with her husband Mark and has two children.
Jay Barth brings to the State Board a distinctive record of research and advocacy across a wide range of education issues at the state and federal level.
Barth is the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Professor of Politics and Chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Hendrix College. He has served on the faculty there since 1994.
"In recent years, I have become particularly focused on the role of high-quality out-of-school experiences in helping to close the achievement gap and in preventing the loss of learning that occurs for less advantaged young people in the summer," Barth said.
His teaching and research focuses on politics and education. He is the co-author of the second edition of Arkansas Politics and Government: Do the People Rule? and produced a report studying the "cradle to prison pipeline" in Arkansas that highlights how quality education can reduce the chance of young people going to prison.
He's served on the Task Force on Best Practices in After-School and Summer Programs, was named Arkansas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and received the Steiger Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association. He previously served on the staff of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.
Barth was appointed to the State Board by Gov. Mike Beebe in July, 2012. His term expires in 2019.
A native of Saline County, Barth is a graduate of Little Rock Catholic High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Hendrix and master's and doctorate degrees from the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Little Rock with his partner, Chuck Cliett.