As deputy commissioner, Dr. Gotcher works with ADE, legislators and school districts on finance, legislation and other education issues. He previously served as superintendent of the Atkins School District. Prior to that, he was principal at Crawford Elementary School in Russellville, assistant principal at Russellville Junior High School, and assistant principal at Russellville Middle School. Gotcher began his career in education in 1988 as a K-12 music teacher at the Hector School District. He later served as a choir director for Dardanelle High School and as a music teacher at Center Valley Elementary School in Russellville. Gotcher earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership, and an Educator Specialist degree from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. He received a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
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.
As assistant commissioner, Rogers oversees the distribution of funds to public schools, finance and student management software, and fiscal distress services. Rogers began working at ADE in 2012 as the department’s chief financial officer. He is also continuing in that role where he oversees the agency’s financial operations, including biennial and fiscal year budget requests, and represents the agency at legislative committee meetings. With more than 18 years of state government experience, Rogers previously worked for the Department of Finance and Administration and Department of Human Services. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia and a Master of Business Administration in International Business from Salem International University in Salem, W.V.
As assistant commissioner of Educator Effectiveness and Licensure, Pfeffer oversees multiple units and programs including teacher licensure, teacher and principal evaluation programs, and educator ethics investigations. She was hired as assistant commissioner July 1, 2014, after serving as the ADE director of educator evaluation for a year. Prior to coming to ADE, Pfeffer worked at the Pocahontas School District for 18 years. She taught Spanish and English at Pocahontas Junior High School before being named the secondary assistant principal at the high school. She served as principal and as an adjunct Spanish instructor for Black River Technical College. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education in Spanish and English from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, a Master of Science in Education in Integrated Technology in the Curriculum from Walden University in Minneapolis, MN., completed the ASU program of study for administrative certification and earned an Educator Specialist in Educational Leadership. Pfeffer is from Pocahontas.
Barnes assumed her role as assistant commissioner for Public School Accountability July 1, 2014. As assistant commissioner, she assists districts with educational standards compliance and desegregation orders. She also oversees monitoring activities and Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility. Barnes has worked for ADE for 19 years and was previously the coordinator for School Improvement and Standards Assurance. Prior to working for ADE, she was a counselor and teacher/coach for Hall High School and Southwest Junior High School in the Little Rock School District, served as a counselor/teacher for Rivendell Psychiatric Center for Children and Youth, and taught at Arkadelphia High School. Barnes received a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway. She later received a Master of Science in Education with a middle school science certification from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. She received secondary principal administrative certification from UCA. Barnes is from Benton.
Dr. Saunders oversees the agency’s data reporting systems such as the ADE Data Center; the Data Quality Unit; technology initiatives and resources such as the StudentGPS Dashboards; and the agency’s Technical Support Unit. He previously served as ADE’s assistant commissioner for Fiscal and Administrative Services. Before joining ADE in July 2014, Saunders served as superintendent of the East End School District. He also served as principal at Lavaca High School, where he instituted data teams and conducted professional development that focused on using data to increase student achievement. Saunders worked a math teacher and coach at Gentry High School, where he taught various math courses including calculus and Advanced Placement statistics. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Oklahoma State University as well as a Master of Education and a Doctor of Education from Harding University in Searcy. He completed the Arkansas Leadership Academy’s Superintendent Institute and phase one of the Master Principal Program.
Lori Freno became the department’s general counsel July 1, 2016. As general counsel, Freno oversees the Office of Legal Services, which ensures agency compliance with federal and state laws; advises the commissioner and State Board of Education regarding policies and legislation; oversees the agency’s rule-making process; and manages litigation. Prior to becoming general counsel, Freno served as the department’s deputy general counsel for three years and worked for the Attorney General’s Office for 15 years as both an assistant and senior assistant attorney general. Her other work experience included serving as a general attorney for the Panama Canal Commission in the Republic of Panama for two years and in private practice for four years in Cincinnati, Ohio. Freno graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Akron, Ohio, and received a Juris Doctor from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
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 and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She grew up in DeWitt, located in southeast Arkansas.
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.
Owen serves as the leader of the computer science initiative in Arkansas. He coordinates with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Computer Science Task Force to identify the state’s computer science and technology needs. Owen began working at ADE in 2011 as the K-12 math and computer science curriculum specialist. He has worked as a math and science teacher at Sheridan High School and has taught math at Gurdon High School, Goza Middle School at Arkadelphia and England High School. Owen received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Education and Computer Science and a Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership from Henderson State University at Arkadelphia. He has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law.
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