Mireya Reith, chair of the State Board, 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.
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 teaches in the gifted and talented program at Newport Elementary School.
Diane Zook brings to the State Board her years of experience as a child advocate, educator, volunteer, business owner and pioneer in public school special education. She was born in Batesville and graduated from Melbourne High School. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Arkansas and completed postgraduate study at UAMS and UCLA. After the Education of the Handicapped Law was passed, she started and expanded programs within her school district for every child, regardless of handicap, and helped train special education supervisors throughout the state. She also helped train school administrators and teachers in the Program for Effective Teaching.
Zook’s “children first” philosophy has guided her professionally and as a volunteer, whether as a companion to a child at the Arkansas Children’s Colony, a liaison between parents and schools in Atlanta, working as assistant to the chaplain in a hospital setting or serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children in the 16th District Courts. She is currently serving on the administrative Board of Manna House in Izard County and is vice chair of the Ozarka College Foundation Board. Her professional experiences include teaching, school administration, owner/operator of a small business and family farming interests.
“This is a time of wide ranging change in education. I will use my experiences to inform my opinions as we help our schools become more effective and efficient in teaching every student the skills needed to be successful in school and beyond. We want students well prepared for the challenges they will face.”
She was appointed to the State Board by Governor Mike Beebe in 2013. Her term expires in 2020.
Zook and her husband, Randy, make their home in Melbourne.
Charisse Dean, a former homeschool mom and current parent of four children in public school, believes it is vital for parents to be an integral part of a child’s education. She strives to emphasize the importance of parental involvement in the education of children and to strengthen the relationship between educators and parents. “Both should work together toward the goal of education which is not just the academic, but is also the development of intelligence and virtue, which according to the Arkansas Constitution, are the safeguards of liberty, the bulwark of a free and good government, and the very reason for the establishment and maintenance of a free school system. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
Dean graduated from Oak Grove High School in North Little Rock and attended Agape College, where she received a diploma of biblical studies. She currently serves as the governmental affairs assistant and project coordinator for Family Council in Little Rock. She also serves on the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review. Dean previously was employed as a field director for the Family Council Action Committee and worked for Agape College and Agape Church.
She was appointed to the State Board by Governor Asa Hutchinson in July 2015. Her term expires June 30, 2022.
Dean lives in Little Rock with her four children.
R. Brett Williamson brings to the State Board a business career in finance and economic development. He believes the future economic success of Arkansas lies in part on the education of our children.
Williamson graduated from El Dorado High School in El Dorado and received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. He also is a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He currently serves as the general manager for Murphy Offices LLC and The Murphy Foundation, both in El Dorado. Prior to joining Murphy Offices, he worked for Simmons First Mortgage Company in Little Rock, First National Bank of El Dorado and First Financial Bank in El Dorado.
He currently serves on the board of The Murphy Foundation, El Dorado Fifty for the Future and is a founding board member of El Dorado Festivals & Events Inc. He has also served on both the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Union County boards.
Williamson was appointed to the State Board by Governor Asa Hutchinson in July 2015. His term expires June 30, 2022.
He lives in El Dorado with his wife, Stephanie, and has three children.
Dr. O. Fitzgerald Hill has extensive experience in higher education. While serving as the 13th president of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, the college experienced a dramatic increase in enrollment, from 150 students to more than 1,100. In addition, the college’s budget increased from $2 million to nearly $20 million.
After 10 years at the college, Hill recently stepped down as president to become the executive director of the college’s foundation and the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development. He also provides leadership for the Derek Olivier Research Institute for the Prevention of Black on Black Violence, a research think tank that identifies solutions and provides recommendations to address homicides in urban communities.
The former San Jose State Spartans head football coach and Arkansas Razorbacks assistant head football coach also serves as a guest lecturer and research associate at the University of Central Florida’s Institute of Diversity and Ethics.
Hill received degrees in communications and physical education from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and a master’s degree in student personnel services from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., where he served as a graduate assistant football coach. Hill later served on the Razorbacks football coaching staff for 12 years.
A veteran, Hill received the Bronze Star and Commendation Medal for services in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Hill to the State Board effective July 1, 2016. His term expires in 2023.
Hill is married to Dr. Cynthia Hill. They have two daughters, Destiny and Faith, and one son, Justice.
Ouida Newton brings 38 years of experience as an educator to the State Board of Education. She was named the 2015 Arkansas Teacher of Year and recently retired to serve on the State Board.
Newton believes that learning is embraced when children receive encouragement and support from parents, teachers and the community. She previously taught multiple levels of math and science in the Poyen School District and has served as a library media specialist, math coach, curriculum supervisor, class sponsor, senior and Arkansas State Beta Club sponsor, and Teachers of Tomorrow supervisor. Newton also taught at the Searcy School District and Pulaski County Special School District and was an adjunct professor at College of the Ouachitas in Malvern.
She served on multiple assessment and standard review committees, including the Arkansas Math Standards Review Committee, and spoke before the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review.
Newton graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Henderson State University at Arkadelphia, with a double major in math and science. She received a Master of Library and Informational Science from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average.
In 2014, Newton was named the Arkansas Rural Education Teacher of the Year and Arkansas Middle Level Math Teacher of the Year.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Newton the State Board effective July 1, 2016. Her term expires in 2023.
Newton and her husband, Jerry, live in Leola and have two children and four grandchildren.
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