The state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards will continue under a new point person with the Arkansas Department of Education.
Dr. Megan Witonski, currently the superintendent of the Elkins School District, will become assistant commissioner with the Division of Learning Services July 1. The current assistant commissioner, Dr. Laura Bednar, is leaving to become deputy superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District.
The job has a sprawling list of responsibilities ranging from charter schools to special education, but Common Core will be a focus. Arkansas is one of 45 states across the country that are moving toward a common set of standards in English language arts and math. Under Common Core, students in those states are learning roughly the same material in those subjects. The standards are supposed to be narrower and more focused than the previous ones, with some skills, such as algebra, pushed into earlier grades.
The state has been introducing the new standards by grade levels the past few years, with the final piece, grades 9-12, to move to Common Core next school year. The current benchmark exams then will be replaced with Common Core assessments.
“I’m just looking forward to it,” Witonski said. “I know we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and I know that we have a lot of good opportunities definitely for moving forward, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
Dr. Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, said the state is far enough along in the transition that new leadership will not be disruptive. He said Witonski has been involved in committees and has experience in curriculum and a strong work ethic.
“I think the other piece is that she has a great deal of trust out there (in the state),” he said. “They know she works hard and she cares about kids.”
Witonski, whose salary will be about $112,000, started her career as a teacher in Bryant before serving as principal at Wickes and Mena. She led Wickes as superintendent through a voluntary consolidation with nearby Cove to form the Cossatot River School District. She has been superintendent of Elkins since 2010.