Susan Harriman, the executive director of ForwARd Arkansas, announced Thursday (Nov. 14) she is stepping down from her post due to family medical issues.
“I am taking early retirement from my position as Executive Director of ForwARd Arkansas, effective December 4, 2019. My tenure at ForwARd Arkansas has been both challenging and rewarding, and I am proud of what we have accomplished together,” Harriman wrote in a widely distributed letter.
According to Harriman, the ForwARd Arkansas board of directors plans to name an interim executive director before the end of the year, with a national search for a new leader to commence in early 2020.
“I will miss working with each of you to advance our shared vision of increasing educational equity and student achievement. But, I am confident that ForwARd will continue to serve as a powerful champion for equity, a connector and convener for shared opportunity, and a catalyst for innovation,” she said.
Harriman has served at the helm of ForwARd since 2016. Under her leadership, ForwARd Arkansas said its accomplishments include:
• Advocated for and achieved an increase of $3 million in permanent funding for the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) pre-K program during the 91st Arkansas General Assembly in 2017;
• Championed Act 456, the Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship, that uses excess Arkansas Lottery proceeds to fund scholarships that encourage high school students to obtain college credits and career training credentials;
• Convened leaders at an annual Data Symposium to push for the development of a quality longitudinal data system that spans the entire cradle-to-career continuum, starting with support for Governor Asa Hutchison’s legislation to align the K-12 data system at the Arkansas Department of Education with Pre-K data;
• And most recently, Harriman spearheaded ForwARd’s advocacy for the development and expansion of community schools throughout Arkansas.
“Further, we are playing a pivotal role in building both the capacity and partnerships necessary to bring about fresh ideas and new energy in Arkansas communities,” she said. “We are convening stakeholders from across the state to discuss the most important issues facing Arkansas schools and students. And, ForwARd has mobilized a strong network of leaders in the education, philanthropy, business, nonprofit and government sectors to propel innovation in Arkansas public education – and the change necessary to close the student achievement gap within a generation.”
ForwARd Arkansas is a public-private partnership established in 2014 by the Arkansas State Board of Education, the Walton Family Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to increase equity and achieve increases in student achievement and economic prosperity for Arkansas.