News Release: ForwARd Arkansas Leadership Transition

November 14, 2019 – ForwARd Arkansas announced today that Executive Director Susan Harriman is taking early retirement and stepping down from her role in the organization, due to family medical issues, effective December 4, 2019.

“Throughout her tenure at ForwARd Arkansas, Susan has worked to advance public policy and accelerate progress in education by leveraging state, federal and private resources to pilot innovative approaches that can potentially be replicated statewide,” said Kathy Smith, chairperson, ForwARd Arkansas Board of Directors and senior education advisor, Walton Personal Philanthropy Group. “She leaves with us a sound strategy and infrastructure for moving this important work forward – an experienced team, as well as partnerships across this state with leaders in education, philanthropy, business, nonprofit organizations and government.

Harriman has served at the helm of ForwARd since 2016. Under her leadership, ForwARd’s 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 Hutchison’s transformational 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.

“Since its inception, ForwARd has been guided by a mission to increase equity and achieve increases in student achievement that will drive and sustain economic prosperity for all communities in Arkansas,” said Sherece West-Scantlebury, vice chair, ForwARd Arkansas Board of Directors and president & CEO, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “Under Susan’s leadership, the organization has made great strides, and we are committed to ensuring that ForwARd’s work as a champion for educational equity, a connector and convener for shared opportunity, and a catalyst for innovation will continue.

“Throughout my career in education, I have seen firsthand how students can be set up to succeed, but also where critical gaps still exist,” said Harriman. “Our work at ForwARd to address these inequalities has been both challenging and rewarding. I am confident that this organization will continue on its path to help propel Arkansas as a leader and innovator in public education and a change agent in closing the student achievement gap within a generation.”

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.

View Harriman’s retirement message.