To learn more about department-level leadership, visit the Education Leadership page on the ADE website.
To learn more about the Secretary of Education, read Jacob Oliva's bio on the Secretary page.
Stacy Smith, Deputy Commissioner
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Stacy Smith began serving as Deputy Commissioner for DESE in December 2020. Smith served as a former Assistant Commissioner of Learning Services from March 2016 until July 2020, when she assumed the role of the director of OCSS. She previously served as the DESE Director of Curriculum and Instruction from July 2014 to March 2016 and has been a principal at Hill Farm Elementary School in the Bryant School District and Fountain Lake Elementary School in the Fountain Lake School District. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
Sheila Whitlow, Associate Deputy Commissioner
Office of Coordinated Support and Service
Sheila Whitlow is currently serving as the Associate Deputy Commissioner. Her career spans more than 37 years, with her educational journey beginning as a classroom teacher at Judsonia Elementary School. In addition to teaching, Whitlow has served as both a building-level and district-level administrator at the White County Central School District and a literacy specialist at the Wilbur D. Mills Education Service Cooperative. Most recently, she was the Assistant State Superintendent for the Office of Coordinated Support and Service (OCSS). Whitlow received a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, a master's degree in building leadership from Harding University in Searcy, a master's in Curriculum and Instruction from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, and a specialist's degree in Educational Leadership from Harding University.
Dr. Eric Saunders, Associate Deputy Commissioner
Office of District Operations
Dr. Eric Saunders currently serves as the Associate Deputy Commissioner for District Operations at the Arkansas Department of Education. Prior to his current role, Saunders served as the Assistant State Superintendent for District Support and previously served as the assistant superintendent for Benton Public Schools. He is the former assistant commissioner for Research and Technology at ADE, assistant commissioner for Fiscal & Administrative Services, and served as the superintendent at the East End School District.
Since starting his education career in 1997, Saunders has been a high school principal, mathematics teacher, and athletic coach in various schools across Arkansas. Additionally, he is the published author of "Stick the Learning," a book about brain-based teaching techniques. Outside of the K–12 setting, he has served as an adjunct professor for graduate education classes at Harding University in Searcy.
Tonya Williams, Assistant Commissioner
Office of Early Childhood
Tonya Williams serves as the assistant commissioner for the newly-created Office of Early Childhood, which transitioned from the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) at the Arkansas Department of Human Services on August 1, 2023. Williams has served as the director of DCCECE since June 2004. Prior to then, she served as Head Start director for the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences campus from 2001 to 2004. She also served as the first Head Start collaboration director for Arkansas and as a coordinator for a local Even Start Family Literacy project and the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters. She received a bachelor's degree from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
Karli Saracini, Assistant Commissioner
Office of Educator Effectiveness and Licensure
Saracini previously worked for DESE as the director of educator licensure from June 2013 until July 2015. She left the division to become the executive director of human resources at the North Little Rock School District, a position she held until August 2018 when she became the assistant superintendent. Before joining DESE, Saracini was the principal at Harrisburg Middle School from July 2003 to June 2013. She has also served as the K-12 curriculum coordinator, an assistant principal, and principal in the Newport School District. She has taught in the Little Rock School District, West Fork School District, and Marked Tree School District, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Saracini has a Bachelor of Science in Education in Early Childhood Education from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, and an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. She has also completed the Arkansas Leadership Academy's Master Principal Program.
Tim Cain, Division Director
Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation
Tim Cain began serving as the director of the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation in September 2019. He oversees facility and transportation programs that assist Arkansas public schools with providing adequate and safe facilities and transportation for students. Before joining the division, Cain had served as the chief transformation officer for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality since January 2017. He served as the chief operating officer for ADEQ from October 2015 to December 2016 and as the assistant air chief from June 2015 to September 2015. Cain has experience as a quality engineer for multiple companies. He served as president of Envirodynamics in Little Rock and has worked as an air permit engineer, a project engineer, an Engineer II for ADEQ, and a process engineer. Cain has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and has multiple certifications. He holds a Professional Engineer certification with the Arkansas Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Project Management Professional. Cain is a member of the Project Management Institute Central Arkansas Chapter. He is a member of Bible Church of Little Rock and is a former justice of the peace for District 1.
Dr. Kiffany Pride, Assistant Commissioner
Office of Learning Services
Dr. Kiffany Pride began serving as assistant commissioner for Learning Services on July 1, 2020. She started working for DESE as a Response to Intervention coordinator for literacy, a position she held from August 2018 until February 2019. She then served as a R.I.S.E. (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) assessor until August 2019, when she assumed the role as the director of curriculum and assessment. Before joining DESE, Pride was the program administrator for the Pulaski County Special School District's Department of Learning Services. Her previous experience also includes serving as a teacher, literacy coach, and athletic coach for the Little Rock School District. Pride has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Hendrix College, a Master of Science in Middle Childhood Education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a Master of Science in Reading and Literacy from Walden University, and an Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate in Education in Educational Leadership from Harding University. Pride is a member of several professional organizations, including the Mid-South Educational Research Association, the Arkansas Reading Association, and the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators.
Adrés Rhodes, Chief Legal Counsel
Office of Legal Services
Andrés Rhodes serves as the Chief Legal Counsel to the Arkansas Department of Education. As Chief Legal Counsel, Mr. Rhodes provides legal counsel to the Arkansas State Board of Education, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Arkansas State Library Board, the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Arkansas School for the Deaf, the Secretary of Education, the Department's leadership team, and Department staff. Mr. Rhodes has devoted his career to public service and has previously served as an Assistant Attorney General to Attorney General Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, as the Deputy Legal Counsel to Governor Asa Hutchinson, and as an Associate Legal Counsel to Secretary of State Mark Martin. Mr. Rhodes holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Theory from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts and a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Mr. Rhodes is licensed to practice law in state and federal courts in Arkansas and New Jersey, as well as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hope Worsham, Assistant Commissioner
Office of Public School Accountability
Hope Worsham began serving as the assistant commissioner for Public School Accountability on July 1, 2023. She began working for DESE as the director of Student Assessment in August 2014, a position she held until July 2019. Worsham then served as the executive director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Little Rock School District until July 2021, when she returned to DESE as the director of the THRIVE Arkansas program. Before rejoining the department, Worsham was a high school math teacher in the United Kingdom and Cabot and Bryant School Districts. During her time in Bryant, she was the grades 9-12 instructional facilitator for mathematics. Worsham has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Master of Arts in Secondary Mathematics Education from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, as well as a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from Harding University in Searcy.
Dr. Darrell Smith, Assistant Commissioner
Office of School Choice and Parent Empowerment
Dr. Darrell Smith began serving as the Assistant Commissioner for School Choice and Parent Empowerment in April 2023. He oversees the Educational Freedom Accounts, Charter Schools, Homeschool, and the Community and Family Engagement program in this role. His 30+ year educational career began in Arkansas, where he served as a teacher, principal, and administrator at Little Rock Christian Academy helping one of the largest private schools in the country achieve National Blue Ribbon status. He has recently led schools in Texas and Oklahoma and three international schools to greater academic achievement and enrollment success. He has also served and led national accreditation teams, helping schools nationally and internationally achieve quality within a continuous improvement model. Smith received his bachelor's degree in Finance/Economics from Baylor University, a master's in Counseling Psychology, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Liberty University.
Matt Sewell, Assistant Commissioner
Office of Special Education and Federal Programs
Matt Sewell was named the Assistant Commissioner of Federal Programs in July 2023. In this role, he oversees all federal programs, including Special Education. Sewell joined the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2018 as the director of Special Programs, which included the Office of Special Education and Office of Alternative Education. Prior to joining the department, Sewell worked for the Vilonia School District for 18 years. While in Vilonia, he served as a special education teacher, middle school principal, director of finance and student services, director of special education, and high school principal. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Harding University in Searcy, and an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.