Dr. Ivy Pfeffer
As deputy commissioner, Dr. Pfeffer works with Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) team members, legislators, community members, school district personnel, and educators on finance, legislation, and other education issues. Pfeffer joined DESE (formerly the Arkansas Department of Education) in 2013 as the director of educator evaluation, where she coordinated the administration of the new teacher and principal evaluation systems. She was hired as assistant commissioner for Educator Effectiveness and Licensure on July 1, 2014. Prior to coming to DESE, Pfeffer worked at the Pocahontas School District for 18 years. She taught Spanish and English at Pocahontas Junior High School before being named the secondary assistant principal at the high school. She served as principal and as an adjunct Spanish instructor for Black River Technical College. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education in Spanish and English from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, a Master of Science in Education in Integrated Technology in the Curriculum from Walden University in Minneapolis, MN., completed the ASU program of study for administrative certification and earned an Educator Specialist in Educational Leadership. She received a Doctorate of Education in School Leadership from Arkansas Tech University at Russellville. Pfeffer is from Pocahontas.
Deputy of Commissioner
Stacy Smith, director of the Office of Coordinated Support and Service (OCSS), began serving as an additional deputy commissioner for DESE in December 2020. As deputy commissioner, Smith oversees the Learning Services and Public School Accountability divisions. Smith served as a former assistant commissioner of Learning Services from March 2016 to July 2020, when she assumed the position as 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 in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
Chief of Staff
Gina Windle brings more than 20 years of education experience to the Arkansas Department of Education. She began her career as a language arts teacher at Prescott High School in 1995. She later taught in the East End School District and Perryville School District. She served as a high school counselor in the East End School District, beginning in 2006. The Delight, Arkansas native has a Bachelor of Science in Education, English and Communication from Henderson State University at Arkadelphia and a Master of Education in School Counseling and Leadership from Arkansas Tech University at Russellville.
Assistant Commissioner, Fiscal and Administrative Services
As a DESE assistant commissioner, Rogers oversees the distribution of funds to public schools, finance and student management software, and fiscal distress services. Rogers began working at DESE (formerly known as ADE) in 2012. He also serves as chief financial officer for the reorganized ADE where he oversees the agency’s financial operations, including biennial and fiscal year budget requests, and represents the agency at legislative committee meetings. With more than 18 years of state government experience, Rogers previously worked for the Department of Finance and Administration and Department of Human Services. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia and a Master of Business Administration in International Business from Salem International University in Salem, W.V.
Dr. Kiffany Pride
Assistant Commissioner, 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.
Assistant Commissioner, 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.
Assistant Commissioner, Public School Accountability
Coffman assumed her role as assistant commissioner for Public School Accountability on July 1, 2017. As assistant commissioner, Coffman oversees the DESE (formerly ADE) division that includes Federal Programs, School Performance, and Systems Support. Coffman previously served as chief of staff, where she coordinated the agency’s strategic performance management process, served as the agency liaison to the State Board of Education and provided guidance to the Communications Unit. Before she accepted that position, Coffman worked as DESE’s director of Professional Development, collaborating with many stakeholders to provide quality professional learning opportunities to Arkansas educators. Coffman has also served as a literacy program manager for DESE, an instructional facilitator for Pocahontas Public Schools, a literacy specialist at the Northeast Education Service Cooperative and an elementary teacher at Hoxie Public Schools. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Science in Education from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro. In addition, she served as an adjunct professor, GED instructor, and private school educator. Coffman is a native of Black Rock, Arkansas.
Assistant Commissioner, Research and Technology
As assistant commissioner, Donald Benton oversees technology initiatives and resources such as DESE’s Ambassador Academy, Arkansas Digital Sandbox and Student GPS dashboards. He also oversees the Arkansas Public School Computer Network, which includes eSchoolPlus. Before joining the DESE team in September 2018, Benton served as an assistant professor in educational leadership at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, a position he held since 2009. He also has been the director of the Hot Springs Technology Institute since 1998 and founded Schools Without Walls, which provides professional development for technology leaders and educators, in 2010. He previously served as the director of technology and information, information technology security officer/disaster recovery, technology plan developer and E-Rate coordinator at the Hot Springs School District. Benton has a Bachelor of Science in Education (Vocational Business Education), a Master of Science in Education (P-12 Building Level Leadership) and an Education Specialist in District Level Leadership from Henderson State University. He is pursuing a Doctor of Education in Educational Technology from Boise State University in Idaho.
Director of Information Systems and Chief Information Officer
Arijit Sarkar serves as the chief information officer (CIO) and director of information systems for the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). As CIO, Sarkar provides leadership and vision for the agency’s Office of Information Technology. Sarkar reports to the deputy commissioner, supervises five direct reports, and leads an information technology (IT) team of approximately 25 individuals. The primary responsibility of the office is to ensure new and continued availability of IT systems that are dependable, responsive and fully support the internal and external needs of the agency. Additionally, Sarkar provides executive leadership, direction and strategic vision to the agency in technology and information systems use and operations, strategies and program integrity. Sarkar, who has been serving as the director of information systems since 2012, assumed his additional role as CIO in November 2015. He has worked for DESE (formerly ADE) since 2008 and was an information systems business analyst from 2008 to 2010 and an information systems coordinator from 2010 to 2012. Before joining the department, Sarkar was a graduate research assistant at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock from 2006 to 2008.
Director of Career and Technical Education
Ross White, director of Career and Technical Education (CTE), brings a wealth of CTE experience and knowledge to the division. Before serving as vice principal at Siloam Springs High School, a position he has held since July 2019, White was the director of the school’s CTE program. From August 2008 to July 2018, he was a member of the career development and marketing faculty for the Alma School District. White earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Education in May 2008 and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in May 2012 from Arkansas Tech University at Russellville. He received an Education Specialist in Educational Leadership degree in August 2020 from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. White also is a member of several professional organizations, including the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, Arkansas Association of Career and Technical Education Administrators, and Arkansas Association for Career and Technical Education. He currently serves as a member of the Arkansas Tech University Alumni Board.
Director 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.
Director of Special Projects
Walley joined the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in September 2019 as the director of special projects. Prior to coming to DESE, she worked at Prescott School District for four years. She served as a high school principal and then as school improvement specialist at the district level. Walley moved to Arkansas from Texas where she served as elementary principal at Chapel Hill ISD in Mt. Pleasant, Texas for nine years and as state and federal programs director. She also spent three years in the classroom and as gifted and talented coordinator for Harts Bluff ISD in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, 10 years as a classroom teacher in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the Tuscaloosa City Schools and a year in Louisiana teaching middle school for Claiborne Parish School Board. She has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana, and a Master of Science in Education in Teaching of the Gifted and Talented from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In addition, she completed her study for administrative certifications in Principalship and Superintendency and Educational System Administration at Texas A&M, Commerce. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Walley is from Louisiana.
Lori Freno became the DESE’s general counsel July 1, 2016. As general counsel, Freno oversees the Office of Legal Services, which ensures agency compliance with federal and state laws; advises the commissioner and State Board of Education regarding policies and legislation; oversees the agency’s rule-making process; and manages litigation. Prior to becoming general counsel, Freno served as the department’s deputy general counsel for three years and worked for the Attorney General’s Office for 15 years as both an assistant and senior assistant attorney general. Her other work experience included serving as a general attorney for the Panama Canal Commission in the Republic of Panama for two years and in private practice for four years in Cincinnati, Ohio. Freno graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Akron, Ohio, and received a Juris Doctor from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Legislative Services Director
Erin Franks joined the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in April 2019 as the coordinator of governmental affairs and serves as the liaison for the division between legislators, legislative staff, and the governors’ office. While new to DESE, Franks is not new to state government. She previously worked as the policy advisor for the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) where she spent the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions. Prior to working for OMIG, Franks worked for Medicaid in the Schools as the health in education policy analyst. She has a Bachelor of General Studies degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Director of Communications
Mundell joined the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (formerly known as ADE) as the director of communications in August 2013. In her position, she coordinates agency internal and external communication efforts. She previously served as the communications director for the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, a position she held for 12 years. She also worked as a reporter for The Pine Bluff Commercial and as a page designer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Mundell received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She grew up in DeWitt, located in southeast Arkansas.
State Director of Computer Science Education
Owen serves as the leader of the computer science initiative in Arkansas. He coordinates with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Computer Science Task Force to identify the state’s computer science and technology needs. Owen began working at DESE in 2011 as the K-12 math and computer science curriculum specialist. He has worked as a math and science teacher at Sheridan High School and has taught math at Gurdon High School, Goza Middle School at Arkadelphia and England High School. Owen received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Education and Computer Science and a Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership from Henderson State University at Arkadelphia. He has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law.