State Board Members
Charisse Cooksey, State Board chair, is a former homeschool mom and current parent of four children in public school. Cooksey believes it is vital for parents to be an integral part of a child’s education. She strives to emphasize the importance of parental involvement in the education of children and to strengthen the relationship between educators and parents. “Both should work together toward the goal of education which is not just the academic, but is also the development of intelligence and virtue, which according to the Arkansas Constitution, are the safeguards of liberty, the bulwark of a free and good government, and the very reason for the establishment and maintenance of a free school system. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
Cooksey graduated from Oak Grove High School in North Little Rock and attended Agape College, where she received a diploma of biblical studies. She currently serves as the governmental affairs assistant and project coordinator for Family Council in Little Rock. Cooksey previously was employed as a field director for the Family Council Action Committee and worked for Agape College and Agape Church.
She was appointed to the State Board by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in July 2015. Her term expires June 30, 2022.
Cooksey lives in Little Rock with her four children.
Ouida Newton, State Board vice chair, brings 38 years of experience as an educator to the State Board of Education. She was named the 2015 Arkansas Teacher of Year and recently retired to serve on the State Board.
Newton believes that learning is embraced when children receive encouragement and support from parents, teachers and the community. She previously taught multiple levels of math and science in the Poyen School District and has served as a library media specialist, math coach, curriculum supervisor, class sponsor, senior and Arkansas State Beta Club sponsor, and Teachers of Tomorrow supervisor. Newton also taught at the Searcy School District and Pulaski County Special School District and was an adjunct professor at College of the Ouachitas in Malvern.
She served on multiple assessment and standard review committees, including the Arkansas Math Standards Review Committee, and spoke before the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review.
Newton graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Henderson State University at Arkadelphia, with a double major in math and science. She received a Master of Library and Informational Science from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average.
In 2014, Newton was named the Arkansas Rural Education Teacher of the Year and Arkansas Middle Level Math Teacher of the Year.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Newton to the State Board effective July 1, 2016. Her term expires June 30, 2023.
Newton and her husband, Jerry, live in Leola and have two children and eight grandchildren.
Dr. O. Fitzgerald Hill
Dr. O. Fitzgerald Hill has extensive experience in higher education. While serving as the 13th president of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, the college experienced a dramatic increase in enrollment, from 150 students to more than 1,100. In addition, the college’s budget increased from $2 million to nearly $20 million.
After 10 years at the college, Hill recently stepped down as president to become the executive director of the college’s foundation and the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development. He also provides leadership for the Derek Olivier Research Institute for the Prevention of Black on Black Violence, a research think tank that identifies solutions and provides recommendations to address homicides in urban communities.
The former San Jose State Spartans head football coach and Arkansas Razorbacks assistant head football coach also serves as a guest lecturer and research associate at the University of Central Florida’s Institute of Diversity and Ethics.
Hill received degrees in communications and physical education from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and a master’s degree in student personnel services from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., where he served as a graduate assistant football coach. Hill later served on the Razorbacks football coaching staff for 12 years.
A veteran, Hill received the Bronze Star and Commendation Medal for services in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Hill to the State Board effective July 1, 2016. His term expires in 2023.
Hill is married to Dr. Cynthia Hill. They have two daughters, Destiny and Faith, and one son, Justice.
Kathy McFetridge brings 27 years of school board experience serving Arkansas children and families to the State Board of Education. She was first elected to the Springdale School Board in 1991 and has held the positions of secretary/treasurer, vice president and president. During her tenure, McFetridge helped manage the tremendous growth in the Springdale School District with 11 new schools opening to accommodate a rapidly growing student enrollment.
McFetridge was elected to serve on the Arkansas School Boards Association in 1999. She received the Honor Board Member Award in 1995 and the Pinnacle Award in 2001. She also received the prestigious Daniel Pilkinton Award in 2001 from the Arkansas School Boards Association in recognition for her outstanding service to public education. In 1998, the National School Boards Association presented McFetridge with its award for distinguished service. McFetridge has also served her community through various organizations.
She has served on several statewide committees:
- Arkansas Blue Ribbon Commission on Education, 2002
- Child Health Advisory Committee, 2003 – 2010 (chair 2007-2009)
- Technology Task Force on Education, 2004
- Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, 2002 – 2007
The McFetridge family has owned and operated Ozark Film & Video Productions in Springdale since 1983, and attend First United Methodist Church in Springdale. McFetridge has two adult children and four grandchildren.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed McFetridge to the State Board of Education in July 2018. Her term expires June 30, 2025.
Dr. Sarah Moore
Steve Sutton is a lifelong resident of northeast Arkansas and a graduate of the Marion School District. He received a bachelor's degree in marketing and a minor in accounting from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Sutton has served as executive vice president and chief credit officer for Financial Federal Bank in Memphis for the last 24 years. He is active in his church, Marion United Methodist, and has served on local non-profit boards.
A member of the Marion School Board since 1992, Sutton has served as vice president since 1993. He has received several Arkansas School Boards Association awards including Outstanding Board Member and the Pinnacle Award.
Sutton believes that nothing is more important to the future of this nation than the education and success of our children. "Our teachers and public school districts are greatly under appreciated and under valued in this country and that needs to change. Arkansas is gaining in its public education rankings but more needs to be done to help pull up the underprivileged in this state. I was raised in the Arkansas Delta where small town school districts are the lifeblood and main ingredient for the town's prosperity and survival - places where every child, regardless of income, feels a sense of purpose, worth and hope. I would like to see these districts continue to play a vital role in our children's future."
In 2019, Sutton campaigned to secure a property tax increase to fund new facilities and renovation in the Marion School District. He recently supported the creation of a 501(c)(3} foundation to further provide for the needs of the district - long past his tenure on the school board.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Sutton to the State Board of Education effective July 1, 2020. His term expires in 2027.
Sutton's wife, Marcia, is a retired classroom teacher and high school counselor. They have three children and nine grandchildren