Jacob Oliva Secretary of the Department of Education

On January 10, 2023, Jacob Oliva began serving as the Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), now known as the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has appointed Jacob Oliva, a key education leader for Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, as the Secretary of the Department of Education, and that she intends to work in partnership with the State Board of Education to appoint him to serve in a dual role as the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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Ross White 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 board member for the Arkansas Tech University Alumni Board.

Dr. Sonja Wright-McMurray Sr. Associate Director for Career and Technical Education
Career Readiness/Work-Based Learning

Dr. Sonja Wright-McMurray is the Senior Associate Director at the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Career and Technical Education. In 2009, she began working for the Division of Career and Technical Education to implement and lead the Arkansas Career Coach Program. Since that time, Dr. Wright-McMurray has led teams in the Division responsible for accountability, career and technical occupational programs, career technical student organizations, career readiness and work-based learning, and supports for Special Populations. Prior to working for the Division of Career and Technical Education, she has served as a Career Orientation teacher and held leadership roles at the University of Arkansas, Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and the University of Central Arkansas. Dr. Wright-McMurray holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Education in Higher Education Administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from Drake University, and a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership from Maryville University in St. Louis, MO. Currently, she serves as an advisor, facilitator, and coach for Advance CTE’s Postsecondary State CTE Leaders Fellowship Program.

Tim Johnston Associate Director of Career and Technical Education

Tim Johnston, associate director of Career and Technical Education (CTE), is a 1999 graduate of the University of Central Arkansas where he earned a BSE in Business and Marketing Education. He taught high school prior to joining the Department of Education in 2007. Over the past 15+ years he has served as a Program Advisor in the Business and Marketing Technology office and Program Coordinator of the STEM and Curriculum & Career Guidance offices. He represented CTE on Governor Hutchinson’s Computer Science Task Force, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Commission on Computer Science, and the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC) board of directors. In 2019, he transferred to the Division of Public School Accountability (PSA) where he worked as a specialist within the Standards for Accreditation unit prior to becoming the state director of charter schools. In January 2022, he returned to the Division of Career and Technical Education (DCTE) to serve as associate director.