Arkansas Arts Academy Chief Executive Officer CEO



Arkansas Arts Academy

Chief Executive Officer

“This is the soul of what we want to achieve—a safe place in which to create, a place so compelling that our students return home transformed into leaders.”

- Mary Ley, Arkansas Arts Academy Chief Executive Officer


Located in Rogers, Arkansas Arts Academy (the Academy) is one of the larger open-enrollment public charter schools in the state, operating a two-building K-12 campus that is recognized for its student-centered focus, family-like atmosphere, and diverse student population. Prioritizing an arts-centered approach to learning and creative expression, the Academy delivers an enhanced experience through a rigorous academic program. This purposeful integration of the arts is guided by the Academy’s rallying cry to “Aspire! Achieve! Advance!” The Academy is committed to providing a meaningful, rigorous, and engaging educational experience that values creativity in all aspects of the curriculum.

The institution was founded in 2001 as the Benton County School of the Arts, a K-8 charter school. A high school was established a few years later as the Northwest Arkansas Academy of Fine Arts. The two schools merged in 2009, renamed the Arkansas Arts Academy. For the 2019 academic year, the Academy enrolled 1,124 students and is on track to enroll more than 1,200 students in the 2020-21 school year. The four-year graduation rate is 94 percent. The percentage of students in grades 3 through 10 who met or exceeded standards on the 2019 ACT Aspire was higher than the state average. Last year, U.S. News & World Report ranked the high school as the fifth top high school in the state. In the 2018-2019 academic year, the Academy employed 45 core teachers, 32 fine arts and elective teachers, five special education teachers, three interventionists, three counselors, and 15 other academic and school support staff.

Students are challenged to excel academically and to master their chosen art form. Fine arts teachers, guest professional artists, and a robust program of partnerships with museums across Northwest Arkansas further enrich the students’ education and their experience with multiple art forms. The Academy currently partners with many professional arts and social service organizations in the region to deliver a wide range of experiences to its students, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Museum of Native American History, Peel Mansion and Compton Gardens, and Scott Family Amazeum. The Academy’s education is based on the foundation of four pillars: Academic Excellence, Mastering an Art Form, Arts Integration, and Museum Initiative.

Governed by a seven-member school board of directors, the Academy is led by Board President Howard Alsdorf. Chief Executive Officer Mary Ley was appointed in 2014 and is retiring in 2020. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, reported total revenue was $8.2 million, with approximately $7.8 million in program service revenue (state and local funds).


Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic regions in the United States, with more than half a million residents—a figure that continues to grow by approximately 40 new residents each day. Home to a diverse community of artists and creative professionals, the region includes the headquarters for three Fortune 500 corporations. The median age of 33.5 makes it an ideal home for young professionals and families. Its historic downtowns and vibrant entertainment districts are recognized as top destinations for shopping, dining, and the arts. A diverse array of educational opportunities is available through nationally ranked high schools, a community college, and two universities, including the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas.

The public, private, and philanthropic sectors have invested billions of dollars to create a world-class infrastructure for culture, recreation, and amenities, making the region unique and highly desirable. Hosting more than 600,000 visitors each year, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art brings together the best of art, nature, and architecture. The Scott Family Amazeum, an interactive children’s museum, features 50,000 square feet of exhibit and learning spaces. Other cultural venues include the Walton Arts Center and Walmart AMP, which present Broadway shows and concerts for more than 350,000 visitors annually. Additionally, the City of Fayetteville has developed a new cultural arts corridor and a 50,000-square-foot theater complex for TheatreSquared, Northwest Arkansas’ regional theater company. The newest major institution, The Momentary, is a multidisciplinary space for international visual and performing arts, transforming a decommissioned industrial plant into a thriving community center.

Created by actor Geena Davis, the Bentonville Film Festival presents films that feature underrepresented voices and diverse stories. Other prominent festivals present music, local artists, and regional cuisine. The region is also home to Brightwater: Center for the Study of Food, a prominent culinary education facility that has put the region on the national culinary map

Outdoor amenities abound, with multiple state parks, nearly 500 miles of lake shoreline, an impressive regional trail system, and endless hiking, biking, boating, and fishing opportunities. The region includes the Razorback Regional Greenway, which connects seven major cities. It is also home to four state parks, botanical gardens in Fayetteville and Bentonville, and scenic byways.

The four-county region is comprised of 10 cities, including Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers, Eureka Springs, and Berryville. The area is served by 40 flights per day to 15 destinations, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. Northwest Arkansas is gaining national recognition for its robust economy and outstanding quality of life. It consistently appears in the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities Index and has ranked among the top five places to live by U.S. News & World Report for the past three years.


Position Summary

Reporting to the Academy’s school board of directors, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will serve as the Superintendent of the Academy and the administrative head of all divisions and departments. This individual will provide the vision and leadership to develop a world-renowned arts institution with a highly effective educational program that focuses on academic advancement and arts engagement for K-12 students. As an advocate for the mission, they will be a consummate spokesperson and coalition builder, developing and sustaining strong relationships with parents, civic and political leaders, and arts and cultural partners throughout the region.

Roles and Responsibilities

Vision and Strategic Leadership

  • Provide the vision and strategy for the Academy to provide its students with a dynamic education that gives them the knowledge, skills, and thoughtfulness to grow into actively engaged citizens of Northwest Arkansas.
  • Balance an exciting vision for the Academy’s future with a realistic understanding of federal and state public education policy, human and financial resources, and the societal and environmental factors of the region.
  • Build upon the Academy’s culture of innovation to co-generate and realize new ideas, concepts, and strategies, establishing goals to improve the learning outcomes of K-12 students.
  • Keep abreast of the latest educational trends, by examining advanced studies, visiting school systems elsewhere, attending educational conventions and conferences, and utilizing other appropriate means.

Governance and Advocacy

  • Partner with the board and key stakeholders to guide advocacy efforts.
  • Build and strengthen relationships with federal and state public officials, local and national funders, and other key education partners to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Academy’s unique approach to academic excellence and arts engagement
  • Act as an effective partner with the board in its policy-making role, ensuring that its members have timely access to accurate and updated information on finances, policies, indicators, trends, and relevant issues to help them reach decisions that advance the organization’s educational mission as it relates to curriculum, capital investments, talent management, and system priorities.
  • Serve as the board’s ex-officio financial secretary and as an ex-officio member of all board committees.

Community Engagement and Partnerships

  • Establish and maintain a cooperative and collaborative program of school-community relations designed to keep the school community and the general public well informed of the Academy’s activities and achievements.
  • Capitalize on Northwest Arkansas’ cultural assets and resources, including arts organizations and artists, by sustaining and expanding partnerships for arts learning and enrichment activities, including in-classroom programs, field trips and site visits, artist residencies, and internships.

Organizational Excellence and Fiscal Responsibility

  • Lead the Academy’s high-performing staff in the development and operations of academic and enrichment programs, facilities, and other educational resources, guiding senior staff toward achieving specific short- and long-term goals.
  • Refine and maintain an organizational culture that effectively utilizes financial, human, and facility resources
  • Provide expertise in financial best practices and clear internal and external financial reporting.
  • Prepare and present annual budget to the board of directors for review and approval and establish and maintain efficient procedures and effective controls for the expenditure of school funds in accordance to the adopted budget
  • Actively listen to and engage with the academic team, including principals and teachers, collaborating to identify needs and secure resources to support student success.
  • Establish a robust evaluation and assessment system for teacher and student performance, curricula and educational programs, and community partnerships to ensure alignment with the educational objectives and learning outcomes of the students.

Traits and Characteristics

An innovative and strategic leader, the CEO will be an advocate for arts education and recognized as a collaborator by a broad range of constituents and partners. They will have a keen understanding of the complexity of the educational system and the laws and policies related to publicly chartered schools. The CEO will operate with the highest level of integrity and will embrace their role as a trusted member of the community. Politically savvy, this individual will be a people-oriented leader with the ability to motivate and inspire the team, listen to and engage with parents and community partners, and build consensus to advance the organization’s educational mission and the success of its students. The CEO will have a history of personal involvement in and appreciation for the arts as well as experience integrating or infusing the arts in the core curriculum.

Other key competencies include:

  • Leadership and Diplomacy – The aptitude to organize, inspire, and influence people to believe in a vision, creating a sense of common purpose centered on the well-being and learning outcomes of the students, and to tactfully negotiate and foster positive and productive relationships with a broad array of influencers and stakeholders.
  • Personal Accountability – The ability to take responsibility and be accountable for personal actions, to listen to and use feedback, and to analyze data to learn from mistakes.
  • Teamwork – The capacity to be respectful of team members, receptive to individual perspectives, and recognize and appreciate their contributions while organizing and motivating others.
  • Interpersonal Skills and Conflict Management – The acuity to build rapport with and relate to people of different backgrounds and points of view, treating them with respect, courtesy, and consideration, and to resolve conflicts constructively, identifying opportunities to defuse tensions and achieve positive outcomes in conflict situations.
  • Futuristic Thinking and Goal Orientation – The ingenuity to appreciate innovation, envision concepts or ideas that advance the organization’s mission, attain visionary goals, and creatively overcome obstacles or circumstances.


A strong background in the (visual, performing, or literary) arts is highly desired. A master’s degree from an accredited institution in education, arts administration, business, or related field is required. A minimum of 10 years of senior leadership and management experience (including strategic planning, financial/budget management, and operational oversight) in a nonprofit or academic setting is necessary. Qualified candidates must have knowledge (or the ability to gain knowledge) of educational policy and local, state, and federal requirements for charter schools. Experience in advocacy and the ability to communicate effectively in both oral and written formats are essential.

Compensation and Benefits

The Academy offers a competitive compensation and benefits package that includes paid time off; medical, dental, and vision insurance; and retirement benefits.

Applications and Inquiries

To submit a cover letter and resume with a summary of demonstrable accomplishments (electronic submissions only), please click here or visit For questions or general inquiries about this job opportunity, please contact:


Ms. Wyona Lynch-McWhite
Senior Vice President

Arts Consulting Group

292 Newbury Street, Suite 315
Boston, MA 02115-2801
Tel       (888) 234.4236 Ext. 225


Arkansas Arts Academy’s school board of directors is committed to the provision of
equal opportunity employment and a policy of nondiscrimination in the operation of the school
and the recruitment, hiring, and treatment of its employees.


Click here for the downloadable PDF.

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