IMPACT Independence County and ForwARd Arkansas hear post-Education Summit Plans All four community school districts share action plans created since Aug. 4 Education Summit

IMPACT Independence County, a strategic community plan formed by the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Lyon College, the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) and the residents of Independence County, Tuesday hosted all four county school districts – Batesville, Cedar Ridge, Midland and Southside – to share what school leaders have been working on since they had the opportunity to work together at IMPACT’s Education Summit Aug. 4. Invitees included community leaders of the IMPACT strategic plan, a new public Education Foundation board, UACCB, Lyon College and the Arkansas Department of Education, while discussion featured preliminary thoughts, ideas and, in some cases, complete district transformations.

IMPACT Independence County’s Education Summit Aug. 4 at the Batesville Community and Aquatic Center featured experts from various sectors and focused on assessing needs through data analyzation and using best practices to improve education in the community.

Independence County is one of five ForwARd Communities chosen as a fundamental strategy for implementing the ForwARd Arkansas Vision for all Arkansas students to graduate prepared for success in college or the workplace. ForwARd assisted IMPACT leaders in preparing for the Independence County Education Summit when they hosted their ForwARd Thinking Conference in Batesville in March.

“They really got the ball rolling when they provided the first forum for our school district leaders, teachers, parents and school board members to begin evaluating themselves in a non-threatening way with input from the community. There was no focus on whether anyone was doing anything the wrong way. Their facilitators were instead focused on helping district leaders identify assets and imagine what was possible,” explained Jamie Rayford, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Operating Officer and primary liaison to ForwARd.

ForwARd provided on the ground support and guidance through Rayford’s work with each district following the Summit. Each district identified a leadership team made up of representatives from its schools that worked day and, in most cases, night to develop improvements and solutions related to the needs assessments completed during the Summit.

Presentations were packed with everything from ideas, to extending learning times effectively for families, to total district transformations through inquiry-based education. As expected, each district presented honorable commitments to closing achievement gaps between high-performing students and those with educational barriers, including broadband connectivity issues, emotional well-being, and hunger. Another common theme was a desire to aggressively provide support to English Language Learners and their families. Also encouraging, was seeing district leaders present ways to increase efficiencies in order to expand much-needed early learning spots for children from birth through pre-K.

“While our commitment to educational excellence as part of the IMPACT Independence County strategic plan is driven by our need for a well-educated and skilled workforce, our community recognized very early in the planning process that the learning process begins at birth and extends far beyond the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. classroom time,” said Rayford. “We have said from the very beginning that we stand ready to support each district in their endeavors so long as they are diligently working to align their day to day practices with outcomes that close the student achievement gap and prepare students for careers or college. We are fortunate to have strengthened our partnership with ForwARd through this process and will be an extension of their staff and vision as we prepare to support implementation of these bold action plans within each district.”

For more information on the Education Summit, visit, and for more information on ForwARd Arkansas, visit or email

About IMPACT Independence County
IMPACT Independence County is a strategic community plan for Independence County, Arkansas, developed by the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Lyon College, the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville and several county residents. The plan is intended to improve the quality of life, quality of place and economic opportunities for all residents and is made up of four areas of focus: economic prosperity, tourism, educational excellence and healthy living and wellbeing. For more information, please visit

About ForwARd Arkansas
ForwARd Arkansas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a partnership of education, business, government and community leaders committed to improving public education in Arkansas. This partnership has conducted extensive research and continues to encourage statewide discussion and bold action to strengthen public education. ForwARd was established through a partnership between the Arkansas Board of Education, the Walton Family Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. For more information, please visit