The director of the state Division of Higher Education in Arkansas was unexpectedly let go on Tuesday, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Maria Markham led the state agency for six and a half years. She told the Democrat-Gazette that she received the news of her firing in a phone call with the governor’s office, and no reason was given for why she was out of the job.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, took over as governor in January and has championed major K-12 education changes that include boosting entry-level teacher pay and a prohibition on ideological “indoctrination.” As governor-elect, she announced her pick of Jacob Oliva, a Florida education official, to serve as the state’s education secretary and to help with “bold reforms.”
Markham, formerly a vice chancellor for academic affairs at an Arkansas community college, told the Democrat-Gazette she understood that a new governor might want to make her own appointments, but she said, “The timing was a surprise, [especially] in the middle of the legislative session.” The state’s previous governor, Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, appointed Markham as director of the agency.
“The Governor appreciates Dr. Markham’s service as Director of the Division of Higher Education and wishes her well in her future endeavors. We have no personnel announcements at this time,” a spokeswoman for the governor said in a statement.