Opening Plenary to feature Commissioner Key


Opening Plenary to feature Commissioner Key
1/19/2016 11:44:12 AM

Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key will be the featured speaker for the Opening Plenary at EAST Conference 2016.

Key will address more than 2,000 students, facilitators and guests as Conference gets underway on March 15 at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

“We are thrilled to have Commissioner Key share his insights into education with out attendees. He is a long-term, visionary supporter of transformative educational models like EAST,” said Matt Dozier, president and CEO of the EAST Initiative. “The Opening Plenary sets the tone for everything that’s to come as thousands of EAST students, facilitators, administrators and guest gather celebrate the most exciting three days in education anywhere. The commissioner will certainly make that tone a successful one.”

The State Board of Education approved Key as the Arkansas Department of Education commissioner March 25, 2015. Gov. Asa Hutchinson previously recommended Key for the position. 

Prior to being named commissioner, Key served as associate vice president for university relations at the University of Arkansas System, a position he held since August 2014. 

Key began his career in public service in 1997 when he was elected to serve as a justice of the peace on the Baxter County Quorum Court. He was elected to three two-year terms in the House of Representatives, followed by a tenure in the Senate that began in 2008. 

While in the Senate, Key served as chair of multiple committees: the Senate Education Committee; Arkansas Legislative Council Administrative Rules and Regulations Committee; Joint Retirement and Social Security Committee; and Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee. He served as vice chair of the Joint Budget Committee; Arkansas Legislative Council Policy Making Committee; Academic Facilities Oversight Committee; and Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security Programs.

Key graduated from Gurdon High School and received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1991 from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. 

He has received many awards, including the 2013 Legislative Pacesetter of the Year by the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading; the 2012 Distinguished Service Award from the Arkansas State University at Jonesboro; 2012 Invest in Life Award from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Cord Blood Bank of Arkansas; the 2011 Guy Newcomb Award from the Arkansas Pharmacists Association; and the 2010 Person of the Year by Arkansas Phi Beta Lambda.

Key and his wife, Shannon, live in Little Rock and have one son, Ryan, and one daughter, Rachel.


About the EAST Initiative

The EAST Initiative is a nonprofit organization promoting a unique model in modern education. It is a project-based, service-learning oriented program that provides students with high-end technology available in the most progressive fields in the world. At its heart, EAST is a coordinated effort to provide today’s students with an educational atmosphere that allows them to gain insight into their own abilities to acquire and use information, solve problems and gain valuable experience. Since its inception in 1996, the EAST model has expanded to more than 220 schools in five states (Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania). For more information about the EAST Initiative, visit




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