News Release

Kenita Williams Named Chief Operating Officer at Southern Education Foundation

MEDIA CONTACT: Gretchen Wright, 202-421-5830,

September 9, 2021 (Atlanta, Georgia) — The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) today announced that Kenita Williams, who has served as the organization’s Director of Leadership Program and Chief of Staff, will now take on the role of Chief Operating Officer. In her new role, Williams is responsible strengthening existing programs, leading key strategic initiatives, and supporting SEF’s President and CEO in the development and management of organizational strategy and operations.

“In this crucial new role, Kenita will help guide the Southern Education Foundation at a key moment in our nation’s history,” said Raymond Pierce, President and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation. “As we work to advance education equity in the South and across the nation, her strategic thinking, political experience, and deep knowledge of education policy and practice have proven invaluable. She will now play an even larger part in helping SEF achieve its goal of ensuring that every student in the South has access to the high-quality education that will help them succeed in life.”

Prior to joining SEF in 2017, Williams held numerous positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Those include Partnerships Manager for Atlanta Public Schools, Senior Program Manager for Public Policy at the Southeastern Council of Foundations, consultant for JFM Consulting Group, and legislative correspondent for then-Senator Barack Obama. Williams is also Teach for America alumna and taught third grade in Atlanta for three years.

Williams earned her B.A. in Political Science and History from Yale University, her Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, her Doctorate in Education from Johns Hopkins University, and a teaching certificate from Georgia State University.

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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at