Our Staff

Raymond C. Pierce

President and CEO

Raymond C. Pierce serves as the President and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, where he leads the organization’s historic mission of advancing educational opportunities for African American and low-income students in the southern states. Since joining SEF in January 2018, Pierce has focused the organization on research, policy, advocacy, and leadership development. Under his leadership, SEF has successfully launched initiatives in early childhood education, education innovation, and an intensified re-examination of school desegregation. Pierce has also led SEF’s engagement with the U.S. Department of Education in managing the Equity Assistance Center-South.

Prior to joining SEF, Pierce served as Dean of the School of Law at North Carolina Central University. Earlier, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as a political appointee in the administration of President Bill Clinton. During that time, Pierce also served on the White House Domestic Policy Council working group in the development of the Empowerment Zones and related economic and workforce development policies.

Pierce has been a partner in the business practices at the law firms of Baker Hostetler and Nelson Mullins, where he represented clients in the steel, energy, and defense contracting industries. He also has represented clients in higher education. He began his career as a civil rights attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the John W. Walker Law Firm.

Pierce currently serves on the Board of Visitors of the School of Education at Howard University and the Board of Advisors of the National Student Support Accelerator, and he is a permanent member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference. He is also Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Political Theology at the Duke University Divinity School.

Pierce earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Syracuse University, where he also received an officer’s commission in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a master’s degree from the Duke University Divinity School.

Kenita T. Williams

Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Kenita T. Williams joined the Southern Education Foundation in 2017 and serves as the chief operating officer. Kenita is responsible for the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the organization, as well as the implementation of SEF’s programmatic priorities. Additionally, Kenita represents SEF’s values and efforts to key external partners and serves as a thought partner to the president and CEO—helping to create the organizational systems, processes, and culture that ensure that SEF is as catalytic and impactful as possible.

Kenita brings a wide range of knowledge and critical experience to SEF, having held positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the partnerships manager for Atlanta Public Schools and as senior program manager for Public Policy at the Southeastern Council of Foundations. She spent several years as a consultant for JFM Consulting Group and worked on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Correspondent for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Kenita is also a Teach for America alumna and spent three years teaching third grade in Atlanta.

Kenita earned her bachelor’s in political science and history from Yale University, her Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, a teaching certificate from Georgia State University, and her doctorate of education degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Leighton O’Sullivan

Chief Financial Officer

Leighton O’Sullivan, CPA, joined the Southern Education Foundation as chief financial officer in April 2020. He has more than 25 years of experience in accounting operations in non-profit organizations and for-profit companies. His leadership style promotes a culture of accountability and a commitment to high-quality work, customer service and increased internal controls.

Leighton previously served as the chief financial officer at IFS Group, a securities firm. Prior to that, he held positions at Clark Atlanta University as the associate vice president and controller, the controller, and the director of profit clients. His experience includes oversight and responsibility for the direct management of accounting operations, financial reporting, financial audits including A-133, entity compliance, treasury, acquisitions, project management, risk management, business valuations, Sarbanes Oxley, and system implementations.

Leighton received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree, cum laude, in Accounting from Baruch College in New York. He moved to Atlanta more than 20 years ago and maintains an active Georgia-issued CPA license.

Fred A. Jones, Jr.

Senior Director of Public Policy & Advocacy

Fred A. Jones Jr. serves as the senior director of public policy and advocacy for the Southern Education Foundation. His core responsibilities include creating and advancing equitable public policy solutions aligned to the mission and values of SEF at the federal, state, and local levels.

Fred began his career working for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Education and Labor Committee, playing a supporting role in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and the National and Community Service Act, and in passing the Affordable Care Act. He served as the director of government affairs for the United Negro College Fund, advocating for more equitable student aid and appropriations policies. Most recently, Fred served as the director of policy for the Aurora Institute, providing technical assistance and policy-implementation strategies for federal and state policymakers interested in adopting student-centered learning policies. He has a range of policy and advocacy experience, from early childhood development through postsecondary education.

Fred completed the Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative at Furman University. He is a Pahara-NextGen Fellow, an Institute for Responsible Citizenship Scholar, a National Collegiate Scholar, a Coro Fellow, and a 10-time All-American track and field athlete. He also serves on the board of the Linked Learning Alliance.

Fred holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tufts University and an MBA from the University of Maryland.

Max Altman

Director of Research and Policy

As SEF’s director of research and policy, Max Altman, Ph.D., designs and manages SEF’s research agenda and development of research-informed policy positions and advocacy initiatives. His research interests include  the creation of K-12 educational policy that reflects and supports social justice initiatives and is interested in how teacher and student contexts shape their own conceptions of equity and social justice.

Max previously served as a managing researcher and Task 5 (Training, Coaching, and Technical Support) lead for the Pacific Regional Educational Laboratory at McREL International, where he facilitated ongoing technical support projects in Hawaiʻi and throughout geographic Micronesia. A former high school math teacher, Max has also taught courses at the University of Michigan and has served as a professional developer and curriculum writer. His work has emphasized the implementation of culturally responsive policies that support student success in K-12, college, and workforce contexts.

Max earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and secondary education from Vanderbilt University and a doctorate in educational administration and policy from the University of Michigan. He has published several articles and a book chapter on topics related to education equity and justice.

Max has visited more than 30 countries, and he loves to travel with his fiancée. He loves music and plays the upright bass and ukulele.

Eshé P. Collins

Director, Equity Assistance Center-South

Eshé P. Collins is director of the Equity Assistance Center-South (EAC-South) at the Southern Education Foundation. She oversees the center’s operations and leads its work with public school systems to address long-term disparities in pre-K through 12 education across 11 southern states and the District of Columbia. Eshé also is responsible for identifying and establishing partnerships with like-minded organizations to advance equitable practices in education in the region.

She brings a wide range of experience to the EAC-South, holding such roles as the senior director of programs for the education nonprofit Jumpstart, senior program director for the Georgia State University College of Education, and an educator with Atlanta Public Schools. She currently serves as a member of the Atlanta Board of Education. Early in her career she served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable James A. Winn, Jr., on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and a policy analyst for the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C.

Eshé has earned high recognition for her work, including the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA Woman of Innovation in Education award; Carl V. Patton President’s Award for Community Service and Social Justice; and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Torch of Peace Award. She also was named to Georgia Trend magazine’s and Georgia State University’s 40 Under 40. A civil rights lawyer, Eshé earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College, master’s degree in educational leadership from Georgia State University, and her Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central University School of Law, where she graduated cum laude.

Amber C. Davis

Director of Leadership Development

Dr. Amber C. Davis serves as the director of leadership development at the Southern Education Foundation. She oversees SEF’s fellowships that provide leadership training for emerging and established leaders in education across SEF’s 17-state footprint. She also is managing the expansion of SEF’s leadership development programs and alumni relations, applying her expertise in leadership best practices, pedagogy, racial equity, and data analysis to design and facilitate workshops and professional learning for leaders in education.

Amber has served in pivotal roles in public school districts, postsecondary institutions, and the nonprofit sector. As a K-12 school district administrator, she oversaw secondary mathematics and science initiatives for the Birmingham Public Schools in Michigan. She has also served as a lecturer in teacher education at the University of Michigan and Oakland University. She dedicated several years to research, curriculum design, and professional development facilitation as a research and design specialist for TeachingWorks. Her journey in education began as a high school chemistry and forensic science teacher in the Bronx, NY.

Amber is a proud alumna of Spelman College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. She also holds a Master of Arts in Science Education degree from New York University, and a Ph.D. in educational studies from the University of Michigan School of Education.

Sara Haj-Hussein

Director of Business Development and Donor Relations

Sara Haj-Hussein joined SEF in early 2024. She directs SEF’s fundraising campaigns and outreach to current and prospective donors. She curates new partnerships and builds on existing relationships to help advance SEF’s work.

Sara has spent more than a decade of experience in fundraising for nonprofit organizations in Atlanta, including the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation, and the Atlanta Area Council, BSA. Originally from Tennessee, she is a graduate of Agnes Scott College with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

In her spare time, Sara volunteers as an active silver member in the Junior League of Atlanta and enjoys museums, adventures with her dog, and cheering on AFC Richmond, Atlanta United, and the Atlanta Braves.

Brittany Miller

Director, Outcomes Based Contracting

Brittany Miller serves as the director for Southern Education Foundation’s strategic initiative on Outcomes Based Contracting. In this role, she oversees the learning and coaching with school district leaders to develop an RFP and subsequent contract where a minimum of 40% of the payment to the vendor is contingent on agreed-upon student outcomes.

Most recently, Brittany led as senior director of Expanded Academic Learning for Denver Public Schools (DPS) during the pilot for Outcomes Based Contracting. She has also taught in Denver and Arizona. She is deeply committed to promoting equity and considering community and school context in strategy development.

She is an avid SCUBA diver and snowboarder, though typically not at the same time.

Brittany holds a doctorate in curriculum studies and teaching from the University of Denver.

Alan Richard

Director of Communications

Alan Richard is the director of communications for the Southern Education Foundation. A veteran education writer, he contributes to SEF’s mission by fostering public discourse on important education issues and highlighting SEF’s influential research, policy, and leadership programs.

As a journalist, he covered the South and rural America for Education Week. His work also has been published by The Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, The Nation and many others. He was awarded national first prizes by the Education Writers Association for his coverage of school inequality in the South and rural communities.

Alan joined SEF after serving as the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) media relations officer. Earlier in his career, he had served as SREB’s director of communications.

He also has worked with many education organizations as an independent consultant and at Hager Sharp, a public relations firm in Washington, DC.

A national board member for Parents for Public Schools and the Rural School and Community Trust, he began his career as a reporter for newspapers in his native South Carolina. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina.

Danielle Smith

Communications Manager

Danielle Smith joined the Southern Education Foundation in February 2024 as a Communications Manager on the Communications team. A seasoned marketing and communications specialist, she enhances SEF’s mission by amplifying the research, leadership, policy and advocacy work through storytelling, writing and strategic planning.

Danielle’s work has been featured by Good Morning America, MSNBC, Fortune, The New York Times and others. Prior to joining the SEF team she worked in communications at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to increase equity, improve small business opportunities and enhance Detroit neighborhoods.

Danielle is a public relations specialist, community organizer and entrepreneur with 20 years of experience. She began her career working with the Detroit City Council and has managed communications for organizations such as SEIU, Planned Parenthood, New Economy Initiative and more. Danielle received her bachelor’s degree in public relations and public affairs from Central Michigan University.

Allison Boyle

Research and Policy Specialist

Allison Boyle is research and policy specialist at the Southern Education Foundation, joining SEF full time after serving as early childhood education research fellow for the organization’s research and policy team.

Prior to working with SEF, she worked as an intern for the executive director of Children First, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that engages with families and the court system to promote safe, stable and nurturing living environments for children in Athens, Georgia, and the surrounding counties. Her work at Children First focused on racial justice in foster care and the court system, as well as providing guidance on various human resource objectives and helping navigate the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic. Allison also has several years of firsthand experience in Early Childhood Education as a former assistant teacher at the University of Georgia’s University Childcare Center.

Allison holds a bachelor’s in international affairs and a Master of Public Administration with a specialization in public policy from the University of Georgia.

Darian Burns

Legislative and Public Policy Analyst

Darian Burns joined the Southern Education Foundation in August 2022 as a legislative and public policy analyst on the government affairs and advocacy team. She supports the senior director of public policy in monitoring and advancing equitable education policies across the South that align with the values and mission of SEF.

She holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, where she served as a Research Assistant at the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative. She co-authored a brief on making higher education more equitable and accessible for students from low-income families. A Public Policy International Affairs (PPIA) program alumna, Darian was also a literacy tutor working with kindergarteners and first-graders for American Reads.

Darian holds a bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific University, where she was a two-time NCAA Division II National Champion gymnast, a 12-time All-American, and named the 2020 NCAA Division II Gymnast of the Year. In graduate school at the University of Michigan, she was also on the 2022 Intermediate Co-ed National-Championship cheerleading team. She is a coach and mentor for Brown Girls Do Gymnastics, which supported the nation’s first HBCU collegiate gymnastics program at Fisk University.

Tabitha Reynolds Hoang, Ph.D.

Research and Policy Analyst

Tabitha Reynolds Hoang, Ph.D. is the research and policy analyst at the Southern Education Foundation. Tabitha supports SEF’s partnerships, publications, dissemination work, and research design and planning. Previously, Tabitha worked in school, non-profit and academic spaces as an elementary and middle school social studies teacher, programs team fellow, and researcher.  Her research interests include creating more equitable educational systems, social and emotional learning, culturally responsive pedagogy, educational policy, and enrichment programs for youth.

Tabitha earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy from the University of Texas in Austin, TX, her master’s degree in education policy from The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR. In her free time, Tabitha enjoys traveling, spending time with family, reading novels and listening to podcasts.

Harry Chiu

Lynn Walker Huntley Social Justice Fellow

Harry Chiu is the inaugural Lynn Walker Huntley Social Justice Fellow at the Southern Education Foundation and the Southern Poverty Law Center. He began his fellowship in September 2022. He is developing strategies to advance education equity through legislative advocacy and litigation on behalf of marginalized students across the South.

Harry is an alumna of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme and previously taught English to elementary and middle school students in Kagawa Prefecture. He coached students in national-level English speech tournaments and participated in numerous cultural exchange events.

As a law student, Harry was extensively involved with Lambda, the LGBTQ+ student society, founding the Public Interest Careers Chair by conducting extensive peer mentorship and planning dozens of networking and community events. He interned at GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, contributing research on the Establishment Clause for an amicus brief in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia on anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination by government contractors. Harry was the student speaker at the 2022 Harvard Lavender Graduation for LGBTQ+ students.

Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Harry holds a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of British Columbia.

Hannah Curry

Program Manager, Outcomes Based Contracting

Hannah Curry is the program manager for the Outcomes Based Contracting strategic initiative, overseeing its strategy, execution and implementation.

Hannah has been involved in program management across a variety of industries for over a decade. Most recently, she worked as program manager for the Academics Division of Denver Public Schools, where she developed a passion for building and maintaining efficient and collaborative systems to help districts thrive.

She received her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute, has completed the 5280 Fellowship with the Denver Institute for Faith & Work, and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in International Studies.

Sherrell Glenn

Program Coordinator, Outcomes Based Contracting

Sherrell Glenn is the program coordinator supporting the Outcomes Based Contracting initiative through district relationship management, data collection, resource development, and funder reporting.

Prior to her current position, Sherrell honed her skills as a school program coordinator for Georgia Commute Options, where she demonstrated her commitment to creating sustainable transportation solutions around schools and promoting environmentally friendly practices.

Sherrell’s dedication to education is her 11 year history with the Dekalb County School District. As an educator, she worked to make a positive impact on the lives of students by helping them to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed academically and beyond.

Sherrell received her bachelor’s degrees in education from the University of Alabama.

Sarah Glover

Program Lead, Outcomes Based Contracting

Sarah Glover is the program lead for Outcomes Based Contracting. In her role, she uses her expertise to coach cohort districts as they develop their contracts.

Sarah has led improvement efforts in K-12 public education for nearly 30 years. Previously as the vice president of client success at Panorama Education, she led a 45-person team to improve student outcomes through social-and-emotional research and analysis for more than 600 clients and nearly nine million students. Prior to her time at Panorama, Sarah served as executive director of strategic partnerships at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was the founding executive director of SDP, a national effort to transform the use of data in education.

As a founding member of the Center for Reform of School Systems, Sarah partnered in the development of the Broad Institute for School Boards and led the development of the Texas Institute for School Boards. She also served as an elected member of the Bozeman Public Schools Board of Trustees in Montana.

Sarah holds a master’s degree in public affairs, an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and a bachelor’s in political science from Tufts University.

Asley Gulaid

Senior Leadership Development Program Associate

Asley Gulaid is the senior leadership development program associate at the Southern Education Foundation, supporting SEF’s comprehensive and proactive leadership-development strategy, including program design and implementation.

Prior to joining SEF, Asley served as a Policy and Advocacy Fellow at Education Forward DC, creating a landscape analysis and implementation report to strengthen equity and amplify teacher-voice in support of Washington, DC, students.

Asley is a Teach for America alumna and previously taught third-grade math in Memphis, Tennessee. In her time as an educator, she planned community events and organized efforts to expand access to quality educational opportunities for the greater Memphis community.

Asley received bachelor’s degrees in psychology and business administration from the University of Florida.

Chandra Halstead

Executive Assistant/Office Manager

Chandra Halstead is the executive assistant/office manager for the president. Chandra currently provides executive and logistical support to the president and other team members at SEF.

Prior to joining SEF, Chandra worked for the Ford Foundation’s Office of Management Services, where she provided support as a grants assistant/liaison for the overseas offices and on legal services, financial services, IT, and other grant-related matters.  Chandra has over 17 years of experience working in the philanthropic sector and over 12 years of experience working with non-profit organizations.

Chandra earned an associate degree in executive secretarial science from the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

Danielle Harris

Program Manager, Equity Assistance Center-South

Danielle Harris is the program manager for the Equity Assistance Center-South at the Southern Education Foundation, overseeing the Center’s day-to-day operations.

Prior to this role, Danielle was the manager of development and donor operations for SEF, managing the donor-relations program and fundraising initiatives for the organization. She previously served as operations and strategy program associate, assisting with key strategic initiatives and new pathways for impact, partner engagement, and the development and management of organizational strategy and operations.

With more than a decade of experience in education with Atlanta Public Schools, Danielle previously served as a site director, revamping an out-of-school enrichment curriculum to  align with the development needs of the students. Her work also led to three out-of-school programs becoming nationally accredited through the Council on Accreditation.

Danielle holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia Southern University.

Daphine Jackson

Accounting Manager

Daphine Jackson serves as accounting manager at Southern Education Foundation, supporting the CFO with day-to-day financial operations for the agency.

Daphine previously served as senior accountant for Douglas County Community Services Board. Prior to that, she worked as accounting manager for Jerusalem House, where she was responsible for financial reporting, accounting oversight, management of government grants and A-133 financial audits. She has more than 25 years of experience in financial accounting operations for non-profit organizations and remains committed to high quality work, financial integrity, and cost containment of agency funds.

Daphine received a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Lauren Mead

Operations Program Associate

Lauren Mead is the operations program associate for the Southern Education Foundation, supporting a range of important functions and assisting the COO with key projects.

Previously, Lauren served as program manager at MedShare International, an organization focused on alleviating global health disparities. She focused heavily on program evaluation, volunteer efficiency, and waste reduction. She also managed volunteer operations, corporate events, and distribution of much-needed medical supplies during COVID-19 across greater Atlanta. With more than a decade of work in the nonprofit finance and fundraising, she has previously hosted galas, written grants and impact reports, and managed donor relationships.

Lauren also stays involved in local politics, having served as campaign finance manager for a successful grassroots city council campaign.

Lauren holds a bachelor’s in English and creative writing from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in public administration from Georgia State University.

Nacarid Silva

Program Manager, Outcomes Based Contracting

Nacarid Silva is the program manager for the Outcomes Based Contracting initiative at the Southern Education Foundation. Alongside her current role, she is actively pursuing a doctoral degree in education, specializing in leadership for educational equity at the University of Colorado Denver, with a focus on urban and diverse communities.

Previously, Nacarid served as the project manager of the strategy office at Denver Public Schools. In this capacity, she collaborated extensively with various departments to ensure the successful implementation of the district’s strategic roadmap. Her primary commitment was accelerating the growth trajectory of marginalized students.

In addition to her current educational pursuits, Nacarid holds a Master of Development Practice from Regis University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in business administration and politics and government from Western Colorado University.

Jasmine Walker

Senior Manager, OBC Engagement

Jasmine Walker serves as the senior manager of OBC engagement. In her role, she is responsible for overseeing and executing the deepening engagement strategy for the Outcomes Based Contracting (OBC) strategic initiative; including managing relationships with districts that have already launched OBC projects and are interested in exploring new areas.

Prior to this role, Jasmine served as the director of K-12 mathematics for Duval County Public Schools, where she played a key role in the district’s mission of providing educational excellence for every student, every day. Additionally, Jasmine led the work of piloting Outcomes Based Contracting for high impact tutoring in Grade 8 mathematics for Duval County Public Schools. Over the past 16 years, she has served in roles as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, content specialist, region, and district-based administrator.

Jasmine holds a bachelor’s degree in exceptional student education from the University of North Florida and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy from Florida State University.