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, Mr. Pierce has focused the organization on policy research, education legislation, and leadership development.
Prior to joining SEF, Mr. Pierce was Dean of the School of Law at North Carolina Central University. Mr. Pierce earlier served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of 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, Mr. Pierce also served on the White House Domestic Policy Council working group in the development of the Empowerment Zone and related economic and workforce development policies. Mr. Pierce has also 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, transportation, and financial services industries. He also represented clients in higher education matters. Earlier in his career, Mr. Pierce was employed in Cleveland, Ohio, as an attorney in the law department of the LTV Corporation, a Fortune 50 Energy, Steel, and Aerospace Defense company, where he focused on commercial transactions. Mr. Pierce began his career as a civil rights attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the John W. Walker Law Firm.
Mr. Pierce is a Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Political Theology at the Duke University Divinity School. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Math and Science Initiative. He has served on the Council of Legal Education of the American Bar Association and is a past Vice President of the North Carolina Bar Association. Mr. Pierce has served as an appointed member of the North Carolina State Banking Commission and the board of directors of M&F Bank and M&F Bancorp, where he served on the audit and corporate governance committees. He is a permanent member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference.
Mr. Pierce earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Syracuse University, a Juris Doctor degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and a Masters of Arts from the Divinity School at Duke University.
Dr. Kenita Williams joined the Southern Education Foundation in 2017 and serves as the Chief Operating Officer. In her role, Kenita is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the organization, as well as the implementation of the programmatic priorities. Additionally, Kenita represents SEF’s values and efforts to key external stakeholders, and serves as a thought partner to the president/CEO—helping to create the organizational systems, processes, and culture that set the team forth on clear pathways to 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. Over the course of her career, Kenita served as the Partnerships Manager for Atlanta Public Schools and as Senior Program Manager for Public Policy at the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF). She spent several years as a consultant for JFM Consulting Group, and worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative correspondent for then-Senator Barack Obama. Kenita is also a Teach for America (TFA) alumna and spent three years teaching third grade in Atlanta.
Kenita earned her B.A. in Political Science and History from Yale University, her Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan–Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, a teaching certificate from Georgia State University, and her Doctor of Education from Johns Hopkins University.
Leighton O’Sullivan, CPA joined the Southern Education Foundation as Chief Financial Officer in April of 2020. He brings more than 25 years of experience in accounting operations in non-profit and for-profit companies. His leadership style is one that promotes a culture of accountability, commitment to high quality work, customer service and increased internal controls.
Leighton’s last position was 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 career 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 B.B.A. degree, cum laude, in Accounting from Baruch College in New York, moved to Atlanta over 20 years ago and maintains an active Georgia-issued CPA license
Fred Jones currently serves as the Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Southern Education Foundation (SEF). 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 at the U.S. House of Representatives working for the Education and Labor Committee, where he played a supporting role to help reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the National and Community Service Act, and the Affordable Care Act. He also 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 worked 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. Fred has a range of policy and advocacy experiences 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 10x All-American Track and Field athlete. He also sits 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.
As Director of Research and Policy for the Southern Education Foundation, Max designs and implements SEF’s research agenda and manages the development of its research-informed policy positions and advocacy initiatives.
He previously served as a Managing Researcher and Task 5 (Training, Coaching, and Technical Support) Lead for the Pacific Regional Educational Laboratory at McREL International in Honolulu. In this role, he designed and facilitated ongoing technical support projects to meet the needs of educational leaders and key stakeholders in Pacific jurisdictions including the state of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the independent nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. His work emphasized the implementation of culturally responsive policies that support local student success through alignment between college, K-12, and workforce systems.
Max has also worked as a professional developer and curriculum writer. His research interests lie in the creation of K-12 educational policy that reflects and supports social justice initiatives, and in how the contexts in which teachers and students operate shape their own conceptions of equity and social justice. A former high school math teacher, Max also taught teacher education and mathematics courses at the University of Michigan.
Max earned BS degrees in Mathematics and Secondary Education from Vanderbilt University and a PhD in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Michigan.
Dr. Jeremy Brown is the Director of Leadership Development for the Southern Education Foundation. In this role, Jeremy is responsible for all leadership development offerings, designing interactive curriculum, and assisting on strategic initiatives and partnerships. In addition, Jeremy will build and establish relationships with education experts, faculty, and leaders to develop and enhance SEF’s leadership development programming efforts.
Jeremy comes to SEF with a range of staff, faculty, and leadership experience. In his previous role, he served as a Georgia Tech faculty member in several Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) courses focused on equity and diversity. Additionally, he was a Program Manager for several living-learning communities under Georgia Tech Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (IDEI). In this role, he led various programs and fellowships under IDEI. He previously worked as a Residence Hall Director at Georgia Tech, was an Admissions Counselor at North Carolina A&T State University, and was an Academic Success Advisor at Wake Forest University. Most recently, Jeremy was elected to the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Governing Board.
Jeremy completed his BFA at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Design and received his MEd in Higher Education from UNC-Wilmington. He has a doctorate from the University of Georgia in Student Affairs Leadership. Some of Jeremy’s research include studying retention, achievement, and persistence factors of students of color, fostering inclusive environments and spaces, in addition to creating programs that encourage leadership development among public education.
Sarah Glover is the Project Director for Southern Education Foundation’s strategic initiative on outcomes based contracting. She has led improvement efforts in K-12 public education for nearly 30 years.
Previously, Sarah served as Vice President of Client Success at Panorama Education, where she led a 45-person team to deliver services to more than 600 clients and nearly 9 million students. Panorama helps schools improve student outcomes by collecting and analyzing student social emotional learning data and other feedback from students, teachers, and families. Prior to Panorama, she spent five years at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she served as the school’s Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships and was the founding executive director of SDP, a national effort to transform the use of data in education. Under Sarah’s leadership, SDP grew from six to 37 partnerships and from serving 20 to more than 110 Strategic Data Fellows.
Sarah is a founding member of the Center for Reform of School Systems, where she partnered in the development of the Broad Institute for School Boards and led the development of the Texas Institute of School Boards. Sarah also served as an elected board member of the Bozeman Public Schools Board of Trustees.
Sarah holds a Master’s in Public Affairs and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University.
As Senior Accounting Manager for the Southern Education Foundation, Gail Holloway assists the Chief Financial Officer with day-to-day finance work for SEF.
She brings over 20 years of non-profit experience to the position, as well as experience in the private school sector.
Prior to joining, SEF, Gail worked with YMCA of Metro Atlanta, providing support for tracking of grants with restricted funds and ensuring they were appropriately released to cover operations.
Gail earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Hampton University.
Danielle Harris is the Manager of Development and Donor Relations at the Southern Education Foundation, where she oversees the organization’s donor relations program and manages its fundraising initiatives. Prior to assuming this role, Danielle was the 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.
Danielle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgia Southern University and possesses more than a decade of experience in education through her previous work with Atlanta Public Schools. While there, she served as a Site Director where she revamped an out-of-school enrichment curriculum that aligned with the development needs of the students enrolled in the program. Additionally, her work led to three out-of-school time programs becoming nationally accredited through the Council on Accreditation.
Laila Muhammad is the Program Manager for Outcomes Based Contracting at Southern Education Foundation.
Prior to joining SEF, Laila served as a Program Manager for a tutoring company where she managed the lifecycle of school-based tutoring programs either grant-based or budgeted from discovery through deployment, program management, and post-program reporting.
For 14 years Laila worked a Science and Math educator, cultivating the minds of young leaders. Her work as an educator included instructional coaching, curriculum development, instructional design, research-based classroom management, effective use of technology, differentiation of instruction, and data driven instruction.
Laila holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry with a minor in Microbiology from North Carolina State University.
As Senior Research and Policy Analyst for the Southern Education Foundation, Meagan plays a lead role in using research and data to highlight historic and current inequities in education and the workforce, elevating promising practices and innovative solutions to advise policymakers, practitioners, and community stakeholders. Meagan previously served as a policy analyst for the Southern Regional Education Board and conducted commissioned research for the Center for State and Local Finance. Her work has focused on state education progress, dual enrollment, postsecondary transitions, adult education, and the impacts of automation and the COVID-19 pandemic on workforce participation and economic opportunity. Meagan also brings 15 years of leadership and operational development experience to the organization, which she leverages to help manage research and policy projects, especially those done in partnership with other organizations.
Meagan holds a Master of Public Administration from Georgia State University with a certification in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. She earned her Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and is currently working toward completing her Project Management Professional Certification from the Project Management Institute.
Keon J. Brown serves as the Government Affairs & Advocacy Analyst for the Southern Education Foundation. In this role, he supports the Director of Government Affairs & Advocacy in the advancement of a comprehensive, proactive government affairs strategy that furthers the mission and goals of the Southern Education Foundation to advance creative solutions to ensure equity and excellence in education and social justice for students of color and students from low-income families in the South. Keon also provides analysis of policy and educational research.
Most recently, Keon served as the as the Director of Policy & Community Outreach for the office of Georgia State Senator, Lester G. Jackson. Prior to that, he served as Program Coordinator for the National Lighthouse Foundation, focusing on college and career readiness, social emotional learning and increasing parental involvement. He has also served as a Community Relations Liaison for 2020 Enterprises, working primarily in schools and communities and focusing on educational and social justice initiatives.
In 2018, Keon co-founded “Fathers not Farther,” a program that mobilizes fathers and provides coaching and training for young fathers. Keon has also developed grassroots campaigns to support candidates and policies, and coordinated volunteer teams. His community service includes acting as an ambassador and mentor for the South Fulton Arrow Youth Council and the “I’m Possible Institute.”
Keon graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English and History from Savannah State University.
Asley Gulaid is the Leadership Development Program Associate at the Southern Education Foundation, where she supports the Director of Leadership Development with SEF’s comprehensive and proactive leadership development strategy, including program design and implementation.
Prior to SEF, Asley served as a Policy and Advocacy Fellow at Education Forward DC. While there, she created a landscape analysis and implementation report to strengthen equity and amplify teacher-voice in support of DC students.
Asley is a Teach for America alumna and previously taught third grade math in Memphis, Tennessee. During her time as an educator, Asley planned community events, and organized efforts to expand access to quality educational opportunities for the greater Memphis community.
Asley received her B.S in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Florida.
Lauren Mead is the Operations Program Associate for the Southern Education Foundation.
Prior to joining SEF, 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 the Atlanta area. With over a decade working in the nonprofit sector, Lauren has also worked in finance and fundraising. She previously hosted galas, wrote grants and impact reports, and managed donor relationships.
Outside of her nonprofit experience, Lauren stays involved in local politics, having served as campaign finance manager for a successful grassroots city council campaign.
Lauren holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Georgia and a Master in Public Administration from Georgia State University.
Chandra Halstead is the Executive Assistant/Office Manager for the Office of the President of the Southern Education Foundation. Chandra currently provides executive and logistical support for the Office of the President & Corporate Development. 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 the Office of 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’s Degree in Executive Secretarial Science from the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.