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 policy research, education legislation and leadership development. SEF has also launched a workforce development initiative and is expanding its efforts for strengthening parental engagement in support of improving student learning.

Prior to joining SEF, Mr. Pierce was Dean of the School of Law at North Carolina Central University. 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, 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, 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. 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.

Kenita T. Williams

Chief Operating Officer

Kenita Williams joined the Southern Education Foundation in 2017 and serves as the Chief Operating Officer. In her role, Kenita works to strengthen existing programs, leads on key strategic initiatives/new pathways for impact, supports the President & CEO in the development and management of organizational strategy and operations, and represents SEF’s values and efforts to key external stakeholders and the public.  Additionally, Kenita oversees SEF’s leadership development portfolio, creating and managing a cadre of fellowship programs and resources designed to cultivate a constellation of change agents to enact policies and practices that lead to a more equitable education system throughout the South.  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, Senior Program Manager for Public Policy at the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF), 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

Chief Financial Officer

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

Codeye J. Woody

Director of Government Affairs & Advocacy

Codeye J. Woody serves as the Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy for the Southern Education Foundation. With more than seven years’ experience in K-12 education, Codeye plays a key role in supporting the President and CEO 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 for students of color and students from low-income families in the South. Codeye also assists on key strategic initiatives and new pathways for impact, partner engagement, and the development and management of organizational strategy and operations.

Codeye previously served as the Government Affairs Director for the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (GAHBA) where he led all government relations efforts by which he was responsible for coordinating and administering a robust and effective advocacy program on behalf of the more than 1,000 company members of the HBA across nine counties in the Atlanta metro area, and developed and maintained a relationship with local elected officials. Prior to joining the GAHBA, Codeye served as the Director of Legislative and Congressional Relations for Orange County Public Schools, in Orlando Florida, the 8th largest school district in the United States with more than 211,000 students and 25,000 employees. As Director of Legislative and Congressional Relations, Codeye educated government officials and agencies on public policy concerns and the legislative needs of the school district such as access to technology, transportation, public school funding, and program funding with an intense focus on student achievement and community engagement.

Codeye earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science/American Policy from the University of Central Florida.

Max Altman

Director of Research & Policy

As Director of Research and Policy for the Southern Education Foundation, Max manages the development of SEF’s research-informed policy positions and advocacy initiatives that strengthen educational opportunities for African American and low-income students in the southern states.

He previously served as a managing researcher and Task 5 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 independent nations of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, the US territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the state of Hawaiʻi, with an emphasis on 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.

Gretchen Wright

Director of Communications

Gretchen Wright is the Director of Communications for the Southern Education Foundation. In this role, she develops and implements communications strategies to support SEFs research, policy, and leadership development work.

With more than 30 years of experience conducting media relations outreach and other communications work for nonprofit organizations, Gretchen was most recently Director of Communications for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Prior to that she was the Director of Strategic Communications for the Learning Policy Institute.

For nearly 20 years, Gretchen was Vice President and a principal at PR Solutions, Inc, a women-owned public relations form in Washington, DC, that works with nonprofit organizations focused on social justice. There, she developed and executed communications strategies to promote a range of progressive policies related to health, education, workplace, civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights.

Gretchen earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Michigan and was a Women in Leadership Coro Fellow.

Danielle Harris

Manager of Development and Donor Relations

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.

Outside of her professional work experience, Danielle volunteers with the United Way of Greater Atlanta as a member of their Youth Advisory Council with the Opportunity Youth initiative.

Meagan Crowe

Senior Research & Policy Analyst

Meagan Crowe is Senior Research and Policy Analyst for the Southern Education Foundation where she plays a lead role in using research and data to highlight trends and current inequities in education, elevate promising solutions, and create compelling narratives to advise policymakers, practitioners, and 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. Meagan’s research 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 holds a Master of Public Administration from Georgia State University with a certification in Nonprofit Leadership and Management as well as her Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

Keon J. Brown

Government Affairs & Advocacy Analyst

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. Thrive Global Magazine recognized the program for its work. 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

Leadership Development Program Associate

Asley Gulaid is the Leadership Development Program Associate at the Southern Education Foundation, where she supports the Chief of Staff and Director of Leadership Development in program design and implementation. She is committed to uplifting Black and Brown students and students from low-income families by expanding access to quality educational opportunities. Before joining SEF, Asley served as a Policy and Advocacy Fellow at Education Forward DC. While there, she created a report and implementation plan to strengthen equity and amplify teacher-voice in support of DC students. Asley is a Teach for America alumna and previously taught third grade in Memphis, Tennessee. Asley received her B.S in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Florida.

Chandra Halstead

Office Manager

Chandra Halstead is an Office Manager for the Southern Education Foundation. Ms. Halstead currently provides executive & logistical support for the Office of the President & Corporate Development. Prior to joining SEF, Chandra was the Overseas Grants Assistant for the Ford Foundation’s Office of Management Services, providing administrative, logistical, and consultant support for overseas offices located in Hanoi, Johannesburg, and New Delhi. Chandra received an Associate’s Degree in Executive Secretarial Science from the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.