2024 MASSP / MAESA / MSASPA Summer Conference
    Biographies of Speakers and Presenters

    Voncille Anderson
    Mrs. Voncille Anderson is a 29 year educator serving as a middle and high school English teacher, instructional coach,  assistant principal, and now  lead principal at Pelahatchie Attendance Center. As an educational leader, Mrs. Anderson is a consultant for the National Writing Project.  She has been involved in training teachers across Mississippi in best practice instruction in English and literacy instruction in other content areas.  

    Dr. Lundy Brantley
    A 25 year veteran of public education in MS, Lundy recently retired in June 2023. Dr. Brantley now serves as a leadership / data coach for Performance. He served as Superintendent of the A- rated Neshoba County School District for the last six years of his career. Before returning to his home district, he served as the high school principal at both Pearl and Eupora. His knowledge of the accountability model and his efforts to constantly improve not only himself, but also the district for which he serves, have been major strengths over the course of his public education.

    Dr. David Braswell
    Dr.Braswell is a retired Arizona state senator, award-winning educator, education researcher, administrator, governing board member, and devoted husband of 37 years.
    In his role as the CEO and co-founder of UpSlope Solutions LLC, Dr. Braswell has more than 44 years of experience in educational practice and research. He has spent over three decades designing curriculum management software that has helped educators plan and focus on curriculum management and research-supported risk management professional development programs. Educated at Western Carolina University, Braswell received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education in 1979, followed by a Master of Education degree in Administration in 1986. Braswell received an E.d.D. of degree in the Superintendency from Argosy University with specialization in Advanced Educational Leadership. Braswell’s doctoral dissertation validated the research performed as a co-author of the UpSlope training materials and employee code of conduct design and implementation solutions developed by the company
    Dr. Braswell has held positions as a teacher, principal, and chief school district administrator (superintendent) in Georgia, North Carolina, South Dakota, and New Mexico. Born in Robbinsville North Carolina near the Cherokee Qualla Boundary, Braswell spent more than ten years as chief school administrator with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During his tenure, he served as one of six administrative negotiators representing the US Dept. of Interior in contract negotiations with the National Federation of Federal Education Employees.
    Dr. Braswell’s standards reform research and technology driven solutions have been made available worldwide through PLATO Learning (now Edmentum), McREL, Mid-continent Research Education Lab, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). His co- founded research-supported Risk Management in Education programs have been sold nationally through sponsorship agreements with state-to-state Administrator Associations in Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Iowa, Illinois, West Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. To date UpSlope has trained and/or maintains online employee code platforms in approximately 1,250 plus school districts throughout the nation.
    Dr. Braswell is the author, co-author, and/or co-designer of numerous instructional, curriculum and education software systems that currently include UpSlope’s Risk Management in Education professional development series, the Employee Discipline Rubric investigation tool, the Employee Discipline Support Suite database and analytics application, and TeachMaster’s Polaris, Standards Toolkit, Standards Record Keeping & Reporting, Standards Reference Master, Standards Design Master, Standards Vocabulary Master, Standards Assessment Resource Library, and Standards Teaching Activities and Plans.
    Senator Braswell resides in Phoenix, AZ with Rhonda, his wife of 37 years.

    Laurie Brewer
    B.A.-- Elementary Education, Delta State University
    Ms. Brewer is a National Board-Certified Educator with over 29 years of experience as a MS teacher and Instructional Coach.  Ms. Brewer specializes in 1:1 instruction, team collaboration and relations with students, parents, and support staff. She is skilled in differentiated instruction, conducting professional learning communities, and instructional planning skills.
    Areas of Expertise: Elementary Education, Reading and English Language Arts Instruction

    Dr. Jessica A. Broome
    A career educator, Dr. Jessica Broome has served students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels as a teacher, administrator, and district- and state-level leader in both Mississippi and Georgia. Driving her work is a philosophical belief that all children need and deserve a safe, nurturing learning environment that stimulates growth intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Nationally, Dr. Broome has served as a primary state coordinator and advisor for the National Dropout Prevention Network Conference and was in 2017 recognized as Administrator of the Year for the state of Mississippi. She currently serves as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Brookhaven School District.

    Mina Ross Bryan-Lightsey
    B.A.     Elementary Education, University of Mississippi
    M.Ed.  Elementary Education, University of Mississippi
    Ph.D.   Educational Administration and Supervision, University of Mississippi
    In addition to being a former teacher, principal, curriculum coordinator, central office administrator, and superintendent in Mississippi schools, Dr. Bryan-Lightsey is one of the current Co-Owners of The Excellence Group, LLC. She has been serving as a mentor, coach, and professional development provider in the areas of English Language Arts, curriculum, and leadership for over fifteen years in addition to her time spent as a successful leader in MS schools.
    Areas of Expertise: Instructional leadership, curriculum, and administrative mentoring

    Cindy Christian
    Cindy is a former English teacher and ELA curriculum specialist who currently serves as an assistant principal at Northwest Rankin Middle School. She has worked in various roles in education during her 23 year career, including teacher, instructional coach, and Dual Credit instructor.

    Dr. Nicole Cockrell
    Nicole is the principal of Mannsdale Upper Elementary School (MUES). She served as the Assistant Principal and Literacy Specialist before becoming the principal of MUES. Her experience includes being a teacher and interventionist in Greenwood Public Schools and Jackson Public Schools before working in the Madison County Schools.

    Julia Muse Cole, Ed. S
    Julia is a 49-year veteran educator, has been associated with (MS NISL/ NCEE) the past 13 years.  She was a Nationally Certified Facilitator for The National Institute for School Leadership (NISL/ NCEE), has developed curriculum in School/ Family/ Community Partnerships and Comprehensive Counseling programs.  Since Covid, she has worked with MDE in providing Social Emotional Learning programs in MS Schools. Increasing Student Engagement is an area of her expertise as well as engaging families to actively support student growth through more effective communication

    Penny Damianeas
    As a 20-year veteran educator, Penny Damianeas has navigated the educational landscape across rural, urban, and suburban settings. She currently serves as a Director with the College Board supporting K12 instruction and assessment across Mississippi and Georgia. Penny's journey includes serving as a high school math teacher and instructional coach. Additionally, she was a district assessment coordinator where she ensured effective evaluation practices. Beyond her professional life, she is a proud mom and a devoted wife.

    Michael DeLeon
    Michael is a successfully acclimated ex-offender who after nearly 20 years of drug addiction and nearly 8 years of crime and gang involvement, spent 12 years in prison. Michael ran Scared Straight and Project Pride in prison for 10 years powerfully educating youth about the consequences of drugs, gangs and crime. Since Michael’s release from prison, he has earned 5 Degrees and is now in the process of obtaining his Masters Degree in Addictions Counseling.
    Michael is the founder of Steered Straight, Inc., a non-profit organization formed in 2007 designed with the intention of carrying a prevention message to youth and young adults regarding the extreme dangers of adolescent drug and alcohol use and unhealthy life-choices. He is also a national speaker on the prevention of fentanyl, gang-involvement and criminal activity.
    Michael is a subject matter expert and national thought leader on drug trends, addiction, recovery and criminal justice reform. He has spoken to over 15 million students and young adults as a motivational speaker, delivering evidence-based student programs in all 50 states. Michael has become the #1 booked school presenter in America since 2014.
    Michael is an award-winning filmmaker and has directed and produced four documentaries on addiction, focusing on the opiate and heroin epidemic in America, marijuana legalization and Addiction Recovery. His memoir, “Chasing Ruin, Finding Redemption” will be released in 2024. There are numerous other film and book projects underway.
    Michael and his wife, Darla, were awarded the 2020 President’s Volunteer Service Award by President Trump for their ongoing volunteer efforts distributing Drug Education Materials to youth and communities throughout the country.

    Jacob Drury
    Jacob currently serves as the principal at Neshoba Central Middle School in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He is also a devoted husband and father to four wonderful children. With 12 years of educational experience spanning both middle and high school levels, Mr. Drury has garnered recognition as Teacher of the Year, District Administrator of the Year, and MASSP Middle School Principal of the Year. Furthermore, he has contributed his expertise as a member of the State Superintendent of Education’s Principal Advisory Council and helped lead his school to become the 6th highest-ranked middle school in the state of Mississippi. 

    Kelly Earls
    Kelly Earls, Ed.S is the Mississippi State Director for Bailey Education Group. She is a former elementary and middle school teacher and middle school and elementary principal serving in K-2, K-6, K-8, and K-12 settings. Over the past 26 years, she has worked across the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma with teachers and administrators at all levels. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in elementary education and a Specialist degree in Educational Administration. She also currently serves as a project manager, instructional specialist, leadership coach, and data coach, working in school districts across the state of Mississippi.

    Christyl “Cricket” Erickson
    Mrs. Erickson has been an educator in multiple states, for a total of 35 years. Her experience includes 18 years as a classroom educator and 16 years as an administrator. Mrs. Erickson is presently serving Madison County Schools as the Curriculum/MTSS Director. Her journey with the Science of Reading began in 2004, in Ida, Michigan, under the guidance of Dr. Reid Lyon. Having received a Dyslexia Specialist Certification from Brainspring Educator Academy (IDA and IMSLEC Accredited), as well as in-depth training in multiple Orton-Gillingham instructional programs including Barksdale Reading Institute, Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS), LETRS for Administrators, and Systematic Instruction of Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Spelling (SIPPS), Mrs. Erickson works with classroom educators and Madison County Schools Literacy Specialists, to improve instructional best practices utilizing the Science of Reading. Each summer, she provides a three-day Preschool Workshop for the private preschools in Madison County, to support early childhood educators in their implementation of Science of Reading best practices.

    Jason Frazier
    Principal, Salem Attendance Center, Walthall County School District

    Victor Gilstrap,
    Victor Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement and Student Services, joined Lauderdale County Schools in 2021, initially serving as a District Support Specialist. Since his promotion in 2022, Mr.Gilstrap’s responsibilities included principal coaching/evaluation, supporting athletics, adjudicating alternative education, student behavior, and enrollment procedures.
    Victor began his career in Scott County Schools as a paraprofessional, creating and operating a tutorial program at Betty Mae Jack Middle School in 2000. Over the past 23 years, Mr. Gilstrap has served as a bus driver, school-site bus fleet manager, paraprofessional, boys’ & girls’ basketball coach, certified teacher, lead teacher, assistant principal, and principal, where his principalship covered elementary, middle, and high school grades. He has a Bachelor of Science in Sports Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. He holds a Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from William Carey University. And, he is currently completing his Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from William Carey University researching strategies for developing and sustaining leadership capacity to improve student achievement.
    Mr. Gilstrap sees himself as a lifelong teacher/educator. He believes improving leadership capacity is key to sustaining school improvement. One initiative that embodies this concept is the Principal 1-on-1s, a monthly conversation with each school leader in the district. A script, used with each meeting, helps to inform, provoke, and challenge school leaders to concentrate on the daily operations and routine benchmarks leading to highly effective outcomes.He is married to Cassandra Gilstrap. They are proud parents of Calen (20) and Calei (15).

    Kathleen Grigsby, Ed.D
    Dr Grigsby is the Assistant Superintendent | Elementary Division, Jackson Public Schools.

    Chris Harlow
    Chris is originally from Pontotoc County and has 23 years experience in education. He is a product of Mississippi State University and obtained his Masters and Specialist Degree from Mississippi College. Mr. Harlow just finished his first year as the head principal of Senatobia High School. 

    Fred Hickmon
    Dr. Fredrick L. Hickmon is a seasoned educator with over two decades of experience dedicated to enhancing K-12 education for all students. Dr. Hickmon holds degrees from prestigious institutions including Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Doctorate from the University of Mississippi. Presently, he holds the position of Assistant Superintendent at the Kemper County School District.With deep familial ties to Kemper County, where both sets of his Great Grandparents hailed from, Dr. Hickmon considers it a privilege to contribute to the education of his younger relatives. Having spent twelve years as a history teacher, he recognized the pivotal role of qualityinstruction delivered by well-qualified educators. To ensure his own expertise, Dr. Hickmon pursued his first graduate degree in History from Mississippi State University. Subsequently, upon fulfilling the requirements for school administration, he completed his Ph.D. program at the University of Mississippi, underscoring his commitment to lifelong learning.
    Throughout his career, Dr. Hickmon observed that students who experienced greater equity in the classroom tended to achieve higher success rates. Working across districts with diverse demographics, he recognized the importance of addressing students' mental well-being alongside their cognitive abilities. Driven by this realization, he embarked on a mission to raise awareness about student well-being in educational settings, aiming for improved learning outcomes and holistic child development. As part of this endeavor, Dr. Hickmon attained National Trauma Skilled Specialist (TSS) status from the National Dropout Prevention Center. The TSS Model provided him with advanced training and insights to equip himself and his colleagues with effective strategies for supporting students' mental capacities.

    Montgomery Hinton
    Montgomery is a seasoned educator with three decades of experience, who brings a rich and diverse background to his teaching career. Beginning with a distinguished college education, he has traversed various teaching roles across multiple subjects at the high school level. As a leader, Hinton has spearheaded initiatives to cultivate a culture of college and career success for students, leveraging tools such as the ACT test, ACT WorkKeys assessments, ASVAB, SAT, and PSAT. With experience in coaching sports and teaching many courses, Mr. Hinton employs a unique approach to student engagement and enrichment, yielding consistent results at all levels -- student, teacher, school, and district. His inclusive teaching style fosters high achievement for all learners, contributing significantly to Rankin County School District's continued A-rating. He runs Preparing for Success, LLC., Mississippi's premier tutoring and professional development company.

    John Hooks
    John heads the firm’s education law practice and advises schools and universities on a range of matters including federal desegregation law, employment discrimination, and civil rights claims.  He has represented educational institutions in some of the most important litigation in the field of education law, from landmark desegregation cases to matters further defining the First Amendment rights to public of public employees.  John has defended more than 35 school districts against more than 1,000 claims of violating federal overtime requirement.  He is also a member of the firm’s appellate team and often argues cases before state and federal appellate courts.
    John advises clients, lectures frequently, and offers extensive training programs designed to prevent lawsuits from arising in the first place.  John believes in empowering administrators and fellow education attorneys to be proactive in preventing claims arising from a range of threats including inappropriate employee relationships with students, workplace harassment, and inappropriate use of social media and student safety

    Leah Ivey
    Leah began working for PBEC in the summer of 2021 after serving as a school-level administrator, teacher leader, and classroom educator in public education.  She currently works with schools and districts to support tracking multiple forms of data, using data to make instructional decisions, mentoring administrators, planning effective instruction, and providing tutorials for students and teachers.

    Mrs. Angela Jaynes
    Angela has served in education for 15 years, ranging in capacities from teacher to instructional coach to, currently, assistant principal.  She currently serves at Bay-Waveland Middle School.  Mrs. Jaynes holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing from Jackson State University and a Masters in Education and two Specialists in Instructional Leadership and Educational Leadership from William Carey University.  She taught 5th grade for six years in the Gulfport School District and 6th grade for six years in the Bay-Waveland School District before moving into her current role.   Mrs. Jaynes will be moving into the role of Assistant Principal for the 2024-2025 school year at North Bay Elementary.

    Jessica Johnson
    Teacher, Salem Attendance Center, Walthall County School District

    Tajuan Johnson
    Mr. Johnson currently serves as the ASVAB Program Manager for Mississippi. Prior to working with the ASVAB Career Exploration Program, Mr. Johnson was employed as an educator in public school system of Mississippi for several years. He received his Education Specialist in Educational Leadership from Belhaven University in 2018. During his time as an educator, he worked as a teacher, Assistant Principal, and CTE Director. Mr. Johnson is also a retired Veteran who proudly served in the United States ARMY.

    Mrs. Holly Jones
    Holly is the assistant principal of Mannsdale Upper Elementary School (MUES). She served as the Literacy Specialist at one of Madison County’s elementary schools and has taught in Madison and Rankin County School Districts. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) who assists teachers with completing the process of becoming NBCT.

    Dr. Tina Joslin
    Tina is the executive director of MAESA. She was Mississippi's National Distinguished Principal in 2013. She was a teacher and principal in the Tishomingo County Schools for thirty years. She is a literacy warrior and believes that every child can read on grade level.

    Jim Keith
    Jim advises clients is the areas of employment, education, and administrative law. A focus Before attending law school, Jim was a mid-level management for AT&T in Miami, where he supervised approximately 200 employees, most of whom were members of the Communication Workers of America labor union.  He handled all aspects of management /labor disputes, including employee reprimands and dismissals, walkouts, charges of unfair labor practices. Other employment issues of his practice involve the representation of educational entities, including school districts on employee matters, student issues, board/administrative hearings, and in state and federal court.  Jim has advised universities and colleges on issues involving student rights as well as on employment matters. He has represented employers in all areas of employment law, litigation, and administrative proceedings, with extensive experience in discrimination cases of all types, including race, sex, age, religion, and disability. He has advised in wage/hour litigation and represented employers before administrative agencies, state trial and appellate courts, and federal trial and appellate courts.

    Dr. Cody Killen
    Currently the Head Principal at West Lauderdale Middle School, Cody has served at all levels from K-12, spearheading transformative initiatives in each.  Cody’s dedication to education extends to serving as an adjunct faculty member at MSU, MASSP Board President, MPE Board Member, and Learning Forward Board Member.  With degrees from MSU, UWA and William Cary, Cody is committed to shaping education statewide

    Ronald Kyzar
    Ronald, a Financial Professional, regularly speaks on PERS topics like:  Partial Lump Sum Option (PLSO), Lifetime income/survivor benefits and COLA (13th check).  Other topics include: Social Security Benefit planning, comparing Deferred Comp to Roth IRAs, Life insurance as a tool to provide tax-free income and ways to invest an inheritance.  Securities and Advisory Services offered through Lincoln Financial Securities Corp., member SIPC.  Branch Office: 301 E College St. #A-3   Clinton, MS 39056    601-924-4717    

    Andrew Marotta
    Andrew Marotta is the Director of Communications & Academic Services at Port Jervis Schools, NY.  He was Principal & AP for the last 20 years in the great small city of Port Jervis. He took on a new challenge in the 23-24 school year moving to this director position allowing him to promote and carry the banner for Port Schools in a new and creative way while giving him more flexibility to travel and present nationally as an inspirational speaker.  He is a husband, father, adjunct professor of school leadership, former Division 1 men's college basketball official, speaker, & author. 
    Andrew is also the leader of the Surviving & Thriving movement.  Andrew is an energizing & impactful speaker, author, and school leader.  He lives the words on his logo & strives to positively #IMPACT all he meets.  A master storyteller, Andrew engages his audiences and fellow leaders with authentic and heartfelt stories, memorable props, and collaborative, fun, &, thought-provoking activities.
    Additionally, Andrew officiated Men’s Division 1 college basketball at the highest level for almost 20 years.  ACC, A-10, CAA, Patriot, IVY, MAAC, & the NEC were the conferences he worked all the while being a school Principal.  This was quite challenging & Andrew survived & thrived through it all.  Being relentless, showing presence, confidence, and an understanding of people & pressure in the spotlight are all things he learned and brings to his audience while speaking to them on leadership & perseverance.
    He is a highly sought-after motivational speaker and the author of 5 leadership books, most recently completing a collaborative, inspirational book entitled HATS: Heartfelt Acts for Teachers, Students, & Staff. 
    He is married for 22 years to his high school sweetheart Jennifer & is blessed with three wonderful kids: Claire, Matthew & Tessa!
    Learn more at www.andrewmarotta.com & through his #ELBlog & podcast:  Education Leadership & Beyond found on facebook, linkedin, twitter @andrewmarotta21, and instagram.  #ELB #ELBlog #survivethrive

    Rod Martin
    Rod Martin has demonstrated excellence in education for the past 27 years. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in English, Rod taught 8th grade language arts at Hazlehurst Middle School, English electives at Brookhaven High School, and 7th and 8th grade language arts, English I and II, 7th grade world history, 8th grade American history, and ACT Prep at Wesson Attendance Center.
    During his teaching career, Rod sponsored multiple extracurricular organizations and clubs such as SADD, Drama Club, National Honor Society, First Priority, and academic team. Rod also coached football for two years and tennis for ten years. Rod was selected by his peers as Teacher of the Year multiple times and was selected by students as STAR Teacher five times.
    Outside of school activities, Rod executed committee and contract work from 2005 to 2020 with the Mississippi Department of Education in the areas of ELA Curriculum and Standards and Student Assessment. Rod also worked with multiple assessment companies in the area of item and passage development and review.
    Upon his retirement from teaching in May 2022, Rod joined Jumpstart Test Prep as a curriculum specialist and regional direct, providing product updates and valuable support for partner schools in multiple states. In September 2022, Rod became Vice-President of Curriculum for the company, overseeing continuous product improvements and new product development. As an ACT® English certified instructor and with years of assessment and review experience, Rod is highly qualified for his efforts to help schools achieve higher student scores on a variety of important assessments.
    Rod has been married to his wife Penny since 1994, and they have two adult children. Their daughter Jessa Greer is a financial analyst who lives in Petal, MS, with her husband Jacob and identical twin daughters Mary and Evie. Their son Noah Martin is a professional photographer and videographer who lives in Bogue Chitto, MS. Rod and Penny are active members of Strong Hope Baptist Church in Wesson, MS, where Rod serves as a deacon and Bible teacher and where Penny plays the piano. Rod’s hobbies include reading, swimming, hunting, and fishing- all of which he does only when he cannot be spending time with his granddaughters.

    Dr. Germain McConnell
    Chief of Staff, Oxford School District

    Charcelor Channing "Chase" McCullum, EdD, NCSP, 
    Chase is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor at Mississippi State University—Meridian Campus. He is a nationally certified School Psychologist who has also worked in K-12 schools and as an educational consultant. His interests include problem-solving processes, data-based decision-making, behavioral and academic intervention design and implementation, social-emotional learning, adult education, consultation, and school psychology leadership 

    Heather Morrison
    Heather Morrison currently serves the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning as the Director of P20 Partnerships and as the K12 liaison for the Mississippi Department of Education. Heather's career also includes serving 19 years in secondary education as a classroom teacher, administrator and a district curriculum director. She received her B.A. and M.A. in History from Mississippi State University and an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Mississippi College.  

    Richard Morrison 
    Richard has served in the educational field for 36 years and is currently serving as a School Improvement  Coach for the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). He serves middle and high school administrators in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky as a Leadership Coach. Prior to SREB, Richard served as a Nationally Certified Coach and National Facilitator for The National Institute for School Leadership (NISL). Richard was honored to be selected Mississippi Assistant Principal of the Year in 2005, and as the Mississippi Administrator of the Year in 2011.  In 2012, Richard was appointed to the Mississippi State Board of Education by the Mississippi Governor.

    Dr. Cory Murphy
    Mississippi Department of Education, Office of Teaching and Leading Reminders and Updates 

    Dr. Brandy Myers
    A native of Brookhaven and a proud product of its public schools, Dr. Brandy Myers has served as the Director of Special Services for the Brookhaven School District for the past 13 of her 23 years in the district. She comes from a long history of educators and Brookhaven graduates and strives daily to give back to the community she loves by providing its students with positive, reinforcing learning experiences that promote moral character, leadership, self-expression, and intellectual curiosity and that deliver a balance between preparing students academically for the future and equipping them to be productive members of their community

    Dr. LaQuanta Nelson
    Dr. Nelson has served in education as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, mentor, district level New Teacher Coordinator, motivational speaker, and consultant over the last 20 years. Nelson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Tougaloo College. She earned a Masters of Education degree in Elementary Education and an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Administration. In 2012, Dr. Nelson obtained her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in the area of Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Administration.Dr. Nelson has hosted, presented, and keynoted at conferences and events throughout the nation. She has served on boards such as the Mississippi Department of Education Principals’ Advisory Group, MDE Middle School Task Force, and Mississippi Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and is the former Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Middle Level Education.
    She has been featured in national publications for her work in transforming school cultures and has received numerous awards for improving educational outcomes, especially those from disadvantaged backgrouds. Dr. Nelson has served in higher education as a support to Jackson State University’s Department of Education and their implementation of US PREP, which is a transformative program for teacher preparation

    Mark Ostach
    Mark helps people find the courage to connect - with themselves, their purpose, and with the people in their lives, both online and offline. Mark's goal is to restore energy and focus to organizations battling modern-life's non-stop pace and growing sense of disconnection.
    Mark knows what it's like to feel disconnected, having compulsively checked his phone for over a decade. He's on a mission to teach people healthy digital habits so they can improve their digital wellness and create deeper connections with things in life that matter most.
    Mark holds degrees in psychology and technology with an interest in behavioral neuroscience. A nationally recognized speaker on Digital Wellness, Mark has done two TED talks and spoken to thousands of people all over the country encouraging them to embrace a culture of digital well-being.
    In his free time, Mark likes to write music, spend time in nature, and enjoy life with his wife and their two children. He is determined to remind the world that human connection is the most powerful connection we have.

    Dr. Eddie Peasant
    Eddie is Assistant Dean in the School of Education, began his tenure at William Carey University in July 2022.  He is a veteran educator with twenty years of administrative experience and most recently, retired as superintendent of the Starkville Oktibbeha School District.
    A former Mississippi Administrator of the Year, Peasant's experience as an educator also includes serving as assistant superintendent of the Tupelo School District and principal of Clinton High School and Gulfport Middle School.  He taught band for nine years at Murrah High School and Century High School (Florida).
    Peasant has served on the Mississippi Department of Education Accountability Task Force, Middle School Task Force, Student Testing Task Force, and Superintendent’s Advisory Board.  He was also selected by Mississippi State University as its 2018 Outstanding Administrator, awarded by the Mississippi Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (MACTE).
    Peasant is a Past President of the Mississippi Association of School Administrators (MASA) and the Mississippi Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP). He also served on the Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and is a current Board member of the Program for Research and Evaluation of Public Schools (PREPS).
    Peasant earned his Bachelor of Music Education, Specialist in Education, and Doctor of from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also earned his Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Mississippi College

    Dr. Kiana N. Pendleton
    Dr. Pendleton is the immediate past principal of Laurel Magnet School of the Arts. Under her leadership, the school earned its first A rating. Proficiency in ELA increased from 34% to 86% and in math from 37% to 95%. Dr. Pendleton is currently the Director of Implementation for Curriculum Associates.

    Brett Robinson
    Brett serves as the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director for the State of Mississippi. Before joining the MS Department of Education, he served twenty-years in the Clinton Public School District as a science teacher and football coach, the Clinton Schools CTE Director, and lead principal of Clinton High School. Brett was selected as the Clinton High School Teacher of the Year in 2009, Clinton Schools Administrator of the Year in 2016, and he was named Principal of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Secondary School Principals in 2022. Over the past decade, Brett has served on numerous state level committees and taskforce including the State CTE Director’s Advisory Committee, State Superintendent’s Principal Advisory Committee, College and Career Readiness Taskforce, Innovative Schools Taskforce, and MDE’s Commission on School Accreditation. He began his role as State CTE Director on June 1, 2023. Brett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from Mississippi State University as well as a master’s and specialist in educational leadership from Mississippi College. Brett and his wife Kelly reside in Clinton have three children who attend Clinton Public Schools.

    Shane Rodgers
    Shane serves as Principal at West Lauderdale High School, driven by a passion for guiding students towards success. With a focus on creating a safe and effective learning environment, he endeavors to prepare students for their future endeavors, whether pursuing higher education or entering the workforce. Collaboration with stakeholders is key to his approach, ensuring students receive the support they need to thrive. With a background in education from Delta State University, Mr. Rodgers began his career at Olive Branch Middle School before moving to Kosciusko, MS, where he served as Assistant Principal for six years. Since 2016, he has led West Lauderdale High School, earning recognition as the MASSP High School Principal of the Year in 2023. Despite accolades, Mr. Rodgers remains dedicated to continual improvement in supporting his students

    Marcus Stewart
    Marcus is principal of Richland High School of the Rankin County School District and 17-year educator from Holmes County, located in the Mississippi Delta. My experiences in school settings include teaching in challenging, failing districts and leading a prominent, progressive school district. I graduated from some of the state’s finest institutions, including Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State University, and The University of Mississippi, a testament to my resilience and determination.
    I have received numerous district acknowledgments and recognitions, including being recognized as an Outstanding Administrator by the Mississippi Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE).
    My passion for education involves school turnaround efforts, a skill set I learned during my experience at Principal Corp at Ole Miss. I am driven to create inclusive and exciting learning environments that promote diversity, acceptance, hard work, high expectations, and positive relationships. In my fourth year as principal, RHS has achieved its highest accountability, and the school culture is at an all-time high. Great things are happening at Ranger Nation!

    Janet Swandol
    Janet serves as the Schools Development Manager in the south and works with schools and districts to offer the Cambridge International Education courses. She has spent the last 30 years working to expand educational opportunities for students as a nonprofit leader, counselor, and teacher. Her passion is college and career readiness, ensuring all students have access to good teaching and learning. Prior to joining Cambridge, she worked at the College Board where she led the adoption and delivery of SAT and Advanced Placement programs for states and districts and managed the CLEP test center program administration at high schools, military test centers, and colleges. When she is not working, she loves to travel and spend time with her husband, 16-year-old son, and two spunky dogs.

    Shea Taylor 
    Shea is currently the head principal of Northwest Rankin Middle School. He has served as a coach at the high school and collegiate levels, an assistant principal, and a classroom teacher. Mr. Taylor has also been recognized as MASSP Principal of the Year.

    Dr. Paula Tharp
    Paula is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Mississippi State University with over 30 years of educational experience as a teacher and building principal. In addition to classroom and building experience, Dr. Tharp has an extensive background in school improvement, data analysis, and professional development. Her research interest focuses on school improvement particularly in high-poverty rural schools. She provides coaching and consulting in schools and districts in all areas of school improvement 

    Dr. Furlinda Travis
    Furlinda is a 28-year veteran of education. She has partnered with leaders across the United States to help address student leadership skills, classroom management, and improving students' ability to make better decisions behaviorally. She has seNed as an Assistant Superintendent, Executive Director of Curriculum, Literacy Specialist, Lead Teacher, Principal, and Assistant Principal. Dr. Travis has a passion for helping teachers manage their classrooms more effectively and increase instructional time.

    Shay Williamson
    Director of Human Resources, Madison County Schools

    Melissa Windham
    Melissa Windham, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, NCSC serves as faculty, Program Coordinator (Counselor Education), and Graduate Coordinator (Mental Health Programs) at MSU Meridian. She has worked in public education for 25 years, and her professional interests include wellness, leadership, and supervision. She is an advocate for strong administrator/counselor partnerships and serves in roles to support this endeavor.