Vanessa Denney

A veteran of Charleston County School District, Denney has served CCSD for over 20 years. In that time, she has demonstrated a deep commitment to engaging with partners across the County and to working with students, families, and neighborhoods maintaining a focus on student outcomes. Until August 2022, Denney served as the founding principal at Early College High School (ECHS) which first opened in 2017. In her tenure as principal, she demonstrated expertise in strategic planning and in bringing to life a vision that led to student success. As the principal, she successfully engaged with families and school communities across the district. 

She began her teaching career as a 7th-grade Social Studies teacher, department chair, and grade-level chair at R.D. Schroder Middle School in Hollywood, SC. Next, she became an Instructional Coach and Administrator at Alice Birney Middle School in North Charleston. In an instructional leadership role at Burke High School, she then worked with educators and provided experiences that forged students’ paths to college and careers. As the Secondary Learning Community (SLC) Career and Technology Education (CTE) Coordinator, she engaged local business partners in the creation of opportunities for CCSD students at three high schools: Burke, St. John’s, and RB Stall–resulting in each school earning 100% Work-based Learning rates during Denney’s tenure from 2012-14. While an Assistant Principal at North Charleston High School (NCHS), she expanded CTE offerings to include the addition of four new CTE

completer pathways. Her work as the Graduation Rate Team Chairperson from 2014-16 resulted in a 12.46% increase in NCHS’s graduation rate. 

Denney holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from The College of Charleston, a Master of Education in Elementary Administration, and a certificate in Secondary Administration, both from The Citadel. She also holds a Certificate in Education Finance from Georgetown University. In 2022, she was recognized as an Alumna of the Year from the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance at the College of Charleston.

Dr. Sherry Eppelsheimer

Before becoming Associate Superintendent of High Schools, Dr. Sherry Eppelsheimer served as principal at Wando High School, one of the largest schools in the state, for the last seven years. A career educator, Eppelsheimer began her service to students in 1989 in Greenwood School District 50 at Greenwood High School in Greenwood, SC. She taught English for 14 years at Greenwood while also holding an adjunct teaching position at nearby Piedmont Area Consortium and Piedmont Technical College. In 2003, Eppelsheimer used her talents in the classroom to further her impact with students by becoming an instructional specialist at Brewer Middle School before being named Director of the ELA Vertical Team and served as the Summer Enrichment and Intervention Director from 2006-2008.

After nearly 20 years of service in Greenwood, Eppelsheimer left the Midlands for the Lowcountry, taking an assistant principal position as Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, SC. It was only a short time before Eppelsheimer was promoted from assistant principal to associate principal at Wando where she continued to grow her leadership skills while assisting in all areas of high school management, administration, and daily activities. A demonstrated leader, in 2015, Eppelsheimer was named interim principal of Wando High after long-time Wando High School Principal Lucy Beckham took the role of Executive Principal of East Cooper Schools. As interim principal, Eppelsheimer planned and directed the overall activities of a high school serving 3,500 students with nearly 300 staff members. She oversaw recruitment, hiring and retention, professional development, faculty and staff evaluations, fiscal management, administration organization, student discipline, program initiatives, and team building. She was promoted to the position permanently one year later in 2016.

Eppelsheimer holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lander University and a Master of Education in Secondary Guidance and Counseling from Clemson University. She completed her EDLP certification and earned a Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Carolina. Recognized for her outstanding leadership and talents, Eppelsheimer is the recipient of several awards including the Greenwood County and District 2 Business and Professional Women’s Young Careerist of the Year Award (1995), Greenwood High School Teacher of the Year (1994-95), WYFF Channel 4 Golden Apple Teacher Award (1998), Greenwood School District 50 and Greenwood County Star Teacher Award (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004), Brewer Middle School Teacher of the Year Award (2006-07), and the South Carolina Librarian Association Intellectual Freedom Award (2019). She also serves on the East Cooper Medical Center Governing Board.

Jennifer Swearingen

This is Dr. Swearingen’s 25th year working in the Charleston County School District. She was a 5th and 6th grade math teacher at Ladson Elementary School, the assistant principal at Jennie Moore Elementary School, and the principal at Oakland Elementary School before becoming a Director of the Elementary Learning Community. In this role, she supervised and supported elementary schools across the district. She is now the interim Associate Superintendent for Elementary Learning Community.

Dr. Swearingen has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the College of Charleston, a Masters of Elementary Education Administration from The Citadel, a Specialist in Educational Leadership from The Citadel, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration (CD-12) from the University of South Carolina.

In her free time, she likes to do yard work and spend time with her dogs and family.

Jacqueline Haynes

Jacqueline K. Haynes is the Executive Director of Acceleration Schools with the Charleston County School District in Charleston, SC. Her goal is to level the playing field for students of color so that access to college and higher-level learning is attainable. Mrs. Haynes previously served as the Director of Achievement Schools with the Hillsborough County Public School System in Tampa, FL. Her unique perspective and personalized approach in mentoring other professionals has resulted in many leaders advancing to higher-level positions. In addition, turning a school around from a “D” status to an “A” status by pushing forward high academic standards and rigorous coursework for all students is one of her proudest accomplishments. She holds A National Teacher Center Certification in Coaching; Courageous Conversations Affiliate Certification in Equity (Glenn Singleton); and D.E.E.P. Certification (Equity).

Ms. Haynes has served on several national committees and has participated in a National Professional Learning Community with the Wallace Foundation, where she is featured in a publication and video titled, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. She believes that shifting Principals from building managers to one of leading instructional change will ensure that ALL students receive a quality education. Ms. Haynes has earned a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling; ED.S in Innovative Education; and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the University of South Florida. She is the former principal of Howard W. Blake High School, where she was named the first African-American Female High School Principal in Hillsborough County.

She is a proud graduate of Florida State University, BA in Education; University of South Florida, ED.S. in Innovative Education, and currently a USF Doctoral candidate. She resides in Charleston, SC with her husband, Anthony L. Haynes and is the mother of Arielle Haynes Burnette, married to Christopher Burnette of Atlanta, George, and Anthony L. Haynes, II, of Miami, Florida.

Channa Williams

Channa Williams is Interim Chief Financial Officer for Charleston County School District. As a successful financial executive with more than 20 years of experience in corporate, non-profit and government sectors, Channa offers a wealth of knowledge, experience, and financial leadership in the areas of budget, finance, accounting, capital investment, treasury, risk and audit management.

After receiving her MBA in Accounting and International Finance, Channa led financial operations across various public, non-profit and private entities. Focusing on effective and efficient financial operations and business practices, Ms. Williams has managed the $85M financial operations for Baltimore City Community College. Channa has also managed the $250M financial operations for national charter network, Achievement First, serving as Vice President & Controller. In addition, she has managed the $1.3B budget for Baltimore City Public Schools as Director of Budget and Strategy & Performance Management. Her management portfolio also includes, directing Baltimore City’s $3B Water, Wastewater and Stormwater capital budgets – accounting for ~80% of the City’s total capital budget. Complementing her work in Baltimore City, she’s also developed automated database solutions and accounting practices for the Department of Homeland Security, focused on financial revenue recovery operations as a management partner at UPS and spearheaded various financial components for the SC&H Group.

Dr. Joseph Williams

He is a native of North Charleston, S.C. and attended Charleston County Public Schools graduating from North Charleston High School in 1991. Immediately after high school, Dr. Williams joined the U.S. Army and served as a medical specialist until 1995. While in the military he served in both combat and medical settings. In 1995 he started his matriculation through higher learning enrolling at South Carolina State University where he graduated with honors in 1998 with a degree in Biology and General Science Education. In 1999 he pursued his degree in Counselor Education, again graduating with honors in 2001. In 2008 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi in Educational Leadership and Supervision. Dr. Williams participated in a Leadership Academy at Harvard, received Diversity Leadership Training and certification through Furman University’s Riley Institute and has attended numerous trainings on literacy at the state level that addressed improving literacy practices in education. His 17-year tenure in Orangeburg and Charleston counties has influenced his philosophy of education: “All children can learn if given the opportunity and support systems needed.”

Michelle Simmons

Michelle Simmons has served as a CCSD administrator for 14 years before leading the ELC. Previously she led Stono Park Elementary School, serving as principal since 2010.

Simmons also served as principal of CC Blaney Elementary School, Assistant Principal at Goodwin Elementary School, and began her career in education in Charleston County, teaching at the Mary Ford Elementary School. Simmons holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from South Carolina State University and a Master’s in Elementary Education Administration and Supervision as well as an Ed.S. in Education Leadership from The Citadel.

Mercedes Pinckney-Reese

Mercedes joined Charleston County School District as General Counsel in July 2021. Her legal experience spans from general civil litigation, family law, and criminal law to asbestos claims and education law. Prior to this role, she served as in-house counsel in higher education, most recently as Associate General Counsel for the United States Air Force Academy. 

A native of Ridgeville, South Carolina, Mercedes received her bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Charleston, her juris doctor degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law, and her master of laws degree in intercultural human rights from Saint Thomas University School of Law. Mercedes is licensed to practice law in both South Carolina and North Carolina.  Mercedes is passionate about human rights and ensuring all children have access to equitable educational opportunities. 

Terri Nichols

Terri H. Nichols is a longtime employee of the Charleston County School District who has dedicated most of her adult life to children, teaching, and learning. She began her career as a teacher at Morningside Elementary and also taught at Brentwood Middle School where she was named Teacher of the Year and a CCSD semi-finalist in 1987. Mrs. Nichols moved into administration and became Assistant Principal at Hunley Park before she was named Principal at Mary Ford Elementary in 1991. During her tenure at Mary Ford, the school was recognized by the National Title I department at their convention in Anaheim, California for demonstrating marked academic achievement in both reading and mathematics. Additionally, Mrs. Nichols was awarded the CCSD Principal of the Year Honor in 1996. 

Mrs. Nichols continued as a principal moving to lead Belle Hall Elementary from 1999 through 2008. During this time, the school maintained its excellent rating awarded by the South Carolina Department of Education. Mrs. Nichols, a huge supporter of students with special needs, was recognized by the Downs Syndrome Association of the Lowcountry with the Education Award in 2005, and, in 2009, she was awarded the Friend of Reading Recovery for her support of Reading Recovery as an intervention for struggling first-grade readers.

In 2008, Mrs. Nichols became an Associate Superintendent for elementary schools supervising at first 17 elementary schools and ultimately having primary responsibility for the operation and supervision of all 45 elementary schools in CCSD. 

The Citadel and the Anita Zucker School of Education honored Mrs. Nichols with the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2017 for her many years of service to the students, teachers, and parents of Charleston County.

Her current role is Interim Executive Associate Superintendent of Literacy and Certified Staff Development and is working with a variety of initiatives including literacy and leadership development.

Anita Huggins

A former English teacher, Master Teacher, Principal, Director, and Executive Director, Anita Huggins currently serves as the Interim Chief Transformation Officer for Charleston County School District (CCSD). An accomplished educator with nearly 25 years of experience in education, Ms. Huggins has led in various Charleston County School District (CCSD) schools and communities during her tenure. Prior to her current role, she served as Executive Director of Secondary Schools; for over 12 years, she trained hundreds of teachers and administrators from all of CCSD’s schools in how to effectively plan for instruction, deliver instruction, and develop conducive environments for learners as the Executive Director of Educator Effectiveness. In that role, Ms. Huggins was instrumental in developing districtwide systems for teacher development, support, and recognition.

Over the course of her career, Ms. Huggins has presented at numerous conferences, served as guest lecturer, facilitated and served on various panels, as well as co-authored journal articles to help grow and support aspiring, novice, and veteran educators. Ms. Huggins holds bachelor’s degrees in both English and Secondary Education along with a master’s degree in Secondary Administration.