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Meet Our Team

DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

Elliot Smalley

In his first year as superintendent, Elliot has established a clear sense of urgency around the need for excellent schools in South Carolina. With a relentless belief in all kids’ potential, Elliot and his team have centered on three strategic priorities: 1) authorizing great charter schools, 2) ensuring access and equity for all students, and 3) growing what works.  Previously, he served as Chief of Staff for Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) from 2012 to 2015, where he led the ASD’s communications and outreach efforts and played a key role in developing the ASD’s start-up and long-term strategy.  During his time in Tennessee, the number of ASD schools grew from zero to 29 and catalyzed the improvement of Priority (bottom 5%) schools in Memphis and Nashville.  From 2012 to 2015, average student proficiency in Priority schools rose from 17% to 26%—a rate of student growth that tripled the growth of students in non-Priority schools—and students in 2nd and 3rd year ASD schools earned Level 5 growth, the highest possible rating in Tennessee. Before joining the ASD, Elliot was the Deputy of Strategy and Communications for the Charleston County School District, where he led the development of Charleston’s strategic plan and spearheaded the district’s communications efforts. He is a graduate of the Broad Residency, The University of Massachusetts, and the University of Cincinnati, and is currently a member of the 2017 Broad Academy. 

In his spare time, Elliot can typically be found practicing Krav Maga—a self-defense system created by the Israeli army—and hanging out in Charleston with his wife Lisa and children Cooper, Benton, and Harper.   He is a diehard fan of the LSU Tigers and Boston Red Sox and Celtics. 

Email: esmalley@sccharter.org

DISTRICT STAFF
Chief of Staff

Rich Richards

Rich draws on a unique background in management consulting and education to serve as SCPCSD’s first Chief of Staff. Richards’ bullish drive to create and support excellent, equitable charter schools stems from his experience as a school leader and teacher in charter schools where low-income students and students of color far outperformed their more affluent peers. Rich is a Building Excellent Schools Emerging Leader, Teach for America alumnus, Teacher of the Year finalist in Tennessee, and University of Alabama graduate.

Outside of the office, you can find Rich enjoying the Lowcountry’s scenery, coaching youth basketball, and exercising.

Email: rrichards@sccharter.org

Administrative Assistant

Teresa Etheredge

Teresa serves the SCPCSD in the role of Administrative Assistant and has been with the team since 2013. Prior to arriving at the district, Teresa had the joy of staying home with her two children. Earlier in her career, she was employed as the office manager for a private enterprise, which included managing logistics for the company’s exporting division. Teresa adores children and especially enjoys working with them at her church. She brings with her a passion for all children to become the person they dream and deserve to be. She believes that it’s the district’s responsibility to see that every child in our care has access to an equal and exceptional education.

Outside of the office Teresa enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, singing in the choir, and Bible study.

Phone: 803-734-8322
Email: tetheredge@sccharter.org

Chief of New Schools & Accountability

Dana Abbott

Dana is the Chief New Schools and Accountability Officer for the SCPCSD. In this capacity, Dana leads oversight of the district’s authorizing practices, including the approval and denial of charter proposals, execution of charter contracts, and the monitoring of school performance and legal compliance. Prior to entering the world of charter school authorization, Dana served as the ombudsman and complaint investigator for the South Carolina Department of Education, Office of Exceptional Children. She has also served as the Director of Family Support Services for the Continuum of Care; education consultant for the Division of Intensive Foster Care and Clinical Services/South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), and state attorney for the SCDSS in the area of child support enforcement. Dana received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She received both her Master of Arts degree in Teaching Special Education and her Bachelors of Arts degree in History from the University of South Carolina. She is a member of the Children’s Law Committee of the South Carolina Bar Association; the 2014 cohort of the Leaders Program of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), and a coach for NACSA’s Leaders Program.

Dana’s greatest joy is her son, Robbie, with whom she shares a love of ballet, ghost stories, and travel.

Phone: 803-734-4181
Email: dabbott@sccharter.org

Director of Policy & Analytics

Hunter Schimpff

Prior to SCPCSD, Hunter was a high school math teacher at an international school in Buenos Aires, Argentina and then worked for a number of years in Tennessee to launch 16 high-performing public charter schools in Memphis and Nashville.  In addition to launching new public charter schools, he helped ensure a strong policy environment for the state’s charter schools and worked to promote authorizer quality throughout the state.  Originally hailing from Texas, Hunter now calls South Carolina home and is excited to be part of a passionate team working to improve public education for every child in South Carolina.  Hunter received a B.A. from Wake Forest University and an M.Ed. from Vanderbilt University.

Outside of work, Hunter enjoys running trail races, playing Spikeball and ultimate frisbee.

Phone: 803-457-2724
Email: hschimpff@sccharter.org

Director of Strategy

Kerry Donahue

Kerry began her career in education as a high school social studies teacher in rural North Carolina through Teach For America. While pursuing her masters of public policy at Georgetown University, Kerry worked in a variety of education organizations in Washington, DC, including New Leaders and DC Public Schools. Kerry joined NewSchools Venture Fund in 2011 where she focused on improving school quality in the charter sector and supporting charter school expansion. While at NewSchools, Kerry led due diligence on several charter school networks, unlocking over four million dollars of philanthropic support and adding over 3,400 new high-quality seats to the DC charter sector. While pursuing her Doctorate in Education Leadership at Harvard University, Kerry provided strategic support to the launch of an autonomous school turnaround zone in Springfield, Massachusetts and conducted an in-depth review of Massachusetts’ teacher licensure system for the Executive Office of Education. Kerry is excited to spend the final year of her doctoral program at the South Carolina Public Charter School District working to expand high-quality charter school options for low-income students of color across South Carolina.

Phone: 803-403-3933
Email: kdonahue@sccharter.org

Chief of Finance & Operations

Siddhartha Chowdri

Prior to joining SCPCSD Siddhartha Chowdri was a school finance resident at New Haven Public Schools, where he leads and supports several key initiatives, including school finance strategy and analysis and budgeting support. Prior to joining the Broad Residency, Siddhartha built and led the India team for Accion, a global microfinance non-profit. Over that time, Accion India invested more than $10 million that directly impacted the lives and futures of more than 200,000 low-income people. Previously, he interned in San Jose, Costa Rica with Profund International, Inc., and consulted for the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty in India. Siddhartha also has served as an associate at the Calvert Foundation, focusing on community-based investments, and as a research assistant at the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C. He earned an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management and a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago.

When not looking for ways to make the SCPSCD the most highly effective district in the country Siddhartha can be found strumming a guitar, pulling weeds in his garden, reading about Boston sports team or finding trees for his son to climb.

Phone: 803-908-2680
Email: schowdri@sccharter.org

Director of Human Resources

Paula Gray

Paula joined SCPCSD before the first school opened in 2008, when she moved back to South Carolina after a 4-year detour in Nevada.  Prior to that, she was with the SC State Department of Education for 15 years, in various offices, including Accreditation, Human Resources, Finance and Legislation, and served as the liaison to the State Board of Education.  SCPCSD was a new district, with a small staff and a huge learning curve, and that meant everyone had their hands in everything thrown their way, so Paula worked with monitoring, federal programs, teacher certification, board meetings, and whatever else came along.  She served as Interim Superintendent for a few months when the district was between superintendents.  She is currently the Director of Human Resources and also works with the SCPCSD Board.

 

Paula enjoys playing tennis and golf and watching all sports, especially Gamecocks football.

 

Phone: 803-734-5169
Email: pgray@sccharter.org

Director of Communications

Taylor Fulcher

Taylor joins SCPCSD by way of Nashville, Tennessee. There she managed communications, network-wide enrollment operations, and advocacy initiatives at RePublic Schools, a network of high-performing charter schools in Mississippi & Tennessee. Prior to that, she worked for Families for Excellent Schools, a parent and charter advocacy group in New York City that fights to ensure all kids have fair and equal access to a great education. Through this experience, she planned and executed numerous advocacy campaigns in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. A native Georgian, she previously served as a clinical mental health therapist and school counselor with students K-12 in her home state. Taylor received her B.A. in Sociology & Psychology from the University of Georgia. She also received an M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling. Taylor is passionate about changing the landscape of public education in the South & feels every child should receive an excellent and equitable education despite the color of their skin or the zip code they were born into.  

Outside of the office, you can find Taylor watching Georgia Bulldogs football, eating her way through every restaurant in Charleston, and attending every concert possible.

Phone: 803-908-3849
Email: tfulcher@sccharter.org

Director of Performance Management

Bobby Rykard

Bobby is the Director of Performance Management for the New Schools and Accountability Team at the South Carolina Public Charter School District (SCPCSD).  Responsibilities include implementing a school performance framework to evaluate school academic, financial and organizational components; reviewing charter application submissions, and providing research and data support. Prior to joining the SCPCSD, Bobby served as the Title I Team Lead for the Office of Federal and State Accountability at the South Carolina Department of Education Primary tasks included the allocation of federal allocation, monitoring school districts for compliance of applicable federal and state rules and regulations, approving school district Title I educational program applications, and overall business operations of the program. Bobby has served in state and local level government since 1994 in financial, budgeting, and educational programming functions.  He earned his B.S. in Business Administration from Southern Wesleyan University and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of South Carolina.

Bobby loves playing the guitar, seeing live music, and camping.

Phone: 803-734-0669
Email: rrykard@sccharter.org

Director of New Schools

Catherine Watt

Catherine was born in Manhasset, New York, and attended schools all around the country during her childhood. She earned her J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law and her B.A. in English with a Minor in Communications from Clemson University. She began her career at the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and has worked in the fields of consulting and project management. She was employed part-time for a law firm while raising her two children. It was the experience of being involved in their schooling that she became passionate about advocating for all children to be entitled to an empowering education.

Catherine is a fanatical Notre Dame fan, a mad lover of all animals, and a firm believer in the importance of empathy, compassion, advocacy and action.

 

Phone: 803-734-0524
Email: cwatt@sccharter.org

Coordinator of Special Education

Emily Paul

Emily joined SCPCSD at the district level in 2015. She came from one of SCPCSD’s own charter schools, Lowcountry Montessori School. There, she developed the special education program in their opening year, and started the school’s special education programs on strong footing. Prior to that, she worked as a special education teacher in a variety of classroom settings for Beaufort County Schools, and in Ohio public schools. Emily received her BS in special education from Miami University, in Oxford Ohio, and began work on her masters in curriculum and instruction at Wright State University.

 

In her spare time, Emily enjoys life near Hilton Head with her husband, three kids, and 2 dogs, and everything that comes with life at the beach.

 

Phone: 803-960-9686
Email: epaulsccharter.org

Director of Federal Programs

Vamshi Rudrapati

Vamshi Rudrapati (affectionately known as Mr. V) will be entering into his fifth year at the SCPCSD. Before joining the SCPCSD, he worked at one of our charter schools where he managed curriculum, special education, PowerSchool, instructional technology and other leadership responsibilities. Prior to working at the District, Mr. V served as a special education coordinator in the Lee County School District. He is currently serving as a board member of the SC Association of Title I Administrators (SCATA). Mr. V’s relentless quest to improve the quality of education for all students has always motivated his work. He has championed the improvement of educational outcomes for low-income students, students with disabilities, students facing homelessness, and English learners throughout his personal and professional career. Mr. V holds Bachelors of Commerce and a Special Education degree. He also received his MBA while living in India. 

Mr. V loves to cook, which he says is both a gift and a curse. He is well known for his creative short movies and his fabulous sense of humor which is a huge addition to the team.

Phone: 803-734-1105
Email: vrudrapati@sccharter.org

Director of Student Information Systems

Roberto Vargas

Roberto joins SCPSD from Chicago International Charter School in Chicago, IL.  For the past six years in Chicago, he has dedicated his work to any opportunity that allows him to use his natural curiosity and thirst for information to help students reach their potential; and ultimately prepare them for college. While many hear “data” and think “oh that boring stuff, filled with information I don’t get,” Roberto, on the other hand, knows that working in data and technology is incredibly interesting. Even more, it is actually creative, and being able to solve problems while synthesizing complex information is a difficult skill to learn and grow. That’s why he LOVES helping students, teachers, and parents understand student information and use the technology tools around them. Roberto is a graduate of Carthage College, Kenosha WI.

Outside of the office, Roberto enjoys all things music, sports and time with family.

Email: rvargas@sccharter.org

Chief of Access & Equity

Audrey Lane

A native of Columbia, SC, Audrey Katrina Starks Lane is a proud graduate of Eau Claire High School (E-C Shamrocks!!!) As the Chief of Access & Equity, Audrey is focused on ensuring academic success for ALL children of the SC Public Charter School District by removing unintentional or intentional barriers that prevent every child from receiving an equitable, fair public school education.   In this role, she is also responsible for the district’s core LEA functions such as federal and state programs, student services, and student and family rights.  Before joining the SC Public Charter School District, Audrey was the Deputy for Human Capital Development for the Charleston County School District (CCSD).  She worked to link the performance of the organization and its’ dedicated workforce to the student outcomes of Charleston County’s more than 46,000 students.  Audrey’s portfolio with the Charleston County School District included the Offices of School Choice, Teacher Quality & Recruitment, Employee Relations, Grants/Development, and Strategy/Communications.

 

Her father’s commitment to educate ALL children regardless of race or zip code lives within her every day and is what ultimately led her back to SC.  Prior to relocating to Charleston, Audrey was a Business Development & Commercial Coordinator within the U.S. Pipelines and Logistics Organization of BP North America, Product Development Leader with International Paper and began her career as a Mechanical Engineer with Xerox in a technical leadership program for women of color.

 

She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Florida A&M University, a Master of Business Administration from DePaul University in Chicago, IL and is a 2010 graduate of the Broad Residency.   Audrey makes the time to be involved in her local community either through her work as Chairperson of the Royal Foundation, member of the Trident United Way Women’s Leadership Council Steering Committee, or as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

 

Although she is extremely dedicated and focused on the work that she’s been blessed to do-her greatest joy comes from being a wife to Martin and the mother of Moses and Micah.

 

Email: alane@sccharter.org

Coordinator of Special Education

Laura Simmons

Laura joins SCPCSD from Beaufort County, South Carolina where she served as a Special Education Coordinator.  Prior to Beaufort, she resided in Greenville, South Carolina working as a Special Education Coordinator as well as an Assistant Principal.  She has 21 years of experience, including special education, general education, and administration at both the school and district level. Laura is also a Master CPI instructor. Laura holds a current teaching certificate in South Carolina in multiple areas of special education, general education, administration, and supervision.  Laura holds a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Clemson University. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD at the University of South Carolina with a focus on Special Education and transition.

 

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Allen, daughter Katelyn and their sweet dog Dakota. She enjoys the low country, traveling, or just hanging out at home!  Laura’s passion is helping our students with disabilities reach and achieve their goals and dreams!

 

Email: lsimmons@sccharter.org

Director of Finance and Special Projects

Jeremy Richardson

Jeremy joined SCPSCD in 2017 as the Director of Finance and Special Projects.  Prior to joining the district, Jeremy was an auditor with the public accounting firm Elliott Davis Decosimo, LLC where he specialized in serving governmental, higher education, and not-for-profit clients.  He earned a B.A in Accounting from Furman University and a M.S. in Accountancy from the College of Charleston.  Jeremy is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the State of South Carolina.   Jeremy is excited to help SCPCSD and all charter schools in his home state effectively manage their financial resources in order to provide the best education to the children of South Carolina.

 

Jeremy is originally from Sumter, South Caroline but now calls Greenville, South Carolina his home.  In his spare time, you can find him cooking, singing, and exploring all of the new and exciting restaurants in the Upstate.  During football season you may find Jeremy in Death Valley cheering on those Tigers!

 

Email: jrichardson@sccharter.org