BCSD announces new executive directors


Goal is to move student achievement forward

From staff reports 

Three veteran administrators have been selected to serve as executive directors for the district: Chad Cox, Ed.D., Mona Lise Dickson, and Celestine LaVan, Ed.D. Together, these school leaders have nearly 60 years of cumulative education experience serving Beaufort County School District (BCSD). 

All three will finish out the 2020-2021 school year in their current principal roles at Battery Creek High School, Whale Branch Early College High School, and Robert Smalls International Academy, respectively. They will report to the district’s Deputy Superintendent, Duke Bradley, on July 1 in their new capacity. 

In alignment with principal supervisor research conducted by Vanderbilt University and Mathematica Policy Research, BCSD executive directors will supervise principals with a focus on instructional leadership and will be assigned a portfolio of schools in order to effect change. 

Additionally, as per the University of Washington’s DL2 Principal Supervisor Performance Standards, the executive directors will liaise between the district office and their assigned schools. This exposure and presence will afford them both central office and school-based perspectives, ensuring policies and procedures are effective and efficient. 

“Research indicates that every effective school district has successful leaders, and I’m confident that these three educators will have a focus on continuous school improvement in their new executive director roles,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said in a release. “They’re experienced, they know Beaufort County, they are seasoned leaders, and their No. 1 priority will be ensuring principals have what they need to move student learning and achievement forward.” 

A Human Resources team worked with Rodriguez to select the finalists who were all internal candidates. After each round of interviews, committee members rated the candidates and those ratings were submitted to Rodriguez, who made the final selection. 

Chad Cox 

Chad Cox has 18 years of educational experience, all at BCSD. He started his education career as a social studies teacher at Battery Creek High School in 2003 and went on to serve as freshman academy assistant principal. He has also served as the assistant principal of instruction at two district schools, Robert Smalls International Academy and Whale Branch Early College High School. 

Cox was the principal at Whale Branch Middle School from 2015 to 2017 and is currently serving as principal of Battery Creek High School, which was recently recognized as a Leader in Me Lighthouse School. Cox was a member of the S.C. Army National Guard from 1999 through 2006, serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 and 3. 

Cox earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Clemson University and a master’s degree in secondary education from Cambridge College. He holds an education specialist degree from South Carolina State University and recently earned a doctorate degree in Education Leadership from South Carolina State University. 

Mona Lise Dickson 

Mona Lise Dickson has 28 years of educational experience, 27 serving BCSD. She began her career teaching mathematics at Beaufort High School in 1994 where she went on to serve as the dean of academics and as an assistant building principal. Dickson has served as principal at three district schools, Whale Branch Middle School, Lady’s Island Middle School (which became STEM certified under her tenure), and Whale Branch Early College High School where she has been proudly leading Warrior Nation since 2015. While there, Dickson expanded the Early College Program by adding CTE courses, and spearheaded the first high school dental program in S.C.. 

Dickson earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Rollins College and a master’s degree in education in administration licensure from Cambridge College. She holds an education specialist degree from The Citadel. 

Dickson is currently working toward her doctorate degree in Educational and Organizational Leadership Development from Clemson University with an anticipated completion date of May 2022. She is an award-winning leader, having been honored with the TAP Founder’s Award, the National Change Leader’s Award, and the Gene Bottoms Pacesetter Award from the Southern Regional Education Board.

Celestine LaVan 

Celestine LaVan has 17 years of educational experience, 14 serving BCSD. She currently serves as the principal of Robert Smalls International Academy, having returned to the district after serving as Director for Elementary & Middle Schools in Darlington County. Prior to this, she spent eight years at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School, two as an assistant principal, and six as principal, resulting in the school earning Leader in Me Lighthouse status and Palmetto Gold and Silver Growth and Achievement awards. 

LaVan also has higher education experience, teaching curriculum and instruction courses as an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University since 2016. LaVan served in the United States Navy as an analyst from 1993 to 1997. 

LaVan earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in Education from Ashford University. She holds an education specialist/ leadership degree and a doctorate degree in educational leadership, both from Liberty University. She is a frequent presenter at education conferences across the state and was named a S.C. Educator of Excellence 2019 awardee by the S.C. Association of Black School Educators. 

“I am encouraged by the passion and commitment of our school leaders and look forward to helping develop programs and structures that lead to greater overall impact and academic success,” LaVan said in a news release. 

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