Click here for an overview of SECA's Strategic Plan.


SECA Staff

 Interim Director

Jeffrey Leffler, Ph.D.


 Senior Director for Affiliate Relations & Partnerships

Cathy W. Grace, Ed.D.




 Affiliate Relations & Membership Coordinator

Maurena Lopez-Farr



 Editor, Dimensions of Early Childhood

Mari Riojas Cortez, Ph.D.



SECA Board of Directors

  • The SECA Board is a representative body of 16 members.
  • One (1) of those members, the President, is elected by a vote of the membership.
  • One (1) member, the President, serves as President-Elect and Immediate Past-President, before and after their term as President.
  • Thirteen (12) of the members are elected by their state associations to serve as State Affiliate Representatives on the Board. They represent the interests of their state affiliates during Board meetings.
  • Two (2) of the members are elected by the Board of Directors and serve as Members-at-Large. Nominations for these positions may be submitted by the membership.

All members except the President serve 3 year terms. The President serves one year as President-Elect, two years as President and one year as Immediate Past-President. The Board members represent a wide diversity of professionals from the early childhood field and are charged with ensuring the continued success of the Association in meeting the needs of its members and the children and families of the South.

The Board of Directors meets twice a year, in the spring at the annual conference and in the fall. Other meetings may be called as necessary. Minutes of the meetings are available to members upon request to the SECA office.

Your SECA Board of Directors

President (2018-2019)
Jo Carroll
Shreveport, Louisiana

I am a retired educator.  I most recently worked for the department of education as a network coach specifically in the field of early childhood education. In this position I worked with 13 districts in the Northwest part of our state. I have been in the field of early childhood for over thirty years in a variety of positions but primarily in the public school system both in regular education and special education.

I became active in SECA as a college student back in the mid 70’s serving as the first president in our student affiliate and I now serve as the state representative of LAECA. I have served in a variety of capacities within our state organization. I am also on the adjunct faculty with LSUS in Shreveport. I am actively involved in my church and teach 1st graders in Sunday School as well as assist with our children’s choir program.

I have a daughter and two sons and three of the best grandchildren there has ever been.



President-Elect  (2019-2020)
Debbie Ferguson
Glen Leven Presbyterian Church Day School, TN

I joined the field of early childhood in 1991 as a parent and substitute teacher for Glen Leven Presbyterian Church Day School, Nashville, Tennessee.  I quickly moved from my sub job to part-time, then to full time and eventually ask to serve as Director.  I received my early childhood education at Nashville State Community College and through TECTA (Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance).

I have been a member of SECA, TACEE (Tennessee Association of Children’s Early Education), NAEYC and NAAEYC (Nashville Area AEYC) since January 1991.  I have served as President (local and state), Vice President, Treasurer (local and state), SECA Representative (2 terms), NAEYC Representative (2 terms) and  
Co-Chair of the State Conference twice.  I have been honored to serve SECA as a Dream Team member for the last six years in planning and providing on-site assistance at their annual conference. I was awarded Outstanding Member in 2014 from the Southern Early Childhood Association, which was a highlight of my career.



Arkansas (2018-2019)
Jamie Morrison Ward
Greenbriar, AR

Jamie is the founder and Training and Resource Officer for Curricula Concepts, Inc. Her primary focus is family engagement and she works in partnership with UA Early Care and Education Projects and Zero to Three to bring research-based curricula and programs to child care centers across the state.  Jamie has experience as a classroom teacher and center director with both ABC and Head Start, served as the Administrator of the Arkansas Better Chance Programs for Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education for several years, and has served on numerous committees and boards concerned with increasing quality and awareness around many issues in the early childhood field.  She is currently the Past President of the Arkansas Early Childhood Association, a member of the State Parent Advisory Council, AR Professional Development Steering Committee, ELAN Workgroup and serves as the President of the AR Association for Infant Mental Health.

Florida (2016-2018)
Barbara Backus
Pinellas Technical College

I am retired.  I worked at Pinellas Technical College from 1994 to 2017 in early childhood education. I have served on either my local AEYC board or the state board for over 15 years in various positions including president of both. I have been married to Ray for 45+ years and have 2 wonderful boys, David & Tim.


Georgia (2013-2018)
Anita Dailey
Program Chair/Instructor, Early Childhood Care & Education
Central Georgia Technical College

Anita began her career in Early Care and Education in 1986 working as a preschool teacher and assistant director of a child care center in her church. Finding she had a strong desire to help others be successful in working with children she began teaching adults through the continuing education program at Columbus Tech.

Anita is currently the Program Chair for the Early Childhood Care and Education program at Central Georgia Technical College in Macon, Georgia where students may earn technical certificates, technical diplomas or associate degrees. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia College and State University and has been instructing at the college level for almost twenty years.

She has most recently served as the chair person for the Instructional Faculty Curriculum Consortium for the Technical College System of Georgia’s Early Childhood Care and Education programs. Anita has also been active on the GAYC Board of Directors.


Kentucky (2016-2018)
Jaesook Gilbert
Highland Heights, Kentucky

Jaesook Gilbert is the Interim SECA Representative and VP for Membership until December 31, 2018 for Kentucky Association for Early Childhood Education (KAECE). KAECE is the Kentucky state affiliate of SECA. She is also a Professor of Early Childhood Education (Birth-Kindergarten) program at Northern Kentucky University.


Louisiana (2017-2019)
Patricia Reder
Lake Charles, Louisiana

 Ms. Patricia Reder has taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten in Calcasieu Parish schools.  She worked for over ten years as a Head Start/Technology Facilitator for the Calcasieu Parish Early Childhood Department, as a Title I Curriculum Coordinator for John J. Johnson Elementary School, an early childhood campus that serves students in Pre-Kindergarten to Second grade.  Presently, she is working as the Head Start Principal for Calcasieu Parish School System.  She is an active member of Louisiana Early Childhood Association (LAECA).  She has presented at regional and state conferences on topics such as curriculum, technology, and assessment practices in the early childhood classrooms. Ms. Reder is also a CLASS Trainer, Reliable CLASS Observer for Pre-K and Toddlers, and a Pathways Certified Trainer. 


Mississippi (2017-2019)
Judy Prine
Ellisville, Mississippi

Judy Prine holds a Specialist in Higher Administration in Education from William Carey University. She holds a bachelors and masters in Child Development and Family Relations from Louisiana Tech University.  Judy is a National Credentialed Director and a Credentialed Director in the State of Mississippi.  

Judy is currently a Career and Technical Support Student Services Coordinator where she works with all programs in the Health and Human Services division. This division includes the program of Early Childhood Education Technology at Jones County Junior College. She has taught at the college level for 18 years and kindergarten for 10 years for a total of 28 years working with young children.

Judy has served as president, 2nd vice president, secretary, member-at-large, affiliate president of the Mississippi Early Childhood Association and served as Chairman of the Child Care Advisory Council for the Mississippi State Department of Health, Child Care Licensure division.

Judy is married to Col. Mark Prine. Their son Caleb is a senior at University of Southern Mississippi and their daughter Mary Grace is a senior at Presbyterian Christian School.


Marti_NicholsonOklahoma (2018-2020)
Kelly Ramsey
Oklahoma City, OK

Kelly Ramsey is a passionate teacher, ,focused visionary and a purpose-driven leader. 
As the owner of Developing People, Inc , Kelly fosters engaging learning environments that help individuals to discover the greatness within. She believes that everyone was created with a purpose, and we are on a journey to figure out just what that purpose is. Currently, her work has expanded to building communities through individual consulting, We-Connect Communities and capacity building with non-profit agencies.
As a life-long learner Kelly believes that self-discovery and personal reflection are key to creating rich learning environments for adults and children. At the heart of her work is restoring the family, to God's order and function. She has a strong interest in the family unit and it's strength in nurturing the individual family members development.
As a teacher, Kelly creates learning opportunities for adults that evoke passion and creates new paths for learning. She enjoys sharing in the discovery with the learner, facilitating the exchange of ideas, and providing resources to enhance the learning experience.


Deni_titcombjpg South Carolina (2015-2018)
Deni Titcomb
Lexington, South Carolina

Deni has been working in EarlyChildhood Education for over 20 years, teaching kindergarten and first grade. Currently she teaches first grade in Lexington School District One. She earned her BAS degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina and Masters in Elementary Education from Lander University. She is the past president of SC Early Childhood Association where she has served various positions. Deni is married to Chris and they have a five-year-old daughter, Kristen.


Tennessee (2016-2018)
Cathy Waggoner
Union City, Tennessee

Cathy is Administrator of the Promethean Foundation.  She is a co- author of Starting with Character, published by Redleaf Press.


Cille_DAscenzoTexas (2019-2021)
Mary Jamsek
Austin, Texas

Mary has served as director of quality assessment and assurance for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accrediation of Early Learning Programs.  Prior to joining NAEYC Mary was a master teacher at the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Laboratory and lecturer in human development and family studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  A preschool teacher for 30 years, Mary prepared for her life's work by climbing trees, building forts, and camping.  


barnes_susanVirginia (2017-2019)
Mary Braxton
Technical Assistant, Virginia Quality & Childcare Network
Prince William County, VA

Mary is a Licensed Family Child Care Provider Prince William County Virginia. She has been in the Early Childhood Field for 27 years. She is also a Technical Assistant with Virginia Quality and work with approximately 20 family child care programs that participate with Virginia Quality.

Mary currently holds a position with Childcare Network, a resource referral agency who is contracted also by Child Care Aware. Mary proivdes Technical Assistance, USDA program sign ups and visits, USDA monthly training, a monthly newsletter, and community outreach. She has served on many local and state boards and provides training.


sbrodofWest Virginia (2015-2018)
Suzi Brodof
Huntington, WV

Suzi is the executive director at River Valley Child Development Services.


2013JeffHeadShot Member-at-Large (2014-2019)
Jeff Leffler
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Jeff Leffler is an assistant professor of elementary education and director of graduate studies for the Meridian Division of Education at Mississippi State University. He is a past president of the Mississippi Early Childhood Association. Jeff has served in a variety of roles throughout his career including as a preschool teacher, children’s pastor, early learning program director, private school principal, university lab school director, and coordinator of statewide professional development and technical assistance initiatives.


joan_smith_webMember-at-Large (2015-2018)
Joan S. Smith
Educational and Training Technician Supervisor
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Langley AFB, VA

I have worked in Air Force child development centers as a preschool and toddler teacher, and now as a supervisor for over 25 years. I served 10 years as a board member of the Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education in several capacities. I served as President of Tidewater Association for Early Childhood Education (TAECE) twice. I am presently a board member of TAECE.

The military has been an important part of my life as my husband served 30 years in the Air Force and we lived all over the world while raising our three children before retiring in Virginia in 2000.