Chavon Browne, Celeste LaVan and Nikki Lucas will lead Lady's Island Middle, Robert Smalls International Academy and Hilton Head Island School for Creative Arts respectively

Veteran educators fill three principal positions
Posted on 06/25/2020
key hires

Wednesday, June 24, 2020                             

District announces selections
of three school principals

BEAUFORT – Veteran administrators have been selected to lead three Beaufort County School District schools.

Two of the selections by Superintendent Frank Rodriguez were internal moves, and the third selection, an educator from outside the district, was approved tonight by the Beaufort County Board of Education.

The three new principals are:

  • Lady’s Island Middle School – Chavon Browne, the current principal at Port Royal Elementary, will replace Greg Hall, who left to take an assistant superintendent’s position in Florence District 1.

  • Robert Smalls International Academy – Celest LaVan, currently Director of Elementary Education for the Darlington County School District, will replace Jennifer Morillo, who left to take a position with the national Leader in Me program.  The Board of Education on Wednesday approved Rodriguez’s selection of LaVan.

  • Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts – Nikki Lucas, currently an assistant principal at the school, will replace Gretchen Keefner, who retired after 44 years in education.

“Wherever you see a strong school, you see a strong principal,” Rodriguez said.  “These three administrators are assuming their new positions during an unprecedented time, and I’m confident they will be up to the challenges they’ll face.”

The administrators announced tonight were the top choices of committees that interviewed finalists for each position.  Those committees included teachers, principals, parents and representatives of the district’s Instructional Services Division.  Committee members rated the candidates and those ratings were submitted to Rodriguez, who made the final selections. 

Chavon Browne (new principal at Lady’s Island Middle) attended Beaufort County public schools as a child and graduated from Battery Creek High.  She began her education career teaching 6th-grade social studies at Whale Branch Middle School and was the school’s 2008-09 Teacher of the Year.  She served for three years as an assistant principal at Red Cedar Elementary School before being named as Port Royal Elementary’s principal in 2012.

Browne earned a BA in Elementary Education from Clemson University, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Supervision and Administration from Charleston Southern University, an Education Specialist in Education Leadership from Cambridge College and a Doctor of Education Degree in Instructional Leadership from Northcentral University.

The school district will select a new principal to replace Browne at Port Royal Elementary.

Celest LaVan (new principal at Robert Smalls International Academy) was a fifth-grade teacher in Mississippi before moving to Beaufort and teaching at Beaufort Elementary.  She served as an assistant principal at Whale Branch and Joseph S. Shanklin elementary schools before being named as Shanklin’s principal, a position she held for six years before leaving the district in 2019 to become Director of Elementary Education in Darlington County.

LaVan earned a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Master’s Degree in Education from Ashford University and a Doctor of Education Degree from Liberty University.

Nikki Lucas (new principal at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts) taught middle and high school science courses at schools in West Virginia before being named principal of an elementary school in Fayetteville, WV.  She has been an assistant principal at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts for the past five years.

Lucas earned a BS in Secondary Education from Concord University, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix and an Educational Leadership Certification from Concord University.