About Us

Johnston County Education Foundation Staff

Darla Peedin

Executive Director

Darla Peedin is the Executive Director for the Johnston County Education Foundation. Darla has lived and worked in Johnston County all her life. She has taught school for Johnston County Public Schools for 30 years, which impacts her desires to support and cultivate the connection and growth between the Foundation and Johnston County Schools. 

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She holds a BS degree from Atlantic Christian College, a MM from East Carolina University and was a National Certified Teacher.  Through her experiences, she is excited about working with the Foundation to cultivate the awareness within the county and support students and teachers in her community. Darla likes to walk and play the piano when she is not working. 

Hannah Hill

Marketing & Public Relations Director

Hannah is the part-time Marketing & Public Relations Director for JCEF. She attended Johnston County Public Schools from kindergarten through graduation and has a B.A. in Communication from Wake Forest University. When she is not working, you can find her exploring local coffee shops in search of the perfect latte, reading a good book, or spending time with her fiance, Adam.

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When she isn’t working, you can find her exploring local coffee shops in search of the perfect oat milk latte, reading a good book, or running.

Board of Directors

Stephanie Norris

Board President


I live in Smithfield, and I am an attorney at Narron Wenzel, PA, in Smithfield. I provide estate planning and estate and trust administration services for clients as well as support corporate transactions and succession planning. I grew up in Archer Lodge and attended Johnston County Schools before going to UNC Chapel Hill for my undergraduate degree in Business Administration and later attending Georgetown University Law Center for my law degree. 

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In my business career, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel dozens of countries and throughout the United States, and while I enjoyed travelling immensely, I am so happy to be back home in Johnston County! I joined the Board of the Johnston County Education Foundation in 2021 to support the students and teachers!

Eric Brownlee

Former Board President

I’m originally from TN, but lived all over the Southeast, as a 38 year food service professional. I moved to NC in 2002 to work for Golden Corral, franchising my first location, here in Smithfield in 2008.  We subsequently owned and operated a total of 3 restaurants, until 2019.  My wife, Michele and I started a disaster recovery business in 2009, as well.  In 2019, we became partners in HomeMasters Pest Control. And in August of 2021, we started our newest venture, Triangle Connect, Community App.

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We love living and working in Johnston County, and having had 5 children, we understand the importance of supporting the school system, teachers, and education in general.

Loretta Byrd


Benson Chamber

Vanessa Watson

Board Member

Vanessa Watson is from Kenly, NC and attended Johnston County Schools. She grew up in this school system having been raised by a now retired Johnston County Schools administrator and librarian. After graduating North Johnston High, she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a degree from the School of Media and Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations.

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She spent some time working for The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro before finding her place as an Associate at Nexus Strategies in Raleigh where she now works in public affairs. You can often find her at a sporting event, in a theater, on a plane flying somewhere new, or outside on a walk. She was happy to join the Johnston County Education Foundation Board in 2022. She looks forward to supporting the teachers and students in her home county. 

LaShawndra White

Board Member

LaShawndra White, native of Maysville, NC, has served in various roles at several North Carolina Community Colleges and Universities throughout her career. She has 18 years of experience in fundraising, training, instruction, and leadership in higher education, and currently serves as the Director of Community Programs and Cleveland Campus with Johnston Community College.

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LaShawndra received her Bachelor of Science degree in media studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Master of Science degree in adult education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; and Education Specialist degree in higher education from Appalachian State University, where she is also expected to receive her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership in December 2023. LaShawndra is passionate about empowering individuals through education. Her work aligns with increasing resources, access, and exposure for the development of knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to equip life-long learners to realize their personal and professional goals.

Maureen McGuinness

Board Member

Maureen McGuinness is president and CEO of the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce. She has a passion for workforce development and has worked with school districts in both New York State and North Carolina to assist teachers and students with career exploration and skill development. She lives in Smithfield with her husband Shane McManus. She is the mother of two daughters. 

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Her oldest daughter is a middle school English teacher in Westchester County, NY and an adjunct English instructor at Iona University. Her youngest is a film student at the University of Tampa. Maureen’s mother was a middle school teacher and administrator. Her aunts were elementary school teachers and administrators.
Maureen chaired the Education Foundation in the school district where her children attended school. The funds raised were used to provide more than 20 grants annually to classroom teachers.
Maureen and Shane are enjoying exploring the beauty of North Carolina.

Jenna Payton

Board Member

I am a Talent Acquisition Manager for Caterpillar, Inc. In my role, I am honored to lead a team that supports all recruiting activity for the Construction Industries segment of Caterpillar within the United States and United Kingdom regions. I work with Caterpillar leaders to build and execute talent acquisition strategies to meet the needs of our growing business.

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In my free time, I enjoy trips to the beach with my family and watching my children in their sporting events. Supporting them and seeing them thrive is truly what makes me the happiest!

Doug Cockrell

Board Member

I am from Kenly and am a credit analyst for KS Bank. I am scholarship chair on the foundation board. I got involved on the board because my wife and several family members are/were long time educators, mostly in The Johnston County School System, so I was aware of what the Education Foundation was doing. 

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One day I was having lunch with a board member and discussing some things the foundation had going on. When I got ready to leave I said, “If I can help in any way let me know.” Two months later I was on the board. That was in 2015, I think. My favorite holiday tradition is having my brothers and all our family over and spending time with them.

Heather Moser

Board Member

Heather Moser is a resident of Clayton, NC where she has lived for 19 years. She is married to her husband, Marty, and has 3 children. As a stay at home mom, she has been active in the community serving on the Johnston County Habitat for Humanity Board as the Director of Family Relations, Clayton Historical Association as well as PTA President and Treasurer at Cooper Academy 6 of the past 7 years. 

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During that time serving on the PTA board, Heather has worked closely with members of the community including Flour Construction, Novo Nordisk, Riverwild, the Town of Clayton and other  Downtown Clayton businesses. For the past two years, Heather has led the Why Mentoring program at Cooper that coordinates students from Clayton High School to mentor fourth and fifth graders at Cooper Academy. Additionally, she served as the school liaison when raising money for a new STEAM playground and served on several committees with NC Restart at Cooper Academy. Heather has a passion for helping find  financial assistance for Cooper families in times of need. In addition to staying busy with  volunteering in the community, she also enjoys gardening, raising her chickens, and spending time with family. Heather rarely meets a stranger and believes that these assets and experiences would make her a great addition to the Johnston County Ed Foundation Board.

Blaire Whitehurst Narron

Board Member

I am originally from Smithfield but now live in Clayton.  I am currently the Sr. Manager Performance Development at Grifols. I am excited to be a new member of the JCEF Board.  I joined the Board to become more involved in the Johnston County Public School system and to ensure Johnston County Education Foundation has the support from industry partners. My two favorite holidays are Christmas and Halloween.

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At Christmas my family would ride through neighborhoods admiring all the decorations and lights.  A Halloween tradition when my children were younger was to cook meals with a Halloween theme each night and visit The Fear Farm at least once in October.

Johna Faulconer

Board Member

Johna Faulconer is a professor at East Carolina University where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate students. She holds a bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University, a master’s degree from Campbell University, and a doctorate from NC State University.  In Johna’s early career, she was the recipient of grants from the Foundation and has seen firsthand what the work of the Foundation can do. 

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She is honored to serve as a member of the Board of Directors. Johna currently resides in what she calls SmithOaks-between Smithfield and Four Oaks. She and her husband Linwood (Lindy) have two adult children, Lily and Ethan, and a mini goldendoodle, Bishop Furry. When not out and about advocating for literacy, you can find Johna in her rose garden.

Landis Bullock

Board Member

Bullock Brothers


Please reach out to us at our contact email if you are
interested in serving on our board. 




  • On Dec. 12, 1989, Dr. Dicky Parrish, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Education, appointed board of education member Glenda Hales and Eaton Corporation plant manager Robert Busby to begin exploring the establishment of an education foundation.
  • In 1990, two fundamental events led to the grassroots formation of The Johnston County Education Foundation. Board of Education Chairman Dicky Parrish directed that Superintendent Dr. Jim Ellerbee looked into the formation of a local education fund. Busby was asked to begin the local effort. Concurrently, Harold Keen met with the leadership of Wake Education Partnership, researching what it would take for Johnston County to have the benefit of a local education fund. The two leaders established a task force to begin working on an education foundation as a county-wide effort. Business and community leaders worked towards making teachers feel good about their profession and providing mini-grants for classroom projects. Articles of Incorporation were filed and 501(c)3 tax status was granted by the IRS. A formal presentation was made to the Johnston County Board of Education, followed by a public announcement of the foundation. President Busby and President-Elect Keen gave credibility to the group and led the first fund-raising efforts.
  • In 1991, the first grants were awarded. Superintendent Dr. G. Thomas Houlihan was hired by the Johnston County Board of Education. The board accepted administration of the Guy C. Lee Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High School.
  • In 1992, teacher grants continued. Project L3, or Life Long Learning, was introduced by the Johnston County Board of Education.The foundation hired its first employee. Also, Johnston County Schools’ “Showcase of Stars” premiered and the event was established as a fundraiser for the Education Foundation.
  • In 1993, the grants program was expanded. The foundation board accepted administration of the Benjamin E. Strifert Scholarship at North Johnston High School. Also, the board accepted administration of the Caryn Reed Scholarship at Clayton High School.
  • In 1994, Superintendent Dr. James Causby was hired by the Johnston County Board of Education. Also that year, the partnership of Johnston County Schools/Johnston County Education Foundation for Project L3 received a Governor’s Program of Excellence in Education award. Grant winners began to be recognized at the PTA/PTO/Advisory Council dinners. The board accepted administration of the Ray A. Boyette Visual Arts Grants and the Lance Oatley Stewart Memorial Wrestling Scholarship. The Life Long Learning Project spawned off on its own, with a separate board of directors to oversee its success.
  • In 1995, the foundation mission statement was amended to read, “The Johnston County Education Foundation strives to enhance the public school educational experience of students within Johnston County through the involvement of financial and human resources from the private sector by supporting and creating programs that expand the quality of education.” A five-year celebration was held and the first JCEF video was produced. The Johnston Community Foundation awarded a grant to the foundation to support grants programs.
  • In 1996, the foundation joined each chamber of commerce in Johnston County to provide better visibility and influence. The board accepted administration of the Mast Firm Scholarship at each of the JCS high schools, the Rains Scholarship at Princeton High school, the Thomas Eastwood Medlin Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High School, the Miss Ione B. Vinson Memorial Scholarship with county-wide competition, the Ray Hollowell Memorial Scholarship at Princeton High School, and the Quinton Brown Memorial Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High. Also in 1996, the board received a $105,000 bequest from Newitt Williams. The mission statement was amended again to read, “The Johnston County Education Foundation will enhance the public school educational experience of students within Johnston County through the prudent use of resources, and through programs which foster creativity, innovation, and involvement.”
  • In 1997, the Showcase of Stars was expanded to four shows. Brogden Mills grants were established through a partnership with Brogden Mills. The board accepted administration of the Ethel Butler Simpson Scholarship with county-wide competition. Barbara Clapp Character Awards were defined and administered. The board accepted administration of the Kim Beam Cox Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High. The Kenly Kiwanis Club pledged support for up to $750 each year for the J. Burke Long Kenly Kiwanis Grants. The first adult spelling bee was held.
  • In 1998, the foundation established a presence on the internet. The board accepted administration of the J.E. Rogerson Memorial Scholarship and the Woodall Scholarship. The foundation began participation in the Johnston County Flame for Learning Awards by providing $500 to the Flame recipient. The organization also began providing desserts for the new employee luncheon. A partnership with the N.C. Center for International Understanding was established so that five educators from Johnston County could travel to Mexico to learn first-hand about the culture in order to better educate Latino students in our system. The foundation partnered with Texas Steakhouse for the “Excellence in Education” coupon program.
  • In 1999, the partnership participated in the 50th Mule Days Parade in Benson with a partnership float. Progress Energy and area teachers and principals joined us on the float. The board accepted administration of the Jimmy Ray Eason Memorial Soccer Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High and the Michael David Creech Memorial Scholarship at North Johnston High. The foundation partnered with Applebee’s in Smithfield on their Grant Opening Night. Diners ate free and contributions and tips supported the foundation.
  • In 2000, board members volunteered in the schools in celebration of the foundation’s 10th year. The board accepted administration of Four Oaks Bank Scholarships at each of the five JCS high schools and of the Jamie Mack Penny Memorial Scholarship at South Johnston High. Carolyn Ennis was recognized for her dedication to the foundation through Showcase of Stars and the board accepted administration of the Susan P. Oldham Memorial Scholarship at North Johnston High and the Tom I. Davis Jr. Leadership Award, endowed by Jimmy & Earline Hite of Hite Associates. 
  • In 2001, the board accepted the role of advisory board for the SAVVY after school program at Selma Middle School, made possible by a grant from the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.The board accepted administration of the Mary Jane Mitchell Reading Award at Cleveland Elementary School and the Alyce Sumrell Educational Endowment, which should grow into a scholarship at Clayton High School in the future. Also, the board accepted the administration of Colonel Donald E. Woodard Scholarship for ROTC at Smithfield-Selma High School.
  • In 2002, the first scholarship naming raffle was held with a barbecue dinner at the Selma Fire Station and free tickets to the Rudy Theatre to see The American Music Jubilee held on Aug. 17. 2002. The board accepted administration of the Carquest Performance Supply Scholarship at North Johnston High School, the Carlton Daughtery Memorial Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High School, the Deacon Jones Scholarship at Princeton High School and the Cooper Elementary Scholarship at Clayton High School. The JCEF participated in Belk Charity Day, receiving proceeds from all the coupons we sold for the event. The board accepted administration of the Jessica Lynne Gurley Memorial Scholarship at North Johnston High School, the West Johnston High School Sportsmanship Alliance Scholarships and the West Johnston High School Excellence in Arts Scholarship. The JCEF Grant Patrol was re-established to deliver grants to winning teachers. The mission statement was updated to read, “The Johnston County Education Foundation promotes innovation, involvement, and excellence in the public schools through the prudent administration of privately-funded programs, grants and scholarships.” A vision statement was adopted to read, “To achieve recognition as the primary partner of public education in Johnston County through support of continuous academic improvement and professionalism and excellence in teaching.”
  • In 2003, the board accepted administration of the Smithfield Rotary Club Scholarship in Honor of Carl and Marjorie Lamm, the WIZ Kids Grant in memory of Debbie Wyzykowski, the Shirley Cohen Scholarship and the Life Long Learning Scholarship Funds from the Life Long Learning Foundation. The JCEF entered into a partnership with the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce to provide refurbished computers for students at Smithfield Middle School and Selma Middle School and also agreed to administer funds for Junior Leadership Johnston. In addition, the JCEF partnered with Johnston County Schools to host a retirement dinner for Dr. James F. Causby, with proceeds supporting a scholarship bearing his name.
  • In 2004, the board accepted administration of the Lucille Crocker Coates Scholarship, the Dr. James F. Causby Excellence in Education Scholarship, the Smithfield High School Scholarship and the JCS AP Scholarships. Also that year, the JCEF supported the JCS elementary science kits initiative.
  • In 2005, JCEF partnered with The Smithfield Herald and Outback Steakhouse in a Luncheon for Literacy fund raising event. The board also accepted administration of the Superintendent’s Scholarship, which will rotate alphabetically in the high schools, starting with Clayton High. The Ray A. Boyette Grant transitioned to the Ray A. Boyette Scholarship in the Arts. The board accepted administration of the Johnny Ray Johnson Memorial Scholarship at North Johnston High and the Sue Wood/Media Scholarship, to be awarded to classroom teachers who are working towards their school library and information science degree.
  • In 2006, JCEF board and JCS Superintendent Dr. Tony Parker reached an agreement for the executive director to become an employee of Johnston County Schools. The board accepted the administration of the Jeriad Paul Jacobs Scholarship at Clayton High School and a new logo for the foundation was adopted. The foundation board agreed to support the Principal of the Year award with a cash award of $1,500.
  • In 2007, the board accepted administration of the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County Scholarships, including the Four Oaks Bank Scholarships at each high school and multi-year scholarships from past years; the Cecilia McRae and Donnie Parker Excellence in Teaching Award at North Johnston High School for the school’s designated Teacher of the Year and the Donnie and Linda Vann Lassiter Scholarships at North Johnston High School.
  • In 2008, the JCEF attended the JCS employee health and benefits fair and updated its bylaws. The board accepted the administration of the “Every Little Voice Counts Scholarship” at Johnston County Middle College. Also, the foundation was invited to promote foundation-administered scholarship opportunities at the opening of the Relay for Life at JCC. The foundation staff doubled and Jeannine Flynn was hired as an assistant for the executive director.
  • In 2009, the board approved changing the name of the Woodall Scholarship at North Johnston High to the David Johnson Scholarship and accepted administration of the State Farm Good Neighbor Scholarships at South Johnston High and the Dr. H. Edward Croom Scholarship, which will rotate through Johnston County schools in alphabetical order. Through reorganization by Superintendent Ed Croom, the foundation staff became members of the public information department. The board accepted administration of the Selma Woman’s Club Scholarship at Smithfield-Selma High, accepted expansion of the Jamie Mack Penny Scholarship to include West Johnston High, accepted changes in the criteria for the Cooper Scholarship and accepted administration of the William and Dorothy Wellons Community Service Scholarship at Princeton High.
  • In 2010, Sysco of Raleigh hosted a Luncheon for Literacy. Horace Mann agreed to fund $1,000 for the Principal of the Year. Sysco agreed to fund $500 for the Flame for Learning recipient. The board accepted administration of the Joyce Wade Scholarship, with the recipient to be selected from county-wide applicants who are children of JCS employees. Also, the fiscal year was changed from a calendar year to a July 1 to June 30 year to align with the school year. The board accepted administration of the Teen Driving Awareness Scholarship, to be awarded in 2010 at each Johnston County Schools high school. “Education Horizons,” the foundation’s newsletter, was revived with the intent of publishing electronically three out of four quarters each year. A Time Warner Grant  for Intercessions at South Smithfield Elementary and West Smithfield Elementary was awarded. Also, a Wachovia/Wells Fargo Foundation Grant to be used for teacher grants in classrooms. In 2010, the foundation celebrated 20 years of promoting excellence, innovation and involvement in Johnston County Schools.
  • In 2013, a scholarship naming raffle was held in September 2013 and the Adult Spelling Bee in November. In July, the Central Johnston County Rotary Club hosted a luncheon for scholarship recipients.
  • In 2014, the foundation held a scholarship Showcase of Stars in March, the Flame for Learning Banquet in May, a scholarship naming raffle and a grant writing workshop in September and a spelling bee in November.
  • In 2015, the Showcase of Stars was held in March and the Adult Spelling Bee took place in October.
  • In 2016, the Showcase of Stars was held in April and the Adult Spelling Bee was held in November. Also in November, the foundation announced a partnership with Fit4Life.
  • In 2017, an Open House was held at Facility Services in conjunction with Johnston County Public Schools and the Adult Spelling Bee was held in November.
  • In 2018, Showcase of Stars was held in March, a Grant Expo was held in September and the Adult Spelling Bee in October.
  • In 2019, another Showcase of Stars program was held in March. Also that year, the Thelma W.Wall Memorial Library, a Free Little Library, was established on East Rose Street in Smithfield behind the West Campus Office Building of Johnston County Public Schools. In addition, the Adult Spelling Bee was held in October. In 2020, the coronavirus caused the cancellation of Showcase of Stars in March. However, at the close of the 2019-20 school year, the foundation still awarded 83 scholarships worth $80,000. 
  • In June 2021, at the end of 2020-21 school year, the foundation issued scholarships to 69 graduates worth more than $70,000. Over the summer the board met to name new members and Executive Director, Darla Peedin.  The new year is off to a great start with the welcome of Beginning Teachers in August, 2021.