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Bronwyn Ragan-Martin, Ed.D.

Deputy Su​perintendent,
Rural Education and Innovation​
​Georgia Department of Education​​​​​​

Dr. ​​​Bronwyn Ragan-Martin is the former Superintendent of the Early ​​​County School System, a small rural system in southwest Georgia with approximately 2,000 students and 300 employees.

She previously served as the system's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and coordinated human resources, gifted education, and leadership development. Prior to that, she was a high school English teacher and debate coach. ​

She is a past Chairperson of the Blakely-Early County Chamber of Commerce and served as Chairperson of the Early County Department of Health Board as well as a member of the Lucy Hilton Maddox Memorial Library Board. She is an active participant and past Chairperson of the Southwest Georgia RESA Board of Control, past President of the Rotary Club of Blakely, and past President of the Georgia School Superintendents Association. She has served on numerous statewide taskforces and panels as an authoritative and authentic voice for rural education in Georgia.​

Full​ Bio

Meet The REI Team

Ilisha Terez-Evans

Business Support Analyst II
Office of Rural Education and Innovation
Phone: 470.763.1102
Cell Phone: 229.449.4883

Please contact Ilisha Terez-Evans for issues concerning the REI Department.


Kermit V. Gilliard, Jr., Ed.D.

Senior Program Manager

Dr. Kermit Gilliard, Jr. is a native of Grady County. He is a 1985 graduate of Cairo High School, 1989 graduate of Valdosta State College with a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education. Dr. Gilliard received his Master’s degree from Georgia State University in Special Education with a concentration in Severe and Profound Disabilities in 1992. He returned to Valdosta State University for his doctoral studies in Education Leadership and graduated in 2010. Dr. Gilliard is beginning his 33rd year as a Public School Educator; he taught three years in Gwinnett County at North Gwinnett High School and 29.5 years in the Grady County School System; two years as a teacher, 12 years as Director of Special Education, three years as Eastside Elementary School principal, four years as Washington Middle School principal and two years as Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Leadership. In September of 2014, he was named Interim Principal of Cairo High School while maintaining his duties as Assistant Superintendent. On July 1, 2015, he became the Superintendent of the Grady County School System. Dr. Gilliard retired October 30, 2021 and began work with the Georgia Department of Education as the Senior Program Manager of REI on November 1, 2021. He and his wife Cristie have two children, Anna, a Senior Mechanical Engineering student at Florida State University and Owen, a welding student at Southern Regional Technical College in Thomasville.

Alissa Sasser, Ed.D.

Partnerships Specialist

Dr. Alissa Sasser is the Partnerships Specialist for the Office of Rural Education and Innovation. She is originally from rural upstate New York and moved to Mt. Vernon, Ga in 1996 to pursue her Bachelor's degree in Middle Grades Education from Brewton-Parker College. In 2018, Dr. Sasser obtained her Doctoral degree from Georgia Southern University. During her 23-year tenure in public education, she has served students in rural districts throughout southeast Georgia as a teacher, cheerleading coach, as well as a school and district administrator. 

Dr. Sasser previously served as a member of the Keep Statesboro Bulloch Beautiful Advisory Board from 2020-2021, as a Victim’s Advocate at the Teal House in Statesboro from 2014-2022, was a member of the 5th cohort of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Leadership Academy through the University of Georgia's J.W. Fanning Institute and is currently a registered mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution. She is also a member of Dougherty County Rotary.

As a servant leader, Dr. Sasser is committed to using her role as a Partnerships Specialist to connect students in high needs rural areas to the non-academic resources they need to fully engage with the learning process. She will work to use the strengths of community cohesiveness and relationships that are characteristic of rural communities to achieve this outcome for students.​ 

Gary Wenzel, Ph.D.

Partnerships and Operations Specialist

Dr. Gary C. Wenzel has served in School Improvement at the Georgia Department of Education for over twenty years, managing Title I-A 1003 (a) grants to schools with School Improvement Set Aside grants to RESA, as well as State Science Coordinator and leading 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Dr. Wenzel assisted in developing a RESA Aspiring Leaders Program.

Dr. Wenzel was a high school English/Drama Teacher, Secondary and Elementary Principal, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of West Georgia in the 1990s, teaching School Finance, Educational Facilities and the Superintendency, which is why he is well known throughout the state by district superintendents, principals, federal program and curriculum directors, and RESA Finance Directors and RESA Executive Directors.

​Dr. Wenzel has a Masters in English and Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Penn State University, and has worked closely with Georgia Public Broadcasting in producing educational videos, stemming from his graduate studies in film and theater at NYU and UCLA.

​Dr. Wenzel began working with Randolph, Stewart, and Quitman County Schools in 1999, where he first recognized the importance of technical assistance for rural districts—thus, his new role as Partnerships and Operations Specialist for the Office of Rural Education and Innovation is a dream come true!​

Vacant Position​

Instructional Specialist

This position is currently vacant, but will be filled soon! 

​Amy Denty, Ed.S.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention Specialist
Amy Denty is the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Specialist in the Office of Rural Education and Innovation. She has spent her entire career working in rural schools and is passionate about ensuring that every classroom has a quality teacher who is supported in the most important work – educating students.

Mrs. Denty recently served as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning for the Wayne County School System in Jesup, Georgia. In her heart of hearts, she is a teacher. She was the 2000 Georgia Teacher of the Year and was certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards from 2001 -2021. She has served as president of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and was also the first active classroom teacher to chair the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. She has served on a number of statewide commissions, always seeking to be a positive voice for the teaching profession.

Mrs. Denty received her undergraduate degree in middle grades education with an emphasis in science from the University of Georgia. She attended the University of South Carolina for her interdisciplinary master’s degree in education and natural sciences. She holds a specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Georgia Southern University. Mrs. Denty is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Valdosta State University where she is focusing on teacher retention in rural areas as her dissertation topic.

Mrs. Denty is married to Eric Denty and has two sons, RED and Sam. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with family along the Georgia coast and can usually be found with a good book.

Russell Paine, Ed.S.

Technology Specialist

Russell Paine is the Technology Specialist for the Rural Education and Innovation Department (REI). Before joining GaDOE, he was the Technology Director and Instructional Technology Specialist at Southwest Georgia RESA for five years where he served 15 school systems, most of which are rural districts. While at RESA Russell created the website, the SLDS Ambassador Cohort and the Google Teach from Home Courses. These courses were vital for the encouragement and training of Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents in how to implement technology from home during the Pandemic. He also taught the Substitute Teacher training courses along with various Instructional Technology classes. 

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Lee University, a Master’s in Middle Grades Education, Math and Social Studies, from Albany State University, and a Specialist Degree from Georgia Southwestern State University. He earned several teaching endorsements, such as, Gifted, Reading, ESOL and many technology certifications including, Google, Microsoft, Edpuzzle, Nearpod, Peardeck, etc.

He previously taught ESOL, Spanish, and the Migrant Summer Camp in Albany, begining January 2003 at Merry Acres Middle School and traveled throughout Dougherty County translating and providing ESOL services throughout the K-12 Schools. Prior to teaching, he served our country as an U.S. Army Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. He and his wife Katie, of 28 years, have four children, three grandchildren, and are serving their​ community and church as Youth Leaders. ​

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