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District Leadership

Dr. Dana Ayers, Superintendent

Photo of Dana Ayers

Dr. Dana L. Ayers began her educational career in 1999 at Battleground Elementary School in Lincolnton, NC where she taught 1st, 4th, and 5th grades.  In 2005, she moved to Lincolnton Middle School where she taught 6th grade math and science for five years.

Dr. Ayers transitioned to school administration at West Lincoln Middle School where she served as Assistant Principal of Instruction from 2010 to 2014.  She then became Principal at Lincolnton Middle School and was named Principal of the Year in 2017.

After relocating to Jackson County in 2018, Dr. Ayers was selected by Asheville City Schools as the Chief Academic Officer.  In her nearly three years, serving there ACS, she had the opportunity to work alongside many community members and fellow educators and her network grew. Dr. Ayers commuted to Asheville until 2021 when she was chosen from a pool of 21 applicants to become the Superintendent of Jackson County Public Schools.

Dr. Ayers currently serves in several roles with local organizations. She is a member of the Sylva Rotary Club, supports the Jackson County Department of Aging by delivering Meals on Wheels, served on the Board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, presented to the State Board of Education in Raleigh, and was just recently chosen to serve a four year term on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) beginning July 1, 2024.

Dr. Ayers received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Belmont Abbey College in 1999.  She was awarded a Master of Arts Degree in School Administration in 2008 and AIG licensure in 2009 from Western Carolina University.  In 2016, she completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at UNC Charlotte.

In her personal life, Dr. Ayers prioritizes faith, family, and community.  She has participated in many service projects with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, and Samaritan’s Purse.  She has volunteered at homeless shelters, served as a team captain for Relay for Life, and collected food for various ministries.  Dr. Ayers is married to Phillip and they have three children, Josh and Emily, both married with families, and her youngest son, Truman. Truman is a rising senior at Smoky Mountain High School.

Jacob Buchanan, Deputy Superintendent

Assistant Superintendent, Jacob Buchanan

Mr. Buchanan began his educational career in 2001 teaching social studies at Smoky Mountain High School.  He became assistant principal at Scotts Creek School in 2010.  He served the district as director of middle and secondary education in 2012 prior to becoming principal at Smoky Mountain High School in 2013.  Under his leadership, Smoky Mountain moved into the top 5% of high schools in North Carolina in both academic growth and graduation rate.

Mr. Buchanan completed his Bachelor’s Degree in History from King College in 1999.  He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education Social Studies in 2001 and a Master’s Degree in School Administration in 2009 from Western Carolina University.  In 2017, he received an Education Specialist Degree from Clemson University and is currently working on his Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Mr. Buchanan received National Board Certification in 2005.  He was selected as the Jackson County Teacher of the Year in 2007 and the Jackson County Principal of the Year in 2015.  He became assistant superintendent in June 2018 and deputy superintendent in March 2021.

Former Superintendent Dr. Kim Elliott said, "Mr. Buchanan is a true asset to Jackson County Public Schools.  He shares my vision for safe schools and excellence in teaching and learning.  Mr. Buchanan cares deeply about students and their success.  Students have always come first and will continue to do so in Jackson County."

Directors & Coordinators

Shaneka Allen Headshot

Shaneka Allen

Public Information Officer
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1973


Laura Cabe

School Nutrition Director
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1936


Angie Dills

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1954


Laura Dills

Executive Director of Federal Programs & Elementary Education
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1950


Kelly Doppke

Director of Student Support Services
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1928

Photo of Woody Dotson

Woody Dotson

Transportation Coordinator
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1801

Josh Francis

Josh Francis

Transportation Director
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1802


Adam Holt

Director of Testing & Accountability
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1940

Melody McCabe

Melody McCabe

SIS Coordinator
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1932

Photo of Brent Speckhardt

Brent Speckhardt

Director of Professional Development & Teacher Growth
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1971

Greg Stewart

Greg Stewart

Chief Technology Officer
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1948

Teri Walawender

Teri Walawender

Human Resources Director
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1925

Kristie Walker

Finance Officer
(828) 586-2311 ext. 1945