Office of the President
David S. Spence is president of the Southern Regional Education Board, where he consults on education policy with governors, state legislators, state K-12 and higher education chiefs and other leaders. He oversees many initiatives designed to help the organization’s 16 member states lead the nation in educational progress, including the nation’s largest school improvement network.
Tricia P. Avery is a special assistant to the SREB president. In this role, she manages the president’s calendar and handles the organization’s meeting planning. She plans many activities for the SREB Board, including the annual meeting, Legislative Work Conference, Legislative Advisory Council and special commissions, and solicits bids from hotels and negotiates lodging contracts and rental car agreements. In 2016, she retired from serving as SREB’s HR director — a position she held since 2000.
Cheryl Blanco has served as vice president for postsecondary education at the Southern Regional Education Board since 2008. She leads SREB’s postsecondary policy initiatives, including the work of the Commission on College Affordability in the South and the Commission on Community Colleges. She has written and overseen publications on several postsecondary issues.
Mark E. Emblidge joined the Southern Regional Education Board in 2012 and is vice president for special projects. Prior to joining SREB, Mark served as an SREB board member from 2004 to 2008 and as vice chair from 2008 to 2012. He was also the director of the Literacy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition, he served four terms on the Richmond County School Board in Virginia and was elected to three terms as chairman. In 1996, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the board of the National Institute for Literacy, where he served four years as chairman.
Gale Gaines joined the Southern Regional Education Board in 1987 as a research associate on the state services team and served as vice president for State Services for 12 years. She brings more than 35 years of experience in education policy and practice, mostly in the public education sector. At SREB, she has focused on the informational needs of legislators, governors and their staff, as well as other state policymakers.
Sam Nancarrow joined the Southern Regional Education Board in 2015 as a special assistant in the office of the president. His initial interaction with SREB came when he participated in several SREB Early Childhood Commission meetings as a legislative director in the Texas House of Representatives.