How We Serve

Within the seven states and the District of Columbia that comprise the Columbia Union Conference, more than 450 educators instruct and pray daily with our students, spanning from early childhood through university. Our MISSION at the Columbia Union Conference Office of Education is to nurture, support and facilitate the journey to excellence in education as we pursue a lifelong encounter with Christ. The Columbia Union Conference education system is part of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and the worldwide General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 

The Office of Education is wholly committed to advancing the cause of Seventh-day Adventist education throughout our field. We assist in the formulation of system policies and provide mission-driven strategic consultations in areas such as program development, school accreditation, professional growth, and teacher certification. 

The Columbia Union Conference education system consists of 25 pre-schools/centers, 51 PreK-8 schools, 13 K-10 schools, five 9-12 schools, four PreK-12 schools and two institutions of higher education—Kettering College in Kettering, Ohio, and Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. Total enrollment is nearly 9,000.

The Office of Education, directed by Donovan Ross, PhD., vice president for Education, functions to serve the diverse needs of Early Childhood Programs and the K-16 education system of Columbia Union. 


About Donovan Ross 

Donovan Ross, vice president for Education, has more than 30 years of teaching and administrative experience, including 21 years in the Columbia Union. He served as vice principal at Spring Valley Academy in Centerville, Ohio, and the former Garden State Academy in Tranquility, N.J. Ross has also taught at the college and elementary levels at various schools across the United States and in Jamai

Dr. Ross says what he most enjoys about education is the students, their energy, enthusiasm and infectious joy. “[I enjoy] helping them have a personal encounter with Jesus and equipping them to become more productive citizens of this world,” he says.

Ross holds a PhD in educational administration and supervision from Andrews University (Mich.), a master’s of education in curriculum and instruction from Atlantic Union College (Mass.), and a bachelor’s in mathematics from Northern Caribbean University (Jamaica).

Getting in Touch

Office of Education

Telephone: (410) 997-3414 or (301) 596-0800
Fax: (301) 596-6758

Vice President for Education: ​Donovan Ross
Office: ext. 550

Associate Director for Secondary Education: Jacqueline Messenger
Office: ext. 554

Jacqueline Wheatley Messenger has served in education with notable excellence in the Columbia Union Conference for more than 30 years. She has accrued all that experience as a teacher, principal for Spencerville Adventist Academy, associate superintendent, and superintendent for the Chesapeake Conference.

Jacqueline was born and raised in Cambridge, MD. She spent her formative years outside Cambridge on her family’s farm which is bordered by LeCompte Creek. She enjoyed growing up in the country, where her heart is still. Jacqueline is the youngest of three siblings for whom her parents sacrificed much in order to send all three to Shenandoah Valley Academy and then onto various Seventh-day Adventist colleges. So much so that her Dad worked two jobs tirelessly.

Jacqueline attended Columbia Union College and graduated with a B.S. degree in education. She met and married her husband, Tom, her senior year. Later Jacqueline completed her M.A. in educational administration from Hood College in Frederick, MD. The Messengers have four adult children.

In October of 2016, Jacqueline joined the Columbia Union Conference as the Associate Director for Secondary Education. Since her passion is leadership, Jacqueline loves to help principals develop their skills in that area.


Associate Director of Elementary Education: Ruth Nino
Office: ext. 552



Associate Director for Early Childhood Education: Cynthia Poole
Office: (410) 997-3414, ext. 556





Assistant Director/Certification Registrar: Dawn Thompson
Office: ext. 555
Mail: 5427 Twin Knolls Road, Columbia, MD 21045

Dawn Thompson has worked more than 15 years as the school registrar at Spencerville Adventist Academy (SAA) in Maryland. Prior to serving at SAA, she worked in the treasury department at the Columbia Union Conference for approximately 4 years. 

Dawn has two adult daughters. Her eldest child is a teacher in the state of Maryland, and her younger daughter is married and completing her master’s in occupational therapy in the state of Florida. 

Her hobbies include thrifting, Do It Yourself (DIY) projects, drawing, painting and travel. She also enjoys Mexican food as her favorite cuisine.


Administrative Assistant: Jennifer Wakefield
Office: ext. 551

Jennifer Wakefield is your point of contact for general questions relating to the Columbia Union Office of Education.

With more than 16 years serving as their Administrative Assistant, Wakefield enjoys all aspects of her job. Her favorite roles include planning events for the Office of Education and helping those that call or stop by her office. Wakefield earned a Bachelors of Science in Journalism/Mass Media from Andrews University.