Leader of early-childhood agency stepping down

The director of the state’s early-childhood wellness agency said Tuesday she is stepping down in December.

Susan DeVenny has led S.C. First Steps to School Readiness for 12 years after being on the agency’s first board of trustees. The First Steps executive committee will meet Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the search for a successor, a spokesperson said.

DeVenny is leaving to become president and chief executive officer of the J. Marion Sims Foundation, a Lancaster-based education and health wellness nonprofit. “I have been extremely honored to have been part of the First Steps organization since inception,” DeVenny said. “With leadership statewide, First Steps is poised to continue its work into the next generation, helping thousands of young children and families across South Carolina.”

“Susan has been a strong and consistent voice for South Carolina’s youngest learners, and she leaves big shoes to fill,” said First Step chairman Ken Wingate.

The agency said DeVenny’s contributions include:

▪  Creating and managing a state-funded 4-year-old kindergarten program for children attending private preschools in high-poverty communities

▪  Launching a program where nurses mentor first-time, low-income mothers in their homes

▪  Overseeing the nonprofit’s budget as it grew to $58.8 million from $18.4 million

First Steps uses state, federal, local and private dollars on health and education programs for preschool children, their families and caregivers.