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Derrick Willard Joins Parents for Coffee and Conversation


At top, board chair Laura Helton Kalorin ’92, at left, and Derrick Willard speak with parents as attendees enjoy light refreshments; at bottom, Willard shares remarks.

Parents and guardians met incoming Head of School Derrick Willard on Wednesday, March 13, at an informal coffee event in the Keim Center for Innovation and Research. 

Willard, who will assume the role on July 1, was joined by board chair Laura Helton Kalorin ’92, who took a few minutes to thank those members of the parent community who gave their feedback and suggestions during the candidate search and interview process. 

She noted that the search committee was impressed with Willard “from the first paragraph of his cover letter” and emphasized how pleased the Board of Trustees was to be able to hire such a “warm, welcoming and forward-thinking” educational leader.

Willard said that he was “truly humbled” by the opportunity to become Ravenscroft’s 15th Head of School. He spent some time sharing with attendees a little more about himself and why he chose a career in education. “Both of my parents were educators,” he said, “and I loved everything about being in school.”

He put himself through college with an ROTC scholarship. He characterized his experience at Davidson College as “life-changing.” It was at Davidson that he met his now-wife, Jenny, who is a physician. He served in the U.S. Army, for a time at Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty),  while she attended medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The couple have two adult children, Anna Grace and Mac.

Willard has been in independent school leadership for two decades, including the last five years as Head of School at Augusta Prep in Augusta, Georgia. During that time — which has included the COVID-19 pandemic — enrollment at Augusta Prep has increased by 20%, an office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging has been established and $10M was raised to build a new innovation center on campus. 

His decision to come to Ravenscroft, he said, was inspired by the school’s national reputation and legacy of excellence. 

“Ravenscroft’s inspirational mission and impactful programming really spoke to me,” he said. “In particular, the words ‘nurture’ and ‘prepare’ in the mission statement really get to the heart of why I am an educator and why what we do is so important.”

While emphasizing that he has “a lot to learn” about Ravenscroft in the months to come, Willard highlighted what he sees as his most important responsibilities as Head of School:

  • Excellence in academics and the development of students through athletics and fine arts

  • Lead From Here

  • A healthy partnership with parents

  • Attracting and retaining outstanding teachers and staff

  • A commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students and families

  • Agility to address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to get students ready for the future — “keeping a human in the loop” as advancements in data analytics, AI, immersive learning and more continue to change how we live and work

As he closed his remarks, Willard noted that he would be attending that afternoon’s board retreat as an observer. Willard and Head of School Doreen Kelly continue to work closely in preparation for the leadership transition this summer, with Ravenscroft’s five-year strategic plan, Framing Our Future, serving as a bridge.

“I look forward to many more opportunities to spend time with you once I’m here full-time in July,” he said.