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NCAIS Creates Fellowship for Women Leaders in Kelly’s Honor


Doreen Kelly, surrounded by her family, holds the plaque recognizing her Leadership Award from NCAIS

Kelly, at center right and surrounded by members of her family, displays the NCAIS Leadership Award she received on Jan. 10, 2024.

Head of School Doreen Kelly was recently honored by the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools for her service to the organization and in celebration of her legacy of mentoring and supporting aspiring educational leaders.

Two honors were bestowed on Kelly during the association’s annual Heads, Trustees & CFOs Conference, held Jan. 10-12 in Pinehurst. The first, the NCAIS Leadership Award, recognizes an NCAIS head of school who has demonstrated “exceptional commitment and leadership” to the association and beyond.

In addition, NCAIS Executive Director Stephanie Keaney and Forsyth Country Day School’s Associate Head of School for Wellness and Belonging Susan Perry announced the new NCAIS Aspiring Female Heads Fellowship, which was created in Kelly’s honor. It will be open to women in independent school education who, in the estimation of their heads of school, offer a servant-leadership orientation in their work and an emerging set of leadership skills — qualities, they noted, that are exemplified by Kelly and many of her fellow heads of school. 

Keaney and Perry — who served for eight years with Kelly at Ravenscroft — added that those qualities include leading in ways that are mission-aligned, nurturing a student-first culture, being a good listener and finding joy in the work.

“Doreen has been a champion of leadership development during her tenure,” Kearney said later. “Honoring her in this way felt like the best way to recognize her commitment to NCAIS and extend her legacy for years to come.”

NCAIS is an association of almost 90 independent schools across the state, with over 3,800 teachers serving approximately 38,000 students. According to the NCAIS website, the organization “provides a wide variety of professional learning opportunities, encourages and facilitates communication among member schools and cohort groups, advocates for independent education in the public domain and with the state legislature, provides guidance and support for heads and boards, and offers value-added resources and partnerships designed to leverage our collective numbers, enhance programs and support one another. NCAIS also serves as a liaison with regional accrediting bodies and the National Association of Independent Schools.”

Kelly has served on the NCAIS Board of Directors for the last decade, most recently as vice president. In addition, she has shared her insights and expertise in presentations at various NCAIS conferences, including the Women in Leadership Conference. 

“I am humbled and honored to receive a Leadership Award from NCAIS. I have enjoyed my service to NCAIS and the impact it has had on my professional life,” Kelly said. “I am also deeply touched to have a fellowship for women leaders named in my honor and look forward to seeing its impact on leadership development.”

As Kelly prepares to step down at the end of this year — her 21st as Ravenscroft’s Head of School — many of the organizations she has served are celebrating her impact as a thought leader, mentor and advocate for a culture of citizen leadership in education. Earlier this year, Kelly was recognized by the Southern Association of Independent Schools with their 2023 Distinguished Service Award.

Ravenscroft Magazine is featuring stories that explore and celebrate Doreen Kelly’s extraordinary legacy throughout the year. You may also visit our webpage, Celebrating 21 Years with Head of School Doreen Kelly, for additional tributes and remembrances — including a gratitude board where you are invited to share your memories, photos and well-wishes with her.

Below, trustees and current and former members of Kellys Leadership Team who were in attendance at the conference join Kelly and her family in celebrating these honors.