The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) unanimously voted today to offer the NOLA Public Schools' (NOLA-PS) superintendency to Dr. Avis Williams. The board's choice is historic: It marks the first time in the 181 years of public education in New Orleans that a woman was chosen to serve as the permanent superintendent for the District.
The Board and Dr. Williams will now enter contract negotiations. After a successful agreement, she will be formally appointed to the top position during a future board meeting.
"This is an historic moment for our school system and for our city, and the board is excited to extend the superintendency to Dr. Avis Williams. As the first African American woman appointed to lead our District in its more than 180 year history, her breadth of experience as a sergeant in U.S. Army, a teacher, principal, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent will help take our students' education to the next level," said OPSB President Olin Parker. "Dr. Williams is committed to working with our schools to increase academic achievement, expand access to mental health services for students, and engage deeply with all community members. I am certain of her commitment to ensuring that our graduation rates continue to rise and the doors of success continue to open for our scholars through college, well-paying jobs, and beyond."
Dr. Williams is an award-winning, proven instructional leader with experience in innovative practices and strategic planning who has demonstrated an ability to increase student achievement in high poverty schools and improve community support as a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools.
"I am honored, humbled, and thrilled by this new opportunity with OPSB. I look forward to working with the community to do important work for Every Child at Every School, Every Day. I can't wait to get started," said Dr. Avis Williams. "My thanks to the OPSB for their trust & confidence. I'm excited to listen — to teachers, students, families, and the NOLA community — and translate what I learn into meaningful actions that I hope will touch lives and open doors for all of our scholars in the future."
In her current role as Superintendent of Selma City Schools in Alabama, Dr. Williams has successfully increased the district's State Report Card by 8 points, from 68 to 76, the equivalent of raising it by a full letter grade. She also increased the graduation rate by 6%, reading scores by 6%, math by 8%, and achieved the distinction as the only district in the state to earn the Pathway, Tier I and Tier II Performance Excellence Awards through the Alabama Performance Excellence Program (Baldrige Framework).
Advocacy and community engagement have been hallmarks of Dr. Williams' service as the leader of Selma City Schools. She has written weekly articles in local publications, spoken to dozens of churches, civic groups, and other community partners to discuss issues impacting education, as well as addressed state legislators to help improve children's education. Prior to her superintendency in Selma, Dr. Williams served as the Assistant Superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools where she helped increase the graduation rate from 89 to 91% and developed a District Instructional Framework, which led to a 25-point increase in early literacy proficiency. In addition, she helped implement a $170M capital project.
Dr. Williams started her professional career serving as a sergeant in the United States Army before becoming a teacher and physical education coach in Huntsville, Ala.; an English teacher and assistant principal in Salisbury, N.C.; a principal in Huntsville, an adjunct education college professor in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and the Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction in Greensboro, N.C. These roles have afforded Dr. Williams the unique privilege of serving as an elementary, middle, and high school principal, as well as a college professor – giving her a full perspective of what it takes to lead at all levels.
An avid writer, Dr. Williams is the author of a children's chapter book and has authored numerous pieces for state and national education publications. Her joy comes from spending time with her daughter, Bree, running, writing, and being a "dog mom" to her standard poodles, CoCo and Butterscotch. Never forgetting her roots, Dr. Williams enjoys giving back to her community while working with families in need.
A graduate of Leadership Alabama Class XXIX, she is a member of the Rotary Club of Selma, president of the ASCD board of directors, Teach for America advisory board, School Superintendents of Alabama District 2 president, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Alabama Alliance of Black School Educators (AL ABSE) and the Selma Chapter of the Links, Inc. Dr. Williams has created and delivered dozens of professional development and motivational sessions at national conferences and to churches, student groups, educators and leaders across the U.S. Her areas of expertise include educating children in poverty, culture transformation, strategic planning, instructional leadership and providing educational equity.
Dr. Williams is a member of Cohort 6 of Future Chiefs for Change. Her awards include the Marbury Technology Innovation Award by the Alabama Department of Education in 2011 as a principal and in 2019 as superintendent; the 2020 Alabama Alliance of Black School Educators (ABSE) Superintendent of the Year; the Dr. Ulysess Byas Superintendent of the Year; a 2019 finalist for Alabama State Superintendent of the Year; and one of two 2022 superintendent finalists for the School Superintendents' Association's (AASA) Women in School Leadership Award. The University of Alabama selected her for the 2021 Harold L. Bishop Alumni Award of Leaders, and the National School Public Relations Association identified her as one of the 2022 Superintendents to Watch for her dynamic leadership with strong communication at its core.
With a heart to serve, Dr. Avis Williams is an optimistic, strategic, visionary leader determined to provide a high quality education to all scholars in her charge. She lives by her core values: Excellence, Equity, and Joy.