March 30 marked a historic day for New Orleans Public Schools. On Wednesday, the state announced that Dr. Avis Williams would become the new superintendent of schools across the big easy. Williams has now become the first black woman to serve in the position. The former Selma City School district superintendent was voted in by the city’s school board committee.
According to KSLA, Williams, who is also the president of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, a non-profit organization that cultivates educators and teachers, was one of 50 candidates nominated and “one of 15 interviewed” for the role.
During her time as a superintendent in Selma, Williams helped to raise Alabama’s report card score by 8 points, shooting students’ scores up from 68 to 76. Graduation rates also saw an uptick of 6 percent during her tenure, while reading and math scores jumped by 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively. The huge achievement earned Selma the distinction of becoming the only state to acquire the Pathway, Tier I, and Tier II Performance Excellence Awards through the Alabama Performance Excellence Program, an organization that honors educational institutions for their commitment and outstanding educational performance.
Prior to her superintendency in Selma, Dr. Williams served as the Assistant Superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools, where she made more educational strides. The changemaker helped to increase graduation rates in the city from 89 percent to 91 percent and she also launched the District Instructional Framework, which led to a 25 point increase in early literacy rates.
Following the announcement, Williams issued a statement about the historic news.
“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, according to the Selma Sun. “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.”
Williams started her education career after serving as a sergeant in the United States Army. She went on to become 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,” the Selma Sun reported.
OPSB President Olin Parker called William’s new position “a historic moment” for the New Orleans school system.
“The board is excited to extend the superintendency to Dr. Avis Williams. As the 1st African American woman appointed to lead our District in its more than 180-year history, her breadth of experience as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, a teacher, principal, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent will help take our students’ education to the next level,” the statement read.
“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.”