Heart, passion, and conviction best describe Dr. Charles Willis, a veteran educator and recognized “Turnaround” leader with Birmingham City Schools, Birmingham, AL. He has held numerous leadership positions within the school district. He has served as a high school assistant principal, principal at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, secondary Human Resources Coordinator, Director of Schools, and Senior Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction/ Post-Secondary Readiness. He currently serves as Instructional Superintendent. His roles and responsibilities include supporting state and local efforts to meet the goal that all students are prepared for success beyond high school and supervising the district’s seven high schools, alternative school, and the Birmingham Virtual Academy of Learning. Dr. Willis truly believes that “Urban Education is the greatest opportunity to make the biggest difference in society.” His career has been characterized by his ability to lead underperforming schools to become high performing schools. His innovativeness in instructional practices, special programs and initiatives, and commitment to teacher professional growth has led to tremendous gains in student achievement and school improvement. Dr. Willis consistently demonstrates his sincere concern for education by actively engaging the entire community, participating in planning and problem solving, and ensuring quality instruction for all students. At the time he received the prestigious Milken National Educator Award (2005), Dr. Willis was the principal at L. M. Smith Middle School. He is credited with successfully guiding the school to national recognition during his tenure. Smith Middle School was named a National Demonstration Site for teaching and learning by Pearson Achievement Solutions and a National High Flying School by the National Youth at Risk Conference. The school posted an increase of 26 percent on state writing assessments—the largest increase in scores in the school district. Math achievement scores increased by an impressive 20 percent. Further, to help young men identified by teachers as at-risk, Dr. Willis organized the "Principal's Pride Group." Meeting with these students twice a week, he led discussions on issues such as self-image, peer pressure, conflict resolution, and the advantages of having a quality education. The mentoring and motivation that Dr. Willis provided helped to transform the lives of these young men.
"Urban Education is the greatest opportunity to make the biggest difference in society."