Destin High School has hired Donald “Willy” Williams to be the school’s first Executive Director and help lead the charter school forward after some recent challenges. The Executive Director role is a newly created position aimed at enhancing the organizational structure and performance of the 3-year old charter school.
The hiring process began back in May when the Governing Board approved the creation of the Executive Director position. After a months-long search, the Board narrowed it down to two final candidates – Willy Williams and Jeffrey Greenley.
- Both candidates participated in a town hall with Destin High School stakeholders on July 27 to introduce themselves and answer questions. Ultimately, the Board decided Willy Williams was the best fit for the role and he accepted the position.
In an interview, Williams spoke about his excitement to take on this opportunity and help the young charter school succeed. “I believe that people are provisioned for a time and a place for a reason,” he said.
Williams brings over 20 years of educational leadership experience working in the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) system. Most recently, he served as a Community Superintendent managing 13 schools in Okinawa, Japan. Throughout his career, Williams has overseen various aspects of education management from budgets and operations to curriculum and strategic initiatives.
The creation of the Executive Director role comes after Destin High School faced some financial issues and internal conflicts this past school year. The school’s Governing Board decided expanding the organizational structure and bringing in an experienced leader like Williams can help steer the school in a positive direction.
- The Board outlined a comprehensive job description for the Executive Director position, charging the new leader with overseeing academics, operations, finances, community relations, athletics and more.
Addressing past problems
When asked about the past problems at the school, Williams said he wants to focus on moving the school forward while reflecting on the past and making sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes. He explained his leadership philosophy is to build strong relationships, learn from any previous mistakes, and put processes in place to move the organization forward.
- “The first thing that I want to do is build relationships and that’s what’s really important to me. I feel like when you have good relationships with people, you can do anything,” Williams stated. “But my pledge is just to be transparent. When we are dealing with people’s money, you have to be really transparent.”
He said some of his priorities for his first 90 days will be establishing trust through transparency (both with staff and the community), taking time to understand the school’s history, and creating a plan to address any existing issues. Long term, Williams wants to architect a blueprint to clearly chart where Destin High School is headed.
“You can’t move a school forward unless you have a plan. Part of the idea will be to look at what plans are already in place and then figure out what improvements we need to lay into place to clearly chart where we’re going to go,” he explained.
The school’s athletics
One area the new Executive Director will have to focus on is the school’s expansive athletic programs. When Destin High School launched just 3 years ago, they started with 20-22 sports teams for a student body of around 500. The large number of programs has caused some budgetary and logistical challenges. As Executive Director, Williams will also serve as the Athletic Director.
- “I actually talked about that when I was there, we have to look at processes that determine what is financially feasible. If it’s not, do we put it on the path that says we’re going to continue to execute on this? How do we also grow other programs?” Williams noted.
He said he will take a close look at what athletic programs are doing well versus needing adjustment. Williams emphasized utilizing processes and matrices to determine if programs meet the mission and vision, benefit students, are financially viable, and don’t overburden staff.
- While he will be the top decision maker on athletics, Williams said he believes in delegated leadership and will work with a team to make the sports programs successful.
The chance to lead in Destin
When asked what drew him to Destin High School, Williams cited the chance to bring his federal government and military school leadership experience to a charter school setting. After some life circumstances this year, Williams and his wife were considering moving closer to family in the southeast U.S.
When the Executive Director job presented itself, Williams said he saw it as the perfect opportunity to strike while the iron was hot.
He shared that while he’s never been to Destin before [aside from the Town Hall], he’s heard great things from family members who have visited the “world’s luckiest fishing village.” An avid deep-sea fisherman himself, Williams is excited for the chance to lead a school in a paradise like Destin.
- Most importantly, he is eager to join the Destin High School community and help local students thrive.
“I want to really focus on the great things because I think that when we can focus on the great things, it’s going to translate into great things for kids,” Williams said passionately.