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Allison Willis runs for CHCCS board with classroom, administrative experience

Screenshot from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA Council Candidate Forum.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series on Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education candidates. The Daily Tar Heel is not endorsing any CHCCS school board candidates.

Allison Willis, a Chapel Hill parent and lifelong educator, is running for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education. 

Willis said she was initially encouraged to run by fellow community members. 

“When Triangle Blog Blog put out a call to the community that no one had filed to run with two weeks left in the window, I just received a lot of outreach from folks down here who said, 'You have the skill set that that our board needs,'” she said.

Willis taught middle school in New York City through Teach for America in 2004 before becoming a founder of KIPP Infinity Middle School in Harlem. Founders at Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) schools make up the first group of faculty at the school and set the direction for school policy.

The KIPP location Willis was involved in teaches about 1,100 students.

She got her principal's license and master’s in educational leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2011 and became the principal of KIPP Infinity in 2012. 

Willis was then promoted to deputy superintendent of KIPP NYC Public Schools in 2019. 

She is currently working as an independent education consultant and leadership coach, according to her LinkedIn profile. 

“I think you would be hard-pressed to find an educational issue that I haven't experienced on the ground or had to kind of lead through and have experience setting policy at a district level,” she said.

Glenn Davis, the current principal of KIPP Infinity Middle School, said he worked with Willis for 12 years. He said Willis is skilled in building relationships.

“I've seen her work with students and families in our role, but also with teachers and school administrators and community partners and students themselves,” he said. “She was one of our greatest strengths with being able to talk with and listen and learn from many different stakeholders.”

Willis’ husband is also an educator, working as an elementary school educator at a CHCCS school. Their four kids attend Frank Porter Graham Elementary School.

“I'm hopeful that this is the beginning of a long career of service and support of our public schools, both for my kids but also for all of the kids who attend our schools,” she said.

Willis said she is passionate about establishing universal pre-K — which she experienced while teaching in New York.

“I was able to see how it supported both fellow educators in New York City, but also families I had served for a long time in making early childhood care far more accessible than it had ever been before,” she said.

Willis also said she is in favor of a more cohesive curriculum and a clearer system of assessing schools' progress. 

She said she supports the transparent use of data for a stronger alignment across different schools to create a common experience for students and teachers.

Willis said the board needs to collaborate with the Orange County Board of Commissioners to finalize a long-term facilities upkeep plan. 

“We just completed a really amazing project of rebuilding Chapel Hill High School, which is awesome, and we honestly have to keep going,” she said.

Gayle Hagler, Willis’ sister, is also a CHCCS parent.

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Hagler said Willis has been a part of her family’s journey in the school district, and that she has a great combination of work and life experience to bring to the board.

“I feel very lucky that she is in our community and is willing to put so much of her time into going for being part of this board and being in this leadership role,” Hagler said.

If elected, Willis said she hopes to achieve improved outcomes for all students, faith in the public school system, teacher retention and a facilities plan.

“I know it’s hard, it’s really hard, because you have to collaborate with a lot of bodies, and it’s a lot of zeros at the end of that investment, but it's something that needs to be done,” she said.

@DTHCityState |

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