DREAM Academy First Head of School/Superintendent Awarded The 2018 Joe Richardson Award for Exemplary Leadership

Staff Report From Middle Georgia CEO

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Dr. Chara N. Willaford, DREAM Academy Charter School’s first head of school/superintendent, received The Joe Richardson Award for Exemplary Leadership last evening at Georgia State University Principal Center’s annual New Principals Celebration in downtown Atlanta.
Willaford, an educational leader in the community, was nominated by her professional peers who consider her highly competent and successful within the Macon-Bibb school district.
This prestigious award is named in honor of the GSU Principal Center’s founder, Joe Richardson, and is given annually to a principal who most represents the mix of leadership attributes that provides for a school environment where both students and staff excel and who exemplifies the characteristics of an instructional leader within a community of learners and leaders, according to the Principal Center’s statement.
“The DREAM Academy board of directors is so incredibly proud of Dr. Willaford for receiving this prestigious honor,” said Karla Redding-Andrews, governing board chair. “We are lucky to have an educator of her caliber leading our school and know she will excel in creating a school environment where the students and staff are empowered for success.”
Willaford accepted the award at GSU Principal Center’s annual New Principals Celebration, which honors and celebrates first year principals in the State of Georgia for their commitment to their school communities. Over 40 new principals were in attendance and were addressed by keynote speaker, Dr. Tommy Welch, principal of Meadowcreek High School and GASSP 2017 Principal of the Year.
“I am very humbled and honored to receive this award,” said Willaford. “I truly believe excellence is a habit cultivated through a continued focus on hard work, dedication and perseverance, and I look forward to guiding my team in creating a culture at DREAM where these traits are nurtured and we strive for excellence in all we do.”
Willaford, who will soon celebrate her 20th year in education, has been consistently recognized for transforming school communities through hard work, dedication and perseverance.
Prior to accepting the position as the first head of school at DREAM Academy, Willaford served as the principal of DL Sims Elementary School in Conyers, Ga. for four years.  She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Georgia Southern University and went on to further her education earning a Master of Arts in Education from Central Michigan University, a Specialist of Education and a Doctor of Education from Argosy University.  In addition, she has pursued and received four education certificates and continuing education titles from various universities in the southeast.
Dr. Willaford led DL Sims Elementary School to rise from a “Focus” school with room for improvement to the highest performing school in the Rockdale County Public School System. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement also recognized the advances in student achievement naming DL Sims Elementary as a “Beating the Odds” school.
Prior to her accomplishments at DL Sims, Willaford served as the K-12 coordinator of English Language Arts through Rockdale County Public Schools’ Office of Teaching and Learning. In this role she improved academic outcomes by providing instructional and organizational leadership in curriculum development, professional development and instructional alignment. Willaford also brings with her five years of experience as the assistant principal of C.J. Hicks Elementary School in addition to several years of experience as a coordinator for the Early Intervention Program (EIP), classroom teacher, reading recovery teacher/literacy specialist, early intervention teacher and literacy/instructional coach.