Williamsburg Christian Academy (WCA) announced the appointment of Johnny Graham as its new Head of School on Wednesday, May 29th, 2019 after an extensive search process which started last year. “This exciting announcement comes after a year-long search for a Head of School. Our search committee received and reviewed over eighty resumes and interviewed fifteen candidates,” stated the WCA Board of Directors in a message to families. “Through multiple phone and Skype interviews, Mr. Graham quickly rose to the top of our list, and it became very clear that he should visit our school. A week later, Mr. Graham and his wife, Kim, arrived to tour our facility, meet our faculty/staff, and experience our culture first hand. We were so pleased by the amazing and positive feedback we received from everyone that came in contact with Mr. Graham. After much prayer, the Board voted unanimously to extend an offer.”
A Substantial Track Record
Graham’s career spans 23 years in both private secular and Christian education and administration at several schools in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Maryland. Included among these is his most recent position as Head of School at Springdale Preparatory School in New Windsor, Maryland, a day and boarding school that he mainly helped found. He has held positions as an Associate Head of School, Athletic Director, AP History teacher and even as a varsity basketball coach through his career journey.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in History and African-American studies, Graham later received his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and is currently working toward his Doctorate in Education in Organizational Leadership at the American College of Education, which he anticipates receiving in 2021. Mr. Graham hails from Lemon Springs, North Carolina, an hour outside of Raleigh. He and his wife Kim have four boys: Christopher, 21, who is in the Army National Guard, Julian, 20, a college student who hopes to transfer to a college in Virginia, Jeffrey, 15, entering 9th grade and Ashton, 13, entering 8th grade. Jeffrey and Ashton will attend WCA in the fall.
“It is a blessing to be named as Williamsburg Christian Academy’s Head of School,” Graham commented on his appointment. “As my family met the students, faculty, administrators, and Board during our on-site visit and interview, WCA’s mission spoke to our hearts. Williamsburg Christian Academy serves as a profound paradigm of 21st-century Christian education in America. We pray that God uses us in this season of growth in our academic and spiritual community. ”
The Right Fit
There was a healthy list of traits that the WCA Board was looking for in their new Head of School, and Graham checked the box on almost all. “There were several attributes we were seeking in candidates for the position, including spiritual maturity, prior head of school experience, a team-focused leadership style, collaborative ability, and a vision for growing enrollment without sacrificing excellence. Johnny hits all those marks. We also were impressed with his commitment to active student recruitment, his views on ethical servant leadership, his experience in accreditation and curriculum development, and his engaging leadership style,” explains WCA Board President Judy Henley. “We feel that he will contribute immediately, helping to build further student recruitment initiatives, expanding marketing opportunities, and assisting us in completing our curriculum alignment project.”
Opening a School From Ground Zero
Graham’s work starting the fledgling Springdale Preparatory School two years ago on the grounds of an abandoned university and middle school garnered him substantial praise from not only the students of the school, but community leaders and government officials in Carroll County, Maryland as well. ‘In a very short time, he wove his ambitions for an international boarding school and all the economic growth and cultural impact that comes with it, into the fabric of Carroll County,’ described Carroll Magazine in an article devoted to his efforts in opening Springdale. ‘His grit in chasing down a dream, his passion for improving lives, his impact on the local economy and his commitment to collaboration county-wide contributed to Carroll Magazine’s decision to name him Person of the Year.’ The magazine article pointed to many attributes that the WCA Board of Directors found appealing when reviewing his credentials in their search screening process, including his ability to connect with the community, and his dogged determination to reach his goals with a sense of urgency. “I get my dog-like work ethic from my dad, Johnnie Graham. No task is ever too impossible; he’s not going to bed until all the work is done,” Graham recounted. “That is where my drive comes from. Unequivocally, my father was my No. 1 influence. So when people criticize me for not having balance in my work life and personal life, I tell them that I blame my dad.”
Graham will be called to bring that energy into play immediately, to assist in areas that commonly fall on a dedicated Head of School. “Mr. Graham is a visionary leader who focuses not on a school’s present situation but what it can be as demonstrated by taking a school with no infrastructure and building it into a successful, financially solvent institution,” described WCA member Doug Kinder. “He emphasized to us his desire to demonstrate his strong Christian values and beliefs to our faculty, staff, students, and parents by modeling them through his daily interactions. He walks the talk, a behavior worth emulating. He has also been a self-motivated, high achiever in his previous leadership positions.”
A Strong, Character Focused Educational Philosophy
Graham will bring with him a solid educational philosophy, one that emphasizes academics but focuses more on the spiritual growth of the student body. “Academic achievement is significant; however, the development of young Christians is paramount in our challenging 21st Century world,” asserted Graham, “As twenty-first-century educators, it is our duty to raise a bold generation of future servants who take on the mantle of leadership in a complex world. Strong educational leaders are needed in independent schools, which will embolden teachers in their delivery of purpose-filled curricula. My educational philosophy is a decades-long design of partnership with parental stakeholders.” Graham believes that the core pillars of the comprehensive life-preparation education of a child are stewardship, awareness, preparation, and resiliency, and seeks to establish those core character elements through 360-degree life training for students in which the values of critical thinking, global literacy, service to others, and integrity are thoroughly imbued in, and modeled for, students each day.
Graham hit the ground running on Thursday, May 30th, and will be introduced to parents in both WCA’s Middle School Awards ceremony and Lower School Music Program, as well as a meet and greet immediately following that event. He will be taking appointments to meet one on one with parents the week following prior to our graduation ceremony on June 8th.