Jennifer Williams, the executive director of Administrative Services at Fullerton Joint Union High School District, describes her education administration journey as a natural progression of her interests. It is clear that ACSA’s 2018 Central Office Administrator of the Year is not only compassionate and driven, but also a born leader.
Williams was initially inspired by mentors who pointed out her inherent leadership skills. Even in her first year of teaching, she was the person to volunteer when the site administration needed an advisor for the cheer group, an assistant with compliance review or a committee chair to look at testing schedules.
By Williams’ fifth year of teaching, she was selected as the Teacher on Special Assignment to facilitate testing, chair the WASC self-study, lead a Freshman Focus program, assist with minor discipline, and help with site administration. The next year, she transitioned to the role of assistant principal. Today, she has been with her district for 16 years, spent 11 years in her current position, and served 28 years as a site principal at both the high school and middle school levels.
Williams is inspired by the people she works with, whether she is making sure teachers and administrators feel safe and supported or helping to hold students accountable. She also plays a role in the school board’s effectiveness and in the development of the superintendent’s vision.
“I love what I do at work because my job responsibilities are so diverse and everything I do makes a difference” Williams said. “What inspires me most in my work are the student leaders I am fortunate to be able to meet with monthly in the Student Advisory Council (SAC) meetings.”
Williams’ district created the SAC, led by a student board member and mentored by Williams, more than 20 years ago. It consists of five student leaders from each of the district’s seven campuses, Williams explained. “We work together to help the various ASB organizations appreciate… the events, issues, and goals we have in common [as well as our] significant differences,” she said.
Williams is a dynamic and diligent exemplar of the 2018 Leadership Summit theme, “Empowering Innovative Leadership.” She helps ensure student success by understanding and responding to the larger political context of standardized testing and comparisons of the scores by both the public and by parents.
Williams also oversees “all things technology-related.” Less than three years ago, she said, there was no infrastructure for WiFi. The district’s 14,000 students, 600 teachers, and 400 classified staff members did not use Google. To fulfill the superintendent’s vision, Williams led the complete changeover to Google for staff and students, providing essential background information to the board of trustees so that adequate funding was provided.
“Working with a director of technology and three staff members, I developed a multi-year detailed plan that included installation of WiFi infrastructure, training for all staff classified members, extensive training for teachers, creation of GATE policies and accounts for students, a campaign to inform parents, and a plan for paying for it all,” she said. “It was essential that I empower our site principals to do the heavy lifting and provide strong leadership on their campuses to make the entire process flawless.”
As of August 2017, all students and teachers in Williams’ district are issued Chromebooks for daily use at school and at home, a change which has had a significant impact on classroom instructional strategies.
Williams has been an ACSA member since 1993. From 1990 through 2002, she served on the Middle Grades Education Council, working with state-level staff members to recommend policies and instructional practices.
“Much of this work overlapped with ACSA efforts to reform middle grades education and I was often on joint committees providing training,” she said. “From 2002 through 2007, [as a high school principal], I was a regular participant at ACSA conferences enjoying speakers such as Robert Marzano, Doug Reeves, Kate Kinsella and Rick DuFour.”
Since 2008, Williams has served her district as executive director of Administrative Services and member of the superintendent’s cabinet. In this role, she took over as her district’s ACSA charter president, attending region meetings, communicating information to district leaders, and ensuring participation in the Every Student Succeeding Program.
As far as her future plans are concerned, Williams said, “I remain ambitious about supporting student and staff member uses of technology, dealing with school safety issues, mentoring assistant principals and principals, and being the person others call when they are not sure who to call.”
All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored during the President’s Celebration held Nov. 9 at Leadership Summit. The Summit will take place Nov. 8-10 in San Diego. Go to www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit to learn more and to register.