On August 7, 2023, Debra P. Wilson begins her tenure as the ninth president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Read the NAIS board announcement.
From 2019 until 2023, Wilson served as president of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), where she led the organization through a period of growth and supported school leaders in her region through the COVID-19 pandemic. Her SAIS role followed 19 years at NAIS, first as assistant director of regulatory affairs and later as general counsel. In that capacity, she oversaw regulatory and advocacy work for the organization, supported schools in crises, advanced best practices in governance, and created dozens of legal advisories along with other informational resources. Before joining the NAIS staff, Debra was a tax litigator at the Department of Justice.
In addition to serving on the boards of several schools, Debra’s board service includes The Enrollment Management Association (EMA), Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), Mid-South Independent School Business Officers (MISBO), and National Network of Schools in Partnership (NNSP).
Speaking frequently on topics such as leadership and governance, school safety and risk, and community health and well-being, Wilson is also co-author of the NAIS Trustee Handbook (10th and 11th editions).
Wilson received a B.A. in English from Sewanee: The University of the South and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. She is a graduate of the Williams School, an independent school located on the campus of Connecticut College. She is an avid reader, photographer, and cook who loves to be outdoors.
Wilson succeeds Donna Orem, who served as NAIS president from 2016-2023.
August 7, 2023
I’m so pleased to write to you today on my first day as NAIS president. To those of you I already know from my time as NAIS general counsel or as president of the Southern Association of Independent Schools, I look forward to reconnecting and to continuing our work together.
To those I have not yet met, I am eager for our paths to cross soon. Connecting with our member schools will be a major goal of my first year as NAIS president, with the purpose of listening and better understanding the challenges and opportunities that all types of schools, from every region, are encountering. I will be on the road quite a bit this year, and I will also be holding some virtual gatherings.
I know that each school is unique in its background, mission and market, regional realities, and student and family needs. NAIS is committed to offering a breadth and depth of resources and tools that will be useful to you and your school community in the immediate and long term. That is our aim as your national membership association: to save you time in addressing fundamental day-to-day needs and to help you grow and evolve, both as a school and as a professional. We also have so much to learn from one another; I look forward to exploring together topics that are on the horizon for all schools.
I’m grateful to the NAIS board and staff, and especially Donna Orem, who have all worked to smooth my transition. And I thank you for the many warm welcomes you’ve extended to me.
In the meantime, I know you are preparing for all those students ready to burst back onto your campuses, if they aren’t already there. Here’s wishing you one final moment of summer calm before it all begins!
Debra P. Wilson