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Leadership and classroom experience aid Carlisle chief
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Tommy Hudgins, new headmaster at Carlisle School, is shown outside the school recently. Hudgins, who has been in several leadership roles at other schools, said he enjoys the energy and challenges of leading a school, such as being on call 24 hours a day and the accountability to so many people who count on him to provide leadership, he said. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Monday, August 19, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Tommy Hudgins said he will draw from his wide range of jobs and experience during his 35 years at independent schools in his new role as Carlisle’s head of school.

“Independent” refers to nonpublic, nonsectarian schools.

Hudgins, 58, served as teacher, coach and several administrative positions during his 22 years at Norfolk Academy. His last administrative positions there were assistant head of school and head of the upper school.

He left Virginia in 1998 for Newnan, Ga., where he was headmaster at The Heritage School. After five years at Heritage, he accepted appointment to the head of school position at Westchester Country Day in High Point, N.C. In addition, he served as interim headmaster at Salisbury (N.C.) Academy and spent the past six years as assistant headmaster for institutional advancement at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“This is the fourth school I’ve led,” he said of Carlisle.

“I am an English teacher at heart,” Hudgins said. “I love students,” as well as the process of teaching, communicating and learning. He also enjoys consensus building and working together to achieve a goal.

However, he also enjoys the energy and challenges of leading a school, such as being on call 24 hours a day and the accountability to so many people who count on him to provide leadership, he said.

After having not led a school the past six years, Hudgins said he felt that energy again his first day at Carlisle on July 1.

His early impressions of the school and community?

“I can’t believe a school like this is (in the area),” he said. Carlisle is the only school in Virginia to have an International Baccalaureate-accredited program running in elementary, middle school and high school grades, he pointed out.

Carlisle is an IB World School serving about 485 students from preschool through 12th grade, with about 360 of them on its campus near Martinsville, according to Hudgins. Carlisle also has campuses in Danville and Chatham.

According to the International Baccalaureate website, IB helps “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.”

Hudgins said he was astonished at the broad opportunities for Carlisle students, including IB courses, Advanced Placement courses, travel opportunities, “great athletic programs,” “tremendous” arts programs, community service involvements and the opportunity to interact with students from 11 countries this school year.

In a Sept. 27, 2012, letter posted on the school’s website, Barry Dorsey, who served several months as interim head of school, said Carlisle is an “outstanding college-prep institution” and that the 49 graduates of the class of 2012 received more than $2.9 million in scholarships to attend prestigious institutions across the nation.

Hudgins also said he is impressed by Carlisle’s dedicated staff.

He said Carlisle’s “second-tier leadership” (below him) is solid.

One of his goals is to seek funding to increase educator salaries, which are below their counterparts in public education, he said.

Some of his other goals include improving technology, providing professional development and developing partnerships with the New College Institute for engineering and practical technology offerings. Another challenge all schools face is finances, he said.

Also, Carlisle plans to merge its Danville and Chatham campuses on a new site in Danville in fall 2014 as the number of students at the Chatham campus has declined.

Hudgins said Carlisle soon will go through a strategic planning process, which he said should be done every year rather than, for example, every five years. The possibility of a major fund-raising campaign is one of the issues that will be considered, he said.

A native of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Hudgins graduated from Frank Cox High School in Virginia Beach, where he played baseball and basketball and was vice president of the student body.

He played baseball at Washington and Lee University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He received a master’s degree in educational administration from Old Dominion University.

Hudgins and his wife of 26 years, Janet, have two daughters. Kayleigh, 21, who is a rising senior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and Joanna, 20, a rising sophomore at Auburn University.

Hudgins said he has met with some community leaders since he arrived here, and he and his wife are “excited about getting involved in this community.” She already is on the Piedmont Arts board, he said.

Asked to describe himself, Hudgins said people have described him as friendly, outgoing and concerned with the community. He likes to play golf, watch sports and read, especially historical fiction and mysteries.

“I’ve never been without a dog, at least one pet,” he said. He currently has a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.


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