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Executive Director

Texas Association of Rural Schools (TARS) Announces Randy Willis as New Executive Director


Executive Director, Randy Willis

[Austin, Texas, June 29, 2023] – The Texas Association of Rural Schools (TARS) is pleased to announce the appointment of Randy Willis as the organization's new Executive Director. With an extensive background in education, with a proven track record of leadership, and a passionate advocate for rural schools, Mr. Willis brings a wealth of experience and expertise to TARS.

Randy Willis served as the Superintendent of the Granger Independent School District for nine successful years and retired in 2021.  Despite his retirement, Randy continued his dedication to education by working as a Field Service Consultant at the Educational Service Center Region 13 supporting the region’s superintendents and as a Field Service Agent with the Powell Law Group, where he collaborated with the prestigious Center for School Governance.

One of Randy's notable achievements was his role as one of five superintendents across the state on the Accountability Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) to the Commissioner of Education at the Texas Education Agency. During his eight-year tenure on this committee, Mr. Willis established his expertise in shaping education policies and his commitment to a fair accountability system for Texas schools while representing the interest of rural districts.  As President of the Texas Rural Education Association in 2020-21, he demonstrated his steadfast commitment to advocating for the unique challenges of rural education.

Randy Willis possesses an impressive educational background, including a Bachelor of Science degree from George Washington University, a Master of Education from Northwestern State University, and continual studies in the Doctoral Program at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

Under Randy's leadership, the Granger Independent School District achieved remarkable accomplishments. Granger Middle School received national recognition as one of the U.S. News and World Report's Best Middle Schools in America for 2021. Similarly, Granger High School earned the distinction of being named one of the Best High Schools in America by U.S. News and World Report in 2017. Moreover, the district achieved an outstanding 100% graduation rate for eight consecutive years.

Randy Willis has also been recognized on a national level for his innovative approaches to education proving that rural schools can be innovative and high achieving. John Hopkins University highlighted Granger Independent School District as one of three school districts in the United States for its exemplary use of international assessments to enhance student performance. He has also been a distinguished leader as one of 15 superintendents across the United States as a member of the prestigious leadership council of the America Achieves International Global Learning Network in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his professional achievements, Randy has been the recipient of several prominent awards, including the "Assistant Principal of the Year" by T.A.S.S.P. in ESC Region 4 and the "Distinguished Service Award" by the Texas Rural Education Association. His commitment to improving educational opportunities for all students has been further demonstrated by his active involvement in organizations such as America Achieves, ESC 13 Regional Advisory Council of Superintendents (past Chairman), ESC 13 TASA Legislative Committee, TEKS Resource System (Board of Directors), and Texas Equity Center (Board of Directors).


Randy Willis’s expertise, leadership, and dedication to rural education make him an exceptional choice for the role of Executive Director of the Texas Association of Rural School.  Dr. Aaron Hood, the current President of TARS and Superintendent of Robert Lee ISD, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, "Randy's dedication to the field of public education and his proven track record for promoting and fighting for rural schools in Texas make him the perfect fit for our organization. We are excited to have him represent the member schools of TARS and the schools of rural students in Texas."

Greg Gilbert, TARS President Elect and Superintendent of Santo ISD, who served on the hiring committee, shared his perspective on Randy Willis's appointment, saying, "As part of the hiring committee, I can attest that Randy's interview was one of the most intriguing conversations I have experienced in years. His unique past experiences, can-do attitude, successful school leadership, and familiarity with the legislative process, along with his proven skill set, make him the ideal person to lead the 350 plus members of the TARS organization, representing rural school districts across the state of Texas."

TARS is excited to welcome Randy and is confident that under his guidance, the association will continue to champion the needs and interests of rural schools across the state of Texas.

About Texas Association of Rural Schools (TARS):

The Texas Association of Rural Schools (TARS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the unique needs of rural schools in Texas. TARS advocates for equitable educational opportunities, resources, and support for rural schools to ensure that all students receive a quality education regardless of their geographic location. For more information, please visit