Home » Louisville’s only free, private college prep announces appointment of new head of school

Louisville’s only free, private college prep announces appointment of new head of school


Kelly Wright Henrion

LOUISVILLE (Monday, April 24) – West End School has announced Kelly Wright Henrion, a Louisville native with almost two decades of experience at the highest levels of education, will become head of school for the free, private college-preparatory school for boys on July 1, 2017.

Henrion will help guide strategic direction and lead organizational change efforts to drive greater results for students at West End School.

Henrion’s selection as head of school followed an extensive search that initiated in 2015 after Robert Blair, who co-founded West End School with his wife, Deborah, announced his intent to retire in June 2017. A subcommittee of the West End School’s board of directors oversaw the search for the right candidate to lead the school into the next decade and beyond. Henrion was selected for her extensive experience founding and leading college preparatory charter schools for disadvantaged and at risk children and youth.

“Mrs. Henrion has a wealth of experience serving in schools very similar to ours,” said Paul Perconti, chairman of the West End School board of directors, in a letter distributed to West End School’s network of students and their families, volunteers, and faculty and staff and other supporters this week. “During the coming months, she will work closely with the Blairs, faculty, staff and other stakeholders of the West End School community to ensure a smooth transition and to provide the best possible educational programs for our students.”

Henrion graduated from St. Francis High School in Louisville, to which she received a full scholarship. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from Carleton College and a Masters in Education from Harvard University.

“I know firsthand the transformative power of an excellent education on an individual, his or her family, and community. Without a doubt, the scholarship opportunity that allowed me to attend St. Francis High School changed my life’s trajectory,” Henrion said. “As a result, I’ve spent my career ensuring that as many children as possible have access to a high-quality education that will provide similar life-changing opportunities.”

As a corps member for Teach for America, Henrion was placed as a first-year teacher at Tertulia charter school in Phoenix, Ariz. There she taught in native language Spanish and English classrooms and also oversaw implementation of a comprehensive Federal Title VII grant to upgrade the public charter school’s dual language program.

Then, Henrion was awarded a Fisher Fellowship from the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Foundation – which supports a network of more than 200 kindergarten through 12th grade public schools in under-resourced communities across 20 states that serve over 59,000 students, the majority of whom qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches through the federal nutrition program. Henrion designed and planned a new public charter middle school called the KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy, a college-preparatory school serving disadvantaged students in fifth through eighth grade in San Diego.

Henrion took the helm at the school as founder and principal in 2003 and in 2007, KIPP Adelante School was awarded a National Title I Distinguished School award and ranked 10 out of 10 on the state-wide Academic Performance Index when compared to similar schools.

Following her tenure at Adelante Preparatory Academy, Henrion designed and implemented rigorous professional development programs for principals and teacher leaders in more than 140 schools throughout the country as director of principal development programs for KIPP Foundation. Later, she oversaw all of the school-facing programs for the KIPP network as chief program officer.

Most recently, Henrion was responsible for leading the turnaround of KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools, a network of eight public schools serving nearly 3,000 students in grades Kindergarten through 12. As executive director and superintendent, she led the school network to achieve enrollment targets and launched an $11.9 million fundraising campaign to underwrite a three-year strategic plan.

“I’ve been afforded many opportunities to work on a national scale and expand my leadership capacity in many ways, and I am eager to apply those experiences in the city I call home,” Henrion said. “When I first visited West End School, I felt a strong connection as I walked through the halls and met students, and it reminded me very much of Adelante Preparatory Academy – the school I founded.”

West End School was founded by the Blairs in 2005 and began with only three students. Today, there are 116 students enrolled in West End School, which is located in the old Carter Elementary building in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood. West End School is free to its students and funded entirely through grants and private donations. It is the only school of its kind in Kentucky, serving all-male students in grades pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade and sixth through eighth grade. The school will introduce a fifth grade class in the fall of 2017. The school’s middle-school students live on campus Monday through Friday.

To date, graduates of the West End School have been offered more than $2 million in scholarships to many of the top high schools in the state. Currently, 29 West End School graduates are enrolled in private high schools, colleges and universities.

“Children should have the opportunity to live in an environment that encourages them to work toward their highest potential and achieve long-term goals and ambitions,” Blair said. “It has been my great privilege to work alongside Deborah and the hundreds of volunteers who have support West End School for the last 12 years. We’ve made tremendous progress growing the school from a startup to a full pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade college preparatory school. Now the time has come to pass the torch to the next leader. Mrs. Henrion has a history of proven leadership creating, building and sustaining academic environments that provide valuable educational opportunities to students, and we thank the board of directors and the succession committee for finding a qualified leader to guide the future of West End School.”

West End School board members Nancy Bush, Junior Bridgeman, Darrell Griffith, Rick Guillaume, John Usher, Jackson Woodward and Perconti served on the succession committee that oversaw the search for Blair’s successor.

“Every decision we make at West End School is what’s best for our boys,” said Perconti. “Mrs. Henrion is a person of remarkable character and grit. We were impressed by her eagerness to establish a long and meaningful tenure in the city she grew up in, and the succession committee and board of directors at West End School are confident she is the right leader to continue growing and evolving our academic standards to best meet the needs of our students.”



West End School is a free, private, college-preparatory school for young men ages pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade. Admission is open to boys who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches through the federal nutrition program, are capable of completing academic work at grade level or above and who would benefit from a safe environment and high expectations. West End School strives to address many of the issues boys in our community face by creating an environment of high expectations and personal responsibility. Students are encouraged to attain the highest possible level of scholarship, character and intellectual growth through the school’s rigorous academic and personal standards. More information is available at www.westendschool.org.