Deborah Lockhart
Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Lockhart’s expertise lies in the areas of human resources, marketing, operations and technical services. She has successfully launched and operated programs for corporate entities for more than two decades. Among the clients served, both domestically and internationally, are the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Washington, DC; Riverside Hospital/Riverside Treatment Services, Inc., Washington, DC; Orion Marketing & Engineering Services, Frankfurt, West Germany; and International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation, Riverside, CA.

Ms. Lockhart’s most fulfilling achievements are those associated with the success of the many young people that she has been fortunate enough to mentor and assist in their development. She also counts among her achievements the development of the Human Resources Department for a major hospital, including its recruiting, credentialing, hiring, orientation and training, and retention of personnel functions; the establishment of a broad-based marketing and technical services firm for sales and installation of office products, telephone systems, intercom systems, and other support services; and spearheading the development team transitioning the human resources system at one of the largest airport facilities in the United States from a family of antiquated software and hardware systems to a multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art system affecting hundreds of employees at multiple base sites.

Ms. Lockhart’s undergraduate and graduate degrees are from California State University in Northridge, CA. She has also completed graduate studies in human resources at Villanova University.


Avril Crooks
Early Childhood Principal

Avril Codnor-Crooks is the Early Childhood Principal at Excel Academy and was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She received her elementary and secondary education at all girls’ schools. She graduated from Mico Teachers’ College in 1990 where she specialized in Elementary Education; The University of the West Indies in 1990 with a Bachelor of Education with an emphasis on Managing Learning Difficulties; then The Mico University where she studied School Administration and Management. She continued her education at American College of Education where she completed a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.

Avril Codnor-Crooks has over twenty-five years of teaching experience of which twenty of these were at her alma mater –an all-girls elementary school. Her accomplishments during her teaching career include winning the Teacher of the Year at St. George’s Girls School in 1992-1993; 1997-2001, the Ministry of Education scholarship in 2002 and 2006 was featured in the nation’s newspaper ‘Teachers we Love.'   

Avril Codnor-Crooks has two daughters, one son and two grand-daughters. She believes that every child is a unique and special individual who deserves a secure, caring and stimulating environment in which to grow and mature academically, physically and socially.

Donyale Butler
Elementary School Principal

Donyale Butler is originally from Chicago, IL and is a proud alumnus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (BA-Elementary Education) and St. Thomas University (MS- Gifted Education).
Mrs. Butler is a career educator of over 25 years and brings a wealth of experience as a School Administrator, Classroom Teacher, and Instructional Coach.

Mrs. Butler is motivated by her deep commitment to seeing all children develop the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive and meaningful members of their community. She understands the role of passionate and deliberate leadership that is dedicated to student success. 

Mrs. Butler is married and the proud mother of four children. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling in her spare time.

Nikki Williams
Middle School Principal

Nikki Williams began her career as a high school biology teacher in 2000.  From there, she went on to teach middle school science; was Magnet Coordinator and was a founding Assistant Principal for the first and only single gender, female public school in North Carolina.  With a focus on early college and leadership, Ms. Williams cultivated a partnership with a local university and was the sole administrator.  This allowed students to earn two years of transferable college courses on the university campus.  Through her leadership, each student amassed upwards of 60-credit hours to transfer to a 4-year university.   As a first-generation college graduate herself and former military soldier, Ms. Williams has made it her life work to ensure that students have exposure, opportunity, and access to college.  A native of North Carolina, Ms. Williams earned her B.S. in Biology from North Carolina Central University, cum laude. She later went on to earn her Master’s degree in School Administration from North Carolina State University.

Since moving to the District of Columbia, she has held the position of  Director of Curriculum and Instruction for a K-12 school where she had a strong focus on school culture and excellence.  She later became the Head of School for a Southeast D.C.high school that was set to replicate itself.  She was an instrumental partner in the strategic planning for the opening of the new campus. 

She is now eager to continue her internal passion of being a mentor and role model to minority young ladies.

Dr. Wallace Henry
Director of Student Support Services

As a visionary leader with over 13 years of education experience, Dr. Henry has effectively programmed for children from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. This experience has included student-centered instructional programming, compliance-driven special education services, core values based climate interventions, and intentional parental engagement. In addition, he has lead successful strategic planning initiatives, annual budgets, and programs evaluation and restructuring. His passion emerges as he builds intentional and effective teams driven by the goal of student success.

Lauren Hilliard
Dean of Students

Lauren Hilliard is currently the Dean of Students at Excel Academy. She believes that her current position provides an appropriate balance of challenge and leadership. Prior to earning a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Educational Leadership from American University, Lauren joined DC Teaching Fellows as a member of the Early Childhood/Elementary cohort. She decided to participate in an alternative teaching program because she did not feel as if she was operating in her purpose in her prior career field of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. She would like to continue to be the person to ensure every student has the tools and support they need to do well in and out of school.She believes that every student deserves someone to advocate for them, listen to them, and help them find the path to college and a career.  
The 2017-18 school year will be Lauren's seventh school year working at Excel Academy. She is passionate about working to close the achievement gap in our country, and believe that educational inequity is one of the most urgent civil rights issues of today. Lauren was raised in Prince Georges County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and she is adamant about educating students in the city she calls home.