The Importance of Longevity in Leadership: Dr. Nita Carr’s Story

June 26, 2024
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By: Josh Worden

Dr. Nita Carr thought that her journey in school leadership would be a mobile one. Her plan early in her career was to “stay in a place five years, get another promotion, and move on,” she said.

But when she became the President of Cornerstone Schools of Alabama (CSA) in 2007, Carr had a change of perspective. She developed a desire to stay put, along with a realization that she would also be more effective if she did so. 

“I had no idea that 17 years later I would still be at Cornerstone, but when you’re called, you don’t leave a place," Carr said.

CSA is the largest Christian school in Birmingham, serving 700 students on three campuses. Carr had plenty of goals for CSA when she arrived, when the school had just 160 students in one “run-down” building.

“I came in and made a lot of promises about the future, about college, about test scores, about a relationship with Jesus,” Carr said. “The families told me one time they thought I was crazy.”

Because Carr stayed, she was able to see that process come to fruition. Now that she has been at CSA for 17 years, she has seen entire classes go from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We had a student graduate a couple of years ago who had been with us since he was 4,” Carr said. “His mom came up and said, ‘Ma’am, when I first heard you talk, I thought there was no way you would keep your promises. But you kept them.’ That meant the world to me.”

That was another lesson Carr learned along the way: building trust can’t be forced. It takes time to follow through on promises and develop the trust of parents, students, and colleagues.

“When you say something, mean it. Let your ‘yes’ be a ‘yes’ and your ‘no, no.’ That’s been a huge factor for me in building trust,” Carr said. “Also, the long-term relationships, seeing kids that I’ve known all throughout school care that I’m at their graduation. A lot of building those relationships is just being there, caring and giving them a hug.”

By remaining at CSA, Carr has walked with the school through feast and famine. Since all CSA students are on some level of scholarship, donations play an even bigger role than at most schools. Carr oversees bringing income in for CSA, so the 2008 recession after her arrival in 2007 was a shock.

“I saw a lot of other nonprofits go out of business. Birmingham did not let our kids down,” Carr said. “I’d get phone calls and they would say, ‘We’re going to make sure those kids get to keep going to your school.’ It was an important lesson early on that I needed to pray this money in.”


Carr now gives back to fellow Christian school leaders through ACSI’s Leadership U, a 14-month program designed to help leaders grow as they navigate a transition into a new role or prepare for potential future roles.

Scholars are paired with mentors like Dr. Carr. Learn more about becoming a Leadership U scholar or mentor on the website: