The collection contains administrative files covering Willard's tenure as superintendent and subject files concerning associations he was affiliated with, topics related to his work, and his eleven-year membership on and chairing (1965-1969) of the State Textbook Commission. Further documentation of his tenure is provided by the memos and minutes of the Wilson City School Board which chronicle the implementation of local, state, and federal education policies at the public school level. Along with the board's records, the collection contains annual audits (1959-1976), which provide a picture of the school system's operating budget, the Board's administrative regulations and policies adopted and codified during Willard's administration, and information about the Teacher Tenure Act and teacher evaluation policies.
A substantial portion of the collection concerns integration of the Wilson school system (1965-1971) which occurred during Willard's tenure. Willard converted the Wilson school system from one that was entirely segregated and reluctant to integrate into one that was substantially desegregated. Correspondence includes letters from Congressman L. H. Fountain and Department of Health, Education and Welfare officials which serve to illustrate the difficulties the Wilson school system encountered while attempting to comply with HEW integration plans. Of particular interest are the correspondence and documents pertaining to HEW administrative proceedings against the Wilson School Board for failure to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Enrollment figures for Wilson schools, court orders and decrees, HEW guidelines, and Wilson School Board integration plans are also included. Correspondence (1967-1969) with East Carolina University professor Dr. Ralph Brimley discusses the possibility of holding integration workshops at ECU for Wilson city school teachers.
The collection contains correspondence and other material concerning federal funding, specifically the Emergency School Assistance Program (1971-1972) and Emergency School Aid Act (1973), which were jeopardized by Wilson's reluctance to integrate its school system.
Correspondence and reports concerning curricula (1942-1972) reflect Willard's desire to enrich courses offered by Wilson schools. Letters between Willard and public education officials concern foreign language, math, and reading. Letters concerning the development of a nursing school and an Industrial Education Center in Wilson (1962-1964) also reveal Willard's interest in occupational education. A 1963-1964 survey of the nursing school at Wilson, conducted by the State Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education, gives a good overview of the school's organization.
Of particular interest are the correspondence and other materials pertaining to anti-communist education (1961-1962). Willard penned a text entitled
Democracy Faces Communism, and advocated a matching course that conveyed the virtues of democracy and capitalism over the depredations of communism. Correspondence with East Carolina University President Leo W. Jenkins (1975) concerns the development of a book for use in secondary schools comparing life in the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
Willard's administration generated capital improvements in the Wilson City School System as well. Correspondence and reports contained in the collection detail the construction of two elementary schools and additions to three others (1961-1973). Included are bid tabulations, engineering reports, and long-range improvement plans.
Papers concerning public school finance consist of an application for federal assistance to low-income families (1966), and reports, memos and minutes concerning the Governor's Commission on Public School Finance (1977-1979) which attempted to diminish the disparity of funding between school systems. The Wilson School Board's appeal for a supplemental tax is also included (1966).
Willard's correspondence with state senators and representatives concerns educational issues on the General Assembly's agenda (1969-1975). Legislation discussed affected teachersalaries and tenure, class size, employment and dismissal procedures, teacher preparation, certification and licensing, and school budget procedures. Willard's political correspondence also includes letters concerning the Equal Rights Amendment (1982).
Active in educational organizations, Willard corresponded with a number of associations (1954-1976). The collection includes letters and other material pertaining to the North Carolina Association of Educators, Associated Public School Systems, Parent Teacher Association, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
The collection also contains correspondence and other materials (1966-1976) that concern the 1976 consolidation of the Wilson city, Elm City and Wilson County school systems. Willard played a key role in the merger which consolidated all public schools under the jurisdiction of a single board for the first time in the history of public education in Wilson County. A later file of material (1986) further discusses the makeup of the three school boards and the board for the merged system. Willard also served as a consultant during an abortive attempt to unite the Nash County and Rocky Mount school boards. The collection includes correspondence, minutes, and reports (1979-1980) concerning this merger attempt. A subject file containing correspondence (1967-1973) to and from Dr. Ralph Brimley, chairman of the Educational Administration and Supervision Department of ECU's education school, also addresses the school system merger issue.
Willard's contributions to the State Textbook Commission are also documented. The commission which evaluates and selects textbooks for public schools is appointed by the Governor. Willard held the longest tenure on the commission of any North Carolina educator and served as its chairman (1965-1969). The collection includes correspondence concerning the commission (1957, 1965-1970) and the Governor's Study Commission to Evaluate the State Textbook Commission (1974).
In 1976 Willard was appointed to a commission to study the North Carolina community college and technical institute system and examine its role in the total state education picture for the succeeding twenty years. Files concerning this commission contain correspondence, minutes, research material, publications, resolutions, meeting programs, and the March 1977 final report.
Also of considerable significance is the correspondence pertaining to the controversial issue of teacher certification. In 1972-1973, the North Carolina State School Board reduced the importance of the National Teachers' Examination (NTE), a test which many considered culturally biased against blacks, and opted for what many educators considered subjective criteria that favored personality over ability. The collection contains correspondence from State Board of Education Chairman Dallas Herring and Lieutenant Governor James Hunt, Jr.,who opposed the new certification policy, as well as from Superintendent of Public Instruction, Craig Phillips, who favored the new standards.
A subject file (1969-1971) on Jerome H. Melton (assistant superintendent of public instruction) discusses routine education-related topics.
Further correspondence includes letters (1959-1986) from State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Charles Fisher Carroll, and State Board of Education Chairman, Dallas Herring. Included in Herring's correspondence (1968-1986) are letters concerning Herring's support for school superintendent Ben F. Currin who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Craig Phillips in the Democratic primary for the 1976 election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Herring's and Willard's positions as advisors for Currin's campaign are reflected in their correspondence and speeches written for Currin.
The collection also contains numerous publications put out by Wilson schools, and the various education-related governing bodies (locally and state).