New leadership means a fresh start and a new direction for Franklin’s Battle Ground Academy. Founded in 1889, the college preparatory school is known for its legacy of academic excellence, high honor code and long-standing traditions, like the annual tug-of-war over the Harpeth River.

The school’s latest effort toward growth and advancement is bringing a lot of excitement to the tightly knit BGA community, and Will Kesler, the new head of school, is at the forefront of it all.

As he approaches his first academic year with the school, he insists that now—more than ever—it’s all about the kids.

“We are placing a heavy focus on the student experience,” Kesler said. “The goal is for our students to come back in the fall and think, ‘boy, this feels different!’”

Kesler developed a passion for education while studying English in college. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he returned to Chattanooga, his hometown, to take a teaching and coaching position at the Girls Preparatory School.

While teaching grades 8 through 10 at GPS, Kesler also took a coaching position at the McCallie School and earned a master’s degree in English at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Kesler remained at GPS for 13 years—four of which he spent as the head of the English department—but a desire to get more of a “big-picture experience” drove him to seek out an administrative position.

“As an administrator you can have an influence on the entire school and set goals for the future,” Kesler said. “I love working in administration and getting to work with all constituencies: students, teachers, parents and alumni.”

He took a position as head of the middle and upper schools at the Deerfield-Windsor School in Albany, Ga. However, Kesler soon felt another pull in his career. He had two options: stay at Deerfield until his children graduated, or make a bold career move and seek to obtain a head of school position.

To the benefit of Battle Ground Academy, he chose the latter. With two of his three children quickly approaching high school, the timing for the transition seemed perfect.

Kesler says he was very selective when choosing schools to apply to, carefully considering whether or not each school and new city would be a good fit for him and his family.

Battle Ground Academy stood out to Kesler from the very beginning.

“I’ve known about BGA since I was in high school,” he said. “It was a great match for me.”

And of course, his family loved Franklin too.

Kesler says when he looked at BGA, he saw a school that was grounded in tradition but also open to innovation. He accepted the head of school position with enthusiasm for the opportunity to pivot BGA in a modern direction and make positive changes.

BGA is now more focused on benefitting the students in every way possible. Kesler looks forward to launching a new daily class schedule and a one-to-one iPad program that will allow for a greater emphasis on modern learning techniques.

Every member of the BGA faculty is also reading the National Association of Independent Schools’ report “Schools of the Future” this summer to lay the foundation for even more advancements to come.

Although he just started his position on June 4, Kesler already loves being connected to a school that has such strong historical roots, and he looks forward to getting more involved in the Franklin community.

“Franklin is very important to Battle Ground Academy and Battle Ground Academy is very important to Franklin,” he said. “Being heavily involved greatly benefits both of us.”

Battle Ground Academy is located at 336 Ernest Rice Lane. For more information, visit their website at

“Faces of Franklin” is part of a series on merchants and small business owners in downtown Franklin, Tenn. To read more, go to