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Remembering Mr. Raymond D. Wilder

On June 23, 2013, the city of Inglewood lost a gifted educator and community icon.  Raymond D. Wilder, founder of Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School in Inglewood, passed away on that day leaving behind a rich legacy.

Mr. Wilder was a man who lived to serve his community. He took pride in being a devoted husband of 54 years to his wife, Carolyn, and a doting father to his daughter, Ramona.

He was a drum major for justice through education, helping all those around him to achieve their dreams through a quality education. As a matter of fact, the Inglewood Business Opportunity Network (IBON), honored Mr. Wilder with their annual Martin Luther King “Drum Major for Justice” Award.

Born March 1, 1941 in Warren, Arkansas, he was reared by his grandparents after his mother’s death. He attended the University of Arkansas at Pine Buff and later moved to Los Angeles, where he continued his education at the University of Southern California. His professional career began at Teledyne Western Wire and Cable as Manager of Wire Processing. In 1967, he longed to do more, and started his own business, Wilder’s Seafood Center.

In 1977, he became a licensed real estate agent and subsequently formed RACA Development Company, which specialized in developing affordable quality homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, and commercial buildings throughout his beloved Inglewood community.

Living into Frederick Douglass' adage that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” in 1983, Mr. Wilder and his wife Dr. Carolyn Wilder, founded a private pre-school, Tender Care Child Development Center.  Tender Care was far more than child care. The program offered a curriculum-based, developmental and fun approach to learning. It was specifically designed to prepare children for a complete educational experience prior to elementary school. 

In 1988, Tender Care Kindergarten was established to address the needs of children graduating pre-school and entering Kindergarten and accommodated 60 students. As the students progressed, the demand for grade levels beyond kindergarten increased. Tender Care Elementary was established in 1994 to meet that need. In 1999, Tender Care Elementary was renamed Wilder’s Preparatory Academy serving grades K-8. Tender Care served approximately 180 children ages 2 – 5 before closing in 2015.

Mr. Wilder’s vision for Wilder’s Preparatory Academy expanded to a 50,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility built with the community in mind. Featuring 30 large classrooms, three computer labs, a library, art room, indoor gym, media lab, science lab, and a study hall, the new campus was designed so that students receive an accelerated college preparatory curriculum.

In August of 2011, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School was named one of the Top 10 Charter Schools in the State of California. A report published by the University of Southern California acknowledged Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School among the top ten out of 800 charter schools across the State of California. Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School was the only school in Los Angeles County to be ranked in the top 10. 

Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School award-winning model was been recognized numerous times.  WPACS was honored as a Title 1 Academic Achievement Award School for 5 consecutive years by the California Department of Education. In 2013, Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter Middle School was awarded the California Distinguished School Award. In 2014 Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter Elementary School was also awarded the California Distinguished School Award. Most recently, in 2022, both WPACS' elementary and middle schools were recognized as California Pivotal Practice schools for their innovative work during the school closures caused by the COVID pandemic.

Raymond Wilder’s commitment to community service and education has been recognized by dozens of organizations and government agencies, locally and nationally.  His life inspired others to dream big.  It was his way of giving back to Inglewood, the community he loved. His legacy continues through the hard work of his wife, Dr. Wilder, daughter and current Wilder's CEO, Ramona Wilder, along with staff, students, and families in the Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School community.