A new superintendent was to be chosen in the Council of State elections in November 2004. She was not a candidate in that election. Her term lasted until August 23, 2005, when her successor, Democrat June Atkinson, was sworn in.
Willoughby, a North Carolina native, attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked as a public school teacher. She earned a master's degree in education from Meredith College in 1990, and was appointed to the North Carolina State Board of Education by Gov. Mike Easley in July 2001. Willoughby was an instructor in elementary education at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently, she serves as the director of the non-profit North Carolina Business Committee for Education in the office of the North Carolina governor. She is married to Wake County district attorney Colon Willoughby and has two daughters.