When Jay Kilroy, chair-elect of Lakeview Academy’s board, met Kirsty Montgomery, he was struck by her “approachability, humility and authenticity.”
Before getting hired as Lakeview’s new head of school, Montgomery had to gain approval from the Lakeview community, including staff members, alumni, parents, students and administration.
“She was enthusiastically embraced and more importantly was unanimously recommended by the search committee and unanimously approved by the board,” Kilroy said.
He said her enormous academy credentials and accomplishments, as well as Montogomery’s personality, caught the attention of Lakeview.
Montgomery, who has a doctorate in history from the University of Chicago, currently works as the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Northwestern University and will begin her role as Lakeview’s head of school in July 2020. She served four years on the faculty of the Illinois Math and Science Academy and five years at Omniscope Academy, also in Illinois.
Sheetal Mangalat, co-chair of the preparatory day school’s search committee, looks at the union between Montgomery and Lakeview as a marriage.
“It was a great fit both ways,” Mangalat said. “You do find that person that fits you just as much as you fit them.”
Although Montgomery grew up in England, she said relocating to Hall County feels like coming home. Lakeview reminds her of the school she went to in Hampshire, which is located just an hour southwest of London.
“I came down with my husband and fell in love with the place,” Montgomery said. “I had just warm conversation and a feeling that so many people are invested in this school and passionate about it. It’s more than a physical space. It’s really the center of the community.”
Once Montgomery assumes her position in July, she said the first 100 days will involve learning about the school and immersing herself in the community. She plans on helping the school blossom, not only in academics, but in community partnerships.
Montgomery will join the Lakeview school community as they move forward in 2020 in three foundational areas: academics, arts and athletics.
Beginning in 2020, Brenau University will allow Lakeview fine arts students and faculty to use its theatre between October and March each year.
Lakeview’s Board of Trustees also recently approved of a $2.5 million capital campaign to expand opportunities in fine arts and athletics. One of the campaign’s top priorities includes building new athletic facilities, including a stadium with an eight-lane track.
Montgomery — who currently oversees a team of five administrators, 300 faculty members and 1,500 students at Northwestern — said she is the type of leader who gets out from behind her desk.
“I think everybody will know me, not just as the paper shuffler or the person sitting behind the desk,” Montgomery said. “I think people will see someone who is there. Someone they don’t just see once a year at orientation.”
She said her current staff describes her as fair.
“That comes from a place of wanting life to be fair,” Montgomery said. “I think that comes across in the way I deal with other people.”
Among her many leadership roles, Montgomery is a parent at the core.
She has six children and understands that parents send their children to Lakeview “because they believe in it and want the best for their children.” When difficult decisions and conversations arise, Montgomery intends to keep that in mind.
“If I lose the ability to look at myself as a parent, and I just put on the administrator hat and don’t ever see it through the lense of the parents and the students, I think that reduces my ability to work effectively,” she said.
Montgomery said she is looking forward to relocating to Hall soon with her family, including her pet tortoise. Her 13-year-old daughter will be attending Lakeview next year.
Although her visits so far have been short, she is already feeling the warmth of the community.
“I’m excited to work with the staff and faculty,” she said. “And, I’m excited to get to know the neighborhood and try out some restaurants.”