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A letter from Dr. Kirsty Montgomery

Dear Avery Coonley School Community,

It is my honor to accept the position as the Avery Coonley School’s next Head of School. I certainly have big shoes to fill to follow in Paul Druzinsky’s footsteps and am absolutely thrilled to continue the legacy of excellence that has been the hallmark of ACS for over a hundred years.

This spring I will be working with the school administration and the Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth leadership transition, and there will be plenty of opportunities to meet and greet. I look forward to joining the Avery Coonley School community in person in just a few short months.

The passion felt by the Search Committee for the school and its gifted programs was palpable during my interview process. From the beginning, I was attracted to Avery Coonley by its academic rigor and the strong partnerships that exist between school leadership, faculty, staff, students, ACS families, and the broader community. And my onsite visit further cemented my excitement about the school and its mission to provide a learning environment that is appropriate for academically bright and gifted children who are motivated to achieve in order that they become positive, productive, and respectful members of society.


Arriving at the beautiful campus and setting, stepping into the newer facilities such as the Makerspace, and then interacting with the welcoming faculty and staff – I knew that ACS was where I would like to be. The respect for the school’s history and traditions, mission and values, and great sense of stewardship for its future was evident.

My experiences meeting the faculty, staff, and students proved to me what I learned from the Search Committee at the start of the search process. Faculty and staff shared their positive teaching experiences, and their passion for their subject areas and concern for whole child education was keenly evident. Students were articulate, thoughtful, respectful, and reflective young people who asked the best questions! They enthusiastically shared with me their achievements and projects they were involved in with humility, confidence, and joy – a visible manifestation of the Avery Coonley School’s mission in action.

When visiting ACS, I witnessed every staff member I encountered exhibiting genuine dedication to the school. I was so impressed with the warm, nurturing environments and strong and healthy relationships between students and teachers. In the Lower School, for example, I observed self-assured and very highly engaged First Group students studying the history of toys and games. What was a meaningful lesson in content and context was also quite clearly providing fun, intellectually-stimulating hands-on learning. My interaction with the Seventh Group social studies class as I toured the Middle School allowed me to see the great use of technology incorporated into the program along with once again excellent student engagement. While a skilled educator combined learning methodologies, I saw students occupied in independent and thoughtful work.

I thank the Search Committee for their diligence and thoughtfulness through the search process and the Board of Trustees for selecting me for this position and giving me this opportunity. I am also grateful for the candor and graciousness of all who spoke with me about what makes ACS a special place for them. The school is full of individuals with a deep appreciation and commitment to its mission and core values.

It is evident to me that ACS is precisely the type of school community that I personally and professionally gravitate toward and look forward to leading in the next chapter of my working life – a community that continually asks questions, challenges itself, remains open-minded, and thirsts for knowledge all while finding joy in the journey. My move back to Chicago and as the next head of ACS truly feels like coming home in more ways than one, and I look forward to seeing all of you soon to continue in the joy and privilege of moving onward and upward – together.

Kirsty Montgomery, Ph.D.

Family photo

Search Committee Updates