Seven Questions for the New Superintendent of Lake Forest Schools
By David A. F. Sweet
Dr. Matthew L. Montgomery, superintendent of Revere Schools in Bath, Ohio, will take over as superintendent of Lake Forest High School (District 115) and Lake Forest Elementary Schools (District 67) on July 1. At Revere, he helped pass a $68 million bond issue in 2016 that led to a construction of a new high school and elementary school, among other additions. Revere has run in the black during his tenure.
During a telephone interview May 6 – his first one since he was hired -- Dr. Montgomery’s passion for education and his personable manner certainly came through. Here are his edited remarks.
What attracted you to your new job?
The thought of leaving Revere was not something I was gravitating toward. Things are going exceptionally well here.
"While it takes longer to have a more collaborative approach, the results are far more rewarding," says incoming Lake Forest Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Montgomery.
When I received a call about Lake Forest and I started digging into it, something was pushing me towards the community. Being part of that continued trajectory of success is exciting for me. I only look for communities where my family can thrive. My family comes first. I believe my (four) children will be positively impacted in Lake Forest.
What was your biggest challenge at your previous job, and how did you overcome it?
How to provide instruction during the pandemic. We were closed from March to June 2020. Fortunately, we had laid the groundwork for technology integration in a meaningful way that helped us when the pandemic hit. The structures were in place so we could be agile in adapting to the remote environment. We could meet our students’ needs during that horrible time.
We continue to work on what has been the learning loss for students and how to support the students’ emotional wellbeing whether they are in person or remote.
How would you describe your qualities as a leader?
I try to be as collaborative as possible and flatten hierarchical situations. While it takes longer to have a more collaborative approach, the results are far more rewarding. We will have buy-in and a shared vision. I try to be a transformative leader – my views are progressive but also traditional.
What policies will you embrace that will help students excel academically?
When I begin to immerse myself into a community, I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t come with predisposed ideas. I want to hear the community’s hopes and aspirations.
What would you say needs to be improved in the Lake Forest public schools?
Shared-service optimization is something the board has talked about. There’s been talk about facilities improvements at the high school. We’ll focus on innovation and inclusive practices.
The world has changed. The last year, we’ve seen a complete evolution in how the world works. We need to be innovative while true to the classical ways of teaching that go back to Aristotle and Plato.
We need to think about the role of technology? How do we integrate it into the classroom? How can students make things they couldn’t have before the technology was introduced?
How would you describe the financial situation of our school districts?
I am learning about the financial situation now. My philosophy is fiscal conservatism. If we add new programming, I also want to look at what programming is not serving us. I do not believe in spending needlessly just because we have the ability to spend. Sometimes this makes me unpopular as a leader. I always ask what the short-term and long-term costs are. That’s a way to stay true to our taxpayers.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I am beyond excited to be given the opportunity to lead these phenomenal districts. I believe I will exceed expectations whenever possible. This is my calling, and I do not take it lightly. I do not take this for granted.