A Narrative History of Montgomery
- The Bell Years: 1915-1938
- The Almy-Ratledge Years: 1938-1954
- The Michael Martin Years: 1954-1972
- The Stedman and Woodward Years: 1972-1987
- Geoffrey D. Campbell: 1987-1999
- Donald (Skip) M. Sykes, Jr.: 1999-2000
- Kevin R. Conklin: 2000-2014
- Sally B. Keidel: 2014-Present
Montgomery School was founded in 1915 by the Reverend Gibson Bell as a preparatory school for boys from the first through the twelfth grades. Situated on Montgomery Avenue (from which it took its name) in Wynnewood, on a former residential property of little more than eight acres, it was a “country day school” at a time when many of its competitors still had their campuses in the city of Philadelphia. The school buildings included the renovated main house and a Lower School building erected for additional classroom space. Football and baseball fields also were on the grounds.
Mr. Stedman was also very interested in extra-curricular activities, and during his term as Head of School dramatics and music and fine arts flourished. He hired the first full-time Art teacher, and later agreed that Art should be a graded curricular course. In his second year as Head of School, Mr. Stedman restored French to the curriculum and hired a part-time French teacher.
In the mid-seventies, plans were drawn up for ambitious and extensive additions and renovations to the two classroom buildings, and a fund-raising campaign was launched. Funds were raised to add to the Lower School building, and the addition was well-planned and provided two additional classrooms, washrooms, and a “common room”. This addition to the Lower School was dedicated in April, 1977. In June 1978, four of the senior teachers at the School celebrated significant anniversaries of their service at Montgomery, and trees of their choosing were planted in their honor on the School grounds. Mr. Stedman also planted flowering fruit trees between the driveway and the tennis courts.
In January 1979, Mr. Stedman announced his intention to resign as Head of School as of June 30th, and a Search Committee was appointed to recommend a successor. That spring an oak tree was planted on the grounds northwest of the tennis courts in his honor. At the end of June, he departed to become the Head of the Pine Point School in Stonington, Connecticut. Late in the spring of 1979, the Board announced the selection of Mr. Thomas M. Woodward, Jr. to be the next Head of Montgomery Country Day School. Mr. Woodward had been for many years a teacher and administrator at The Haverford School, and more recently the Head of the Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey. He was married and had three children, all of them too old to attend Montgomery.
Kevin R. Conklin served as Head of Montgomery School from July 2000 - June 2014. Mr. Conklin came from the Beaver Country Day School as the Middle School Director. His experience includes being a teacher, Admissions Officer, Alumni Director and Board Chair of Burke Mountain Academy.
In his 14 year tenure at Montgomery School, beginning in July 2000 and ending in July 2014, Mr. Conklin made a number of significant changes to the curriculum and the physical plant of the campus. He also led the school through the strategic planning process, and launched a successful capital campaign, which allowed Montgomery to build a new dining room, the Gresh Academic Center and Bennett Hill Library, and a state-of-the-art middle school science lab. Mr. Conklin also negotiated an in-kind donation to bring the school three new playing fields, some of the finest in Chester County. Mr. Conklin pursued agreements with outside organizations, including a partnership with ESF Camps, and local churches and universities, bringing additional revenue to the school, while helping to build awareness in the community among potential new families.
When Mr. Conklin first arrived, the Head of School’s office was located in the current admissions office in the Farmhouse. Within months of working at Montgomery, Mr. Conklin asked that the Admission Office be relocated into his Head of School Farmhouse space, because it was the nicer office. Mr. Conklin moved into the much less glamorous office across the hall, and this decision indicated the type of leadership that the community could expect from him as he clearly wanted what was best for the school.
Mr. Conklin often talked about the view from the vantage point of our first athletic field that he saw when he visited Montgomery for the first time and toured with interim head, Skip Sykes. He credits the vision of Geoff Campbell, the former Head of School who moved Montgomery to Chester Springs, as being genius in the design and building of the campus. In his time as Head of School, Mr. Conklin looked at the strong traditions of the school, and built upon them as he added new programs and facilities to meet the needs of 21st Century education.
Montgomery School did not have a website, voicemail, or email when Mr. Conklin arrived, and he quickly began to focus on building the infrastructure needed to support these emerging technologies. Mr. Conklin also supported professional development for faculty to learn new ways to use technology in the curriculum, while maintaining academic excellence. He encouraged teachers to use technology to enhance their curriculum and to promote global awareness.
Singapore Math was added to the lower school curriculum during Mr. Conklin’s years. Department Chairs were selected to oversee the curriculum and look for ways to strengthen Montgomery’s subject areas. In the area of technology, improvements have impacted students’ daily educational experience. Montgomery School won a grant that enabled the School to have SMART Boards in every classroom, and infrastructure was significantly updated and upgraded during Mr. Conklin’s years as Head.
Mr. Conklin hired three dedicated science teachers in Middle and Lower School, expanding the science program significantly. Mr. Conklin added STEAM and robotics, and Montgomery School implemented programs in sustainability and created an organic garden. In the area of arts, Mr. Conklin made great strides in hiring, staffing, and supporting visual and performing arts at Montgomery School. He consistently championed the arts, making Montgomery School a leader among area schools.
During his tenure, Mr. Conklin formed a strong bond with students at the school. Having known many of the students since birth, Mr. Conklin greeted students by name each day. He played his beloved concertina at chapel on many occasions. He also took the time to visit each classroom to read a story to the students each year. Mr. Conklin’s sense of community was felt in his participation in the annual Halloween parade, as an avid fan at Montgomery's sports games, and in the way that he shared his passion for fly fishing, the Red Socks, and traditional songs with the students.
As a part of the initial strategic planning process, Montgomery School re-wrote the school’s mission statement under Mr. Conklin’s guidance. The statement included a dedication to character, especially service to others. Mr. Conklin implemented several programs designed to help students grow in compassion and to strengthen their values, including a service learning component included in every grade level. Mr. Conklin often reminded the students of the importance of Veritas, Pietas, and Caritas (Truth, Loyalty, and Compassion) in his chapel presentations, and he emphasized character education throughout the curriculum.
Mr. Conklin began a buddy program, pairing older students with younger students for various activities throughout the year. He also started several Montgomery traditions, including reading the book The Mountain that Loved a Bird by Alice McLerran at the final Chapel each year, to remind the graduating 8th graders to come “home” to Montgomery in the years to come.
A new faculty member shared these thoughts about Mr. Conklin’s role as a leader for Montgomery School, “I was continuing to reflect on our meeting and the comments made about Kevin. As I was thinking about all he has done, it appears as though he is a great source of support for the faculty and staff. I was also reflecting on my interview with him. I recall him telling me about all of the growth, positive changes, and successes of Montgomery, but never once saying, “I…” He appeared to be very humble and credited the team surrounding himself for raising enrollment, acquiring the funds to add new buildings to campus, and the incredible blend of mind, body, and character.”