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Zen Montgomery: A New Administrative Role

Taylor Abbey | tabbey19@dtechhs.org | September 6, 2018

Executive Director Ken Montgomery begins to focus more on his vision for d.techs future. Photo by Matthew Silverman

The start of every new school year comes equipped with new and exciting changes; this year is no exception. With only a couple weeks of school down, the d.tech community has already been met with a plethora of changes surrounding brand new faculty, new students, and updated school policies. However, one notable change unique to the 2018-2019 school year has left many students speculating of what’s to come: Dr. Montgomery’s administrative shift.

While a formal statement has yet to be made on the subject, many students have begun theorizing as to what this new change entails: some even going as far as claiming Montgomery would be stepping down entirely. “I don’t think he’s going to leave before the end of the school year, we’ve done the whole ride with him,” expressed senior Tyler Sanderville, “It just puts up a front of uncertainty.”

Rest assured, this shift is certainly not as pivotal as some students may make it out to be. “It’s not a big change,” Montgomery confirmed, “I’m just formalizing some of the things that were already happening last year.” Montgomery went on to express how his role moving forward will primarily be centered around the visionary aspect of d.tech; constructing a blueprint of what’s to come. “Melissa [Mizel’s] taking more of a role with the operations and the day-to-day running of the school,” Montgomery continued. “I’m focussing more on the educational program and figuring out how to do the competency-based learning.”

Mizel, whose official title is School Director, echoed Montgomery’s statement, emphasizing how the two plan on delegating tasks moving forward. “[Last year] people would go to Dr. Montgomery first and say, ‘Is this ok?’ or ‘Is this a decision we should make?’” Mizel said, “He’s just trying to remove himself from that so he can work on other things and I’m stepping in and taking more of that ‘school director’ role.”

In regards to some of d.tech’s future developments, Montgomery shed some light on some potential endeavors he hopes to pursue throughout this year and beyond. The first, involves expanding d.tech’s influence. “There’s a couple different ways we can do it,” Montgomery explained. “We can try and open more schools-a lot of schools have done that. Summit’s done that, KIPP’s done that. There’s a lot of models for opening more schools.”

However, Montgomery finds this route to be less than ideal, and instead wants to focus on lending schools the resources necessary to implement programs offered exclusively at d.tech. “We know it’s not realistic for a school that’s already in existence to just come and just change their school completely overnight and do everything that we’re doing,” Montgomery said, “We have Intersession, competency based learning, lab days, design lab. We need to figure out what the key pieces are of what we’re doing to teach kids how to be innovation ready and how we support other schools to make that available.”

In addition to this objective, Montgomery also wishes to better assess students when it comes to vital, real-world skills. “Take our mission statement for instance: the optimism, problem-solving, and self-efficacy, how do we assess that?” he asked. “How do we say that every student does believe the world can be better and does have the skills to make that happen? What’s the system we create for that?”

Montgomery also discussed his new ambition surrounding, what he refers to as, an “Innovation Diploma.” The inspiration for the idea stems from the “IB Diploma.” Popular among many high schools, an International Baccalaureate Diploma serves as an extra credential students can obtain at the time of graduation if certain criteria are met. For instance, students would need to opt into specialized “IB” courses in order to be considered for the diploma.

Montgomery’s vision is similar. “Not only would you get your d.tech diploma,” Montgomery explained. “You also would have to pass design lab, four semesters, with a B or better, do an independent design project, then also take some kind of assessment to show you have certain skills: self direction, project management, curiosity. Then you graduate with this extra credential that you can put on your resume and colleges can see that you participated.”   

Contrary to the belief of some students, Dr. Montgomery will remain a staple of our school. With hopes of continuing to strengthen our current curriculum, as well as potentially expanding d.tech’s design thinking principles into new schools, it’s clear that Montgomery has a lot of plans for d.tech’s future. Whether we assist new schools in incorporating design thinking into their curriculum, or we implement the Innovation Diploma, Montgomery is excited to develop and introduce a variety of new ideas for current and future Dragons alike.

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