Montgomery Business Journal

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The Montgomery Academy Prepares Students for a Lifetime of Leadership and Service

May 2014

By Melissa George Bowman  

Photography by Robert Fouts

Anyone visiting the campus of The Montgomery Academy will instantly feel a scholarly vibe. Classic architecture, Ivy League-esque academic halls and distinguished portraits of former headmasters comprise the 55-year-old institution.

Venture just past the lobby, however, and you will find the more contemporary scene of Head of School Dave Farace standing, not sitting, in his office. The energetic Farace, now in his fourth year at the school, recently removed his desk so he could move freely about the office while conducting business or visiting with students, faculty and parents. This novel approach embodies the culture of The Montgomery Academy: a school rooted in strong tradition but embracing innovation.

The Montgomery Academy opened its doors in September 1959 when it welcomed 110 students to classrooms located in two Victorian-era houses on South Perry Street. Four years later, the school moved to its present location on Vaughn Road. Since that time it has added a lower school campus on Perry Hill Road and undergone many additions and expansions. With all that has changed, what has remained constant is the school’s commitment to its mission, which focuses on honor, scholarship and service.

“I love our mission,” Farace said. “That really drives everything, all of the decisions we make.”

A college preparatory school offering 21 Advanced Placement and honors courses, The Montgomery Academy has developed a reputation for academic excellence. However, Farace is quick to point out the school strives to educate “the whole child” by exposing students to a wide variety of programs and activities that he refers to as “co-curricular” rather than extra-curricular because “there’s nothing extra about them.” These include the arts, athletics and community service programs.

“We believe our students are learning all the time in every corner of our campus,” Farace said. “If you look at a typical MA student they’re really achieving a great deal academically in the classroom, but then they also might be a two-sport athlete and also involved in the play or in our chorus or in our forensics program. They are really engaged in the life of the school.”

Such engagement has paid off as the school has received many prestigious distinctions. MaxPreps.com recently ranked Montgomery Academy the top sports school in Alabama, noting that this fall it earned state championships in volleyball and boys and girls cross-country and also made it to the state quarterfinals in football. Additionally, the Upper School Chorus was one of 17 choruses selected among college, high school, middle school and community choruses in 11 states to perform at the American Choral Directors Association 2014 Southern Division conference in Jacksonville, Fla. The school’s forensics program is also ranked in the top 1 percent nationally.

While achievement in the classroom, on the field or on the stage is a high priority, The Montgomery Academy places just as much emphasis on instilling in its students a desire to serve.

“I think if they learn early on the importance of serving others and in serving a cause that’s greater than themselves, then that’s going to make them very successful in life,” Farace said.

For that reason, classes participate in a variety of small service projects, and on a larger scale, the entire school commits to assisting one nonprofit each year. This year that organization is Habitat for Humanity.

Honor is another core value guiding the school’s mission. Not only do all students sign an honor code, they also elect peers to serve on the Honor Council. Students who may have broken the honor code go before this body. The student-led council decides if a violation has occurred. It then determines an appropriate punishment that it recommends to Farace who makes the final decision.

“I’m really impressed with those students,” Farace said. “It’s a great example of when you give students an important leadership opportunity, they always rise to the occasion.”

The Honor Council is not the only area where student input is valued. The school has recently implemented a professional development program for faculty members that includes students’ confidential evaluations of their teachers. The system lets students know their voices are being heard while giving teachers valuable feedback.

Such innovation will continue to be part of the school’s programming in years to come, according to Farace. On the horizon are plans for more experiential learning opportunities that will expose students to education beyond the traditional classroom. Building additional leadership programs into the curriculum is another goal as well as offering professional learning communities, or PLCs, to faculty that allow for greater collaboration among teachers. As Farace puts it, the school will be “investing in people going forward” while staying true to the school’s mission.

“I believe we have always been a school that develops leaders,” he said.

 

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