Meet Dr. Alicia Montgomery, Executive Director at Centre for Powerful Public Schools, a nonprofit that builds the capacity of educators to create and sustain powerful public schools that prepare all students for college, career, and life.  

Dr. Montgomery’s career in the education field has been a true Bildung’s roman. She was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, in a poor neighborhood. She started off her career, being a teacher’s aide in a school for disabled children for two years. This is where the education bug got into her. When she was 18, she moved to California and got into a community college. She worked as a preschool teacher for 8-9 years in the school district and later obtained her teaching certification. Alicia is a reading specialist with a strong interest in teaching English learners. When she started teaching, she realized that 85-90% of her class was an English learner, and many kids didn’t know how to read in fifth grade. Therefore, she taught children how to read and was a teacher for 11 years. She rose through the ranks to become the Vice-Principal and then Principal in several school districts in Northern California. As a principal, she turned around two schools with the help of the teachers through her coaching curriculum. 

Alicia worked on bringing decision-making to the local level in California through local control funding. She also helped establish a network of 14 school districts, directing them through the process of continuous improvement. She always wanted to be a superintendent and was approached by many non-profit organizations, and one of them drew keen interest in her. She is currently the Executive Director of the Centre for Powerful Public Schools. She is working with public and charter schools to help them get better at what they do. The organization attempts to build educators’ capacity and assist them in responding to problems in order to sustain improvements. They help the students succeed and set them on the path to college. They work with teachers and administrators to develop a customized approach to professional development, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. They provide the necessary support to leaders for students to be engaged in rigorous and relevant learning.

Dr. Montgomery aspires to develop leaders and serves as a mentor to many people. She keeps herself connected to those who are aspiring to grow and evolve their leadership potential. She talks about how she has also suffered from imposter syndrome. Oftentimes it has stopped her as she questioned herself and her abilities. It led her to ask herself, “Why would people listen to me?” She notes that many women suffer from this syndrome, especially women of color. 

Being a working woman with kids at home, it was never easy for Alicia to build a career for herself. But she did it all. She believes that as women we are bound by the social contracts that society puts on us. According to it, women can’t work, be successful and raise great kids at the same time. You feel guilty, and if you don’t, people try to make you feel so. To every woman feeling the same, she says, “we can do it, we can be successful.

Dr. Montgomery has dedicated her life to education and is trying to make a difference in the lives of the students. She understands that this can only happen if the teachers are great leaders who can guide students in the right direction. When asked about a motivational message, she would like to leave for the readers, she says, “Leadership is not a position or title, it is building relationships, building influence and it is service to others.