Campus News

Sewickley Academy Names Dr. Ashley Birtwell Next Head of School

SEWICKLEY, PA – Sewickley Academy, Pittsburgh's oldest co-educational, college preparatory and independent day school, is proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Ashley Birtwell as its new Head of School.
Confirming their selection, the Board of Trustees cited Dr. Birtwell’s focus on positioning the Academy as a world-class institution that prioritizes academic excellence by offering a well-rounded curriculum enhanced by robust arts and athletic opportunities.

“Dr. Birtwell’s impressive track record in the seven months she has been the Interim Head of School has exceeded the Trustees’ most optimistic expectations,” said Board of Trustees Chair Kate (Poppenberg ’82) Pigman. “Students, parents, faculty, and administration appreciate her steady guidance and clear vision – especially during the challenging circumstances surrounding COVID and the change in leadership.”

“To return to the campus I love and make a meaningful difference in the lives of students, families, faculty, and this community makes me truly grateful,” said Dr. Birtwell. “Our school has such a rich history to build upon. I am excited to collaborate with my colleagues to enhance our solid set of core values and to continue developing pathways for children to build extraordinary lives. What we offer in academics, athletics and the arts is already wonderful – which is why we are so thrilled to strengthen our curriculum and make it more accessible to students and families.”

During Dr. Birtwell’s interim leadership role, the Academy:

●    Developed an innovative computer science program for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 to launch in the 2022-2023 school year,
●    Designed a unique Global Scholars Program,
●    Created the first Art History program on campus,
●    Focused course offerings in Grades 9-12 to exceed Advanced Placement levels with an emphasis in the humanities, world languages, math, and sciences,
●    Set goals to make the Academy more accessible by opening opportunities for more students,
●    Developed an ambitious master plan to transform the Academy’s campus and facilities,
●    Increased admissions staff to more strategically address enrollment,
●    Immediately hired an Assistant Head of School with nearly 30-years of experience at SA focused on curriculum and academics, 
●    Hired a new Head of the Senior School to start July 1, 2022,
●    Outlined a comprehensive plan to support faculty through professional development and recruit additional premier faculty,
●    Grew the Annual Fund to its highest level to-date in over ten years,
●    Raised the highest dollar amount in school history through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC), and
●    Tripled the amount of funds to be distributed to students and families through the merit scholarship program.

“I could not have been more excited when Dr. Birtwell was initially selected as Interim Head of School,” said Ken Goleski, Assistant Head of School, “Her commitment to academic excellence has connected with the students. She’s a calm and compassionate leader. And I’m encouraged by her data-driven approach. It has been a pleasure to work alongside her, and I am certain that this appointment as Head of School will lead to even more positive results.”

Dr. Birtwell was unanimously voted into the Head of School position by the Sewickley Academy Board of Trustees effective February 15, 2022. She is the first woman to serve in this role in the school’s history.

About Sewickley Academy:

Sewickley Academy, founded in 1838, is a private college-preparatory academy located in Western Pennsylvania. Sewickley Academy offers a welcoming environment for students from all backgrounds throughout the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia and prepares them for extraordinary lives. Sewickley Academy’s culture and programs stand on four legacy values: character, educational vigor, community, and diversity.
In 2021, Sewickley Academy graduated students who achieved 94% admission to a top-choice college with SAT scores averaging 1301, 250 points above the national average. Nearly half of the 2021 graduates, 49%, were recognized as AP scholars and 16% were recruited athletes. The student body is currently made up of students from 42 school districts in the tri-state area, 34% of whom are diverse and 50% of whom are female.

About Dr. Ashley Birtwell:

Dr. Birtwell is a former Trustee of Sewickley Academy. She attended Sewickley Academy from seventh through 10th grades before graduating from Western Reserve Academy in Ohio. A summa cum laude graduate of Middlebury College where she majored in economics and minored in mathematics, Dr. Birtwell earned her Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr Birtwell earned her Ph.D. in organizational behavior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Birtwell’s academic experience includes teaching in the fields of power and negotiation, managerial psychology, and leadership at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research has been featured in major media outlets, including the New York Times and The Atlantic as well as academic journals such as Psychological Science.

Dr. Birtwell and her husband, Ryan, live in Sewickley with their two young children, Sam (4) and Catherine (2). 

Read More:
Letter from the Board of Trustees
A Note from Dr. Birtwell