Dean to take summer reins

The summer programs will pass into the hands of upper school dean James Patterson next summer after a quarter century under the supervision of history teacher and Director of Summer Programs David Coombs. Patterson has been working with Coombs since the fall of 2006 to ensure a smooth transition. 

As summer studies director, Patterson will oversee sports, visual and performing arts, academic enrichment and test preparation programs, while George Fecske will become the summer sports director and continue to run the Gold Medal Sports Camps.

Essentially, Coombs’ position will be divided, with Patterson as the senior partner. Patterson will put together and schedule the various courses, keep track of teachers and enrollment and arrange related competitions or trips. 

Patterson has over a decade of experience with summer programs. He spent 10 years running summer camps and six years at the UCLA Summer Program for High School Students. 
“I have always enjoyed working with kids in an enrichment setting,” he said.

Coombs, who will retire at the end of this year, saw the programs through four major milestones: the addition of a full music program, then later of math, history and science credit courses, the introduction of excursions abroad and the installation of summer enrichment camps for third through sixth graders.

Coombs also merged the Harvard and Westlake summer schools.

“The first year after the merger was a nightmare,” Coombs said. “The Harvard and Westlake programs were completely different, and I had to combine the best of each into a completely new system.”

During the summer of 2006, a committee was formed to guide the Summer Programs through the “bridge year” in which Patterson prepared to take over.

The Summer Evaluation Committee was made up of Assistant to the Vice President Maria Arias, Head of School Dr. Jeanne Huybrechts, Director of Studies Deborah Dowling, Financial Aid Director Jeff Bird, Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin and Business Officer Connie Hanstedt.

“Mr. Patterson and I have laid the foundation for a new summer school, and it is really the ideal time to pass the control,” Coombs said.

“There is tremendous potential for growth, and it will be exciting to tap into that potential,” Patterson said.

Changes for the immediate future include accepting Visa and MasterCard, which will take a lot of complex organization, Coombs said. New courses that satisfy school credit will also be added, which must now be approved by both the Faculty Academic Committee and the departments for which those courses offer credit.

Although the summer of 2007 saw the largest total enrollment in summer courses in the past eight years, Patterson’s primary goal is expansion. He hopes to develop the sports program, already the largest of the programs, and some of the study skills programs.

“These are particularly high demand areas where there are still growth opportunities,” Patterson said. 
He also hopes to enhance some of the visual and performing arts offerings.
“I am delighted that someone so able, dedicated, and highly respected will be taking over what I did for 25 years,” Coombs said.