For the third time since 2010, Collegiate has started the school year with a new Head of Upper School — Patrick Loach. A former Collegiate history teacher, Director of Technology, Assistant Head of Upper School, and Interim Head of Upper School, Loach has significant experience working in the Collegiate community. Outside of school, he is an avid Game of Thrones fan and a self-described “foodie”. Following five years as Upper School Principal at The Kinkaid School in Houston, Loach returned to Collegiate in July, and although he is only beginning his first year as Head of Upper School, he has made a strong impression on the student body.
On the third day of school, students were introduced to a new Collegiate tradition, the Honor Pledge ceremony, which acts as a replacement to the signing of the Honor Board. According to Loach, the change was largely driven by practicality. “It was really hard to get 540 signatures without making it seem exceedingly perfunctory,” he explained, emphasizing that with the Honor Pledge ceremony, “you’re committing to your classmates, to your teachers, and to your advisor that you’re taking this pledge seriously.” As Loach’s first major act as Head of Upper School, the Honor Pledge ceremony was generally well-received by the student body. Jordan Marcus (‘17) expressed that she feels “glad [Loach] is taking honor as a priority,” and Zach Moelchert (‘17) considered the ceremony successful at emphasizing the significance of honor. However, Moelchert, like other students, went on to comment that he hopes most pre-existing traditions to remain unchanged.
Interestingly, many of these traditions that students hope to leave unchanged, including Feast of Juul and Pep Rally, were greatly influenced by Loach. The beloved overnight portion of Feast was re-started by Loach and two colleagues the year that Feast was moved to before Thanksgiving. He explains that their goal was to “add more substance” to the Feast tradition. Ben Granger (’17) argues that they were successful, calling the Feast overnight “a bonding experience for the senior boys.” Before Loach came to Collegiate in 1995, Pep Rally was little more than students beating a drum and marching to the Lower School, or as Loach described it, “the most anticlimactic pep rally you’d ever see in your life.” The modern version of Pep Rally, complete with music, faculty and student MCs, relay races, and screaming Lower Schoolers, owes its existence to Loach, who had a large hand in reworking Pep Rally into the cherished tradition that it is today.
While much of the student body seems to be averse to changing traditions, an overwhelming number of students have cited the dress code as a tradition that could use some modernization. “It’s the bane of my existence that we can’t wear jeans to school,” says Matty Pahren (‘17), while Kate Surgner (‘17) describes the dress code as “out-of-date.” Surgner points to a perceived shift in professional dress standards away from the formality of the past and believes that it would be appropriate for Collegiate to follow suit. While Loach agrees that definitions of “business casual” have become progressively more relaxed, he also believes in “serious dress for serious work.” Furthermore, Loach firmly believes that that students have a responsibility to respect the current dress code, whether or not they consider it ideal. “We’re going to enforce the rules that we have,” he stated, “but if students want to talk about changing the rules, by all means, let’s have a process and a conversation about that.” Reiterating that he is open to student suggestions, Loach explained that much of his job is to facilitate these sorts of discussions about change between the administration, faculty, and students.
In the longer term, one of Loach’s main goals is to further Collegiate’s individualized approach to education. “You have a system that really was designed almost like a factory assembly line,” he says, “and I think we now know that doesn’t necessarily work.” He explains that the academic differentiation already available to Collegiate students is “great.” However, in a community with students who vary so vastly in their academic interests and dispositions, Loach envisions a Collegiate that will be able to “provide students a little more flexibility in how they shape their curriculum.”
Finally, citing his own experience working with students, Loach explains that Collegiate’s success has been driven by “the relationships that exist between students and teachers.” “I don’t think that’s going to change,” he remarked, “I actually could make an argument that that relationship could become even more important.” Loach looks forward to the upcoming school year and helping build those relationships.