Dr. Rex Patton, principal at Coeur d’Alene Avenue Elementary School in Venice, has accepted a position as executive director of a new Los Angeles Unified School District visual and performing arts school.

Letters were given to students on May 1st announcing the principal’s departure.

Patton, who was the principal at the Venice school for a decade, is credited by teachers and parents for reestablishing creative arts as a critical component of the student curriculum. He was also instrumental in forging several private partnerships with parent groups that culminated in a new state-of-the-art library.

“He has worked 24/7 since he came to our school,” said Sherry Curreri, vice president of the Friends of Coeur d’Alene Booster Club whose two young sons attend the school. “He will be leaving an immense void, but LAUSD could not have thought of a better, more qualified person for this new position.”

Patton is looking forward to his new job at the performing arts school, but says that he will definitely miss coming to work at Coeur d’Alene.

“It’s a very bittersweet time for me,” Patton told The Argonaut in an interview during his last week as principal. “We’ve accomplished a lot of great things together.

“I’m sad about leaving, but I’m also excited about the new challenges and possibilities that lie ahead.”

During Patton’s tenure, the school’s Academic Performance Index rose over 200 points.

The API measures the academic performance and growth of schools on a variety of academic measures. The target goal of California schools is 800.

In 2005, Coeur d’Alene scored 827, and the following year 877.

The school also won the Music Center’s BRAVO Award in 2007 and was named a California Distinguished School last year.

The BRAVO Award honors educators and schools for excellence in all arts disciplines. Winners of this award use the arts to revitalize teaching, enhance academic achievement and foster self-esteem, teamwork and cross-cultural communication and understanding.

Patton said those are two of the highlights of his career at Coeur d’Alene.

“We really concentrated on developing our arts programs,” he said. “Substantial evidence has shown us that there is a direct correlation between the arts and student achievement.”

The completion of the Wonders of Reading Library in February, a $67,000 upgrade on the previous library, is also high on his list. Funding from LAUSD board member Marlene Canter’s office and The Wonders of Reading, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing children’s literacy in Los Angeles public elementary schools, helped bring new shelving, fresh paint, new carpeting and reading spaces.

The principal thanked the school’s teachers, administrative staff and parents not only for their participation in raising the level of academic prowess but for creating a community feeling as well.

“Our teachers are great,” he said. “They really fit in nicely with our students, and the parents have worked very hard hand-in-hand with us from the very beginning.”

Curreri calls Patton a true leader, and says it was his inspiration and vision that was instrumental in taking her sons’ school to new heights.

“Every Monday morning, he would hold an assembly with such gusto that it set the tone for the entire week,” Curreri, a parent volunteer, recalled. “Dr. Patton really created a community for parents, teachers and children at our school.”

Lola Williams, a school administrative assistant who has worked with Patton for six years, also spoke highly of him.

“I really loved working with Dr. Patton,” she said. “He was very hard working, and his energy and his passion will definitely be missed.”

Curreri hopes that LAUSD will provide the school with a principal who has the same drive as Patton had, in order to continue the school’s academic success and its community feeling.

“We need someone with vision who will give their all to the school,” she said.

Teachers and parents are planning to give Patton a send off with a luncheon at noon on Friday, May 8th, his last day as principal. His first day at his new position is Monday, May 11th. LAUSD will have an interim principal serve until a permanent selection is made at a later date.

“The combination of working with incredible people and working together to get some wonderful things accomplished are what stand out to me,” Patton concluded. “I’ll always have very fond memories of my time at Coeur d’Alene.”