Bellarmine Summer: An Inside Look
Chris Cozort is the director of Bellarmine Summer School, a program that, under his leadership, offers innovative courses such as an Intro to Guitar class, a Makerspace class, and a STEM class this summer.
Mr. Cozort, appointed to his role late last year, manages over a hundred teachers and ensures the summer program runs smoothly.
“It was really kind of a trial by fire,” he recalls his last-minute appointment in April of 2016, “So this year is what I call the real first year.”
As well as his role during the summer, Mr. Cozort recently shifted to teaching Computer Animation and Computer Science during the regular school year. While he fulfills these duties from August through May, he must still devote a significant amount of time to summer school.
“We don’t just come in for six weeks and leave; it’s not a circus. There’s a lot of planning that goes over in 365 days.” he says.
Among the long list of items Mr. Cozort must attend to outside the six weeks of camp is recruiting new teachers, and one of the obstacles this year was hiring a new administrative team.
“We hired about fifteen new people this summer,” he adds, “which doesn’t seem like a lot but when you are trying to interview them between teaching classes it can be challenging.”
In addition, when the crucial six weeks start, he handles financials, logistics, and disciplinary issues at camp.
“Everyday is very different,” he reflects when asked to describe his job, “It’s kind of a lot of what people commonly call ‘putting out fires’.”
A substantial ‘fire’ this year was the Carney Building being closed for construction, which houses all the science programs. “But that’s a logistical challenge,” Mr. Cozort clarifies, “that’s very concrete.”
Rather, he views mediating disciplinary cases as a more complex issue. “I think that really tests sort of our mission and how we hold students accountable for their behaviour but also taking into account mercy and our values, ” he explains.
Unlike the academic school year, JUGs are not a form of punishment administered at camp. Instead, the teachers attempt to honestly converse with the student, employing a version of restorative justice to help reconcile the situation. However, each dynamic situation must be approached uniquely.
“We deal with elementary and middle school disciplinary issues, which tend to look a lot different in some ways than they do at the high school level,” he reflects.
Indeed, about 2,500 students, co-ed from first grade through twelfth, enroll in the summer program, almost a thousand more than during the school year. Classes run from 8:30 in the morning to 5:00 in the evening, with 198 sections available.
Even with such impressive statistics, Mr. Cozort still strives to improve the program and find ways to serve more students.
“I’m a pretty competitive person,” he admits, “so I look at programs like Saint Francis and Mitty and Presentation, and I say ‘What can we do to do better work, and essentially outperform them?’”
In pursuit of this long-term goal of achievement, he aims to grow several programs and add new ones in 2018 and beyond. “I want to see more mission and identity oriented content offered,” he declares, citing the examples of a service learning class and incorporating immersion into the summer.
He also wants to add more choices for younger children, as well as making it easier for parents. “That time block, 9:00 to 12:00, for a working parent may not be ideal,” he observes, “So, we are looking at stretching that out for first through fourth graders.” More STEM and art-oriented sections, especially in the morning, are also in the works for young students.
As the director of camp, Chris Cozort is essential to managing and maintaining the summer program. As he puts it, “We have a lot of resources here, but our number one resource is not the rooms, or the labs, or the equipment, or the computers, it’s the people. And we have great people.”