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Harvard Headmaster Sure of Merger With Westlake

November 23, 1989|RICHARD COLVIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The headmaster of the Harvard School for boys says he remains confident that the school's proposed merger with the Westlake School for girls will go through, despite a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling that delays the merger until after a Dec. 22 court hearing.

Headmaster Thomas C. Hudnut acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that a lawsuit, filed by parents of Westlake students opposed to joining the two prestigious private schools, has slowed preparations for the merger.

"A lot of work is going on between the two schools, some of which would have gone on anyway and some of which is occasioned by the merger," said Hudnut, who is to preside over the merged institution. Once combined, the schools would operate two campuses: junior high grades at Westlake's campus in Holmby Hills and upper grades at Harvard in Studio City.

"But we won't swing into high gear until all objections to the merger have been dealt with and all legal remedies have been sought," he said.

Hudnut and Westlake Headmaster Nathan O. Reynolds announced the merger Oct. 3. The schools' boards of directors had informally agreed to the merger and were prepared to take a final vote.

But the announcement elicited vigorous opposition from parents and alumni at Westlake. The opponents argue that Westlake would be shortchanged in the merger, which gives Harvard a two-thirds majority on the joint board of directors. They also argue that girls are better served by single-sex education than coeducation and that Harvard's affiliation with the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church is in conflict with Westlake's non-sectarian traditions.

A lawsuit seeking an injunction against the merger was filed in Superior Court last week. Judge Miriam Vogel agreed Monday to conduct a hearing on the lawsuit Dec. 22, and attorneys for the school agreed not to take final action on the merger until that hearing is completed.

Hudnut said, however, that he remains confident. "We still anticipate that the merger will go through and that it will be approved by both boards and that it will withstand all legal challenges," Hudnut said.

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