Daniel Weslow, former Upper School Director at New Roads in Santa Monica, named General Studies principal

Ph.D. candidate and ‘right fit’ will start part-time after Pesach; third administrator with Crossroads connection


Jordan Levine

CHANGE: Mr. Weslow said he believes in a transparent leadership style.

By Alexa Fishman, Editor-in-Chief

Mr. Daniel Weslow, a longtime educator who was director of the Upper School at New Roads in Santa Monica for five years and earlier headed New Heights Preparatory School in Northridge, has been chosen to take over as new General Studies Principal next fall.

Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal told the faculty of his decision March 26. Mr. Weslow started part-time after Pesach, overlapping with General Studies Principal Mr. Roy Danovitch, who he is replacing.

“There was an overwhelming sense from everyone who encountered Mr. Weslow that he was the right fit for where the school needs to go,” Rabbi Segal said in an interview after making his decision.“Mr. Weslow is what the faculty, students and school needs.”

Mr. Weslow this year has been working as an independent consultant on school curriculum in Ventura County while finishing his doctoral dissertation in organizational leadership at Pepperdine University. He earlier taught history and coached middle school football at Crossroads School, which has a similar philosophy to New Roads.

In an interview, Mr. Weslow said that building relationships with the faculty and students would be his first objective.

“I don’t want to come in and rush things,” Mr. Weslow said in an interview. “I’m going to work on developing relationships and use the next few months to gear up for a strong school year.”

Mr. Weslow becomes the third Shalhevet administrator with ties to Crossroads, after English-History Academic Dean Ms. Melanie Berkey and Mr. Danovitch himself. Both attended Crossroads as students and maintained ties with administrators there.

Both New Roads and Crossroads were founded by Dr. Paul Cummins, who Mr. Danovitch considers his mentor.  They are known for strong academics combined with an emphasis on student individuality and the liberal, performing and visual arts.

Shalhevet’s new “SAS” — Shalhevet Advanced Studies – courses, which are gradually replacing some APs, are modeled after Crossroads’ “CAS” program.

Mr. Weslow said he was attracted to similar characteristics at Shalhevet.

“I was inspired by the emphasis on community, a strong academic and co-curricular program, and the focus on empowering students to be active participants in their education,” Mr. Weslow said in an email response to Boiling Point questions.

Ms. Berkey believes that she and Mr. Danovitch have brought aspects of Crossroads to Shalhevet.

“I wouldn’t say that Shalhevet overall is reflective of Crossroads’ type of approach, but Shalhevet shares its emphasis on academia, democracy, and students having ownership over themselves as scholars,” Ms. Berkey said in an interview.

She said she looks forward to having a new principal with that experience.

“With New Roads in particular, what I’m really excited about is that one of the primary values of the school is cultural and socioeconomic diversity among the students,” said Ms. Berkey. “I’m excited to see what Mr. Weslow will be able to bring from that experience in trying to expand Shalhevet students.”

At New Roads, where he was Director of the Upper School from 2009 to 2014, students described Mr. Weslow – who they called “Dan” — in warm terms.

“Dan was always extremely kind and understanding to the kids of New Roads,” said current New Roads senior Dani Weisfeld. “He always tried to understand our side in any situation and tried to work with us as best as possible.”

Senior Mica Nafshun-Bone agreed.

“He was really loved at New Roads and he had such a positive effect on my school,” said Mica.

Mr. Weslow grew up in San Francisco and attended UCLA for undergrad, earning a Master’s in Education from Pepperdine University.

He lives in Filmore, about 18 miles northwest of Simi Valley, and is married with three children, ages three to 12.

“The commute is about an hour depending on traffic, but we really hope to move closer this summer,” Mr. Weslow said.

Mr. Danovitch is leaving to attend graduate school at Columbia University in New York next fall.

A search committee comprised of parents, faculty and board members had narrowed a wide field of candidates to just two, from which Rabbi Segal made the final decision. The two finalists, Mr. Weslow and Dr. Karolina Claxton, separately visited Shalhevet for two days in March, meeting with student, parent and faculty focus groups who shared their reactions with Rabbi Segal.

“Ms. Claxton struck me as engaging and professional,” said junior Micah Gill. “Mr. Weslow was funny, smart, and a very experienced administrator, and I can envision him as a great principal.”

Gemara teacher Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg, one of two faculty representatives on the search committee, said both finalists were impressive.

“Dr. Claxton has incredible poise, understands educational theory well, and is clearly very intelligent,” said Rabbi Schwarzberg before Rabbi Segal’s choice was announced. “Mr. Weslow is an educator who values community and relationships, and he talks the Shalhevet language.” He also said that he would work with the faculty to implement changes gradually.

“I’m not the kind of leader who comes in and says it’s my way or the highway,” said Mr. Weslow. “I like when a number of people are involved, being transparent, and being communicative.”

Rabbi Segal said that the response from faculty and students who met Mr. Wenslow had been overwhelmingly positive. He also said that even though some people were hoping for a female principal, he would never make his decision based on gender.

“I think we need more female leaders in the school, but Daniel was the right choice,” said Rabbi Segal. “The search continues to add more female leadership.” He “There is no decision that is ever unanimous,” said Rabbi Segal. “But nobody had strong objections to either candidate.”