Daniel Schwartz, first special needs employee, joins school staff


Ezra Fax

HELPFUL: Daniel Schwartz converses with sophomore Ephraim Drucker in the JCC foyer.

By Jordan Fields, Staff Writer

On a Wednesday in February, Daniel Schwartz was sitting in the principals’ office on the third floor patiently typing — one finger at a time — on a computer that showed an Excel spreadsheet.  

This has not been an unusual sight, since Daniel began working at Shalhevet Jan. 7 as the school’s first employee with special needs. 

Born with cerebral palsy, a congenital condition that affects body movement, Daniel has limited use of one arm and is blind in one eye.  His job at school is to assist the administrative staff with clerical work and help supervise at lunch.  

 “He’s someone that I think the students and faculty will learn a lot from,” said Principal Reb Noam Weissman, who hired Daniel.

Every Wednesday and Thursday from 10 to 1, Daniel answers phones and helps with the lunch program and photocopying.  He is assisted by his job coach, Renita Verner, and reports to Muriel Ohana, Assistant to the Head of School, and Lili Einalhori, the Registrar.  Renita shadows Daniel at school and assists him with his work as needed.

Daniel is a big Laker fan and his favorite player is Kobe Bryant, but he also likes singing karaoke and enjoys bowling.  His favorite show is the comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Junior Micah Gill is someone who connected with Daniel during his first days at school.

“He has a lot to say,” said Micah.  “I imagine that many don’t approach him, and that’s a real shame.

“I approach him as I would anyone else. We speak about his new job at Shalhevet, his previous jobs, and general things that I would speak about with any of my friends.”

Prior to working at Shalhevet, Daniel was awarded the Safeway Community Hero Award for his volunteer work in the community, according to Reb Weissman.

“Whenever you have the opportunity to hire someone who you think people can learn from, that’s the whole point of education,” said Reb Weissman.  “He’s just a great guy. Our hope is for him to be here throughout the year.”

Reb Weissman is a friend of Daniel’s older brother, Shalhevet alumnus Jonathan Schwartz ’02, and has spent much time with him. He said he was impressed by Daniel’s kindness and sensitivity and thought it would be a great idea for Daniel to join Shalhevet and spend time with the students.

To Reb Weissman’s knowledge, Shalhevet has not previously hired someone with specialized needs.

And though he doesn’t mind Excel, Daniel said being with students was his favorite part of the job.

“They seem great,” Daniel said.