Natalie Weiss, ‘welcoming face’ and creator of new initiatives in admissions, will leave May 1

With Aviva Walls, becomes second administrator leaving after this year

OPEN%3A+Ms.+Weiss%2C+whose+office+near+the+foyer+has+been+a+place+where+students+came+to+talk+and+grab+a+snack%2C+has+been+in+charge+of+Admissions+and+graduation+since+2010.++

BP Photo by Maia Lefferman

OPEN: Ms. Weiss, whose office near the foyer has been a place where students came to talk and grab a snack, has been in charge of Admissions and graduation since 2010.

Benjamin Gamson, Staff Writer

Director of Admissions Natalie Weiss, who for 10 years has guided student transitions from recruitment to graduation and managed the school’s expansion from 163 students to 258, announced on Schoology March 5 that she would be leaving Shalhevet, her last day being May 1. 

Ms. Weiss, who is known to all students and parents simply as Natalie, joined Shalhevet at the start of the 2010-11 school year, one year before current Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal arrived. 

 

During the next decade, she led new initiatives both to attract students to Shalhevet and to ease their transition into the school. Among them were Winterm, which offers a taste of Shalhevet co-curriculars to seventh- and eighth-graders, and the annual spring Scavenger Hunt for admitted students, which introduces incoming students to one another in an outdoor activity around Beverlywood. 

Once admitted, students said, her office became a place of warmth and comfort to come to and say hello. Her advising of a range of activities from the Green Team recycling club to Firehawks 4 Israel, they said, kept them coming back long after ninth-grade nervousness subsided.

“She was a welcoming face  — she was that person that was there for you when you were first coming into the school and you didn’t know where to go or what to do,” said senior Maya Shapira. 

“She was the person who was there for you, who helped and supported you through this…  During freshman year, you were with Natalie Weiss a lot during the year.”

Her desk overflows with photos and piles of papers, along with snacks like chips, Red Vines, M&Ms and granola bars for students. There are books and assorted gifts mingling with boxes of Shalhevet swag on the floor.  Leaders of AIPAC, Firehawks 4 Israel, the Green Team and Advisory all call it home.

Firehawks 4 Israel president Sabrina Jahan credited Ms. Weiss with increasing her Zionism.

“She helped me get involved from ninth grade and my passion and interest in Israel grew because of her and with her,” Sabrina said, “and I am gonna be eternally grateful for that.

“She’s an incredible, incredible person, like a ray of sunshine, and always looking on the bright side, but keeping you on schedule and making things fun at the same time.”

Ms. Weiss returns their feelings.

She’s an incredible, incredible person, like a ray of sunshine, and always looking on the bright side, but keeping you on schedule and making things fun at the same time.”

— Sabrina Jahan, 12th grade

I remember the day you came for your visit,” Ms. Weiss wrote in her March 5 Schoology post.

“I remember the day of your interview. I remember the first time you spoke at Town Hall, I remember when you introduced a speaker at a F4I meeting. 

“I remember when you made a presentation about Billie Jean King and Freddie Mercury in our Advisory,” she continued. “I remember how you spoke to prospective parents and students at Open Houses and coffee nights. I remember when you popped in my office for a snack or candy. I remember you singing in the lobby and on the 2nd floor hallway. It won’t be easy to leave my Shalhevet students. It’s been a tremendous joy for me to be part of your high school journey.”

In addition to Winterm and the scavenger hunt, Ms. Weiss led Saturday night melaveh malka parties for prospective students and coffee evenings where parents of students in area middle schools could meet Shalhevet administrators and teachers.

She also started the Green Team, which encouraged recycling and other conservation efforts. She had teachers paint ceramic mugs to use instead of paper coffee cups. 

“She spearheaded all of it,” said Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal, who also said she’d helped with student retention by working with families whose students might have had difficult adjustments.

Under Natalie’s supervision of Shalhevet admissions, it grew from accepting 37 freshman in 2011-12 to accepting 65 freshman for 2020-21.  She told The Boiling Point there is a waiting list of 20 students for next fall.

I remember the day you came for your visit. I remember the day of your interview. I remember the first time you spoke at Town Hall, I remember when you introduced a speaker at a F4I meeting…”

— Ms. Natalie Weiss, Director of Admissions

Ms. Weiss also arranged speakers for schoolwide Open House and led everything to do with graduation, rehearsing valedictorians, salutatorians and senior class presidents for their speeches, planning music and leading practices of walking up the aisle.

All four of her children — Eliana ‘11, Tamar ‘14, Boaz ‘16 and Nomi ‘19 — are Shalhevet alumni.

Ms. Weiss’s departure makes her the second person related to student transitions to say goodbye this year. Ms. Aviva Walls, Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of College Counseling, announced Jan.15 that she’d leave at the end of the school year to become head of school at Gesher Academy in Fairfax., Va., next fall. 

Ms. Weiss said in an interview that she won’t be able to speak about her future plans until the end of March. But she said that she received confirmation on March 4 and that she will remain in Los Angeles. 

“I have a ‘something’ I am really looking forward to for my next chapter,” Ms. Weiss said.  “I am not at liberty to speak about it right now.” 

Her announcement was greeted by students with sadness and surprise.

“I am honestly I was pretty shocked,” said sophomore Andrew Petlak. “You know she was a big part of our community here, and we all loved her so much so — it was kinda hard just to hear.” 

Junior Samson Taxon said her departure was a loss for the school.

“She’s such a big part of Shalhevet, because she’s influential in every single person’s coming into Shalhevet,” said Samson. 

Freshman Zoe Ritz said Ms. Weiss had made all the freshmen feel welcomed into the school.

“In eighth grade, the whole admission process was super like calming, because she was their to support us,” Zoe said.

Rabbi Segal said he did not know whether the school would conduct a national search for her replacement as it is undertaking for Ms. Walls.

But he said other members of the admissions team, including Dean of Student Life Dr. Johnny Ravanshenas, Director of Special Projects and Social Media Mr. Tushar Dwivedi and Communications and Operations Associate Ariel Light, along with other administrators and teachers, would cover her responsibilities for the rest of the school year. 

“We have an entire crew of people who work in admissions,” Rabbi Segal said. “They’ll all be there.”

Ms. Weiss will be gone before graduation, and said that there would be other events also after May 1 that she would miss.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be at the class of 2024 welcome event,” she said.

That was bad news for new admittee Zion Schlussel, now an eighth-grader at Gindi Maimonides Academy.

“She was very helpful in making me want to go to Shalhevet,” Zion said, “because she showed that Shalhevet really wanted me to go there — and like they actually wanted me to join the school.”

CORRECTION: An earlier edition of this story mischaracterized how Rabbi Segal said Shalhevet would cover Natalie Weiss’s responsibilities from May 1 through graduation. He said other current staff members would do this; he did not say he did not know.  The Boiling Point regrets the error.