Casey Weiss succeeds Avi Baran Munro to head CDS
TransitionsMunro to step down after 20-year tenure

Casey Weiss succeeds Avi Baran Munro to head CDS

"Casey has a way of connecting with individuals, whether it’s community members, parents, teachers, students." — Evan Indianer

Casey Weiss (Photo courtesy of Casey Weiss)
Casey Weiss (Photo courtesy of Casey Weiss)

Community Day School soon will be helmed by a new head of school.

Its board of directors voted “overwhelmingly” to hire Casey Weiss — a CDS alumna and Hillel Academy’s assistant principal for fifth- through 12th-graders — to succeed Head of School Avi Baran Munro, who is retiring after a 20-year run as the school’s leader.

After spending time with three candidates for the position, “it became clear that Casey has a way of connecting with individuals, whether it’s community members, parents, teachers, students,” board President Evan Indianer said. “They just gravitate to her. She’s inspiring — there’s an excitement she brings to the people around her.”

Weiss, a firefighter’s wife and mother of two, joined Hillel Academy’s administration in 2022 after seven years teaching fourth-grade English at Pittsburgh Colfax Elementary School.

She started teaching in September 2013, working with preschoolers at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. Weiss, the second-eldest daughter of Jewish community stalwarts Amy and Lou Weiss, also serves as an adjunct professor at Carlow University and earned her doctorate from Duquesne University.

Weiss plans to grow academic excellence at the roughly 285-student school but also focus on improving school resources through broadened fundraising, embracing the school’s pluralistic Jewish views and ensuring CDS’ longtime financial health.

While she plans to do a lot of learning and listening in her first months on the job, Weiss said she hopes to strengthen something she calls central to CDS: its place in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

“It’s right in the name — Community Day School. The first word is community … and I think the possibilities are endless,” said Weiss, who lives in Squirrel Hill and attends services at Congregation Beth Shalom and Congregation Shaare Torah. “It’s ‘This is your community, this is your library, this is your park, this is your school campus.’ And it extends so much further.”

“One of our roles as Jews is to be a light,” she added, “and for our students to be lights onto others.”

The head of school position, Weiss said, “is not a job. It’s my calling.”

Community Day School received 14 applications for the head-of-school post, said Shiri Friedman, who chaired the school board’s selection committee.

The committee interviewed 11 of the 14 applicants, then narrowed the field in the second round to seven candidates, Friedman said.

The final three candidates each came to Pittsburgh to meet students, parents, CDS staff and community stakeholders. Town hall-style sessions were held and CDS received more than 250 feedback forms from the sessions, Friedman said.

“I’m really pleased with how the process was run,” said Friedman, who graduated from CDS in 1992. “Ultimately, we made a good decision that reflects the values of this school.”

Gabe Perlow has known Weiss most of his life and feels her dedication to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and its values “are beyond reproach.” He attended all three candidates’ town halls but “was blown away” by Weiss.

“To me, it was like having the opportunity to draft Sidney Crosby,” said Perlow, a CDS parent. “You don’t entertain trades or other candidates, you simply run the card up to the podium and make the selection of the franchise player.”

Weiss said she plans to complete the academic year at Hillel but will be working with — and learning from — Munro during the transition.

“I’m so humbled to learn from such a mensch,” Weiss said. “This is my time to listen. I really plan to listen intentionally to her wisdom and learn what has worked so well.”

Parents at Hillel Academy are losing “a master educator and administrator,” said Mordechai (Michael) Milch, a parent at the Squirrel Hill school.

“Her ability to communicate at the highest level with staff, parents and students — and always with a smile — is what separates her from the rest,” Milch said. “We wish her much mazel and hatzlacha.”

Weiss’ sister placed her selection as head of school in a larger Jewish education context.

“In light of Oct. 7, but really always, there’s nothing – nothing – more important for the future of Jewish life than Jewish education,” said Bari Weiss, a former New York Times staffer who founded and edits The Free Press. “It needs to be learned and warm and loving, and it needs to be deeply Jewish and proud. Casey Weiss is all those things. And I am unspeakably proud to be her sister.”

“I used to think I was something,” she added. “Then, I walked around Pittsburgh with Casey and realized I’m with the mayor of Squirrel Hill!”

Munro leaves behind a treasured legacy at CDS, several people in the Jewish community told the Chronicle.

A curriculum coordinator and lower school head from 1991 to 1997, Munro became head of school 20 years ago after working as a teacher educator at the Jewish Teacher Institute. Munro’s four children also attended the school.

“A 20-year tenure as head of school is no small feat,” Munro told the Chronicle. “Any celebration of accomplishments must credit whoever was on staff at the time because none of this was accomplished on my own.”

Under Munro, the school created its early childhood program, launched its “Mensch” project acknowledging behavior expectations, and completed the Gary & Nancy Tuckfelt Keeping Tabs Holocaust Sculpture.

Munro said she took over leadership of the school in 2004 much as Weiss will be doing in 2024 — as “a strong educator from within the community without prior head of school experience.”

“My advice to her will be to approach this position as a great gift and privilege, and to encounter every challenge with humility and curiosity, as a learning opportunity,” Munro said.

“Casey has proven that she is a lifelong learner,” she added. “And I commit to her and to the school that I will continue to be a supporter, cheerleader and active volunteer in any way that might serve to support the school and her leadership.” PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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