At Crossroads, a major departure

Times Staff Writer

In the 15 years that he has headed Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, Roger Weaver has shepherded the Santa Monica campus from its origins as a funky, laid-back hippie school to its current status as one of the most respected and challenging prep schools in the nation.

Last week, Weaver announced plans to leave Crossroads next year, having expanded the private school's enrollment, endowment and operating budget. He is only the third headmaster in the school's 37-year history, and his departure will usher in a rare transition at a school with an image as the quintessential Southern California alternative campus.

During Weaver's tenure, Crossroads maintained its urban character, attracted a student body rife with celebrity offspring, weathered criticism of alleged student drug use and obstreperous parental behavior, and became one of the first local schools to drop Advanced Placement classes.

What has remained consistent, Weaver said, is the school's commitment to a progressive education, to social and economic diversity, and to producing young adults whose heads are filled with humanistic ideals as well as facts and figures.

"Many institutions have statements of philosophy that sit in a drawer," Weaver, 63, said in a recent interview. "The thing I take greatest satisfaction in is giving the school clarity of purpose and clarity of identity that serves us and our clientele well. . . . It is most manifest in our students when they go off to college. They take with them an academic understanding, of course, but also a sense of self and a willingness to engage with the world."

Weaver joined Crossroads in 1983 as its assistant headmaster under Paul Cummins. The campus, founded in 1971 by Cummins and Rhoda Makoff, was a jumble of rented buildings in a semi-industrial stretch off Olympic Boulevard with an alley -- the focal point of student life today -- running through it.

Under Cummins the place was a percolator of new ideas and projects. Weaver, who had been principal at La Jolla Country Day School, instilled order.

"Roger came in and was able to make sense of it all and institute orderly procedures that were thought out," said Cummins, who went on to found the private New Roads School in Santa Monica. "He had the unenviable task, which he did brilliantly, of maintaining the institutional soul of the school and at the same time bringing in new, better management practices."

Since Weaver took over, Crossroads has purchased or agreed to purchase 14 of the 17 properties it occupies. The school's operating budget has grown from $10 million in 1993 to its current $35 million. Enrollment has increased from 948 to 1,133, and the endowment from $1 million to $13 million. Thirty-seven percent of the students are from ethnic minorities, up from 22% in 1993.

The Crossroads board of trustees is expected to search for a successor for Weaver, whose annual salary and benefits totaled $362,205, according to 2006 IRS filings.

Reflecting its counterculture stereotype, the school requires a class in human development, and students typically call faculty members by their first names.

Crossroads' emphasis on environmentalism, community service and a multicultural curriculum is now the norm rather than the radical oddity. But from Weaver's point of view, private schools have done too little to diversify their own campuses and have offered too few resources to support flailing public schools.

"Independent schools are gated, moated bastions of white privilege; that's the assumption," Weaver said. "The sad fact is the reason they have that reputation is because they earned it. Having financial aid is good, having kids do community service is good, but it's all window dressing. Independent schools have to be a part of society in a bigger way. We have tremendous resources that could serve the . . . needs of children across the city."

Weaver is known to many Crossroads students as the man with the pink socks, stemming from a birthday gift from a group of freshmen decades ago who extracted a promise that he'd wear them every Friday. He's done so ever since.

His good humor was tested, though, by the 2004 book "Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon -- The Case Against Celebrity," by Andrew Breitbart and Mark C. Ebner, which purported to expose seedy celebrity behavior and devoted a chapter to alleged student sex- and drug-fueled scandals at Crossroads -- dubbed "Hollyweird High" in the book.

A 2005 Vanity Fair article quoted some parents and alumni questioning whether success was causing the school to abandon its progressive roots. Weaver called the spate of attention a "low point" and said the book, especially, was filled with fabrications and was an attempt at "institutional character assassination."

"To say Crossroads or any school on the Westside is compromised because it has an entertainment-industry presence would be comparable to saying schools in Detroit are compromised by the auto-industry presence," he said.

His office is compact but folksy, filled with framed art, photographs, mementos such as his first teaching contract at Flintridge Preparatory School, where his annual salary in 1967 was $5,725, and a framed T-shirt signed by, among others, alumni Baron Davis, a star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, and Cash Warren, a film producer who is the fiance of actress Jessica Alba.

The two played together on Crossroads' 1996 championship basketball team and recently produced a documentary, "Made In America," exploring the rise of gang culture in South Los Angeles. The film, which premiered at this year's Sundance Festival, was directed by Crossroads parent Stacy Peralta.

Weaver will stay on as the volunteer president of the Crossroads Community Outreach Foundation and said he will pursue more projects similar to the Crossroads-initiated P.S. Arts program, which provides public schools with arts-related classes and workshops, and the newer P.S. Science program, which does the same in science and math.

"I feel like I was one of those incredibly fortunate people in the place they should have been and at the time they should have been there," he said. "What a gift."




Crossroads School

* Grades: K-12

* Tuition: K-5: $22,030; 6-12: $26,100

* Enrollment: 1,133

* Teachers: 182 (full and part time)

* Advanced classes: Ancient Greek poetry, evolutionary biology, graphic design

* GPA: Out of a possible 4.0, 57% of seniors earned a 3.5 or above.

Source: Crossroads School

For The Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday, March 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 80 words Type of Material: Correction Crossroads School: A Feb. 19 story about Crossroads School head Roger Weaver stepping down included a comment from Weaver that the book "Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon -- The Case Against Celebrity" -- which includes allegations of student sex- and drug-fueled scandals at Crossroads -- was filled with fabrications. The article should have included comment as well from Mark C. Eb- ner, one of the book's authors, who denies that the book contains fabrications. The Times regrets the error.
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