Biographical Information:

Dates: 1912-2007Dates in Ridgefield: circa 1967-2007
nonfiction, historyeducator, Ridgefield superintendent
A few days after he accepted the job of superintendent of schools in Ridgefield in 1967, David Elliot Weingast was offered a college presidency. “I have often wondered what would have happened if I had accepted that instead,” said Dr. Weingast in a 1977 interview with The Ridgefield Press. But, he added, running a college was “no bed of roses” then, and “I have no regrets. Ridgefield has been a tough superintendency, but you have to remember that I became superintendent at a time when the academic world was a very tough place to be.” Dr. Weingast, the second longest-serving of 15 superintendents, had indeed worked through tough times, a decade of turmoil with one crisis after another: school building debates, problems with overcrowding, battles over books and budgets, an unhappy teachers’ union, and other issues. But, he said, it was also a period of accomplishments: the creation of a modern, balanced program of studies; the introduction of greater emphasis on writing; the expansion of fine arts offerings; the hiring of capable staff; rewriting the whole curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade using teams of teachers; and the improved management of money. “I think we’ve achieved a good balance between teaching the basics and promoting student creativity,” Dr. Weingast said. The most scholarly of Ridgefield’s superintendents and the only one to settle permanently in town, Dr. Weingast was born in 1912 in Newark, N.J., and began teaching elementary school there in 1931 at $1,300 a year. He received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1936 and moved to teaching history at Newark’s prestigious Weequahic High School. He received a Columbia doctorate in 1948, and in 1961, became assistant superintendent for secondary schools in Newark, responsible for nine high schools and six junior high schools. Meanwhile, he was writing four books: Walter Lippman: A Study in Personal Journalism, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Man of Destiny, This Is Communism, and We Elect A President. The last two have appeared in several editions, and the Roosevelt book was chosen one of The New York Times’s best books for young people. Before coming to Ridgefield, he received a Ford Foundation grant for study in Europe, concentrating on political systems and the rising tide of Communism in Italy. He retired here when he reached 65, and became a consultant on education, working out of his Main Street home. Asked at the time if he might ever run for a seat on the not-always-cordial school board under which he worked, he laughed. “Never! I couldn’t be dragooned or seduced or bought!”
Titles:Walter Lippmann: A Study in Personal Journalism, 1949Franklin D. Roosevelt: Man of Destiny, 1952This is Communism: The Communist Conspiracy in the United States and In the Word, 1959We Elect a President, 1962--Source: Notable Ridgefielders–Jack Sanders