Competition spices up school elections

BP photo by Leona Fallas

Leah Gurvitz gives her speach while running for SAC vice chair.

Nate Erez, Staff Writer

Toby Bern edged out Keren Meir for Agenda Chair and  Meshi Amzalag defeated two candidates for vice chair in the most competitive committee elections Shalhevet has seen in years, held for the first time using Edline instead of paper ballots.

Only two candidates out of 10 ran unopposed in the June 7 election. The duo of Ari Tuchman and Ezra Schwarcz claimed victory over Jon Dolgin and Gaby Newman for Fairness co-chairs, while Ariella Benji and Arielle Miro defeated Rachel Lesel to become co-chairs of SAC, the Student Activities Committee.

Raquel Garshofsky defeated Leah Gurvitz for SAC vice chair, and Yonah Nimmer beat Emilie Benyowitz for SAC treasurer.

In recent years, there had been a lack of competition, with two of the last four Agenda Chairs and a majority of other posts having had only one name on the ballot.  In last year’s election, only three of the 12 positions were contested.

After that, History Department Chair Dr. Jill Beerman went up to many juniors, asking them to think about running this year. Also, at Town Halls and in other forums including  The Boiling Point, people complained that without more competition, school democracy was incomplete.

“[Elections] were finally interesting,” said junior Saul Rothman of this year’s vote. “People finally are connected to the Shalhevet democratic system.”

The two uncontested positions were SAC secretary, claimed by freshman Ariana Feder, and CCC (Constructive Consequences Committee) chair, assumed by Leona Fallas, who said she was looking to rebuild and reform it.

The Community Service Committee, meanwhile, decided to elect its new chair in a vote of committee members only. This is possible because the CSC is not set up in the Shalhevet Constitution, which requires school-wide elections. Junior Jaclyn Kellner was chosen on March 16 for the spot.

This year there was a week of campaigning between speeches and voting, an idea proposed by math and science teacher Mr. Buckley to increase the feeling of competitiveness. But very few candidates took advantage of the opportunity. Keren Meir hung signs with slogans such as “Fear Meir… not really but vote for her,” while Rachel Lesel, Ariella Benji, and Ariella Miro, candidates for SAC chair, baked cookies and handed out candy.

In the Agenda, SAC and Fairness races, candidates gave speeches and presentations at Town Hall May 27. A number of candidates made videos to try to sway voters. Fairness candidates Ezra Schwarcz and Ari Tuchman produced a video displaying exaggerated situations of teachers treating students unfairly. The video caught viewers’ attention with comedy and got the whole Beit Midrash laughing — even the teachers who were parodied.

In one scene, junior Shmulek Sabo portrayed Athletic Director Mr. Joel Fisher on his cellphone during class trying to arrange a sports field, and then taking away a student’s phone for texting. Ari and Ezra then came to the rescue decreeing unfair action.

“As long as videos are going to be allowed, parodies of teachers, as long as they are not mean-spirited, are okay,” added the also parodied Dr. Beerman, who was shown yelling at students for being in the hallway during class.  “But probably the teachers going to be portrayed should be asked first.”

Mr. Fisher was less impressed.

“I was okay with the parody of me … but  I can’t speak for the other teachers,” Mr. Fisher said via e-mail, adding that he thinks Shalhevet students are sometimes “very disrespectful” of their teachers. “I hope everyone in the school will tread lightly when it comes to making fun of each other, and always make sure some measure of respect is observed.”

Keren Meir and Leah Gurvitz produced videos,  as did the teams of Arielle Miro and Ariella Benji, and Jon Dolgin and Gaby Newman.

Keren’s video showed her dancing between staged Agenda meetings, and  SAC vice chair candidate Leah Gurvitz got the whole room on its feet with Israeli music, preaching more school spirit which she would bring if elected. She pledged not only to have lunchtime Shabbos Kodesh stampedes every Friday, but to also have the girls involved in it.

The videos apparently had their desired effect.

“I found them to be hilarious,” said junior Nathan Rivani. “However, I hope that the people who made them got the teachers’ permission to make fun of them.”

This year’s voting was done electronically through Edline. Voting was held during lunch in the computer lab, but anybody could vote from any computer, both inside and outside of school, until voting closed at 5 p.m.

“It’s quick, easy, and there is no human error,” said Toby Bern, this year’s Agenda Vice Chair, who was in charge since the seniors were in Poland.

Along with the competition and week of campaigning, the Edline voting system also turned in the number of voters.

According to Edline, 118 people voted. This is only six fewer votes than the 124 cast last year, even though last year’s seniors hadn’t yet left on their trip when the election was held.

“There is no question that it helped voting,” said Toby. “The percentage of voters was much better than previous years.”

“It’s a pretty substantial amount [of voters], especially since the seniors are gone,” said General Studies Principal Mr. Tranchi.