Mr. Danovitch’s speech at senior graduation

Below is the text of General Studies Principal Mr. Roy Danovitch’s charge to the Class of 2015 at its graduation June 7 at Temple Beth Am. Laced with humor, irreverence and inside jokes, it was delivered spoke at the invitation of the class.

Mr. Roy Danovitch, who has been General Studies Principal and English teacher, is leaving to New York to attain a Masters of Education degree after 11 years at Shalhevet.

Dear Class of 2015,

I am here to deliver your faculty charge on the exciting afternoon that celebrates and consecrates your graduation from The Shalhevet School of Math Homework and Boiling Point Studies.

Before I begin my formal remarks, I’d like to remind graduates that Ms. Malikov would like you to complete questions 2-50, 52, 54, 56, and 58 in your Calculus textbooks tonight. There will also be a lunch meeting tomorrow, followed by a brief quiz on inverse ratios during Mincha.

Any speech or charge to a distinguished class of graduating seniors must begin with some much needed shout outs to the people who sacrificed so much, so you could graduate from a premiere house of learning that officially records 14 actual school days per year, a fact not reported to WASC.

First, we should pay homage to you parents, who not only paid the cost of tuition, but also sprung for yearbook fees, shabbaton fees, dress code infraction fees, tutoring fees, birthday cakes, and many hidden extras, including thousands of dollars of color war riffraff, face paint, animal costumes, and the countless ice lattes your children bought me, in exchange for extra credit I never gave them.

Your inspiring teachers also deserve recognition for padding your grades, and obediently adhering to a test-taking calendar which allows them to give an exam every other month, on Fireweek Tuesdays, and never on a fast day, Rosh Chodesh day, Purim Katan, or the three days before and after a Chag, and never on Richard Joel’s birthday.

Impossibly, the graduating class of 2015 ended up with a cumulative GPA of 6.4, but if you minus the subterfuge, manipulation, negotiation, thinly veiled threats, and fabricated orthodontist appointments, your cumulative GPA is more like a 2.3.

Parents, I’d also like to thank you for spending money on the Judaic Studies readers your kids conceptualized, organized, assembled, and bound, all while enduring sweatshop labor conditions at Reb Weissman’s house, while he drank Coke Zero and watched ESPN. The profits from the readers have ensured that your kids not only have a state of the art Jewish education, but that Reb Weissman and Rabbi Stein have an endless supply of tight khaki pants and pickled herring.

Students, I feel privileged to speak before you today, on a day that marks your graduation, and my graduation, from the school we love and adore. I’ve thought long and hard about what I should say to you today, and how to avoid the hollow clichés and semi-patronizing advice associated with the commencement address.

So I thought I’d reflect a little about my time at Shalhevet, and the lessons I’ve learned during two unique periods in the school’s growth.

Old Shalhevet was funky, eccentric, ridiculous, passionate, uncertain, searching, colorful, experimental, and totally unpredictable. Kids wore kippas with about the same regularity as Adam Rokah and David Lorell, students staged sit-ins when departing faculty left the school, I had a snake in my office, and Mr. Feld regularly taught classes in jeans and a t shirt. Old Shalhevet was a mythological fairly-land; the kids ruled the roost, everything was up for debate, and the school lurched forward, backwards, upside down, and sideways, eager to find itself. There were no executive committees, no public relations budgets, and no hashkama minyans. Shalhevet embraced dissonance in every

corner; it was a school suffused with manic energy, spirited students, and a grand wizard, Dr. Friedman, sitting in his office, sans file cabinets, sans computer, but a giant aquarium behind his desk, and an apiary of birds cawing outside in the courtyard.

Like all young institutions, Shalhevet was flowering into being. Like all children, it was testing the waters, and sourcing its identity against the wishes of people who knew better, and wanted the school to grow up already.

Then there’s this entity we call “New Shalhevet.” In this new Shalhevet, we have foreign entities called procedures, protocols, mapping, and “horizontal curricular integration.” We have a creative learning elective called “Shalhevet Minimesters,” or, as Shana calls it, “my free period.” We have committees that plan the schedule a year in advance, we have an online educational portal that manages student work load, we make references to “flipped classrooms,” a term that used to mean full scale rebellion when your teacher asked you to go to t’filla, and we take online polls during Town Hall.

Oh, and by the way, thanks for always showing up to Town Hall.

We have waiting lists, streamlined operations, financial sustainability, and a glamorous new building.

I’m sad to report, however, that we’ve made zero progress on the dress code front.

Having inhabited both of these worlds, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as Old Shalhevet and New Shalhevet. Shalhevet is a living, growing, breathing organism, whose identity is composed of both youthful exuberance, and mature growth. It’s a school that knows itself, but never ceases becoming something bigger, better, more

elaborate. It’s a school that grows up, and grows old, but remains forever young. And just like the greatest fairy tales, there’s something about the school which appeals to young and old alike. The kids are meant to feel like adults, and the adults are meant to feel kids.

How else to explain Goldie regularly telling me, “I have some growing up to do?” So what’s the moral of the story?

Well, as you graduate, and begin what some people call “the real world,” you should keep in mind that your experiences at Shalhevet will remain a deep and integral part of who you are, even as you venture forward in the world, meeting new friends, visiting new places, and creating new experiences. If you worry about the future, just remember the advice of C.S Lewis, one of our greatest fairy tale writers. Don’t live life as if you were a train, “leaving one station behind, and puffing on to the next.” Instead, approach growth as if you were as a tree, adding new rings, and achieving greater diversity. If you feel anxious about the future, just remember that you can carry your mirth, joy, and imagination, wherever you go. This is what will keep you young, even as you grow old. This is what will help you experience the world in new and surprising ways. This will help you appreciate another pearl from C.S Lewis, who observed that,

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

Finally, just remember that the friends, teachers, and faculty with whom you’ve formed deep and abiding bonds, will always remain an active presence in your life. And If you want to return to Narnia, and I know I’ll want to, just visit the school, or contact the

friends, faculty, and staff, with whom you’ve forged connections that geography, time, and distance can’t break.

I love, respect, and admire, each and every one of you guys.
You have made my profession feel like the best job in the world. You guys have made Shalhevet a magical, enchanting place.
And your journey is only just beginning.