Leona Fallas, Rose Bern, Ariella Joffe win elections

Ashley Mashian

RUNNING: Justin Brandt-Sarif answers an audience question as Leona Fallas and David Rokah look on at Town Hall May 26. All three are running for Agenda Chair.

Nate Erez, Community Editor

With all on-site ballots and seniors’ electronic votes tallied, junior Leona Fallas was elected next year’s Agenda Committee chair, becoming the first female to head the committee since Rochelle Emert presided over Town Halls during 2005-06.

In results posted in the main hallway at about 4:55 P.M. Tuesday, May 31, sophomore Rose Bern was elected Agenda Vice Chair and junior Ariella Joffe secured the Student Activities Committee (SAC) vice chair position.

Shalhevet’s yearly Spring Elections were held during lunch on Thursday, May 26, for all students and faculty in school.  For seniors and faculty completing their Poland-Israel trip, teachers Mr. Buckley and Dr. Beerman created a first-ever online voting system to ensure that the entire community could vote.

At presentations during Town Hall directly preceding the lunchtime voting, all candidates made a final push to earn the votes of their peers.  Leona defeated fellow juniors Justin Brandt-Sarif and David Rokah.  Rose defeated fellow sophomore Daniel Schwartz.

Only three positions were contested this year, and the rest of the candidates ran unopposed, mostly as co-leaders.  But there was heated competition for two Agenda posts and for SAC vice-chair, and with so few contested races, there was time for audience questions and debate.

Leona, who has held no position in the Agenda Committee before, preached her inexperience as beneficial saying she could bring “an outside look.”  She said she loved Town Hall but, like other students, had sometimes been bored with the topics.  If elected, she promised to bring a much wider range of subjects to be discussed, and also to invite more guest speakers.

“I’m not saying if I”m chair there are not going to tbe people in the back of the room doing homework,” Leona said. “There’s always gonna be people doing that —  I’ve been one of them.  But I think that as chair I could make this place so exciting and so dynamic that you would be sitting there with your notebook open in your lap and you wouldn’t even look at it.”

David Rokah, the only candidate who’s been on Agenda before, said he would use his power to students’ advantage by “hearing complaints.”  He also touted his expertise in public speaking, saying he has won awards in Debate.  David was also the only candidate to show a video.

“I’m not gonna make Town Hall ridiculously serious like a class,” said David, who was elected Agenda Secretary last year but eventually turned the job over to sophomore Rose Bern. “I think that Town Hall should be a time where students may relax yet at the same time enjoy an interesting discussion, be productive and fix their problems.”

Justin Brandt-Sarif, dressed in a suit and tie, advocated the use of more Community Forums, where Town Hall is divided into smaller groups that make it “less intimidating” for students to speak, he said.  He also touted his leadership experience as Debate Team captain, all the while referencing his physical resemblance to the animated character Buzz Lightyear.

“I would  say  that my responsibility as bas a leader and as a speaker would really, really make your Town Hall experience far more intense than it has been,” Justin said. “It’s been good — don’t get me wrong. We can make it great.  We can take it to new heights, because I am Buzz Lightyear and we can take it to infinity and beyond.”

Sophomores Daniel Schwartz and Rose Bern ran for the position of Agenda Vice Chair in what became at some points a heated debate between the two. Rose argued that experience was needed for the job, something that Daniel lacked because he had not served on Agenda before, while she reminded the audience that as Secretary, she had already led five Town Halls.

Perhaps surprisingly, Daniel didn’t even mention that he was the author of the school’s new schedule this year, featuring the 4:45 pm. dismissal time. Instead, he said he’d push for more interesting topics at Town Hall.

“Are you tired of Town Hall devoted week after week devoted to boring, irelevant topics?  Right?” Daniel said. “…Can I promise you I can fix them? To be honest I can’t…. Some things may be out of my control, and some things we may need to work on togeher, but I can promise you all one thing: I will do everything in my power and to best of my ability to be sure that the old and exciting Shalhevet, that is fastly disintegrating, will rise once more.”

But Rose said experience was crucial to effectiveness on the Agenda Committee.

“Think about it,”  said Rose. “How can you campaign for a high position on a committee with no prior experience? But the fact is, I have experience, and I plan to use it.  I’ve been involved with this committee for two years, I was the secretary this year, and I’ve led five town halls including one this year.”

Daniel countered that he had been to one of the Agenda lunch meetings this year, which are open to everyone.

In the only other contested race, juniors Ariella Joffe and Deanna Grunfeld faced off for the position of SAC (Student Activities Committee) Vice Chair. Both focused on improving Color War and adding more “fun” to Shalhevet.  Deanna said she would try to make Color War last two days.

The duo of juniors Yonah Nimmer and Raquel Garshofsky — or as they called it, “Garshnimmer” — ran unopposed for S.A.C co-chairs, while sophomores Yael Weiner and Ariana Feder ran unnapossed for SAC’s new secretary and treasurer, respectively.

Both positions on the Fairness committee were unopposed, as Robin Ashkenazi claimed the position of secretary and Juniors Eitan Spitzer and David Fletcher claimed co-chairs.

On Thursday, photocopied flyers with campaign slogans lined the walls in the hallways, and at least three candidates passed out candy all morning and up through the vote. A few candidates threw chocolate into the audience as they started their speeches.

Officially, candidates were limited to a two-minute presentation with a requirement to make a speech as opposed to just a video.

“”Any videos made are being limited to two minutes and students running must make speeches,” said Agenda faculty advisor Dr. Jill Beerman. “We’re trying to focus more on substance.”

Students seemed pleased with the new format, and there were plenty of questions when the time came.  Junior Michael Suriel drew slightly aghast cheers when he asked the Agenda candidates to say what made them a better choice than their opponents.  Sophomore Gaby Golan, an Agenda representative, pointedly asked Daniel Schwartz how he could think he’d be a better chair than Rose if he had no experience.

Sophomore  Eitan Rothman, who led the meeting when Rose was debating, had to cut off questions from the audience when the bell rang.

“I thought the way it was run was just great,” sophomore Talia Topper said. “The speeches were great, which made it so hard to choose and he fact that teachers and students had the opportunity to ask candidates questions was amazing.”