Principal Bernie Kaplan walked onstage with an acoustic guitar, ready to address the family, friends and graduating students of John L. Miller Great Neck North High School with a song.
“This is a song for the parents of our graduates,” said Kaplan, before he started belting out the lyrics to the popular Top 40 hit “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
The audience erupted into laughter as Kaplan played the familiar tune over a slightly different rhythm. Kaplan said the song was meant to be a plea from parents to their children to call them after they have moved away.
“Here’s my number, call me maybe,” Kaplan sang.
Clad in blue robes, the 249 students of Great Neck North High School received their diplomas during the ceremony held at the Tilles Center on Long Island University’s Post campus.
The entire ceremony was planned and organized by the senior class. With the help of their class advisors, students chose who spoke and performed during the ceremony.
The Great Neck North Symphonic Band provided all of the music. The band started playing long before the audience members trickled into the auditorium and played a menagerie of classics throughout the event.
“These kids are just so hungry to play,” said instrumental director Joseph Rutkowski.
Select singers from the Class of 2012 performed as well.
“This is such a bittersweet thing,” said Jamie Karmely, 17, a member of the chorus. “I know I’m nervous, but I’m excited too.”
The graduating students weren’t the only ones who were honored during the commencement.
Several teachers who retired this year were honored for their time spent at Great Neck North. Among the teachers who retired this year was choral director Roger Ames, 67.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Rutkowski said.
Now that the Class of 2012 has graduated, Great Neck North looks to the future.
“You’re with these students for four years, you watch them grow up,” said assistant principal Ronald Levine. “Now we’re excited to have an incoming class of freshmen that will go through the same thing.”