Wynn Principal Says The (Tie) Dye Is Already Cast

Principal John Weir looking to use dance as an extension of "team" over "individual" philosophy school has tried to foster.

More than 30 8th graders and parents arrived at the Wynn School Library Thursday night, hoping to have the chance to change the mind of Principal John Weir regarding format of the end-of-the-year 8th grade dance.

They left disappointed and, in some cases, angry.

"It really wasn't even a discussion. His mind was made up," said Sheryl Liggiero, mother of an 8th grader. "We asked him if there was a reason (for the change) and he said, 'I don't have to give you a reason.'"

"He wouldn't listen to what anyone would say. He had his mind set," said Rachel Bradley, a Wynn School 8th grader and the only student allowed to officially speak at the meeting. "

What had the students and parents up in arms was a decision by Weir to change the theme of the dance to a "tie-dye" dance. Weir said each of the 8th grades four "teams" would have color-coded tie-dye shirts. He said he envisioned the theme of the dance as an extension of a field day that will also be held near the end of the school year, featuring team activities and team-building exercises.

"Middle school is about team building and the team format more than the individual," said Weir.

The 8th grade dance at the end of the school year has been a tradition in Tewksbury going back at least 30 years. Over that time it has taken on the format of a "semi-formal" with some students, especially female, choosing to dress up in dazzling party attire.

But that, said Weir, is part of the problem. He said the dance was never intended to be an elaborate prom-like event. He said it was always supposed to just be an end-of-the-year dance. He showed a memo he sent out prior to the 2011 event, which stated directly that the event was NOT a semi-formal and that students should not go overboard with clothing.

As it is, said Weir, there has always been a wide range of attire at these dances. "There was always inconsistent dress with the kids," he said. "Some were in t-shirts and jeans, some in button down shirts, some more elaborate. So we're not taking away the semi-formal because there never was a semi-formal."

Weir said when he was deciding about the format of the dance, he consulted the teachers and then went to the Parents Advisory Council, who told him it was a good idea.

He told the students that had gathered for the PAC meeting that he appreciated their initiative.

"I told them I was glad they came and that they advocated their position," said Weir.

But that was as far as he was willing to go. He would not re-open discussions about the format of the dance. When one male student asked, "Why can't we have a say," Weir responded, "There are some decisions the adults are going to make."

Weir stressed that he didn't invite the students to the PAC meeting but had invited parents to attend and join the dance committee to help organize the event.

The students were, in fact, invited to the meeting by PAC Secretary Joy Beatrice. In email correspondence with Rachel Bradley, Beatrice indicated that the PAC would be glad to discuss the matter with the students and said it had not been the PAC's decision to make the switch.

Beatrice was unable to attend Thursday's meeting. However, PAC Chairperson Laura Hulme gave her full backing to Weir.

"My whole thing is, Mr. Weir is the principal and he decides," she said.

As for the students and parents that attended the meeting, they say the fight is not over. Sheryl Liggiero said she intended to bring the matter up before the Tewksbury School Committee and Rachel Bradley indicated that the students would be willing to stage their own "semi-formal" dance, perhaps on the night of the tie-dye event.


Annie Whitehouse February 02, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Good job making your voice heard, Rachel! I'm sorry it didn't work out for you this time. Keep fighting the good fight and there will be bright things in your future.
Terry Joseph February 05, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Not sure what is going on here. It seems we lose sight of simple things in life. We all had semi dances growing up and we all had a good time. It is very hard for me to understand why the the 8th graders are not allowed to have a semi. If they would like to dress up then let them. I find everytime I turn around something has changed. Don't ever call a Junior Prom a "Junior Prom" - it isn't anymore it is a Junior Semi. Please tell me why? We have so much more to focus on in our schools to think we are all worried over a dance that the kids just want to dress up. Who really cares. Let them. I as a parent would prefer this event to happen at the Wynn school and not at some hall. This to me is driving the kids away. This is not what team building is about. Maybe there is a happy medium that could be reached.
Melanie June 18, 2013 at 09:32 PM
This is not your "last dance". You're only in 8th grade for crying out loud. It may be hard to believe now, but you have your whole life ahead of you. Trust me, there will be plenty of dances. Also, plenty of proms and weddings--and so many weddings that you'd have wished you opted for tye dye because you are going to be so sick of glitzy dress shopping by then. I understand the kids are sad and all. Mr. Weir is far from a scumbag. Gosh. Is that really appropriate? He's the boss. Get over it.
Lol June 18, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Did she just wake up from a coma?
Melanie June 19, 2013 at 08:11 PM
They call me Rip Van Winkle. :) So I'm a liiiiiitle late on the subject. I still stand by my word.


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