2015-04-02 / Around Town

Combined Dance Gets Glowing Reviews

By Olga Enger

Sometimes Aquidneck Island’s most challenging issues, such as how to share services across school districts, are best left to the students. For the first time, Newport and Middletown students danced the night away under one roof at the combined Newport-Middletown Glow Dance, held Saturday, March 28.

“I’ve known Sammy Peliza, the junior class president of Middletown, for a long time,” said Elizabeth Murphy, the junior class president at Rogers who organized the event. “I approached her about doing a combined dance and she thought it was a great idea.”

When the girls queried Rogers Principal Jeffrey Goss, he agreed it could be successful. In the past, some dances have been canceled if ticket sales did not support expenses, such as police details. However, in light of controversies behind regionalization and past issues at Middletown dances, not everyone was optimistic.

“As a first-year principal, just finishing up my fourth month, some of my mentors thought I was crazy,” said Goss. “But sometimes it’s good to get the adults out of the way. The students have a different perspective.”

Goss said it was Murphy’s persistence that made the dance possible.

“The most challenging part was to get the two superintendents in the same room. They have such busy schedules. Once that happened, everything came together,” said Murphy.

“We wouldn’t have pulled it off if they weren’t so persistent. It was great to see the two class presidents working together. They showed great leadership,” said Goss.

They decided to open the dance to the entire student body and hold it at Rogers, which has the larger gym of the two schools. After the administration signed off on the idea, the only outstanding challenge was to resolve the schools' different policies. Middletown, for example, has a Breathalyzer requirement while Rogers does not.

“Middletown has that policy in place for a reason,” said Goss, referring to the district's recent experience at dances. “We need to respect those policies.”

The solution was uncomplicated. The districts maintained their own policies and checked into the dance separately. Almost 300 students attended and the result was phenomenal.

“Seniors came up to me and told me how much fun it was,” Murphy said. “If older seniors are complimenting you, that’s when you know they had fun.” She added that her sister, a freshman at Prout, attended the dance as a guest, and was able to reunite with Middletown friends she had not seen in a long time.

There were no issues with behavior or inappropriate dancing.

“I didn’t have to go up to any student,” said Goss. “Although I don’t understand the dancing, he added, "They just jump up and down. I don’t get it. But I come from the '80s, and we weren’t exactly dancing machines ourselves,” he laughed.

Murphy credits the school staff as much as her classmates for the problem-free event.

“In the past, adults have sometimes tried to enforce the rules too much. It almost makes the kids want to go against them,” said Murphy. “We were told once and only once.”

Unlike other school dances, the Glow Dance is an informal event, where students typically wear neon and bring glow sticks. Goss said the students' outfits illuminated the room so brightly that the overhead lights were not needed.

Looking toward the future, both Goss and Middletown Principal Gail Abromitis agree the districts should combine the dance.

“I would love for this to be a yearly event. We could maybe use it as a chance to raise money for a community need the next time,” said Abromitis.

Sharing expenses allowed the student body to raise around $1,400 for each school. The money will be used for future dances and reunions.

“It was really great to see the two communities come together and have fun,” remarked Goss. “Next year, if the students want to have it at Middletown, we should do that.”

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