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.


Bill Gilman (Editor) January 22, 2013 at 02:40 AM
OK folks. Let's reel this back a bit. Enough with the personal attacks. A debate over the issue is fine. But the personal attacks on Mr. Weir or anyone else are out of line. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Thanks.bg
Tom DeVeau January 22, 2013 at 01:15 PM
Would the resolution here be to simply call it the "8th Grade End of the Year Dance"? Wear whatever you want, get there however you want. Put restrictions on certain articles of clothing but this would allow kids who want to dress up, to dress up and kids who don't, to not dress up. Seems like the best of both worlds for everyone involved.
Sheryl Logiudice Liggiero January 22, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Tom, that was a question that was brought up at the meeting. Mr Weir said NO. And it was not up for discussion. Bottom line is, that's all we asked for. Why can't they dress nice?? Bill, I'm truly sorry this has turned into people bashing. Some people are just ridiculous.
Donna Wilson January 22, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Wow, I now see where the children in this town get their immaturity and entitlement from. As parents you should be ashamed with the name calling and calls for resignation. Seems like the kids aren't the only ones who need to grow up!!!
Marc January 22, 2013 at 04:18 PM
People, people, people, really!!! I have an 8th grader, and he could care less about what happens at the end of the yr. He and friends said all the girls want to call it a semi formal..Going back as long as I lived in Tewksbury it was never officially called a semi formal period.It was just an end of the yr dance. Some boys dressed up and some didn't..Girls however did and still do go overboard however it is up to the child and the parent on what they want to wear, but of course it actually has to fit the child and be appropriate. As long as they are having fun who cares. Parents please stop bashing the principal in public. All these kids that read the patch are now obviously talking about this in school and that's all you need is for one of your kids to turn around and call the principal an asshole to their friends and the they get suspended. Is that what you really want to teach your kids. I know for me, respect is a huge part of growing up. Especially outside of our home. I also know in order to get respect you have to earn it. I do agree they should have something at the end of the school yr but why does it matter so much as to what it is as long as the kids are together. The parents care more about this issue then the kids. Yea there are some previous students from voicing their opinions on how much they enjoyed the dance, but yea so did my daughter back then. But parents, bashing the principal is not helping your children you're only pissing him off more.
denise January 22, 2013 at 04:26 PM
175 comments on this topic? move on people...and asking the principal to resign over a 'dress up' dance? yikes...dont we have more things to worry about?
Marc January 22, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Denise simply put..basically was trying to say the same thing lol
Tewksbury2001 January 22, 2013 at 05:32 PM
I am sure there are plenty of kids that are relieved it is not a semi-formal event. I am sure there are many kids in town that can't afford it and are not comfortable with it. Those people are less likely to speak up but i would guess there are many that are happy with the decision.
LP January 23, 2013 at 12:29 AM
This is a great picture of what is wrong with our society - parents encouraging children to go against a decision made by a person in an authoritative position. Give them what they want, when they want it, and make sure you give them extra too. Make sure when they hurt someone, that you defend them by saying they didn't mean it. When they get caught with drugs or alcohol, defend them by saying that they are "just being kids". For the love of god, people - be a parent, and not a friend. Teach them that although, yes, they can be heard - that they need to respect their elders and respect authority. This is the generation that will be running the country when we are all old - now THAT will be interesting.....
bk January 23, 2013 at 05:17 PM
John, I was similarly amused with parents so upset with this minor issue. We understand that this is off topic but the point is how come parents do not come out with their opinions/suggestions so forcefully on the not-so-great- MCAS score .... town-wide. Does is it reflects our priorities? --Bk
bk January 23, 2013 at 05:34 PM
LP, Very well said. --Bk
bk January 23, 2013 at 05:36 PM
I agree. In addition, I would ask parents to involve as much in the upcoming MCAS. --BK
bk January 23, 2013 at 05:38 PM
I agree.... --BK
Trish Bourne January 24, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Loving this.
Sheryl Logiudice Liggiero January 24, 2013 at 02:33 PM
LP, Aren't you the one that that thinks it's o.k. for a person to own a machine gun??? Also the one that agrees the elementary schools shouldn't do a moment of silence for The victims of Newtown??? Maybe you shouldn't be discussing anything that has to do with our children. By the way, people need to give respect in order to receive it. Respect goes both ways, and is not just for adults to receive but children as well.
Courtney Spinelli January 24, 2013 at 03:29 PM
I applaud what Rachel and the other 8th graders are doing by standing up for what they believe in. I cannot imagine going back to eighth grade and having a tie-dye dance in the place of our semi-formal. It was one of my greatest memories of the middle school and I even had the opportunity to help put together the semi-formal in both the eighth and seventh grade. This event an unbelievable send-off as we prepared ourselves to become mature, young adults and venture off into a new chapter in our life. For those of you who are bashing this event, I'm assuming you probably don't have a child, sibling, or even relative who attends the middle school. With that said, my sister is an 8th grader this year, and more specifically, one who attended the meeting on Thursday night. I can only hope that she and her classmates get the opportunity to attend a semi-formal dance, and if not, I congratulate them on standing up and voicing their opinions.
Bruce Panilaitis January 24, 2013 at 04:27 PM
I served with Mr. Weir on the Wynn School Council for 3 years and found him to be a dedicated professional, and I remember comments then from fellow parents about students overdoing it with the dance. It is disappointing to see parents publicly bashing the principal over a dance. While I have no daughters, I can imagine the pressure parents of daughters would be under to spend money they don't have so their daughter would "fit in" with those that overdo it. I applaud the students involved for standing up for their beliefs but the Prinicpal has made a decision and it is time to move on. I hope Mr. Weir stands by his decision and the School Committee comes out publicly to support their prinicipal and put this to rest.
LP January 24, 2013 at 11:57 PM
Bruce, you are right on the money. My daughter is now a sophmore in college, but I remember the 8th grade "semi-formal" quite well. I admit, I may have gone overboard, and I shouldn't have. We had her hair done at the salon, bought a beautiful cocktail dress, etc. We got there and saw limos dropping groups off. Could I afford it then? Absolutely not. Did I want her to fit in and not be made fun of? Absolutely. Having an end of year dance is great - but keep it in the parameters that involve everyone (not just the "haves" as mentioned above). Courtney, no one is bashing the dance. We are simply discussing reasonable ways for everyone to be able to enjoy the event, and the complete lack of respect towards elders and authority figures. That, I feel, is the most important issue at hand.
Jane Doe January 27, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Absolutely Denise - and also Bruce - everyone in the military is "Green" so that everyone is the same. This is so when they work together - they arent concerned with the social status or who has what. It is based on integrity and performance as a person. You have respect for your leadership whether you agree or not. This is like "Toddlers and Tiaras" - sickening. Teach your child to be appreciative of what they have. Food, a roof over their head, education and medical care. Not that they have to meet the expectations of their A.) peers but even worse B.) their parents (most likely cheering them on living vicariously) - I am just so sure that all of these parents that want to be so supportive of their children being able to "wear what they want" would be equally as supportive if their son wanted to wear a nice cocktail dress or their daughter wanted to rent her outfit from Mr Tux - oh wait ... Im sure they only believe in "wearing what you want" only to where their needs are met. This is why so many kids are disrespectful to the adults and of authority. It is great to fight for what you want when it is wrong - but this is really not that big of a deal when I login to my email 10 days later to see a kazillion comments - mostly parents supporting their kids keep the caste system going. Maybe some of you could volunteer at a homeless shelter - see how many homeless kids are integrated in our school systems across the state. Again - I applaud Mr Weir
Tewksbury Resident January 27, 2013 at 06:31 PM
You must goodle "words for teenagers"; courtesy of principal John Tapene. The ending that wasn't printed: "You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years. They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure. But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request. In Heaven's name, grow up and go home"!
wendy spinelli January 28, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Jane Doe, You are very brave with your comments when you don't reveal your identity, a very cowardly way to post your views in my opinion. For your information, I have volunteered in a homeless shelter as has my husband. My children are taught values and have been taught to appreciate the "roof over their head" and the "food on the table" as well as the other children whose parents are in favor of keeping the tradition of the end of the year dance. It is very easy to run your mouth or accuse everyone of bad parenting when your hiding behind an alias. If your going to post a comment publically and accuse people (not sure if you even know any of them personally as you don't use your real name) of being bad parents and not teaching values you should at least own it . Were you at the meeting? if you were, maybe you would feel differently about the parents who attended. They were there in attendance to discuss the dance and the options available to the kids. Not one parent was there to live "vicariously through their kids". It was not about parents allowing the kids to wear what they want. Again if you were at the meeting you would know that wasn't what was said at all. Parameters and rules would have been set with regard to the dress code as they have been in the past. In no way is this a mimic of "toddlers and tiara's". Your comments are rediculous.
Victoria Lynne January 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM
I completely agree. Well stated.
Victoria Lynne January 29, 2013 at 12:08 AM
Open your eyes. Haven't you noticed the changing attitudes and the way younger and younger kids are getting involved in "adult" activities? Making the dances too important encourages kids to forge romantic relationships whether you realize it or not. When girls are running out and buying formal dresses for the 8th grade dance, they are taking it far more seriously than they should be. It's ridiculous. It is the PARENTS who want these activities.... who STARTED these activities..... you're enabling the problem. The "formalness" of these dances has always been a huge issue that has caused problems. Making a change to a more laid back approach that levels the playing field and minimizes the more "adult" behavior is a WIN WIN situation. OPEN YOUR EYES!
Jane Doe February 02, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Ah Ms Spinelli, many a great author wrote under a "nom de plume" - Mark Twain, George Orwell, George Sand, Loisa May Alcott, Mary Shelley etc. The words "bad parenting" did not appear in my response, amazing how it came to mind in your thinking. I do not need to publicize my name not out of "cowardice" (please), I choose "privacy" and ... my right to it. I also do not have a facebook (nor do my children) because it is a preference of privacy. Throw your identity out there and be judged by others - wasn't this part of the conversation at hand? Opinions being formed. I, with Jane Doe, am essentially wearing my tie dye shirt. I am not going to be judged by you or anyone else this way. You could be my neighbor, sit next to me in church and shake my hand, my child's best friend's mother. Why would I want to change any of that because of difference of opinion? Bravo, you put your name on your comments. I prefer privacy, not hiding, privacy. Thank you "Tewksbury Resident" (must be hiding their name too!) I found the John Tapene article. Perfectly stated. "
Jane Doe February 02, 2013 at 01:27 PM
"Northland College Principal John Tapene has offered the following words from a judge who regularly deals with youth: 'Always we hear the cry from teenagers "What can we do, where can we go?" 'My answer is this: Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you've finished, read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. 'The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness and lonely again. In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important, you are needed. It's too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you!'
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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