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Pearl River School-Night Prom Quieter in Second Year

Pearl River's choice to hold proms on school nights drew much less attention the second time around.

One person seemed to enjoy the junior prom more this year than last -- Pearl River High School Principal William Furdon.

A year ago, the decision to hold junior and senior prom on school nights stirred up controversy in the district and attention from all over. There were angry reactions from some parents and students and national media coverage.

"Last year was a three-ring circus," Furdon said. "This year, the kids took it well. The parents took it well. It was so quiet I was worried that it was too quiet."

That was not a problem, when the switch was a source of loud debate, including a PTA meeting in Pirate Cove when Furdon announced the plan.

"The one big PTA meeting we've had in the last two years was the one I announced the prom would be on a school night," Furdon said. "Pirate Cove was packed. I laid it out, why we are doing this way. We had an incredible discussion, both positive and negative.

The primary reason was concern about what students were doing at after-prom activities, especially underage drinking.

"We're not going to allow the high-risk behavior to piggy-back on the prom," Furdon said. "Every year, you hold your breath. There is no better feeling for an administrator than to come around the corner and see all of the kids there.

"I had a parent call this morning, so happy the prom was on a weeknight again. They were so glad they didn't have to worry about the party bus and other things going on."

There was no national media this time around, the night of the prom or the next morning. One concern was students showing up the day after the prom.

"They all did show up," Furdon said. "(Last year) I was on Fox News and they did a live feed from back here. Did everyone come? They’re all here. The bottom line is they are here and safe.

"What they don’t understand is the kids we have here at Pearl River. The cynical people out there don’t understand our kids. They do come through when you ask them to do stuff."

Just as they did last year, the PTA put out a full breakfast for the students at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Rather than regular classes, the students had a field day in the gym complete with ping-pong, volleyball and dodge-ball tournaments.

"We had a sixth-period meeting in auditorium and assembly when we had a talk about expectations for the night," Furdon said. "They went and got ready and dressed to the hilt. They came back today and had the field day. They are all safe and nobody got hurt.WE didn't have to fear all last night."

Furdon said that another side effect was that he did not see students wanting to leave early to make a party bus or limo.

"Last night at 10:45 we did the crowning of the king and queen," Furdon said. "We didn't have anybody wanting to leave. 'My bus is coming. I have to go' All the stuff we used to hear.

"They stayed for more dances. They were there to have a good time with their friends. All the kids said it was fun. That is what it's supposed to be about."

Furdon said he would not be changing back to holding proms on Friday or Saturday nights. This year's senior prom is on a Sunday night, June 5.

"It's not changing," Furdon said. "I've talked to other schools in the area who are thinking of doing it. A couple of PTA's asked me to come talk about how we did it. We had a group of parents who wanted it. I was just the facilitator in all this. If you believe in it, and you have to believe in it, you will go through the negative angst."

Furdon said things went much more smoothly with the students this time around, at least in part because they had seen how it worked last year.

"I give this year’s senior class kudos," Furdon said. "They didn’t fight me, either. They had faith that we were not doing stuff to make them feel bad. Now that we’ve done it, the junior class saw what we did last year with juniors and seniors. They had a field day. They got to have prom. That’s what it's supposed to be about, not about going out afterwards. It’s about your prom."

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