Central High School principal Robert Pérez may well have created a monster.
Fresno High leader Brian Wells waited until his return from Las Vegas to hit the jackpot.
Thanks to their dance moves and ability to lip sync to Spanish-language music, Pérez and Wells shimmied off the Clovis West High School gym last Saturday night with thousands of dollars for their schools’ scholarship funds.
That amounts to $3,500 for back-to-back large school champion Central; and, $3,000 for small school winner Fresno High.
That was all courtesy of the Principal’s Lip Sync 2018 contest organized by the Fresno Latino Rotary. The competition originated in Modesto 30 years ago when radio station executive Mike Sturtevant thought of a way to raise scholarship funds while getting high school principals more involved with a segment of the student body.
Pérez and Wells were joined by four other principals and their supporting casts of students and school staff in a competition with elaborate backdrops, colorful costumes and plenty of humor.
The principals – including those from Tranquillity, Tracy, Clovis West and Sunnyside – downplayed the competitiveness of the evening and instead focused on how the event bridged a greater relationship with their students.
“The kids inspired me!” said Wells, who participated in the contest a few years ago when he was principal at Roosevelt High.
A try for a three-peat?
Backed by the well-oiled and colorful choreography of Danzantes de Tláloc, Pérez strutted through ranchera standards like ‘El Sauce y la Palma’ and ‘El Toro Mambo’ while making three costume changes.
“With these kids behind me, anyone looks good,” said Pérez as he snapped selfies with this students, staff and supporters after the competition. “I still don’t think I know how to dance!”
The judges – Sturtevant, María Lemus, Deidre Sánchez, Tim Ríos, David Preciado and Venancio Gaona – gave Central the highest marks of the evening in all five categories: Lip sync, creativity, performance/execution, set up/strike down, and, costume.
Pérez closed the set playing the drums a la Banda El Recodo.
“It was a great experience,” said Central High sophomore Teslla Ramírez, one of about 60 students who took part in the extravaganza. “It’s a night to remember!”
Pérez heard some students talk about the 2019 contest and a mission to seek a third consecutive title.
If it does happen, Central will have to get past Jason Noll and a Tracy High team that finished second by re-creating songs from the Oscar-winning movie ‘Coco.’
Noll tied for second last year. This marked his 10th year in the competition.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Noll, who shook off the giggles and laughter from the audience.
“It’s absolutely worth it,” said Noll, who pocketed $3,000 in scholarship funds. “This is not about who gets first, second or third.
“It’s fun, and it’s for the kids.”
Clovis West (Richard Sarkesian) finished third, with Sunnyside (Tim Liles) fourth in the large school category.
‘Coco’ for the win
Wells depended on the work of folklórico dance instructor Rose Pantoja and the effort of Spanish-language teacher Jesús Campos (dressed and dancing as Mamá Imelda) to bring ‘Coco’ to life.
Wells, sporting half a calavera face painting and strumming the guitar, opened with the song ‘Recuerdame’ (Remember Me) before turning it over to Campos for ‘La Llorona.’
“It took me a good, solid month to get ready,” said Wells. “The kids are the real drivers. Even the clothes is theirs.”
Wells, who flew in from a weeklong Las Vegas conference on Friday, rehearsed with the students at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“I just got out of the way and let the kids perform their magic,” said Wells.
Tranquillity (Rubén García) was second.