Principal, Student Pair wins Dancing With The Stars

on Tuesday, 13 May 2014. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:53 pm
ELLEN MEDER, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — After a five-way tie of perfect scores, the judges of Dancing With The Stars of Florence named a new pair of technical skills winners Thursday night: Southside Middle School Principal Craig Washington and his dance partner and South Florence High senior Cheyanne Beck.  Dancing an energetic jive to "Shake a Tail Feather," including several tricks, spins and lifts, the pair took home the coveted mirror ball trophy after a dance-off to help the judges select from the top contenders.  "I'm excited, I am just completely overwhelmed," Washington said. "Shocked and surprised, but just happy. I've had a great partner, she is just fabulous and she just worked with me and it really paid off."

The event is the main fundraiser for The School Foundation, a nonprofit charged with providing grants to Florence School District 1 classrooms and helping bolster school readiness in the area. Washington said that seeing how much good The School Foundation does made him sign up to help out, even though his primary art-related talent is using instruments to play music, not dancing to it.  Washington's mirror ball will sit out in the front office of Southside, which is known for its arts-integrated curriculum, where he said he hopes it will serve as an inspiration for students that "hard work pays off."

The other pairs who earned perfect scores in the first round were Rob Ardis and Sarah Johnson, Nick Townsend and Meggie Baker, John Chase and his new 11th hour partner Brea Boatwright, Jeff Stevens and Rebecca Kelley and FitzLee McEachin and Georganna Kelley.  Ardis, the COO of Pee Dee Electric Cooperative, and Johnson, also a South Florence senior, might not have snagged the mirror ball, but they did walk away with trophies for most entertaining. The outgoing pair locked away the win with an acrobatic, cheerleader-themed dance to "Hey Mickey" that wowed the judges and elicited some of the most crowd involvement.

Michelle Cato, of Roche Carolina, and her partner Jovan Kindred won the people's choice award, followed by runners-up Jeff Stevens with Carolina Canners Inc. and Dr. Rakesh Chokshi of Pee Dee Spine Center.  The people's choice award was decided by public voting that has been going on since January via online, $10 ballots, but ended in a flurry of cash and checks from the audience — which included nearly 750 of Florence's movers and shakers.  With approximately 18,975 votes cast, that's well over $189,700 going to The School Foundation.  Executive Director Debbie Hyler said it's still to early to tell how much the event netted the organization, but she said it was one of the group's most successful events to date.

"I think it went great. I think we had a great variety of dancers and dance styles and the crowd I think just had a really good time," she said. "We had great support. so I'm sure it was a very successful event monetarily, so we're excited."

This year The School Foundation board is poised to dole out more than $151,000 in grants, some large and some as small as $500, to classrooms around Florence 1. The deadline for applications this year is April 25. For more information on how to donate to The School Foundation or how to educators can apply for grants visit