From Long Beach to Hampton Bays, students are showing they have a thing for swing.

In recent years, an increasing number of Long Island schools have added ballroom dancing classes to their physical education curricula in response to the influx of dance-related programming in television and movies.

The lessons, which focus on everything from swing to merengue to the fox-trot, are an effective way to mix fitness and developmental skills, according to state officials.

"We've definitely seen a surge in all kinds of dance education throughout the state," said Colleen Corsi, executive director of the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. "Dance is an excellent form of exercise and an opportunity for physical educators to teach social graces."

In Long Beach, the East and West elementary schools host 10 weeks of lessons each year through a character education program designed to cultivate "collaboration and self-esteem," district officials said. Lessons are taught by instructors from CoDanceCo, a nonprofit dance organization, and culminate in a contest modeled after ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

At Hampton Bays Elementary School, a group of 56 kids recently took two weeks of dance classes with instructors from Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Southampton.

The classes started five years ago after PTA members saw "Mad Hot Ballroom," a 2005 documentary about a dance program in a New York City public school.

"We don't call them couples, we call them partners," Hampton Bays physical education teacher Frank Mancuso said of student pairs, citing a need to make them comfortable about dancing with each other. "This gives kids developmental skills that you can't teach."


New superintendent

Donald James has been named superintendent of Commack School District effective July 1, replacing James A. Feltman, who said he plans to travel.

James is currently superintendent of Center Moriches School District, which he joined in 2004, and has served as technology director of Patchogue-Medford School District.

"Living in the district for the past 11 years and having my children attend Commack schools has given me strong roots and an inside view," James said in a statement.


Latin contest

Teams from Riverhead High School earned top-three finishes in three of four levels - I, III and advanced - at the Suffolk Classical League's 12th Annual Latin Certamen Contest at Stony Brook University. Teams from Commack High School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson earned top-three finishes in Level II and III categories.

The "Jeopardy"-style competition required four-person teams to answer questions on topics of Roman culture and mythology and Latin grammar, translations and vocabulary.


Racing for a cure

W.S. Mount Elementary School's Community Service Club recently held a Nintendo Wii event that raised more than $4,000 for Ride for Life, a nonprofit that supports those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig's disease.

The second annual event challenged kids to go head-to-head in Wii's "Mario Kart," a racing-oriented video game. Funds were collected via entry fees, raffles and donations.


Film prize-winner

Michael Mirabella, a student at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, won second place in the short film category at the Locust Valley High School Film Festival and received a $750 scholarship from the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury. He was the sole Suffolk County winner among the festival's seven categories.


Mock media

Ninety media and government students from Suffolk County participated in a mock news conference last month hosted by Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) that was designed to let teens enhance their interviewing skills. Participating high schools were Commack, Deer Park, North Babylon, West Islip and Half Hollow Hills East in Dix Hills.

Topics included Raia's support for anti-bullying legislation and a petition by Sara Vittell, a seventh-grader at Northport Middle School who recently collected signatures for a statewide cyberbullying law.


State science fair winners

Fifteen Long Island students are eligible to compete this week at the International Science & Engineering Fair in California after being named winners at the New York State Science & Engineering Fair held at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. They are:

Commack: Erica Portnoy, Alexis Tchaconas and Natasha Tsay of Commack High School; Elmont: Sheila Nieto, Mel Palaca, Keaton Ramjit, Zainab Soetan of Elmont Memorial High School; Jericho: Mubarrat Bhuiyan of Jericho High School; Lido Beach: Arianne Papa and Jane Smyth of Long Beach High School; Lynbrook: Mary Denyse Magilligan of Lynbrook High School; New Hyde Park: Julie Chang and Yesha Maniar of Herricks High School; Port Washington: Dainn Woo of Paul D. Schreiber High School; Roslyn Heights: Samantha Halpern of Roslyn High School.

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