Slide Show: ‘Reading Week’ ends with pies in the face for principal

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Fourth grader Troyshaw Burgess throws the first pie in Principal Thomas Payton's face Friday.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Fourth grader Troyshaw Burgess throws the first pie in Principal Thomas Payton's face Friday.

“Pie! Pie! Pie!”

That was what the children in the Roanoke Avenue Elementary School chanted as their principal entered the auditorium, where all the classes were assembled Friday afternoon.

New non-healthy lunch menu?

Not quite.

Principal Tom Payton was holding up his end of the bargain, having issued a challenge to the kids that if they read 50,000 minutes during Reading Week, he would take a pie in the face.

The kids read 66,466 minutes, as it turned out, and Mr. Payton took five pies in the face, one from a representative of each grade in the K-4 school.

“I am so proud of your enthusiasm for Reading Week and that enthusiasm is reflected in the number of minutes you read this week,” Mr. Payton told the students.

Mr. Payton has done stuff like this before, although this was his first time as principal at Roanoke.

He had been the principal at Phillips Avenue Elementary School from 2005 to 2010 where he initiated the annual tradition of challenging his students to read a certain number of minutes, and if they met that challenge, he would do something— usually embarrassing— in front of the entire school.

In four years, he wore a clown suit and rode a small tricycle on stage; he let kids pour chocolate syrup and whipped cream on him and make him into an ice cream sundae; he dressed in a chicken suit and danced to the Chicken Dance, and he cut most of his hair off in front of the kids.

He was reassigned to Roanoke Avenue midyear last year, and missed his Reading Week challenges. But he was named principal at the start of the current school year and resumed the challenges.

And the kids were ready.

They even made posters taunting their principal of his impending fate.

“Pie Meets Face. Face Meets Pie. It’s Coming! Beware the Pie!,” one of them wrote.

“The pies are coming Friday!” another poster warned.

The posters are hanging in Mr. Payton’s office.

The challenges seem to have gotten the kids pysched about reading, or least, about seeing their principal get hit with a pie.

“Parents have said, ‘It’s all my son or daughter is talking about,’ ” Mr. Payton said.

The whipped cream pies were made by Mr. Payton and custodian Antonia Turner before the assembly, and the five kids who were chosen to do the pie-ing (if that’s a word) showed no mercy.

Afterward, Mr. Payton compared the pie-in-the-face stunt to his previous challenges in terms of disgusting-ness.

“This was number one. No doubt,” he said. “I think I still have whipped cream in my ears.”

What’s next?

“I’m kind of running out of ideas,” he said. “It’s to a point where the week before I start this I don’t know what I’m doing.”

But he said he still has the chicken suit and the clown suit at home, so if he ever needs to reprise a previous challenge, it wouldn’t cost him much. Except, of course, his pride and dignity.

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