Students duct tape principal to wall at Roanoke Ave Elementary School — their reward for a stellar ‘reading week’

Principal Thomas Payton made a deal with his Roanoke Avenue Elementary School students last week: if they could collectively read for 80,000 minutes, he would let them duct tape him to a wall.

The students rose to the school’s annual reading week challenge and then some: Parent- and teacher-verified reading logs for the student body of approximately 400 kids in grades K-4 totaled a whopping 151,206 minutes, nearly double Mr. Payton’s target.

“It seems like every year I raise the bar for our students and not only do they hit that bar, they exceed it,” Mr. Payton said minutes before meeting his duct-tape fate. “This is always my favorite week of the year. By doing this silly stuff, I’m motivating them to read a tremendous amount for the week. Instead of going home and being on a screen, hopefully they’re going home and reading a book.”

When music teacher Roy Buccola announced the students’ impressive results over the school’s loudspeaker just minutes before the big event Friday, screams of excitement reverberated through the walls of the elementary school.

Students then stampeded down the stairs Friday to find their Mr. Payton propped atop a milk crate, back to the wall, smiling, awaiting the taping.

With rolls of tape, red, white and blue, the kids knew what they had to do. They taped him up in ones and twos, from arms and legs to black dress shoes.

This was hardly the most daunting reading week punishment Mr. Payton has endured. The worst, he said, was an onslaught of pies to the face a few years ago.

“I just smelled like sour milk afterwards,” he said. “It was disgusting.”

Perhaps the principal’s favorite was a lip-sync battle between him and a teacher. After duking it out over songs from Disney classics, Mr. Payton donned cowboy boots and a duster and clinched the championship belt with a performance of “Old Town Road.”

In other years, Mr. Payton has performed the Chicken Dance in a chicken suit, was drenched by water balloons and even had the word ‘read’ shaved into his head.


But Roanoke’s reading week it not just about students embarrassing their principal. The Parent Teacher Organization hosts a Scholastic Book Fair in conjunction with the read-a-thon. Plus, the school arranges a spirit week of activities that kicked off last Monday with a “happy birthday” chorus to Dr. Seuss.

“My literacy team popped into every classroom and read a Dr. Seuss book to the kids, and they had their Dr. Seuss hats on,” Mr. Payton said. “It was also wear red day: ‘Wear red cause we’re well read.'”

Children wore hats for ‘hats off to reading’ last Tuesday, sported their favorite team’s attire for ‘team up and read’ last Wednesday, and donned pajamas for ‘curl up with a good book’ Friday.

Although the other themes of the week change year-to-year, Thursday has traditionally been reserved for the ‘poem in your pocket’ day.

“Kids write a poem, they can either make one up or use a published one, and put it in their pocket,” Mr. Payton explained. “If an adult asks them to recite it they do it and they get a pencil.”