Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 14, 2013

Cannonsburg principal takes dunking-booth bath as reward for reading accomplishment

CANNONSBURG — Perched on a spring-loaded blue plastic seat, Jon Stevens dangled his feet in the icy water of the dunking booth and laughed at the good-natured taunts of the children surrounding him.

Stevens shivered in the cool May breeze and flinched a bit each time one of the children tossed a softball toward the big round trigger that would trip the spring and drop him in the drink.

Children chanted “dunk him, dunk him,” with each throw, until at last a sharp-eyed third-grader nailed the target and the Cannonsburg Elementary School principal splashed into the chilly water.

Reward paid in full.

Stevens agreed to the dunking booth ordeal earlier in the year as incentive to children in the Accelerated Reader program.

Children had not been taking sufficient interest in the program, which combines reading books and then taking quizzes to assess comprehension, said third-grade teacher Mary Beth Patton. Points are awarded for successful completion of each book and quiz.

So she set an initial goal for the grade of 400 points and promised that on completion they could duct-tape her son Morgan to the wall. Morgan Patton, a college student, is a classroom volunteer at Cannonsburg.

Soon the fourth grade caught the incentive bug and that meant upping the stakes, Patton said. That is where Stevens came in. For 2,000 points, he’d brave the dunking booth during the spring field day.

“I’m not a behind-the desk kind of guy,” Stevens said after his dunking. Getting out of the office and mingling with students is the best way to connect with them and motivate them to succeed, he said.

After a year of exhorting children to work hard and study, a cold dunking is a show of good faith, Stevens believes. “They know I have high expectations. This lets them know I care about them and would do anything in the world for them,” he said.

The final tally was 2,084 points, and the child with the highest individual accumulation was third-grader Rebecca Huffman, with 200 points.

The Accelerated Reader program increases reading fluency and comprehension and serves as a continuous assessment, Patton said.

Incentives bring a spirit of teamwork to the program. “It’s not child against child but working together as a team,” she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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