As a reward for increasing the school's API score, students took their principal up on his promise to let them duct tape him to the wall.
All over the country, school principals spent their Sept. 23 mornings sipping coffee in the serenity of their offices, but not Castle Rock Elementary School Principal Mark Telles – he was too busy getting duct taped to a wall by his students.
Last spring when Castle Rock students prepared to take their STAR tests, Telles promised them that if they matched or beat their previous year’s Annual Performance Index (API) score, he would let them tape him to the school’s front wall.
When the scores arrived in the mail, school personnel were thrilled to discover the students had collectively scored an 823. The score was up by two points from the previous year.
“I’m a man of my word,” said Telles as he dangled four feet above the ground on the school wall over a hooting crowd of students.
The statewide STAR tests are taken by students in grades 2 through 11 in the spring each year. The STAR tests measure how well students are mastering their grade-level subjects and they serve to identify strengths and weaknesses to improve student learning. The state has set 800 as the target API score for each school.
Even though Castle Rock kindergarten and first grade students have yet to participate in STAR testing, Telles actively involved the young children in the taping activity in order to excite them about doing well on the tests in the future.
Jenny Whitty, the mother of a Castle Rock first grader, said that the taping activity has helped her begin a dialogue with her child about the importance of reading and learning, as well as the great rewards that come when students study and strive to do well in school.
Duct taping a person to a wall is a lengthy process. Telles said he wanted to hang high up on the wall so the children could stand underneath him. The process began at 9:30 a.m. Telles stood on a ladder while school district bus drivers Christina Liddycoat and Marvin Yandell began strategically securing Telles to the wall with heavy-duty duct tape.
Once Telles was reasonably stuck to the wall, excited children began pouring out of class into the front of the school for a chance to add tape to the suspended Telles. Children stood in line while Liddycoat handed out duct tape.
Giggling as she walked from class to participate in the taping, first grader Ireland Cross said, “I think it’s really funny.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen a principal do that,” commented Castle Rock student Steven Duarte as he peered up at the growing slab of duct tape with Telles’ head sticking out of the top.
Once the tape looked thick enough to sustain Telles’ weight, Yandell removed the ladder from beneath Telles’ feet and children gathered underneath their suspended principal to add more tape to his ankles.
While children taped Telles, Castle Rock second and third grade teacher Trish Power-Bearden stood by them and reminded the children that they have to work really hard to do well on their tests so their principal will do something similar to this next year.
Telles was released from the wall at 11:30 after Yandell carefully severed the duct tape and released his limbs one by one.
Although this is the first time Telles has done something this creative to excite children about learning, he said these acts might become a Castle Rock Elementary tradition. As for next year, he said, “They’re already working on something outrageous for me.”
If the students match or raise their API in 2010, they want to put him in a harness and hang him from a raised fire truck ladder.
“Mr. Telles is really cool,” said fifth grader Tyyler Enright. “He takes us to the Waterworks Park and he goes to our (sports) games.” Enright added that Telles really goes out of his way to help the students through the school year.
Once on the ground, Telles said the improvement on the test scores is a reflection of the dedication that Castle Rock teachers have for educating the students. As for the duct taping, “This is a way to say thanks for their hard work during testing week,” he said. “During testing week they show what they already know.”
Pinky Hines, Castle Rock school board member, also commented on the extraordinary efforts made by the school’s teachers. “The teachers work really hard with the kids,” she explained. “The kids get a lot of one-on-one time.”
After spending seven years as a high school principal, Telles decided to transition into an elementary school setting because he loves the energy and excitement young children have around learning. “The students really appreciate the fun, wild things you do,” he said.
“We feel really good that they beat their old score,” said Illa Galasso, the school’s administrative assistant. She added that improvement of scores can be attributed to terrific teachers, homework help during the Castle Rock after-school program and outstanding parent involvement.