A raucous roar of cheering, stamping and squealing poured out of the Sardis Enrichment School gymnasium Friday morning.
Inside the gym, Principal Neil Yarrington was having his hair buzzed off, a reward students spent the school year working toward.
Each year, Yarrington sets a schoolwide reading goal through the Accelerated Reader 360 program. This year, he set the goal higher, with the promise to shave his head if the school could reach it.
The Accelerated Reader software program gives students a certain number of points based on the books they read, according to Assistant Principal Staci Wagner.
“They take tests and the number of points they get off each book is dependent on the level the book is on,” Wagner said. “So an easy read or short picture book might be worth half a point, whereas a chapter book like ‘Harry Potter’ might be worth 10.”
Wagner said each grade level has its own goal for students.
“So third grade had a goal of 70-75 points, something like that,” she said. “Fourth grade has a goal of 80, fifth grade has a goal of I think 100. So they read books all year long, and the teachers help them kind of pace themselves as the year goes on.”
Students could also cash in their points for individual rewards. One fourth-grade student, Jack Tucker, earned more than 700 points and was able to be “assistant principal for the day” Friday.
This year, the student body earned more points than it ever has in the two decades it has done the competition, even in the years Sardis had higher enrollment, Yarrington said.
“Normally every year, the goal is 25,001 points,” he said. “They’ve always wanted to shave my head, so this year I said, ‘OK, then it’s 30,001. They accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion.”
Students who reached individual goals were awarded T-shirts in the celebratory assembly Friday morning. Many parents were in attendance to get pictures of their children in their shirts.
Yarrington said he was a teacher at Sardis when the school started doing the Accelerated Reader program in the early ’90s. He said it was wonderful to see it grow and continue to capture students for so many years.
“I am always proud of these students,” Yarrington said. “They do something every day that makes me proud of them. We just have such amazing kids that literally surprise me every day. I think that’s why I keep showing up to work each day.”