Student cuts school official’s hair for a cause

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Saturday at Morgantown Elementary School fourth-grader Darrell Norton came up behind Administrative Assistant Dana Benson and cut her ponytail off with a pair of scissors.

But believe it or not, Norton didn’t get punished. Instead, he got applause.

That’s because cutting off the ponytail that Benson has grown for five years was Norton’s reward for earning the most Accelerated Reader points at the school.

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In all, Norton earned 105 points by reading a total of 150 books during this school year. Norton wasn’t the only motivated reader at Morgantown, however. Last year, students earned about 2,000 to 3,000 points, Principal Carla Evers said. This year, that total was closer to 7,000 points.

&uot;There were so many people logging on (to enter points) at one point that the system crashed,&uot; Evers said during the school’s Family Fun Day, held Saturday in the gym.

The school already has its share of voracious readers, but when Benson announced halfway through the year that she would let the top point-earner cut off her trademark ponytail, the children responded in droves.

&uot;Some wanted to cut it, but some wanted to win so it wouldn’t get cut &045; that was their motivation,&uot; Benson said.

When asked why he couldn’t wait to cut off Benson’s long locks, Norton turned shy, but he did admit that doing so with dozens of classmates, teachers and parents looking on &uot;was pretty exciting.&uot;

&uot;Everyone wants to see you do it,&uot; Benson said, with Norton nodding his response.

In addition to spurring the school’s students to read more, Benson had another motivation &045; she is donating her hair to the Locks of Love program, which fashions wigs of human hair for cancer patients.

Family Fun Day featured many other activities as well. Children danced to DJs’ music, ate cotton candy and other treats, won prizes and jumped on three space walk rides.

Those included one ride that involved participants &045; including, in the last few minutes, Evers herself &045; donning Velcro suits and hurling themselves onto a Velcro wall. But in the end, almost everyone gathered in the center of the school’s basketball court to see Benson’s ponytail cut.

Except for two students who were still stuck to the Velcro wall.