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Shaved heads for canned food

Assistant principal, counselor at Cecil Sly agree to new do's for a good cause

by: CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Cecil Sly Assistant Principal Jim Bates and school Counselor Darin Kessi get mohawk haircuts from hairstylists Robbie Hammon and Terri Hite.  Bates and Kessi told students they would go ahead with the haircuts if students reached a canned and dried food goal.

A job description for an assistant principal or a school counselor is usually pretty simple.
   1) Help take care of academic or behavioral problems.
   2) Work with teachers in curriculum and in meeting academic goals.
   3) Make school a positive place to be.
   But getting your head shaved?
   That's exactly what happened before the Christmas break at Cecil Sly Elementary, when Assistant Principal Jim Bates and Counselor Darin Kessi both had their heads shaved in mohawk designs.
   Bates and Kessi had agreed to the head shaving, providing students met their canned food goal.
   In all, students collected 2,203 pounds of canned and dried food.
   "And the goal was 2,000," said Bates, who is also the continuous improvement specialist for the Crook County School District. "We split it between two locations. We gave half of it to Oasis and the other half to St. Vincent dePaul."
   Students were giggling and grinning as Principal Dane Danforth addressed them at the morning assembly.
   "OK. The moment you've been waiting for. You stood up to the challenge," Danforth said. He described Bates and Kessi as "men of their word."
   Robbie Hammon and Terri Hite of the Shabby Chic Salon volunteered their hairstyling prowess for the the event, taking electric razors and trimming off the hair to form mohawks. Then green and red hair gel was placed on Bates' and Kessi's heads for the holidays.
   "How's it lookin'?" Bates and Kessi asked in unison, nervous smiles on their faces.
   "I don't think I've ever had a mohawk," Kessi admitted quietly to Bates with a grin. "Pierce my ears. Get a few gold chains."
   The two almost resembled members of the late 1970s, early 1980s punk rock group The Clash, sporting the new 'dos.
   Bates said Kessi came up with the idea of their getting mohawks if students met the food goal.
   "And we picked 2,000 pounds because we thought it was very likely that the students would reach the goal," Bates said. "Challenging but achievable."
   This marks Bates's first year as assistant principal at the school.
   "I know last year we brought in half as much," he said.
   Bates and others were proud of the students' efforts.
   "Well, first I'm always impressed when the students engage in activities that involve all of them," the assistant principal said. "It just gives every student a chance to participate without the pressure of having to out-perform the student next to them. It gives every student a chance to participate according to their means, whether that's one can or 100."
   Kessi agreed.
   "They certainly surpassed our expectations," the counselor said. "Last year we raised a little over 1,600 pounds. I guess it was humbling to see what the kids were capable of doing. Just their generosity. The kids are very giving and it shows how big of hearts they have."
   Kessi said this was also a good lesson for adults.
   "Just how much compassion the kids have. I guess as adults I think we have a tendency to be more jaded, whereas with children they are more resilient but also more willing to reach out," Kessi said. "They really wanted to reach out. They raised over 2,200 pounds of food. And that's like in 10 days. That's one of the benefits of working at an elementary school. The kids are very positive, resilient. You see that every day."
   Likewise, students were pleased with their efforts.
   Third-grader Mason Wennerstrom was pleased "that we got a lot of points for it and we had a lot of food go into it."
   "We got a lot of food for people that need it," said fourth-grader Blake Bartels. "We did a good job in getting that for them."
   Bates said no one in his family was particularly surprised when he came home with a mohawk.
   "Oh well, you know Stacy, my wife was there," he said. "She was there taking pictures. She was very supportive."
   Bates said he has dressed up in costumes to try to get more students participating in worthy projects.
   "Nobody was really terribly shocked," he said of his family. "We'll put it that way."