Every January for five years, Jon Romeo's normally smooth visage starts to look a little untamed as he sports a five o'clock shadow.
But students at know by now as the weeks move toward Connecticut Mastery Test time in March, their beloved principal's salt-and-pepper hair advances all along his jawline, chin and mustache, until he's grown himself quite an impressive beard.
This week, Middletown third- to fifth-grade students — like those at schools across the state — began three weeks of math, reading comprehension, writing and science testing.
After the first day of testing on Tuesday, Macdonough students took part in the Holy Grail of school activities geared toward encouraging them to give the CMTs their best effort — a chance to trim the beard of Principal Romeo, third-grade teacher John Ferrero's 17-year facial growth and the hair and beard of fifth-grade teacher Buster Nelson. Teachers and staff joined them, snapping pictures of the process, while students eagerly raised their hands, hoping to be the next in line.
The kids had a blast shearing the adults this day and every one took great care sharing the two electric clippers among three gentleman sporting black plastic garbage bags draped barbershop-style around them.
It took an hour to get the beards shaved for each of the three men and as the students minded Principal Romeo's direction to file back to class in an orderly fashion, Mr. Nelson's fifth-graders remained behind in the gymnasium, placing the finishing touches on tufts of overlooked hair.
Incentives like these are being offered to students taking the CMTs daily, says third-grade teacher Amy Waterman. About six of her 24 third-graders took part in the beard-shearing after "earning" a "3" by completing all three pages of the day's writing portion of the testing.
Other perks can be won by students throughout the testing period and redeemed at the conclusion from "prizes" of their choice, like pajama day, wacky hair day and hat day.