After getting his hair dyed blue, Will Rogers Principal Steve Richardson (center) on Friday attempts to kiss Wilbert the pig. Richardson said he would do both if kids and parents raised more than $30,000 for the school. The school community raised over $36,000. (photo by Brandon Wise)

WILL ROGERS — “Kiss the pig! Kiss the pig!”

The repetitive chant rang across the blacktop at the Will Rogers Learning Community Friday morning over the poppy-dance strains of Eifel 65’s “Blue.”

Principal Steve Richardson, his head now a shade of blue reminiscent of a Smurf with the school’s cowboy mascot emblazoned on the pate, looked across a sea of expectant faces.

“This is enough, isn’t it?” he asked.

The roar of high octave voices answered that question definitively.

Katharine Newall, one of the architects of Richardson’s newly-painted hair, approached with a squirming pig in her arms. The assembled children enthusiastically greeted the pig, dubbed Wilbert, as the song shifted to a parody of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”

I kissed a pig, and I liked it, the taste of her hairy pig lips…

Richardson and Wilbert locked eyes, and he went in for the kill.

After a few dry runs — Wilbert seemed no more in favor of the idea than his would-be suitor — Richardson planted one on the pig’s hairy head.

As in many cases where a school principal paints his hair school colors and kisses a pig, Richardson had lost a bet. Or perhaps he had won it.

The event marked the culmination of Will Roger’s most successful fundraising event ever, an annual fund drive which brought in $36,131 to the school’s PTA coffers.

The initial goal was $30,000, at which point Richardson promised to either dye his hair or kiss a pig. Exceed that, and he would do both.

Diane O’Brien’s child is in seventh grade, but she couldn’t resist the temptation to see Richardson make good on his wager.

“It was put up in September,” O’Brien said, gesturing to a poster decorated with a pig face on one side and a fuzzy blue head on the other. “You got to vote on one when you gave a donation.”

Karen Rappaport McHugh, mother of a Will Rogers fourth grader, said that the kids got to vote on the color of Richardson’s dye job. They’d toyed with rainbow and hot pink before landing on school colors, she said.

“This is the most exciting fundraiser we’ve had in a long time,” she said.

In a district of powerhouse PTAs that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for their schools, Will Rogers is one of several schools that struggle to bring in money to pay for extra arts classes and instructional aides to bolster its academic offerings.

In 2009, the last year for which information is available, Rogers parents contributed $67,090 to the school, $61,030 of which was paid out.

According to the School Accountability Report Card from 2010, 55 percent of the students in Will Rogers are socio-economically disadvantaged, the most of any other school in the district.

Schools on the north end of town like Roosevelt and Franklin elementaries came up with over half-a-million dollars each that year.

There’s talk at district headquarters of changing the system to a districtwide fundraising model, which would even out the money — and consequently the programs — available to each school site.

That conversation, which has engendered some concern amongst the wealthier schools, will come before the Board of Education in November.

Will Rogers’ money goes to everything from infrastructure, like new benches and the blacktop, to programs, the school’s PTA President Sally Miller told the crowd.

“Are you all enjoying your art program?” she called out to the kids. “Parent donations and PS Arts get us those.”

To watch Richardson dye his hair and get it on with Ms. Piggy, Will Rogers alumni came back in droves to contribute money to the school.

If that’s what it takes, he’ll go bigger next year, he said.

“So next year, I’ll have to top this,” Richardson said. “You have to top this too!”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *