Motivating Mustache: Superintendent hunting for good attendance

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 5, 2015

shades of green and brown: Tuesday, Carl Merritt had his mustache and beard painted in camouflage colors.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

shades of green and brown: Tuesday, Carl Merritt had his mustache and beard painted in camouflage colors.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Tuesday, as the rain fell outside of Poplarville’s Bella Salon, Poplarville School District Superintendent Carl Merritt sat in a salon chair while owner Lori Barrett and Bailey Malley utilized shades of green, brown and black to transform Merritt’s mustache and beard into a camouflaged work of art.
For the second year, Merritt dyed his mustache a different shade to inspire students to achieve perfect attendance.
In October 2014, the superintendent dyed his mustache pink to acknowledge the students’ attendance efforts and raise awareness for breast cancer.
This year, students had the option of choosing the color for their superintendent’s facial hair. They chose camouflage, Poplarville School District Attendance Interventionist Lisa Magee said. She is responsible for monitoring attendance and truancy numbers at every school in the district.
“The students get really excited seeing Mr. Merritt visit the schools with his mustache colored,” Magee said. We have seen some growth in our average daily attendance when we do this. It’s important for them to attend school so they don’t fall behind in academics and it also helps them maintain their contacts. Missing school puts students behind and it’s difficult to get caught up.”
This was Barrett’s first experience dying a mustache and the salon owner spent time beforehand practicing on a mannequin.
“It’s a really great and motivational incentive for the kids to strive for perfect attendance,” Barrett said.
Wednesday, Merritt, along with his camouflaged beard, visited each school in the district to show off his multicolored beard.
In addition to choosing Merritt’s beard color, students who achieved perfect attendance during the month of November were also entered into a drawing to win prizes.
At the lower elementary a girl’s and boy’s bicycle, along with helmets, were given to two lucky winners. Winners at the three other schools were given Chromebooks, Magee said.
Conner, a sixth grader, said he has good attendance and thought it was good that Merritt dyed his mustache.
“It’s very interesting,” Peyton, a seventh grader said. “It’s good to have a little fun during the school year. They encourage attendance so that we can get good grades, go to college and have a good future.”
Eighth grader Jacenta said Merritt is cool and it’s fun when he gets involved with the schools.
Middle school students Madysen and Ashanti both said they liked his mustache and attend school to make good grades.
“Mr. Merritt is funny and really nice,” Ashanti said.
Merritt said participating in this incentive is enjoyable.
“It’s good to see our kids laugh,” he said. “They have fun with it and it’s good to see them respond to the challenge. They take pride in it.”
*Students’ last names were not used as per school policy.

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