LINDEN, NJ — A packed gymnasium of elementary school children erupted with excitement as Principal William Mastriano was preparing to be taped to a wall.
“I think it will be funny, just seeing him miserable taped to the wall,” said Joyce Fitz, a nine-year-old student at School No. 6.
Mastriano’s fun-spirited torment was for a good cause though. School No. 6 students bought strips of tape for a dollar each to fund their Hall of Leaders project, which will decorate hallways to honor African-Americans for Black History Month in February.
A lot of thought went into the Jan. 26 fundraiser, which looked a little more like a college-style prank.
“We did some research on this,” the principal said before being taped to the gym wall. “After I said yes, I got a little nervous. So we were trying to figure out clothing. We did do a Google search and just wanted to cover up all skin and areas so we don’t get any hair off.”
Mastriano, who has been a principal at School No. 6 for about two years, said he decided to wear a painter’s suit to protect him from the hundreds of pieces of tape that were about to be applied to him.
The Hall of Leaders project is an outgrowth of the school’s Leader in Me Initiative, which teaches leadership skills to students. Melissa Higgins, a fourth-grade teacher and a coordinator of the program, said students will apply the proceeds to an artistic design of their choosing for the hallway project.
“There are kids who use those habits every day,” Higgins said of the Leader in Me Initiative. “Their parents will tell us at conferences that they’ll come home and do their homework right away. … They’re understanding their responsibilities a lot better and learning how to be proactive.”
The Leadership in Me Initiative is a weekly hour-long program built into the school day that teaches students leadership habits. Students apply for jobs within the program and carry out responsibilities for different projects.
School No. 6 received a grant from a Panda Express restaurant for the four-year program. Pro Tapes & Specialities, based in North Brunswick, also donated the duct tape for the school’s fundraiser.
More than $600 was raised that day, and students took turns placing each strip of tape on their principal. Sixth Ward Councilman John Roman also donated more than $50 to students to ensure that each would have the opportunity to place a piece of tape on the principal.
When asked what it felt like being stuck to the wall under all that tape, Mastriano simply shouted, “It’s really warm!”
He needed some help getting out of what looked like a cocoon at the end of the event.