Curtis T. Schnorr walked slowly down the hall of Robert Moton Elementary Thursday morning, carrying a pink plastic basin of warm water.
The principal winced a little as he heard "He's gonna shave" echoing from several classrooms.
The students had read their books, and Schnorr was keeping his pledge to change his looks. All the pages entitled the young readers tosee the whiskers come off.
"I didn't want 800-plus kids to watch me bleed or see the expression on my wife's face as she saw me mustache-less for the first time," he said.
Kathy Schnorr eased his troubled mind, by making a video of "The Big Shave," starring her husband. Lights, camera and action took place in the fourth-grade room with an audience of about 135. The rest of the school would rely on the miracle of videotape.
Shaving before a group of 10-year-olds made him a little edgy, he said, and a little sad. He was about to change a 20-year-look.
As he took razor in hand, a bell rang.
"Somebody needs me," he said. "Can you guys wait until next week?"
The crowdroared a resounding "No."
"Put the nurse on call, and let's do it," he said. "I hope you will all remember this moment and the sacrifice I made."
Barbara E. Humbert, the school's reading specialist, said "The Big Shave" and all the preproduction work that led to it would drive home one lesson.
"Reading is fun," she said. "The children all enjoyed working toward this goal and have established good reading habits."
She chose May for the project, hoping the young readers would continue with their books throughout the summer.
The children came up with some fairly outlandish scenarios, said Schnorr, before settling for "The Big Shave."
"They would have had me sit on the school's roof for a day or parade around in costume," he said. "I thought losing the mustache would be the most visible sign for them."
Humbert said Schnorr's challenge provided an incentive. Most students rose to it, and many went far beyond. The fourth grade logged 28,000 minutes last week, said teacher Patricia Barnhart.
Marsha Reeve, a parent volunteer, said her 10-year-old daughter, Carrie, got into the habit or reading after school and plans many library runs thissummer.
Sandra Gill, 9, said she can't wait to find out what happens to "The Little Sisters" in her book of the week.
All the students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated. Teachers set goals, based on time spent reading or number of books. The younger onesreceived credit for books read to them.
The readers filled in paper mustaches with the title and author of the books as they finished them. Parents signed to verify.
"We had paper mustaches everywhere," said Humbert. "We knew the strategy was working."
Schnorr himself helped bring about the demise of his mustache when he read severalbooks to his son Jeff, 6, adding to the number of paper mustaches piling up in the first grade.
Richard M. Ebersole, guidance counselor, jumped on the bandwagon, promising to get rid of his 22-year-old beard.
The children let Ebersole off the hook, when one class didn't meet its goal.
He promised to star in "The Big Shave II" next year. The students will probably hold him to his promise. They have it on tape.