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Clap school principal channels Lady Gaga, milks cow to celebrate students' reading success

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 19, 2012 03:26 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)

In Video: Justin Vernon, principal of the Roger Clap Innovation School, celebrates his student’s success by dressing up like Lady Gaga and milking a cow.

In November, a promise was made to the students of the Roger Clap Innovation School in Dorchester that involved a certain principal, a flamboyant pop diva, and a cow.

Justin Vernon, the principal of the school along with Barry Tatelman, formerly of Jordan’s Furniture, challenged students to read 10,000 books by the end of the school year as part of the Clap's “We’re Booking it Challenge.” Students said that if they hit that number Vernon should dress up like Lady Gaga and milk a cow.

On Tuesday, at Moakley Field in South Boston, there was a cow, there was a principal dressed like Lady Gaga, and 168 excited students who read a combined 13,000 books, eager to see their principal, fishnets and all, get down on his hands and knees and provide Moxie, a two-year-old dairy cow from Richardson’s Ice Cream in Middleton, a little relief.

Dressed in a skimpy black cocktail dress, long blond wig, high-heels, and a tiara Vernon, after a little of instruction, gave a tug on the udder of the brown-and-white bovine, shooting milk onto the grass as students cheered and laughed.

“I can’t tell you how proud of you I am,” Vernon, aka Lady Vernon, said to the students. “The bet was about dressing up like Lady Gaga and milking a cow ... and I think I make for a pretty good Lady Gaga.”

Tuesday’s milking, which coincided with the school’s field day, was something BPS has never seen before and speaks to the school’s administrators and teacher’s dedication to their students.

“This is absolutely fantastic,” said Joe Shea, academic superintendent for Boston Public Schools. “In my 40-plus years I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Even with Vernon’s hair, makeup, and accessories it was the students who excelled and deserved the party Tuesday, reading 3,000 more books than they had to, in just eight-months.

“We were very excited to see our principal dress up and we’re really impressed that he did it and that we read 13,000 books,” said Margaret Gould, a fifth-grader at the school.

The celebration Tuesday was an important day for the school that reopened in September as an the city's first Innovation school, allowing it greater flexibility in decision-making in curriculum, staffing, budget, schedules, and district policies.

“I think it’s amazing what they’ve done,” said Theresa Davis, a Dorchester resident and parent of two student’s at the school. “We fought hard to keep the school open, and I wouldn’t want my kids at any other school right now.”

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)

Principal of the Clap Innovation School Justin Vernon dressed as Lady Gaga.

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