Photos by Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe.
It's not like Kirk Downing has been losing his hair.
But due to a Halloween-sized dose of tomfoolery he ended the day Monday with nothing but stubble on the top of his head.
Downing made good on his promise to the 430-student school to shave his head at an assembly this morning in front of the entire student body. The move celebrated the school’s success of reaching and exceeding a fundraising goal of $10,000 – Brown Elementary surpassed it at $11,000 – from selling holiday wrapping paper.
The money raised from giftwrap is part of the PTO’s biggest annual fundraiser, and will go toward bringing cultural arts programs to the schools, including a brass quartet performance for fourth graders, a performance of “The Nutcracker” for first graders, a storyteller dressed as Mother Goose for kindergarteners, and a live presentation featuring birds of prey from a rescue society, said PTO co-presidents Karen Cunningham and Heather Marden.
“I think they did fantastic, thanks to Kirk agreeing to shave his head,” Marden said. “The kids went well beyond what we hoped for.”
Cunningham, who has three kids currently enrolled at Brown, said they enjoyed the fundraising across multiple facets.
“It’s a lot of fun on various levels – they get to sell the wrapping paper, they got to see the incentive at the assembly today, and they get to enjoy the cultural programs,” Cunningham said.
Downing enlisted the help of Maria Tock, 52, who works in the special education program at the neighboring Kennedy Middle School, to help chop off three inches of his fuzzy brown locks.
Tock was no random choice: the Kennedy School employee formerly worked as a hairdresser in Framingham, where she owned her own shop called Just Ria’s from 1977 to 1987, she said.
“When they first called and asked me to do it, I thought it was a joke,” she said in between giggles, adding that the two schools’ faculty often jest with each other. “This is not my best work. I did it in about three minutes to just get it done. We’ll clean it up in about five minutes.”
Even with the short time span of the public buzz cut, Tock entertained the gathered students by cutting around the middle of Downing’s head, letting a Mohawk-style cut sit atop his head for a minute before shaving the last piece off to a roaring crowd.
“It’s the only chance he’d have to say he ever had a Mohawk,” Tock joked.
Downing said his wife told him “good luck and have fun” before he left for school today, and that he’s not worried about growing his hair back before the holidays, since most of his family lives in Colorado anyway.
“The crew cut is popular in Boston and among elementary kids right now anyway,” he said, adding that he will probably grow his ‘do out to a professional two inches before trimming it. “My daughter in high school is waiting to put my picture on her Facebook,” he said.
Last year, for reaching the fundraising goal of $10,000, Downing allowed the top student seller to mummify him by wrapping rolls of toilet paper around his body. Next year, the school will do something completely different.
“That’s the surprise,” he said, as faculty and parents nearby quipped that he should go under the needle and receive a tattoo for next year’s motivation.
For now, Brown students are more than thrilled to have a bald principal. Cal Marden, a fourth grader at Brown, said he had fun watching Downing bare his scalp at the assembly.
“It’s awesome – it was funny to see his head completely bald,” Marden said.
Megan Gates, another fourth grader, also piped up.
“He usually has big, puffy hair,” she said. “I want to see him bald for, like, a year.”
Matthew Cunningham, also in the fourth grade, spoke to the silliness and merriment of the occasion.
“I thought it was kind of strange to be having a haircut in the middle of school,” he said.
The fundraising success is not all the school has to celebrate: last month, Brown was in the top two slots in the state for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System results, according to an article in The Boston Globe. Students were slated number one in the state for English language arts, and number two - behind Dryden Memorial School in Springfield - for math.