For passing fitness tests, Meriden students get to pie their principals 

MERIDEN – Fourth grader Aubrey Durant didn’t hesitate when she was handed the tall whipped cream pie. She smushed the pie into the face of the Hanover Elementary School Principal Jennifer Kelley. The rest of the fourth grade class chanted “Aubrey, Aubrey, Aubrey” and laughed as the pie got stuck to their principal’s face.  

For the kids, though, the cherry on top of the whipped cream was when their physical education teacher Garrett Murphy shaved his long beard in front of them. The students waved an excited goodbye to “Mr. Beard” and chanted “shave that beard” as pieces of it fell to the ground. 

The 30-minute pie and beard shaving assembly held Friday afternoon was an opportunity to celebrate the students’ final scores for the Connecticut Fitness Test. Kelley said the students worked throughout the year to improve their scores and wanted to “shine a light” on their achievements.

“This is a culminating [assembly] to really celebrate the kids and their efforts,” she said. “Not every kid is going to pass all four components, but they were all trying, and really taking the benefits of physical fitness.”

Fitness test 

Murphy explained that the Connecticut Fitness test is made up of four parts – push ups, curl ups, PACER and sit and reach. Each aspect has its own grading system determined by gender and age. Students are required to take the fitness exam in the spring of fourth, sixth and eighth grade. 

Kelley said normally an estimated 60% of students passed all four components of the fitness test. However, last year only 46% of students passed because physical education classes were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To bring up the numbers, Kelley said Murphy approached her with the idea of announcing incentives.

At the beginning of the year, Murphy held an assembly to announce the fitness challenge and their potential prizes. He explained that the student with the highest score across all parts would be able to pie Kelley while the student who improved the most could pie the assistant principal. 

In addition, if 60% of the fourth graders passed all four components of the test, then Murphy would shave the beard he’s been growing since September of last year. 

Murphy said the students also got “toe tokens” for every component they passed. These colorful tokens were used as a way to celebrate the students as they practiced for the exam. They could then add their names on the poster of the corresponding component hanging on the gym walls. 

In addition, he hosted and graded trial runs of the fitness test so the students were able to track their progress throughout the year. Murphy said this allowed the students the opportunity to see their growth while at the same time inspiring them to beat their own scores. 

“It’s bringing awareness to the importance of physical activity and physical fitness for all students and it’s really getting everybody to buy in,” he said. “You should see how motivated these kids are.” 

To support the students on their fitness journeys, Kelley said they “strategically” worked with climate specialists to create small practice areas for the fourth graders to use between classes or as a break.

For example, she measured one of the hallways to create a track for the students to practice the PACER test. She said that this became a useful tool for practice and to get a student’s energy out during the school day. 


Fourth grader Harry Soria-Avila put a lot of emotion into shoving a pie into the face of Assistant Principal Orlando Valentin Jr. 

After a year of hard work, he said he was excited to celebrate his improvement, especially when it came to the PACER test. His classmate, Jaynelli Rosario-Iguina, said she was nervous that all of her classmates were watching her, but ultimately had fun.

Valentin briefly ran from his pie-in-the-face fate and held up a plastic chair to protect his face. Alas, his efforts were in vain as two students pied him. He added that this was the first time he was pied, but he was excited to be a part of the celebration after a year of hard work from both the students and teachers. 

“It might be something they've never seen before in their lives – their principal and vice principals are getting pied,” he said. “I think it's for a great cause and I'm willing to do whatever it is to motivate kids and help them be successful.”



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