The auditorium at the St. John’s School in Kingsbridge last Wednesday was brimming with excitement and anticipation: Three students had been chosen to throw a pie in the face of principal Edward Higgins.
The school was holding its annual coat drive — collecting winter garments to give to the 50th police precinct for distribution at homeless shelters — and everyone who donated had their names entered into a raffle for the pie throwing. Second and third place winners got the chance the throw a pie on each side of Mr. Higgins’ face. The first place winner got to throw a pie straight in the middle of his face.
It was Mr. Higgins who came up with the idea. “We did the bucket challenge, and then we said, why don’t we do the pie in the face thing?.. When I asked for volunteers, [the school staff] went, ‘It’s a good idea if you do it,’” recalled Mr. Higgins. The idea was so popular last year that he decided to have the pie throwing again.
Besides the coat drive, the purpose of the day was to distribute awards to students after the first academic quarter for perfect attendance and first and second honors and to celebrate Thanksgiving through prayer and song with families.
“It’s spirit day. It’s a day for prayer. You are going to hear some good words on what’s it’s like to take care of the poor… It’s not just taking care of someone…it’s about returning their dignity,” Mr. Higgins said.
After the ceremony, Mr. Higgins, who changed from his shirt and tie into a T-shirt for the pie throwing got in on the fun and encouraged students to take their best aim.
“It was really fun,” said eighth-grader Peter Carr. When it came time to throw his pie, he said that his strategy was to “just hit,” and that he had no special technique when he threw the pies.
Peter and his family donated nine coats, pairs of socks and pants. He said that he felt “really good” about being able to help others.
“When they called my name, I was so happy,” said second grader Alexander Neascu. When it came time to toss his pie, he also said he just took aim.
Third grader Yoel Teitelbaum said he was “surprised” that his name was chosen in the raffle. He added that he was happy that he got picked and was also happy to throw his pie.
All three hit Mr. Higgins in the face.
The event was also a success with parents.
Jennifer Feliz attended because she wanted to see her daughter, a first-grade student, receive her certificate for getting on the honor roll. She added that she wanted to see the pie throwing as well. “It was surprising, but very exciting,” said Ms. Feliz, as she started laughing. “It’s kind of funny, too.”
Leidy Villa, whose daughter Valentina is a student in the pre-kindergarten class and who has another 1-year old daughter, Natalia, said: “Kids love it. I didn’t know about it and Mr. Higgins mentioned it and my daughter overheard. I didn’t think that she would think anything of it. And all day and all morning,.. ‘Oh, my God, can you believe it? We’re going to throw a pie at Mr. Higgins’ face.’ She thinks it’s the funniest thing.”
Ms. Villa’s husband, George Sanchez, said St. John’s is continuing the tradition of helping the less fortunate with its coat drive. He and his mother are both alumni of the school. “This school shows a sense of family. I know a lot of the teachers, the principal. They are very involved with the parish, the church,” said Mr. Sanchez.
He added that he wanted his daughter Valentina to learn that she should give back and help those who are less fortunate.
While the chance to throw the pies was a humorous bonus to all who took part in day’s event, Mr. Higgins said he wanted to engage families and keep them involved with the school beyond coming for parent-teacher conferences and picking up report cards.
“It says two things. It says that we have family engagement at the school and it also says to a number of people. His reputation is he’s tough. He’s strict. He’s fair but he doesn’t take himself too seriously and this is a good thing,” Mr. Higgins said.
Artuso’s Bakery on McLean Ave. donated the pies to the school for the throwing and the apple, blueberry, and pumpkin pies to pre-kindergarten classes, which had a tasting earlier that morning.
In all, St. John’s collected over 250 coats and sweaters.