"Tape her up, tape her up, tape her up!" the horde chanted, with the volume and pitch that only a mob of elementary school students can muster.

"What?" Stephanie Poindexter called back defiantly. "I can't hear you!"

The principal of Juniper Elementary School was duct-taped to a door in the Carmel Elementary School cafeteria Wednesday at lunchtime, her feet suspended off the ground as students and teachers put additional layers of tape to bind her to the green door.

Amazingly, this was all Poindexter's idea. She and Carmel principal Chris Mauger had previously been the assistant principal and principal of summer school, and have been friends ever since. And to get both of their schools reading this year, the two agreed to a little wager.

Each school earned Accelerated Reading points for books read by the students. The points were based on the difficulty of the book, from half a point for the simplest below-reading-level books up to 26 points for the thickest Harry Potter novels. Students input the books they read into computers at each site.

If Juniper won, Mauger would have had his legs waxed at an assembly at Juniper. But the final score was 22,422 points for Carmel, versus 18,002 points for Juniper. So Poindexter found herself taped to a door, with an assembly line of Carmel Cougars streaming up to apply more duct tape, or simply to give a low-five to the principal suspended a foot off the ground.

"OK, stick it on there, right across her legs," Mauger directed two students. "OK, next two!"

The challenge worked out well for both schools, as Juniper students read more books than they had in any previous year. To reward them, Mauger will be paying up on his half of the bet -- sort of. On Friday, he will have his legs shaved at Juniper Elementary, instead of having them waxed.

And in a way, this was a bit of payback by Carmel's readers: A week before, at the Clue Me In competition, where Hesperia Unified School District elementary school students sought to prove who had the best reading comprehension of a set of previously agreed upon books read over the course of the year, Carmel's and Juniper's 4th grade and 6th teams had gone head to head.

"They just spanked us," Mauger said.

Wednesday's taping won't be the last time Carmel's and Juniper's readers try to outdo each other:

After a little more than an hour, Poindexter was freed, with the tape coming off her arms, shoulders and torso first. With her upper body freed, the remaining duct tape could no longer support her, and she hopped off, the rest of the silver coat of tape coming with her.

"Oh, yeah, I'd do it again," Poindexter laughed, shaking life back into a left hand that had fallen asleep.

"I'll hold you to that," Mauger grinned.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.