When cougars and jaguars compete, who wins?

No one knows yet for sure, but so far, the Carmel Elementary School Cougars are beating the Juniper Elementary School Jaguars.

The two schools are engaged in a reading contest, to determine which student body can accumulate more Accelerated Reading points this school year. As of December 3, Carmel is ahead, 9,100 to 6,900.

"It could be a strategy, and I'm just going to say that," Juniper Principal Stephanie Poindexter said. If her school loses, she will be duct-taped to the wall of Juniper Elementary School by the victorious Cougars. "We definitely do talk about it, we do promote it. They're really putting forth some great effort."

"Obviously, the competition ramped up the motivation for the kids," Carmel Principal Chris Mauger said. If his school loses, he will have his legs waxed. "We make sure we put it in the morning announcements to remind the kids."

The Accelerated Reader points are 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 of the Harry Potter novels. Students input the books they read into computers at each site.

"The whole idea was to get kids to read," Poindexter said. "I have seen such tremendous growth in the Accelerated Reader points since we started this."

"They put up a picture of the kids who read the most each month" in the Carmel library, Mauger said. "They're competing to see who can be the top reader in their grade level."

Mauger and Poindexter have been friends for almost a decade, ever since they worked together as summer school principal and assistant principal.

"They were picking on the wrong school," Mauger said. "They should have picked on someone in their own league. You don't see Don Knotts challenging Mike Tyson to a fight, do you?"

"I hope that I don't end up being taped to the wall, but even if I do, it'll be worth it. It's a win-win for both schools," Poindexter said. "If we can get them to learn to read, we can get them to read to learn."

Carmel Elementary already has a space reserved for Poindexter: "We've got a stuffed jaguar taped to the wall in the school library," Mauger said.

The contest ends in April.

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