MSD staff take part in Polar Express-themed door contest

An elaborate design complete with a train track, mini tree, and stuffed animals, sits outside of Penny Paganos door.

An elaborate design complete with a train track, mini tree, and stuffed animals, sits outside of Penny Pagano’s door.

Lily Singer, Senior Arts & Leisure Editor and Senior Opinons Editor

Throughout the week of Dec. 9, 2019, 24 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School decorated their doors for a chance to win the holiday door decorating contest.

Competitors were given only one guideline, to follow the theme of the Polar Express, a popular Christmas movie that follows a young boy who doubts the power of Christmas on his journey to the North Pole where he eventually discovers the true magic of the holiday season.

Although the competition mainly consisted of teachers, security officers and guidance counselors also participated.

Not all teachers were required to decorate their doors. The teachers who emailed showing interest in the competition were the ones who participated in the contest. Some teachers had chosen to decorate their doors, but not participate in the competition.

The first place winners of the contest were Biology teachers Randi Peskin and Lori Reich, who split the price, a $100 visa gift card. The two teachers worked together to decorate both of their doors and the hallway in between their classrooms. The Guidance Department and ESE facilitator Penny Pagano tied for second and third place and were each awarded a $25 visa gift card.

“We wanted to be more festive and more involved. Administration is working so hard to raise our morale and spirits that we thought it was important to take part,” Biology teacher Randi Peskin said.

With the help of senior Krystina Masihy, teachers Peskin and Reich brainstormed ideas, prepped materials and spent around 10-12 hours of physical time decorating their doors.

Students and teachers were unable to judge the contest. Instead, four judges graded the doors based on a rubric previously sent out to the teachers. The judges included Vice President of Student Services Alyssa Tephord, Assistant Principal Daniel Most, Principal Michelle Kefford and Leadership teacher Danielle Driscoll.

The judges were determined by the Parent Teacher Student Organizations and Vice President of Student Services, Alyssa Tephford, who worked together to create the contest. Tephford selected Assistant Principal Daniel Most because he is an administrator that worked together with the PTSO, Principal Michelle Kefford because she wanted to participate and Leadership teacher Danielle Driscoll because she wanted to be a teacher judge not participating in the contest.

The grading rubric contained categories of incorporation of the holiday theme, neatness of the design, attention-to-detail, creativity, level of festivity and that the design is complete and covers the entire door.  

“The idea was created when a friend of mine showed DECA Finance teacher Sharon Cutler a decorated door and she really wanted to do that here at MSD and make it a competition, so I got the PTSO to fund it and organized it,” Tephford said.

The decorated doors were graded on a scale of 1-5 for each category, 1 meaning the category was not present and 5 signifying that the category was excellent. The highest amount of points that a competitor could receive was 25 points, as each category had a maximum of 5 points with a total of 5 categories. The scores calculated from the rubric were added up to determine the winners.

There was no price limit for the supplies that the competitors could use. The MSD PTSO reimbursed up to $20 for teachers who turned in the receipts from their purchases.

Some doors showcased golden tickets and snow, while others incorporated  the Polar Express train and other festive elements. For example, one door referenced a popular phrase from the Polar Express movie when the conductor of the train collected the kids’ tickets and sang, “Well, you coming?”

Multiple doors were simple, others complex, such as ESE support facilitator Penny Pagano. Her door consisted of a 3-D cardboard representation of the Polar Express train, in addition to a train track in front of her room that had a mini Christmas tree in the center and surrounding stuffed animals.

“I allowed the students to pick which design they wanted to do and they created the door themselves,” Pagano said.

However, the complicated design was very time consuming to get right.

“Four other students helped to decorate. [We] decorated the door periodically over two weeks,” junior Jordan Carry, who assisted in the design of Pagano’s door, said. 

The decked-out doors were judged on Monday, December 16. On Tuesday, the list of winners were sent out in an email to the staff and recognized on the morning announcements.

In the same week, a Midterm Holiday Spirit Week was held at MSD. Festivities began on Monday’s Pajama Day, Ugly Sweater Day on Tuesday and ended on Wednesday’s Fuzzy Sock Day.