He wears a long red cape.
His blue boots sparkle in the sun. Comets flame from his temples.
He speaks with the booming voice of a radio superhero from another time.
Captain Kingsley has it all.
“I think: Awesome!” said Kingsley Charter School first grader Reese Silverman.
So does Jasmine Smith, principal of the Dunwoody elementary where Captain Kingsley regularly appears to preach the virtues of fitness, reading and taking part in school activities.
“He is our own superhero,” Smith said. “Our students are excited. They’re engaged. Captain Kingsley has been a fabulous part of that.”
The captain, who masks his secret identity behind a pair of dark glasses, first appeared at Kinglsey a couple of years ago. A parent made the costume for a fund-raiser and students chose which teacher should wear it. After that, Captain Kingsley disappeared for a while.
Then, last summer, several parents were sitting around at a nearby pool and talking about how to get students more involved in being fit. Somebody remembered Captain Kingsley. They tracked down the costume and a superhero was reborn.
Now he regularly appears on videos broadcast during the school’s morning announcements. The kids talked so much about the videos – with titles such as “Readers of the Lost Book” and “Never Been Absent” – that they showed up on YouTube so their parents could check them out. Captain Kingsley appears periodically in person. And he led Dunwoody elementary school students onto the field during a break at a high school football game, several parents said.
“We love Captain Kingsley,” said Kingsley parent Carol Pajer, one of the folks who was at the pool that day last summer. “It’s just contagious when you look at the kids. It gets them excited and they are in a good mood, and kids in a good mood learn better.”
About 7 a.m. one chilly morning recently, dozens of Kingsley students gathered in a shopping center parking lot for “walk to school day.” About 250 students walked to school that morning in a grand parade led by their school’s own superhero.
“Can you imagine, across Georgia, all the students walking to school?” Captain Kingsley asked the walkers, his voice booming in the morning air. “And all the Captain Kingsleys walking? …. Oh, wait, there’s only one Captain Kingsley!”
He got a big laugh. He knew his crowd. “I don’t mind being zany,” Captain Kingsley said later that morning over sausage McMuffins at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. “I don’t care. If me being a zany, crazy guy puts smiles on kids’ faces and convinces them to do well, I’m doing my job. I consider it an honor to do it.”
Bill MacDonald, a 43-year-old UPS pilot who oddly is never seen at the same time as Captain Kingsley, says students feel a connection with the Captain. They listen to him when they might not pay attention to their parents on subjects like getting more exercise or eating their vegetables.
What’s Captain Kingsley’s superpower? “The power of persuasion,” MacDonald said, grinning. “The power of persuasion to do the right thing.”
That’s powerful. “Kids are looking for positive images,” he said. “You have negative images squawking louder and longer.”
Besides, it’s fun. “It’s just great to be a part of it,” MacDonald said. “It’s a privilege.”
Now the word is out: He’s looking for a sidekick.
Know someone interesting? e-mail Joe Earle, email@example.com