Principal Goes to Great Heights to Keep Promise

A promise is a thing to keep, especially in full view of an entire elementary school full of children. Think of the example it sets.

So, true to her word, Principal Marsha Aguirre climbed a ladder to the roof of Marengo School in South Pasadena, where she held office for a day last week.

Never mind that it was Friday the 13th. There was no room in this promise for superstition. Besides, there were 488 children and their teachers watching and cheering from the playground below. Most were clad in blue-and-white T-shirts printed with the message, "Marengo School Has the Reading Spirit."

Masses of colorful, helium-filled balloons were loosed into the sky. Attached to each balloon was a return postcard with this message: "My school read 300,000 minutes. My favorite book is. . . . What's yours?"

The principal wore one of the T-shirts, too, and declared the event to be a celebration of reading. She had promised in January that she would move her office to the roof for a day if students would spend a total of 300,000 minutes reading at home during the coming months.

Children kept track of their reading time on calendars that they turned in each month to classroom teachers. Kindergarten and first-grade pupils were allowed to record time during which parents read aloud to them.

When the reports came in, parent volunteer Cathy Nece tallied the progress on a large chart in the school foyer for all to see. As the campaign approached its final weeks, Aguirre said she was often greeted on campus by youngsters running up to say, "I'm reading! I'm reading!"

The payoff was worth it, Aguirre said, because of the enthusiasm for books that it generated among the children.

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