Behind the backstop and the kickball game, within earshot of the reading class and slightly to the left of the third-graders dancing the samba, the principal of Cerritos Elementary School was sitting.
On the roof.
Principal Jeannie K. Flint was in the odd position because of a bet. She told the 400 students at the Glendale school that if they read for 500,000 minutes at home, she'd sit on the roof for a whole day.
Average of 1,250 Minutes
They did, averaging 1,250 minutes of reading each. That's a bit over 20 hours!
So on Friday morning, serenaded by two columns of students singing "Up on the Roof" and equipped with a parasol, a desk and--of course--books, the no-nonsense 43-year-old educator climbed a rickety ladder and then another one and calmly held forth from on high.
Flint is not the first educator to give a literal reading of the notion of higher education. A South Pasadena principal has been up on the roof twice after her elementary school students met reading quotas. The head of a San Gabriel school did her one better by spending a day atop the cafeteria--in a monkey costume. But students had to read 1 million minutes for that one.
Novel or not, the stunt was popular with the kids at Cerritos Elementary. They passed messages of encouragement to Flint in a basket, decked her chair and ladder with balloons and waved to her in between innings of their games at recess. And, fear not Mrs. Flint, they also said they'd continue to read.
That was the point. In the tradition of her fellow high-minded principals, Flint made the proposition in January as a way to encourage students to read on their own. She asked parents to tally the minutes their children read or were read to each day, using calendars the students brought home. The minutes totaled on a large chart on the wall of the school eventually went over the top at 581,346 minutes.
For added encouragement, a local Kiwanis Club promised a $50 U.S. Savings Bond to the student from each grade level who read the most minutes. The last of the five savings bonds was handed out Friday.
This isn't the first time Flint has done something unconventional to encourage children to learn. A few years ago she instituted a daily "sustained silent reading period"--10 minutes--when everyone in the school dropped whatever they were doing to read. And Flint is notorious for giving out gold slips, "If I catch them being good," she said.
Flint said she was tempted to give gold slips to the whole school on Friday. Wearing a black-and-gold school sweat shirt, with an "I Cerritos School" button and hooked up to the world below her by cordless telephone, she said she was enjoying every minute of her self-enforced ordeal.
"I want to encourage them to read and make reading a lifelong habit," Flint said as a lunch prepared by a group of students was hoisted up to her on the flat-topped roof. "I knew they could do it. I just didn't think they could do it so soon."