SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Students arriving at Springfield’s Pittman Elementary are used to seeing Principal Laura Batson at the front door.
On Monday, they had to look higher.
Batson greeted students from her perch on the school roof, just over the main entrance.
“It’s important that I do what I promise to do,” Batson said. “I said I’d be on the roof and I am.”
Monday was the last full day of the 2017-18 Springfield school year. Students are also expected to show up Tuesday, which will release two hours early.
In early May, Batson issued an end-of-the-year reading challenge. She told students if they’d read a certain number of minutes, she’d spend Monday – the last full day of the 2017-18 year – on the roof.
“The original goal was 50,000,” she said. “They met that end goal in five days.”
The school followed up with a stretch goal of 75,000 minutes and added extra incentives including a pizza party.
The final tally was even higher.
“They read 100,000 minutes in 10 days,” she said.
Shelby Wright and Ruthy Workman, who each have a son in kindergarten, walked their boys to the front of the school Monday.
“We were cracking up this morning. It caught me off guard because I didn’t remember it was today,” Workman said. “It is hilarious.”
Workman said the challenge had her son, Shai, reading every night.
“It did push them to read. There has not been a night since that he hasn’t reminded me that he has to read,” she said. “I’m pretty impressed.”
Wright said her son, Tristian, was “very excited” to see his principal on the roof, even as light rain fell.
“I just think she’s an amazing principal,” she said.
Batson, who has been the Pittman principal for eight years, started the challenge last year.
“Last year, the fire department came at the end of the day and sprayed me,” she said. “By then, I was ready for it. It was so hot.”
She brought an umbrella on the roof this year but staying dry was not an option.
Throughout the school day, top readers were allowed to pick a silly activity for Batson to complete on the roof. Options include push-ups, silly string fights and pouring a bucket of ice on her head.
“There were a lot of requests for me to dance this year,” she said.
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Fourth-grader Vincent Stockon was the first up. He chose a water balloon fight. Both he and Batson received a bucket of balloons to lob at each other – her from the roof, him from the ground.
“I’m probably the best baseball player in the whole school. I’m pretty sure,” he said. “I have a really good arm. I think she’s scared.”
Stockton hit his target multiple times. Despite fancy footwork on the boy’s part, Batson also returned the favor.
“Ah, that was fun,” he said at the end.
Stockton said he read every night and while a parent kept close track, he couldn’t recall the exact number of minutes.
“The only thing I read is sports stuff,” he said.
Third-grader Aaliyah Haire and fifth-grader Makyla Spriggs said they read between 25 minutes and one hour each night of the challenge.
“It depends on the level of the book,” Spriggs said. “It was pretty fun.”
Batson used a ladder to climb on the roof at 7:40 a.m. She wanted to be in place before the doors opened.
She planned to remain on the roof the entire school day with the exception of bathroom breaks and a pizza party lunch with top readers.
Monday was field day at Pittman so students were outside most of the day.
“I’ll watch field day from up here,” Batson said from the roof. “That’s why I’ll be able to do a lot of interacting with the kids.”
She said the reading challenge helped students stay on track at the end of the school year, despite other distractions.
“It’s good to try to keep them engaged,” she said.
Batson said finishing the school year with so much reading will pay off in other ways.
“They get really excited about reading,” she said. “Hopefully, that carries through the summer.”
(Read the original story from the Springfield News-Leader here.)