June 9, 1995 in City

Students’ Good Behavior Pays Principal Camps 2 Days On Roof As Part Of Deal

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Jim Berry told his students that he’d spend more than two days on the roof of their school, “rain or shine.”

So when he awoke Tuesday morning to find rain beating down, he had to laugh.

Berry promised students at Progress Elementary School in the Spokane Valley that for every “timeout”-free day, he would spend 15 minutes on the roof. Students are given timeouts for problems ranging from fighting at recess to defying authority in the classroom.

Berry made good on his promise, living on the roof until an announcement at 1:15 Thursday afternoon. A paper airplane-flying contest and loud cheers also marked the end of Berry’s stay.

“It was really dramatic and really exciting,” Berry said. “Kids are great. They all want to come over and give you a hug and say ‘Mr. Berry, thanks for being up there. We had fun.”’

When the 48-year-old principal climbed the ladder to his blustery camp at 6 a.m. Tuesday, he owed the students 52 hours and 15 minutes. Tuesday’s high temperature was the lowest ever recorded here in June.

“It was very cold…,” Berry said of Tuesday night. “At about 10 … we said ‘This is enough. We are freezing.”’

But he kept his word.

“When we woke up (Wednesday) morning and saw the sun was shining, we knew it was going to be a good day,” said Berry, who camped out in a tent along with his son, Brian.

“Last year it was 80 or 85 degrees,” Berry said. “This year it’s cold, but the message is still the same.”

The goal is to encourage respect for fellow students and for authority.

“When I came here eight years ago, this school, in terms of behavior, was not very good,” Berry said. “They had gotten away from an understanding of respect with each other and adults.”

Wednesday’s warmer weather allowed Berry to get some use out of a telephone sitting on top of a table serving as a make-shift desk.

His staff even made its way up the ladder for the regular Wednesday morning staff meeting.

The “roof time” program began last year after the 1992-93 school year saw the students log 623 timeouts, including a high of 97 in March.

“That was enough of that,” Berry said. “We needed to have some goals for these kids.

“Obviously we want the kids to learn to read and write. But we can’t do that if they can’t solve issues between themselves.”

This year, students reached a two-year low with 12 timeouts during March, and have recorded only 182 through May, a 71 percent improvement in behavior.

All along, they savored the thought of how much roof time they were building up for their principal.

In a letter to Berry, one student wrote, “I’m sad for you because you can’t see your family for 52 hours, but I’m glad that we worked hard enough to make you stay on the roof for 52 hours.”

The sentiment makes braving the cold worthwhile for Berry.

“This sounds corny,” he said. “This is an expression of love. .. They know that I care or I wouldn’t be up here.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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