By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Typing away on her laptop computer, you would have thought it was business as usual for St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School Principal Julie Delaney. On Oct. 13, however, she wasn’t working in her office but on the roof of the school’s Early Learning Center. At the end of last school year, Delaney announced a reading challenge to students: read 250,000 pages in total over the summer and she would spend a day on the roof.
Delaney and the school’s reading committee came up with the challenge to encourage students to keep reading. They accepted the challenge, logging their reading at home while the school sent email reminders to their families throughout the summer.
“I had kids come up to me in church on Sundays during the summer to report in how many pages they had read that week,” Delaney said. “Studies suggest that children who read as few as six books over the summer maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year. Reading more books leads to even greater success.”
When students returned to school this fall, the logs started coming in and were allowed to be submitted through the first month of classes. In total, students read 252,000 pages. When Delaney read the announcement over the PA system, she said she could hear screams of excitement throughout the halls. “I think the second and third-graders were the most excited.”
To begin her day on the roof, Delaney wore a coat and gloves and wrapped herself in a blanket because of chilly temperatures. But as the day progressed and the sun wrapped around the school, she warmed up. She chose to take her post atop the Early Learning Center so students could see her. The main school building’s roof is much higher and the décor would have blocked the principal’s and students’ views.
While she climbed a ladder to get on the roof, she chose to crawl through a window to get back down in the afternoon.
On the roof she had a desk, chair, her laptop and cell phone. She also had a pulley system consisting of a rope on a stick with a paperclip and a loop so items could be sent up as needed. During recess several students wrote notes to her. Some of the messages, as written: “Thank you for being our principal and tacking care of our school,” Hannah. “Dear Miss Delany, Thak you fo going on the rofe,” Love Emily’s sister. “Dear Miss Dlaniy, you can watch us on the playground. watch me on the monky bars,” Love Ava. “How do you get internet up there?” Molly. “I loved the ice cream thank you I read 1,124 pages,” no name.
The pulley system came in handy for a Catholic Messenger reporter, too. Delaney used it to send down a pen when the reporter’s pen ran out of ink.
She said she did not get much work done as she had lots of stuff going on around her. In addition to hearing students playing at recess, she listened to band practices and music classes through open windows. “Rock and Roll is here to stay,” sixth-graders kept singing.
Preschoolers offered their thoughts about the principal on the roof of their building. Landon said she asked Delaney to jump down, “but she wouldn’t jump down.” Becca liked the “fishing pole” pulley system to send notes. Henry thought Delaney was collecting leaves and acorns. Max liked that Delaney had “her chair and blankie up there.” Eli wanted to be on the roof with her.
School-wide reading challenges will continue. Delaney will meet with the reading committee to plan the next challenge. She hopes to have three per year. What will she do if the next challenge is met? That is to be determined.