Geneva principal rides trike to reward readers
Picture a grown man riding a kid's Radio Flyer tricycle through an elementary school cafeteria while the kids scream as they shower him with confetti streamers.
This was George Petmezas, principal of Mill Creek Elementary School in Geneva, rewarding the 400+ students for participating in a read-a-thon fundraiser, hosted by the PTO.
"Part of the goal for our students was to read during school and outside of school hours," Petmezas said. "The goal was if they raised $10,000, I would ride a tricycle."
Students did not have a certain amount of time to read -- it could be five or 10 minutes or an hour -- and were sponsored by family members, he said.
They raised $14,500 over two weeks, and Petmezas rode the trike during three lunch periods.
"I got peppered with confetti," Petmezas said. "I was almost unrecognizable, and the kids really enjoyed it. It's the best part of my job, being with kids and seeing their excitement."
The money is for updating the school's grade-level team centers.
Each team area -- kindergarten and first grades share one, while second through fifth grades each have their own -- is a common area outside the classrooms, Petmezas said.
The five team areas have tables and seating.
"The PTO surveyed our teachers on what they felt they needed and one thing that consistently came up was to upgrade the team centers," Petmezas said. "They were asking for different things, new seating, small little couches, stools ... new rugs. ... Some were asking for privacy cubicles for students to use if they require quiet space to catch up on assignments or take a missed test."
The new furniture has been ordered and will be installed after school lets out for summer.
"Students need more options than just being in a classroom," Petmezas said. "It's more collaborative for children.
"Kudos to our PTO. They're kind of like the unsung heroes of what we do at school -- organizing this, working with our teachers -- and our teachers did a great job hyping it up."
PTO mothers Rebecca Fozo and Ann Knuth were co-chairs for different facets of the read-a-thon, which was held from March 2-14.
"It was an amazing turnout," Knuth said. "We were so happy."
Motivators for the kids -- other than seeing their principal on a tricycle -- included gift cards from Geneva bookstore Harvey's Tales, water bottle stickers, indoor recess games and lunch with their teachers, Fozo said.
• Total minutes read: 73,020.
• The most minutes read by a single student was 1,500 by a fourth-grade girl.
• Kristin Graham's third-grade class read the most minutes, 9,400.
• Kelly Kramer's fourth-grade class raised the most money -- $2,138 -- with one girl raising $865 by herself."