Welcome From the Roof

Dressed in a robe, Edgar Murray Elementary School Principal Larrinda Witt stands to welcome students and adults on Wednesday morning as they prepare to enter the school for the start of the day. Witt, Assistant Principal Beth Hill, right on roof, and Counselor Ellen Turner, left on roof, also dressed in traditional bedroom attire, spent the night Tuesday into Wednesday on the roof of the school after the Murray students reached a fund-raising goal.    

On this night, there were creatures stirring where they usually don’t, and they weren’t mice. There also was quite a bit of clatter on the rooftop.

But, there was no cause for alarm.

Edgar Murray Elementary School Principal Larrinda Witt, Assistant Principal Beth Hill and Counselor Ellen Turner spent the night outdoors on the roof of their school Tuesday as a “reward” to their students after the youngsters met a financial challenge for their autumn fund-raiser. The trio spent about 14 hours on the roof before exiting at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday for the start of classes that day.

It was the latest “stunt” from the female threesome and the Murray staff, who routinely offer rewards of some kind in exchange for jobs well done by their youngsters.

“The night on the roof started with a challenge,” Witt said. “We challenged our students to raise $5,500 for our fall fund-raiser, and they exceeded our goal. We always want our students to feel and be successful whether it is for a fund-raiser event or in the classroom, and we want to encourage them to reach their goals.

“If that means spending the night on the roof, wearing a tutu, being kissed by a bulldog, getting a pie in the face or wearing an annoying orange costume, then that’s what we will do to ensure the success of our students.”

All of the things Witt mentioned have been done by Edgar Murray administrators or staff during the first two months of the academic year in response to students meeting specific criteria or challenges. Tuesday night’s adventure was the latest.

And, the women agreed, the activity was a challenge.

It was a night to remember, that’s for sure,” Hill said.

Temperatures overnight Tuesday were some of the lowest of autumn so far as lows in some areas reached the upper 30s. Freeze warnings were posted just outside of Franklin County. At times, a brisk breeze blew. Some sprinkles of cold rain also fell.

But, Witt, Hill and Turner were armed with layers of clothing, hats, gloves, sleeping bags, blankets and anything else they could think of to help keep them warm, including a tent erected on the roof by members of the St. Clair Fire Protection District.

Extension cords provided electricity for lamps and maybe — just maybe — an electric blanket or two.

“When planning our night on the roof, we didn’t begin with the end in mind,” Turner said. “We just happened to pick the coldest camping night to date. To say that we weren’t cold would be a fib, but with the warmth and support of our community, we turned it into a win-win situation.”

Over the course of the evening Tuesday, several students and parents stopped by to say hello or to drop off snacks as well as to contribute to an accompanying hat, glove and sock drive the three decided to put together. Besides the students and firefighters, St. Clair Police officers and Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies also checked on the threesome.

Throughout the night, Witt said 21 hats, 34 pairs of gloves and 53 pairs of socks were donated to the “winter wear drive.”

And, Witt, Hill and Turner found out that Domino’s will deliver to unique locations.

“They brought the pizza up on the roof,” Witt said.

The threesome said they probably slept for about three hours. At one point, they said, a goose joined them on the roof.

“We would like to thank all those who stopped by and donated to the winter wear drive, provided us with goodies, coffee and hot chocolate and encouraged us with their words,” Hill said in representing the trio. “A special thanks to those who always make a difference in our community by lending a helping hand and supporting the school. We could not do what we do without you.”

Witt said the donated winter wear will be taken to the St. Clair Agape House.

“If they tell us they don’t need it, then we will give it to another community outreach program,” she said.

In all, Witt said about 75 individuals stopped by up until about midnight.

The women greeted the third- through fifth-graders from the roof on the east side of the school wearing warm clothing and robes as the youngsters arrived on Wednesday. They wore the same attire as they attended the assembly that opens every Murray school day.

Most of the students waved back to the trio on the roof while smiling as they entered the school. Many couldn’t believe the three actually had survived the night or really had slept on the roof.

“The surprise on the students’ faces as they exited the buses and saw us still on top of the school roof was priceless and made it all worthwhile,” Witt said.

Before most of the students and staff started to arrive on Wednesday morning and before they eventually climbed down the ladder for the start of the school day, Witt, Hill and Turner applied a little makeup on their faces and brushed their hair and teeth to look what they called “presentable.”

And, at the end of the challenge. Witt used one sentence to sum up the experience she had just shared with her two coworkers.

“We strengthened our friendships and celebrated a school goal with our staff and students.”