Jeremy Garritano probably never would have thought he would go camping again. The last and only time he had gone out and pitched a tent, he found himself covered in poison ivy within 10 hours and returned home. But this time, for the first grade principal of Westhampton Beach Primary School, things were different.
“Everything for the kids,” he laughed. “If it gives them a good memory after all the things we’ve been through, by all means. It’s nice to see the kids excited and smiling again – things through COVID that have been rare. “
The idea arose as the administration and members of the parent-teacher association were considering ways to get students to fundraise for the annual Hurricane Fun Run – a one-hour event. month where kids raise money while committing to hike the high school soccer field, while learning about fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
When he offered to sleep on the school roof the night of Monday, September 27, after the Fun Run event, Mr Garritano said he was thinking back to a story he heard nearly 15 years as a teacher. Its director at the time told this sort of urban legend that he had once slept on the roof in the snow to welcome students to school.
“It has always marked me,” said Garritano. “I am passionate about creating moments that children will remember – that they can look forward to and be excited about. “
There were extra markers along the way to reward the kids for their efforts, including soccer balls for those who signed up, homework passes once the fundraiser total reached $ 5,000 and an additional recreation at $ 10,000. But the director wanted to go over $ 20,000, which he said had not been done since the inaugural event eight years ago.
“In just a few short weeks, Mr. Garritano and the PTA have created tremendous excitement for the Fun Run,” said Superintendent Carolyn Probst. “Students [were] very excited to have their manager sleeping on the roof, and we are thrilled with the success of this year’s fundraiser.
To date, students have passed $ 30,000 and still have two weeks left. Over 65 percent of the school’s student body got involved, and contributions to their cause were received from 27 different states and six different countries.
Mr Garritano said the students were training outdoors for the event every day while donning t-shirts for the day in the field. Classrooms have created team flags and videos about teamwork and collaboration have been released over the past two weeks.
“It brought that camaraderie,” said the director. “It’s a great event to bring the kids together around a common goal, and a lot of the students were shocked that I was really going to do it.
He said the kids teased him in the hallway, saying, “We’re going to make you sleep on the roof,” to which he always replied, “Ah, I don’t know if you’ll make it.”
But the students hit their mark, and the principal was seen on the roof Monday night in his navy and lime green tent with green night lights and stuffed animals. Students were asked to walk past the school and honk their horns – before its 9pm bedtime, of course.
“He’s the best manager ever! Fourth grader Amelia Spatafora said.
“It’s really weird that I’m going to say goodnight to my principal,” added third-grader Ezra Schneider.
“He’s funny, and he’s amazing sleeping on the roof,” said sophomore Gabriella Briguglio.
“He’s a brave man,” said fifth-grader Colm Parsons, “because it’s going to be really dark and he could ride.”
Mr Garritano said the encouragement from the students was heartwarming, they even offered to wear their pajamas to school on Tuesday so he wouldn’t feel lonely. So he decided to make Tuesday a pajama day for the whole building. The director said the support from the community had also been overwhelming. Families offered to bring dinner and even opened their homes for the West Islip manager to shower before work on Tuesday. Many walked by with snacks, with a third grader stopping the principal during drop-off to ask if he liked Doritos or chips, because “I’m driving my mom over and we’re going to put some on the roof. for you.”
“It’s such a tight-knit community,” said Garritano. “That says a lot about the kind of place he’s in here. It is special.
Parents thought the same about their new headteacher. The manager documented his trip on the neighborhood’s Facebook page, posting photos of the night’s festivities.
“Thank you for being the best director for our children,” PTA Vice President Antoinette Piazza-Mundinger said in a comment posted on one of the updates.
“The kids are lucky to have you,” added Lauren Spiegel.
“Even our 3 year old was so excited – telling his big sister and dad ‘Mr. G is on the roof! said Tara Reilly Mahon. “It was so awesome. Thank you for giving this community a memory they will never forget.
College girl Jemma Farruggia thought it was a great fundraising idea.
“It’s so cool that we’ve raised so much money to spend big things on our school,” said fifth grader Blake Schaffer.
All funds raised will go directly to the cultural and educational enrichment programs of the elementary school. Mr Garritano said the money can support families, a welcome picnic, a painting night and a gingerbread night. When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, trips to Boston and Philadelphia had to be canceled. PTA President Theresa Belkin added that she is looking to bring back some of those old events and field trips. She said she was also eager to provide art projects and outdoor workspaces with the funds, and hopes to be able to invite an author back to school.
While at first the PTA President admitted that she thought the Director’s idea was ‘crazy’, she said it was great to see some semblance of normalcy inside the building, even with the Fun Run itself. Last year, students could only run with their class, instead of their entire class, and this took place inside the gymnasium without spectators, rather than outside surrounded by family and friends. ‘friends.
“It’s nice to see the kids come back to life,” Ms. Belkin said. “All of this again sparked so much enthusiasm around the school building. “
The PTA president said there is now a general consensus among elementary school staff to make events like this more fun and to do as much as possible. She said the new principal played a big part in that, even down to the way he punches students when he passes them in the hallways.
“The past year has been very disappointing, especially with the students who haven’t been able to mingle while being stuck in cohorts,” Ms. Belkin said. “The families at Westhampton Beach Primary School are so excited by the enthusiasm Mr. Garritano has brought to everything he wants to do – not just all the fun stuff, but the curriculum; bring their experience and experience to our school. And the kids love it. We are delighted that he is part of the Westhampton Beach family.