GREENFIELD — He came armed with a cot, a sleeping bag and a fan to drown out the sound of the crickets.
J.B. Stephens Elementary School principal Matt Davis had everything he needed to sleep under the stars.
This week, he spent the night atop the school’s roof — a promise he had made to students if they raised $1,000 for a local literacy cause.
When $1,064 rolled in, Davis gathered his supplies.
During the Imagination Library Giving Week earlier this month, students at J.B. Stephens helped collect just more than $1,000 for the program that puts books in the hands of Hancock County’s youngest residents. Altogether, the Greenfield-Central School Corp. raised nearly $4,000 for the program, which sends children a book each month, until they reach kindergarten age, to encourage early reading.
Tuesday afternoon, Davis set up his cot on a flat part of the school’s roof. By early evening, he was settled in for the night, posting videos to the school’s Twitter page to prove to students he was fulfilling his end of the deal.
And when they arrived to school Wednesday morning, Davis greeted the kindergarten through third-graders from his perch, waving and shouting, “Good morning!” to them as they walked to class.
Little voices excitedly yelled, “I can see him,” and “Hi, Mr. Davis.” Some jumped up and down when they saw him up there with his makeshift bed.
First-grader Ava Morgan’s face lit up when she stepped off the bus and saw him. She believed he’d spent the night up there, she said, but seeing the school’s leader Wednesday morning and realizing that’s exactly what he did made her giggle.
Davis said he made his promise to students ahead of last week’s giving week. The school raises funds all year long for various community causes, and the start to this school year has been especially busy with donation drives for victims of recent hurricanes, Davis said.
All those causes are important, but creating a community of little readers is near and dear to his heart and the school’s mission, he said.
Last year, students raised more than $200 for Imagination Library, and Davis roller-skated around the school to reward them. He knew if the students were going to help collect more this year, he needed to up his ante, he said.
He camps often and loves to sleep outside, so he didn’t mind offering to sleep on the roof if it got students excited about the cause. He’d probably get more sleep up there than he does at home anyway, he joked.
As the week neared, he eyed the weather looking for the best night.
Before students left school Tuesday, he showed them pictures of the flat sections of roof to squelch a few little ones’ fears he might roll off the roof in his sleep. And after a PTO meeting that evening, he grabbed his gear and headed up.
Staff members say Davis is always thinking of creative ways to get students excited about programs and events the school puts on, said bus driver Shari Amos.
On the way to school Wednesday morning, all her bus riders talked about was Davis.
Seeing their principal waving down at them that morning is something they’ll remember the rest of their lives, she said.
“This is probably the most exciting morning they’ve had,” she said.