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James Rutter Principal Finishes 24-Hour Stay on School's Roof

The principal of the Elk Grove Unified School District school was celebrating increased standardized test scores.

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Being stuck on a roof for 24 hours wasn't as bad as Yuri Penermon thought it was going to be.

The James Rutter Middle School principal had a computer, a book, notes from students, some homework from classes at the school, and a constant stream of text messages, visitors and food being sent up to him in a bucket. But that doesn't mean his tent and cot on the roof was the best place to spend the night.

"A neighborhood cat kept me up until about 2," Penermon said.

Last spring, he told students at the south Sacramento school that if their Academic Performance Index (API) scores increased by 10 points, he would spend 24 hours on the school's rooftop. .

He descended in a powered lift Tuesday, in front of television cameras and a crowd of more than 100 cheering students packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

Pernermon said the celebration for the increased test scores "increases their [students'] enthusiasm, their pride, their self-worth and their sense of identity."

He's quick to acknowledge the school still faces challenges.

While most student populations at the school fared better on standardized tests in the spring than last fall, black students did not improve enough to meet a state-set growth target. And the school's API score of 707 is less than all other Elk Grove Unified middle schools (although James Rutter did post the third-largest gain among middle schools).

Penermon said the economy is a challenge for students at the school, where 83 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Only one Elk Grove Unified middle school has a higher percentage.

"Families move around a lot," he said. "It's hard to be consistent with programs."

He added that sometimes a "sense of hopelessness" can trickle down to students, but the school tries to impress upon them the importance of an education. Penermon said staff and teachers at the school are "retooling what we did last year" to try to make more improvements. And there might be another reward if the students do.

"I'm trying to convince my whole staff to go up there next time."

Are you a James Rutter parent? What do you think of the school's test score gains? Where is there still room to improve? Let us know in the comments section below.

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