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Principal goes to new heights to reward pupils

The principal's office at Lewiston-Porter Intermediate Education Center was a bit colder than usual Friday -- because it was on the roof.

Three weeks ago, Andrew Auer posed a challenge for his students: Read a combined 130,000 pages with parents and family members by Oct. 14, and he'd spend his workday with an aerial view of the campus.

The actual number of pages they read was, well, through the roof.

The 467 students read a collective 146,975 pages over 2 1/2 weeks -- an average of 315 pages per student. So, at 9:15 a.m., they headed outside to watch their principal climb a ladder to his makeshift office for the day -- a 10-foot-by-10-foot canopy with three walls that housed a chair and his laptop.

"It was breezy," Auer said, laughing. "The kids stuck it out, why shouldn't I stick it out? You have to find that hook for kids that makes them put a lot of effort into something."

The school was participating in Parents as Reading Partners, a program that encourages families to read together as much as possible, said Mary Ellen Aureli, the school librarian, who has helped organize the initiative at the intermediate school for the past 22 years. Each day, students logged how many pages of a book they read with their parents or another family member.

"TV hurts your eyes after a while," said fifth-grader Robert Giordano, 10. "But reading doesn't get boring after a while."

Robert likes to read a mixture of books, he said, especially mysteries and comic books. "Some of them are funny," he said. "Some of them are more serious."

Third-grader Jessi Avila-Shah, 7, said she loves to read, and the idea of making her principal spend the day on the roof made it even more fun.

"I have a basket and a closet full of books," she said. "I read a lot, but sometimes I hold back because I have to do other things. It's fun, and you get to learn more things."

Auer used his cellphone and a walkie-talkie for communication with faculty. He was allowed bathroom breaks, and if he needed anything, such as tissues, he lowered a basket down via rope and dangled it in front of a classroom window with a note.

Students sent up cards and snacks. Some classes came outside to wave.

"Everyone in my class was telling him to jump," said fourth-grader Joseph Beatty, 9. "It was funny."