By Curt Yeomans
Tara Elementary School Principal Cynthia Dickerson, and nearly a dozen teachers, stood on the school's roof Thursday night and waved to parents and passers-by on Mt. Zion Road.
"It's hot! It's hot! It's hot up here. It must be Tara in the atmosphere," the educators yelled.
Dickerson, who has been Tara's principal for eight years, spent the night on the school's roof, fulfilling a promise she made to her students last spring if the pupils showed improvements on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs).
The students responded to her challenge.
On the math portion of the test, 63.7 percent met, or exceeded state standards, compared to 44.1 percent a year earlier. On the English/Language Arts portion of the test, 76.4 percent met, or exceeded the state's
standards, compared to 72.8 percent a year earlier.
As a result of the improved test scores, Tara Elementary School made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) last year. It is a mark which the school missed during the 2007-2008 school year.
"We made AYP, and met our targets for the CRCTs, so here I am on the roof, Dickerson said in a rooftop interview.
"I'm going to stay up here until 7:45 a.m., [Friday], when I have to go inside to do the morning announcements," she said.
Dickerson said teachers were scheduled to join her on the roof in two-hour shifts, and a Clayton County Police Officer was scheduled to come by and check on her every hour.
Michelle Brown, a parent of two Tara Elementary School students, said she was surprised when her oldest daughter, Marchelle Fletcher, came home from school one day last year and mentioned Dickerson's pledge to spend the night on the roof. But, Brown said she believed it demonstrated how far the principal is willing to go to encourage her students to do well academically.
"The kids started coming home every day saying 'Oh we got to get Mrs. Dickerson on the roof, we gotta get Mrs. Dickerson on the roof,' " Brown said. "I think it shows she's a team player, and she's in it for the kids."
Fletcher, 8, a fourth-grader at the school, said she and her classmates could not believe Dickerson's pledge, at first, either, but they came to realize she was serious when she kept making the pledge.
"I'm very proud of her, and I can't wait to see what she does next year," Fletcher said.
Dickerson said she is willing to do something again to encourage her students to continue doing well on the CRCTs. "I'm going to let the students pick what I'll do next time," she said. "Who knows? Maybe, I'll spend two nights on the roof next year."