LAND O'LAKES — Children shrieked and laughed and whooped Friday morning as they arrived at Lake Myrtle Elementary to find their principal on the cafeteria roof.
Jason Petry waved from his rooftop desk, which he equipped with his laptop, cell phone and all the other materials he needed to conduct business for the day. That was the deal, if the school raised $8,000 or more during two weeks in October.
"I have my report cards to check ... and I will Skype with my assistant principal and literacy coach. It's going to be a routine day," he said, as the chilly winds sliced across the roof. "My bookkeeper brought me a Snuggie, too, just in case."
The kids loved seeing their principal up on the roof.
"I want to do it one day," second-grader Matthew Gatz said, as he jumped and hollered to get Petry's attention. "How'd he get up there?"
"How is he going to get down?" wondered first-grader Nevaeh Turner, who also didn't see the ladder behind the building.
Parents dropping off their children said they appreciated the reason behind Petry's decision to be up there in the first place.
He agreed to spend the day on the roof as the prize for the school's no-sales fundraiser, something the school's advisory council embraced three years ago (before Petry ever worked there). Like a growing number of schools around the Tampa Bay area, Lake Myrtle decided to simply ask parents to donate to the school.
This year, the money went to purchase new technology, a performance on anti-bullying, books for classroom libraries and student rewards. Donations ranged from $1 to $1,000.
"I love it," said mom Jan Ward, who sits on the school PTA board. "The kids aren't having to sell something that people feel obligated to buy. My kids actually donated money from their own allowance because they know it's going to help the school."
Terrina Ford, who has two sons at the school, liked that the contribution method allows more people to support their school financially.
"The parents can just give what they can afford," she said. "A lot of the fundraisers, the minimum thing is $10. Some parents can't afford it."
When sales get in the mix, companies take a share. This type of collection avoids the middle man.
"I'd rather give the whole $20 to the school and my child can benefit from it," said Jodi Diokas, whose son is in second grade.
There's one more benefit, too, said Trina Miller, who has a first-grader at the school: It has the ability to put the principal on the roof.
"The kids think it's awesome," Miller said. "That's the best part about it."
A shivering Petry laughed as students passed by, shouting out cracks like "He's the craziest man alive!" and "Nice Snuggie!" He also endured his staff's threats to make him stay up there even during his usual lunchroom duty, and the plant manager's announcement that his ladder had disappeared.
PTA president Mahalia Surin watched from the sidewalk, musing on other ways that they can use Petry's playfulness to the school's advantage.
"The kids love to see the principal get things done to him," she said. "He'll be in our dunk tank for our spring festival. So we know we'll raise money there, too."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek.