Burroughs principal dresses up as Willy Wonka for read-a-thon

LYNNHURST – The 1.5 million minutes of reading (or read-to) time racked up by Burroughs Community School students in February was only one remarkable aspect of their annual read-a-thon’s closing ceremony March 23.

The amount of pledges they collected – $85,000 and counting – was another.

But for those unfamiliar with Burroughs and its unique culture, the number of parents in the school at 9 a.m. on a workday may have been just as impressive.

More than 100 parents joined about 680 students in the gymnasium to watch Principal Tim Cadotte – dressed as Willy Wonka – act out skits from the Roald Dahl book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Todd Adams said it was just another example of the elementary school’s “crazy parent involvement.” The father of two Burroughs students wasn’t surprised to see a hallway packed with parents chatting and sipping coffee prior to the event.

“Anytime you come here, the parents are participating in classes,” Adams said.

Cadotte estimated there are as many as two to three parents in every classroom nearly every day at Burroughs. Other Southwest schools have a similar level of involvement, he said.

“We just couldn’t do what we do without them,” he said.

The parent and community volunteers who tutor students and run school committees are also important for their financial support of programs. The read-a-thon, for example, directly supports music, art and science enrichment programs.

When the state Senate Education Committee took a fieldtrip to Burroughs in February, parents were there, too, sharing the school’s successes and struggles. Parent Site Council Co-chairwoman Kim Dickey was one of those urging the senators to support increased school funding.

Dickey said parents raised what money they could to hold down class sizes at the growing school. But year after year of budget cuts meant moving band and strings programs off campus, despite parent efforts, she added.

Whether advocating or celebrating, Cadotte said parents are like one leg of the Burroughs table: Lose that leg and the whole thing falls over.