November 29, 2014
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JBF principal cuts his ties; Great Pumpkin is a brain teaser
Jennifer Rodrigues
Jennifer Rodrigues
FRYING THE FISH: Abby Testa takes full advantage of the opportunity to cut Principal Clouff

It can never be said that John Brown Francis Elementary School Principal Dave Clouff doesn’t live up to his word.

On Friday morning, the school’s new principal kept his word and let the top sellers in the PTA’s calendar sale cut his beloved fish tie in half.

“I wear my ties, so [the PTA] said I could do that,” said Clouff, explaining why he decided to let the top seller cut his tie. The idea was to give the top seller a different prize than a goodie bag or toy.

So Friday morning was the day.

“Today’s the day we fry the fish!” said Clouff to the excited group of 270 students gathered outside the school before the morning bell.

Clouff stood on the truck bed of custodian Wayne Anderson’s pick-up truck with a microphone so all of his students could see and hear.

“Even though it’s a very sad day for my fish tie, my son said he would buy me a new fish tie,” added Clouff, eliciting some groans from the young crowd.

Clouff then made the announcement that Abby Testa and Charlotte Frost had both sold 13 calendars and tied for top seller. So both girls were invited onto the truck bed and had the opportunity to cut a portion of the tie. While their classmates enthusiastically chanted “cut the tie,” the girls cut Clouff’s precious tie in half length-wise, creating a fish “belt” for each of them.

“It’s both sad and happy,” said Clouff, sharing his feelings after the event was over, “sad that my fish tie is gone, but happy that all these kids did such a good job raising all of this money for the school.”

The deal had been that if his students raised $5,000 or more through the calendar sale, he would allow his tie to be cut. The school raised over $7,500, all of which goes directly back to the school for various PTA events and projects.

The calendars are for the month of October and each day features a prize or two to be won. Over the summer, the PTA recruited area businesses to donate gift certificates or other items of value to the project; Mad Money Mondays features cash prizes. Any individual who purchased a calendar received a raffle ticket that is placed in the daily drawing and even if they win a prize, their ticket is put back in the drawing for the next day.

Since he had his students’ undivided attention, Clouff also used the morning event to announce the school’s fun assignment.

In addition to being the school custodian, Anderson is a bit of a farmer and grew a giant pumpkin that was brought into the school this week to be used for a math challenge.

Clouff explained that the Great Pumpkin will be on display in the school’s lobby and each class will have to figure out how much it weighs. Whichever class has the correct answer, or is the closest, will win a prize. Clouff is working with the PTA to figure out what that prize will be, but it will be along the lines of a “cut the tie” activity.

“What we’re trying to do is have kids try more problem-solving,” said Clouff. “Instead of a word problem, we are going to give them real world problems to work through.”

The principal added that this activity ties in with the Common Core Standards coming down from the state, and matches with the switch occurring in public education. He explained that not only would the class need to provide their answer, but the reasoning behind it.

Anderson usually grows tomatoes, garlic and other vegetables but was inspired to take a shot at pumpkins after seeing the annual Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Bristol.

“I’ve never grown a giant pumpkin before; this is my first,” said Anderson. He explained that Rhode Island is one of the places in a band of the country with the ideal temperature to grow Dill Atlantic Giant Pumpkins.

“I learned a ton about growing giant pumpkins,” said Anderson. While the actual weight of his pumpkin is in a sealed envelope in Clouff’s possession, Anderson did say he had to use an engine lift to put his pumpkin into a four-foot-by-five-foot trailer for transport to the scrap yard for weighing and to the school.

“It worked surprisingly well,” said Anderson of using the engine lift, although he admits the back end of the machine was coming off the ground because of the weight.

Anderson said the pumpkin was grown organically with no chemicals. He also said making a giant pumpkin pie with it would not be good.

“It’s bred for size, not taste,” explained Anderson.

The Great Pumpkin will be kept at John Brown Francis for a week as students work through the problem, and then Anderson has received a request from Wyman Elementary School to have the pumpkin at their fall festival.


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