270 stops and counting: Why this NJ principal is visiting his students’ homes
WOODBURY — It's 2:50 on a Friday afternoon. The weekend is just 10 minutes away. But at Evergreen Avenue Elementary School, students aren't itching for the final bell.
Instead, their eyes and ears are glued on Principal Tom Braddock, hoping their name is announced. If it is, that means they've been selected as a Standout Student of the Week, and they can expect a home visit from Principal Braddock in the few hours ahead.
Every Friday afternoon since September, Braddock has visited more than a dozen students' homes to recognize their hard work or good deeds over the past week. He comes equipped with a Standout Student certificate and a pencil that reads "My principal is proud of me."
Braddock hopes to visit the homes of all 297 pre-K to grade 5 students by the end of the school year. He's already made about 270 visits — some duplicates — and there's another 15 to 18 stops planned this week.
The weekly multi-stop tour can sometimes take up to three hours, but Braddock said seeing the look on the kids' faces, waiting by the window or door, is worth the extra effort.
"It's amazing; you would think I'm a celebrity coming to their home," Braddock told New Jersey 101.5.
The first-year principal said he wanted to find a way to recognize students' successes on a more consistent basis — not just monthly or every marking period. He brought the idea to the teachers, who choose each week's Standout children, and they loved it.
"It's an outside-the-box idea that I hope other school districts take heed of and consider adopting," Braddock said.
He said the program has been a blessing not only for the school and district, but his family as well. His own children see how a simple notion can make such a big difference in another child's life.
As a bonus, he said, he's practically become a "human road map" of Woodbury. He knows "every street, every nook and cranny" of the city.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.