As the books stacked up, Gov. Norm Bangerter began to disappear.
He was seated on the stage at Holladay Elementary School on Friday when the school's students began their march, piling up books that were only representative of the hundreds they have read since October. Less than halfway through, Bangerter was up to his chin, and before Marissa Christensen showed up with a handful of books representing the 58 she had read, the gov was gone - as far as the audience was concerned.But Bangerter was happy to be upstaged by a table full of books. That was what the day was about - reading and reaping the rewards.
CrossLand Savings was there too, to make good on its promise to donate money for each five books the children had read, as a contribution to the school library.
Randy Daniels, the firm's assistant vice president, kept the spirit of the St. Patrick's Day holiday as he dumped more and more - and more - silver (not green, alas) dollars into a pot that looked suspiciously like the leprechaun's pot at the end of the kids' "reading rainbow." In all, about 2,000 silver dollars had clinked into the pot when Marissa added the final volumes to the table, fully eclipsing Bangerter.
Every third- and fourth-grade student had read at least five books. Many had read 10, a few had read 20, 25 or 30, up to Marissa's championship 58.
"Reading is one of the most important things you'll ever learn to do," Bangerter told the children. He applauded CrossLand for its community spirit and said this is the kind of school/business relationship he has encouraged.
Principal John Allen took advantage of the governor's presence to brag about his school. He ticked off a list of accomplishments - a six-grade class that scored above national, state and district norms on the Stanford Achievement Test recently; an overwhelming majority of students in all grades who are reading at or above grade level; a PTA that is among the top five in Granite District for the number of volunteer hours spent at the school (6,000 to 8,000 hours this year); staff members who routinely go the second mile to provide enrichment activities for children.
Holladay, at 120 percent capacity, spends the least per pupil to do its job of any Granite District school, Allen said.
Asked to "grade" the school based on what he'd seen, Bangerter deliberated - but not for long - before handing out a "triple A" rating.
The governor, CrossLand officials and Granite District leaders then responded to youngsters' questions about school, national and state issues - Bangerter defended disallowing 5 million Utah acres to be designated wilderness, despite opposition from Rep. Wayne Owens - as well as the economy and employment.
Representing the district were board member Lynn D. Davidson; Riley O'Neil and Briant Farnsworth of the administrative staff; and Linda Fait, director of instruction. Beverly Garcia, Cottonwood Branch manager for CrossLand, and DeDe Reid, Holladay PTA president, also participated.