A high school principal is hoping his bike skills can convince his students to get to school on time. Well, not his skills, per se, but a look-alike's skills. Either way, he really wants to solve his school's tardiness problem.
In a video shared online Monday, the first in a planned series, hoodie-clad Principal Mark Grishaber of Taft High School in Chicago rides up to the camera on a bike and reminds his students that the official start of the school day is 7:30 a.m. and not 7:45, when classes begin. He then pedals off to pop a few wheelies and BMX stunts, which were actually done by a student stunt-double, he told The Huffington Post.
"It's been the culture for a while that kids were showing up at 7:45 a.m.," Grishaber said Tuesday of the impetus for the videos. "We put up posters and pleaded with students to get to school on time. But I'd have 200 to 240 kids showing up at 7:45."
Trying to think outside the box and find a medium that would resonate with students, Grishaber posted his PSA videos on the school's official website and shared them from the school's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"I was one of those habitually late kids too, so I understand. I don't want to be yelled at," Grishaber said. "These videos are supposed to be fun. They're hitting the kids and giving them a nudge. I figure if I can hit them on Facebook and Twitter, it would help."
The first video, filmed on school grounds Sept. 12, was inspired by some of Taft's BMX-loving students, who would pedal outside the principal's office during summer break.
"All summer long my students have been out in front, working on their BMX moves," Grishaber said. "And they said, 'You know what, you're the coolest principal we've ever had because everyone always chases us off, but you encourage us.'"
Just one day since the BMX video went live, Grishaber said the difference in tardiness was "already noticeable."
"One of the [student's] comments [online] was like, 'I'm not going to be late anymore!'" he said.
As much as Grishaber wants to preserve the school's 98 percent attendance rate and eliminate tardiness, he also says teaching students the importance of being on time has life-long implications.
"It's a life skill we have to give them. Just because school or work starts at a certain time doesn't mean that's when you clock in," Grishaber said. "Part of it is that I'm going to have to employ these kids later. If they never learn to be on time, they won't be able to hold down jobs, and that'll cost the taxpayers because they'll be living on unemployment."
Grishaber also likes to reminds his students that they have to compete with Chicago's prestigious selective-enrollment high schools.
"I tell them, 'There's scholarship money out there that you're giving away to Whitney Young and Lane Tech [students], and you're giving it away to them because they're in class right now, getting ahead.'"
On the success of the first video, Grishaber says he and Taft administrators will continue the theme -- "School starts at 7:30, not 7:45" -- with more videos that will feature student skateboarders, the school chorus and more.
"Maybe we'll get the math classes involved," Grishaber said. "The answer to all the problems on the board will be 7:30."