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Sundae school in San Juan as principal becomes confection

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Five gallons of vanilla ice cream ... Hershey's chocolate syrup ... whipped cream and sprinkles ... and to top it off, some maraschino cherries.


Friday was sundae at San Juan Elementary School – but not the kind you might think. All those tasty treats weren't scooped out in little bowls for the kids to enjoy. Instead, the enjoyment was in seeing it all dumped on the school's brave and excited principal.

More than 600 students gathered to watch a few of their classmates make a living, breathing dessert of Principal Silvia Pule as a reward for the school earning an 813 Academic Performance Index on STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) tests this year – up 33 points from last year. The API surpassed the state goal of 800.

"Each year we try to come up with a plan and a program when we start talking about the STAR tests to motivate the students," Pule said. "We want to create an atmosphere that is fun and productive."

With the help of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Mission Viejo, which provided the ice cream and toppings, the entire school watched the principal get covered from head to toe in sweet goo.

"Technically, yes, it's wasting food, but if it helps kids be motivated to focus in school and do well and come to school every day to take a test we have no choice but to give them, then a couple of wasted scoops of ice cream is worth it," said Dawn Greene, a PTA vice president who helped organize the event.

The school had held three fundraisers at Farrell's over the years, so the school brought in three employees from the parlor to help pile on the principal.

"We like to take the idea of Farrell's outside to the school," said Nick Johnson, a Farrell's employee.

As the first scoops went on, the children went crazy with screams and laughter, student after student dumping ice cream and toppings on Pule, who wore a smile the entire time.

"If it motivates the students, if they have a little fun with it and it keeps them motivated to do their best, then it's worth it," Pule said. "It's fun for everyone."

The idea to turn Pule into a sundae was brought to the school's student council in April. The council loved the idea, and students on the five-member council were some of the kids who participated in the concoction.

"My favorite part was having Farrell's coming out and giving the kids a fun time," said council president A.J. Camacho, 11, a fifth-grader.

When the council learned students could cover the principal in ice cream, they became more motivated to do well on their tests, A.J. said.

"I was so excited, so I tried my best on the test," said third-grader Sebastian Fuentes, 8.

San Juan Elementary is recognized by the state as a Title I school, meaning it has a lot of students considered disadvantaged, many of whom have a Hispanic background and speak little English when they enter the school. But Pule said the school continues to increase its API scores year after year.

"Incentives always motivate students," said Jacqueline Porter, a fourth-grade teacher. "Incentives that are more fun motivate them more."

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