WEST RIDGE — Before Principal Jay Brandon leaves Stone Academy after this school year, he hopes to have a memento from his time at the West Ridge school: a tattoo.
And maybe a mohawk.
After 11 years as assistant principal and principal at Stone Academy, Brandon is leaving his job to spend time with family. But before he goes, Brandon hopes to finish a fundraising campaign to complete and fix up the schoolyard he helped start.
Brandon has come up with new fundraising goals to help the effort. If the school community raises $50,000, he will get a tattoo of an eagle, the Stone Academy mascot.
“We’ve been working forever, trying really hard to [get] what we used to call ‘Lake Stone’ fixed,” Brandon said of the schoolyard, which frequently floods. “I said, ‘I’m ready to do something that will get some attention.’ If it can bring us more notice, that’s great. Although my wife didn’t believe it at first.”
Stone Academy, 6239 N. Leavitt St., needs about $1 million to replace its play areas, add new pavers and turn a gravely pit into a baseball diamond.
To help reach that goal, Brandon has set out a few fundraising initiatives. Those include:
- $2,000: Brandon will take a pie in the face or sing a karaoke song for the school.
- $4,000: Brandon will get a bucket of slime poured over his head.
- $10,000: He will get his head shaved or get a mohawk.
- $50,000: He will get a Stone Eagle tattoo.
- $100,000: Brandon will do all the challenges.
The classroom that can raise the most funds will get prizes, including a possible pizza party and picking the karaoke song Brandon will sing.
To donate to Stone Academy’s fundraising campaign, click here. The fundraiser will go through June 13.
Brandon came up with the idea for the fundraising challenges while talking to colleagues and parents about how to get the project to the finish line.
Duct-taping principals is a popular fundraising challenge in schools, but Brandon said he wanted to do something more unique.
So Brandon suggested he get a tattoo of the school mascot if enough funds are raised.
Even members of the Friends of Stone Academy group could not believe Brandon’s suggestion.
“I wish I had a screenshot of the look on all of the [group] members’ faces, mine included, when he said that, because everyone’s jaws dropped,” said Emily Stone, president of Friends of Stone Academy. “There’s no question that Jay loves Stone and has devoted himself fully to the job during an extremely difficult time to be a school principal.”
The tattoo would be Brandon’s first. He has committed to getting a sizable — but tasteful — eagle tattoo.
“It won’t be my first mohawk,” he said. “I had one in college.”
The fundraising efforts have already seen some success.
This year, Stone unveiled a new soccer field and basketball court. The new play surfaces were funded by $70,000 in parent donations, plus money from CPS and the local tax increment financing fund.
But Brandon and parents are hoping to replace the rest of the schoolyard.
Brandon hopes the fundraising can get the attention of other organizations or funding mechanisms to help the school community reach its goal. Or it can continue to do the upgrades piecemeal.
After a 26-year career at CPS, including 11 years at Stone, Brandon is calling it quits, citing “all-out exhaustion.” He is among a growing exodus of educators leaving after a grueling two years for schools during the pandemic.
With only a few weeks left as principal, Brandon hopes to do one last good deed for the community.
“Stone’s a great school,” he said. “This neighborhood, [the] people don’t have a lot of outdoor space. [The school yard] is their background. The kids and neighbors deserve better.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: