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DYER — Kahler Middle School Principal Ken Newton's out-of-the-box thinking led the school leader to spend his Thursday confined to some pretty tight quarters.

From around 8 a.m. to just before 4 p.m., Newton camped out in the school's cheerleading display case as an incentive to reward student fundraising efforts supporting the American Heart Association.

"It's not every day students can see their principal in a display case," Newton said. "It got the kids energized supporting a good cause."

After cross-district rival Clark Middle School challenged Kahler's student body to a fundraising showdown, Newton promised his students a surprise for outpacing their Lake Central School Corp. rivals in collected donations.

The 50-or-so students of the Kahler Student Council organized several days of bracelet sales at lunch and Assistant Principal Tim Doyle pitched in, offering to allow students to shave his head at the middle school's Sept. 25 pep rally ahead of the Kahler-Clark football game later that night.

Students purchased $1 raffle tickets leading up to the Sept. 25 school assembly and a student from each grade was selected to "take a swipe" at the assistant principal's hair.

But, the real highlight came this Thursday when Newton delivered his promise. In a close battle, the Kahler students outpaced Clark's fundraising efforts by just a couple hundred dollars. So, for an entire school day, the principal, seated in a Chicago Cubs lawn chair, camped out in the school's display case closest to the highly-trafficked Kahler cafeteria.

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Throughout the day, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes at the middle school checked in on their principal. Newton communicated with students from behind the display glass using a microphone and speaker system — reading books and posing for selfies throughout the day.

With the exception of a short bathroom break, Newton remained in the glass case for eight total hours — not even stopping for lunch. Though, some students did bring him snacks, the principal said.

"There was more room in there than you would think," Newton said. "Seeing kids full of smiles, that part was neat to see."

All told, Kahler's student council raised more than $1,100 for the American Heart Association, student council sponsor Amy Wydrinski said.

"We had such a great community effort," Wydrinski said. "Our kids were amazing. Everybody just jumped into it."

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.