A shadowy figure edges stealthily up to the Payson High School office in the dead of night.
Armed with the tools of the trade, the intruder sets to work -- hoping to complete his mission unnoticed. Under cover of darkness, the only sound is that of a shovel turning soft dirt.
His work quickly completed, the interloper withdraws into the darkness.
The next morning, when new PHS principal Sue Myers arrives for work, she is startled to discover brilliant gold and purple flowers --he school's colors -- have joined the roses planted and maintained by her secretary, Grace Popelier, just outside the front door of the administration building.
"I said to Grace, ‘This is nice. You really added something,'" Myers said. Popelier said she didn't plant the flowers.
From a phantom flower planter to students swapping the new photo identification badges with their boyfriends and girlfriends, the first few weeks at Payson High School have been anything but dull for new principal Sue Myers.
The badges are intended to increase security on the PHS campus.
"It's been a steady, ‘Where's your name?'" Myers said. "Some said they hurt their necks. Then we had a little rash of people defacing them. But their Renaissance stamps for their rewards are going on there and that will make them more valuable."
It also helped to make lanyards optional. "Now they can put them on whatever they want as long as it's on the front and it's theirs," Myers said.
Overall, Myers has been impressed by both the students and teachers.
"It's pleasant to know that the school I've been preparing children to come to all these years is as good as I've been telling them it was," Myers said. "It's just such a delight to work with wonderful people who care about kids."
A recent appearance at a Kiwanis meeting is typical of the pleasant experiences Myers has enjoyed with PHS students.
"I took four football players, and they each stood up and told why high school was important and what they did in football," she said. "Then they sang the school song to the audience. The new football coach gets them out on the field at the end of each game and has them sing the school song. They are so proud and that's kind of spreading, like it will, to everybody."
Some of the initiatives and priorities under Myers' leadership include:
The phantom flower planter's efforts are in keeping with an overall program to make the PHS campus more attractive. A major role in that initiative is being played by teacher Richard Alvarez's building trades class, a group of juniors and seniors that has already taken the beginning woods classes.
"We're diverting water and cleaning and raking and we're going to landscape this little amphitheater area," Alvarez said. "It's sort of a landscaping design unit."
A trench that will run through the area will be lined with plastic, filled with rock and bermed so it looks like a stream when it rains.
"We've also built some brick park benches, and we're making another bench out of rocks," Alvarez said.
Other projects the class will work during the course of the school year include pouring sidewalks around campus, helping to mow and weed-eat the grounds, and completing the 8-by-16 foot storage units being added to the Wilson Dome.
Another new initiative under Myers is aimed at helping freshmen who are struggling in their first year at PHS.
"Ninth-graders come into the high school not having a clue what they're about to do, and in the past have had a really high failure rate," she said. "So at the end of the second reporting period, we pulled the grades and are going to meet with the parents and students who have Ds and Fs and provide them with a number of different programs to go to for support and assistance."
Peer counselors and student government leaders will be assigned to individual freshmen. "They'll tell them they need to stop what they're doing," Myers said. "They won't tutor, but they'll just look out for them, be a friendly face to help them turn around earlier."
The school board also recently approved a night program for students who need to make up freshman English. The first class will begin in January.
When a recent "What's Up" question in the Roundup asked why the U.S. flag no longer flew over the PHS auditorium, the community responded. "We found out someone borrowed it and it never came back," Myers said. "After it was in the paper, six people donated flags to us. One woman gave us the flag that was on her husband's casket. It's now hanging in the entrance to the auditorium because it's too big to use outside."
Myers, who was previously superintendent of the Pine-Strawberry district and principal at Frontier Elementary School, was lured out of retirement when Phil Gille retired as PHS principal at the end of the last school year.
"They offered me one year, but I'm having an awfully good time," she said.
How you can help
Payson High School can use donations of landscaping materials of all types, Myers said, and volunteers also are needed.
"We need volunteers to be teachers' aides and to supervise groups of kids," she said.
To volunteer or donate materials, call Myers at (928) 474-2233.