Interview with John Brown


John Brown, former principal at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia, retired in 1981.

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Q: Mr. Brown, can you give me a little bit of information about your career in education. . .uh, when you started with the school system?

brown audio (Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)

A: Yes, I started in 1948.

Q: OK, and were you a teacher at that point?

A: Yes, a teacher and a coach in 1948. And, uh, [want to check that one (referring to tape recorder)].

Q: OK, and then from 1948, when did you become a principal? When did you move into the principalship?

A: Well, uh, in 1961 I became an assistant principal and was moved for the one year to Northside Junior High School and the next year I came back to Granby as an assistant principal.

Q: OK, when did you become a principal at Granby?

A: ln 1969 I became principal until 1981. The day, I mean year, I retired.

Q: We'll begin with the questioning. First, could you describe your school for me? This is Granby High School.

A: Yes, Granby High School was built in 1939. Uh, really by the PWA, the Public Works Administration, I believe is what it was called. You know that was, uh, uh, the. . .President Roosevelt is the one that put that one in. It was either PWA or if I remember correctly. . .

Q: I think that's right, if I remember. . .

A: . .Uh, well that was built in those years, in 1939 and I believe it was started and finished in 1941. Excuse me, the first class was in '39. And the first graduating class was in '41. Half of the students came from Maury High School. I believe at that particular time. And, uh, 1962 and '63 there were approximately 2700 students enrolled at Granby. As a matter of fact, we had 8 o'clock classes and uh, people, students, had to double up in their lockers.

Q: So you were overcrowded at that point?

A: Overcrowded, right, as I said, we had some 8 o'clock classes and some even in the afternoon. Uh, there were just about 105 teachers, custodians and library staff. And just about in those years, 80% of our students went to college. Most of the people, students, excuse me, were from the north, uh, end of the city. Uh, we had the Armed Forces Staff College and uh, as you know, we really did a good job as far as sending youngsters to school, to college.

Q: That's quite a percentage.

A: Yes, quite a percentage. I think it has decreased a little bit now.

Q: Did you have any idea when you retired from Granby High School how many of their, what percentage of their population was college bound?

A: I would just take a guess, I would think maybe around 20 to 30 percent.

Q: OK. . . alright. Next question. How did you decide to become a principal. What led you to that career?

A: Well, I, I, guess I was a little bit stingy. I still had the Gl Bill rights and took advantage of it. And, uh, got the education that I needed to become a principal. I went to the College of William and Mary and worked on my Masters there. And, uh, of course, I enjoyed working with youngsters and, uh, and would be able to interact with them later on as principal. You know? Also, I lived most of my life in this community around Granby High School. And I wanted to take an active role in community concerns and contribute to it's improvement.

Q: I'm sure it was an advantage for the students and their families that you knew them personally and they knew you.

A: Well, I think I knew just about every one of them.

Q: OK. What was your school's philosophy during, the your principalship and how was it developed? (Mr. Brown explained that the official school philosophy was packed in boxes in the attic.)

A: Well, you remember that every year we had a different philosophy and we had to get together with our team concept, I would put it. Every time we talked about the faculty and staff, I like to think about a team.

Q: Uh huh.

A: And, uh, each ten years, we were evaluated, of course, by the State Department and we would have to come up with a uh, school philosophy, at that particular time.

Q: Uh huh.

A: But the philosophy actually was a combination of teachers heads of departments, assistant principals and principals, all coming together and, uh, making one and one that made sense. Of course, I believe that students work together to succeed. And, uh, from this, let me just kinda give you what I thought.

Q: Sure.

A: The schools should include the community in this mission.

Q: Uh huh.

A: For example, in curriculum development, our school had a committee composed of members of the student body, community and faculty and parents. They met four times per year to review the current curriculum and determine future needs. This group was chaired by the principal and reported to the school superintendent once a year. Our school was adopted by the C & P Telephone Company and this, too, helped improve community relations. So, uh, getting right back to, to what we're talking about, we did everything possible to make sure the youngsters had a goal and we did as a team concept everything to help them along that way.

Q: Seems like there was a lot of participation, uh, from everyone into the organization, uh, operation of the school. . .everyone had a part in it.

A: Well, that's what I think, uh, makes the school run. I don't think the school principal itself is the, man who makes all the decisions and whether they are right or wrong, people have to go by them. I just think that this is, as I said before, a team concept, the whole. . .that's the way we ran it anyway.

Q: Ok. How did you create a climate for learning at your school and what leadership techniques did you use? And did you feel that the techniques that were employed while you were there were successful or maybe if there were some that were unsuccessful?

A: Well, as you know and I said before, sounds like President Reagan doesn't it?

Q: (Laugh)

A: Our school was fortunate to have a close knit staff. My assistant principals were autonomous in doing their jobs. The individual department heads would meet with the Assistant Principal of Instruction and keep the principal aware of the results of these meetings. I, too, worked with the assistant principal also especially in regards to scheduling the courses. See everyone participated in school matters. The teachers selected a representative to meet with the principal once a month and the assistant principals and myself to discuss concerns and they would receive answers to their questions in writing before the next monthly meeting. Too, I would schedule teacher observations on a regular basis to know what was going on in the classroom and to help the teachers if there was a problem. I would give feedback to the teachers within a week of my observation and always give positive comments along with constructive criticism if needed. This served to reinforce a two-way communication system within our school and to establish a team effort, as I have said before, climate within our school.

Q: Sounds like that would be a real effective way. That way the teacher knows that you are involved and concerned about what's going on in the classroom, as well, as, the administrative part of you joA:

A: Well, that's what we try to do anyway.

Q: Ok.

A: We didn't, we weren't 100 percent we were looking for ways to improve. Uh, and I went to a meeting one time and I remember the man, uh, that was in charge of the meeting, a college professor. He said that you know if you think that 100 percent of the people are going to be with you in everything you do, you may as well go on and forget about that. But, if you have 51 on your side, call it successful. So I think maybe I had 51 1/2.

Q: A majority

A: Right.

Q: That's wonderful. What role did you play in public/community relations?

A: Well, as I said, I had lived in the community, uh, just about all my life and therefore, I was, uh, pretty well known. I invited parents to come into the school and participate in our program. Our school also had open house once a year, sometimes twice a year. We started a parent-teacher association which was not in other high schools, oh uh, in the system at that particular time. But, I think later on most of the high schools followed suit and this was somewhat successful.

Q: Ok. What do you think teachers expect principals to be to them? What role do you think teachers see the principal taking?

A: I think teachers, uh, expect principals to be fair in their treatment and judgment of all teachers in their school. The principal should always have the best interest of the student and teacher at heart. I will always back my teacher, and always did, in a dispute, unless they have made poor judgments and inappropriate behavior occurs for a third time.

Q: Ok.

A: I hope that answered your question.

Q: I think you covered it real well.

A: That's good.

Q: How did you evaluate teachers? I know you've already mentioned that you would do classroom observations. I know the second part of my next question has to do with what techniques were used to make the teachers feel important. Uh, can you tell me a little bit about that, particularly with the classroom observation?

A: As I mentioned earlier, I observed in the classroom and then gave them feedback on my observations of their techniques. I always let the teacher know when I would be observing and make sure that the time was convenient with their schedule. I also compared notes with the assistant principal of instruction on the teacher's performance when conducting an evaluation. Teachers would establish goals and objectives for the school year and I would review those with the teachers in the middle and also at the end of the year. This self-evaluation made the teacher feel as though they were an important part of this process. Each year teachers would nominate one of their peers for Teacher of the Year for the school system. I think this was better than the principal having to select someone because this might create hard feelings among the staff.

Q: Ok, so pretty much the way you evaluated teachers was observation in the classroom. The teacher knew when you were coming so they could know, you wouldn't catch them off guard and they would feel more comfortable with your presence in the classroom.

A: Right and if the time was not uh, suitable to these folks they'd give me a chance to uh, I would give them a chance to reschedule according to when they wanted it.

Q: Was there a written assessment that had to be done on the teachers after your observation? Was there an annual written report that was necessary?

A: Right. Yes, their self-evaluation was gone over, you know, at the end of the year. And they made comments and if we didn't agree with those comments we would say simply that this was their observation of what they had done and this is ours, see. And sometimes we'd have to say, "Hey, you didn't do yourself right."

Q: Right.

A: Or other times we would say, "Hey, I don't know, but, we. . ." Or other times we would say "Hey, I don't know, but we are going to add this comment." And they would have to sign this.

Q: Is that right?

A: Yes, they would have to sign this.

Q: So they were totally aware of what the evaluation reflected?

A: We would, we would tell them exactly what we thought. And, uh, although they didn't like it, they had a chance to put in there, "I don't like this," but then we'd say well, this is our observation. And then we'd sign it and they would sign it. So that's the way that worked.

Q: Ok. What is your philosophy of education? And what is your philosophy of teaching? And a third part is this, what is your personal leadership philosophy?

A: Well, let me go one at a time here.

Q: Sure.

A: My personal philosophy, I think, is "fair, firm, friendly." Also, I think that a clean school promotes pride in it by both students and teachers. It also helps to control discipline because students respect their school environment. Teachers should make sure that the youngsters have the chance to pursue health, happiness and advancement in education to their fullest ability. Also, to be successful in what they want to do. We as principals and teachers must give students the tools to accomplish their goals and to help students to establish goals when indicated. While I was coach, I counseled with students in their studies in order (for them) to continue in sports. Of course, but I had a chance to see quite a few of these youngsters and really advise them on a one to one basis. Really, there was no pressure and you really, I thought, my best counseling was when I was coach, and I was a counselor.

Q: I'm sure you had to counsel though a lot of the time both coaching and as a principal.

A: Well, that's true. If you don't like the youngsters, don't even apply for the joA: I think the principal that stays in his office and behind locked doors is not as effective as one that, uh, who goes outside to see what's going on. And let the youngsters know that you really have their interest, uh, I think I made more appointments with youngsters just walking down the hall and betting them a milk shake that they would pass the course, you know.

Q: Uh huh.

A: And uh, than I drank milk shakes myself.

Q: Right, I'm sure they liked having, seeing the principal involved in their education, also and as. . .

A: Well. . .

Q: . . .You said, not sitting behind a closed door and not being accessible to them.

A: Of course, this is what it's all about. But, I think, maybe we'll discuss this later on, that the principal and all the duties he has, uh, has an awful lot of meetings he has to make, an awful lot of paperwork, and awful lot of visitation, but, uh. . .I just think that as much as he possibly can, I don't mean he can be out there all the time.

Q: Sure.

A: He should be out there at lunch time when people are running around and get a chance to see him.

Q: Ok. What does it take to be an effective principal? I know you've mentioned so many things already. Could you summarize those points?

A: Well, I think it's important that principals work closely with their staff, teachers, students and community. It is also important for the principal to be aware of programs in his school and discontinue those who have lost their usefulness. Equally important is that a principal be flexible in the day to day operation of the school.

Q: Ok. What particular pressures did you face as a principal and how did you handle them?

A: Well, there are pressures everyday. I've often said that I did have a chance to go overseas and, uh, be one of General Patton's tankards. I said this really prepared me for school work. The only difference between that and school work that I can remember is that they were shooting at me with live bullets and "88" was a pretty powerful weapon the Germans had, but we had some pretty powerful parents and teachers who would shoot at you verbally and could hit you just as bad.

Q: It could be just as painful, couldn't it?

A: Yes, just as painful. So how did I handle it well, you know, the pressures of the never ending paperwork and the endless number of meetings that I as principal was required to attend. It was very difficult to have time to do what was needed to do within the school building. In line with this was the pressure of schedule deadlines. (200) Pressures from parents, for example, explaining to parents why a student failed and the parent was not notified by a teacher prior to the failure. I found that parents were usually satisfied if they were given a straight answer or explanation for the action. If parents were not satisfied with my explanation, I had the option of bringing in administrative staff from central office to assist me.

Q: So if you couldn't satisfy a parent in terms of questions or problems they were having, you had the option of calling someone from downtown to. . .

A: Right, as a matter of fact, I've often said if a parent was dissatisfied and said, "Well, I'll go downtown and see the Superintendent." My answer would be, "Well, I'm going down that way myself and I'll be glad to give you a ride."

Q: (Laugh). So you always let them know that was an option.

A: An option, certainly they could. Unfortunately, a lot of this went over our head and right to the Superintendent. Then they would call from the Superintendent's office. . ."What happened here?" I knew exactly, "You're talking about Mrs. Smith." I'd head them off, you know, "Dr. Ray, have you heard from. . ."

Q: Yes.

A: "Dr. Ray, have you heard from the Jones lady?" "Well, no John, I haven't." "Well, here's the problem and you are going to get a phone call within the next few minutes."

Q: So you'd try to let him know?

A: Yes, let him know what's coming off. He didn't do this all the time but on one of those sticky ones. We had to do something about. . .you know, you had to protect yourself.

Q: Sure, sure and I'm sure that Dr. Ray would appreciate some forewarning of what was coming to him.

A: Sure, you had to let him know what the situation was. And, their answer would be, "Have you talked to the principal there?" "Well, I haven't talked to him, he doesn't want to talk to anybody." You know how that goes. Sure. So, uh, those thing happen.

Q: I think sometimes a parent thinks they can get a quicker answer by going to the top without having to go. . .in between.

A: Yeah, that's the way it is. That's the idea, go to the top man.

Q: Sure. If you had it to do again, Mr. Brown, what would you do, how would you better prepare yourself for the principalship?

A: Well, I think I'd try to attend more conferences and workshops prior to appointment of principal. I think, you know, now days there is so much emphasis on, uh, being prepared to uh. . .

Q: Sure.

A: . . .Meet the public, I think professional development is really what they're really talking about. You know years ago, any old guy playing football, why, if he did alright in the way of discipline, why, they, the first thing you know, they were making him principal. Why, I came in that category. Now days, why you know, it's a little bit different situation. You have to have a Master's Degree in Philosophy and Doctor's Degree in some of the. . .

Q: Would you say they lean more towards an administrative emphasis? Training in administrative?

A: Yes, I would think so, yes. I don't know that I would even be considered to be a principal with the standards they have today, you see.

Q: Right.

A: So, I was just one of the lucky guys.

Q: Ok, sounds like you did a real good joA:

A: Well, I don't know.

Q: With the experiences you had. So, do you think. . .

A: We hope we helped the kids, that's the only thing.

Q: . . .So do you feel like then maybe more exposure to the problems that you were going to be experiencing would have been more helpful to you in dealing with some of the situations you were faced with after you became a principal?

A: I, uh, I think that, that it would have been helpful, you know, if you had a chance to see some of the problems before, uh, you went into the situation and faced with it. But, it's all a learning process. . .so

Q: Sure. All situations aren't the same.

A: Oh, yeah, they are not the same. Uh, I think back that before that, in the time I went to school you didn't have courses that would let you go, I would say except your student teaching, that gave you some experience. But, before that, I don't believe, they had actual behavior problem solving things, you know, in relation to your education to be a teacher.

Q: Ok. . .thirteen (Mr. Brown was following the questions from the format).

A: Thirteen, ok.

Q: How did you handle teacher grievances. And did you ever have to fire a teacher? And if you did could you discuss a little bit the issues involved in that firing?

A: If I had a weak teacher I would put the assistant principal of instruction in the classroom to improve the teacher's performance. If this was not successful, a supervisor from what we call downtown, they frown on it, in administration building was brought in to work with the teacher. The idea was to help the teacher improve, not fire him or her. But, if it became necessary to terminate a teacher after help had failed to improve her performance to an acceptable level. Then, I would recommend that the teacher take early retirement or be relieved of their duties. Poor teachers are usually unable to maintain control of their classrooms and discipline problems erupt. I think that I had to recommend termination for three teachers during my term as principal. Teacher grievances usually centered around their feeling that they were inappropriately placed in the classroom and wanted to teach more advanced classes, in some respect.

Q: Ok. How would you say, after all of your years of experience in the public school system as an assistant principal, principal, teacher and coach, how would you say we can improve education and teachers in the system?

A: Well, I think that the program which was implemented by ODU which places future teachers in the school and classroom their first year in college is a good idea. It was at that particular time, I don't know if they still do it or not. But, this gives the coming teachers the opportunity to see what teaching would be like and help them to decide if they really wanted to be a teacher. They can learn, too, by meeting with department heads, assistant principals and principals during their internship. As a matter of fact, we let them go into the uh, the (300) room where teachers had a change to iron out all of their difficulties. You know, the lounge, that's where you really find out if you are doing a good job or not.

Q: Right.

A: So they would be able to go in the lounge and discuss some of the problems and some of them were probably good and some of them didn't help us much. But, uh, they had the feeling they could have lunch with us, they'd go to faculty meetings. We let them be a part of our school. And I do believe that the teachers are born with the ability and desire to teach. Improving teacher education and experiences will improve their instruction once they are placed in the classroom. And I think this was a real good idea and hope they are continuing to do this.

Q: I'm sure that more exposure to the classroom as far ahead as can take place is a real good idea. How did you handle the Civil Rights Issue? I know that you were a principal during that time. And the busing issue, also, there was a report, the NCEE Report.

A: Well, you see the first, the city buses were used, we didn't have the city buses, per se, that they have now. Although they eventually had them when I was principal. But, uh, they were used and teachers were given extra pay to monitor the loading and unloading of these buses at the school. And now they even have an emergency procedures that they use. . .

Q: Is that right?

A: . . .Yes, and attendance officers were used to monitor the parking lots and other campus areas, at that time. At one time, I believe we even had policemen that were in the building. That was at the beginning of this situation here. The students were assigned seats and given a bus pass later when the school took over the bus system. Of course, if a youngster misbehaved their pass was taken away from them. Bus drivers were trained to handle the problems that might arise on the bus. I personally did not believe that busing was necessary nor was it the best interest of the students, at one particular time. You know, the emphasis, the school was located where we had Black and White youngsters that could be assigned to that particular school. I think most of the schools would have been filled and we wouldn't have had to bus them all over town. Especially the little ones. . .

Q: Sure, sure,

A: The, uh, I know that some of them got up at day break, you know, be in the car with their mother. And we bussed all way across town--eight miles or better, and this didn't seem right to me.

Q: It made for a long school day for them.

A: Made for a long school day and I don't think it helped the Blacks or the Whites, either one on this particular thing. And, uh, but anyway. . .that was my opinion. I think we could have integrated the schools by having, by giving them a choice of the school they wanted to go to. And, then if they didn't have a choice, we would, then I would think give them, excuse me. If they couldn't get (350) in that school, then I think they ought to be given choices, uh, which one they would like to attend. The next year, why let them have first choice and somebody have the second but. . .

Q: So you feel that a lot of integration could have taken place just by allowing students or their families, parents, to decide where they wanted to go.

A: I would, I would think so.

Q: Similar to what they do now.

A: It probably wouldn't have worked but, uh, I just didn't like the idea of seeing little youngsters be bused everywhere. Although, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it and evidently it worked pretty well. My last year at Granby the black and white students got together and I didn't see any real problems. Maybe this was because youngsters further down the line were beginning to see each other and go to school with each other. . .

Q: Right.

A: . . .Then they came on back. After all these years why they were used to each other. But I think that it was really improving a lot more so. In 1972, it was awful!

Q: So you did see an improvement in the mixing of the students as they went along. . .

A: Oh yea, definitely, definitely. There is no question about it. But, I still didn't like to see those little kids get on the bus. Black, white, yellow or whatever. I think as you become older and in high school why, it really doesn't make too much difference where they go to school. I remember riding a bicycle about 6-7 miles just to go to Maury High.

Q: Is that right?

A: The only school we had. Everybody went to Maury and they got there the best way they could, this was during the Depression.

Q: That was before transportation?

A: Well, they had transportation if you were rich enough and you could afford it. . .you could go ahead. A lot of people were paper boys like myself and they had to ride bicycles.

Q: Uh, huh.

A: Now, I think one of the biggest things, to be real honest with you, that during this integration program I was so blessed to have one of the finest human beings in the United States to be my assistant principal. And he was a black assistant principal and he was the greatest guy I ever saw. He was able to relate better to the blacks in the beginning than I was. We would sit down and discuss our philosophy, especially when we first came together. And our beliefs on how to run the school. We had a difficult time, that is if he had a difficult time with a white student, I'd support him and he'd do the same thing for me if I had a difficult problem with a black student. And we greed on the philosophy of "fair, friendly and firm" and it worked well in our school, I thought. We also presented a picture of unity to the student body and staff. (400) When we went down the hall we'd say hello to each other and "How are you, Mr. Clark?" And "I'm fine, Mr. Brown, by golly, how's everything?" You know, that kind of atmosphere and I think the staff and students were helped when we became integrated. We helped them in this particular situation, yeah.

Q: They were able to see that you and the black assistant principal were able to get along well and they too, could. You were a good role model for them, I guess.

A: Well, we both were and I just think that was part of it. By golly, you know if you are going to fight your wife, then you are in trouble.

Q: That's right.

A: And, uh, it's best for people to see you walk hand in hand rather than with, uh, being chased around the block with a broom or something. You see. . .

Q: Right.

A: . . .But, I meant it. This guy was great. And you have to remember that the principal is only as better as the people around him.

Q: I'm sure they provided you with a lot of support.

A: Well, yes they did. I'm very, very pleased and thankful to this day that the Lord was mighty good to me by giving me such a beautiful bunch of people to work with.

Q: What procedure do you think now, looking back on it, what procedure should be used before a person is selected to become a principal?

A: Well, I think a person should have enough experience in the school system to prepare him for the sacrifices he will make as a principal. I think he should be selected for his ability to schedule not only his time for the students, and to attend functions out of the school. It is a 24 hour joA: . .sometimes you even get calls at home during the holidays. And the principal is the "hub" of the school. Again, he is the leader of team effort that I spoke about.

Q: How did you handle assistant principals? I know you've already mentioned one of your assistant principals. Could you just give us an idea about how you worked with them, your relationship with them?

A: Well, I worked hand in hand with my assistant principals but I always let them know that I was in charge, you know. And the buck stopped with me. I always tried to be fair, firm and friendly, as I've quoted and I will probably quote again.

Q: That's alright, that's a good motto.

A: When dealing with my staff, you know, they are important people and they are part of the team.

Q: Sure. As a principal, what would say was your biggest concern?

A: Well, when I look back and think about these things, my biggest concern was for the safety of the students while they were in route to school. Safety was a special concern during integration. And right now I imagine. My major problems in this area usually was caused by intruders outside of the building. And that's why schools now have a sign all over the buildings and doors. "Please check inside, in the office before going down the hall," you know.

Q: Right.

A: Also, we had the uh, I still imagine they have had the school attendance officer. He was there to assist the principal and the staff and the teachers who were on hall duty. To identify people with passes and they had the right to actually, I would say, to arrest especially on school grounds.

Q: Is that right? For trespassing?

A: Yes, if they were trespassing they could take them right down to the judge. And I would imagine they still have this backing. I would say. . .I hope so.

Q: Right, so they have a procedure to deal with that.

A: And the thing is, yet it took a special type of guy to do this because he had to get along with the students, too, you know. He had to establish rapport with these youngsters because these youngsters could give him a rough time, too.

Q: I imagine, I'm sure they had to respect him.

A: Right. They had to have respect for each other. So that was a good one was worth his weight.

Q: What would you say was your biggest headache while you were principal?

A: Well there was so much paper work that was repitious and there was not enough time to do other things. For example, instruction and athletics. Very, too many meetings which took me out of the building and away from my students and staff. The headache to summarize it was an awful lot of paper work and meetings, they are a headache for anybody.

Q: I'm sure. What do you think of the career ladders for teachers and about merit pay that they talk about now?

A: Well this is my opinion, of course.

Q: Sure.

A: Good teachers get self-satisfaction from doing a good joA: Promotion for good teachers will come when they do their job good and their performance will indicate that somebody is interested in them. I believe that merit pay could be dangerous because it would be difficult to evaluate teachers and single out only a few for this reward. I believe that seniority and teacher performance should determine the increase in pay. It would be difficult to single teachers out when 80% of them do a great job and only, you know, 10 or 20%, 20% would be a problem. I think my math is right.

Q: Ok. So you feel like that so many of our teachers are good teachers it would be real hard to single out so many. . .

A: Yes, you might have three excellent teachers in the Math Department, I mean you know real, it could be uh, supervisors of math and you might have the same thing in English. But, how are you going to determine if math weights more than English or language, you know. They are all good or they wouldn't be teaching.

Q: So you feel like it would just create hard feelings among the teachers and not really be beneficial for the schools.

A: Right. I would like to enter this, if I may. That during the time I was, not evaluating teachers per se, but observing teachers, that I thought that, I would say, more than 90% did one heck of a good joA: I was there and I could vouch for it. Now, I wouldn't have said that sooner. I think that certain programs that we've had on leadership and uh, teacher, uh, participation. . .

Q: Yes. . .

A: And, uh, the way they went about it, uh, some of these programs were lengthy and the teachers were tired but they went around about it, with it with enthusiasm. I'm talking about specifically maybe the Madeline Hunter Program we had. I know that thing, it was really designed more for elementary use, but we did see some benefit from it. I think they were able to use parts of this, not the whole thing, but parts to improve their own program. So with that in mind, all of these people were doing just a great job, so I think to single out just 1 or 2 in each department wouldn't be right.

Q: So you feel like teachers want to improve their skills and are willing to participate in programs that are offered to improve them and. . .

A: Well, I think, you know, that some people frown on the fact that you get teachers that are poor and you put them in a teacher's classroom that is better. Maybe that is a good philosophy, I don't know. But, I believe that when other teachers that are poor, seeing that, "Hey, I must get on the ball and get going or I might lose my joA: " Then they don't become the teacher that says, "Hey, I tell you what we are going to do today, same thing we've done all week long, we're going. . .you read this chapter and answer the questions on the back and I want you to answer all those questions before you leave today," and you know. They decide, "Hey, this is a better way of teaching than doing that," so the other teachers are doing a good job, then that helps the rest. Especially if they are notified that they are not doing too great.

Q: Right.

A: Ok, I think I went on a little bit with that, didn't I?

Q: No, that's quiet alright. Any information is important. What do you think of the Standards of Quality, etc. that are established by the State School Board?

A: I believe that the Standards have merit. Principals and schools should strive to meet these challenges and goals set by these Standards. Students and the community should be involved in meeting these goals, also.

Q: What would you say are the characteristics associated with effective schools?

A: I would think being prompt to the classroom and as I discussed with you earlier today about the scheduling situation. We had our youngsters scheduled and with no changes. They have a right to change their schedule up to three days before we run this schedule and they are in the classroom and you don't have them out there for 2 to 3 weeks trying to change schedules. The poor teachers, uh, teaching different people everyday for at least 2 weeks.

Q: Right.

A: That gets them in the classroom and I believe. . .we held a line on this. The youngsters can drop but they cannot add courses and they have the whole semester to change these courses. And when we, I uh, once we go to press, that's it. And within 2 days time our youngsters are getting in the classroom, or they were, and they are getting with it. I hate to say it, but I've gone to other schools where they are still standing in line, changing schedules half the night. The teachers are tired, the administrators are tired and, uh, there is a lot of evil feeling, you know. But this way. . .

Q: I'm sure it cut into instruction time, too.

A: . . .Right, and this way we give the teachers a break and the (600) youngsters know that they can't pull any wool and get these schedules changed and get the teachers they want. But we let them drop, uh, not all of them, but, we let them drop a course here or there, but, they couldn't add. Of course, with the phase situation was so short they could pick this course up again or during summer school. We frowned also on dropping courses, but we didn't drop them like flies, you know.

Q: How long was your phase system?

A: Phase system?

Q: How many days in s phase?

A: I believe it was 90 days, wasn't it? One hundred and eighty, 45, excuse me, 45. You see I've been out so long I have forgotten. Forty-five days, so 45 that was 90, that was half a semester, semester is 180. (Mr. Brown was referring to 180 days in a school year.) So, what we are talking about in a phase situation, if these youngsters are out running around for two weeks. . .summer school is about 45 days, isn't it?

Q: Yes.

A: So, if you are out two weeks in summer school you, you know, you can go home and go swimming. To continue that, you can't miss but one or two days in summer school so what is the difference? So if you are going to miss two weeks out of 45 days, golly Ann, that's a fourth of it right then, so you can't afford to let these kids be out running around. That was my philosophy, get them in there.

Q: Ok, the next question, Mr. Brown has to do with testing procedures, such as SRA's, SAT's that are administered to the students.

A: Well, I have no problem with standardized tests, I think they are good to determine student and teacher achievement.

Q: So, it helped to give you some idea about how the students are achieving and what the teachers are doing to contribute to that achievement, I guess.

A: I think as long as they were reliable, you know. There were two things, reliability and what else was the other one? I've forgotten.

Q: I can't recall, either. What was the toughest decision you had to make as a principal and why was it difficult?

A: Well, the toughest decision, you know, there are so many tough decisions that, that, you have to make. But, I think, of course, I wasn't principal at this time but it really had something to do with it, my being a principal. During my coaching years and teaching years, in 1957 the schools were closed for six months during this integration thing. We didn't know if the schools would be open again or not. Granby was closed down but I was able to continue to the coach football team, they let us do that. Although the students had to go to school all over to continue their education and their eligibility was still a part of the game. So some of them went to Newport News and others, churches opened up their rooms and teachers went over there on a voluntary basis and taught these youngsters.

Q: Is that right?

A: So, I had to make a decision whether I was going to stay in education or go into another profession. Then, as I say, I had been in this profession for about ten years, then. . .

Q: Yes. When you were. . .

A: . . .Uh, uh, let me, excuse me. So I had to, excuse me, really go back and decide what I wanted to do.

Q: When you were, when the schools were closed during that time and you continued coaching, did you receive a salary during those six months?

A: Yea, we were receiving a salary.

Q: You were?

A: Yea, we were still on salary. I didn't know how long we'd be on one. It enabled me to try my hand in insurance. You see, insurance people don't make anything for a long time. So I tried my hand in insurance and, but when the schools opened, I went right on back in there. I went right on back in there. Now another difficult decision I had, and it was a hard decision. Usually when a youngster is getting ready to graduate and he had insufficient credits. And this was usually done by an oversight by a guidance counselor that wasn't realized. This insufficient number of credits, maybe just 1/8th of one. . .


Q: Yes.

A: . . .Kids couldn't graduate and, you know, all of a sudden when graduation comes, why people get people. . .grandparents come in, aunts and uncles from all over everywhere. And it's really very difficult dealing with parents, uh, and the youngsters because they figure they really earned the right to graduate and they just couldn't do it. So this is most unfortunate. And, uh. . .the student had to be removed from the graduation list and attend summer school usually in order to get him diploma. And this was tough.

Q: I'm sure it was, I'm sure it was a very difficult thing to face a parent with. Were you a manager of a building or an instructional leader?

A: Well, you, know, the principal is the instructional leader of the school. You are also the plant manager, too. So I guess I was both.

Q: What would you say, Mr. Brown, was your key to success as a principal?

A: Well, I don't know if I was successful or not. I guess we'd have to ask the Superintendent and now he's retired, so that helps me out. He's the only one. . .and I'm gone, so I guess history. . .the youngsters could tell you that, I imagine. Well, when I was in the position of principal, I thought maybe as long as I was in there, I must have been doing some sort of a joA: I was hoping a good joA:

Q: You had a long tenure as a principal.

A: Well, they usually develop heart attacks after about ten years and end up in the hospital. So I decided to get out while I could still walk. So I think that my stamina, I have a sense of humor and I had flexibility. I think if I had any success at all I think it was because I liked the kids. I liked the youngsters and I liked some of the other people also.

Q: What was your code of ethics as a principal?

A: Being fair. I displayed the school code of ethics for others to see. My personal code is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." So that's my code.

Q: What are your feelings about the responsibility of the principal for identifying and developing future school administrators? How did you go about doing this?

A: Well, at one time, prospective principals would be sent to the Deputy Superintendent either on a list or in person. After these people were identified, these employees or teachers were sent to leadership schools to develop skills to become a principal. Now, I personally helped two department heads to advance by giving them special assignments in school to encourage them. They worked extra hours after school to help in scheduling and running errands to give them a little time in the office and see what was going on. Both of these people became principals.

Q: Is that right?

A: Yes.

Q: Describe for us, if you could Mr. Brown, your typical day in terms of how you spent your time. And how did you spend most of the time while you were principal?

A: Unfortunately, I spent too much time on paper work and attending meetings outside of the building. Of course, I also spent time in classroom observation, in the office doing paper work, my primary role was as instructional leader. Splitting time between all school activities was most difficult. I always felt that I should have spent twice as much time in the classroom as I did. And the only way I could get in there most of the time was to schedule with my secretary and I was. . ."Don't schedule me for Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, Thursday afternoon" or whatever it was. And that's the only way you can get in the classroom. Because if you think you are going to go in on a Tuesday morning, all of a sudden, here we go. There's a little problem somewhere and it ties you up. You can't do it and it's that way everyday. You have to schedule your visitation or you don't get in there.

Q: So for you, then, scheduling your time was important in getting everything done that you wanted to do. You couldn't just. . .

A: Well, that's great. Now, sometimes I would schedule an observation and we were charged to do this, you see, by your forces downtown in secondary education. We had to make a report of how many observations we made. So I would set a schedule many times and all of a sudden, to observe, and all of a sudden I'd get a call "You are wanted downtown for a quick meeting." So that kills you, you see, as far as your observation program is concerned. So you'd just have to set up more time than you think you'll have to use. . .to get your quota in.

Q: Were you able during the school year to observe just about all of the teachers in the school? Were you able to schedule time for most of them?

A: Between the assistant principal for instruction and myself we tried to see teachers at least twice a year. And you are talking about 105 teachers so that kept us pretty busy. And sometimes we'd observe more, especially if the teacher needed extra help, you see.

Q: Alright the next question has again to do with how you account for your success as an administrator. I know you have mentioned a few things, uh. . .

A: Well, as I've said, I don't know if I was successful or not. But, as I mentioned earlier, I think that if I was successful, it was because of my stamina, sense of humor and flexibility. And the fact that I treated my students and staff with fairness, firmness and friendliness which contributed to my successful career as an educator. I think they are the tools you need.

Q: What caused you to choose retirement when you did? I know you retired in 1981 so you've had about five years of retirement. Why did you decide to retire then?

A: Well, I think between the military and getting ready for school here and being a coach, I was kind of old enough, did my debt to society more or less and I was old enough to get social security. And I said before, I was still walking and had no real serious heart attack at that particular time. Also, I think it's time if a coach feels he doesn't want to go on the field anymore he ought to give up coaching. I was in a situation where I think a younger group of people should have the opportunity to get on in there. I was getting old, tired and social security, you see, I didn't want to loose that. There was some talk about if you didn't take it when you were 62 years old you might not get it. So, I thought I'd better go ahead (100) and do that. And I was approaching the phase of burnout. And I wanted to enjoy other activities such as fishing and golf. And I went to a meeting one time in Atlanta and they were talking about these old principals retiring and how they were going to be affected by it, you know. Some of them still thought the school couldn't get along without them, you see.

Q: Is that right?

A: One guy, one old principal said "Come on in, the water's fine!" So, I came on in, well, and I declare, the water is so good.

Q: So you have enjoyed your retirement?

A: Oh yes, absolutely, I wish more people would do the same thing.

Q: Last question, Mr. Brown, what have I not asked you that I might should have asked you? Maybe some additional information you want to share with us.

A: Yes, you should have asked me how I found the time to do all that I did.

Q: Sounds like you were real busy, that's for sure.

A: It was very difficult to find the time to satisfy administrative demands of the job and also find the time to see the students and visit the classroom. I'm just kidding, but I am sure you did ask me that about four or five times. So other than that, I hope that. . .Did you say this is the last question?

Q: It sure is.

A: Well, it was mighty nice of you to ask me to try to remember all of these things that I did. I know that some of them I've forgotten.

Q: I think you've done a real good job of recalling everything. Sounds like you were an excellent principal for a long time.

A: I want to say one thing. . .if you are planning to get into the teaching profession or to go on up and be a principal, you have to dedicate yourself and to love the youngsters and if you don't love being around children, teaching or anything else. Forget it, go on and do something else because it's miserable. I seen teachers and members of the staff that everyday they dread going to work. And if you dread going to work, don't do it.

Q: You are not going to be very productive are you? If you dread your job everyday. . .

A: If you are dreading your job, go on and plant peanuts or do something else.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Brown for you time. I really do appreciate your contribution

A: I hope it's not too long. . .

Q: Not at all.

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