The following interview was conducted on Tuesday, January 21, 1987, at the home of Unity Bailey, retired principal of Booker T. Washington Intermediate School in Suffolk, Virginia.
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Q: You started out in Suffolk?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: As an administrator?
Q: Education career.
A: All right, I was a math teacher at South Norfolk High School. . .then at Hampton High School and then at Suffolk High School for about 15 years. . .the last 2 as guidance counselor and math teacher. . .and had wanted to be a math supervisor. . .but, Old Dominion did not have the master's in the teaching of math at that time so I completed my master's in guidance and counseling. And, the last two years of my teaching, I wore the two hats of guidance counselor and math teacher.
Q: So you were part-time?
A: Well, it was a full day but. . .
Q: Part-time each. . .
A: Then. . .the opening. . .was there for assistant principal for instruction so. . .the principal encouraged me to get endorsed in administration. So I had to go back and take courses to be endorsed as an administrator and was an assistant principal to him for 2 years.
Q: Who was that?
A: Bill Peachey.
A: And then was principal there at Suffolk High for 7 years.
Q: ou stared out at Suffolk High?
A: Yes, my teaching, guidance counseling, and the assistant principal and the principalship were all at Suffolk High.
Q: How many years in education total?
Q: So you retired right when you were eligible?
Q: Good for you!
A: Just happened that way.
Q: That's great. Ok, you said that you were going to describe both schools.
Q: Start out with Suffolk High.
A: All right, it was, when I first went there as a teacher, it was, I would say, urban. . .segregated. . .academic. . .with a population of about 400-500. . .and it housed grades 8-12 for several years. At that time there were no buses running to Suffolk High School because Suffolk was the 2 square mile city and Suffolk High was the white high school.
Q: So this is before Nansemond County and the city of Suffolk. . .
A: It was before integration, before merger. Then with integration, Suffolk became the high school, with Booker T. . . .which was formerly the all black high school, being named the junior high school. And there was no problem with integration in Suffolk because at that time Mr. Savage was Superintendent and they named each school by grades. . .and so there was no choice.
Q: Everyone went. . .
A: You went to the one school for K and first grade. . .and to another school for 2 and 3. . .to Booker T for 6, 7, 8. . .and then with merger, Booker T. became the intermediate school still with grades 6, 7, and 8. At the time I was there the enrollment was probably 600 with a staff of about 41. . .total staff of about 72. . .including the cafeteria, custodial staff, and bus drivers.
Q: That's interesting.
A: I would consider Booker T. the inner city intermediate school but with students bussed from the rural area.
Q: Ok. All right, you were at Suffolk High. . .starting out as a vice principal, teacher, vice principal, and then you were promoted to principal at Suffolk High.
A: And that's hard in a school which you've taught in and been a guidance counselor in, but I enjoyed it for seven years. My mother was living with me at that time every third month. . .and she was 88. . .so with the many duties that you have. . .basketball games, football games, band boosters. . .all the other things, always having to have extra help at night time to help care for her. . .so Mr. Frazier said, "What about the intermediate school? You don't have all those activities," and with three more years to go, I thought that would be a good move.
Q: That's a good idea. You made the move. . .from Suffolk High to Booker T. as principal. . .
A: And the principal at Booker T. came to Suffolk High.
Q: Billy Hill?
A: Billy Hill.
Q: What made you decide to move into the principalship from the assistant principalship? What made you want to do that?
A: Well. . .I was encouraged to do it. It was offered to me and I guess the most encouragement came from my husband. . .and the former principal. I said to Bill Peachey so many times, "I blame you. . .good or bad. . .I blame you," but I think a lot of times things happen, maybe not as your goals have been set, but because you are encouraged to do something. . .someone things you can do it. . .and that was sort of the idea. . .that if I had been thought to be capable of doing it, I should give it a try. But, I never planned to stay in it even 10 years. I said I'll try 3-5 years, but then I like teaching math.
Q: So you had really planned to go back?
A: Well, that was sort of in the back of my mind.
Q: To do something in the area of math?
A: In fact, even now I've talked with a division chairman yesterday about teaching, going back to teaching part time. . .math at the community college. I did that while I was principal, too.
Q: How'd you find the time?
A: Well, you find it if you have to meet tuition costs of two children in college and that kind of thing.
Q: I can appreciate that.
A: But, I can see I was in administration and I still enjoy teaching math.
Q: That's great. You were most recently at Booker T.
Q: The philosophy of Booker T. What would you encapsulate that to be?
A: Well. . .I think that it probably is. . .could be summed up in that the school, the home and community should be working together to try to provide the adequate programs for all the students that are there. . .to meet whatever needs. . .have in becoming contributing members of society.
Q: Would that go the same for the high school?
A: I think so. I think that's idealistic. . .probably the philosophy of most schools.
Q: Of our system?
Q: How was that developed?
A: Well. . .in any school that I have moved into has had a philosophy and I think you look at it, you assess the needs of your students and you try to see what is it that they need and then how shall we approach this? Generally its a group thing, it involves not only the staff of a school but community people as well as patrons.
Q: Is this reviewed on a regular basis? Did you do this on a fairly regular plan?
A: Yes, and when you are going through accreditation and that kind of thing, then not only is it necessary, it's mandatory.
Q: Probably during the time you were at Booker T., even more than when you were at Suffolk (High), a lot of literature, a lot of research on setting climates for learning. . .How did you establish a climate for learning in your schools and encourage people to follow through on that? Or what would the climate have been? How would you have characterized your school?
A: Well. . .I'll just tell you what Dr. Loughlin said when he visited Booker T. and just walked through it. He said, "I like the atmosphere that I feel here." I think that you have to have a team effort from the custodians to the cafeteria manager. . .the nurse, the secretaries, the staff, the students. . .that there's a certain thing that we are about here and we have to all be working toward that. . .with the custodian to see that the plant is as it should be, that the rooms have the cleanliness, the order, the necessary equipment. . .and the cafeteria that the lunches are as pleasing as much as they can be and that the nurse is in place and can soothe that child, that the teachers have the equipment that they need. . .and not just books and workbooks and that kind of thing but that a principal is trying to help provide resources in the way of field trips and resource people and materials that are available in the community. . .just as if there is somebody there to help that teacher along. All these things, I think, when you work together, help to set that instructional climate. I think that you have to sort of try to perceive "what does a teacher need," and are there obstacles to that teacher getting across what it is she wants to do in her classroom and if there are, then it's up to the principal to try to remove these obstacles. . .to give these teachers as much independence as possible, not for them to feel that you're always checking on them. . .there has to be an atmosphere of trust, and not to try to control them but to encourage them to take initiative. . .and to have time to create and. . . in all of this to be honest with them to be straight forward, but to try to be tactful.
Q: There is a lot that has been written about management vs. leadership. Leadership being that the climate you create is carried on when you're not there. . .when you're not in the building. . .perhaps even after you have left. . .(retired). . .maybe they're still doing the same things at Booker T. that you encouraged or set in place when you were there. Of the techniques that you used, which were most successful?
A: Well as I said earlier, I think it's necessary that you try to have others involved in what it is that you're trying to do. . .because if it's the principal's plan, then it's not going to work. That's where I think the team approach. . .with the teachers participating in what's going on. . .sharing, having a chance to evaluate. . .to assess. . .was it good or bad and what can we do another year. . .such things as not just the instruction but things like awards assemblies, field days, having a lead teacher in an area, we didn't have department chairmen at the intermediate school. . .in the phys ed area. . .to have a lead teacher there and to alternate it so that each one of them would have a turn as the years pass. I think these are things that made me feel important, and they had a part in what was going on and I believe these were successful things. I think the most unsuccessful times were when things were not planned properly or when you did things in a hurry. Didn't read the climate, didn't get input from others. . .I realize that in an emergency and critical situations you have to make a decision. . .the principal has to do it, you can't run around asking, "must I do this or that," but, there are a lot of other times that it's just imperative that you let others help with some of the decision making. I didn't say there that students are a big part of this. I think they have to know what's expected and they have to know what you will accept from them in terms of their cooperation, their preparation for class, their behavior. And in keeping with this we would have the teachers to draw up their code of conduct in their classroom and to have it posted and to share it with the students. . .what is expected of you in here and then also, the teachers were requested to. . .in writing. . .state their grading procedure, their rationale, and to give the principal a copy of it. A lot of times you could answer a question from a parent who might call just by having that in the office. If a parent called and said, "I don't understand this project," or this whatever. . .but if a child knows what is expected of me, and this comes in with that high expectations that effective schools have, that if. . .I know what I'm going to be graded on. . .I know what's expected of me then they are going to try to meet those demands, I believe.
Q: Did you have a similar code for the entire school or was this simply on an individual classroom basis?
A: Each classroom had their own code but they were generally about the same. The first year I was at Booker T. they had a demerit system and they had the demerit system the whole time I was at the high school. Because this was not consistent, throughout the system, they put in a different code of conduct the last year.
A: They worked together on it through the central office and it was implemented the last year that I was there. They gave you certain offenses and what you should do on the first offense and what you should do on the second, and maximum and minimum penalties. I had been used to the demerit system. I could have gotten used to that new system, but it would have taken more time than the one year that I had. It wasn't as easy for me, because I was used to the other.
Q: Did it tie your hands? Did you feel as a principal, to look at each individual case, or did you feel like. . .
A: I think that's necessary. I think you have to look at each individual case and that's what I think sometimes students and teachers and parents don't understand. . .that you have to sit down with that child and you know a lot of factors that enter into the situation and all those factors will not be known to the outside and then you have to deal with it as you feel it best helps that student.
Q: So if the system imposed a penalty for 5 tardies, that really would tend to tie your hands as a principal in dealing with that problem.
A: Well I don't think they imposed that. I think they gave you a minimum and maximum. I think they told you, you have a conference, parent involvement, then you built on up to the other things that you would do. So I don't think it was that rigid, but it was just that I had been used to what we had been doing for this or that. . .even though with the demerit system you still looked at each situation. . .you gave them another chance. . .you didn't always carry it through to the letter.
Q: Suffolk High School when you started out was a 2 mile square attendance zone. You've lived in Suffolk for quite a long time. . .
A: 33 years, I guess it is.
Q: ou were involved in teaching some courses at the community college. What other kinds of community involvement have you assumed because of your role as a building principal?
A: For a number of years I was on the Suffolk Substance Abuse Committee that works out of Western Tidewater. That was one of the things that I did. I was used as a resource person in a class at Old Dominion for a number of semester. . .mainly when I was at the high school but principal and the activities program in a high school. The school position had nothing to do with my activities in my church, but I was involved with the youth group there for a number of years and still have some leadership in terms of the education area and family ministries and that kind of thing which all tie in with what you do in schools, I think.
Q: Do you feel that your role in the public education system has required you to be more involved in community activities or has it been an avenue for you to become more involved?
A: I think both of those things are true. I think there was some requirement in terms of high school activities. I tried to be present at just about everything that happened. . .and that was what caused such a tight schedule. . .but then there are other things that you just want to do. . .like even now with the Suffolk Youth Athletic League. They have such an active program. . .and you want to be there, you want to see, not just because I have grandchildren, that's the main attraction, but you like to see what's going on in a community that's positive in terms of development of these young folks. The only way you can know those things is to try to be involved and active.
Q: As principals we have expectations for teachers. What are some of the expectations that you think teachers have of principals?
A: Well, I think the teachers expect you to be. . .listener, a good listener. . .to support them, to get them out of any problem they get into. . .to discipline their students and to do it right away. . .and do it as they feel it ought to be done. . .but I think they expect you to be their friend. . .not a dictator, not so. . .authoritative. . .to be firm, to let them know what is expected, to have good communication. . .which is not always possible. . .because they're listening from a different viewpoint from the principal.
Q: We all have a standard evaluation system which is prescribed to us through the district. But when you're evaluating teachers, what did you really look for?
A: Well I did follow that evaluation that was used by the Suffolk system with the formative and summative and so forth but, probably one of the best things that I did, and I didn't do it for many years because it took so much time and other things infringed on it, was to have all teachers do a self-evaluation in the fall and then from that self-evaluation to choose an area that they would like to strengthen and then to come up with the strategies and their plan for improvement in this area. And then to try to meet with them 3 times in November. . .after they had established their objective and what they were doing to do and then again in January and then finally in March. And I did that for one year, that was my performance objective. It did, it did work me hard, but I felt like it was good. I think it could probably be amended a little. . .but I think teachers benefited from it and I know I did. But I think it's not just that kind of thing with the objective and with the classroom visitation and observing the teacher, but I think you have to be knowledgeable about how they evaluate. . .so that involves the grading system. . .
Q: How they even evaluate themselves. . .
A: Well, surely. I think you have to be aware of the teacher's involvement in the total program. . .are they just in their own little area even though the whole school needs our support and just about everything. . .in helping others to grow and in making their contributions to the total school program. I think the instrument that we used when we evaluate took care of all these things in terms of being supportive and cooperative in terms of the professional area. So I think those are some of the things. . .I think it's not just a process and an instrument I think there are a lot of other things that have to go into but you have to be able to document it.
Q: Right. . .that is important. Earlier you made the statement that it is important to be. . .not really a friend to the teacher, but you need to be concerned. How did you go about making the teacher feel like they were important in the day-to-day operation of your building and to you personally?
A: Well I think probably I didn't praise enough. But I think you do need to let teachers know that. . .I did a lot of note writing. . .I did a lot of probably more note writing than face to face. . .and I know that's not the best way. . .I know it should be more face to face but if they were in the classroom and I was in the office and I thought of something they had done and something I needed to share with them then, I would just jot off a note. We did try to do that when they had performed any service out of their usual service. . .we certainly tried to recognize that. But letting them have responsibilities. . .I think is a way of saying to them, "You are capable and we want you to do this," and many times then that just builds them up, it makes them want to do more, it gives them a feeling of importance, so things like having a department present the work or the organization or something that is going on in their area. . .each year at Booker T we had the special ed teachers to explain the different areas. . .because we did have four special ed teachers. . .and its difficult for the classroom teachers to keep up with all that goes on in special ed. It's difficult to keep up in their own area. . .and so, that was very helpful and these teachers were so creative in the way they presented the information to the staff. . .in that we felt (that) made them feel good about their area and what they were doing and then being able to share it with the rest of the staff. We did this in physical education, we tried to do it in all the areas. We'd do something like in the science area, having the science teachers just bring all the materials that are available in science and you would find other teachers borrowing, you know, whatever was displayed if it fitted in with whatever they were doing. That kind of thing, I think sharing. . .putting some importance on what an area is doing and saying, "Look, this is what we're doing and we want you to know about it. This way you'll know your school better and understand these students that are involved." So that's one of the things we did. We also at Booker T. . .we did have a bulletin board that highlighted teachers. It was difficult with a staff as large as ours to give a single teacher the whole bulletin board so we'd have groups of teachers and this was one of the things that the assistant principal helped with. . .that was his project to have the information gathered and then put it in a pleasing form on the bulletin board. . .I think that was appreciated by the teachers.
Q: How large was that staff?
A: We had about 42 I believe.
Q: Plus your support people.
A: Yes. . .so shared leadership, I think is one of the things that makes them feel important, the bulletin boards. . .the notes. . .even something like the assistant principal suggested. . .that we have regular morning bus duty teachers. It was amazing to me that there were enough teachers that volunteered to do this. They had an added responsibility being their earlier. . .of seeing that the school day got started right and then they were allowed to leave 30 minutes earlier in the afternoon if they came 30 minutes earlier in the morning. And so I saw pride even in that kind of thing. . .even though it was one of those drudgery type duties. . .it did not seem to cause any great problems for the group that volunteered. . .they sought to become a little band of subadministrators, if you will.
Q: Probably good for the children to see the same face every morning when they got off the bus.
A: And then you had other teachers that said, "If this teacher can't come, call me, I'll be glad to substitute," but then all the rest of the staff did not have the headache of bus duty in the morning, they still had their rotating bus duty in the afternoon, that was good.
Q: Good! Personal philosophies. . .education, teaching, leadership. . .
A: Well, my philosophy of education is that it is not the school's responsibility to do it all by themselves. . .I feel like so many jobs have been given to the school. . .but I feel like if we could have more help from the home and the community. . .in feeling a responsibility to assist these students in becoming contributing members of society. . .and I feel like the business of Adopt-A-School is an indication. . .a move in that direction. . .like Virginia Power which adopted Booker T. (Washington) Intermediate School two years ago is feeling a responsibility to share their expertise and that's great. . .
Q: What are they doing?
A: Well, one of the main things they were doing on the first two years I was there. . .(turn tape over). . .They adopted Booker T. two years ago and they provided resource people. . .so the first year we were just getting it started and we asked the teachers. . .we had the group come from Virginia Power and meet the staff and present what they felt they could do for our school at a general faculty meeting. And then we had the staff to sign up, "What area would you like some help in?". . .especially the math teachers. . .in meter reading and figuring the bills and that kind of thing. . .and in the science in terms of the types of energy. . .just many of the areas asked for resource people to come and that was great. They could answer questions that would take teachers hours to research. . .but these men, being in that field were a great help. You have materials through an office in Richmond and Virginia Power can give you catalogs of the materials and the units that are planned for the teachers as well as individual materials that come in class packets if you are in a particular topic. . .things to do in your home to save energy. . .things of that kind. And I feel that's a community group taking some of the responsibility. . .helping to make this student knowledgeable about what's going on. . .about a job area. . .it's also career oriented. . .and I feel like, in my philosophy of education that we need more involvement of the community. . .of the home. . .this is where it's sadly lacking. . .that we just do not have the involvement of the home in terms of what's going on in the school. . .we need all three. . .the community. . .the home. . .and the school working together to try to help these youngsters cope with day to day living but also to grow. . .to contribute to society. . .as much as society has given to them at least. . .
Q: Give back a little. . .
A: . . .as far as my philosophy of teaching. . .I'm not sure what that Chinese proverb says, it's something about. . ."Tell me, I forget, show me and I remember, but involve me, I'll understand." And I feel like we have to relate what we're trying to get across to the students to something that the student can picture in his everyday life or something he's known about. . .there has to be more of a relationship rather than just textbooks, reading/answer questions and that kind of thing. So, I would say that we need to try to involve as many of the senses as possible because too many times maybe we think that if we tell them this. . .that that's our responsibility and then it stops there. . .but, we know what they learn in different ways and that some of them don't learn by just being told. . .I for one, have to have a pencil and paper when I'm doing math. I can't just talk to you about math. I have to draw it and figure and do that kind of thing. I'm a little bit more visual plus auditory, I guess, and maybe some tactile. . .but I think you have to try to plan your activities so that you are hitting at all the ways these students learn and not just one way and so. . .my philosophy would be not just to tell, and not just to show, but to involve. . .and to try to relate what it is you're trying to teach to something that student knows about, something in his everyday life.
Q: Back to the effectiveness movement, we all have read and been presented at many workshops with what it takes to be effective. In reality, in your experience, what is an effective principal?
A: Well, he had better be the instructional leader. . .and I think the materials say that. . .
Q: They certainly do. . .
A: But a principal also needs to be a person who can work with people. . .get people to work. By some kind of psychology or. . .they have to be a good time manager. . .a good communicator. . .they have to have boundless energy. . .tough skins. . .and they can't have rabbit ears.
Q: What do you mean by rabbit ears?
A: That they hear everything that's said. That was one of Mr. Frazier's expressions. . .that you can't have rabbit ears. You mustn't hear everything that's said.
Q: Or at least let on that you've heard. . .
A: That's right! Now, I'm not sure those are exactly the things that were listed. . .but I do think that the instructional leadership is very important.
Q: I agree with you.
A: And, being good in human relations and communications. . .absolutely necessary.
Q: As principal, I think some of the things we previously said, lead into the next question about pressures. . .we all experience pressures. What were some of the . . .biggest pressures. . .or the ones you spent the most time, addressing?
A: Paperwork. But, I think all that has to do with time and how you use it. . .and I never got to the place that I could follow that good advice that I learned in some workshop that said, "Don't handle a piece of paper but one time." I mean, I think it's great if someone can do that but, I never had all the time I needed when I looked at it the first time to do whatever I needed to with it. . .that was my problem and so it went in a pile. . .and then you had to go through that pile every so often to be sure that everything that was important was on top and that you got it done.
Q: Or that you haven't missed a deadline. . .
A: That's right! Time management, I think, probably would be one of those things that's tied in with the paperwork that has to be done this day and time. So as a result, you end up working long hours, or I did, carrying work home, and I think, that was probably a self-imposed pressure, because I had to feel good about how my desk looked before I went home in the afternoon in order to be able to face the job the next day. . .and if I didn't get it done before I left school, then I took it home with me and I worked on it there. . .like checking plan books, and checking registers. . .checking whatever. . .and some of that comes in in terms of maybe your delegation, but still, when it comes back to the principal, that register is supposed to be accurate. . .even though a secretary was checking there was a certain amount of responsibility, I felt, to give it another look. . .and even then, sometimes, it had mistakes. . .
Q: our name is on the bottom line. . .
A: That's right. One pressure that you might be surprised at, maybe you wouldn't be, being a female, but the pressure of, as a female, filling the job as a secondary school principal, which had usually been held by a male. . .and as for how I handled it, I guess I made extra effort, with determination and fortitude, to be sure that the job would be done the best that I could, so that no one could ever say, and I'm sure they did anyway, that if a man had been there the job would have been done better. I think the image there has a lot to do with outside expectations of what's going on, the male image. . .but, I think, I tried to be extra careful to do the best job that I could.
Q: Did you ever feel that you had a situation in which, whenever, one of your male staff members tried to slide through with something, because they felt they could get away with it, due to the fact that you were a female. . .especially at the high school?
A: Probably. But, I believe in most of those cases, sooner or later, we had a confrontation.
Q: If you were right now preparing to be a principal, what are some of the things you would do that you feel that you didn't do the first time through?
A: Well, Paula, not having set my goal as being a principal, I think I would do several things differently, one would be that instead of just getting endorsed in administration, maybe to concentrate more, because you see, to be endorsed, I had to take a few more courses along with what I had gotten in the graduate program in guidance and counseling. . .I had to take administration, and supervision, and the instructional assessment and staff development, and media and something like that. . .I feel like. . .I was under pressure then to get these courses so that I would be endorsed, "because you're already in the position". . .you see?. . .I didn't have the internship. . .I was already there. . .I was interning on the job. . .I had had an internship in guidance and counseling. . .but not in administration because my degree was not in administration. . .it was endorsement in administration. And, I would concentrate more on graduate studies in administration and supervision and instruction. . .and the best course I think that I ever had, in administration, was a simulated activity at the University of Virginia under Dr. Flora. . .and the course was called, "Administering the Individual School," and that was very fine in actually handling things that get thrown at you because he used the. . .the course was designed to use tapes, films, you had your in-basket, out-basket, maybe you've had something like that. . .that was very fine. . .and I think more of that. . .along with the internship probably would have helped.
Q: Was this before your assistantship? Or in-between that. . .
A: I had been principal one year before I had that. . .so. . .a lot of what I learned, I learned on the job. . .I never had School Finance, but then, I understand that School Finance is more directed to a systems budget as opposed to handling the finances of an individual school. This is what I was told by a former assistant superintendent that we had for business and finance.
Q: I think that's true in Virginia because we're a fiscally dependent school district. . .there is very little manipulation of school level funds other than your activity fund and what you get on an allocated basis. . .I find that.
A: But. . .I feel like, when a principal goes on the job that maybe in the business and especially, there's more help needed because courses don't always cover situations and that was one area in the finance. . .maybe. . .closer working with the business and finance person at the central office.
Q: We're not a collective bargaining state, but we still have teacher complaints, concerns, grievances. . .did you, or were you involved in releasing a staff member or recommending for not. . .being given a contract for the next year?
A: I didn't actually have a formal grievance. . .so, I didn't have to end up firing anyone. . .but, there were one or two, that because of evaluations. . .in the end, these teachers. . .either did not return the following year or. . .I can remember, a situation or two situations where the teacher left during the year. They just weren't able to improve in situations and when you are working with them, I think they know that, and you let them know that, and you work with them and do all you can. . .so there were a couple. . .
Q: And they were all instructionally related.
Q: No personal. . .
A: Well, in one situation, I think it was a matter of . . .a staff person not being able to accept the fact that he just could not direct all the activities in his area, that he had to take. . .there were certain things that had to be done. . .financially, organizationally, all of it, and that he could not determine all these things and he would be given guidelines. . .and then he'd do it a different way. And it almost got down to a matter of insubordination. . .and in that situation. . .he did not accept his evaluation. . .he was not willing to say, "this was the way it was,". . .he ended up not coming back the next year.
Q: The next question is a very broad question. . .the improvement of education. How can we improve the educational system as it exists today?
A: Well, I think with the research that is upon us over the last 5-6 years. . .maybe longer. . .as to what characteristics effective schools have, I think that if we could try to work toward implementing some of the suggestions. . .so that we approach these characteristics in our schools, then I feel like that would be a major step in improving our education system. . .because I feel like Suffolk is moving in that direction in that is with the summer workshops they have exposed principals to for the last four years. . .and then with the teacher effectiveness training. . .I feel like those two things. . .if we continue to consciously work on those. . .I feel like there has to be some improvement.
Q: Earlier you indicated that you didn't have an integration problem. . .no civil rights problems at all . . .bussing. . .
A: At that time, as I said, I was not an administrator at the high school, but there was no bussing when integration came in at Suffolk High School.
Q: Did they even have busses?
A: No. No busses. . .it was while I was principal there. . .after 1976 that they added busses. . .so that had to be with the merger.
Q: A lot of training programs for preparing individuals to become a principal. What are some of the procedures that you think the district should go through in selecting those individuals and putting them into a principalship?
A: Well, I think it would be important that the principal-to-be had had an internship. . .
Q: That's from experience. . .
A: Well, I think that would help. I'm not sure that it's sometimes not like practice teaching that all the problems that you're going to have in the actual classroom don't always surface when you're doing your practice teaching. Same thing with a practicum, you're not sure. . .I feel that if you're in a good situation where you had administrators working with you. . .that they could expose you to so many things that would be helpful when you got into the real position. I feel like they must have the paperwork, they must have the degree and the course work and not just what is required, but I think it would even be nice to have some of the extra things that. . .as I said. . .I didn't have to have School Finance. . .it might be something of that kind. . .or it might be when I was in guidance there was a course, it wasn't required, it was Interpreting Test Scores for the Individual Student, and I didn't take that, but I always thought that was something that would have added to what I was able to do with students because I did like to try to show a student his whole picture. . .what he had done all through school. . .not just one test score. As a principal, I think there are things of that kind that would be enrichment, so not just the basics, but what else have they done. I think some other experiences other than just school and teaching. I think some management experiences. . .what kind of work have they done as they were coming through high school or as they were in college. . .some of them work and also go to school. . .what would have helped them to be a good manager. . .what would have helped in terms of dealing with people. . .I think all of these are things you need to look into. They should be strong in the instructional area. . .they should be good managers as I said. . .good organizers. . .able to communicate well. . .good in human relations. . .certainly endorsed. . .I don't think they'd be hired if they didn't have the credentials. And I like what Suffolk does. I like the group interview. It might not be as easy, but I think. . .the different people there are going to get different perceptions and then when they put them together I think you get a better reading than if it's just a one-on-one or even two-on-one. I like that idea. Is that what you had in mind?
Q: It's a good answer. At the high school and at Booker T. you had assistant principals. Will you address the issue of a principal's relationship to assistant principals.
A: Well, you had two questions here, 17 and also 28, are you going to ask me again?. . .I feel that it's important that principals encourage any staff member that they have who demonstrates supervisory and administrative skills to move in that direction. As I said, I probably moved in by encouragement. . .but I think even before that, my supervising teacher. . .when I was doing my practice teaching. . .said, "I'd like to see you go into supervision." And I think that's the reason I set my goals on the supervisor of math because math was what I enjoyed. But, even along the way as you teach, if there's a teacher who shows these tendencies toward supervision or being a good manager or whatever, I think they should be encouraged and I think that's important. If possible, I think a principal can assign teachers certain duties that help him to develop those. . .that potential that they have. Not the principal's duties, but other things around the school that these people can do that might help that principal and also that person to determine whether. . .I really want to do this. . .and to help the principal determine. . .Does he really have the ability to handle the problems in this area? In a field like. . .that's in the teaching area but, in working with assistant principals, I feel like principals do work closely enough with the assistant principals that they should be able to tell whether that assistant principal has the ability to be a principal or a central office administrator. I worked closely with the assistant principals that I had and I tried to give each of them the experiences that they would have if they were the principal in all areas. This was Mr. Frazier's feeling. . .that you needed to expose them to all the areas. At one time at the high school, we had assistant principals for administration and assistant principals for instruction. And we cut back on that and just had one assistant principal. So the principal and that assistant principal had to cover all areas of administration and instruction and I never felt that we should draw a fine line and say, "I'm going to handle all this and you handle all that." I feel like it has to be a shared thing and in my last years. . .at Booker T. we were to the point that my assistant principal and I were sharing the classroom visitations, I tried to have him in on the conferencing and he was in on checking plan books, the writing samples, the books. . .the financial books, checking report cards.
Q: Do you think that is what put him in a position to be elevated to principal when you did leave?
A: Well, I did that with all the assistant principals that I had because, as I said, that was what we were encouraged to do by the superintendent. Of the 7 assistant principals that I had, now that sounds bad over a 10 year period--but you have to realize that some of those years I had 2 assistant principals, and of the 7 that I had 3 of them are now in the central office, 2 are principals, and maybe 2 of them are still assistant principals. So, they were good material to work with and I don't take the credit for that, they taught me a whole lot. But, I'm very pleased that they are where they are because I feel like I benefited from their expertise and they certainly went on with the talents they had to do better things. I shouldn't say better, I should say different things. Change that.
Q: As a principal, what was your biggest concern?
A: In that last situation and I would say it even went back to the high school, but the 3 years at the intermediate school, the biggest concern I had was not having the adequate staff, all the resource people to deal with student problems that started outside of the school but effected the students' achievement and sometimes the school atmosphere. I used to tell the superintendent that I felt we needed something like a family counselor because there were so many things going on with some of these students and they just didn't have time to put their mind on school and studies. There was hostility that they came to school with and then it had to spill over into the school situation. We tried something like having the Western Tidewater counselor come up and be available during the activity period and we selected a group of students that we felt might want to talk with her and we asked them to go visit her at one time. It sort of dropped off. . .I don't know if different situations might have provided more participation from students. . .I don't know. I do feel like we have a very fine psychologist in Dave Johnson and I did call him several times when I felt that I had a crisis situation and I needed a person to come right now and talk to this child and give me some feedback as to which way I might go. . .even one threatened suicide. And you see, the schools aren't able to handle that kind of thing and so I am glad we had him but that's not his main duty. That's the kind of thing that I feel that we need, especially at the intermediate level. . .possibly at the high school, too. There needs to be somebody there to talk to these children. . .not just one time, but that's a concern. You just don't. . .the guidance counselors that are there have all that they can do. . .and they really don't. . .with 600 student body. . .they don't have the time to give to those children that needs to be given.
Q: Well, that was your biggest concern, what was your biggest headache?
A: The lack of parental concern and involvement in student achievement and also in their problems. Mr. Frazier and I discussed this from time to time and about the many problems that were coming up at the intermediate level with so many students and his response was, "Well, we have parents who are not doing a good job of parenting." And I feel like Don White at Kilby Shores has given the program in Effective Parenting, maybe that's something that could be looked into for more of the schools. Maybe that's an answer. But see, even there, that's putting the burden back on the schools. . .to do that kind of thing. Our church is trying to work with some of these things in terms of video tapes, programs that are available in terms of good parenting. So, I guess that there are other ways of handling it but, that was one of my biggest concerns.
Q: Career ladder is a term which we've been starting to read at lot about. . .tied into merit pay. . .they seem to go together. What are your feelings in regard to those issues?
A: Well, I'm not up on the latest developments in either of those. . .career ladder or merit pay. . .but I think that anything along that line, when you're evaluating teachers and saying, "this one deserves more than this other one,". . .then you have to proceed with caution. That's one thing I have to say, but, I'm convinced that there were teachers that I worked with that deserved more than some other teachers because there were. .
Q: Standards of Quality. What kind of success or problems did you have with the Standards of Quality or other state school board mandated issues?
A: I think some kind of standards are necessary if you're going to have across the state. . .some form of education that. . .if a child moved from one area of the state to another that they'd met certain standards if they're in a certain grade. And so I do feel that these standards give a good guide for what can be done in a school. When they first came out, it was that students would be reading on a certain level. . .I was at the high school at that time. . .If a principal and a staff take it seriously, and look at the standards that we are mandated to use, and use that as the skeleton for the annual school plan and then diligently. . .as it is now. . .at the end of two years go back and look at what you said you were supposed to do, and not feel defeated if you didn't get there but how much progress did you make, and if your strategies weren't right, then go back and redefine your strategies, and do an evaluation again if that objective is still in the state Standards of Quality. I subscribe to the Standards of Quality. . .these guides that are coming out. . .I think the same thing. I feel that they are the minimum.
Q: What guides?
A: Curriculum guides in different areas.
Q: Like our correlations?
A: Well, I'm trying to think of what they call them exactly. They're little booklets and they had a group to define the objectives. . .the objectives. . .and they're the minimum. . .if our local curriculum guides meet those minimums then we'll have to be worried with those plus what we're supposed to be doing. . .but I think we need to be sure that we're at least doing that much. . .and I feel there has to be some direction across the state that every school division can't do what they feel they need to because you do have transient populations in many of the areas and it's not fair to the child.
Q: Along that same line, we have minimum competency tests. We have 4th grade SRA tests, our juniors and seniors take the PSAT and SAT tests, all those standardized instruments. What are your feelings about those.
A: Well, if you've ever been in guidance or even in administration, you've studied students' records. . .you can take that and you can go through a student's records and maybe their scored dipped one year. . .but you can most of the time find consistency and you can see how they've grown. . .if a parent will tell you what's going on in that child's life. . .you can try to explain why some of these things happen. So I think the testing is good. I'm not opposed to that but, I think what we have to be sure is that what our students are being tested on is. . .although we're not teaching the test. . .that we are teaching what these students are being tested on. Now back 10 or more years ago, when I was still a teacher, and we were in a workshop led by Dr. Lehey from the University of Virginia, it was a year-long workshop in curriculum. . .2 semesters of it and it took a whole year. . .and being in the math area we formulated our objectives for the different courses in the high school math. And then we had some old copies of the SCAT and STEP. . .so what we did was to look at the objectives that were being tested. . .look at the actual problems in those standardized tests and say, "Ok, that is the test question for which objective that we've taught over the. . .And we weren't dong as much as we should have been doing at that time. So, I've always wondered. . .I know you can't take the present test. . .because you'd be accused of teaching the test. . .but I think there has to be a guarantee, almost, that you are at least exposing these youngsters to material that they're going to be tested on. How you do about it, I'm not sure. . .but it's not fair to the youngsters. . .when we come up with our guidesheet. . .and then they're tested on something else. . .it must be frustrating to them. Some of the reasons why they don't do as well as they should in some of the areas is they feel defeated. . .
Q: ou have to make decisions every day. . .decisions that you know you're going to be facing and those that hit you at 9:00 in the morning that you weren't even thinking about. What was the toughest decision you ever had to make as a principal?
A: Disciplining of two students. . .of prominent community people.
Q: What did you do?
A: It was difficult.
Q: What had they done?
A: Well. . .
Q: Well, I think we've all had those kinds of situations.
A: Okay. I think probably my toughest situation was the disciplining of these two students. . .whose family was prominent in the community. . .and it was difficult because. . .in that particular situation. . .the faculty advisors or counselors that were with them had not provided the proper role model. . .and in turn, this behavior that they had exhibited was a part of that. . .that was very difficult.
Q: How many years ago was this?
A: My first year as principal at the high school.
Q: Oh, no!
A: Oh, yes! We even had a night conference with the superintendent.
Q: I think earlier you indicated, because of your background, but I'm going to ask the question, were you a building manager or were you an instructional leader in your role as principal?
A: I'm not sure that I would say that I was an instructional leader, although that was what Mr. Frazier used to say to me, "Your strength is in instruction." And I tried to be, but I think the other things got in the way sometimes and I didn't always feel that I led the way I wanted to. But that's some more of that self-imposed pressure. I think many days it seemed that I was doing crisis management. . .just which is not the way you're supposed to operate. . .but, I think that as I grew and developed. . .I think I got to the place that I could spend more time in instruction. . .even though that paper work was still awfully heavy. . .and the managerial tasks do take up a lot of the time. But, I think that I improved over the years. I had to.
Q: If you had to identify 2-3 keys to being a successful principal, what would they be?
A: I think you have to believe in what you're doing. I think you have to be completely supportive of education for one thing. Because, it's not an easy job. And, many times you probably give up if you didn't really support what you're doing. You have to enjoy it. . .at least this is my feeling. . .you have to enjoy instruction and seeing children grow and develop. . .and I think you have to enjoy working with young folks. . .you have to believe in them and know that any time that you have them is just for a certain period of time. . .and that you can't mark them off at that time because they did this. . .or that. . .they have to be given a chance to grow. . .and you have to keep loving them and supporting them. . .helping them. . .and. . .so belief in public education, enjoying what you have and enjoying working with young folks, believing in them.
Q: Ethics. . .
A: Well, as far as how to treat the young folks I always told them when I was dealing with them, especially discipline wise, I will not treat you in any way that I wouldn't want another principal to treat my child if my child was in the same situation that you're in. . .now, they may not have believed me. . .but, that was my code of ethics. . .and to try to be the best model that I could for the children. . .I used to say at the high school. . .especially when I was in the classroom. . .that I will never do anything that would embarrass you if you had to look back in the paper and say, "Oh, that lady taught me one time." And I would expect you to try to adjust your behavior in the same way. . .that I wouldn't be shocked one day when I opened the paper and say, "Oh, I taught that child."
Q: Oh, that's interesting. Number 28 we incorporated a little earlier and the next question deals with time.
A: I could have pulled out a folder because that was another performance objective that I worked on when I first became a principal. I kept a log of how I spent my time. . .but in answering this question. . .I would just go back to a typical schedule that I might have had at the intermediate school. . .I think it's important that as the school day began I be in the halls. . .there you get a chance to see the students and have a little chance to talk with them. . .to be in the halls as schools beginning. Then I feel also that you need to be available for teachers that have to see the principal before the school day starts for one reason for another. . .there's a question I must ask you right now. . .so, to be available to teachers. . .to students. . .or some things happened on the bus. . .have to be available to these teachers. . .or students. . .and to the parents that have brought their child back to school to attend to something that happened the day before. And to the bus driver who is there with a child that has misbehaved. . .and then the secretaries and the bookkeeper also, all these are demanding your time right there at the beginning of the day, and I think you need to be available for that but, that sort of about takes the first hour. . .by the time you get through all that and then, probably in the second hour, to get into the halls and several classrooms and to certainly check by the cafeteria and see if they have enough food for the day. . .and by the third hour. . .to check. . .to be sure that you have at least checked by the office and all this time you're supposed to be letting the secretary know where you are. And as I checked back in the office, I tried to look on my desk and see what messages and what paperwork had accumulated there and try to handle some of that paperwork in the third hour. From 10:30 to about 1:00, there were about 3 lunch shifts, at the intermediate school in Suffolk, and I felt it was necessary to at least drop in on each of those lunch periods, I didn't always do it, but this was my goal. And to also be back in touch with the office because that's a real busy time at lunch time, there are students who are on medication, and if the nurse is not there someone has to be sure that that child can get into the nurse's station and. . .that the medicine will be given. . .So after lunch, then I would generally chat with the secretaries or the bookkeeper what is it they have for me and what is it I need for them to finish before the day is over. How are the book running and bills and that kind of thing? And sometime along that time to touch base with the guidance counselor because there are always things that she needs to see me about and I've always been accused by the guidance counselors of having a hard time to get me to sit down and talk with them. . .I did try to concentrate on that some. . .and then this is still after lunch. . .to visit classrooms as the time permits. Be in the halls at dismissal time. . .and out on the grounds while the busses are loading. . .as much as possible. . .didn't always make that. And then after school to available to teachers and for phone calls from parents about what happened on the bus and in class that day. . .and to check the building as you needed to. The assistant principal had that main responsibility. But still, you needed to go around and see from time to time what had happened or. . the status of the different areas of the building. And to meet with the assistant principal before I left in the afternoon and to try to get paperwork caught up. . .phone calls answered. . .correspondence . . .work on the newsletter and get to the computer. . .and do whatever had to be done in those areas. . .and what you didn't finish, bring home and finish that night.
Q: Sounds like an elementary school. How do you account for your success as an administrator?
A: In each position that I have had, after leaving the classroom. . .guidance counselor. . .assistant principal and principal. . .I felt that I was just learning the job. . .getting to feel more and more comfortable with it. . .feeling good about what I was accomplishing. . .and then it was time to move on. . .either to another position or. . .in the last case. . .to another location. In my last position. . .I'd been principal at the intermediate school for 3 years when the time came for me to retire. . .but I feel that I developed professionally. . .and I was continuing to improve. . .I didn't think I had reached that effective principal. . .I think I had a ways to go. . .but, I know that in every situation I gave the job my best and I enjoyed my 30 years in public education.
Q: Why did you retire when you did?
A: My husband retired in January of 1986 and he was 60 years old. . .and in June of 1986 I completed 30 years in education and was 60 years old in July. I felt I needed to leave the responsibility of principal and assume the responsibility of wife to my husband who had supported me in all that I had to do associated with my job. . .and schools. . .for 30 years. . .from basketball. . .state tournaments. . .PTAs and all they involve. . .band concerts. . .spring fairs. . .you name it. And VSRS, option 4, interested us and we are both enjoying retirement but we're keeping busy with things we just hadn't had time to do.
Q: And that's why you're doing BTAP?
A: Yes, I didn't want to completely give up my ties with schools.
Q: This has been a very lengthy and thorough review of 30 years. . .but, what did we not ask?
A: I think you asked everything, Paula. I enjoyed it.
Q: I did too.
A: It was sort of like I was preparing a homework assignment.
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