This is October 11, 1989. I am speaking with Mr. Stuart Beville in Conference Room B of UCOB on his experiences as Principal and Superintendent.
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Q: Mr. Beville, would you begin by telling us your family background, childhood interest and development that prompted you to become an educator.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, I was born in 1913 in a small town in Southern Virginia. My father had been a medical doctor in a small town in a rural area where he had died just two years after I was born. I was the youngest of four children. I grew up in a normal situation such as you would find in those days in Southern Virginia except that there was not a father in our household because he had died of tuberculosis. I went to school in a small town of Blackstone and graduated in an academicoriented high school even though this was a rural and agricultural area. In those days which was the mid to late 20's, there was not very much in these small high schools in Virginia, there was not much in a way of vocational education and so what I got was largely an acdemic side of education. From there I went to a very definitely academic college, the Duke University in North Carolina. I stayed there for five years taking two degrees an A.B. and M.A. in History and Political Science. I supposethat it would be correct to say that I began with the idea that I might become a doctor as my father had been but I soon realize that I would not make it and so I became a teacher because of the interest I had in education as it had been related to considerable extent during my high school years in a small twon where I grew up and was educated. I took courses at Duke with the idea that I would go on into higher education as a teacher but when I came out during the depression years and whenever am hooked and so I came out to take a teaching job and never went back to take the necessary courses to become a teacher in college. I taught History and Government and coached the Athletics in several high schools in Southern Virginia then became a Principal in the same kind of schools. By that time I had gotten out, my wife and I had two daughters whom we knew that we should educate and I wanted to become a superintendent because that job paid more money in those days, still does for that matter. The job in Norther Virginia superintendent's job became open and its opportunity and I took it and stayed there for 18 years during which time the school district grew from about 4,000 students to more than 35,000 students. Being in that exploding Washington population area and still doing that these days. I came here to Tech to work in the new College of Education to help introduce this College of Education to school districts across the state of Virginia because I had worked in schools in Virginia for many years at that time.
Q: What were the circumstances surrounding your entryto Principalship because you mentioned that you were teaching Athletics, History. Can you tell us the circumstances surrounding your entry to Principalship?
A: I was offered the job as Principal in a combined school that is a school that contained grades one through eleven because I had taught and coached athletics and had been successful in doing that I thought I would be a successful principal and stayed there for four years as Principal and then went on to another job as Principal.
Q: Would you describe your personal philosophy of education? How did this evolved over the years?
A: That's a tough one. This is an interview largely bearing on idea of administration. I'll take whether it is central office administration or administration in a school. To answer your question I suppose when I began teaching, first of all I thought back to some of the teachers and principals that I had had when I was a student myself oce that I admired, respected and wanted to emulate. That helped. And then I had seen a teacher, I had seen two or three principals under whom I worked as a teacher. I felt that they had had something to offer and so I've learned from them. Now, what is my philosophy of education? Well, education is to prepare young students for the world as it is as well as preparing it for a world as maybe we wish it were. The first of those probably I would say is the more important. In a pragmatic sense but in a philosophical sense we must give them an education a sense of the world as we wish it to be. So that they don't go through life feeling that this is the way things are and this is only the way things can ever be. We must try to give them a sense of the possibility that there is a better world and that we can help make it so. Now, going from that to administration I remember a member of the Board of Education that interviewed me for the superintendency in Prince William County. He was a medical doctor and was an elderly person better than 80 years old that time. He asked me what I thought about discipline. And I remember quite well what I said to him, "Dr., I think you must have discipline in anything that you attempt to do. It is no more than operating a peanut stand. You cannot carry on very much a job that some kind of discipline, so I believe in discipline. I believe then and I still believe today that students won't discipline. I think they want to be fair, I think they want to know what is expected to them rather than having things sprung on them without any knowledge or what it may be. I think they want it to be even handed as it is not of this person and that for that person. But at the same time I think, we have to understand that not all students are exactly alike. There is an old statement of course in American governmental philosophy that says "All men are created equal." It is true in one sense but in another sense is not true. All people are not created equal as we will know and so we have to picture our education in terms of the differences in abilities of students and we have the obligation to education to the limits, to the very limits of their abilities and understand that not all students have the same abilities. In administration, when a person becomes an administrator in a school he has gone to stand that he is working with a group of teachers, and that those teachers want decisionmaking to be again evenhanded but they want decisions to be made. I think teachers want leadership and support. I think they want the administrator to be willing to make decisions when decisions are called for and then the administrator to stand on those decisions and assume responsibility for a given administrator makes the decision that he then discovers to be incorrect, he needs to be willing and must be willing to accept responsibilioty for having made a wrong decision and not look to someone else to pass the buck or decision he made himself. And while a teacher want the administrators to stay abreast a worthwhile progress in education. I don't think they want administrators to jump on every head that comes along with the kind of gee whiz, "that's a great idea, let's do it!" But to stay abreast with worthwhile progress andguess the last thing I would want to say on that subject is that I think the teachers want to participate in decision making. They do not want obligation on the part of the administrator. I think they recognize that he is the administrator or she is the administrator and they want decisions to be made but I think they want the feeling of participation in the making of those decisions.
Q: Are the faculty members not involved in the decisonmaking process?
A: That depends on the administrator unfortunately and too many cases in some places, yes and some places no.
Q: In your country or in your school, do you involve the faculty members in decision making?
A: I tried that over, yes. I tried to conduct a faculty meeting, faculty meeting not as principal meeting. When I was teaching here at Tech teaching classes in Public School Administration, I used to ask teachers, these classes were made up of young principals or teachers aspiring maybe to be principals. I used to ask them, "Do you have faculty meetings in your schools?" They would look at me like as if I lost my mind. I said that I am not talking about principal's meeting now where the principal conducts everything, I am talking about faculty meetings. And you know what answer I got? Generally speaking, no. Most principal meetings, most faculty meetings, excuse me, most faculty meetings apparently are a little more principal's meeting. The principal comes in and makes announcements about what they are going to do and says this what we can do things. The faculty members have not very much opportunity to participate.
Q: But in your point of view, do you think that faculty should participate?
A: Yes! I can't see any reason why not! Now, for example, what am I talking about? Every school has problems within that school. You name it and there'll be some kind of a problem. I think the faculty should decide what problems we're going to study this year and try to do something about. I don't think the rpincipal shoukld amke all those decisions. I think he too should participate. I don't think any principal should abdicate his responsibilities. That is more awful. But I think he should give the faculty the opportunity to participate in decision making, in deciding what our problems are, and how we are going about dealing with them. I think the Principal should (I don't know how to put this) I think he should probably assume the final responsibility for the decision making because generally speaking, it has to come down to one person. Unless you're going to have the chairman of the faculty group and that person will assume the responsibility. But in that kind of situation I am afraid you would think that the principal has abdicated his responsibility. I don't think he want that either. I guess I cannot put it in a better than to say the faculty should participate in decisionmaking. I don't think should be a one person situation.
Q: Now if you're going to look at some background or situation in this interview, would you describe to us the school where you really spent sharing your time and skills? Can you describe to us how big was the population?
A: The first principalship I had was in a combined school which we generally refer to at least in this state as a combined school that is grades one and now would be kindergarten to twelve like in those days in my first principalship, you see I became a principal for the first time in 1939, 50 years ago. Things were rather different, there were only twelve grades and there was no kindergarten in those days. That came later on. We had in the school from grades one to eleven, I had taught there for two years and coached athletics. When I became a Principal, I stayed there for four years a Principal. This is in a small school in Southern Virginia. It's a small grades one to twelve with 500 students. That meant that in high school we had somewhere in the range of 135 to 150 students. We graduated each year about 3035 students. Here again, this was the kind of school where I had graduated myself. This was a rural, agricultural area mostly tobacco farming. The only vocational courses we had were in what we called commercial education, today we usually describe business education. In other words, office training, typing, shorthand, filing of these kinds of things. We should have had agriculture. We should have had industrial arts. We should have had any number of vocational types subjects. They would be much more than that. Other students we graduated of the four years I was Principal there, the students we graduated probably no more, I am not certain of my figures here and I did not write anything down before coming over here on this but we had probably no more than 20 25% of the graduates go on to further education in business type hgiher education or colleges. The others went back to farm and got job somewhere else. Now, before I left there World War II had started. The United States was not yet in it but jobs in military type industry became much more available and the students who had been going back to the farms began then to go to a shipping corporation in Virginia working there in various other places as well as in Radford.
Q: Can you also describe to us the instructional philosophy of your school, by telling us how it was developed and how it was evolved over time because you mentioned that you only offered stenogrphy, filing when it should have been agriculture and industrial arts.
A: We were an academic high school almost all having only the commercial type courses, typewriting, shorthand, filing. We should have had others. Now you ask about what was the philosophy of education. My own philosophy and the kind of that I tried to carry on in my own teaching was to go back to my philosophy of education in general to understand that these 25 or 28 youngsters that I had in a History class did not all have the same abilities because they did not come from the same type of homes. Some of them came from homes where the parents had been collegeeducated where books and magazines were in abundance, some of them came from homes where there was no higher education and a number of cases there was the first student from that family to have gotten in the high school. Again, remember this was fifty years ago. And so the background was different and they had not the same abilities. In my teaching, I tried to recognize that students I came to know very quickly had more abilities. I expected more of them the students with lesser ability. I did not require the same kind of writing for example from some students that I did from other students because I knew that their background was so different. You may say someone might say that I wasn't fair. You required more work with some than you did with others. I did require more than I did with others. But I did that because I knew what their background were. The situations, the home situations which they came.
Q: As Principal and Superintendent, what experiences or events in your professional life that influenced your management philosophy?
A: Teachers that I had had and principals that I had had of the students myself, and you see I came out of Duke University without any professional education courses at all. I had had no student teaching for example. I had had no courses in professional education as such. In my first year of teaching, let me tell you a story in my experience. I was teaching in a rural and agricultural county but also with some suburban part of that county to the city of Lynchburg. I had come through an academic high school. I had gone to an academic university. I guess I would have to confess if it did not occur to me that these students that I had in History class or in government class had not had the same background that I had had. Maybe I was stupid on my part, but again remember I had had no courses in education, no courses on how to teach, what kinds of things that you can do which will get your teaching across to students better than other things. I had had no students teaching under an experienced teacher. One day, a group of seniors in that class asked after class. "Mr. Beville, may we talk to you a few minutes this afternoon?" I said, "Certainly." And so I met them after school that afternoon and effect what the students said to me was "Mr. Beville, we don't know what you're talking about." I was way over their heads, remember I had come out of an academic university. Fortunately, I had sensed enough of my guardian angel gave me sense enough at that moment to listen to these youngsters and so we talked for a while and I began to make some changes in what I've been doing. This was in the fall of 1936. And then I began the following summer, I went to the University of Virginia summer school and began taking some courses in professional education, how to teach, how to do things that will enable the youngsters to understand what I was saying to get me to the point that they could understand. And from there I went to the University of Virginia, I went to Wake Forest University. I went to University of Colorado and took courses, the kinds of courses that helped me in my teaching I'm sure.
Q: Can you also describe to us your views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional charactersitics of an effective principal.
A: My feeling is that responsibility is a more useful word than authority in public school administration. The idea of authority is not one that I believe should be used by public school administrators to any great. . . the idea of authority is well, to use a kind of an old expression it is just kind of rubbing me the wrong way, if you understand what I mean by this expression. I understand that somewhere down the line there has to be some authority but I've know too many people in ,my working life who liked to have authority but did not want to assume the responsibility that goes with that authority. As a superintendent I had principals who like to hide behind the authority of the school board or board of education. They might say to parents, "I can't do that because the board won't let me when the board didn't really know anything about what is it they were talking about. I tried as superintendent of schools to have a considerable amount of autonomy among the principals who worked for me or the board of education. I wanted them to exercise their won initiative and the initiative of the faculty in the handling of a school which was under my general supervision as superintendent but I wanted them to be willing to accept the responsibility and went with that permission of initiative and autonomy. Now, some of the principals that I had over the years I was there as superintendent understood what I was talking about and went on with that initiative and that autonomy within the framework of our school system. The others did not want to do that. They did not want to accept that autonomy or authority, if you want it that way. They want it someone to tell them what to do. I suppose I did that, I suppose I want it to have that kind of autonomy in the schools under my general supervision becuase that is the way I was permitted by the superintendent under whom I worked. That was the belief I was permitted to operate the school. In one of the schools in which I was a principal, I was there for four years, the superintendent came in that school twice during the time I was there. Once was during the graduation ceremony and the other time was I sent for him and asked him to come to help me make the decision about the faculty member with whom we were having difficulties. So when I became a superintendent I wanted to permit autonomy within the schools under my general direction.
Q: What suggestions would you offer to schools and universities as a way of helping them to better prepare candidates for administrative position? Please comment on weaknesses and traditional programs of training for administrators?
A: Now to answer your question, I believe that both books and the experience are called for. I believe the teacher and the administration who has the doctoral degree would be more effective if he or she has also had the experience as an administrator at whatever level public schools may offer experience, or private schools for that matter. I believe the experience will make the teaching more effective.
Q: Now there are also people who have some arguments like one would say that principals should be an instructional leader, and another person would say realistically speaking this principal must be above all a good manager. Would you please give your views on the issue and describe your own side?
A: I believe a good principal should be an instructional leader as well as a manager. If I may go back for a moment to my early experience as a superintendent, this was in 1954 which is 35 years ago, the principal's salaries in those days, experienced principals salaries in those days were much less by maybe two-thirds less and beginning teachers are today. When I went to Prince Williams County as superintendent there were principals, high school principals in that county at that time with a lot of years of experience who were making no more than $5,000 a year. And every truth throughout Virginia and to a considerable extent throughout the United STates, remember this was about ten years after World War II, when salaries had begone in private sector, had begone to the war but not started to accelerate at all in education yet. I said to the board of education I think we should make every effort to get our principal's salaries as quickly as we can and it can be done in one year, or two years of increase for that matter. But I think we should make every effort to get our principal's salaries up into the range of $10,000. The board members looked at me as if again I had flipped my lead and the board of supervisors which had put up the money if it was going to be done but this was even more that way. But I said to them and this is the point to which I want to count. I said to them that I want you to understand that I have seen any number of schools which for one reason or another not as good as the principal that hated that school was capable of making that school too big. Maybe he was early in the job, maybe the resources were simply not there, maybe the faculty needed some changes in a number of reasons that might have been. But I want to say to you ladies and gentlemen that I have never seen a school that was any better than the principal that hated his own. Well, we began to get salaries moving up and I stayed with that statement that I had made about never having any school better than the principal that headed it up throughout my years as a superintendent of schools because I believe that very strongly and I still believe that today. Now, to go back to your question, I believe that the principal should be an instructional leader. Now it is perfectly obvious that the principal can't know all of the best ways of being of an instructional leader in everything from foreign language to industrial arts and all the way through the science, liberal arts, and all the rest. Only Thomas Jefferson might be able to do that kind of thing, but he can be an instructional leader in the sense that he knows his own instructional field as well as better anyone in that school knows and knows enough of it to know. That every field of instruction has its own peculiarities and its own idiosyncracies which teachers must learn and give those teachers who are working under his leadership the opportunity to get those ways of teaching that they all need and opportunities of teaching that are good. That of course moves over into the realm of management. To think that. . . I guess it comes back to the meaning of the term instructional leader. To me being an instructional leader is not to say that he could or he/she could walk in first rate classroom and just teach as well or I could have 50 years ago have walked in a first rate classroom and have taught reading just as well as I could go into high school government class and has taught government. I couldn't do that and I don't think many people can do that but the opportunities need be there. That's what I am talking as an administrator and as instructional leader. (Am I making sense to you?)
Q: Yes. How would you describe the ideal requirements for principal certification and discuss appropriate procedures fopr screening those who wish to become principal.
A: I think a principal must have had good, solid experience as a classroom teacher. And even before that of course, must have a good solid education which would include not only if he/she would be a vocational education teacher. I believe they need to have had a good solid basic grounding in some liberal arts education. I believe that's helpful to anyone. With that experience in classroom teaching, I hope that the aspiring principal woul have gained which he or she did not have it, would have gained a solid sense of humor. I used to say when I was working as a superintendent that I missed the children because as a suprintendent you do not have the opportunity to work directly with them very much because there were not many days that went by when I was working in school as a teacher then as a principal. There were not many days that went by that I did not get a good solid laugh. I missed something that some youngsters it said done and I missed that. So I would hope that the administrator would have developed a good sense of humor because you need it. You see you've got, in addition to the administration of the schools the day to day administration of the schools, you got to have a part in getting the money for that administration of schools, for those schools that you charge with your responsibility in administration and that something that needs considerable doing. You've got to understand school law or you get in trouble in a hurry. That when I first taught as a superintendent the person who was responsible for advising me in school law was the person whose title is a commonwealth attorney. Because the school board back in those days di not have an attorney of its own. And I went to the Commonwealth attorney one day with a question about law because something has come up. We talked about it. Before I left, he said to me, "Stuart, you got to learn school law yourself because I simply don't have time to do the kind of things we've done here today. Everyday or two, three times a day." So I have to learn some school law. So I became pretty good because of the fact I had to learn school law. I don't mean I became a lawyer. I don't mean that at all. If you don't understand some school law you would be in trouble.
Q: Thge school has many publics to face and the school head is expected to be active in ocmmunity affairs. Please discuss your involvement with and participation in civic groups and other community organizations.
A: I believe a successful superintendent has to make himself/herself available. Let me go back to the generic himself. Please stop saying himself/herself which is not necessary in saying either between you and me in any case. When I say himself, I'm talking about everybody please. Now, where was I. I believe that a successful superintendent will make himself available to everybody in the community. He has to understand that he got to be available to teachers. I never wanted my door shut as superintendent. Literally I never wanted my door shut unless I had someone in the office in a private session. I wanted teachers to feel that they could come in and see me anytime about anything. I wanted the public, the many publics as what yopu have said to feel the same way about me. I did not want my door shut. Literally I did not want it shut and figuratively, I did not want it shut. Because of things I have already said, I knew that I might be shutting out someone to whom I mighthave to go with the next week or the next month for some help or one kind or another for some type of support that we needed in the public schools. I think superintendent should get into the schools. Now obviously I could and did get into schools as superintendent when we had 4,000 youngsters in eight schools. To a much greater extent, when I first got into the classroom off. I did not kind of thing to a much greater extent when we had eight schools that I did that we had grown to the point that we had more than 40 schools. The time simply is not there, you can't do it anymore. I still got in the schools everyday but I didn't get in the classrooms very much. And I did not spend the amount of time in the school but I think superintendent, budding superintendent should understand that he needs to do that kind. So he will know what's going on. There's nothing else he can do in the school and have lunch. In the school, it is good that teachers see him there or someone who has real problem and speak to him, if need be.
Q: Do you have programs that link the school and the community?
Q: Can you tell us. . .
A: Well, of course there's the P.T.A., Parents- Teachers' Association that has regular meetings. There ought to be other things as well. The schools should have programs that are on-going getting people into the schools. And school people should get in the homes and that is not done much anymore. That one of the things that has happened over the years that has not been good in my judgment for schools. Teachers and administrators used to get in the homes. I used to, as a principal I used to get into people's home. I mean I would set up a regular schedule for visitation. I had people say to me the first time I went into a home just visiting, said to me "This is my first time I have a school head visited in this house since one of my kids was in trouble." It is not done much anymore and that's not good. It is something htat is ought to be done. It will help schools tremendously. School people got in the homes just on visitationprogram and he would help these schools in their regular programs in one kind or another that brought people into the schools. There is something that has started in relatively recent years now and is beginning here in Montgomery County that is bringing people into the schools in a partnership type of thing. As the program is going on, there isn't an organization that is being formed in many school districts called educational. But is an invitation by the schools to businesses and industries to let their people come in to the schools on a partnership basis to help the school bring about education to the children of that school district. It is becoming successful and that will help. You're having an industry for example to meet with school people at various time, to tell school people about that business or about that industry and go tell the children about that business or that industry. To bring education to help bring education and this is the kind of thing that is needed and I hope that his will continue and grow.
Q: Now as principal, would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation.
A: I think the principal needs to visit the classrooms of these teachers but always, always then hold a conference to talk about what he saw going on. The good things, maybe the things that were not so good may be the things that could be improved to complement the good things that were being done. Don't just go into a classroom and then stay for five minutes and leave and call that visitation. Be in there long enough to see what is going on and then always talk with the teacher about it. If that isn't done, the principal has no other way in mu judgment, not . . . (I'll take that back). I should have said no other way. But I think that is probably the best way to know what is going on in that school. What kind of education the youngster under his general supervision is getting and to go into a professional, go tino a teacher's classroom and leave and that's the end of it is a complete and total waster of time and method.
Q: Can you tell us about your philosophy of evaluation?
A: Evaluation has to be participated in by the evaluatee as well as the evaluator and that's why I said always with a conference after having the evaluation. It has to be that. I am not sure that I have answered your question. I am saying give the teavchers the opportunity to talk about evaluation also.
Q: Are the students also participating in the evaluation?
A: Yes. The should.
Q: What should be the reaction of the faculty members if they get low evaluation from the students? Because some teachers would say that students' evaluation is not reliable because they are just students. How do you comment on that?
A: Well, I think it is obvious that high school senior should be able, should give a more valid evaluation of a teacher in terms of the kind of thing that we are talking about than a first grader. Maybe in some ways the first graders' evaluation of the teacher has to be ultimately how he does in the second grade. You understand what I mean? Because the first grade has not become. . . what's the word I want. The seven years old, you can't get the word. Anyway, the first grader is not as glib as a high school senior might be in being able to talk, being able to express himself. In your experience, only high school students participated in faculty evaluation. In terms of what we're talking about here I think yes, but that should not, that is not necessarily the only way it could be done. I think many youngsters can do it not all can because again they are now sophisticated. Not all youngsters are the same in their sophistication in their ability to do the kinds of things we're talking about here and you probably have some primary school children who have enough sophistication to be able to do some of the things we're talking about. You see what evaluation is all about? It seems to me that evaluation should be for improvement and so the idea of improvement is lost in a shuffle in some place and what we come down to is well, to keep my job and that is what evaluation ought to be all about. What I've said to people and I suspect you have, too, how long (excuse me for a moment, how long are you out of high school and how many years you have been out as a student?
Q: Four. Out of high school?
A: Out of high school, I mean as a student. How long has it been since you were a student in high school?
Q: About fourteen years.
A: Who was the teacher that you remember with affection?
Q: I had one who taught literature before.
A: The teacher who taught you something. Or the teacher whom you remember with affection. The teachers who didn't teach you anything you probably don't even remember the names anymore or if you do it is with some distaste. You probably had some that did not teach anything. Now, some of those had some evaluation of the kind we're talking about here at least I hope we're talking about. It might had brough some of those people which you remember with some distaste to the point that you might remember them with affection. I had kids (excuse me) children, students when I was a principal of a high school down in Farmville, Virginia. There was a delightful mathematics teacher there and she used to say "Don't speak of students as kids. Kids are small goats. Students are children." She was one by the way that her students still remember her with greatest affection because she taught something, she taught mathematics. My wife and I were invited back to the school where I was there for only one year as principal and that was when I went to Prince William County as superintendent. My wife and I were invited back to that school this past reunion, for the 35th reunion of the class that graduated that year and she was there, that lady was there. I still have when I go back to two or three of the towns where I was principal, the three towns where I was a principal. I still have my former students when they know that I am in town they come to see me. I appreciate it and I have the greatest affection for those students and I think they have affection for me. That's the kind of thing that evaluation ought to be for the purpose of improvement, not for the purpose whether I would keep my job. Now obviously sometimes it has to come down to the latter.
Q: Like dismissal?
A: Like what?
A: Yes, sometimes it has to come down to that but not very often I think.
Q: Have you ever dismissed a teacher who had a very low performance rating?
A: Yes, because in any situation you got overtime, you got to have some people come to you who simply are teaching. I had people who were mad at me but in a few instances I had people come to me as teachers, as principal, or as student who really did not like children. I can't think of anything more miserable . Anything, any moment miserable than trying to teach if you don't like children. I've said already that not many days went by when I was working directly in school as a teacher or principal that I got a real good laugh. I had a few teachers, and I think that's a tribute to colleges who are sending teachers that I hadn't had more who simply were not competent. I think you don't have that in most anything. There were much that could be done about it and at least that's my judgment. We were talking in the beginning about discipline. I had very little trouble with youngsters as a teacher. I guess in the early days of my teaching I had more trouble with girls than boys because somehow I did not know what to do with them. They started crying and I did not know what to do with them. I coached girls' basketball team for four years, believe it or not, and that was in the days when that I considered a frustrating job trying to coach girls basketball because that was in the days when one girl had the ball in her hands and another girl couldn't touch it. When one did it was a foul. So I had a group of tall girls, all they had to do was pass around the ball above the heads of shorter ones. Anyway, I used to say when I was coaching athletics coaching boys I heard a boy on one occasion saying soemthing about me when they did not know I was around or something which the kids/youngsters would do. I used to say to them that I don't care what you called me as long as you do what I say do when I say do it when I had troubles with youngsters in the classroom. I sent one child to the principal's office one time, and that was because when I lost my temper. I probably should not concede but that was what happened. On the other hand, I had a youngster in a class one time as a teacher and I grabbed him by the head and I said "Charles, I'm going to get you through this school. Is it almost hills both you and me. I am going to get you thorugh this school and see you graduate because I know you can do it." And he was a brag when he was one of those who graduated. You've been a teacher. You know that you have youngsters that tag along, you can't get going and then all of a sudden when you do not know what happened, but they blossomed literally almost like a flower. I knew he could do that and I saw him graduated, too. He went to a school. . .he went to work first and he went to school in pharmacy and got a degree in pharmacy and became a pharmacist. Anybody had known him during the days when I was doing that to him, they would probably have said "You're wasting you time, you'll never get him to school."
Q: Teachers usually get psychic income. They are lowly paid but get psychic income.
A: Yeah. Well. . .
Q: You mentioned awhile ago that your approach to evaluation, rather philosophy of evaluation is for improvement. Everytime when were a principal, did you have a faculty development plan?
A: I have to confess, no! Certainly, in my early experience as a principal, I did not. Remember again I came out of college with no background in professional education as such. I was an historian.
Q: But how do you approach improvement based on evaluation that you have made?
A: Well, I think you have to with the faculty establish a program of improvement of instruction. I think they need to participate in the establishment of that. They have to work to have such a program, that's what I mean by participation. Then I think you have to bring the kinds of ways of doing these kinds of things. I think if your faculty is the kind of faculty that we want I think you can have in-school visitation. This teacher visiting another teacher's classroom. It has to be worked out. You don't just stay in the office. I think you can within the same district to have this teacher in this school visit this classroom in that school for purposes of improvement.
Q: Inter-school visitation?
A: Right! An inter-district visitation.
Q: It's a fact now that principals operate in a constantly tensed environment. What kinds of things di you do to maintain your sanity under this stressful condition and you have lived this long?
A: Well, Elena I have to say another personal point. I still get from Prince William County's school board meetings, board of education meetings mimeographed sheets. I think I get it because the secretary whom I had there as a secretary is still the secretary. I think she is responsible for my getting these mimeographed sheets from meetings, regular meetings of the board of education. Then they get them out to the schools, citizenry of the county and I think that she sees to it that I get one. Not that I don't go up there, I go up there very, very seldom. I did not go at all first for five years. I think I only went once. I have a daughter who got married and my wife and I went to the wedding but they have some problems and so I did not go back. In the sheet almost everyone of them that I get and there are two board meetings in a month and I get one from each one. Almost everyone in those sheets that I get, it will have a number, student's number so and so, action by the board expelled. Sometimes there will be as many as five students so and so expelled. I've said many times I think we did not expel from the high school during the time I was superintendent by action of the board did not expel as many as a dozen youngsters. I asked someone here when I was working as superintendent here in Montgomery County, I said things have changed that much as children as much worse than their working situation and the response I got was, "Things have changed. The schools today won't keep children in school to the extent as you did as a teacher and as a principal and as a superintendent anymore. They keep on creating problems as they go. Another thing is that children in amny ways are not as amenable to discipline as they were when you worked." I still believe that youngsters won't discipline, when they get drugs, unhealthful drugs. I know how to deal with that, drugs are a new phenomenon in the schools since I left the schools. You see I left school in 1972. That's seventeen years ago. The only drug that we had to deal with when I was working as a school nman was a case of beer or an occasional drink of children coming to school. When he came from a home where you know the situation that you have a drunkful father something of that kind, and you know what situation that would be. So that kind of thing has changed. Now what was your question, excuse me.
Q: Probably we can proceed to the next question. My last question has something to do with how did you maintain your sanity under this stressful condition as principal?
A: Well, again you need a sense of humor. Again you have to understand Elena. I am talking about many ways, I'm talking about very, very different situation. I never worked in a situation where the school board, where the members of the board of education were constantly fingering around in the school wanting to get involved in the day to day operation of the schools. I never had that situation to deal with as a superintendent of schools and that has changed. I am not sure I could work overtime. I doubt that I could stay eighteen years in a school district today as I did back in those days. I think you need a sense of humor, maybe more anything else you need a sense of humor but you need a sense of dedication. The two or three things that had happened and I'm going to say this and this will never get published in the newspaper. I mean what we're doing here. This will not be published anyway. I think too much of the labor union mentality has affected teaching staff. Read about opening school year and you read about strikes, teachers are on strike. That would have been inconceived twenty-five years ago, fifty years ago when I started. I mean you would need, weel I think about some of the teachers that I knew when I was principal or when I was teaching. Walking out on strike leaving the classroom of children is just inconceivable.
Q: Do they say that teaching is a commitment however if it has something to do with money, they would walk out the class? We do experience this in the Philippines, just like last June. . .
A: In the United States, too.
Q: For forty-five days. . . there were no classes in June just because they want a raise in salaries. Is that the same issue here?
A: Yes. I said awhile ago that when I went to Prince William County, senior high school with a thousand youngsters or more were making no more than $5,000. Beginning salaries or bachelor's degree and they had a master's degree beginning salary in many places is $15,000 or more. Most money I've made as superintendent of schools in the Western State of Virginia was $30,000. The man who fills that same job today is making more than a hundred thousand dollars with the same number of youngsters.
Q: Is there something that I have left? What have I not asked you that I should have?
A: Now, let me think a little bit. I am talking about an honest person. I am not talking about crooks. The worst thing you can say about an administrator, or it be a principal of a small elementary school or superintendent of a large school district is he won't make a decision because his job is one of a decision making or seeing that decisions are made. I think that has to be recognized. Now, I wrote some things down. The main thing I would say about decision making is this, when the time comes for decision to be made, don't drag things at. Get the information needed and decide. This is one reason the legal system is in trouble today, they drag cases oft interminably. Criminals know this and they know why they drag on long enough. They believe that chances are good but nothing will happen to it. It's the faculty needs to be consulted for decision, do it. Worst thing can be said about the administrator. He or she simply will not make a decision. I don't know where do you or you are personally familiar with that or not.
Q: At home I also do administrative work so I usually ask the faculty members to participate in decision making however when we talk about decision making, decision making is final when it comes from the person who is responsible to the whole school. You just simply get ideas from faculty members involved in a certain situation and then discuss but the only person who is responsible in there should give the final decision.
A: Your point is right Elena in saying that because it is almost impossible to say that a whole faculty is responsible for that decision because somewhere down the line if something goes wrong somebody has got to hold of and say "I did it." I used to say to a class on occasion here when I was teaching school administration. History tells me that when the battle of Gettysburg was over, a civil war/battle. . .how much American history do you know?
Q: A little.
A: You know about civil wars. The battle of Gettysburg, a battle can be climactic in a war than Gettysburg was probaly climactic in the civil war in this country. History says that when the battle of Gettysburg was over and the southern troops had been defeated, the general who was the commanding general said "It's all my fault." I used to say to classes that George Washington Robert is one of my three Virginian heroes. George Washington Robert, Thomas Jefferson are among of my three Virginian heroes. If George Washington Robert can say that when he had seen the army in which he had perfect belief to be defeated, then he can say "It's my fault." about some of the things that happened to us. I do not want to say this. I said this in a chapter that I wrote to Tom Hunt's book. It's not only good personal priority for me on occasion to say. It's my fault, it was mistake. We lost and set bond issue in Prince William County to raise money to build school buildings and they weregrowing so fast. We built about 35 school buildings during the years I was there. It meant millions upon millions of dollars so we would have a bond referendum to raise mioney and the county would pay back from tax money over the years of course. WE lost one during my years there. We passed six and lost one. I went to the school board the next day and said "It's my fault." I said that because something had happened that I should have recognized could happen. The focal point of the whole thing we lost on the basis of that was on the size of the high schools I was proposing to build. I had gotten incentive with the school within a school mentality and I wanted to build four high schools that would have four schools within each of those high schools. And people came to me and said that hose schools should not be too big. It was not only good for me with psychological therapy for me to say "It was my fault." But then it is a pretty good psychology because it tends to cut the ground from under. Your opponents who might say, "you see that guy did that. . ." and you get rid of that and all I worry about to say before they can say that I've worried to say it was my fault. You see what it does it tends to cut the ground from under that criticism if I were to recognize that it was my fault and willing to accept responsibility. So it's not a bad idea for an administrator to be willing to say on occasion "it's my fault" because in many cases if it is his fault or her fault, and to be willing to, you see too often we have people who when something happens are willing to say "it's my fault." They go looking for some poor pigeon out here whom they put the blame on. For me they have nothing to do with it. You see what I mean?
Q: Is there something else that you miss?
A: No. A sense of humor, a sense of responsibility, a sense of dedication. A sense of humor. When I was a principal of my first principalship I walked there on the front porch of the school one morning and there was a group of youngsters standing under some trees. I heard one of them say, I guess at that time I was 34 or 35 years old, I heard one of them saying to the group, I heard what he said, "The old man Beville is up there on the porch." I got the biggest chuckle as being called old man Beville at the age 34. You need a sense of humor and it helps a lot about us in this business pertaining to sanity particularly today. Okay, Elena I enjoyed it.
Q: Mr. Beville, thank you very much for sharing your time and experiences in this oral history project. I learned a lot from your experiences and many more students will learn from your experiences as principal and superintendent.
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