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Q: HOW MANY YEARS WERE YOU AS A TEACHER?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Ten years.
Q: AND HOW MANY YEARS WERE YOU A PRINCIPAL?
A: As a principal, nine years; and as an assistant principal, eight years.
Q: COULD YOU PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR SCHOOL?
A: The name of the school was Henrico Central Elementary School. It was located in the Varina district of Henrico County. As an elementary school, its grades were one through seven. Also, it had special teachers--the music, physical education, art. The school had an auditorium and a cafeteria. The food was prepared in the school.
Q: DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT HOW MANY TEACHERS YOU..HAD? DID YOU HAVE ABOUT FIFTEEN TEACHERS?
A: Yes, about fifteen teachers. If I remember, we had a little problem in the first grade. I wanted to try something different;,that is, that a teacher would move up with her class--the first grade teacher would move to the second grade--the second year. I had a little problem with that. The first grade teacher did not appreciate, being moved.
Q: WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A PRINCIPAL?
A: Okay. When Quioccasin School was burned, they did not build the same type of school. They built a larger school, and they consolidated several schools into one elementary school. And that created a question as who was to serve as principal-which one of the principals from the schools that were consolidated into the school would serve? It was quite a conflict, and the parents--one group was pulling for one principal, and another group was pulling for another principal; and then a group all to itself said that I should be the principal 100 of the school. I felt like I wouldn't want parents to create the feeling that they put me there as principal, so I decided I would not want the job at that particular time. And what happened--they brought an outside person that was not involved in the consolidation at all; and they made that person the principal of the school. Then later, the next two or three years, the principal of Henrico Central, which is-located in the eastern part of the county, became ill and had to give it up; so I applied for that position in which I was not successful getting. But a few years later the gentleman who was the principal was transferred to a high school, and at that particular time, I applied for it and was successful.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR SCHOOL'S PHILOSOPHY, AND HOW WAS YOUR SCHOOL'S PHILOSOPHY DEVELOPED?
A: Maybe the best way to answer that question is to answer the second part first about how it was developed It was developed by bringing the entire school staff together and decide on the school philosophy, and we decided on the school philosophy by looking at the needs of the student body. We were trying to develop the whole child emotionally, socially.
Q: HOW DID YOU CREATE A CLIBLATE FOR LEARNING, AND WHAT LEADERSHIP TECHNIQUES DID YOU USE WHILE CREATING A CLIMATE FOR LEARNING?
A: One of the things that I put emphasis on was on planning, lesson plans. I would, more or less, develop a master plan for the entire school, schedules; and during our preplanning, I would have the teachers work their plans into the master plan. That was due to the fact that we had a physical education teacher and art. Plus I would require the teachers to leave daily plans on their desk at the end of the day--the daily plans for the nest day at the end of the day in case something happened that the teacher could not return. The substitute teacher would have daily plans for the next day. I tried to create a good feeling among the teachers, to allow teachers as much freedom as possible. I never believed too much in meetings, faculty meetings. At the beginning of the year, school year, I would more or less have each afternoon for about two weeks that they would plan for the whole semester. But at the same time, the principals would meet once a month at the school administration which would fall on a Tuesday, I think the third Tuesday of each month in the afternoon. So I required the teachers not to make any personal plans for that Tuesday afternoon because if something came up in the principal's office that I needed to convey to the teachers, then I could call a faculty meeting without too much interruption on their personal life. So they were required not to make an appointment with the beauty parlor or a dental appointment, for example, not that I was going to have a meeting each Tuesday--third Tuesday. I would only have a meeting if if it was necessary-- not-just to have a meeting just for the sake of having a faculty meeting. I think teachers liked that--the teachers liked it. We also had a system where it was left entirely up to the parents whether if they would allow the school to buy art supplies or the parents could buy them. It took about a year or two years before the parents would appreciate the school buying. Some parents would say, "I'll buy my own child's art supplies"--things like that; but after a couple of years, they would just send money to the school and the school would buy the supplies. So every child who came here whose parents did not have the money to buy all the necessary supplies at the beginning of the year--the school would furnish them so that every child could move along. Those were some of the things--let's see if I can think of something else (pause).
Q: WHAT LEADERSHIP TECHNIQUES DID YOU USE TO CREATE A CLIMATE FOR LEARNING AND WHICH TECHNIQUES WERE SUCCESSFUL AND UNSUCCESSFUL?
A: Going back to our philosophy of developing the whole child, another think that I required of teachers, that is,, we would have an assembly program each week. The teacher that was in charge of the assembly program, this was required, that every child in that teacher's room--they were required to be on the stage to do something on that stage during that program, and in that way, we could get every child an opportunity to create a feeling within themselves, rather than the teachers picking, maybe eight or ten, of the better students to give a better program. Now I thought that was quite successful, The teachers liked it, the students liked it, the parents liked it because we would have a lot of parents to come to the school for those assembly programs.
Q: DID YOU HAVE ANY UNSUCCESSFUL LEADERSHIP TECHNIQUES?
Q: WHAT ROLE DID YOU PLAY IN PUBLIC/COMMUNITY RELATIONS?
A: I would put, rather, I would consider closely with the parent-teacher association--it developed a good relationship. In fact, with the consolidation of 300 schools, now that I remember..to think of it, we had five PTA presidents--a president from each of the consolidated schools to come in. For one night, maybe the president in Gravel Hill may be in charge of the PTA. One the next PTA night, maybe the president from St. James would be in charge of the program. And on the next, maybe the president of Antioch would be in charge of the program. Now I thought that was a good idea because I had learned that there was a little feeling developed in the schools that were consolidated as to the name of the school. Some of the parents wanted to name-it Gravel Hill; some of them wanted to name it St. James; so we settled on the name Henrico Central. It gave all the various communities an opportunity to serve as presidents.
Q: SO THAT'S WHERE THE WORD "CENTRALII CAME FROM?
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK TEACHERS EXPECT PRINCIPAL TO BE?
A: I think the teachers would like to see principals more as leaders rather than administrators, rather than the "boss". The teachers like to look upon the principals as leaders, not the boss.
Q: HOW DID YOU EVALUATE TEACHERS?
A: Well, you were more or less required to observe the teacher in her classroom at certain intervals for evaluation. But I always had the feeling that if the teacher left a good set of lesson plans on her desk at the end of the day, just a few minutes in that teacher's room, you could know whether or not she's got her plans. So I would only spend that period of observing a teacher simply because it was more or less required of principals. I didn't spend too much time in the office. I was in the halls near the classrooms. I would go in teachers' classrooms to collect material. If a telephone call would come in for a child, I would be the person to go into the teacher's room. And that way, I could have a pretty good knowledge of what the teachers were doing and whether they were doing a good job or not. Now you can do that in a small school. You couldn't do it with a large school or a high school, but being that it was a small elementary school, I was able to keep track of what the teachers were doing.
Q: WHAT TECHNIQUES DID YOU USE TO MAKE TEACHERS FEEL IMPORTANT?
A: I would try to keep the teachers out front. I would give the teachers the credit for whatever took place in the school, or whatever in our assembly programs--that it was always the teacher. That's right. If it was the teacher's class, I would make sure that that teacher would get the recognition for the program. All the assembly programs were good, but I would always include the teacher and not as the principal of the school, If it was picture, I wanted the teachers, pictures.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION?
A: It would be to prepare the students for the future. And why I say "for the future" is because things are changing so rapidly, so you just don't prepare the child for the day, you prepare the child for the future.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING?
A: My philosophy of teaching would be teacher preparation and student participation.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY?
A: My personal leadership philosophy would be to carry the role as a leader rather than a boss or an administrator.
Q: WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE AN EFFECTIVE PRINCIPAL?
A: Preparation, overall. Education, experience.
Q: WHAT PRESSURES DID YOU FACE AS A PRINCIPAL, AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE PRESSURES THAT YOU FACED?
A: The one pressure that I faced as a principal that comes to mind is when I wanted to move a first grade teacher to go up with her class and she would become a second-grade teacher. My purpose for wanting to move this teacher up was to try to cut done on failures in the first grade. As you know, all children do not materialize at the same rate. Some of them are what we call "late bloomers". If a teacher moves up with her class, maybe a child would be slow at the end of the first year, but in the second year that child may have caught up. So there would not be any child retained in the first grade. The teacher would move up with the class, and maybe at the end of the second grade, if the child did not pass, we would have to take a good look. Now I had a little trouble with the teacher not wanting to move up with her class. That went to the school board office. The teacher was able to get a group of parents to go to the school board office and ask if she could remain in first grade. The parents and teacher went along together and met the superintendent, The superintendent asked her how long she had been teaching the first grade. She said, "I've been teaching first grade for twenty-five years." The superintendent told her she had twenty-five years of teaching the first grade and one year experience. He said, "Mr. Cosby, the principal, has a good idea, If you insist that you want to remain a first-grade teacher, then maybe we can find another school we can transfer you to," Then the teacher was moved to the second grade, At the end of the second grade, the teacher came to me and said she thought it was a good idea; she'd like to try it with her next class.
Q: IF YOU HAD TO DO IT AGAIN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO BETTER PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE PRINCIPALSHIP?
A: If I were going to do it all over again to better myself for the principalship, one of the things that I would want to do is to maybe work in several school systems rather than move up in the same system that you've been working in. I think it would have given me better experience preparing myself. You see, the only experience that I had was as a teacher in a small elementary school and as a principal in a small elementary school; so I have no knowledge of what a large elementary school would be like. All my experiences in a small elementary school were in schools in the rural areas, so I have knowledge of what a principal of that kind of school would be like. So to be a good principal, you need to have wide experience.
Q: DID YOU EVER FIRE A TEACHER?
Q: HOW CAN WE IMPROVE EDUCATION, TEACHERS, ETC.?
A: I think one of the greatest needs for improving education and teachers is to some way of developing parents to become more concern with their child's education. Too many parents feel like giving a child money to spend, nice clothes, and that type of stuff. I think that parents need to be concerned, deeply concerned with their child's education. I think parents need to begin early, at an early age to motivate their child, to let that child know what they as parents would like them to deliver. I think that that's one of the greatest needs. I rally do.
Q: HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE INTEGRATION ISSUE?
A: Integration had its beginnings in Henrico County. Let me say one thing. As you know, they closed all of the schools in Prince Edward County--integration. Okay, the president of Henrico Teachers Association went to the school board and asked for permission to bring some of those children to Henrico County for an education. The school board granted Henrico Teachers Association permission to bring as many children that they could support. So they were only able to support one child; so we brought one child. The child attended my school, Henrico Central. The president was not a teacher in my school; he was in another school. We boarded that child with a parent. So that was one thing we did. It was amazing--Henrico County Schools--and as many as we could support. They could come into our schools without paying any tuition.
Q: BUT THERE WAS ONLY ONE CHILD?
A: There was only just one child. We were able to do it. We had to pay board for the child. We couldn't find a parent who would say "I'll board him." We had to pay for that. The child lived with Mrs. Brown. That's just something that I thought of. Now integration in Henrico Central Elementary School was pretty rough. I remember coming to my school one morning taking KKK signs from off the doors and lightposts leading to the school, those types of things. We had what was called "Freedom of Choice" that did not work, It, as a result of "Freedom of Choice", caused the enrollment to diminish and left the one school, the black school that I was the principal of, with a very small enrollment. That took place throughout the entire county. The black school enrollment diminished to a point.
Q: WHY WAS THAT?
A: Well, parents decided to send their children to the white schools because no integration took place in the black schools, you see. We didn't have any white children to come to the black schools. That's "Freedom of Choice"--the black children go to the white schools but not the white children come to to the black; so until the federal government decided that that was not a good practice, it was not working. The schools were not becoming integrated as they wanted them to be. We still had schools segregated, so as a result they closed all of the black schools in Henrico County. The principals of the black schools in Henrico County became assistant principals of the integrated schools. So far as busing, we didn't really have any problems in Henrico County as I know of in the white and black. I don't know of any busing problems. When the schools were segregated, we had one high school in Henrico County, one black high school. So the black children had to travel from all points of Henrico County to that one high school. Now if you call that the busing issue, they bused them from one end of the county to another end of the county, but it didn't offer any problems.
Q: HOW DID YOU UTILIZE YOUR ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL?
A: I did not have an assistant principal.
Q: AS A PRINCIPAL, WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN?
A: As a principal I did not have any headaches. During my graduate work, if I remember correctly, I don't know who was conducting it, but I remember that this person made a statement that every job in the school was the principal's job. Every job in the school is the principal's job. If the school board comes in, it is the principal's job. If you can't find the custodian, then he goes out to get the paper out of the front yard. During lunch time, if a child loses his lunch in the cafeteria and the custodian was not available at lunch at this particular time, it's the principal's job to get the mop to mop it up. If a principal feels that those things are his responsibility--he's responsible for the school, he's responsible for everything that happens in the school, then he, if he accepts his responsibility doesn't have headaches.
Q: WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS ASSOCIATED WITH EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS?
A: I think one of the main characteristics I would consider is cleanliness, whether or not the school is clean. Movements in the halls.
Q: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "MOVEMENTS IN THE HALLS"?
A: Well, if you walk into a school and you find two or three teachers standing in the halls talking and you see that students are just hanging around, not on the way to the classroom; whether teachers come into the school on time--on time for their classrooms,
Q: WHAT WAS THE TOUGHEST DECISION YOU HAD TO MAKE AS A PRINCIPAL AND WHY WAS IT SO TOUGH?
A: One of the toughest decision that I remember I had to make was I had to have one teacher to teach two grades--like I would have a combined grade, maybe third and fourth grade--because no teacher likes two grades, and I can understand that. So this was a tough decision to make and making decisions, very often you had to be very careful that you didn't design yourself to maybe just calling on the same teachers because it would be interfering.
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PERSON WHO IS CONSIDERING AN ADMINISTRATIVE POSITION?
A: Just an administrative position?
A: Not considering any particular level?
A: Okay, well I would advise a person to be knowledgeable of the position he is applying for so to have a broad knowledge of it. I would like to say experience; I don't know why. You see, some school systems have different ways of developing people for administrative positions. I'm thinking our county has an excellent way. They will take a teacher and make her position as an administrative aide. Do you have administrative aides?
Q: YES, WE USED TO.
A: Alright, we have administrative aides and that teacher is given several administrative jobs to handle and that may prepare the teacher to move up in to administration as a full-time position. Also, I think it's a good idea (Some people like it.) for a school to have a mobility program where maybe you have a classroom teacher you wanted to be an assistant principal. The person would have one year or two years as an assistant principal; and they come back to the classroom. That way it gives the teacher some experience. Or maybe you want to be the music specialist--you're good in music so you can serve as the music specialist--just gives you an opportunity to work in the school board office and to go around to various schools. I would advise that for any one who wants to go into administration.
Q: WHAT CONSUMED THE MAJORITY OF YOUR TIME AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE SPENT MORE TIME ON BUT OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES PREVENTED YOU FROM DOING SO?
A: Okay, the most time was spent at the beginning. Well, all the way through Henrico Central, I did not have a full-time secretary; so I would have to spend quite a bit of my time doing the work that a secretary would be doing rather than working with teachers and students. So that prevented me from doing some of the other things.
Q: WHAT ARE FIVE MOST PLEASANT PRINCIPALSHIP ACTIVITIES?
A: I know one would be the assembly programs that we would have. Another pleasant activity would be when you can feel some actual learning is taking place. Another pleasant principalship activity (I don't know if this could be considered one.), but when you hear from a student who has gone on to high school and is doing well.
Q: COULD YOU NAME SOME UNPLEASANT PRINCIPALSHIP ACTIVITIES?
A: Well, the most unpleasant thing that happened while I was. a principal was when we were informed that our schools would be closed due to integration. It was most unpleasant. Leading up to it, teachers did not know what was going to happen to them. The principal did not know exactly what was going to happen and who they would be working with, what the person would be like. It was really unpleasant.
Q: I CAN IMAGINE. WHAT ARE YOU HAPPIEST TO BE LEAVING AT RETIREMENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR SORRIEST TO BE LEAVING?
A: Happiest? In other words, what are your happiest to be leaving and what are your sorriest? Uh, I don't know; it's kind of developed along with the school; you, the work, the people you work with,, the children. You know, at retirement, it's a mixed feeling; and if you're not careful, you might look at it as a person saying to you "We don't need you anymore". I developed that same feeling when I was discharged from the army. You know, "The war is over; we don't need you anymore." When you retire from school, we don't need you anymore. People say now you can do the things that you want to do. You hear people say say that, but you kind of hate for the time to come when it looks as if, say that someone tells you, "We don't need you anymore."
Q: DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL WORK DAY IN TERMS OF HOW YOU SPENT YOUR TIME. HOW DID YOU SPEND YOUR TIME?
A: I know that--I always tried to be at my school ahead of time, not at the time I was supposed to be there--at 8:00 in the morning, but maybe quarter to eight, seven-thirty to make sure that all of my teachers would be in. I had a few little tricks I'd use. (Laugh)
Q: WHAT HAVE I NOT ASKED YOU THAT I SHOULD HAVE, ASKED YOU?
A: I can't think of a thing at all.
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