This is December 22, 1989. I'm in the offices of the public schools of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, interviewing Dr. Vernon Childs, Superintendent of Schools and former Secondary Principal for Indiana.
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Q: Dr. Childs, I wonder if you could start off, please sir, by talking a little bit about your family background and your childhood interests and development, maybe something about the characteristics of the family and your public education training, as you see fit.
A: I (suppose I came from?) a caring family. Children in the family were highly valued, as were older members of the family. I remember I had two great grandmothers, and at least one time of year there was some special family gathering, to where those people were the primary considerations. And that tended to be true of both the young and the old. I think those of us who were young felt that we were important people in the family and valued. I remember--as an example, I remember my maternal grandmother, when I was probably in the second or third grade, took me to a baseball, the first baseball that I ever attended. And I was a big baseball fan even before I entered school. And she lived in Chicago, and so I stayed with her and went to the ball game. It was a double header, so we sat there all day, and I thought it was just great. And we got home from the ball game, and she said to me, "What were those men in the blue suits doing down there?" So she didn't even know they were umpires. (Laughing). So somebody who was willing to sit through all that, you know they cared about [you]. From an appearance of a very--a good example of a work ethic. They were workers and expected those of us in the family to work, and I think, generally provided a positive example for what was expected. It wasn't a (front?). They never considered that there would be anything but doing your best at whatever you did, or that you wouldn't go to school and college and go into a thing that was relatively important.
Q: What kind of work was your dad in?
A: My father was a grocer, although orginally he taught school, you know, for only a short period of time. And in fact, my father and my mother were in business together, and both worked. My paternal grandparents were in the grocery business prior to that, and when they retired, they did a lot of traveling. Came to Wisconsin. My grandfather liked to fish, so they came to Wisconsin in the summertime and went to Florida in the wintertime. And when I was about the fifth or sixth grade, I went to Florida with them, and on the trip down, we stopped at I don't know how many places. I can't remember. Lincoln's boyhood home and those thing, and since this was part of the school year and I was out of school, you know, I had to write, (Laughing), essays on whatever what was done. And that was a concern of my grandmother's, so it had to be a learning experience the whole traveling situation. And she was the kind of person that when she read the newspaper, she read it from the first page to the last page, and she remembered everything that was in it. And I never heard her say an unkind word about any other person. My grandfather was the kind of fellow who never knew a stranger. He'd pull in someplace to get gasoline, when they had their car on a trip, and go into the gas station and start talking to people like he knew them all their lives. And so, they were an interesting couple. I think that, no matter what road they took to Florida, they could manage to find somebody in almost every town and village that they knew. That's pretty much it. I think mostly family wise, I at least gave you a picture of what it was.
Q: Brothers or sisters?
A: No. None.
Q: No. You're the only one.
Q: Could you talk a little about where you went to high school and your elementary and secondary training, and then your college training?
A: I started elementary school in a two room school. I was there for maybe one year. I can't remember, one or two years. And then, we moved to a smaller, slightly larger town a very short distance away. And then, I spent all my high school and elementary school years there. It was a small school. It must have been--I was there three years in high school, and then, I went to the University of Chicago, for a year after that, then transferred to Indiana University. So then, it was a small community, and everybody knew everybody else. And there was--in that situation, values tended to be pretty much the same. It was not as diverse a society as one would experience today. No minorities of any kind.
Q: So your undergraduate degree was in what field?
A: My undergraduate degree was in math and physical education, and then, the first graduate degree I had was in Secondary Administration and Guidance; and then, the last was in School Administration.
Q: Did you set out to enter education?
A: Oh, from the time I was in high school, I knew I was going to be a teacher, and I knew that--when I went to college, I knew I was going to get a principal's license and I knew I was going to get a superintendent's license. There was just no question. And so, when I planned the courses I was taking, I had that in mind and pursude that.
Q: Was this something that the family had encouraged or did you have others that just sort of suggested this to you?
A: I don't remember how. I don't--I honestly can't remember, except all I can remember is that's what I knew that I wanted, and I can't remember. . . . The family would have encouraged anything that a person had an interest in and was willing to persue, as long as it was deamed to be appropriate and rational.
Q: So you started your teaching career where, and how long were you there?
A: I taught for about seven years in Indiana. I started back in 1949, I guess. I taught in one, two, three different schools in Indiana, and I also did some coaching; and then, I went through a school--I went to school near Fort Wayne, where I was a principal for one year, and then, I transferred to another school where I was principal for three years, and then, I went back to and spent a year in residency, to work on the doctorate. And then after that, I came to here.
Q: Okay. Now, what was the name of the second school in town?
A: Let's see. The first place I taught was in Hebrew, Indiana, and the second place I taught--and then after that, I had a couple of years. Then, when I came out of the Army, I taught in Carlton Point. And then, I taught in (Francisville?) in (Coldstear?). That's also in Indiana. And then, ( ?), I went to Greenville for a year, and (Coldsteer?), that was a larger school district. And then, following that, I went to Huntertown, and that was the first principalship that I had. And then, (Delphi?) was the last one, and that was three years. And the names of those schools have all probably changed by now, because they've had some consolidations; and so, except for (Delphi?), probably none of them exist any longer.
Q: Now, these were both high schools that you were principal at?
A: Seven through twelve. They're both seven through twelves.
Q: Okay. About what size were those schools, as far as you can remember?
A: I would have to say they were probably 300 to 500, someplace along in there.
Q: (Did you manage it from both sides?)? I assume that you did not have an AP, assistant principal.
A: You're right. (Laughter).
Q: (Laughter). Okay. I'm going to ask you to reach way back here, if you could, and sort of try to take us on a walk through the Delphi School and kind of describe what the building was like, if you would.
A: Well, as I remember the building, it was in rather a--it was a smashed U-shaped building. And as you come in on the one--I guess it was the north U--there were two floors, and on the lower level, there were all classrooms. On the upper level, there was the office, and so, my office was there and the outer offices were obviously. There were some classrooms, and then, there was a large study hall; and behind the study hall was a library, and then, the rest of the building would have been classrooms. The shops, as I recall, were in the basement. So the upper level tended to be science, math, business education. The junior high was more on the main floor, and there was foreign language. Social studies and English were also on the top floor, and as I say, the shops were in the bottom floor; and music, there was an addition in the back of the building--not attached to the building, but behind the building that had a gym, a music area, and a cafeteria in it. The thing I guess I remember: during the the three years that I was there--I look back and think, "Oh, we should have done that differently--" was that in the study hall [we] had these old fashioned desks that were fastened to the floor, with the seats and the things is in. In our efforts at modernization, I remember that those were all ripped up, and nobody wanted them, so they were just tossed out the window, smashed, broken up and gone. You know, they would be real valuable things now. (Laughing).
Q: (Laughing). Right. Did you have football equipment or a stadium--
A: Yes. We had to play football, but that was located in a different of town. But in Indiana, basketball is the primary sport. It was then, and it still is, as far as I know. But we did have a football team. We had basketball and track. I don't remember that there was a baseball team at that time, although it may have been a league or summer team at that time. And of course at that time, there were virtually no girls teams. They were all boys.
Q: Now in terms of the admin structure, other than yourself, were there any other administrative type people in the building? Like a counselor or anything?
A: No. No. I can't think of any. We had a person who was Athletic Director. When I went there, there was a person--prior to the time I was there, there was a person who was called an ( ?), a person who was called an assistant principal, but I don't think really served as an assistant principal in any way, that tended more toward the athletic area, doing the scheduling and kind of supervise the coaches and then maybe had them taught a couple classes, part time. And so, that person was then specifically identified as Athletic Director, so from that standpoint it would have been ( ?). I do remember we had a couple secretaries, and I think one of them did--one of them helped the Athletic Director with whatever work that he had; and the other thing that I remember was that the expectation was that one would also serve teachers, if a teacher had needs, and that is what we asked secretaries to do when I was there. And that apparently was something teachers had never experienced before, that is to have secretarial time available to them.
Q: What was the size of the teaching staff, mostly?
A: Someplace between 25 and 35, I think.
Q: So it was managable enough, easy to--
A: Yes, it was. It was a good group there, a nice group of people.
Q: Was there any--in those days, was there any facility for them to sit down and rest, like a teacher's lounge or a place where they could--
A: Yes, we did have a small teacher's lounge someplace, and we were generally able to schedule the situation so that--not always, but generally that if they, during the preparation period that they had, they were usually able to have the classroom which they normally taught. That would not be true in every case, but generally it worked out that way. The answer is there was a lounge someplace, but I can't picture it in my mind right now.
Q: I think I'll change direction a little bit and get you to talk about your personal philosophy of education as--I guess as it is now and perhaps as it has evolved over the years.
A: Okay. Well, I'm a strong believer in public education. I guess I should be or I shouldn't be in it, if I didn't feel that way. And I think that I believe in free public education, and we're very fortunate here that our students have no fees of any kind. Now, we do charge an (Appolo?) fee for physical education for grades seven through twelve, but there's no, there are no fee rental or otherwise for books, work books, any kind of instructional materials. They have to buy their own pencils and paper outside, I would say, but. . . . I do remember that the schools I started in usually had the text book rental fees, and sometimes they, sometimes students had to buy their own books. So anyway that's ( ?). I think schools have a number of missions, but obviously one is to prepare people to live in the world in which they're going to be faced, which is the future not the past. And I think historically we perhaps have thought, "Well, look at those of us who are adults. What we had in education was fine for us, so that's going to be fine for our children," and so on. That's obviously obsolete for the present. And it probably served reasonably well in the past, because society didn't change it near the pace of the changes now and life was a lot more simple and people didn't change that rapidly. I think we do have an obligation to carry on the values of society. Even though they're becoming more diverse, there still are some general ( ?) that we can--that are somewhat universal, particularly that relates to how we deal with one another as individuals, a form of how we maintain a free society and expectations of people in a free society, responsibilities that we have as individuals to family or group, responsibilities to government and so on. And I think we have a responsibility to help people be all they can to those people who don't really desire to or have the motivation to be that. We owe them our best efforts in helping them develop some sense of importance as an individual, positive self image that would lead them along those paths.
Q: Just as a follow up on that, and this is a little out of order, I'm wondering if maybe you could talk a little about your code of ethics, because that seems to flow from the notion of values somewhat. Maybe that would help.
A: Okay. Well, I think it's inappropriate to expect people to do things that you're not willing to do yourself. I think that whatever expectation we have of young people, we should exemplify that. And if we're unhappy with the things that young people are doing, we probably need only to look in the mirror to find out how we can best change it. (Laughing). Young people are great imitators, and they want to be like adults; and the way they become like adults is watching what they do and then copying that. I think that the thing that provides quality to life is being able to provide assistance and encouragement to others and be able to feel good about the successes that other people have, not be jealous because somebody else gained success or has something that we don't have, but to be able to help other people to achieve what they would like to and to feel good about the fact that they--feel good for them because they've achieved that. I think we have to treat people the way we would like to be treated, whether they're young, old, same age as we are, whether they're people who are easy for us to get along with because we happen to share the same philosophies and we just happen easily to be friends, or whether there are people who have demonstrated extreme negativism toward us, we still have the obligation to respond the way we like to be treated.
Q: I was impressed with that write up, which they talked about the required service ( ?) for kids who graduated from high schools here, and I wondered if you could maybe say a little word about that and show me how that relates to the philosophy and the wherefors.
A: Our school district has a mission, and our mission generally is to help people achieve and to live in the next century, and to enhance the society, you know, the free society in which they'll be living. And so as we take a look at one of the things that will enhance our society and what leads to the quality of life is being able to do things for other people. And so, it just seemed to come rather natural out of that, that we'd asked students to have a service project where the expectation would be that they would help somebody else, either a group or an individual, whatever the case, something for which they would received no (miteration?) or no goods in kind or anything like that. You just do something to help somebody else, and then, to be able to hopefully feel good because you helped someone out. And I guess that ties in with specifically with what we see as the kindness we'd like to see in the future and how we think it will enhance our society.
Q: Now, how do they document these projects?
A: That's handled pretty much at the principal school level, but they first of all had the project approved in advance, whatever it is, and then we have a number of organizations in the community that have various activities that students could perform to qualify for this. But they had it approved, and then, they go ahead and do the work, whatever the project is, and then have somebody from the organization or somebody who's overseeing what the project is to verify that. They turn that in, along with. . . , and then, they have to write some kind of a statement regarding the project, how they felt about it and. . . .
Q: It almost sounds like what I went through when I was a boy scout. I used to do good turns periodically, and they tended to be single items, but we were encouraged to do that sort of thing.
A: The interesting thing that we found is that, if a large number of students who went beyond the minimum--you know, they had to do a minimum--we had some students who got into it and liked it so much they did over 100 hours of volunteer work, and we had some, who as a result of what they did, were able to get part-time jobs, and a whole series of things like that. So there were a lot of benefits.
Q: I assume that your personal philosophy and your ethical code would have had some impact on the instructional philosophy for the schools, at which you were a principal, and I wondered if you could say a little about that, how those things flowed together, perhaps.
A: Well, in terms of instruction, I have had some changes of opinion regarding that, but I at least felt [that] we're here to help students learn. That's our primary function. I mean there are others, but that' our primary function. And that doesn't mean that we pick out a certain segment of students, and we help those and the rest of them we just kind of have them go along. The obligation goes to everyone, and it is easier to learn readily and have outgoing personalities, and you know, nice looking and so on and so forth. There's no question it's easier to be with those, but if we look hard enough--and sometimes we do when things get too hard--we can find some positive qualities in everybody; and that's I think what we start with. There was a time that I thought that I was very much in favor of ability grouping, because I thought, "Well, everybody would do better as a result of this. Those people who learned readily could proceed at that rate, and those people who had difficulty wouldn't be involved in the competition. I always put them at the bottom." I've come 180 degrees on that, I think. That's a misplaced idea, and what happens in effect is, regardless of our best intentions, is that we develop those people who deem are the least capable, and that may be because we believe they are the least capable or we wouldn't have put them in that group in the first place, and so, we don't challenge them. We don't put them in positions of leadership. We don't give them opportunities to do things that we believe that they cannot, and I think that as instructors we have to believe that everyone can learn and that everyone can. . . . So that, I think, has--that's where I am now in terms of that other model. I think I've always felt that somehow the canned presentation--the textbook, well, let's face it. In education, for years and years and years, the textbook was the curriculum. That's what it is. And in this country when California and Texas, for the most part, control the textbook selection, because of their size and because that state bought the texts, you know, that's not to great of a situation. So, I've always tried to do something beyond just what the text is. If we're offering a course, what is it that we'd like our students to learn? Why is it important? And look at it from that aspect rather than just select a textbook and not worry about it. And as long as you'd go through the book, from the front page to the last page, read all the paragraphs, and answer all the questions, well then, that's what the course is. But there's learning involved in that, but I think it's at the very lowest level of options of learning. So, when I first became principal, we always tried for something different. You know, at that time, there were very few electives for students. For the most part, they were given a series of courses, and that's what they were expected to take; and whether they were interested in that or not was even an issue, because as adults we all knew better then they what they were supposed to do. But did start to look for some alternatives. I remember at (Delphi?) we had a teacher that was an art teacher, a social studies teacher, an English teacher, and one who did some work in drama, and they put together a humanities course. And we offered that to--I think it was seniors. I don't know what the basis on what the people took turns teaching a portion of the course during the year. I think it was kind of a spark on the teachers because they felt good about it. It was something different for the students, those who wanted to take it. But I think we really have to be looking--no matter what we're doing, how well we're doing something, there's a better way to do it. And we need to always look for that better way. And once we find that and just resting, thinking we've got it made, there's a better way. And so we try to do that. If we can persue that, I think, it helps us to be self motivated, to be able to maintain a freshness to our operation rathern than we've been doing something for 20 years the same way, so that the notes are old and you've got it committed to memory. I think it just makes more of a spark on and an interest in life, not only for those who are in teaching but also those who are learning.
Q: You bet you. The follow up is now, there's a lot of talk now days about successful climate for learning, and they say that the principal sets the tone or the climate in the building. I wonder if you could describe any success on and even unsuccessful attempts or experiments at climate building in which you engaged at the building level, and maybe how you've encouraged that kind of behavior since you've moved on higher.
A: Well, depending on the size of the staff, I think you simply have to have individual contact with people. People like to be noticed, and if they're ignored, that's perhaps the ultimate in insult. (Laughter). To be ignored. So to be noticed. And if you look at, and the perfect example, if you look at children, if children do not receive some kind of attention from adults, they do negative things in order to get attention. So I think we all tend to be that way to some extent. So I think one thing is you have to be able to give people individual time and attention. The other thing is you have to try and build some kind of a group feeling, ( ?), a feeling of togetherness. It doesn't mean everybody has to agree, and it doesn't mean everybody should have his or her say and should be heard without being ridiculed, and all this in some way we come with some kind of a consensus or an expectation that this our goal, and for those who don't agree 100 percent, then they have an obligation to either convince the others that there's some change or to go along kicking and screeming and dragging their feet, trying to make sure that it will not succeed. Now, I think that any reasonable person has to understand that you're never going to be able to develop that kind of feeling with every person with whom you deal. Whether it's in the classroom or whether it's a staff [member], no matter large or whatever it is. And one of the things I think a principal and particularly anybody in administration has to learn--the classroom teacher should too--is that you're not going to have equal success with every person with whom you deal. And if you ask for feedback in terms of how people feel about, either you personally or what you do, or how the organization operates and so on, you'll find some people--there'll be a few people who will express their disatisfaction in one way or other. And I think we have to be cogniscent of that and make an effort to see what they're saying and see if there is any kind of verasity to it, even if it's small, at least an attempt to adjust, to compensate for that. But too often, we may have 25 people who express a lot of positive things and three people who express some negative, and we put all our emphasis on the three people who express the negative. You know, which is folly, probably simply have to accept that not everybody's going to be happy with the way things go and so you listen to what the person has to say. Don't ignore it, but go on. And when the large number of people feel good about the organization and how things are moving, that's the thing I think where you have to put the emphasis. The other thing I think that you have to do to create the climate is it really helps if you have some kind of vision for the future, that you kind of give whatever your vision is, that you can help other people see that. They don't have to agree with it, but at least, it helps people in an organization a lot if they have a leader that they're aware that has some vision for the future and can express that and is willing to put forth the effort to go in that direction and at the same listen to alternatives and be willing to adjust the course to compensate as it needs to be done as time goes by.
Q: Alright sir. I wonder if you could tell me about the kinds of things you believe teachers expect principals to be able to do, and then, the follow on what it takes from your perspective to be an effective principal in 1989, and then in 1959.
A: I think teachers expect--I think they expect attention. They need to know that their work is appreciated, not necessarily to a great degree, but at least acknowledge. They want to know that they're a valued member of the team. I think they expect to have some kind of a formal organization that operates in an efficient manner. It doesn't mean--I guess, I suppose a dictatorship would do that too. But it doesn't have to be so highly structured that no one can talk to anyone else, unless they have an appointment, not that, but at least an organization that you can feel good. People don't like to have everything all apart and nobody knows what's going on. There has to be some reasonable structure to the operation. I think they need to feel that they have the support from the principal in dealing with the community, parents and dealing with students. And I think for the most part they expect to have some face-to-face contact if there's any perceived problem that's significant enough to mention. If there are students, or if there are people in the community, or the principal feels that there's some problem with what it is the teacher's doing, they would expect that that would be brought to his or her attention, not discussed in the lounge with somebody else, not discussed with other people someplace else, but brought to them. I think that they also would like to an opportunity to be involved in developing the curriculum for whatever it is they're teaching, in selecting the text and instructional materials. And should be given a considerable leeway in the instructional procedures, but I also think that most creative teachers are interested in suggestions that might enhance what they're doing. And I suppose they're some who perceive that the principal's there to handle any problem that they can't handle, a student who doesn't behave in class, some other kinds of things. I think they also have, should expect to have some kind of help in terms of removing the more trite and mundane tasks. I don't think we should be having teachers involved in large amounts of time, attendance issues, typing and duplicating instructional materials. A lot of those tasks can be deligated to other people, so they can spend more time in the instruction area.
Q: Are there any personal characteristics of principals that you can point to or identify?
A: Well, certainly not size and shape. I think a good principal--I guess I'm repeating, but I think a good principal does have to be a persone who has some kind of vision. A good principal does have to be someone who can work effectively with other people in a positive way. It has to be someone who excentuates the positive and is able to find positive things and build on them. They have to have some degree of organization and develop a style of operations with which they are comfortable with, and always be in a position of looking for a better way to do whatever it is they need to do.
Q: Well now, changing to the outside view, we've talked about what teachers might expect from good principals. From your perspective, what kind of expections did the community and the central administration have for principals when you were principal and now that you're in central administration, yourself?
A: When I became a principal, the community expectation was probably that you keep the kids in school, you expect that they'll learn, you make them behave, and you stay out of bars, and generally lead a life that would exemplify what they would want their children would lead, but not one that they would not necessarily be willing to lead themselves. I think that tends to be somewhat reasonable expectations, but--because they wouldn't do it--on that, how people be valued or considered as far as the community's concerned. Now, I think it's probably put more what the individual perceives, that is in terms of how leads his or her life in the community, and I think people can live differently in terms of how they spend their money and what they do with their time, now than in years past, but there is still certain forbidden territory. In many communities it would not be a good idea for the high school principal to be driving the biggest cadellac, yet there's no reason that, if he or she chose to spend his or her money, that they shouldn't be able to do that, but public relations wise it's not--and it's unfortunate that it's not ( ?). For an attorney or for a physician, or somebody else to do that, it's acceptable but not here. So there are still some things we can't do.
Q: How about community activities? Any expectations there?
A: Usually, administrative people are expected to be involved in some way in community activities, a service club, a church probably. Some probably volunteer organizations. Many times, they're expected to be involved in youth work of some kind. Maybe expected is not right, but there just seems to be kind of foredrawn conclusion that if you work in the public schools and there are youth groups in the community, that you will also want to work in those youth groups, you know, just by association with the job.
Q: There's been a lot of attention given to the issue of personal leadership in recent years, and you've already mention that vision and communication of that vision to the people with whom you work as a leader. I would if you could exand a little bit on your personal approach to leadership and as it has developed over the years, and maybe talk a little about techniques that worked for you and maybe some that didn't work.
A: Well, I suppose, early, when you first get into positions, you probably came to do things they you experienced them on the other side, that is how you saw other leaders operate, and adapt it, or at least, you were able to pick out things that you felt good about that other leaders did, and you also found things that were not so good, and so you say, "I don't want to bring that into my operational scheme." I think it's evolved now--I've already given you a personal background. There's a good deal of situational leadership now, I think, where one needs to know when to be directive and when to be supportive, and how to deal with those things. If you have somebody who's a novice at dealing with some kind of situation, and then, regardless of how motivated they may be regarding it, at least, initially you have to be somewhat more directive in dealing with that person, because they lack probably experience. They may lack knowledge, and those things are somewhat essential, at least, to help them down the path of being successful. By the same token, if you have somebody who's dealt in an area for some period of time and has been successful in things like this in the past, highly motivated, it would be a mistake to be directing these people. That's a situation where you can simply delegate whatever the task is or the situation is to them, have confidense that it will be done, and maybe periodically to ask for some kind of response report as to how things are going or check to deal with it. I think I've given two extremes in the scale of things. You just kind of fit things in the middle, depending upon the situation and upon the individual with whom you work. The ultimate is to help everybody to get into a situation where you simply delegate things to them and have confidense it's going to be done, as well as you would do it or as you would like to have done, or maybe even better than you would do it.
Q: Well, it sounds like ( ?) of manager.
A: (Laughter). It takes a little longer, but the problem of a leader is to help other people develop the skills that they have to become more effective leaders in whatever their area is.
Q: This may be inappropriate, but what effect, if any, did the civil rights movement have on the area where you were--
Q: (I know this was something--)
A: (Didn't affect it).
Q: Okay. I'll skip over that then. It's been said that the curriculum has become a lot more complex in recent years. I wonder if you could comment on the nature of the curriculum at the time you were the principal and compare it to the situation in today's school, based on your current perspective.
A: Well, the nature of the curriculum when I was principal was that there was very little choice. I mean things were just--that was it. Every seventh grader did this, this, and this. And if you were a boy, you took industrial arts, and if you were a girl, you took home economics, and so on through the curriculum. At the high school, at the senior high school, there may have been a few more choices, but those choices tended to track people. If you were going to college, these are the courses you took, and if you weren't going to college, these were the courses that you took. And that exists to some degree today. We have a good deal of, more diversity in the curriculum today, opportunities for students to persue special interests. I think without a question more opportunities for students to develop more expertice. For example, we offer six years of three foreign languages. For those who are interested that opportunity's there. I think schools tend to--years ago, you did everything, and whatever the school was, you did it there. Now, there tends to be more cooperative kinds of things. And I think that may even exist more in the future. But I remember one year that we had a student who wanted to get into agriculture program, and we did not have, because of the nature of our community, did not have a strong agriculture program in terms of numbers, and so made arrangements to another school for an agriculture course. We'd had students in the past that because we had a two year college center clinched with the university here. At one time, we had students that would go there and take some courses. Now, because we have many more students that wanted those things, we've incorporated those into our course offerings. But when we didn't have large numbers, we made arrangements for other schools out of the building. Years ago, that--you just wouldn't do that. I don't know why. We just wouldn't do that.
Q: That two year school, is that University of Wisconsin at Green Bay?
A: No, we had one here in (Manatock?). The one in (Manatock?) had a two year. The one in Green Bay is a four year. You know, I would go back just for a second on that, on the question that you had about civil rights, although this isn't really civil rights. Just to give you an idea, when I was in (Delphi?), there was a group of Amish people there. So at least they were different in terms of their unusual society. Really great, very nice people. And I like them very much. Their students were always very well behaved, usually did quite well in school, but it was clearly understood. . . . They came in--some of the people came in and talked to me and made it very clear--because, you know, their students did well, and I always tried to encourage them. And they came in and told, you know, they did not want their children--they had no plans for them to graduate from high school. When they got to be of age, they had to leave school. That was what their choice was, and so, while I didn't agree with it, I accepted it. And one thing they did not like: they did not want their children to take physical education classes. Now, physical education was required at that time, and at that time, if there was a course required, they took it. There were no exceptions for that kind of thing. And so, I said, "Well, if you don't have any plans to have a child graduate, and you really object to physical education," I said, "fine. You don't have to take it." That was the exception rather than the rule, and it was the kind of thing that you probably couldn't have done with any other group. But at least there was a group that was different from what--
Q: (A cult?).
A: And they were really--
Q: Any repercussions from the board?
A: No, none from the board or the community either. But they tended to--while they were--( ?) outside the community, they tended to have their own social group and did not generally mix with the other groups, and so I think for that reason, there were no repercussions. But that's as close as I think we could come to the societal differences that. . . .
Q: There's a lot of discussions going on right now about the values, pro and con, of standardized testing as a way of improving instruction. As you know, John (Goodland?) has been rather critical of us in terms of trying to use standardized test results as way of saying things about the goodness or badness of schools. I wonder if you could discuss your experience with that kind of testing and give us your views, if any, on the effect on the quality of instruction.
A: Well, we have some pretty broad generalizations about the standardized tests. The ACT, the PSAT, the SAT, for the most part, the primary function of those tests is to determine the success in college. Now, when we start taking the results on tests and making judgements on something other than the primary function of the test, we're way out on thin ice, no matter, either fortunately or unfortunately, I don't know which--the public doesn't understand the difference and so you can do almost anything test scores that you want, and a build a postion that's either favorable or unfavorable situation. But I think we need to be more honest with ourselves and more honest with the public, regarding the use of standardized test. Specifically, we have to know what's the function. You know, what's the test designed to measure? What is it? And let's only report the results in terms of what it is designed to measure. Let's not report the results in some other way. I do think that we need some kind of system for students being able to determine how successful they are in the things that they are doing. Tests are one measure, but they're only one; and they may be not the best, but at least, they're one. I have no problems with achievement tests for one purpose, and that is you just generally take a look to see that the students that you have are in the ball park across the country. And I think you have to make a judgment on that based upon the nature of the community that you serve, not to make broad generalizations or to make judgements on any individual students based on a standardized achievement test, or any standardized test, I think is . . . questionable. Depending upon what the test is designed to measure, it can be a useful tool for an individual when used with other things to help that individual make decisions about what he wants to do. In terms of it being the ultimate in determining the effectiveness of a school or what a student should or should not do, I think we're only fooling ourselves if we think that's the case.
Q: Has there been much pressure brought in this part of the country in recent months or years in terms of saying, "Hey, your numbers are low, or how come you're not doing this, that, and the other?"
A: Not really. I think that there's--we have a statewide testing program for third grade reading, but it's not based on that. It was set up that--how was that set up now? If the student achieved at this level, that was satisfactory or that was the level at which they would be expected to achieve, and if they were at this level, it was below what they were expected to achieve. From my standpoint, that's not really standardized achievement, the test is designed for. We have four tests that a student has to satisfactorily complete in order to graduate from high school, minimum proficiency tests.
Q: What are they?
A: Math, science, social studies, and language arts. And the language arts includes both a writing sample and a. . . . I think were at a place where we need to revise those, and the reason that we got into them in the first place was that we said, "Well, let's take a look at what it is that we believe that a student should be, know, do, value, be able to do in order to be considered a high school graduate." So first of all, we have to decide what things are really important, and they said, "Now, these are the things that are really important. Then, let's make sure they're in the curriculum, and if they're the ones that are really important and if we can test them, then let's test and see whether or not students learned them. And if students aren't learning them, then we have to look and see whether or not we're really teaching them, as we say we are." I think, we're at the point now, where I think we need to re-look the items that we have there and see if whether those really are the important things now, or if enough years have gone by that some things are less important [and] other things are more important, or indeed if we want to continue that procedure."
Q: That's been in place how long now?
A: Ten, 12 years. It probably took us about three years to get to the place where we developed them, but it's been at least 10, 12 years, I guess.
Q: And this is local option.
A: Local option. Local only, right. It has nothing to do any other school system. Tends to relate to what we believe is important and to our curriculum, and it's a good measure of--it's equally a good measure of testing if we're doing what we say we're doing.
Q: I apologize for jumping back in time on you.
A: That's alright.
Q: Back to the building, now, for a minute. I wonder if you sort of take us on a mythical, hypothetical walk through your work day. Give us some idea how you spent your time, and the number of hours a week you put in and so forth.
A: Well, I tried to be the first one to school in the morning, and I would have guessed that would have been in the vicinty of 7 o'clock or 7:15 [a.m.]. I can't remember the details anymore. And usually, I took a look at what appeared to be the tasks of the day, and at least if those were more important things that needed to be done that day, and if there needed to be some preparation that hadn't been done previously, that would be the time to work that. Then, there'd usually be a time as people were coming in, where there would be conversations with staff coming in. I was available if people wanted to see me if people wanted to see me before school started. I would probably get around the building, or at least part of the building, and then when students came, be in a position of talking with students as they came in or greet them as they came by and so on. Then, mail, the mundane tasks, the routine tasks. Appointments, if there were. What you'd do would be dependent upon the time of the school year and what was to be done at that particular time. What you don't have planned for your day and what you don't follow through, somehow, in some magical manner, there are all kinds of things that happen to fill your day. You may be called here because of this and that. You may have some student that was sent in because you may have some problem that's existing. You may have a teacher or a custodian, or a secretary that's got a problem and they have to talk to you about it right now. I think you have to maintain of open door policy, and I tried very much to do that; and I tried not to get involved with salesmen. So we'd go through the day that way probably. At noon, I'd be over in the cafeteria area. Some days I'd go home for lunch. I'd be back in the afternoon probably some time during the day, the morning or afternoon, or the movement around the building. I would probably not--I would not interrupt a class. I would not go into a classroom. If I wanted to talk to a teacher, I'd wait until class was over to do that. I think what we're there for is instruction. You just don't interrupt the instructional hour. Now that doesn't mean you can't go in and observe a class during the day, but that's a different kind of situation. After school, I'd usually be in a place to--well, depending, if I had people in the office, that was it. Otherwise I'd try and be out as students were leaving. And then, usually if there were afterschool activities for students, and there almost always would be, I'd try to at least to--perhaps not everyday--but I'd try to get around to to some, just to put in an appearance for a few minutes and then leave again. And by the end of the day, I'd try to set things in order, and so that it seems like whatever the important things that need to be done tomorrow, and then on Thursday or Friday, you try to look at that for the whole next week, and so on.
Q: How about evening activities?
A: Well, when there was a school activity, I was there. Somehow I just never thought--that's just part of the job that was never questioned. I had no idea the number of hours, and it wasn't a thing I kept track of. It was a job. You just did the job for whatever the time required.
Q: I wonder if you could talk about those aspect of your professional training which best prepared you for the principalship and what experiences or activities you felt were least tasteful to you.
A: I would say that the ones that were least useful were the ones that the coursework that you had where you had a textbook, you were in the textbook, you bring the textbook to class to a lecture, where there may have been some discussion over what you read in the book. Unless there happened to be a really exciting text, it was not highly productive, from my standpoint. It may have been for others. The things that I found most valuable, in the latter part, we had some case study kinds of activities, where you, situational activities. So here's the situation, and you're given so much in that situation; and now, you go back and you read through that, and you think, "Well now, put yourself in that place, and what would you do if you were in there place. What might you have done to have the problem or the situation exist in the first place, and then, come to class and there's a pretty open discussion with everybody. I mean it's amazing the different ways people view things about the same situation, the different ideas people had while dealing with it. And I thought that was very much more useful and productive. Although I wasn't specifically involved in it, I know there are simulation kinds of things now, I think, are going to be good. I think that there has to be some philosophical discussions in the preparations. There just has to be. And I don't know really the best way necessarily to do that. Maybe if I were thinking about teaching or something like that, I would explore that, but right off hand I can't--but I do think some philosophical discussion about . . . one's view of the kinds of things we've been talking about: leadership, curriculum, and so on.
Q: Any internship opportunities while you were training?
A: No I didn't, not in the principalship. What I did, when I was an undergraduate, I was in the first group of people that went off campus to do student teaching. Prior to that time, student teaching had always been done on campus. And so I happened to be in the first group, and the reason for that was they had so many student teachers they couldn't place them all on campus and then the schools around there, and so they opened it up. So, while that wasn't an internship, it was more of an intern kind of a thing, because I went to a community and I lived there and I was in the school all day long for a period of time; so it was more intern-like than student teaching might be where you'd go in for a half a day and then you'd go to some classes and some other kinds of things.
Q: On campus, you must have had a lab school.
A: Yes, there was a lab school at IU.
A: But then, they also used the Bloomington Public Schools, so there was those two; but they couldn't even handle all of them, so they had to take some of them out of Bloomington.
Q: How long a period of time.
A: I think that we were out for--you know I can't remember. It was, I think, the better part of a semester, and then, I think during that time I was fairly close to an extension, and so I was able to take some graduate courses on the weekends. So as I picked up the student teaching, I also picked up graduate courses.
Q: Good idea. Dr. Childs, I wonder if you'd say a word about the issue of mentoring. There's an awful lot of talk now about mentoring for administrators, in which an experienced person works with a neophyte. Did you have any experiences of that type, and was there a mentor in your life or someone that helped you model your behaviors as an administrator?
A: I can't think of a single individual, but I can think of a lot of people from whom I got ideas, and in some cases those people who were co-workers in administration, perhaps from other schools. So, as I say, I can't think of a single. . . , but I'm sure--I can remember picking up a lot of ideas from a number of different people. Yes, I think a mentor program is a good idea. Right now, we have a mentor program for all our teachers new to the staff, the beginning teachers. So I think ( ?). And we did, a few years ago, we had a program similar to what you call a mentor program, and that is we had an administrator intern program, where we had one person, permitted them a staff member, and they would apply, and we'd go through our central office, and they--and if there primary interest was elementary, why then we would send them to the elementary buildings to work with the principal in an administrative role. If it was secondary, we would do the same thing. They would spend some time here, (and that's still go on?). And right now we have one of our principals, a high school principal who's attending a, doing some graduate work, and they are just starting a mentoring program at the University of Wisconsin, at Milwaukee, where he is. And they asked a number of the superintendents around the state to get involved in that kind of program. It worked pretty much on an informal basis with an expectation that you worked X number of half days or amount of time, but the topics and the areas with which you work and the person you work are pretty much up to the two people involved. So I think it has a lot of possibilities. I think it's just one more tool or activity that can be a benefit in helping to train administrators.
Q: ( ?) question there. There are those who argue that often times central office polocies will hinder rather then help the building level administrators in carrying out the responsibilities that they're assigned. I wonder if you could--what changes you would make in typical systemwide organization arragements as a way of improving administrative efficiency.
A: Well, I'm sure there are times that that happens in every system, and sometimes there are things you can do about it and sometimes you can't. Just like sometimes there's things principals do in the building that hinder the instruction in the classroom, that they're breaking in with an announcement every other hour, things of that kind. The kinds of things that--I think the first thing you have to do is to realize that people on the administrative staff have specific jobs. You should have a job description for those things, and then you should keep your hands off. If you work in the central office and you want to be the high school principal, apply for the high school principal's job. If you've got a high school principal, then our task is to support him. I look at the central office as primarily a service area. Our job, one of our main tasks is to help people in the buildings is to help people in the buildings be successful in what they're doing. And so we would first work, obviously with the administrative people, because it's their responsibility to work with the other staff. We don't go in and bypass the building level administration to work with other people, so that's, I think, is our primary function. And I think there's some things we can help them with to take some responsibilities off their shoulders. For example, we do most of our ordering centrally. There's very little point for us to have a purchasing arrangement in every building, so you don't burden people with that. So there are certain kinds of things you can bring in centrally to do, that's a help. We have, for example, overnight printing service, so that there are no ditto machines and copy machines in the buildings, and so if a teacher wants something to hand out to their class for the next day, if they have it in the district mail by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, by 7 o'clock the next morning, before school starts, they'll have X number of copies back in their mail, ( ?) to hand out. Those are things, I think that we can help them do. And I think the other thing we have to do is we have to constantly be--I think we have to maybe challenge their thinking once in awhile, maybe suggesting or asking, "What can we do beyond what we're doing now? How can we change what we're doing now to make it better?" Because it's easy to get caught up in the routine of the day and not have time to do those things, yet those things, I think from an administrative point of view and a management point of view, are things that we have to do if we're going to enhance the quality of our schools. And then, the other thing that we have to do is generally ask people, "What are the things which are getting in your way? What can we do to better serve you, to better help you do your job," and, "What are the things that we're doing now that are causing you problems," and listening. And you can do that either by face-to-face talk, or you can give them a sheet of paper; and let them fill that out either anonimously or however you want and get the feedback.
Q: Well, there are those folks who argue, literature argues extensively that a building principal should be an instructional leader, and then there are others who've suggested that realistically speaking that person should above all be a good manager. What are your views on this issue, and maybe you could describe how you handled it when you were in the buildings.
A: Well, I think you have to be some of both. It is folly to think that every principal is going to be an instructional leader in every area of the curriculum. You can't be an expert in foreign language, and then language arts, and then math, and then science and industrial arts and so on. There's no way in terms of the content that you can, so I think that the person at least has to have benefits from some concept of the curriculum in each area and some ideas and concepts of instruction, procedures of instruction. And in terms of a manager, part of the job is you have to manage the operation of the building, and some of those things can be developed as a routine over a period of time, but you need always to look and see if whatever the routines or whatever the procedures are if they can't be improved in some way to help the organization function better and to help people in the classroom. What did I do? I think the things that I did, I tried to have periodically, instead of having a staff meeting where I met with everybody, I would try to get, [say] the English teachers together. And we might talk about, "What can we do to enhance--" "Where are we now? What can we do to enhance this? How might we coordinate what we're doing with some other department? Is that possible?" And then, try to get around periodically to all the instructional groups on that basis. Now obviously, you didn't do that every week, but at least you got some attention to each area; and there was very little point as a principal for me to go in and pretend or profess expertise in industrial, in industrial arts, because I didn't have it, and you'd be a fool to think that you could fake that kind of thing. So I think some of things you do is they also provide you with an opportunity for learning. And it's amazing what you can learn that's transferable. You might get some idea of whether it's common use in one area that is not in another, and yet, by some minor alteration, it can be transferred. So that way, even though that's using those ideas more as a generalist, I really don't think that anyone can be much more than a generalist in the areas of the curriculum. I also think that in the future, I think in the future, our curriculums are going to dissappear. Our instruction is based on an archaic system of dividing everything into mathematics, science, language arts, [and so on]. That's the only place in the world that you do that. You get out in the real world, there's nobody that just deals with mathematics or just English, or just whatever. All these things are just somehow or other mingled, and they all work together to do something; but I think this was all separated out, because, during the industrial revolution, that what was done. You know, jobs were kind of sorted out into . . . , so it became more efficient to operate. So we did that with the curriculum. It was all sorted out into neat packages, be more efficient to teach math and here and here's a. . . . And I think at least we should give a hard look at integrating the curriculum as much as possible, so the students see the interrelation of what it is we have in the body of knowledge.
Q: Good point. There's a lot of experimentation going on now on ways to select principals. I'm wondering if you might share emotions you have about appropriate ways to screen and find and identify people that most likely to provide good service in this field.
A: Okay. Well, a lot them are fairly routine kinds of things. We like to have--and I think it's important--to get whatever kind of placement papers or whatever supporting data that the candidate would have. A resume--although, really a resume, what's in those papers should--the resume shouldn't be anything that's a surprise to what's there. I think it's relatively important to have an announcement and see who applies. I'm always a little reluctant to go out and try to talk somebody into a position if they don't have the motivation and desire to have it themselves. All other things being equal, I'd rather have somebody who really wants the job than somebody who's sitting there waiting to be asked for the job. So for us it's important to get through some logical procedure, information about people who qualify and are interested in it. We would then have a committee of people. It would be people from the central office. It would probably include other principals, department heads, and in some cases we'd use teachers, custodians, and secretaries in a committee to screen the applicants and narrow them down to a manageable number, to whatever they determine is manageable, and then call these people in and interview them. Beyond that when we got down to a small number, we'd make some personal contacts, probably by telephone, with people who'd worked with them, and when we got to the--and then, some people might be brought back for a second interview, depending on the situation. And finally, if we would go to the community where the person is now working, talk with them on the job that they're doing, talk with the people that they work with, talk to the people of the community about them, meet their family. And I guess that would be the biggest part of what it would be.
Q: Okay. Have you all done any work with assessment centers?
A: Yes, we have. We have assessment centers. We've used that. We've also used--and we used it with every candidate too and I didn't mention it--is we have a one-on-one interview, structured interview with each candidate that we bring in for an interview; and it's--but you know, I can't think of it right now. Well, it doesn't make any difference. But anyway, it's a structured interview designed to cover certain topics, and you look for certain responses to see where the person falls. We've used that. We also have used paper and pencil tests in terms of some of our minimum proficiency kinds of things. We do it in math, science, and so on. See if they can write. See if--a legable sentence and a complete sentence, where they are there.
Q: Changing topic. A good deal of attention has been given in recent years to career ladders and differential pay plans and merit pay, and all that sort of thing. And I wonder if you'd give your view on those kinds of approaches and describe any involvement you've had with any of them.
A: Well, I think that whatever works for our district and seems to be successful is what they'll use. My own personal feeling is that I think we have an obligation to attempt to compensate people, and you compensate in more ways than just money, but that certainly one that puts bread on the table. In terms of their value to the organization--and I admit that that's a somewhat subjective judgement, but when you involve a number of people in that, it becomes much less so. And I'm not so sure how much better the kinds of things that we use to determine salary, compensation when they're tied to specific things. For example, if the number of years that you've worked and what degree you have, or the number of hour credits in college you taken are the basis for compensation, if I were to go in and see somebody perform their job, be it a teacher or an administrator or whoever it was, I couldn't tell how many years they'd been doing the job or how many college credits they had. So there's absolutely no correlation between those things, and yet, that's the basis on which we pay people; and you do that, because it's easy to measure. And the quality of the performance of the task is not so easy to measure, so we avoide that; and we admit that it's somewhat subjective. But that doesn't make it evil because it's subjective or because it's not as easy to do as the other. From my own standpoint, I'd much prefer to be compensated on the basis of perceived performance. Now, historically, probably, probably teaching has appealed to people who have done well in school, who have been successful in school and who may be individually less secure than other people, because it's a nice place to go. It's a good working environment. There are certain benefits that are, you know, they are just there. It's generally never been considered based on the performance that one actually does. There's a less competitive environment in terms of all those kinds of things, so that probably tends to attract those people who are less aggressive, less willing to have their compensation based upon perceived performance. And I can't say, you know, what we're doing now is not all bad, but it could be better. And if we were to apply the same procedures that we do for teachers, all the seniors would get As and all the first graders would get Fs.
Q: Okay. That's such a nice lead into the next question, the issue of evaluation, and we'll switch over and talk about teachers for a minute. I'm wondering if you could give me some notion of your philosophy on evaluation of teachers and how you've gone about it over the years.
A: Alright. Well, let me start--first of all, when we employ somebody, be it a teacher, whoever it is, our number one goal should be to help that person succeed. Why would we hire the person if we don't think they can succeed, and why don't we want them to succeed? So our aspect has to be we want this person to succeed. Now, I don't like the term evaluation, because in education, somehow evaluation has come to be perceived--I don't think it necessarily means this, but it is perceived and what is perceived is more important, perhaps, than anything else--it's perceived as you try to find out what somebody's doing wrong, and then you tell them about it or you don't tell them about it and just be aware that they're doing something wrong, depending on how you look at it. And I don't think that's the way you help people do a better job. So I think that we need to look upon working with people, which I'll call it, as a means of helping them do a better job, in this case instructional improvement. And that could be done in a variety of ways, and I don't think there's any one best way to do it; so that whatever the principal and the teacher feel good about can be an appropriate way, as long as there's some organization to it, there's some goal in mind, and people will know when they've reached the goal. And I'm not even sure that we have to spend hours and hours and hours of time documenting these things, although these days, it's perceived we need to put everything in writing. Now, I think there does come a time when you need to be able to document things, and that is that when all of our best efforts have failed to help our person improve or the person chooses not, at that point maybe we really have to document that we've made an effort to help the person and the person is not succeeding, because we have an obligation to students as well as to staff, and our obligation to students is to provide, you know, quality people. So. . . .
Q: Then, I suppose when you run into a situation where a teacher's upset with the system, you're likely to generate a grievance. And I wonder if you could talk about your views on the desireability of a grievance procedure and maybe document or talk about some of your experiences with that approach to things.
A: Well, I've been really accustomed to that in here, because Wiscon's quite a big union state; and so we've had grievance procedures and operated with them for years. I don't have any problem with it, a formalized grievance procedure. People have a complaint--to me, if you've got a complaint with the way something's operating, you go to the person who can do something about it. You don't write a letter to the newspaper or call the radio station, or you don't go to the lounge and moan and groan about this. You go to the person who can do something about whatever your concern is. And if people would do that, you probably wouldn't need grievance procedures. You would be able to handle situations, for the most part, that way. But it's amazing the number of people who cannot deal face-to-face with people, and with the people with whom they should talk, and so you end up with grievance procedures because that gives them a way to deal with something that they are unable to face personally, or some other route to go. I don't have any problem with it. It's not going to--you know, I've never felt intimidated by a grievance procedure. We're not going to adjust something that we're doing because somebody's going to file a grievance or be unhappy. All of us are unhappy at one time or another about something connected with our job. Well, do you spend time dwelling on the things you can be unhappy about, or do you spend your time dwelling on the things that you can feel good about and go from there? To me, the latter is obvious. You have a few people who can't do that, so you deal with it.
Q: You mentioned earlier something about, occasionally, you run into a teacher who does perform to standard, and I assume that there must be some procedure for teacher dismissal. I wonder if you could talk about those procedures and how you've been involved with them over the years.
A: Okay. Well, recently we've ascertained that that's a problem, and we worked with the person. I've gone through the procedures that we have to do first, and that's only fair. When everything fails, and there's a decision by a number of people, and not just by one person, an adjustment has to be made and the person needs to be terminated, then I think that we have an obligation to go to that person and say, "We've done our best. We're sure that you've put forth the effort, and we just can no longer continue the employment. We will give you an opportunity to resign." I think we have to always give the person that route. "And if you choose not to, we will then proceed with dismissal charges." And it's amazing to me the number of times when you confront people with this that they will of their own volition decide to say, "Thank you for the opportunity." Well they may not say thank you. They may just give you a letter, but at least that. So I think whatever we do in the dismissal procedure, as much as possible, we have to give people the opportunity to leave the organization with their head held high. Even if what they've done may not make you feel that that should be the case, I still think we've got to do it, because that person's going to go someplace else again. And perhaps someplace else they can be successful, and they'll have a better chance at being successful if they can feel more positive about leaving this situation than having it the other way. Now, occasionally, you just get into an obstinate situation, when that's not going to happen, and you simply have to deal with it. You go through whatever the legal procedures are. You have all the supportive evidence. You have people who can substantiate what's been done and go whatever route that needs to be done.
Q: What are the basese of tenured, if you use that term, teachers in Wisconsin?
A: Well, I think insubordination, obviously, is one. Inappropriate activity with students. Just out and out inadequate performance that can be substantiated.
Q: That's hard to prove.
A: Right, right.
Q: Do you use the term "moral terpitude?" I'm talking about the business of moral standards.
A: Yes. Yes, we use that.
Q: There's been--change of subject. There has been some discussion in recent years about the concept of effective schools. And there are those who claim that it is possible to identify an effective school, based on certain characteristics. And I wonder if you could help me understand from your perspective what features you would look for in characterizing an effective, as opposed to an ineffective school.
A: Well, you certainly have to, first of all, be able to sense a climate and a feeling among the people there that the students are important and that they're valued. I don't see how you can have an effective school without that. And that's probably more easily determined not by having people tell you what happens but by having a chance to see what happens and how things go. I think that in order to have an effective school, you have to have . . . yes, I say you have to have an effective leader. And it is possible that the leader might not be the principal. It might be the assistant principal or it might be somebody else. If it's anybody else, then the principal has simply given up his real role and somebody else is assuming it. So you normally expect that that's where it would be. I think you need a lot of opportunities for students and there's. . . . Students assume leadership roles in a whole variety of things that occur, and I think you need parent involvement, not to the degree that whenever some issue comes up, you convene a group of parents and ask them how it should be handled. But to the degree that the parents are encouraged to come to the school to participate in a whole variety of ways from being volunteers, to soliciting ideas, to listening to what they have to say, to being. . . . You don't need a lot of support groups that raise money and sell garden seeds and rat poison and buy up all that kind of stuff. That's not a function of parent groups. If they would just come and let students know they are important or valued because you're willing to give your time to watch them do something or help them do something or to be with them. And you have to have some reasonable organization and some thought out curriculum. I mean we're going to be involved in the instruction of something. What is it going to be, and then, I think we need to have some wide variety of instructional techniques and procedures and then some kind of a spirit or an attitude that we're looking for something better. We're looking beyond today for something better, and we're striving to find that kind of thing. You probably determine that more from talking to people and seeing how they view life and how they view things. And looking at the materials that they use and the variety of things they're doing now, and perhaps what their philosophy is and how they see the future.
Q: I assume the principal's vision fits right in to the whole--
A: Oh, sure it does. That's part of it. I mean, that's part of being a leader.
Q: Salaries and compensation are something that's changed a good bit, a good deal since any of us were first exposed to the profession, and I wonder if you could discuss your recollections of the compensation system of the school or systems that you worked at early on, and then compare and contrast--well you've developed, what you talked about development of the past 30 or 40 years.
A: Well, when I first taught and when I was first the principal, there were no scales. There were no anything. You just--so they offered you an amount of money, and you either agreed to it or you said no; so it was in a sense a kind of an individual negotiation, except probably it was more take it or leave it kind of thing. You either felt, "Yes," and if the answer was, "No," you wouldn't accept it. Then, there might be a negotiation period after that time. It's evolved to a highly structured thing, you know, like we have in teacher's salary schedules. Sometimes administrative situations are involved in that. Oh, I remember when I first came to (Manatua?). I came as assistant superintendent, and we had a salary schedule. And for teachers in which men were paid more than women. I couldn't believe it. I never heard of such a thing before. And the rationale was that men provided more discipline. They were involved more than women were, so they were paid more money. Not really, if that was in fact the rationale. Sometimes the stated rationale is not the real rationale, but if that were in fact were true, all you have to do is open your eyes and know that is not the case; because there are some women who would deal with that much better. So then it changed from men and women to those who have dependents and those who do not have dependents. Now--
Q: If you could recap that comment about differential pays.
A: Okay. The first differentiation was male/female pay, and then it went to a differentiation of pay for those who have dependents and those who did not have dependents. And so I said I could never figure out why fertility was a measure of how people should be compensated, but that's the way it was. And then shortly after that, it just disappeared altogether. And the amazing thing was that the teaching staff supported that position. They supported that position.
Q: This was about what year?
A: It was in the 1960s.
Q: Well, things have obviously evolved since then. Now, when did the unions begin to get involved in the negotiations on salary and so forth around here?
A: Let's see. In Wisconsin, it was probably the later 1960s and 1970s
Q: Okay. Had they been doing it in Indiana when you were there?
A: No. No. Well, there was always a--not really a union situation. There was an arm of the NEA. It wasn't--in fact at that time, administrators and teachers and everybody all bought into the group, and I remember a principal in ( ?). He wouldn't hire a teacher unless that person join the NEA affiliate or whatever it was, because he felt the only way you can't keep professional is to join organization like that. I mean, if all it takes is an organization, anybody can do it. (Laughing). But that's. . . .
Q: When did you get your first contracts here?
A: You mean with the union?
Q: The union.
A: I don't remember. I really don't. As long as I can, there was always some kind of written format, and it seems to me that initially that written format was something that the board had approved and that the administration used to implement whatever was approved; and there may have been some informal discussions. But initially this was primary what we think will be appropriate for the next year. And then, those discussions gradually became a little more formal, a little more formal, a little more formal, until finally it was finalized into an actual negotiations.
Q: And you do what, two, three year contracts, something like that?
A: Most of them are two year contracts by law now. You have to do a two year contract unless the two parties agree to some other length in the contract. You could go to one; you could go to three. But most of them do two.
Q: Do you do your own negotiations, or do you bring in somebody else?
A: We hire an attorney. And we have other people who are on the committee, but the attorney, our attorney does the [negotiations].
Q: Administrators spend a lot of time, obviously, on paperwork, and some of them complain a lot about the bureaucratic complexity and the amount of paperwork with which they're forced to deal. I wonder if you comment on the situation during your administrative career, particularly at the building level, and compare those problems that you encountered in the early days with the situation as you see it now and what's happening to principals.
A: In the earlier days, there was paperwork, and for the most part, we have typewriters to deal with the paperwork and carbon paper; and that was it. So that it was, you know, because of the less proficient variety of machines, it was more tedious in that arrangement. Well, there's some people that have a knack of seeking out the paperwork that has to be done, that which is nice to have, and that [which] is not necessary at all. And I think that's an important skill, and sometimes--I'm sure we wouldn't all agree on that, but at least it's a relatively important thing to look at. I don't ever remember feeling burdened with paperwork. There were some things that I didn't particularly like to do, but that's true of a lot of things. Now, I really am concerned about the amount of paperwork that's put upon the people at the various levels, and I think that's part of our responsibility to try and take those tasks away from them. And we feel burdened by the state and sometimes the federal government. And, oh, the amount of mail you get! Who wants a survey? They want information about this. I've just come to the place that, if we've got--that can't be our primary function. And if we have time, we'll deal with these things, and if we don't, you know, we simply will not. Now of course, you have to do the things that are mandated, and so we try to do those as efficiently as possible. Right now, we're looking at the possibility of going to a paper office, through the use of computers and our hookup of all our computers. So we send messages back and forth ( ?) and so on.
Q: When do you hope to have that in place?
A: Within a year.
Q: Just a little too late (to do you any good?). (Laughter).
A: (Laughing). Well, that's the way it goes.
Q: Thinking back to (Delphi?) and so forth, what was your relationship with the superintendent who was in place at that time, in terms of interractions and his demeaner toward the school and so forth?
A: Right. The superintendent's office was in the building adjacent to the high school, and generally, our relationship was quite good. It just so happened that when I was in high school, the superintendent was the principal of the high school; so now you're superintendent and I'm the principal here. He was a good person with whom to work. I had no serious complaints. Generally, generally, let me be the principal of the building, was supportive. He had a little bit of a problem when people in the community would complain. He wanted to be able to satisfy people in the community first, and then, go the other route. That's the way I looked at it. He may have looked at it in a different way and felt that perhaps I was not really as sensitive to the desires of the people in the community as perhaps I should be. And it's hard to know, you know. I look at it from my perspective, and it's not so easy to see it from somebody elses. The only one realy problem that I--and for me it was a learning situation--is that we took a student teacher from Perdue, and Perdue had some kind of a tradition that all senior males had a beard. During the summer before they became seniors, they grew a beard and they a senior beard for a period of time--I don't know how long--at the beginning of the year. Well, in those days, men just did not have whiskers or mustaches or ( ?). Everybody had to have a cleanshaven face in school. There was just no other way around it. So the fellow came, and I was a little bit surprised, [but] I didn't say anything. Several of the staff said something to me about it, and I said, "Well, I don't know." I said, "Maybe, you know. . . ." And so, I thought, "I'm just not going to do anything. I'm going just kind of see how things go." Well apparently some of the people in the community complained to the superintendent. The superintendent was quite upset and said that we just weren't going to have anybody on our staff that had a beard and that he was going to have to shave the beard. I said, "Okay. If that's the way it is, I'll tell him that." So I told him he was going to have to shave his beard. And he says, "Oh, that's going to be ridiculous!" He says, "I'm going to be the only senior," and on and on. He says, "Is it alright if I talk to the superintendent?" I said, "Well, sure. You can do that." So it was the next day or very shortly thereafter he talked to the superintendent, and I happened to be standing outside the study hall--and the study hall was also a corridor to go on, and you have to go through the study hall to get to another part--and I was there and the superintendent came up and he said, "Oh, I just talked to that fellow," and he says, "He just talked to me, and I told him it was okay for him to have his beard." I said, "You did?" I said, "But you told me that you didn't want it. You told me that I was to tell the fellow he wasn't to have that beard." So then, he called the fellow back, and he said, "Oh, you can't shave off the beard. He doesn't want you to." (Laughter).
Q: Okay. (Laughing).
A: So it's a learning situation. You learn that's not the way you deal with people. That's not the way that you want to be dealt with. You just lose--I don't know. If it's a person that you've held in high esteem, you just feel sorry for the person. Why is it that you need to do that to maintain whatever it is that you have to maintain? And I wouldn't have thought anything about it if, you know, he would have said, "You go ahead and do what you want, and I'll think about it. In the meantime, maybe we'll change it." And then I'd made some decisions, and he said, "Well, I thought about, and I think that probably we'd better not do it that." Alright, I may not agreed, but I could have accepted it.
Q: Sure. Same situation. Did you have much contact with the school board, and if so, what were the relationships?
A: No, very little. As principal, I had very little contact with the school board, and I didn't seek it. Because it was a relatively small community, I sometimes knew the people there. One little situation we had is I had a school board member who wanted his wife employed, and the wife was employed to be a nurse. Well, at that time, nobody had a school nurse, and it was an unusual situation. Unfortunately, she felt that because her husband was on the school board that she didn't have to follow any of the routines or she could pretty much operate the way she wanted to. If she decided she wanted to take a student out of class to talk to them, well she'd do that. Well, we had to deal with that. I mean, you can't have that kind of situation. She became a little unhappy because of it, but that's it.
A: That's what you get into, when you get into, when there are situations of--what do you call it? I can't think of the right term. When people are hired because they--
Q: It's called nepotism.
A: Yes, nepotism, right.
Q: A followup question here. It's said that principals operate in an intense environment where some are under a fair amount of pressure. I wonder what kinds of things you did in those days to sort of maintain your sense of calmness, or some people say, "Maintain your sanity," under these stressful conditions.
Q: Of course, you're a different age then, I realize but--
A: Yes, I was. (I can't?) think of those things as being stressful, to tell you the truth, and I still don't think of a lot of them as being stressful. What do you do about them? Well, I think, first of all, you have to feel--you have to be able to have a feeling that whatever the situation is or whatever that you're doing that you have some philosophical, ethical, moral base for doing what you're doing. Now, if you have that and you feel comfortable with it, there are just all kinds of things that just roll off your back like nothing. You know you can't satisfy everybody, and you have to--so, but when some people get really nasty, probably when I was younger, I was a little more beligerent and I was ready to fight back a little bit. Not only probably, I'm sure that's the case. And usually that tended--if it did escalate the problem, at least it alienated the other individual, so you had nothing to gain by that; but I guess that's the way you learn to get things out--that's where experience helps over inexperience. So later on, you realize you may have some momentary satisfaction, but it's only momentary, and it is of no lasting value; and it doesn't do anything to enhance the situation in the future. So now, you listen. You do whatever. You occasionally take abuse, and you have to know you take abuse and don't say anything and when you're subjected to abuse and you respond. Plus you respond in a relatively calm, logical manner, rather than in an angry, forceful vindictive kind of style. It helps to have some kind of--I think people who tend to have their entire life revolve around their vocation have a greater problem with that then people who do some other kinds of things, whether it's family, whether it's a hobby, whether it's reading, anything kind of thing, just so there's some diversion from this (job?). Now, you--it doesn't mean that you don't take your job seriously , and as I look back on our life, I'm sure in many situations the job came first. We built things around the job. If there was an activity which I felt I needed to be there, and we wanted to go someplace or do something, we rescheduled it around that. I think--well, right now we live in the country. We've got our small woods there, so there's always something to do out in the woods. Fiddle around. I like to garden. So all those things I think are just ways to get your enjoyment. The other thing--and I think everybody can do this with just a little bit of practice--that there are times when you go home and you leave your problems behind you, whatever they are. And I think everbody can develop that technique if they choose to do it. People who say that they can't do that, well as long as they say they can't, they'll never be able to. That's right. But you can learn to do that. When you come back the next day, it will be there. You don't have to worry about it. It'll still be there, and so you can be with it then.
Q: (Laughter). Back in, I guess it was 1962 or 1963, when you made the move here as assistant superintendent. Can you recast any of the mental processes you went through which caused you to leave the principalship and move into the central office?
A: That's interesting. I can't, because at the time I chose to come here, I was also offered a job as a high school principal in ( ?), Indiana. So I had two choices. And it so happened that the one in ( ?), Indiana paid $1,000 more than this one did, which at that time, was, you know, a fairly substantial amount. So I talked to my wife about it. At that time, our children were quite small and moving to them was an adventure, so it didn't make any difference really where we went. And as I took a look at it, both of them were good opportunities, and I think we selected this one because I said, "I've been a principal. The goal is to be a superintendent. Why don't we go here and take this direction and go there." Plus there was always the excitement and opportunity in a completely different environment, into another state, so there's a whole new series of things to be familiar with than living in the same state. And I think those were probably things that we considered.
Q: Now you were an assistant for about two years.
A: No, I was assistant for nine years.
Q: Nine years, and then the other gentlemen moved on or retired, and you were selected.
A: Yes, right. Well, when we came here, we came here with the idea that it was going to take from three to five years and that would be it, no longer than that.
Q: Things worked out.
A: Things changed for a variety of reasons.
Q: I wonder if I could get you to give the listening audience here your overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service and any advice you might have for people who think they might like to enter administrative work, having been out of it for some years.
A: To tell you the truth I see mostly pros. I see very few cons. I don't really see any, but I guess that--whether something is a pro or a con depends upon your value system and how you view that. One of the nice things about it is you teach first and then you go as a principal. That's the usual route. Not everbody does that, but that's the usual route; and the nice thing about that is most people who teach really like children. They really like young people, and there's a certain devotion to that; and to make that break, you're always concerned, "Now, I won't be able to have that association." So when you make the break to principal, you still have some of that association with young people. It's not exactly the same, but you still have it; and you also pick up the association with adults, and so then, it's a much easier step to go to the next one where a less association with young people and more with adults. So I guess it's just an easy evolving kind of process, and I think if--one needs a genuine desire to see the bigger picture and to be a part of the--more of the whole pattern and organization than to be a part of a portion of it. I'm not saying one is necessarily more important than another, but if you want to be involved in administration, you need to do it beyond the classroom or subject matter area or something of that particular kind, and see the opportunities and the excitement of working in that area. Then, if you want to go beyond that, you need to see the excitement and the opportunities of the entire district, as opposed to an individual building. And you have to be able to feel that that's a worthwhile and important kind of thing. And I think the other thing is it's an opportunity to work on a broader scale with more people and--
Q: A greater impact and a different kind of impact in the community.
Q: Well, you know, despite my best efforts to be comprehensive and so forth, I probably have forgotten to ask you something really important, so my last question is what have I not asked you that I should have asked you that we need to get on this tape?
A: (Laughter). I don't know. Let's see. Oh, I'll probably think of four or five things tomorrow, but right now--(Laughter)--right now, I can't--I guess--
Q: I just thought of one that would be interesting. Have you laid plans for how you propose to spend your time once you leave active service as a superintendent?
A: Not specifically. I've thought about a number of things, and I think that part of that's going to have to come when I actually get into that place. For example, one thing I know is that since I've decided to retire, when that time comes, I'm going to walk out the door and I'm going to be done, and I'm not going to look back, and I'm not going to try and suggest what should people should do and so on. If I wanted to do that, I should have stayed here. I shouldn't have left. So when I'm gone, I'm going to be done. If there's any involvement at all, it will be vocally supportive of the operation and those who follow. If I can't be supportive, then I'll be quiet.
Q: Okay. You're not going to leave three envelopes?
A: (Laughter). I've thought about a lot of things. I've thought about, oh, things that I thought about, "Well I may be interested in working in superintendent searches." I thought maybe I'd be interested in teaching a course in a college periodically, you know, just on a part-time basis. I thought about a number of other things not necessarily related to education. And then, I thought, "Well, to do any of those things, I'm going to be tied to a particular schedule. On some particular day or somewhere, I'm going to have to be at that particular time." And I do like organization to my time, because that's the only you can utilize it as effectively as possible, but I'm not sure that I immediately want to go to some other kind of thing. I may just want some time to just look at some other perspective and do some other things in a less highly structured basis, and then see if I wanted to make some adjustment on that.
Q: I see. Have a little time to reflect on that.
A: Yes, I think so. And I--well, I'd have some time to do some things that my wife would like to do now.
Q: Okay. Well, if we've got no further comments, I want to thank you very much for spending the time with me.
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