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Q: Mr. Carr, would you start the interview by telling us a little about your family background. That would include such things as your childhood interests, and development, maybe your birthplace, your elementary and secondary education, and anything about your family that you'd like to share.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Very good, thank you. I was born in a little town called Bell Center, Ohio, back in 1932. And growing up in the Midwest during the Depression, of course, probably caused many of the decisions I would later make. My mother died when I was three years-old, and a part of my experience goes back to living with grandparents and extended family, which I'm sure helped to build my character and influenced many of the career decisions that would come later on. My grandfather was a very prominent politician, serving in the State Senate of Ohio. He valued education very highly and was, at one time, a teacher himself. My other grandparents were prominent farmers in the area and had relatively little formal education, but they still valued it very highly. I was the middle of three brothers, and we spent time living back and forth on the farm for a while and living in the small town of Bell Center where my other grandparents resided. Probably my outlook on life and education was a result of those experiences.
Q: What year was it that you were born?
Q: '32. When did you enter elementary school and where?
A: 1938. I entered first grade in Bell Center, Ohio, and actually had a private kindergarten experience the year before that, that was quite a bit different from the kindergartens of today, of course. I don't recall too much about that experience. The rest of my elementary school was in the small town of Canton, Ohio, and also in a town in another part of the state--Waynesfield, Ohio. I also attended a sight-saving class in Lima, Ohio, a larger city in the western part of Ohio, due to the fact that I am today what is called legally blind. That was an interesting experience.
Q: So this was something that came early on?
A: I was actually born with these problems, and I'm sure much of my outlook on life and feelings about education came about as a result of this particular problem.
Q: I wonder if we could move on and talk about your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching, and how many years did you serve in the various positions that you had?
A: My college experience was also in the northern part of Ohio. I started school at Bowling Green State University in 1950. I attended there only one year and transferred to a small church-related college called Findley College.
A: Findley. I felt more comfortable there because it was a small school, and this had pretty much been my experience in my elementary and secondary schools. My Masters degree I took at the University of Toledo from 1956-1959, taking courses at night and during the summers, during my first two teaching years. I started teaching in a town called North Baltimore, Ohio. That position resulted from the acquaintance that I made in my high school years. I graduated in a town called Quincey, Ohio, and the superintendent was a person who, I felt, was a very fine individual, and he came to me my senior year of college and asked me if I'd be interested in a job with him, which was very gratifying to think that he would ask me to come and teach on his staff. I accepted, of course, thinking that the experience would be quite similar to what I had experienced when I was a senior in high school, where he was a very friendly individual, and one that we felt, as students, was quite progressive and very open to the students' concerns. But, my experience turned out that he was quite a different administrator as he was perceived by the teachers as he, as a person perceived by the high school student. He was quite autocratic, and we didn't perceive this at all as a high school student. We felt that he was quite open-minded and democratic. But, it was an interesting experience because his administrative-supervisory techniques were quite different than just knowing him as a student. He would set very many rules for his school that we felt were rather autocratic. He had very little democratic principles in his leadership style. If you didn't follow his rules to the letter, he was very quick to be vindicative in his response to that. Many teachers, I recall seeing teachers outside their classrooms weeping because he had come and chewed them out royally because they had done something, perceived by them as a minor infraction. So, it wasn't long before I began to assert myself, perhaps because of the fact that I was well acquainted with this individual very personally. His family and my family were very close. In fact, he--his wife was the babysitter for our daughter. So I probably presumed upon that friendship in my professional relationship and was not afraid to speak up and say what I thought, not only privately, but also in staff meetings. I was not aware, being probably very naive, was not aware that this was going to be something that would come to haunt me later on. I served three years in that school, the first year as a teacher of a combined fifth and sixth grade, and at the close of that school year, I prevailed upon him very intensely to transfer me to the one position that had opened, which was the one single grade--the fifth grade. He finally consented, I guess I prevailed upon not only our friendship, but the fact that I felt that it was only fair that if you spent a year in the district doing that particular type of instruction, that your seniority had to count for something. So, the following year, when I started my Masters work, I was transferred to the junior high, which I didn't really feel prepared for, although in Ohio, your certification covered K-8 at that time, so their was no problem with that transfer as far as he was concerned. I objected, of course, but had no recourse in the matter. At the end of that particular year, I was not given the five-year contract that would have been forthcoming to what was probably expected at that time -that you get your contracts. First of all, the first year you were given just your one-year contract; the second year, two years, the third year would've been a five-year contract. Part of that was probably because of the problems that he and I had had, but there was another problem that had to do with the student--a board member's child--I'm sure you understand how those things go. But, when I caught her cheating on an examination, I took her final exam and marked it 0 [zero] and put it in her permanent file. This (laugh) did not go down too well.
Q: I wondered if you could say a word about the events in your life that sort of led up to you entering the principalship. How did it happen, how did you get there? What was it that led you to the principalship?
A: Part of that, I think, was due to the economics of the time. You didn't get too many raises unless you either transferred to another school district or you went into the principalship, some other prepared you to go into another job higher up, so to speak. I'm sure that was a consideration because I was married and had several children. I also, of course, realized that there was more prestige attached to the position. But, I think really deep down, the motivating factor, had to be that I felt like I could contribute more in the principalship than I was doing in the classroom. I enjoyed teaching, but due to my visual problem, had a few problems, that had to deal not only with classroom control--I had to be able to see what was going on--but also, I think, in the paperwork--in correcting papers, things like that. I really felt that I could contribute a lot more to the classroom through the principalship than I was doing as a classroom teacher. I also, because of these experiences--this experience--with a rather dictatorial introduction to teaching, I felt that there had to be a better way of dealing with teachers, and I wanted to get the opportunity, at least, to show that I could do it that way rather than using a hammer on somebody all the time.
Q: So what year did you get your principalship and where was that?
A: Well, it was the year after I was not rehired. I guess you could call that being fired, but it was a small school right outside the same town. The thing that just came up and there was quite a bit of publicity about it within the local community. And, uh, I happened to be home one day, I didn't go to school, for what reason, I don't know, probably illness, but there was a knock on the door--two gentlemen came to the door, wanted to know if they could have some time to talk with me, and I said certainly. And they came in and said, "We're from..." and gave me the name of the school, a school outside of town, and they said, "Our principal's leaving, she's been there for many, many years, but, uh, we need somebody to take over and run our school." And I, they said, "We hear you're preparing to be a principal." And I said,"Yes, but I haven't received my principal's certificate yet. My training isn't complete". But, at that time, you could take on a job like that and get certification for a time until you completed your work. And I reminded them, I said, "Well are you aware of what has happened here- that I had not been rehired here?" They said they knew all about it, they were familiar with the operation of the school, that was one of the reasons they came to me--that they wanted to, they had heard that I was a good teacher, and they felt that I could do them a good job. So, I went for the interview, and was hired. Uh, the school was a very small school. There were four, uh, at that time there were three classrooms. The first and second, and third grades were taught by one teacher, no, the first and second grades were taught by one teacher. Third, fourth, and fifth by another, and the sixth, seventh, and eighth were taught by another person, and that was the job I was given. In addition to that, I was the, uh, principal, and actually the chief school administrator for the school, and had to handle the business of the school, the affairs of the school, and also was the basketball coach at that time. So, it was a good experience. I enjoyed it very much over there for two years, and transferred to a larger school north of that area which was called Grand Rapids, Ohio. And there I, uh, completed my Masters work, and I really felt that I was beginning to learn about what the principalship was and hopefully contributed at that time.
Q: The first school--what was the name of the little community you were in?
A: North Baltimore is where I taught first.
Q: And then the school where you were principal?
A: The other little school was called Henry Township. Since that time, they have merged with the North Baltimore school district.
Q: How many kids--children were there in that building?
A: Probably were not more than... I don't suppose there were more than eighty or eighty-five children, while I was there. I did prevail upon the board to hire another teacher. So there were only two classes per teacher at that time.
Q: But you still had to be a teaching principal?
A: Right. I also was a teaching principal at Grand Rapids, but only on a half-time basis. I taught the sixth grade half a day, and did the principal's duties the other half.
Q: How big a building was that?
A: Um, that building I think we had, I think there were thirteen classes--two of each grade and one kindergarten. And we had a music teacher, too, at that time.
Q: Did you have guidance counselors at all?
A: No, not in those days.
Q: It wonder if, perhaps, it might be helpful if you could kind of take us on a walk through the building--the school building in Grand Rapids--and describe what you would see as you walked in the front door and went down the main hall, perhaps.
A: All right. When you came in the front door, on the right was the multi-purpose room--the gym, and through that area was the school cafeteria. It was a fairly modern building for that time. Uh, and to the left of the front door was the principal's office, which was not a very large place, but sufficient in size for the job, I guess. Then there was, there was a wing which, for intents and purposes, we'll call the North Wing, which housed the kindergarten and first and second grades. They were all, of course, self contained rooms, and then the West Wing which was from the principal's office west, housed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
Q: That leads to the west...
A: Yes, ah hum. Uh, there was a music room, and uh, a staff room for both men and women, although I was the only man in the building other than the custodian. But, we did have personnel from the county office to come quite frequently for supervisory and additional help in various areas. We had a county health nurse at the time who also came in once a week or so.
Q: From this school, you went on to other schools, as I understand it...
Q: How many schools, in total, were you the principal of?
A: Um, principal? It was a total of three--four schools. Four schools... Those two in Ohio, and later on, two in Pennsylvania. I left that school in Grand Rapids, it was 1963, went to a school district in Oregon, the Corvallis School District. In Corvallis, the, that's where the state university--Oregon State University--is located. And part of my intent was to, to go there to complete a Doctorate program which, I did not--did not do. Uh, I went out there by myself. My family didn't accompany me. The intent was that they would follow within a year. But, there were family health problems in my wife's family, and she was not able to join me. Consequently, I didn't remain there. It was more important for me to be with my family than it was for me to advance my career at that point. But that job, where I taught sixth grade was one of the highlights of my educational career. Um, I had left this small town in Ohio, and had gone to a larger university setting, and um, I was very, very impressed by the professionalism aspect of the school district, and it had a great deal of influence upon me for the rest of my career. Um, in our graduate program, we talked a great deal about professionalism, and what it really meant, and of course, at that time--the mid 1950s, early 1960s--was the onset of what I would call democracy within the, within the schools, where, I recall a textbook that we used in the gradate school. It was written by a gentleman by the name of Kimble Wiles. And, uh, his whole approach to educational administration was that it should be democratically organized. And, uh, this made a great impression on me, and in this position in Corvallis, I met a person who probably personified that philosophy more than anyone that I had met prior to that time or since. And, uh, he was extremely astute. He, uh, had been a Rhodes Scholar and had come to Corvallis shortly after that experience--I think--in England. Later on, he was the superintendent of the West Orange, New Jersey School District, and I'm not sure exactly where he went from that point, somewhere back West, I think. But, um, his name was Dr. Gerald Wallace, and he had his school district organized in a way that the principal's were in charge of their schools. There was a district supervisor, an elementary school supervisor, who was their immediate superior. But, the principal, um, was the person in charge of the educational program of that school. As long as, of course, it coincided with the district goals. And I was very fortunate to be working for a very open principal, a person who was very knowledgeable; and yet, he had a manner where he provided a rather low-keyed atmosphere within the school. And this made a great impression on me, because most of the time, from my experience, the principals were fairly autocratic people. And he had regular staff meetings, some formal and some informal. And, uh, the people--the staff--loved him. they thought he was great, and, uh, would do anything for him. Um, so I had a great deal of admiration for him and for the superintendent. And during that year, I think my philosophy of education was fairly well, uh, developed. And, um, I gained a great deal of personal confidence because I had had a couple of experiences that I had probably done something to my self confidence, and out there, uh, the job was a rather prestigious job in that they had five or six candidates for each position, and they let you know that your presence in their school district was one on demand--in other words, they wanted you, and they were not under any constraints to hire just whomever had applied. And, they treated you as a professional, that was important to them. Professionalism was expected of you, and I, uh, I think I grew very much as a person who would later, uh, be employed as a principal, and I think that experience was very influential in my career.
Q: So at this point you'd had what, three years of administrative experience, and now you were...
A: No, I had actually had six years of administrative experience.
Q: And now you were taking a year off to teach, and were going to go back into the principalship?
A: Right, right. Well, actually, I went from there, I came from there into Pennsylvania. It's where my wife was from originally, and her family lived in Harrisburg. And, I, uh, was interviewed in lower Paxton Township of Dolfin County. And, uh, was hired as a fifth grade teacher in the district, which later became a part of the Central Dolfin School District. And I taught there for five years, and, uh, prior to becoming a principal in Huntington County, Pennsylvania.
Q: Huntington Township?
A: Huntington County.
Q: This is a continuation of an interview with Mr. R. Thad Carr, tape 1, side 2. Mr. Carr, you were getting ready to describe your experiences in Huntington County, Pennsylvania, and uh, let's pick up there.
A: Yeah. I recall one summer, I had finished the fifth year of teaching in the Central Dolfin School District and was working on a curriculum project, and uh, as I recall, was in the language arts area. And the gentlemen came to me at that time and said, "We hear that you're prepared for the principalship, and would like to get into the principalship." I had uh, perhaps, eyed the principalship within the district where I was working--in Central Dolfin. I knew they were opening up other schools. I had hoped that my experience--prior experience would be considered. However, they, uh, had, uh, different ideas, partly I think because of my visual problems, although that was, of course, not spoken. But, when this gentleman came to me he said "I'm the assistant principal up in Huntington County. We had a school district up there that had a fire a couple years ago, and was presently housed in temporary quarters but are building a new school. And, the school is a rather innovative type of school, and we understand that you've been involved in, uh, some curriculum innovations in the school where you are." I'm not sure just where he got all of his information, but I presume it was from Dr. Van Ormond who was, at that time, the director of elementary education. So, I went up and interviewed at that school, met the incoming superintendent, who was a gentleman by the name of Amos Myers. Dr. Myers was very quick to inform me that his experience had been in secondary education, and the superintendency, though his was interested in someone who had some experience in the elementary principalship and had pretty much done most of his work in that area. So, I was hired. At that time I was unaware of a problem situation that they had had. They had demoted their elementary principal--they called him elementary supervisor because he did not have his principal's certificate at that time. He'd been demoted, and a couple of elementary teachers had been fired, the high school principal and superintendent also had either been fired or had resigned because of an internal problem there involving the Board of Education. Though I was unaware of it, I probably would have taken the job anyway, because I wanted to get back into the principalship. But, it did create some rather difficult problems in staff relations because, uh, the staff was very distrustful of these new people that the Board had brought in. And, uh, there was an investigation underway with the P.S.C.A., the teachers'--at that time, it was not referred to as a union, it was a teachers' organization--but it was at about the time the union was, uh, aura was probably beginning with the association. And, uh, I had been a very strong association member, and, uh, had supported them in much of their programs, and was very active not only in the local organization but in the state organization as well. So, I knew many of these folks, though I was not aware of the problem in that school. But my task, as was assigned to me by the superintendent, was to organize a school program that would fit within the, uh, within the, uh, building parameters, they way it was designed, and it was a rather modern design. Classrooms, uh, were back-to-back with a door in between them that opened and where they could do significant different types of education that had been practiced prior to that, particularly team teaching. So, probably because of this new building and new program that had to be developed, I was able to involve the staff in, uh, preparing for this new program. It involved two buildings--one was an old building in Petersburg, Pennsylvania, the other one was um, a building that--we were housed in an old building on the campus of, uh, Ginneata College, and uh, so it was uh, to get the staff to work together as a group, and to plan the program and many of the organizational patterns that were going to be needed in this new building. I was able in using that particular situation to get the staff to be cooperative and to, Um, trust me. It took some time, but, uh, through that kind of effort- and they saw that I was sincere in wanting to establish a good educational program which was, um, which encompassed the philosophies that most of those people had, and we worked together to establish school philosophy and a set of objectives, and then we developed a program around those objectives. So, it was, uh, a very good experience, but I think what saved me in that situation was the fact that they needed leadership to develop the program to occupy the new building. And I worked in that situation for the, uh, for three years. The first year was planning the program, the second year was occupying the building and putting your program into effect, and the third year was simply continuing that, uh, program, which I think was quite successful, and I really felt like it was, uh, a good experience for me. However, there did develop some problems because of the fact that the person who had been demoted was now teaching and in the same school, and, of course, he was a native to the area. His in laws and out-laws of course were a part of the community, and being a small community, he had a great deal of influence. So, uh, when another school came to me--another district came to me--with the design of their new school, which was completely open, uh, it was an attractive proposition to me, and one that they needed some experience from someone who had been in, in a rather innovative type of program to develop a program for them. That's when I moved to, uh, my final position as a principal of the West Branch Elementary School, in Clearfield County.
Q: Before you start talking about that later experience, why don't you--you want to give me some good information on climate building. I wondered if I could get you to say anything else you can about particular techniques you used to build that positive climate for learning. I understand from what you said that you were successful, so if you could help the listeners to understand how to do that---that would be wonderful.
A: I think--I think the idea of having a person who trusted their teachers--to stand behind them. The Board was very much opposed to the teaching staff because they supported the previous administration, and felt betrayed by the Board of Education when these other people had been either fired or allowed to go because of that problem. And, I was able to kind of intervene between the staff and the Board of Education, I think with a great deal of help and encouragement by the superintendent, he was a marvelous fellow who pretty much let me develop things, uh, as I saw the need for them. He was very encouraging, and facilitated the development of the program by allowing me to take groups of teachers to other school districts to view other programs going on. He allowed us even to uh, take a committee of teachers down to the convention in Atlantic City to see furniture and to gain some information on school programs from that source. So, uh, he was instrumental in being able--in my being able to do this. But, I think the key to it was involving the teachers in the process--this was important--because then they felt an ownership then, uh in the program. And, these folks spent hours and hours beyond the school day in the evenings, after school, on Saturdays, and even some on Sundays, in getting together and working together, or even on their own developing, Um, curriculum strategies and even just studying on what some of these new ideas could mean to the classroom. And, uh, then they shared very openly with each other, and they developed a very successful program, I think, that was innovative and yet had many of the aspects of more traditional education that the community would accept. But, I think--I think the involvement of teachers and the trust that was placed in many of them--that they were professional, they knew their job and that they were--it was really wanted and expected of them to contribute to this process, even though it meant a great deal of extra work for them without any extra pay.
Q: Perhaps you could talk a few minutes then about your final and, I guess, longest assignment since you were there '72 to '86.
A: Yes. Uh, my last position was at West Branch. Here, I was dealing with a staff of about--I think at one time our staff--I had fifty professionals, and quite a number of teacher aides and other personnel within the building, custodial and cafeteria and so on. And this building was of a radical design for this particular area. As I mentioned, it was completely open, there were no walls anywhere within this building, with the exception of some of the areas that were specialized, such as the special education- they had some walls between the special education areas and the other classrooms, of course, the facilitating areas like the office and the nursing suite, and multipurpose room, things like that, the library. Even though the library itself was quite open. Um, this also was a difficult situation for several reasons. Um, I again came in with a new superintendent. Uh, the old superintendent had retired, but it was his foresight that had seen the need for this kind of facility, and he had visited several schools in the Northeast, I think, to get the idea for the design. Um, the difference between that particular school and the other school was that, uh, in the Ginneata Schools in Huntington County, the, uh, the classes were somewhat separated by what we might refer to as pods. And, uh, so you could have all of your, uh, first grade students separate from the second grade, even though they were together and could be taught as a team, uh, they were removed physically from the others. So it was kind of a, a hook, classrooms were around a hub, which was the library and, uh, media center, and they, of course, were separate from the other grades throughout the school. In the other school--in West Branch--we, uh, had no physical divisions other than the, uh, hallways and uh, coat closets and things like that, that could be organized in such a way that would separate the uh, classes from one another. The staff had not been prepared in any way to occupy this building. There had been no preparation for what was later to be termed open classroom. This--this is difficult, because we occupied the building, without any training. Many teachers had not even been inside the building, had no knowledge of, and probably no experience whatsoever in even seeing a building with this kind of configuration. And, that was traumatic to them, as you might well imagine. Many of the teachers were, um, over fifty, some were in their sixties, and had between forty and fifty years experience in one room schools and other small schools. But, their only experience had been within--a teacher within a closed classroom. This caused some, uh, different problems than I had had previously. Uh, the staff had no animosity toward me at the outset. They, uh, although the former supervisor also was on the staff, but he was very a very cooperative and a very supportive person, who was very helpful to me in getting started. The um, the superintendent was also one who had had no elementary experience and wanted a person who was very well grounded in the elementary school. And even though he um, he verbalized that he wanted someone to run the elementary school, he later on became quite active, in uh, trying to influence the running of the school perhaps to, uh, to a detriment in some respects. He was not nearly as, um, open minded as the former, the previous superintendent Dr. Myers. And, he was, he was not nearly as self confident in his position. In fact, this was his first superintendency, so he had some problems in sorting out his role quite often, and dealing with some of the problems we had. But, at least for the first year or two, he was very supportive in helping to get some experiences in classrooms in other school districts where there had been some, uh, attempts at least, to have some open types of programs. And, um, the staff, as I say, although they were not nearly as professionally minded as the previous school district, probably a great deal more traditionally bound, and consequently, they had a much more difficult time in relating to the kind of committee work that I was, that was required really to get this thing to move. Uh, but they worked. They worked hard, and they were loyal and very supportive. But, their experience was more attuned to uh, what you might call a labor mentality. Now, this was a coal mining area, and of course they were more familiar with, with the, uh, 8 to 4, 9 to 5 work day, that was pretty much their mentality. So, they were not nearly as eager to give extra time as the previous school had been. But, they worked hard, and uh, we did develop a program that was, uh, quite radical in its approach, as far as the local school district was concerned. Uh, the only thing that the community had known was that, uh, they had previously been a small neighborhood school, and now all of their children were to be transported to one large facility where uh, there were, I think, there were over 1200 students in that building. Uh, I was the only principal. There was no, no assistance whatsoever. Although we visited schools that were doing some of the same type of thing, one school, I recall in Johnstown, where, uh, the building was pretty nearly the same size, but they also had uh, assistant principals, guidance counselors available, supervisory people that come in and assist in Johnstown, but uh, this of course was not available to us. We were a small school district, although the school building was large. And, uh, the Board of Education was very supportive, because they were not very well informed about what the school was either. So, um, we pretty much had __?__ to develop a program. However, a problem did arise because of the size of the school and the size of the staff. We were talking classrooms of, uh, 38 to 40 children in a class. And, it was difficult to put some of these programs into operation with that--with that ratio. Um, the program that we developed, as I said, was quite radical to the area. Uh, we modeled it somewhat after schools that were developed in some of the, uh, practiced teaching schools and a couple of the state colleges at that time- Edinborough and Millersville were two that we visited, They had open school programs, and, uh, much of what we developed came from those experiences. I don't know how, really, whether you want me to go into that at this point...
Q: The open, the open school curriculums that were that were employed...
A: Yes, uh, because the school was designed with no walls, the conception of open school meant to the community and to the staff, open school to them meant, um, open areas where children would be influenced by noise levels and activities going on either beside them or somewhere down the hallway, or somewhere across the building. Uh, this was probably one area where we were not able to convince the community, and even some of the staff, that openness did not necessarily relate to the facility. Um, the program that was hopefully being done in Millersville and Edinborough had to do with attitudes of the teachers and the ability to allow children to have some input to their own, uh, educational program. Uh, we had to develop a rather structured curriculum, but it was a, uh, an open ended curriculum where the child could progress pretty much at his own rate. Uh, we, in doing this, we were able to eliminate the, uh, the grade barriers. In our open program, we had developed a change of teachers who were teaching groups of children which spanned at least 2 or 3 years, uh, chronological age. So, that we had primary teams which had, uh, first, second and third graders in it, and we had intermediate teams with third, forth and fifth graders in it. And, for a few years, we even had a team which ranged from first through sixth grade. Um, it incorporated much of what probably went on in the old one-room school, although there was, uh, there was a team of four teachers involved in this program. Um, because of the fact that we were so busy in developing curriculum and developing, uh, program, um, renovations, and uh, developing staff relationships, probably we failed, I feel, it was part of my failure to keep the community entirely informed the way they should have been. Public relations, I think, is very, very important, but I think with all the other problems that we had that I think that was an area that at least, from my experience, I think I probably neglected. So, uh, later on, I would say oh, ten years later anyway, we had that program for ten years, and later on there became as with the same type of schools throughout the country, in our area we also had some--people became disenchanted with it. Some were opposed from the outset, and that opposition simply gained some momentum. So, um, when I left, fourteen years later, there was, at that time, partitions or walls being placed in the building so they could get back to their old graded one--you know, one room, one grade--but, even to this day there are many, I think, very practical, um, residuals from that experience that are still in place. Uh, I think the flexibility of group things, and the ability of the teachers to provide children with the uh, more of an individualized program is probably still going on to some extent, even though there is a much more rigid curriculum and a highly developed structure for, uh, for graded education.
Q: We better stop, the tape's near the end.
Q: This is the R. Thad Carr interview continuing--tape 2, side 1. Mr. Carr, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your views about it takes to be an effective principal and perhaps what you believe teachers believe is required for a person to be an effective principal.
A: Well, I think my philosophy was, as previously mentioned, developed primarily because of experiences and training that I had that pointed me toward a fairly democratic organizational pattern within a school. I utilized, uh, teachers, um, in developing programs, in curriculum development... And I think from my point of view it was very necessary to involve the staff in everything that happened within the school. Um, perhaps my most, uh, highly regarded area of the principalship, I think, was the matter of personnel and personal relationships. I think being a teacher who had gone to the principalship then returned to teaching, uh, helped me to keep abreast of some of the changes that were occurring within the classroom. So, I could relate to the teacher very well and to the problems that they were having. And I--I found that, uh, being a personal principal, to the extent that I was able to relate with teachers, and I think, probably, the ability to sit and listen to teachers as they told not only of problems within the classroom, but personal problems at home, helped me to become a, uh, a very uh, close-knit, uh, staff person. I think that those relationships were important to me, and I think it was probably the most important thing in my principalship, I think, was the ability to get along with staff. Probably some of the criticism that I received evolved from that also, because when you become close to people, and I know that there are some principals who believe that this is wrong--that you should maintain an aloofness from your staff in order to be effective in giving orders and being able to, um, remove yourself from them so that they don't become personally offended when you have to, um, come down on them or give them an unpleasant responsibility. Uh, perhaps my effectiveness uh, in, uh, in sorting out classroom weaknesses of teachers was effected that way, I'm not real sure. But, I was able to maintain, uh, a very close relationship with most teachers, and I feel that this was helpful, not only to me but to them, and ultimately, it was my aim--and the purpose behind this--was so that that teacher would be relaxed in that classroom and the children would ultimately be the ones who gained from this kind of, uh, relationship within the school. Even though we had a large school in the last district I was in, we were all a very close staff, and we did lots of things together, social things as well as professional things. And, the idea was that people would not be under any more tension, uh, then, uh, was ultimately a problem within the classroom itself. I mean, we realize that there is a great deal of stress in a classroom situation without added stress coming down from the administrator of the building. And that was Um, that was my aim. I felt that in order to get across to the children, uh, the philosophy that I felt was important in the classroom of having a teacher who was a facilitator for children and a, uh, a personal, not necessarily a friend of the children, but a personable mentor in the classroom. Uh, someone the children could trust, someone they could feel confident in coming to with the problems that they had, whether they were personal or, uh, educational. So, that was my aim in treating my staff that way--that hopefully, in turn, they would treat their children that way. This was not always, uh, possible because of personalities of people involved. But, uh, I think for the most part, many teachers were--were able to grow under that, within that climate, rather than, uh, having someone, uh, being over them all the time, keeping count of everything that went on.
Q: How did you communicate this sense of openness to the community so that the parents felt comfortable about relating to the school?
A: Uh, probably just being available for parents, although I was not real good at public relations. I did not have a lot of, uh, fancy public relations programs going on. Uh, we didn't feel that we had the time for that (laugh). But, I think just being available to parents and being concerned about their children, uh, calling them when there was a problem, inviting them in for, uh, informal or formal visits, or uh, having open school nights and so on in conjunction with the parent-teacher organization, working with parents in providing things for the children that the Board couldn't provide such as playgrounds and some of the classroom equipment, materials that we really wanted that the Board couldn't afford, we got parents involved. And, we also used a few parents in the development of the program. We tried to get them involved in developing the program, so that they could help to interpret to the community. Um, in my situation, where I was not only the principal, but also the guidance counselor as well, uh, I often had to deal with many unpleasant situations, uh, and was able sometimes to help parents because of, um, home problems of the children--the children were getting into problems at school--and sometimes we were able to help them, uh, through the school problems we were also able to help them get into some, uh, counseling from mental health, mental retardation programs within the county and so forth. So, we developed, I think, fairly good rapport with the parents through simply caring about the children and letting them know that what we were trying to do was to improve the children's self-confidence and self image, and, uh, inviting the parents, trying to make them feel comfortable and wanted within the school itself. Uh, and i think we were fairly successful in that respect.
Q: Did you--were you ever confronted with any instances of child abuse that you had to deal with?
A: Oh, yes.
Q: How would you handle a situation like that?
A: Uh, normally this, uh, we had an excellent school nurse, uh, and she was highly respected within the community, and when we were, uh, informed of parental abuse, why, uh, she usually did an investigation, made a report and of course I was there to back her up. And I was very, very fortunate in having her because she was so highly respected by the parents, we were able to deal with some rather, uh, difficult abuse cases, and, um, and I think gained the respect of the parents through it all. But, uh, I can't really claim too much on my own, as far as, other than being there with her when she interviewed the parents and giving her the support that the she needed. Uh, we also were, uh, very closely involved with the uh, the case workers in the welfare department who handled these situations. We had a, I think a very good relationship with that.
Q: There are some folks who argue that a principal needs to be an instructional leader, and some others who suggest that realistically speaking that the person, above all, has to be a good manager. I wonder if you give your views on the issue and describe your own style.
A: I think a lot has to do with the size of the school district, the organizational pattern. also, it has to do with the willingness, I think, of the chief school administrator and the support staff--the central office staff--their willingness to share responsibility and also how much, uh, how much they require as far as the principal is concerned in reference to paperwork, in reference to standardized test work, uh, how much community support they get and so forth. Uh, personally, I, uh, I was probably not a highly successful manager, uh, in the context of management of budgets and uh, of policy development and so on, like that. Uh, I guess because of the problem--the instructional problems--that were thrust upon us, and simply by occupying new buildings and being in areas where we had to develop teacher trust and things like that, I think the instructional concerns were our major concerns and these other things kind of came along in the process of trying to develop our instructional program. But, uh, hopefully, I, uh, I've seen many cases where the principal was expected to be a manager above all other things and saddled with such things as school busing, cafeteria supervision, and uh, making sure that the budget was, at all costs, was maintained, and uh... These things, of course, are important, but I think the major role that a--that the principal has is that of instructional leader, and a facilitator above all things. Uh, to see that what goes on in the classroom, is of paramount importance to everyone.
Q: O.K., I wonder if you would give your views on what you might call the ideal requirements for principal certification, and then, uh, maybe be discuss appropriate procedures for screening people who might want to enter the principalship.
A: I think from my experience looking back, um, the best training that I got in the graduate program for the principalship, had to do with people that had been successfully uh, who were successful in their own experiences in the uh, school districts, before they moved into the university settings. I think, uh, their experiences, uh, and uh, a lot of influence in developing my particular point of view. I recall that, uh, during my graduate school in Toledo, we had, uh, a fellow in from Park Forest, Illinois, which is a rather prestigious school district at the time, and I presume, still is, outside of Chicago. He had been an elementary supervisor, and uh, his expectations of his principals came through to us in the classroom. And, uh, I think, uh, the other reference I would make would be a person who had been a superintendent, and just his bearing and his knowledge, and the way he was able to articulate his personal philosophy through his experiences, uh, had a great deal of effect, I think, upon his students in the graduate school program. Um, beyond that, I think that there has to be some form of internship, or some form of experience for--required of people before they go into the school setting. Um, I was quite fortunate, I think, in my, uh, my Masters degree program, uh, I was uh, in my practice teaching situation under the principal of the school. He was teaching sixth grade, and I did my practice teaching under him. Um, so I think I probable got a little introduction into the principalship there as well as the teaching. And I think this is important--that people are allowed to see different, uh, different styles, different philosophies, and to be able to uh, to accommodate to the one style or one philosophy, or if need be, to merge different styles to form your own, rather than just going into a position um, cold turkey, so to speak, and having to learn on the job. Um, in having said that, I think that we need to be aware that each school district, each local situation is vastly different, and that even though you can apply, uh, what you've learned, you still have to be able to um, to fit into a community and a situation. Uh, perhaps, if you're lucky, you'll be able to influence it, uh, positively, uh, so that they may gain. But, uh, that's not always possible, I don't think. But, I really would like to see, first of all, I think, undergraduate work as far as teachers are concerned. I think, uh, there has been a great deal more emphasis put on the practice teaching--the internship program--I think that's very important. And I think that should carry right over into the principalship. Um, I recall when I came to Pennsylvania, I had a, uh, a principal certificate in thee state of Ohio, uh, that resulted from my Masters program and my experience, I mean, that was the requirement--teaching experience and a Masters program. When I got to Pennsylvania, I found that that was not enough--that I had to go back to school and gain, I think it was 18 additional hours uh, which was restricted in that, uh, I think at least 15 of those hours had to be in something that was totally unrelated to school. I thought this was a little bit strange, and I--even though I enjoyed it. I did my work, by the way, at _____?______. Um, it was not really related to the principalship. It was in the--the intent was, I'm sure, to round you out and make you a little bit more a, uh, a student in some other discipline. But, to me, it uh, it was an opportunity--had I been able to go into a program where I could get into other school districts and see how other principals handled problems, uh, or move through an internship as an assistant or some associate in a school; to me, that would have been very helpful, and I hope they go into that direction.
Q: Just to follow along, if you were talking to a young gentleman or lady who thought he or she would like to enter the principalship, what kinds of advice would you give that individual?
A: Well, I would urge them, first of all, to be very, very sure that they could handle the pressure that is involved in the principalship today. I was very fortunate in working in the day and age, for most of my career, when there was a, um, a fairly good rapport between the administration and uh, the middle management, and the classroom teacher. Uh, today, I see more of an adversarial relationship there, um primarily- unfortunately--because of collective bargaining. I think this has been something that has, uh, evolved because of a need, but at the same time, I think it is, has, uh, detracted from, um, some of the very special kinds of things that were present in the school setting at that time, that, uh, I hate to see us get away from. I think there used to be a very harmonious relationship. Today, it's rather, if not adversarial, it's somewhat sterile in many relations, and uh, I hate to see that. And I think that's one thing I would caution people: to be very sure that they wanted to get into that middle management post, where they were between a bargaining situation on the one hand, and uh, a loyalty to the administration on the other. It's a difficult thing to work with. (laugh)
Q: Then the districts you were in had collective bargaining?
A: Oh, during the last 15 years, yes. That came about, I think, along about 1970, '71, somewhere in there.
Q: I guess that as part of this question--that every collective bargaining agreement would normally have a grievance procedure.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about the grievance procedure that was in place where you were working, and uh, how you administered it?
A: Right, well, the grievance procedure was, uh, was not too difficult a thing for me. I, uh, my approach was, was to--naturally, in Pennsylvania, we have what we call the first line supervisor, who was to be the recipient of the, the grievance. Usually, if it occurred with a staff member, he had to come to you--you were the person, uh, to get it first. And, of course, you had to decide whether or not there had been, um, an infringement of the policy. So, my interpretation of the school policy had to be, uh, whether or not I agreed with it or whether or not it, uh, reflected on a relationship within the staff--really had no bearing on the situation. I think many times I was sympathetic with a staff member, but I had to deny their grievance. And, uh, most of the times the grievances were, uh, were due to a policy situation from the standpoint of the school board. Um, there was one time when there was a grievance filed against me, uh, because I had assigned a teacher to a particular situation and, although I had informed her face-to-face, I had not given her a written notification of that assignment. And, uh, consequentially--consequently, I lost the grievance because I had not (laughing) complied with the policy.
Q: This is a kind of follow-up question--there has been a lot of attention in recent years given to, um, differential pay plans and career letters and merit pay--did you have experiences with those kinds of things, and I wonder if you could comment on them?
A: Not really, uh, I think that there--there needs to be incentive for people to improve. In my case, it was--the only thing really open to me was to get into administration. I think this is unfortunate in many cases because, uh, some of our best teachers, uh, have gone into administration simply because it was the only rung up the ladder. And, many of our best teachers who went into the administration were not the best administrators. And, uh, I, uh, I hope that this continues to uh, to be looked at with innovation, with an eye toward uh, giving teachers a little bit more mobility, providing them with more opportunities to grow, rather than to push them out of the classroom into administration. Um, I like the concept of "master teacher". Uh, but there are problems inherent with that, I think. One of the things--and this is why I've always been opposed to merit pay--is such: the way it's normally been, um, articulated is that uh, a teacher will be evaluated based upon the classroom experiences and outside experiences that would relate to her teaching or his teaching. And that person is then given a pay raise based on this observation. Now even if you could be completely objective in doing that, I think there was--the one thing that always uh, prevented me from supporting that idea was the fact that every child has the right to the very best education you could give them, and every parent has the right to demand that for their child. Uh, how can an administration deny a parent, uh, assignment into that person's class when you have two or three grade levels and you only have one person who's a merit teacher? Uh, can you say to a parent, uh, well, your child has to go the inferior teacher? And, that's why I've always been opposed (laughing) to it. But I do feel there needs to be other incentives--uh, recognition, time for study, uh, opportunities to work on curriculum and its implementation, uh, innovative instructional practices--those things can be rewarded without attaching a stigma, uh, to other teachers within a building who are at the same grade level. Um, and, I, uh, heartily support that. I think every teacher getting the same pay is a little bit, uh, well, it''s outmoded, I think. And, uh, I hope that we begin to see a little bit more of this. At the same time, I think that uh, the tenure law which protects teachers--uh, although it was designed years and years ago to, uh, protect people from being ousted from a job because of a personal situation with a board member or a, a family situation, or some outlandish thing like that. I think there has to be protection, but I also think we have to have to have protection also for the school--for the school, the public, the children--uh, and make these, uh, these tenure things a little bit less, uh, protective of the teacher. Of course, part of this would go back to the administration. they have to be a little bit more stringent in there pursuit of, uh, of excellence in the classroom, a little bit...(tape cut off)
Q: This is the R. Thad Carr interview, tape 2, side 2. Mr. Carr, I wonder if you'sd go back and revisit the last comments you were making about the issue of merit pay and differential compensation?
A: Yes, I, I feel that in dealing with tenured teachers, uh, the principal has to spend a great deal of time in documenting evidence in order to remove a teacher. In order to do this, you have to pretty well be determined, um, beforehand that this is somebody you're going to have to get rid of, so that you can build a case against them. Uh, I had an experience like that at one time, where a football coach had been assigned to our school. Um, he was a fine fellow--I had nothing personally against the man--but he was extremely large, and uh, his coaching techniques, uh, carried over into the classroom, whereby he would often grab a hold of somebody, shake them, or, uh, somehow, uh, physically retrain them or um, punish them. And, uh, even though he--even though I tried to work with him and he, uh, he kept saying that yeah, he would, in the future do better--he wouldn't put his hands on children--um, he was never able to uh, get out of this particular mode of discipline. He had a rather quick temper, and uh, physically, um, he intimidated the students and was, uh, was the uh, recipient of much, uh, much of the staff criticized him. And, he became a, uh, a rather controversial person, uh, on the staff. And he was also, in the community, uh, becoming rather well known for some of his escapades. So, I had to document him. I had to go in with the idea of, of catching him in some of these things. Um, any parental problems that we had, had to be documented, and I often felt that I was trying to build a case against the man. I guess that's what you have to do, but, uh, we did release him. Fortunately, it was prior to his obtaining tenure, so it was not as difficult as it would be had he been on tenure.
Q: Did you ever have to release a tenured teacher or anyone?
A: No, no I never had to myself.
Q: What was your, uh, approach to teacher evaluation? What procedures did you have that, I suppose, were imposed on you, and what was your general philosophy toward evaluation of teachers?
A: Um, yes, they were more or less imposed by the, uh, the department of education of the state. Uh, their were certain requirements that you had to maintain. You had to do, uh, evaluations yearly on tenured teachers, and twice yearly, at least, on nontenured people. Um, most of these, uh, were the result of classroom observations, and the evaluations from that time. I had some difficulty in that area. I my particular, um, desire to be a uh, a personal principal with some of these people, I had to be very careful about, um, being critical. Um, and I found it was so much easier to change a person's behavior by doing it on a, um, a rather informal basis, rather than doing it on a formal observation, because these things became a part of their record, and they, of course, were very defensive about some of these things. So normally, I, I used the evaluation, um, procedures, uh, mainly to um, compliment teachers so that they realized that this process was not, um, not a necessarily detrimental thing to them. It could be a very positive thing. And for the most part, I tried to maintain a very positive attitude toward them. And if they were having problems in their classroom, um, they were generally able to, to come to me and request help, rather than my going to them and saying hey, I think you're having trouble in this area. Quite often they would come to me and say "I'm having some difficulty", or "I can't quite deal with this". And, thereby I was able to um, to share with them various ideas of how they might help and was able to go into the classroom and support them and try to give them some help, rather than having it come out on a, a form where they were more or less being criticized. So, I probably was not as, uh, effective, I guess in dealing with the more formal aspects of evaluation. That's one thing that I think I probably was quite weak at, because of my personal philosophy--that you got better results by uh, by informal means.
Q: I assume the process became much more formal over the years...
A: Oh, yes...
Q: ...things would've been very different by the time you retired...
A: Right, right. Used to be you could sit down, have a cup of coffee, and solve more problems than you could by going into the classroom, criticizing something that was going on. (laughter)
Q: How about a change of direction? I wonder if I could get you to describe for me your work day. You know, how you spent your time, the number of hours you put in, this, that, and the other?
A: Normally, uh, I usually went in about 7:30, 8:00 in the morning, and stayed at the, in the school building probably till about 5:00, or sometimes maybe even 6:00. Uh, go home in time for a quick bite to eat and get back for a meeting or something in the evening. Uh, this probably is not normal, and it's not necessarily a good thing, but, because--I think because of my visual problem, I had to spend more time and uh, because of my personal style, I spent an awful lot of time in, uh, in dealing with, um, personal situations of teachers, where we would sit down in the office or in their classroom and just talk about things, and many times it was of a personal nature rather than of a professional nature, but they needed to talk, and I made myself available. So, um, I put in a great deal more time, probably, than I should have, um, because I think sometimes um, you get um, burned out over a period of time. If you don't divorce yourself from the job, um, on a rather regular basis, at least sometime during the day have some time where you're able to do some other things.
Q: I would ask you how you kept your sanity as you were in the principalship, knowing what the pressures are and so forth? What were your approaches to that?
A: Well, I think, uh, I had a very supportive family. Uh, I also had, uh, a good working relationship, I think, with the other administrators that um... and was able to digress from education from time to time by simply, uh, talking about other things, maybe by having outings. But, um, I think basically just being with the children was an--was an important thing to me. And I think they kept me humble, and also kept me from going, uh, to far over the edge, and they uh, the managerial problem situation. I think uh, I tried to spend a part of every day dealing with children and working with them. And I think this kept me um, down to earth, and my perspective um, was generally from the point of view of these are what we're all about. These are why we're here, and, uh, they don't uh--if you're around children very long, uh, you can't take yourself to seriously, I don't think. (laughing) You soon, soon become humbled, and I think you learn a lot from them, too, in the process.
Q: About how much time during the day were you able to get out into the building as opposed to being in the office dealing with administrative activity?
A: Uh, this varied. I suppose uh, I made it a point to uh, a made it a point really to, to get into each room of the building every day, if only for just a few minutes, uh, or just a walk through. In the case of this open school, you had the opportunity where you could just walk through and see what was going on. But, I wanted the children to know that I was there, the teachers to know that even though I was there, I wasn't there to spy on them, I wasn't there with the idea of trying to, uh, find out something against them, or um, anything of a detrimental nature. I wanted people to know that I was there, that I cared, and uh, that I was available if they needed me. And quite often, walking around through, people would stop and bring up a problem or, or make suggestions for doing something differently or uh, maybe even just to uh, to share an anecdote or so, uh...Um, it was important to me to be, uh, to be near and to be available to the staff and to the children as well. And I was hoping that by getting out into the classroom more often that it would, uh, that that attitude would come across. So, uh, I made it a point to do that. There were times when, when I left undone a lot of work at the desk that needed to be done, and usually, after everybody had gone in the afternoon, I would sit down and catch up on a lot of that sort of thing. So, that's why I spent a lot more time, I think.
Q: We were talking a while ago about the administrative pressure. I wonder if you could describe some of the daily pressures that you came under and maybe, um, talk about how you coped with them?
A: Uh-hum. Uh, probably the major cause of pressure was trying to comply uh, with requirements of uh, state department or a school district, or a superintendent, that maybe um, was far removed from your particular situation, and yet, they were mandating certain particular things that had to be done. Um, and although you complied, because that was required, uh, many times you did so with a certain amount of resentment. And I think that definitely puts pressure on you. Uh, much of the time pressures came about also from uh, from parents who were unreasonable in their expectations of the school, the teachers, the bus drivers, and uh, it became very difficult, I think, to be, uh, impartial in dealing with um, with parents, I found. Uh, because generally, the only time you saw parents is when they were blaring mad, and they came in demanding, uh, that you discipline this teacher, or take care of this child or something, who is giving their child a particular problem. And, usually, their perspective was only from the point of view of their child, who certainly wanted to be right in the eyes of his parents. And, generally, they came in uh, with the attitude that their child was right and had been done wrong, and that it was my job to right that wrong. So, uh, that became more and more of a pressure, I think. I think parents are becoming more and more um, I think influenced by what their children tell them. Uh, this isn't necessarily wrong. I think parents and children need to be close enough to, uh, to enjoy the confidences of each other. But, in many cases, and this is unfortunately happening more and more, um, children have so little time with their parents that they have a relationship whereby the only um, the only time that their parents take their time and give them the uh, the notice and the support that they need is when they, the children, present the parents with a situation uh, so much one-sided, that the parent is going to immediately jump and say "I'm behind you". It's unfortunate that children today feel the need for manipulating their parents into this type of action. And I've had many parents come to me and say, you know, this is the situation, and I was able to --fortunately--to refute it completely, uh, to the extent that when they left, they apologized that they had made a scene about a particular teacher or situation, or something that happened, when their child was really the instigator, or the one at fault. You hate to do that, because what you're doing is tearing down, uh, the child's uh, sometimes it's the child's only opportunity for parental uh, support. And, uh, you don't like to do this, but you also have to maintain a sense of integrity within your school district for your teachers and for the other children, and uh, that's difficult.
Q: Another topical change...Cultural diversity has become a topic of increasing concern and interest in public education. I wonder if you could talk about the general nature of our student body, perhaps, at the last school, and comment on any problems and challenges which you faced while you were principalship because of cultural diversity?
A: Well, we uh, we never had to deal with racial problems. That was not a consideration, uh, because we were in an area where there are just no other races. But, there are uh, differences culturally. Uh, as I say, we were in a coal mining area, and this brought about many different cultures. And, um, there was uh, a situation there where many of the cultures, many of the people, wanted to deny their cultural background and be assimilated into this so-called American culture. Uh, in many of the cases, uh, there was uh, almost a feeling that uh, you know, this was bad, this was sinful to be of a, to be of an ethnic group or of a different cultural group than, uh, than of the norm in the school. Uh, we tried to develop some programs to uh, to highlight the contributions of different cultures within the community, and I think we were somewhat successful in that. Um, we uh, had no particular problems with uh, with cross-cultural differences, but other than that, I think they kind of learned to be assimilated and not to be a standout.
Q: I wonder if you could make an overall comment as you perceive it now, having had the chance to think about it for a while, on the pros and the cons of administrative service, and any advice you might pass along to today's principals? We'd appreciate it.
A: Well, I think, uh, what I was able to learn and take away from, uh, from this particular position--the principalship--was that you are a servant of the community. Um, and you're not going to gain a great deal of financial reward in this position. But, if you're motivation is uh, to improve, uh, the situation that you're in, to improve the uh, the society, uh, you can gain a lot of gratification from it. Uh, there are difficulties. There are lots of strenuous, uh, aspects to that position, particularly in the uh, in the managerial versus the, um, the labor relationships that have come about recently. But, I think there are rewards if you love children and love dealing with children, and you enjoy being with people and helping people, I think you can gain an awful lot of, uh, pleasure and uh, satisfaction from, from the principalship. But, uh, I think you need to go in with your eyes open because, uh, there has been a great deal of change since I entered my first principalship to the principalship today. Uh, as I recall back in the fifties, uh, you were more or less revered by your community, uh, as long as you were uh, fair and doing a satisfactory job. Uh, you were highly supported by your community. Um, I don't think this is the case today. I think you are in a situation where uh, you have to be very astute at showing people um, what you do, and how you do it. And, uh, and I think with the um, with the modern idea of--of the need for empirical evidence for every activity today...It seems like, you know, you have to show scores, you have to show, um, tangible, uh, reasons, or tangible results, uh, for doing things. Um, I think we sometimes get lost in the human elements of--of the principalship. I think anyone who, uh, who can't take that kind of uh, pressure and maintain a balance between uh, being a, a good PR man on the one hand, and on the other hand, being an effective leader in the instructional process, uh, you can have some real difficult times. And, uh, but I would encourage anyone to, who wants to, uh, truly make a difference in the world--I still think you can do that, even though it seems more and more that we're governed by mandates from um, federal, state, and even local school board regulations and programs, um, I think you can still make a great deal of difference in the lives of each individual child if you're really dedicated to that. So, I could, I would still encourage people. I enjoyed my years as a principal, and uh, I'm very thankful for the opportunity that I had to do it.
Q: I wonder if you could talk for a little bit about the circumstances leading up to your decision to retire at the time that you did, and maybe give your reasons and processes you went through in reaching the conclusion to step down when you did?
A: Well, I guess, as I often say, and other principals that I've worked with and since retired have also said, that job finally became a job. And, it was not something that you really got up in the morning and looked forward to, uh, facing every day. That, that was the ultimate test, I think, when the job became, uh, only a job, and you went there each day, wondering whether or not, uh, you were really contributing. And that, that was what finally made my mind up. Because of my, my physical, uh, problem, my doctor had had cataract surgery back in 1975, and uh, my opthamologist often said to me, uh, when are you going to retire? And I said, oh, I just, I'm still a young man, I'm really not interested. Well, of course, his feeling was that I had contributed quite a bit, and he felt that uh, that rather than make, uh, an aspect of health a, uh, a problem, he felt that there should come a time when I ought to consider retiring. And, he said that I would have no problem going on disability. Well, as a proud person who, who always wanted to do things for himself, I had difficulty with that. I thought as long as I'm able to earn a living, why should I go disability? Well, um, in the last, uh, the last year, because of the changes, I think, basically the changes within the administration, changes on the Board of Education, uh, where the Board was actively, uh, and I mean actively, out to uh, to get the superintendent's job, and also the high school principal's job, and uh, even though I didn't have--I didn't have the pressures of uh, a great many people in the community who wanted me out of a job, uh, I could see, at least, the handwriting on the wall. You know, that if we could get these other guys, maybe later on they could get me. Uh, we had come from the um, the open school concept into a more, uh, traditional program, which I had some difficulty with. I liked the uh, the general philosophy of openness, although I was not necessarily expecting that that could only be done in uh, you know, where there were no walls. But, there were many aspects to it where I felt children were much better off. And, uh, when they instituted standardized testing is when the basis for, uh, for children uh, being able to advance, uh, into another grade level, um, this put some additional pressures on me. Um, philosophically, I just uh, I didn't feel that children should necessarily be entirely judged on the basis of what they could do on a standardized test, and this, this was the coming thing. Uh, the state coming out with their ____?____ program, that's testing for, uh, reading and math skills, and setting up uh, remedial programs to help them with that. Uh, all of these things put ad, additional pressures on me, that uh, were not, uh, well, it actually restricted me from doing the kind of job that I wanted to do, that I felt I was able to do. So, um, all of those things, I think, began to work on me.
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