Interview with Thurmond Carter


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Q: Would you begin by telling me about your family background--your childhood interests and development? (Birthplace, elementary and secondary education, family characteristics.)

carter audio (Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)

A: Okay, I am the third of six children, five of whom lived to adulthood, four or whom are still alive. My mother is alive also. I don't know, my childhood was one that I usually try to forget, it was one that was not too pleasant. As far as interest and development, I don't know, I guess it could be pretty well summed up, i guess my dad summed it up pretty carefully one time when he said "I had five children, raised four and one grew up." If that tells you anything about my development well that's about that. I was born in Forsyth County, North Carolina, grew up in Yadkin County, North Carolina. My mother and dad both worked at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. I graduated from elementary school at Forbush Elementary School in Yadkin County, went to my first year of high school at Yadkinville High School and then finished high school at Clemmons High School. Our family characteristics were I suppose one more of a working class people. We, speaking of the entire family, we never seemed to get into very much trouble. To my knowledge, neither one of my brothers, nor my sisters, nor I, nor my parents, have ever spent a day in jail. Which is pretty good for growing up under the smoke of whiskey stills. But I'd say that's about it for the characteristics.

Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching? How many years did you serve as a teacher?, principal, etc.?

A: Okay, my college education; I was out of high school eleven years before going to college. The earliest memory that I have of school was, I hated it. The last memory I have of high school, I hated it. I'm serious. I was a teacher's scourge. There is no question that if I were in school today, I would be in a Willie M. class or something of that nature, if they would have me in that. Uh, but I was literally a teacher's scourge and when I graduated from high school, I intentionally walked out the front door of the high school, walked out to the street, incidentally that old building is now Edgar B. Furniture Company in Clemmons, and I walked out the street, turned around and looked back at that building and said if I never go back to school again, it will be a day too early. I dropped out of school in the tenth grade, went back the next fall though and they endured me for two more years. But it seemed that everything I did when I got out of college, it seemed that everything I did I taught. I got into teaching everything. There was a little conflict going on then in Korea about that time and I, uh, and having no desire to go to Korea, uh, some friends and I joined the National Guard. Immediately, I started teaching, teaching in the National Guard. And I'm going to tell you one war story on that one. We were in camp one summer and we had a four hour class the next morning on tactic. The sergeant that was supposed to teach that class was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and we were in Fort McClellan, Alabama. The company commander called me about nine o-clock the night before, we were out in the field and he called me and said I want you to teach that class in the morning. I said, "I'm not prepared". And he said, "Yes, I know, so we'll let you have a gas lantern". I said, "Don't want the gas lantern, I'm tired and I'm ready to go to bed." He said, "It's gonna be a four hour class." I said, "Yeah, your told me. " He said" And the battalion commander is going to be there to inspect the class and whatever the battalion commander decides from inspecting these classes is going to determine how classes will be taught for the next years in our company. " Well, I still didn't take the gas lantern. I went on to bed. I got up earlier the next morning, looked through the manual for a minute, went out and taught the class. The battalion did inspect the class, well the battalion commander and his staff inspected the class. The immediate report on that was that it was the best class that was ever taught in the battalion. The captain said, "I'll think I'll just kill you." I said, "Don't blame you." But, everything I did turned to teaching. I was is sales, it turned to teaching. Everything I did, it turned to teaching. So I said, well, and by this time, I had begun to see the necessity of an education. So, eleven years after high school, I decided to go to college. And I entered college with only one goal in mind, and that was to learn everything I could while there, knowing that I would have to work and pay my own way through college. Uh, I did it and I came out with the teaching certificate. I taught seven years. I taught in two different districts in Texas and one in Long Island, New York. We began in Texas, adopted a child, and in order to cover some tracks, we moved to New York, then we moved back to Texas where I completed the Master's Degree. I suppose the reason I wanted to enter the principalship was because I felt that I could do something for the school. My last three years of teaching were as a fifth-grade teacher in a school that served military students. It was a public school, but served totally air force personnel. We had about a forty-five percent turnover of students per year. But in the three years that I taught there, the principal said I became the most requested teacher to ever had taught in that school. I taught in that school until I completed the Master's, then went to New Mexico as a principal. We stayed there one year and then I moved to Mt. Airy. But I felt that I could do something for a school because I felt that many times that a school, as a school, did not have a particular direction that the school, the entire school knew where it was going. And I very firmly believe that we must know who we are, where we are going and how we're going to get there. If there are things, there are minor inconveniences, there are minor detours that come up, but I firmly believe that you must never lose sight of who you are, where your going and how your going to get there. And I think that part of the problem now is that we don't know where we're going and we just try to do whatever is popular at the time. I don't think that overall that that will get the job done. It is said that the difference between a genius and an ordinary person is that the genius shoots at a target that nobody else sees. You say, well but that's no problem, anybody can say they see a target out there, but the genius hits it. And that's what sets him apart as a genius. Am I a genius? By no means, by no means. But I did have a direction of where I wanted to go as a teacher, and I went there. The parents apparently appreciated it. As a principal I had that same direction of where we wanted to go and the apparently, the parents appreciated it.

Q: Would you describe you personal philosophy of education. How did it evolve over the years?

A: My personal philosophy of education is that a child must understand that it is not MY education, but HIS. That what he is learning is for his benefit, not mine. My philosophy of education is helping that child to understand that this is going to help him to get where he wants to go and where he needs to be. And it is really not going to make any difference to me personally, if someone takes all kinds of advantages of him in later life. I mean, that's not costing me anything personally. Of course, it grieves me to think that some students I had is in that position. But to help a student understand that it is his education. To help a teacher understand it is the child's education and to help the teacher to educate that child the way that the child needs to go. And I think that's pretty well how it has evolved over the years is seeing that and seeing where education would lead people. My high school years, my early education was a total farce. And I wish that all of my teachers were lined up right here now to where I could tell them I'm sorry for the way that I acted as a student. But of course, as you know, that's impossible. But it was only in later years when I realized what education was and what it was for. And for someone that came through the rough, I did. So I understand that from, from that particular child's point of view. To lay out a particular philosophy, I cannot. But to help, but to help a person meet their goals. To me education is a tool. Uh, okay, I am a high school dropout, but I also have three college degrees. But I consider my college degrees nothing more than a wrench to a mechanic, a hammer to a carpenter. It's simply a tool with to better do the job.

Q: What experiences/events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy? Please discuss these events.

A: Again I think children wandering. And when I say wandering, I mean they're just wandering about aimlessly, spending their time, going nowhere, not knowing where they're going or why they're going. And I think that influenced my management philosophy because people to do not respond to the same things. People respond to different things and in different ways. So, in trying to uh, get them together, to get students to understand, again, that this is for your benefit that we're doing this. To discuss the events, to tell you a war story, another war story, I had a student in the fifth grade and I usually would start the class, or start my class at the beginning of the year by simply trying to get acquainted with the students a little bit and the students get acquainted with me. I had this one little guy, a little red-headed guy. And I asked if any of them had ever had a paddling in school. When I said that, he really "hee-hawed". I said, :"Had you ever had a paddling?" He said, "Have I ever had a paddling?" I said, "How many?" He said, "Who knows?" I said, "What for?" He said, "Who knows?" And I said, "Okay", I said, "But you're aren't going to get any paddlings now. I said, " Your not going to get any paddlings this year." He did laugh when I said that. So, but we went on and before Thanksgiving, I met his mother and dad in a department store one evening and his mother looked me cold in the eye and said, "What have you done to my son?" Well you name it and I had done it, except paddling. So in an effort to buy a little time to try to throw the lady off track or to give her an answer or something, I said, "What are you talking about?" She said, "He loves school, how come?" She said, "I have turned the bed over on him, I have thrown him out of the house, I have poured water on him, I have done everything in the book to get him to go to school in the morning" Said, 'Now he's turning the bed over on us, he's pouring water on us, he's saying "Get-up, we get to go to school today." What have you done to my son?' Of course you know what happened to his grades. It was nothing more than we just simply took an interest in him and tried to find out and show him this education is for you, its not for me. You don't have to do this because I want you to do it --If that's the only reason you're gonna do it, because I want you to do it, then don't bother. Uh, and I think that, that this kind of a thing helped me in my management philosophy, not to have a management philosophy, you know a strict management philosophy, but rather to do what the student needed.

Q: What techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning? Would you describe successful and any unsuccessful experiments in building climate in which you were involved?

A: Okay, I think that the successful climate goes along pretty well with what I have said earlier, in earlier answers to questions. I think that, of course, Patrick was one of my successes, the little red-headed guy I was telling you about. Uh, I think that one of my more unsuccessful experiments was also in that same school with a fifth grade girl that I was never able to get that child to really do anything in the school,. She just, in fact the principal came to me one day and said, "She hates school" and I said, "Yeah I know." But I was never able to get that student, regardless of what I did, I was never able to get that student to where she appreciated anything about school at all. I do know that her mother and daddy attended a party every night, and if there wasn't one somewhere where they could attend party, they'd have one. So her mother and daddy attended a party every night, the child was there at the party. She would come to school the next day and of course you know pretty well the condition she was in. Kind of a humorous ending to that particular story. Toward the end of the school year, her daddy was walking down the street and suddenly he was shot. He was just walking down the street and suddenly he was shot. They found out his wife did it. So they took her to court later on and, uh. he came in and said, " Aww, she's a pretty good ol' girl, said, she said if I wouldn't prosecute her, that she'd go back to her Mama in Alabama, so just let her go back to Alabama, just forget about the shooting." So, I don't know if, uh, but of course all of that enters into what the child was. But, regardless of what I did, I was never able to interest that child in school. I will have to say I was a total washout on that one.

Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do? Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional characteristics of the "good principal".

A: I think that teachers expect their principal to know where they're going--to tell them where they're going and to help them get there. I think that teachers want principals to help them to get there, to show them how to get there and to give the teacher credit for getting there. They expect the principal to point the way and then step aside and let teachers have the credit for it. And that's as it should be, because they are the ones that deserve the credit. And the principal is to be a defender of the teachers. It was said in a principal's meeting one time, the superintendent told the, uh, principals, said "I will always support you when you're right." The principals looked at him and said, "We don't need your support when we're right." Says, " When we're wrong is when we need your support." And that is a correct statement. Teachers have to know that the principal will defend them. Now the teacher and the principal may have something to discuss later, but first off the teacher has to know that the principal will defend them. Again I think the principal needs to know who he is, where's he's going and how he's going to get there and communicate that to the teachers. And I think that the teachers expect that and have a right to expect that. I usually tried to tell the teachers that I would give them a few things, that I would require a few things. I would give them students to teach, a place to teach, the materials with which to teach and then I would require that they taught. The teachers seemed to appreciate that. And after retirement, a teacher that had taught with me for many years, for me for many years came up to me and said, " The greatest thing you ever did for your teachers was you treated us as if we had sense enough to teach."

Q: As a follow-up question, would you describe the expectations, both professional and personal, that were placed upon principals by their employers and the community during your period of employment. How do these expectations differ from today's situation?

A: Oh I think I that saw the changing situation in the changing of schools and the changing of superintendents and things of this nature. But again I think it comes back to knowing who you are, where you're going and how you're going to get there. And if you are right, then it doesn't--okay your superintendent may be a help, he may be a hinderance, the community may be a help, it may be a hinderance. But you work with the community, you work within the mores of the community, you work with the people of the community, you work with your school personnel and with your administration and if what you're doing what's right, well then somebody can come up and say, "I don't like the way your doing it", but they have to say, "I like what you're doing". So, uh, I don't think, that uh, I don't really think that who the superintendent makes much difference. Pretty brazen statement isn't it?

Q: A great deal of attention has been given to the topic of personal leadership in recent years. Please discuss your approach to leadership and describe some techniques which worked for you and an incident in which your approach failed.

A: Again I think that the leadership has to be that the personal leadership from the principal regarding the teachers has to be somewhat behind the scenes. I think your teachers have to be projected as "first-out". I think that your, uh, I think that parents have to come to appreciate teachers because the teachers are the ones who are dealing with their child all of the time. I think it is important to project to teachers that there is no parent that cares at all what a teacher themselves can do. But every parent has a vital interest in what they can get their child to do. So consequently I think that the teacher has to be projected as "first out"--that the principal's leadership for the teacher must be in helping that teacher to direct their children, uh, to the desired goals. But anytime that I could know that the teacher knows less about, for example the sixth grade, than the principal, that sixth grade's in trouble. If the principal knows more about the first grade than the first grade teachers, that first grade's in trouble. But if anybody knows any more about the entire school than their principal, than that school is in trouble. But I think that those teacher's have to be projected as "first-out". They have to be held in esteem as being "first-out:. I think the principal has to give them total support. I think that they must know they have someone standing behind them that will not let them fail. And I don't know if that particularly answers that question, but uh..... Did that fail, Oh yes. Because there are some teachers that don't want you to, or don't see it that particular way. They want you to day by day by day by day tell them the steps to take, rather than charting their own course. Again as the teacher stated, "You treated us as if we had sense enough to teach."

Q: There are those who argue that, more often than not, central office policies hinder, rather than help, building level administrators in carrying out their responsibilities. Would you give your views on this issue? If you were king, what changes would you make in the typical system-wide organizational arrangements as a way of improving administrative efficiency and effectiveness?

A: I would agree with the statement that often central offices do hinder more than they help. I think it has been handed down. I think that the state department started taking over central office responsibility, central office had to take somebody's responsibility so they'd have some, so they took principal's. Well what do principal's do?, he took the teachers, well where do the teacher's go? And uh, yes I think the policies and uh, I think that often your central policies do hinder rather than help. What kinds of changes would I make? I think that the, uh, that my, as a principal that my first superintendent, uh, gave me excellent information and he lived up to it. He said, " Welcome, we're glad to have you. that We'll give all the help that we can. Good luck" And it was my school. From there, it was my school. Uh, and when he transferred me at the end of that year, the community almost lynched him. He, uh, but it was definitely my school and his words to me was, uh, were "that if anyone had told me that they were going to run that school for one entire year and not have one parent complain, he said, I'd have laughed him plum out of the state. But you just did that." He said, "How did you do it?" I said, "Don't know, didn't know I did it." And uh, but, uh, I think that the central office again has to project to the principal and he told me in no uncertain terms that "You will be held accountable for how you run it. And held accountable to how I run it, I was. But, uh, I think that, uh, I think that that's good information. And I think that often the central office want to get muddled, or wants to muddle up and get into the internal affairs of the school and the central office doesn't belong in the internal affairs of the school. Let the school knows where you want it to be and then require them to put it there.

Q: If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what would that advice be?

A: Know who you are, where you want to go and how to get there. That would be it and don't try to hog the glory. But to let other people do the job, uh, because there is no person big enough that they can do it all themselves. You have to depend on other people. So depend on other people, let them know that you depend on them, let them know what you want, let them know what you will do to help them get there. But to know who you are, where you're going and how to get there and then give them the glory for doing it.

Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader, and those that suggest that, realistically speaking, this person must be, above all, a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe your own style?

A: I think a principal must be an instructional leader, but that instructional leader must be in the management phase of it because he again is not doing the instruction. It is the faculty that is doing the instructing. Its the teachers that are doing that. And I think that letting them know again where you want to go and what you will do to help them get there. To, to let them have ownership. To work with them and to set the goals and how to get there and so forth with them. Uh, and I think, that....Did I do that? Well, I hope I did.

Q: Please discuss the way in which you learned to lead; that is, what procedures or experiences you were involved in that contributed to your effectiveness, and the contribution that professional graduate education made to your progress.

A: I think that my uh, graduate work, or my college work for that matter, that I went into it with the understanding, I am here to learn. I questioned my own, uh, okay my own values. I think that I had had a pretty clear sense of what my values were for a long time, far before going into, uh, education. But I think that my college work helped me to clarify those tremendously and one, it helped me to question them. And I think that we have to know who we are, but I think we have to know why we are too. I think that we have to have a core of values, I know we have to have a core of values, but we have to question those values and to make sure that those values are, and uh, that we know why those values are what they are. Uh, it has been said for example that in my mannered religion, do I have my own faith or do I have my parents faith? Am I supporting my faith, am I supporting my parent's faith? And I think we have to do that with our core values. Why do I have the core values that I have? Have I questioned them? Are my values open to question? And I think that we have to do that . Uh, and I think that the further I went inward, the more that it caused me to question and to be, or to support my position because I had examined that position and had come to the conclusion that this is the best way.

Q: It has been said that good leaders encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations of their successes, no matter how small or insignificant. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness?

A: A tremendously good statement. A statement that I wish I could say that I did that all the time. I did not, or not nearly enough. I wish I could say that I did that from day one. I could not say that. I wish I could. Uh, but, a, I think that again, giving teachers the credit, uh, for what happens, to let students to know this is the place to be, and parents to know this is the place to be, teachers know this is the place to be. How do you do that? Certainly not through taking the glory for yourself, but to, to celebrate with the students, with the teachers their successes. And a tremendously good statement. One I would encourage tremendously.

Q: As you view it, what characteristics are associated with the most effective schools, and what features characterize less successful ones?

A: Those that know where they're going. I think that in education as a whole, if we would simply answer, ask and answer the question, "What are we trying to do?", we'd be far ahead. I think we have no clear idea of where we are going. As Doctor Barker, who was the Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction in New Mexico put it and this one kindly rattled me because I think that he helped send me in the right direction. He said, "Blessed is the man who knows where he is going for he shall know when he gets there." And I think that that;s the problem today. We don't know where we're going, what we are trying to do, what are we trying to accomplish. I think that we don't know the answers to those questions. I don't think we've asked those questions.

Q: Please discuss the way in which you were chosen for your first administrative role, as well as any subsequent assignments.

A: The first one's a pretty good question. I had finished a Master's degree in Abilene, Texas, I applied for a principal position simply because there was one open and I had a good friend that taught in the Grants, New Mexico system. I went to Grants, and when you get to Grants you're getting just about twelve miles the other side of nowhere. Uh, and, they said that they would require me to come to Grants for an interview, though I, uh, applied and so forth, they said that they would require me, that they required all principals to come to Grants for an interview. They didn't require teachers to come for interviews before they got their position. But, uh, I went to Grants and, uh, was pleased with what I saw, they were pleased, uh, with me. and so we negotiated the contract. That was my first one. I moved then to Mt. Airy because I wanted to get back closer home. I came here on my own initiate, I interviewed here on my own initiative and I feel, that with my record, with the careful scrutiny of my record and so forth, that really that I did win this position. Uh, I, I feel that the first one that I was just the, a person in the right place at the right time. Here, however, I feel that I, I earned this position. And ,uh, we've been here ever since.

Q: Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucratic complexity with which they are forced to deal. Would you comment on the situation during your administrative career and compare the problems you encountered with your perceptions of the situation at this time?

A: I heard a principal talking about this one time and he said, "What paperwork? What paperwork are you talking about?". He said, "Okay, you have the control, or you have basically the control of all the paperwork that goes on in your office. " Said. "What paperwork are you talking about?" And I think he's right. I think that alot of times that we create things of this nature. Uh, so that we won't have to do something else and then complain about it, but its of our own creation. What paperwork are you talking about? The bureaucratic complexities--uh, again, what are you talking about? But if you're running your school, the superintendent comes, and again I say, I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference who the superintendent is. Because if you are running your school properly, the superintendent is not going to come up and say, "Fill out this paper and turn in this form" and so forth and so on.

Q: Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational administration, what would they be?

A: I think that, uh, to put the principals back in charge of the schools. Uh, as far as three areas, uh, to change; I think that principals should be asked, not told. Again, the principal must be held accountable for how he runs it, but again I think he must be given the latitude to run it. And as far as changing and, then whatever is necessary would be changed then. I think that a terrible thing to do is to leave principals out of the hiring process. I think the hiring process is probably the most important process for the principal to be involved in. Because he has to know that, and that person has to know that they must work together. And if you have no confidence in me, if I have no confidence in you, if neither of those situations exist, its going to be bad for our school. So I think that the principal needs to be vitally, almost "veto power" with the hiring process. But again, he must be held accountable for what he's doing. So if you tell your principal, you select your, uh, you select your person anyway, but you're going to be held accountable for what you do. And then hold that principal accountable for the success or failure of that, and of that school. But I think that the principal needs to become, uh, the, uh , okay the headmaster of that school,. And he, of course, must understand how to work with the people in order to accomplish that, because he is going to account for it. But that's what needs to happen, rather than, uh, "Fill out this form" and "Show me this how you punched, how you punched out this clock".

Q: Some writers recommend that principals adjust their leadership styles to meet the individual needs of their staff. How do you feel about that idea and to what extent did you practice individualized leadership?

A: I think that individualized leadership is necessary, but is necessary to a point. I think that there has to be mutual cooperation. I think that there is, that it is far more important that teachers and principals realize we're working together in order to better perform. We're simply here to help each other do a better job, rather than trying to, uh, okay; If I try to adjust to your whims and you feel that you got to adjust to my whims, uh, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day is what we're going to do. Again, I go back to my overall premise; know who you are, where you're going and how you're going to get there. And then you adjust, each of you adjust yourselves to, uh, that. Yes, there are going to be days when I get up on the wrong side of the bed. And there are going to be days when you get up on the wrong side of the bed. And when that happens, that must be treated as a minor inconvenience and you move on because we both know what the overall goal is. I think individualized leadership is good, but then to kind of coin a phrase, individualized fellowship is good. That should be in that too.

Q: Some principals hold the view that teachers and other staff members are, in general, well-motivated and reliable self-starters. Other principals feel that they must closely monitor the activities of their employees to insure that they are performing "to standard". What supervisory approach did you customarily use during your career as principal?

A: I think that there teachers that are motivated self-starters. I think that there are some that are not. I don't want to say there are more on one side or the other. I think you have to adjust yourself, uh, to which is which and help that person, the person that is self-motivated, to help that person in the right direction, make sure that person is going in the right direction. And, uh, I think, too, that the person who is not a self-starter-that you need to help them and to show them the necessity of becoming a self-starter and to help them. So its, uh, kind of a push with one and a pull with the other.

Q: One model of leadership describes people as either assertive, supportive, or contemplative. Would you please categorize yourself and give your reasons for this assignment.

A: I would hope that my position was being supportive because again the teacher was the one that interacted with the students. (Problem with tape player). I would hope that my position was one of being supportive....(Problem with tape player). I would hope that my position was one being supportive because again the student must live with the teacher, all day, every day. The teacher doesn't have to live with the principal. Because he must live with the teacher. The teacher must know he is supporting them. (Problem with tape player). The teacher must know the principal is supports them. That they can depend on the support of the principal. The principal must understand that the teacher is going to make a mistake. The teacher must understands they're going to make a mistake. But then we correct it and we move on. Uh, but we still support the teacher with what they're doing and help them to help the student. Again this is the student's education, not the principal's or the teacher's. It is the student's. So the teacher must have the leeway, uh, to know how to act and interact with that student. Or they must have to ability to know how act , to interact with that student. They must have the latitude to act, interact with that student. And the principal must support them in that. And I, uh, remember, if I can tell you another war story. Teacher came up one day wanting to know if they could do a certain thing. And I said, "Well, and questioned the teacher and so forth and I told them to go ahead. A little later the teacher came back and said, "Why didn't you tell me that you knew that was not going to work?" I said, "Would you have listened?, Would you have been happy?" She said, :"NO!" And I said, "Okay, okay". I said but, but what I made sure of was that nobody was going to get hurt. And when I determined that no one was going to get hurt..." Then I said, "But you will know next time, won't ya?" The teacher became an excellent teacher. And in fact, I'm happy to say that teacher is still in our system today.

Q: Would you describe some of the pressures you faced on a daily basis and explain how you coped with them, describe your biggest headaches or concerns on the job? Describe the toughest decision or decisions that you had to make.

A: I think that the greatest pressures that I had to face were that, uh, our school where I was last principal, had two "ends" and no "middle". It had country club, it had housing project, no middle. Uh, how do you tell..., okay you're dealing with people, in that particular school I was dealing with the children of the surgeon. The surgeon says, "You have surgery or you don't." And that's what happens. I was working with the owner of the mill. The owner of the mill says, "You're hired, you're not. You're fired or you're not. You get a raise or you don't" And that's the way it was. We were working with people that were the president of the bank. The "loan, the no loan", and so forth and so on and on and on it goes. How do you tell these people, "No". How do you tell this group of people, "You're not going to run this building?" How do you take the people from the project and the people from the country club and cause them to live together. But yet, that 's what we were required to do. I will recall, uh, that a gentleman came into the office one day and told me point-blank, "You will do this!" I said, "NO". He said, you didn't understand me, "I said you will do this!" I said, "NO". He said, "You will do this or you will read about it on the front page of the newspaper if I have to buy the paper to do it.!" I said, "I hope the paper doesn't cost you too much." So..(laughter).. Uh, and he had the ability to buy the paper! But how do you, how do you tell the surgeon, "No"? How do you tell the president of the bank, "No"? How do you, uh.. and these are the pressures I was dealing with, uh, basically, uh, where I was. The biggest headache or concern was dealing with this and making sure that everything was kept on an even keel. The student from the project is just as important as the student from the country club. How do you make that student from the country club realize this student is just as important as you? How do make this student realize you are just as important as the student from the country club? Uh, that is, uh. The toughest decision? Believe it or not but the toughest decisions uh, that we had to make was what students would be in what room; placing students. And frankly, that was one nightmare I never conquered. But those were by far the toughest decisions we had to make. Of course it was no fun, uh, to tell a parent that their student, uh, must be, or must be retained or they must repeat the grade or, uh. I have a little different philosophy of that. I don't think that a student, I don't think there are very many students that repeat a grade. I question whether there have been very many students in history who have ever repeated a grade. If its awfully hard to repeat something you've never done. Uh, so that's the way we tried to look at it. If a student was going to repeat the grade, no. But it they were, if you were trying to get a student to reach further than they could possibly reach, then sometime they need a little more time to grow a little taller so they could reach that height. So we tried to look at it like that. But still the toughest decisions I had to make were "Who's going to be in which room?"

Q: Please discuss your personal code of ethics and give examples of how you applied it during your career.

A: I think that a principal should have a very, very high moral standard. I think they should live up to the moral standard. Again going back to my original premise of "who you are", of knowing who you are. And, but I do not feel that a principal should look at themselves nor permit others to look at them as if they were some kind of deity. Uh, I think that, yes I agree that happiness is never having to say I'm sorry. But then it comes necessary every now and then to say "I'm sorry". But then when it becomes necessary to say "I'm sorry", then say, "I'm sorry" and, uh, to move on then from that point. But you can't dwell in the "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry". After awhile people are going to get the opinion that you are sorry. Uh, (laughter). But, uh, but still the principal is not some kind of a deity. Did I apply that during my career? I hope. I hope that people understood that I walked on the ground too.

Q: If you had to do it again, what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship? Would you describe your feelings, knowing what you now know about entering the principalship yourself if given the opportunity to start anew.

A: If I could do it all over again, what would I do to better prepare myself? I think that I would read more. I would listen more. I would examine more. I would less, uh, set in my ways. I think I would look to other people more and ask them, rather than to always, well not always, wanting to project my own ways. Rather, I think I would look at them and say, "let's us discuss, let's explore, let's find out and come to a mutual point on this." Now there are times when you got to stop discussing and start doing. That I know. And sometimes I think that we discuss things to death. We discuss but we never get anywhere. I think discussions should be held for a purpose. Uh, and, uh, and move on from there. But I think that what I would try to do is try to get other people's ideas more and try to get other people to "buy in" more quickly than maybe I did in the past. Sometimes I think I held mine up and saying "Here, look at my high banner --Its better!" when it would have been better to have given other people the opportunity to have said that rather than me saying that. So I think that to, to get the input of other people is probably what I would like to, uh, do if I were going to do it all over again. Again I think that the teachers are far more important. I think that they are. And to, for me to stand in the shadows and let them stand in the sunlight.

Q: Principals operate in a constantly tense environment. What kinds of things did you do to maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions?

A: You ask yourself, "Where is the stress coming from? Why is it? Where, What's causing it?" Then you eliminate the cause of it. Uh....nothing can be stressful that you won't let be stressful. And if you permit to be stressful, uh, then it can, then it will be. So, uh, what is causing the stress? Now there are times when because of our actions or our inactions, uh, we cause things to be very stressful. I remember one time the secretary from the central office called and said, "You have a report in your box." This was about one "o" clock one afternoon. She called and said, "You have a report in your box. You will come immediately and get that report, fill it out and have it back in this office by four "o" clock this afternoon. Thank You" You know what I did? I went to see what that report was. Come to find out... This happened in December. Come to find out that this report was due in Washington the previous July! And we were just getting it! Well now.. (laughter)..Needless to say that paper was smoking! Okay, what caused the stress in that one? It was because the report was overlooked at an earlier time. And we got it in and we lived over it. Most of the time, things that we consider stressful and so forth, uh, if you look to see where the stress is coming from and why it's not as stressful as you think. There are some of 'em that are, but not that many. Keep your sense of humor.

Q: Would you give me an overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service, and any advice you would wish passed along to today's principals.

A: Administrative service is tremendous. Its a great opportunity. You miss the students. You miss dealing with the students. Again, the teachers must be "first out". You miss being with the students, of dealing hand or "one to one" or "one on one" with the students, uh, of seeing them each day, all day and this type thing. You miss that a tremendous amount. But yet you realize what you're doing for the overall good. Uh, I think that, uh, if I were going to pass on something for, uh, today's principals is: Have fun. Realize that it is the student's opp., it is the student's education. And if the student realizes it is his education, then his is going to buy into it and it is going to be fun. So put the fun back into it. Laugh. Enjoy. Uh, have fun with the students. Help them to grow, help them to know, And, uh, to, , don't, don't be too serious about it. Again know where you're going and how to get there.

Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there is probably something I have left out. What have I not asked you that I should have?

A: That's a good question. i wish I had, wish I had a good answer to that one. But one thing that I would add, uh, is: Do not accept excuses. Anything that you do you do one of two things. You either succeed or you make excuses. And when we say "I can't, I don't have this or I need that, or".. and so forth and so on, uh, don't accept excuses. Take the, uh, baseball game for example. The umpire calls the batter out. And the first thing he does is he looks around at the umpire and, uh, if the, if the rules didn't prohibit it, its hard telling what all he would say to the umpire because he called a strike that I didn't think was a strike. Well I'll go back to the dugout and I'll beat on the water fountain, or I'll, uh, throw my helmet at somebody or I'll do this or do that. And then two or three batters later well the cameras will be on me again and I'm still over there fuming or fussing over it. And what's the problem? The problem is very simply, I didn't do my job. Had I done my job, I'd been on one of the bases. And you don't see people standing on one of the bases jumping up and down and snorting over whether or not the ump called it a strike. The only people you see doing that's the person who didn't do the job. So don't accept excuses. Don't offer excuses. I don't care what it is, its an excuse. I very, very firmly believe, doesn't make it right or wrong, but I very, very firmly believe that people are what they are because they want to be what they are. If they wanted to be something else, they'd change it. So its up to us to help people want to be the best that they can be. And, yes, I think that we can all be better people, if we want to. And I think that we can do things if we want to... but it is only if we want to. And anytime that we accept excuses, that's what it is. Okay, we see children misbehave. Its nothing in the world but they're behaving that way because they want to behave that way. I firmly believe that people are what they are, they do what they do, simply because that's what they want to do. If you look at it, then you will see that this is, uh, this is the way they control other people. Okay, I have a temper tantrum just to control my momma or daddy. Uh, I am the way that I am because I want to be this way. If I wanted to be different, I'd change it. That's our goal. To help the students to change.

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