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Q: Thank you so much for agreeing to let me come in to talk to you. Really looking forward to hearing your comments on your long and illustrious career in this state.
A: Thank you, Pat.
Q: I wonder if I could get you to start by sort of discussing your family background and your early life maybe starting with your birthplace and date and then taking us forward through your educational background and preparation for work. Professional work.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Taking me back a long, long, long, way but I was born in 1928 in a small town called Blacklick, Pennsylvania, coal mining area of western Pennsylvania. My father was in the mining business, superintendent of mines there in the western section and we moved from one small mining town to another so that my early education, I guess until I was a ninth grader was for the most part in small mining communities, we didn't have one room schools but I think back now that we had, the principal taught full time, we had no library, didn't have any resource teachers and no music program, I just don't know how those teachers could get along without some of the resources we have today. But anyhow, in the ninth grade my father moved from the mining business to Indiana State Teachers College, now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, again in western Pennsylvania and he was superintendent of building and grounds there, so had the responsibility for all of the maintenance, all of the construction, all of the custodial, on and on and on. I then attended the Lab school or teachers school which was the school on campus and was used as a training center for their graduates in teacher education. I spent through the tenth grade there and in the eleventh grade we were then all transferred to public high school. The Lab school, tenth grade was the terminal grade, so we then went to public high school. I then got involved in college and I attended the George Washington University and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Again Indiana State Teachers College then, with the idea that chemistry was my strength and the area in which I wanted to teach, with biological science as a minor area and graduated and started teaching in 1955, I'm sorry, that's not right, in 1952. Let's correct that again, 1951. I'm telling you, you're taking us back a few years here. In 1951 I was appointed science teacher, Straford Junior High School in Arlington County, Virginia. There are those who wonder why I left Pennsylvania, my uncle who was director of teacher placement and principal of that Lab school was probably one of my very favorite people in all the world, and I admired, respected and loved him dearly. I thought if I were to remain in Pennsylvania I'd always be John Davis' nephew and I didn't want that so I left and moved on to Arlington. In Arlington, I taught from 1951 to 1955. At that time I was assistant principal Kenmore Junior High School which was a new school opening, matter of fact the first year we were housed at Brandon, the old Dolly Madison school down on Shirley highway, I think it now has been torn down and there's an office building in there, down there in Hybla valley. Those of us from that are know where that is, but that building is no longer there. It was the old Dolly Madison school. And I was then assistant principal for Kenmore when we moved into the new building, I left that school in 1958 and assumed the responsibility as director of Flint Hill prep in Oakton K through 12 and I had been employed at Flint Hill during the summer, operated the summer day camp. In my background I had been a counselor and director of camps, and several staff members from Kenmore and myself, we operated that camp and the owners of the school asked me if wanted to be employed 12 months, which was financially to my advantage, needless to say and I accepted that responsibility. I was there four years and when I accepted the position it was K through 9 schools, as I recall, about 97 students. When I left we had the K through 12 and also some post-graduate students. We had 660 student there. I left there in 1963 and at that time I was appointed assistant principal for Fort Hunt High School, another new school just being opened in Fairfax County. I was the assistant principal for a year and then appointed to acting principal when the then principal accepted an assignment in Vietnam with the State Department and when he returned I was then appointed to the Principalship at West Springfield High School. I served in that principalship for one year. So from 1963 to 66 I was at Fort Hunt High School as assistant principal and acting principal, and then from 1966 to 1967 principal of West Springfield High School, another new school. So you see my experience for the most part opening new schools, Straford, Kenmore, Fort Hunt and West Springfield. I often commented I have never had any experience accepting principalship in an established school. I think that might be an interesting challenge as well. In 1967 to 1970 I served as the Area 2 superintendent for Fairfax County. That was Fairfax when divided into four administrative areas. I served as superintendent for area 2 which is the Annandale area, with five high school, five middle schools, and about twenty-five elementary schools. 70 through 79, I was division superintendent, 79 appointed by Governor Dalton, this position of superintendent of public instruction, reappointed by Governor Robb, and reappointed by Governor Bailliles. That brings us right up to date.
Q: That's quite a career. You've jammed a lot of experience into a relatively short period of time. I wonder if I could get you to drop back and characterize for us a little bit what you might call the early conditions in Arlington County in Fairfax County. I'd like to know a little more about how business was done back than, maybe you could say something whatever involvement in desegregation which you might have had as it was passing through and its impact on both Arlington and Fairfax County.
A: At the time in Arlington County when I was teaching, we had the elected school board and I think Arlington was one of the few school divisions with elected school board. Quite honestly, I testified in that recent court case in opposition to elected school board, based on that experience. I found that principals, I can't say principals, I found that teachers caught in the middle of a political process that was extremely difficult for young teachers at the time I was in first year teaching. The integration or desegregation of schools in Northern Virginia was a very smooth process, of course, the citizens in that area and teachers and so forth had moved to integrate teachers associations and so forth years before. So as it took place I thought went rather smoothly. The early, as I mentioned, most of my involvement was in opening new schools, so that it gave me a great deal of experience in planning and selecting faculty members and selecting equipment and materials. Arlington at the time allowed a more involvement of the faculty of a new school in making some decision than most other school divisions in I think probably in the United States. Arlington at the time was identified as a rather forward looking school division and indeed it was just that way, I found. The principal, those of in administration, those of us in teaching had a voice in the curriculum and a voice in the new hours and a voice in many of the changes taking place. I was very mich involved as a teacher in student activities and I found this to be exciting and created, I thought, a rapport with the students that is difficult to established if you aren't involved in other than classroom kind of activities. I found that I was, for example I was the sponsor of the student government and we had responsibility for all the dances. I also had the responsibility for the bus patrols, thus I met a lot of students who were on their way to getting themselves into difficulties and worked with them and I had several other responsibilities with students including an evening recreation program in the gymnasium and I though that was to my benefit. I also had some involvement with some of the activities of the central office dealing with the banking of the school funds and things of that kind. So that my first interview than for the assistant principalship at Kenmore I was able to call on those experiences, almost an internship, if you will. A non-paid internship, but I had had numerous experiences in doing the master schedule for example, as a teacher. I was very much involved in putting together the master schedule. I was mich involved in the finances of the school and the student activities. I think that was to my advantage to have that. And I thank the principal Clyde Richmond, who has passed away, however the two assistant principals, Doris Mathews, who lives in Northern Virginia and Mrs. Barnes, isn't that something, I know her first name, but as a teacher, of course, I would never have thought - Evelyn Barnes lives in Orange County and I thank them constantly for giving me the opportunities that I had to get some different kinds of experience.
Q: Might be that this is a follow on. I wonder if I could get you to talk a little bit about your philosophy of education as it is evolved over the years and maybe talk about how you implemented in the various schools in which you were the principal.
A: Well, it's been called many different things, participatory management, management by objectives, I think now it's site based management. I have always felt strongly that I don't have all the wisdom of the world and there are those out there regardless of title, whether they be custodian, bus driver or teacher, or department head or an assistant principal, guidance or whatever can always contribute to improving the school. I think those who feel they have all the answers really have none of the answers so right from the time was an assistant principal to today I have believed in and tried to involve the faculty in - and also try to put myself in the faculty spot. I can recall, for example, as a superintendent in Fairfax, we had an elementary school that was without electricity all day long, it was a cold January day and they kept telling me in maintenance it was going to be repaired, it was going to be repaired, it was going to be repaired. I went over there in the afternoon, the teachers were teaching in coats and the students in jackets and coats and the classrooms were very cold. The principal came to me and said "do you have any suggestions." I said "well, what are your plans for this afternoon?" And she said "well, the students will go home." and I said "you're not going to keep the teachers, I hope." I said, "if I were you I would suggest that you might announce to the teachers that at 3:15 in there will be a short faculty meeting, bring all the teachers there for hot chocolate, hot coffee or what have you, and thank them for a job well done and send them on their way." And I felt strongly that there are times when the administrator had to make some decisions based on whatever the conditions are at the time. For example, as a principal, I didn't feel comfortable in evaluating the teachers myself. I would ask assistance principals and the director of guidance to carry home with them because I didn't want this done in committee, to carry home with them the names of the faculty members, to evaluate them and bring that back to me and then the evaluation was written based on the viewpoints of the viewpoints of the assistant principal of instruction, assistant principle for discipline or administration and the director of guidance, so each of the saw the-each of them would see the teachers in a different light and I as a principal could not see them that way. I could see them from the standpoint whenever I would run into them. So I found that very helpful, very seldom did I do other than make the final decision in employing new teachers. I would always bring several candidates in, especially if that discipline happened to be represented on campus foreign language, science or whatever, I would involve the teachers in the interview process and ask them for a recommendation and I found that worked very well. I was always excited when I found teachers who were interested in taking a different look at delivering instructional programs to the young people. And I can recall we got ourselves involved in the thematic approach of teaching English and that was very successful for a number of years and interestingly enough as principal I had to outlaw it as superintendent I outlawed it later on because it had become so prostituted that it was no longer effective and someone said you've got to throw out a new idea every twenty minutes, I don't believe in that but I think you better take always a look at what it is you're doing and how you're delivering instructional services. We later moved into the thematic approach in social studies and that worked well for a few years but then we found when you taught a theme, wars for example, in one period of time then students tended to forget or they didn't understand the relationship of a war to the depression, because the depression was taught in a separate unit so that they wouldn't connect the first World War and the depression and whatever. So we had to change that, and that's good, I think we should encourage teachers to constantly take a look at what they're teaching and work with the administrators and supervisors to come up with different approaches.
Q: You were talking about organizational change I wonder if you could just carry that another step and talk a little bit about what you consider to be the appropriate pace for change. I know there are pros and cons, there's too fast and too slow. How do you view that whole process?
A: Well, I, that's a tough one to answer in a yes or no, or in twenty five words or less because I think it really depends on the situation at that time and the players involved. I find that I am not very patient with planning the plan, I like to get the plan underway sometime. Thus, I don't like to spend a whole lot of time quote "planning the plan." That's something that I've always heard-felt could be used to put off doing anything, and on the other hand I'm not interested in jumping on the bandwagon. I don't think that's appropriate. I'm probably a bit conservative in that area. If you want to look at a kind of program or delivery system or teaching model that I would suggest we should research it very carefully to find out if its been used otherwise in other areas. If not, then we would plot a new ground. I like to do the research first to see if it has been effective and has worked well. So I don't know if I could say a year, two years, six months, or a week. I think those involved will know when it's the time. You certainly--the teachers must feel comfortable with the program. They must feel that they've had sufficient in-service training. They must feel that they know the direction they're going and just to strike out with out that kind of planning and training and so forth could be a disaster.
Q: There's an element of timing.
A: Right. Always standing on the cutting edge, always aware of when its time to change. Teachers can help you with that. They play a very important role in the process, when is it time to change. They look at a program for example, and say gee we don't want to implement this, we'll put it on the back shelf for awhile. I remember, for example, I suggested that we design a school, this was as a superintendent, that we design a school as a revenue producer. That we design an elementary school attached to a senior citizen's condominium power building, and that facilities for example that the swimming pool for the senior citizens would be the pool for the elementary school. The elementary school children would have an opportunity to work with the senior citizens and the cafeteria would serve lunch to the senior citizens and the children on and on and on, and I looked at that program, that school design, I am sure is still available in Fairfax County drawers. But at the time it was not the time to do that, but on the other hand, it was the time to introduce the energy conservative building which underground and so forth and it was very appropriate at that time.
A: Terraset and Terra Center. So I think that's something that the judgement of the teachers and others in the faculty was very helpful in making that decision.
Q: Wonder if you could talk for a second about how go about, or how you went about creating a positive climate for learning in buildings where you served, and I guess later in the system wide, and what techniques found to be useful.
A: I don't want to repeat this over and over again, but I think its the involvement. For example, when we opened the West Springfield High School, we were bringing young people from Woodson, Annandale and Robert E. Lee High Schools. An they didn't want to leave, you see we opened with 11th grade and some of them had been in Annandale for two years. I recall we had the number two quarterback from Annandale, would have been a starter in Annandale in the 11th grade and he didn't want to leave Annandale, and the parents didn't want them to leave. I spent many, many days meeting with these students and over and over again. First, the excitement of selecting colors for the school and I actually brought in some uniforms and flags of different colors. I would meet with them in small groups of thirty and say now we got some decisions to make and I don't intend to make them on my own and I need your help. Then we had to select the symbols, the Spartan as our mascot. So we very much... I don't know how many times during that period that I met with, talked with the young people. I organized very early, even before that had left their other school, I organized the PTA for the new school and got it moving along. We spent a lot 350 time with thinking about where we wanted to go with that school and just what kind of school we wanted to be known for and so forth. The faculty and again taking advantage when I had only the assistant principals asking them to be involved in the interview process. Then as we brought more faculty members on board, involving them in addition. We wanted to build a attitude, it you will, and this may be very selfish, we're number one, we're the best. And, we tried to do that in all areas whether it be academic, athletics, student activities, or whatever, and I think if you talk with even some of the individuals in that school today, they still have that attitude. We're really pretty good. I wanted them to feel, every student in that school, I wanted that student having the greatest difficulty achieving to feel important. And this was an attitude we developed over and over again with faculty members. For example, I can recall several times we had extremely difficult days because the building was under construction and we had bulldozers moving here and there, and plumbers working there and so forth and so on and I would send out a message on faculty meeting day asking all teachers at 3:30 this afternoon, wherever you happen to be you will turn and face West Springfield High School and read this to yourself. This is the agenda and this is what we would have done if we had a faculty meeting. But you will have your own faculty meeting wherever you happen to be. So we had to do some things like that. We had to bend some of the rules, if you will. Supposedly you didn't excuse students, until, excuse me, teachers until all the buses had left. Well, it had taken into consideration that the teachers had done a really fine job and they had gone over an above what was expected, so those are the kinds of things. We develop an awards program for identification of how well people were doing their job. I, as the principal tried to memorize 25 report cards every nine weeks of students and I would meet the student in the hall and complement them on the algebra moving from a B to an A or on the other hand science from a c to a d and ask them about that, gee I'm a little concerned about this and it was amazing the looks that I received as though, does he know that about every student in the school, and we had 2800 students. But, and I tried to build a philosophy, as I mentioned that every child in that school had a name and I wanted everyone to know as many of the young people as we possible could. So I guess that's a philosophy, if you will, of involvement, of people are important, that the least of us is a very important cog in this wheel. We took what was a very large High School of 2800 students 9 through 12 and tried make it small school. I encouraged, for example, the assistant principals and the guidance people and the principal. We attended a lot of the student activities when it was work time. Not when they were performing on a Friday night football games or on a stage play. We went to watch them and be with them when they were putting the newspaper together. Not when they had finally gotten it out, but we went to see some of the stage rehearsals and then we spent a lot of time with the Debate team, and on and on and on. Things of that kind. So that you're not simply there showing your support when they're getting their recognition from the audience. You are there when the sweat and hard work is taking place, as well. What other kind of things did we do? For example, when it was time for the gymnasium to be painted and the gym floor, I brought together a large number of students and faculty members, and said, we have our choice now, we can do some things with this. What do you have in mind? So, that's a minor kind of thing, but I think it's indicative of, even with the very, very minor kind of activities, such as do we put the mascot in the middle of the gymnasium floor, or do not, do we want the bleachers in school colors. They appreciated being involved. Not always the same group of students, we tried to bring in some of those who tended to be less assertive or shy.
Q: I wonder if you could comment a little about how you dealt with the non-professional people, thinking now in terms of the kitchen crew and custodian and the drivers and so forth, all those people that make things happen in the building.
A: Well, I didn't have as many opportunities to be in touch with the bus drivers, because they would come and go at different time. But with the secretaries, with the cafeteria people, with the custodian, I tried to make them feel and tried to bring them in as part of the total staff, as possible.. For example, and here again this could be a minor kind, but we had our home economics girl classes make special aprons for the cafeteria people to wear on Fridays when we had an athletic. They wore their navy blue and burnt orange aprons on Fridays. And, a couple time they had forgotten them at home and they would charge back to get those because they felt they needed to have that, wanted to be a part of it. We also had students, an advisory 531 committee of students to the director of the cafeteria. They would meet monthly and advise her as to the kind of food and maybe some things that weren't too attractive, things like that. Worked very well, they were very successful. Custodians, we tried to, again making them feel very much of this, we did a couple of things, that might have been helpful, made almost a career ladder kind of thing. The custodians uniforms were all supplied, Penny's as I recall, Got the idea head custodian at day and the head custodian at night should wear a white shirt rather than the gray shirt or blue or whatever it was, that was a long time ago. But it was almost a career ladder kind of thing and we heard people talking about, one of these days I'm going to wear a white shirt. So they were interested in moving up. Clerical staff, the same kind of, we put a great deal of faith in them. We expected a lot, we didn't allow anything to go out that hadn't been reviewed by another secretary because we didn't want anybody to be embarrassed by a misspelled word or something. And I don't know whether we did anything other that just the attitude they're very supportive. There was only one faculty lounge, even though the schools contained probably eight or ten faculty lounges they had the faculty lounges in that school by department. And I indicated to them that no, I didn't want them to that, now they could use that as a temporary basis kind of thing, but we kept the goodies and coffee down in one large, cause I wanted it to be a faculty, I didn't want it to be a group of departments. So we had one large faculty lounge, and secretaries were encouraged to use that as well. There are a number of things you can do and I don't know, I can recall one spring, it had been a really hard winter. The people had been able to get there and work, in spite of snow, and so forth. So I ordered a flower for each of our female teachers, I've forgotten, they're yellow, I want to say jonquils.
A: Daffodils. I had a daffodil taken around to the female teachers, saying thank you, and it was, it wasn't all that much, but it was sort of, they liked that. They felt that somebody had recognized that indeed it was difficult and the men, I thanked them as well, but I didn't send them flower. That may have been sort of sexist. I think you've got to provide an environment in which the custodians feel they are making a contribution, and they feel part of that staff. And they feel a very important part of the staff. Cafeteria people as well. I met, on a regular basis with the cafeteria director, head custodian and with a number of administrators and teachers. They were part of that group. And we had faculty meetings without the custodians, and so forth, but on other times we brought them in.
Q: You were talking awhile ago about your philosophy of education and you talked about your leadership style. I wonder if you could say a word about your perception of an appropriate code of ethics for the principalship, What kinds of beliefs do these men and women need to hold dear that you have observed to be appropriate over the years?
A: I think a principal has to be very much supportive of the idea that every child can learn, every single child. I think the principal also has to realize that children bring a lot of baggage to that school, that school day. I don't think we have any idea at all what kinds of problems that face that young person. Granted, the majority of the homes are just good environment, very positive environments, but there are those that are coming out of homes that aren't very positive, very negative as a matter of fact. Those young people are bringing that kind of baggage into that day and I don't think we need to add to it. I think that teachers recognize, quite often that youngster, and they give a little extra love and care to those students. And I would encourage them to do that. I would encourage them to try to be understanding.. I met today with a group of special educators and I think we have no idea of the feelings of a parent of a handicapped child and the concern for, and I've heard this so many times, what happens to my child when I pass away, who is going to take care of this child. We have got be sensitive to that. We can't put ourselves in that parent's place, I realize that. But we've got to try to be sensitive to those concerns of those people. We've got to be, and I remember a parent told me one time that he was sending me the best that he had. I think we've got to be sensitive to this. I don't know how to put that any other way. I guess it's just a feeling that the kids are there and we sort of rotate around those kids. It's not that here's the school and the kids must adapt, but we've got--their the orchestra and we're the dancers. If the orchestra stops, we don't dance. I think that's something you work at as a principal every single day. Everything you do. You're going to find that as a principal, there are days when you just tired, because, I can recall I averaged 5 or 6 nights at the school. And you're tired and you might feel out of sorts, but you can't let that come across. You'll find that your faculty will tend to reflect that and the students, and pretty soon you've got an environment in that school that you don't really like. It's tough to ever get it back out of the world of depression.
Q: You're starting into the area which is the attributes which the teachers expect to find in their principals and what you found it took to be an effective principal. You already really started this perhaps you can amplify it.
A: I think they expected the principal to be concerned, they expected the principal to be supportive, and that is essential. You cannot have a situation where a student is referred to the office for a rather severe infraction of the rules and certainly without bringing the teacher and the student together at some period with the parents, if necessary, talk about this, you can't just sluff this off and say there is no problem here. There is a problem and it's something that you've got to intervene and assist the teacher. The teacher wants to do the best job that he or she can, and if that student is disruptive and is creating a problem it's go to be corrected somehow. You can just send the child back and tell the teacher to do the best job you can. You've got to work very closely with the teachers. The teacher's got to feel that you are sensitive to their concerns, sensitive to the challenges they face, daily. I think that as a principal there are times when you get to far away from it, and I feel that way now, I'm too far away from the classroom. I've often thought about what I do, this is second best at most. I'll be going out in a few weeks to work with elementary kids again. I do a lot of that, but I don't do as much as I should and I think principals should do more of it. When a teacher, here again this may be bending the rules a little bit, but when you've got teachers that are there early and stay late, on and on and on, and it just so happens that a dental appointment comes up and it's the only time the teacher can make this appointment for himself, herself, or a child and as principal I would take the class, and I would teach it. Some of them didn't fare very well if it happened to be a foreign language or something, but if it happened to be science or mathematics, I felt very comfortable. And I feel the student's fared, not as well as if the teacher were there, but I would teach and let the teacher go on and take that. It was good for me an kept me aware of the classroom and changes in students in the classrooms. I think it also showed an awareness on the part of the principal in the difficulty of scheduling a dental appointment other 1:30 in the afternoon. Dentist's don't have that many hours. They can't all be scheduled on Saturday or after school. I can recall, this goes back to 1953, and this again is sort of sexist, but I think it was the way I was raised, when I was at Kenmore Junior High School, there was the principal and I will never forget this experience. It was 54 or 55 and we had a terrible snow, and the principal was out of the building, matter of fact I think he was selling Christmas trees for the Kiwanis club, this was his assignment for an hour or something and it started to snow and he couldn't get back to the building and transportation kept telling us that buses were coming, the buses were coming. So, I excused, it continued to get worse, I think eventually we had something like 30 inches of snow, and just shortly after lunch I started to excuse faculty members, and then I excused all of the female faculty members to go home. And then I excused all except five of the male faculty members. We were there until 4:00 the next morning with 1600 students. Five of us, six of us. Yet I think the women recognized my concern, many of them were mothers, and they were wondering where their children were. Really, everything worked out fine, we didn't have any problems, but I think they recognized 691 here's s a sensitivity to my needs to care for my own children and torn between my responsibilities here, and so forth. I think you've got to be constantly aware of the human aspects of your faculty, of the human needs of your faculty. Not just the professional needs.
Q: The principal obviously has a big role in community relations, community affairs. Some of it has to do with sports activities, some of it has to do with other types of extracurricular activities, many of which you have already mentioned. I wonder it you could comment on sort of how you perceive that whole process and maybe amplify a little more on how you engaged in community relations.
A: Well you've got to provide as many avenues as you possibly can for communications. We had a program which was sponsored by the PTA. We called it the Mother's Monday Morning March on the School. Every Monday we, not we the PTA coordinated all of this, invited 25 mothers to meet with the principal, it was an open agenda, anything was fair game. If they had a question about teaching of French, we would send somebody down to the French class, cover it for a little while and bring the French teacher up to chat with us. If they had a question about discipline, then I would be involved or the assistant principal would be involved. Whatever their questions were, we served coffee and cookies and tea. The PTA also talked about its role, and that was extremely successful and over the year, 36 Mondays, we had a lot of mothers in here and it was not limited to mothers, if husbands wanted to come along that was fine. We just named it Mother's Monday Morning March on the School. We tried to have as many back to nights as we could. Back to School was always a favorite. So we scheduled some back to the department where we would have only the science people and those parents who wanted to meet with science and find out more about that, back to math department, back to the guidance department. We scheduled guidance counselors right after report cards went out, they would come in at 12 o'clock and stay on until 8 or 9 o'clock at night so that parents could schedule after work hours. I would stay most of the time with them. We had, what other kinds of activities did we have?
Q: Science fairs?
A: Oh yeah, the ones that you would normally expect, science fairs, dramatic kinds of things. I think it's important that you make every opportunity, the PTA sponsored a number of lunches and breakfasts and so forth for the faculty, and would do the cooking and so forth. Faculty, it brought them closer together. We had representatives of the faculty serve on the executive committee of the PTA. One other thing, and I don't whether this is still working or not, I haven't heard. The PTA was the coordinating body for parent activities. If you're not careful some of your groups will take over and just sort of run wild. Especially some of the booster groups. We required all of the groups, parent's groups to work under the umbrella of the PTA. So what we wanted to try to avoid, for example, was one booster group out there with a light bulb sale, and another one out with a seed sale, another going around, and so forth, and the community saying, get off our backs. So that all of these activities had to be coordinated through the PTA as the umbrella organization. It worked very well, it was tough getting the boosters to commune under that at first because they were used to running their own show. But, after they saw the need for... We did a lot of encouraging the use of the building. We encouraged, for example, by invitation for parents to come in and use the track, to have lunch with us. To use the building for their community meetings, things of this kind. We've had major effort in adult education and not only for reading, writing and so forth, but for auto mechanics and things of that kind.
Q: Use the shop.
A: Use the shop in the evening, use it in the summer. So that brought people in the schools, and also decreased vandalism. Seemed we always had those lights on until the wee hours of the morning with various groups, worked very well.
Q: Custodians pretty much around the clock?
A: Around the clock.
Q: You really already talked about the business how sometimes certain groups, booster groups or whatever take over. Any comment about relationships on the part of the principal with what you might call community power brokers, or the community power structure, the place of the school as it fits into that if in fact it does.
A: Well, I think you're treading on dangerous territory. I would suggest that you build your support, first with the parents and with members of the community. If you want to go beyond that and work with the local chamber, and so forth, that's fine. But I would suggest you always keep your basic support along with you. In other words, you would bring your PTA president along to meet with the chamber. I think you should involve the chamber people but I don't know that you want to get yourself going in so many different directions. I would always use the PTA as my gauge, I guess, to keep, so I wasn't being torn in too many different directions. And I always tried to used some student activities the same way. Very early in the game, I found the student government, the key club, and the keyette club, those three, I organized them, probably before I organized, I know before we were in school. We weren't in the school and they were organized. They were organized while they were still back Lee and Woodson and Annandale. Those three groups... student groups. They work well together, they move well, they're very meticulous, and they're well accepted by the community and by the students. But I think in a school, and especially, you have to realize that my experience, I wasn't in a community where we had only one school. One high school. So it was difficult to determine your group in which you refer because we the nearest community to us was Springfield. We were the West Springfield High School. Robert E. Lee was another Springfield school. That was on the other side of Springfield, and it was a much older school, so it's awfully difficult to do in that community and I can't speak to .
Q: What about the role of the principal in the civic association? Holding memberships and that sort of thing. Did you see a lot of that, what was your view on its appropriateness?
A: There are those who, principals who do that. I did not. Quite honestly. I decided very early in my career that I didn't want to limit myself to one and if you become a member of Kiwanis or the Lions, the Optimists, or whatever you're sort of limiting yourself to one. I tried to keep my contacts with all of them and interestingly enough, I was identified as a Harris Fellow, although I didn't belong to the organization.
Q: What about .
A: One of the few.
Q: You described the way you sort of worked your way into the process starting off as a teacher, and then coming on up. You stepped right along rather briskly. Would you give me some notions about what it was that brought you to the place where you wanted to enter administration opposed to staying on in an instructional role?
A: Financial. Had a daughter on the way. our first daughter was born, and I was working teaching, and working in the summer as a camp counselor and I needed to finish my master's degree and work, and it was extremely difficult and late hours. Went across the Potomac to George Washington University, trying to find a parking place in downtown Washington. In those days we didn't have the University of Virginia or Tech so we had to go across the river. It was for the most part financial, I loved teaching, but the salary was not sufficient. As I recall I had to work in the evening too, so I'm very much aware of moonlighting. I worked at the Toy Fair, I'd forgotten about that experience. It was a store in downtown Fairlington, Shirlington, Shirlington there was a Toy Fair right there in the shopping area. I worked down there at night and worked in the summer and so forth, so for the most part it was financial and then moving from the assistant principalship at Kenmore where, not at Kenmore, excuse me, at Fort Hunt, where I was assistant principal for instruction. I probably enjoyed that more than anything I've ever done. Very much involved in instruction, working with teachers, and so forth and I really enjoyed that in that position.
Q: When you first got in as an AP and later as a building principal itself, I'm sure you felt some pressures as a new person and not necessarily knowing all the answers to all the questions, can you think of anything that you might point out to be of help a newly entering AP or principal about how to cope with early on the job pressure or job trauma, if you want to use that term.
A: If I were appointed to an existing school principalship, I would probably spend a great deal of the time during the summer, as many as possible with lunches and so forth with faculty members and trying to understand, trying to know, trying to have the information that would give me a real feel for what some of the problems have been in the past and what kind of challenges face the and try to build a team. I think the team is the, that's the essential part. You've got to have that group that, almost like a race car pit crew. They know what is expected of them and they know what their jobs are and by gosh, they do it. They know what the driver's going to do, and nobody lets someone else down. I guess that's it, I would try every way possible to build that team right from the beginning, with the faculty and with the student body and parents. That may be a simplistic answer, that's how I work in the school to which I was appointed.
Q: When you were in the buildings, what would you characterized perhaps as being your biggest headache or headaches, and things that brought you most pain and strain as you were working .
A: I guess the pulling you in so many different directions and not having the opportunity to work with students and teachers. When I decided, made the decision I wanted to be a teacher I didn't make the decision I wanted to be a principal or superintendent. I made the decision to be a teacher and I enjoyed that, I enjoyed that a great deal and yet I found that when I get into the principalship there were things pulling me away from that which I wanted to do. Whether the, I was very much involved in planning, for example, the Robinson secondary school and that took many, many and just one after the other that sort of and I would say "By George I'm not going to go into the office this morning and I'm going to start in the science rooms and I'm going to be back in there and they won't even know I'm in the building." And pretty soon something would come up that would take me away from that. I always felt and I've always followed the a procedure that had me doing paper work after the people left. After they left the building, then I did my paperwork. I never did it while they were in the building. I do that to this day as you can see from the in box, so I'll do that at five o'clock this evening rather than do it while other members of the department are here. I guess that's the most frustrating thing that I was pulled away from instruction, taken away from working with teachers and students. That's what I signed up for when I was 21.
Q: I wonder if you could discuss your university preparation here as principalship and then maybe give some recommendations on how you think we can improve the preparation of entering principals that stay in Virginia and in the nation.
A: Let me give you an example. I just returned from a conference in Louisville that was sponsored by EL and we heard from many, many individuals who for the most part in higher education and we heard a lot about the problem. We didn't have any solutions. I think one of the most effective ways of preparing a principal, we do this with new superintendents. We will bring Ed Brickle and Howard Sullins to a room for our new superintendent's conference orientation and they'll have, probably four hours and it's wide open to how do you handle this? They might give an introduction, kind of a few remarks, but then the new superintendent will have an opportunity to say "how would you handle a situation where you had some indication that this was about to happen? What would you do?" And there you've got, with those two gentlemen you've got years of experience, but anyhow, how would you handle an overcrowded situation, I know you can put then on a shift or you can do so and so, but what's the best way to handle it? And these two gentlemen would simply say how they would handle it. The superintendents, new superintendents said that was probably the best part of the entire orientation. And they wanted more time. So we brought them back three months later, after they had been superintendents for the three months for the same kind of a program with the two superintendents. And I would suggest that some more of that shirt sleeve kind of thing where you would bring in successful principals and allow these principals to fire these kind of questions. Now, and then I would suggest that after they're on the job, as a principal, to bring them back because they have a lot more questions after they've been on it two or three months. And there can be a followup kind of activity that would be required even after they've been in position. I would think that some way to build and I think the intern has great potential, I like that, I don't know how it's going to be funded. But I think you can also build in an informal internship where the professor and student in training might meet the principal where this person is employed. Say would it be possible for us to do, would it be possible for him to be involved in doing it, could he do the master schedule? Would you let him do the master schedule. I can recall when I did the master schedule in my GW training, it was some sort of a three hundred and thirty students in a file and so forth, and these were, it was a fictious school and there are hundreds of schools around the Washington metropolitan area that we could have just as easy been given a Stratford Junior High School this is the faculty and so forth and maybe sent them on to the principal and say here is a project for one of our students in your master schedule. I guess more hands-on kinds of things, developing a teacher or administrative handbook, for example. There are those already in existence and maybe would be better to say here is Wakefield's administrative handbook, as your project, take this and redo it. Then give it back to Wakefield and say this research shows so and so, and this kind of thing. I think that might be more helpful because you're -- it's like students who are building a brick wall in the laboratory, at the end of the day that brick wall is torn down. These are masonary students. They're not too excited about that because they know at the end of the day its going to be torn down. You'd be amazed, when we put those youngsters out on house building projects, the masonary students built the houses, built the walls, there was a hundred percent change of attitude in those kids. A hundred percent. The first house we sold the purchaser indicated the only problem he had was traffic, kids bringing their grandparents, and parents by to see the house they built. He said you'd be amazed on Sunday afternoon it looks like you're in downtown Washington. So I guess more hands-on kinds of activities, real experiences, rather than contrived.
Q: Could you talk a minute about the process that you put in place in Fairfax County for helping intern people or to identify up and coming people perhaps.
A: That was a process in which we brought practitioners in to review the kinds of things that and if I were to do it over again I would bring more practitioners in and have the open sessions. I think we gain more out of that than somebody lecturing to them about how you do a master schedule or whatever. But that was I think we called that seminar, administrative seminar I guess in which we scheduled individuals to meet with the group and to share with them the kind of experiences they would encounter in the administrative jobs.
Q: Could you share some notions on procedures you think we ought to use in selecting area principals, what kind of things should we be looking for and what administrative mechanisms other than seminars you were just talking about should be employed?
A: Well, I think that's why I suggested that informal internship. I also would identify as many as possible, ask them to take over summer school principalship. I wouldn't call on my regular principals to do the summer school. I'd bring in the intern and let them have a crack at it. Your principals have enough to do during the summer to get ready for the next year without having to be the principal for the summer school as well. I think there is so much wear and tear you can expect. But I also think that informal internship, but I used to do this a lot as superintendent when there would be people coming in that are interested in administration and I'd say fine, I'll meet with you and your principal and we'll talk about the types of things I think you should do. For example, this person had the responsibility for supervising the automatic data processing operation. Not only did they know more about the students because of the grades and so forth, attendance all came through there, but they knew a lot about what the capability of their automatic data processing could be to their computer. Where they had the responsibility for coordinating student activities and they had to teach a full load and yet had these responsibilities as well. Something else that I would suggest might be tried is, and this has been successful, and you could you do it with any existing resources. Lets say you had three assistant principal positions and you could eliminate one assistant principalship and retain the funds and then assign teachers to some of the various kinds of administrative activities and pay them a supplement for doing that. Two or three thousand dollars a year, and maybe one would have the responsibility for dealing with textbooks and libraries and so forth, another might be in the computer field, another might be student activities and so on, and on. You rotate that periodically during the year and they could take different kinds of activities just to gain that experience. And also during the year you might supplement that with seminar activities, with successful principals or assistant principals. I've asked our people to identify those principals who seem to have the environment that is very conducive to learning and teaching and let's see if we can't put them on the road, to sit down with other principals and answer the question "Well, how do you do, what do you do about, or how do you handle and so forth." So take four or five of them and have them tour the state. I just feel quite strongly about the successful teacher, the teacher without discipline problems. How do you do that, what is you do? And I don't know that the candidate can, they shouldn't try to make themselves over in the image of that person that's explaining why they're successful. Maybe they can pick up some ideas that help.
Q: NASSP has the assessment center they use to help pick out secondary people. What is your perspective on that
A: Well, I think, and I know this hasn't been well received, I think it should be a part of the training program for the Master's Degree. I don't think it should be something over an above, I think it should be a part of it. I've taught enough courses to know that it could be indeed substituted for some of the things we're now teaching. To teach a whole course in public relations for example, I think that's just a waste of time. You just can't do that much, you can't take that much time in teaching public relations. So some of them I think we could substitute. I believe it's good. I would look for, and I always did, look for what I call shirt sleeve principals. Those who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, who aren't afraid to spend some time being with students in other than structured activities, who aren't afraid to be concerned about kids, to be compassionate, to be sensitive to the needs of kids. I was, and I know I was overly so, overly fatherly, I can recall the first time the majorettes convinced me that they could use fire. I was in an hours training in twirling fire and yet here was the principal of West Springfield High School during half time while they were out there twirling sitting down there on the bench on the football field with a bucket of water and a blanket and very tensely waiting for them to finish that and about to run out even if anybody looked like they were getting a spark. Well, and the girls I think they probably appreciated it, but they gave me a difficult time about that thing. I had to let them do sometime and because their parents already allowed them to do this, why wouldn't I allow them to do it? Well, I just think that as I say a greater understanding of what kids bring to the school 164 with them and some of the needs that they have, and the principals got to, that's got to be reflected in the principal's office, got to start there.
Q: I wonder if I could switch topics with you at this point. Get you to reflect for a few minutes on the issue of teacher evaluation and sort of your philosophy on this topic and share some of the techniques that you employ in implementing effective evaluation procedures.
A: I think teachers have to know what's expected of them. And I don't think it hurts to sit down with the teacher to say these are the five classes you have, the students in these are going to expect the following. And agree to it. The two of you agree to this is what is going to happen with these. But not in concrete, some where the teacher may say "Oh, did I make a mistake. I said we were going to do so and so, and we were going compete, we were going to achieve, and there's just no way I can do it." What happened, and we have a meeting and discussion on that, and maybe you would change your objectives with the teacher. But I think the teacher has got to know what is expected. I don't like the hidden agendas or the surprises. As a principal I don't like to be surprised. I want to know what the Board of Education expects of me and indeed the Boards with which I have worked have been very willing to do that. I think the principal ought to do that too. And the teachers know exactly what support they can get from the principal and how supportive he or she will be. If I as teacher have a problem and am trying to get across a certain concept and I 192 can't get it across, where do I go? Do I just drop it, do I forget or just become frustrated, what do I do? You come to the principal and say "look, I'm trying to do so and so and so and so, and I know of a person over at Annandale High School that does this extremely well, do you think you could make arrangements to cover my classes and let me go over there for an afternoon and observe this while its going on over there?" Sure, and I think you should, I think we should make every effort to do that. And, rather than let that person feel that they're failing and indeed feel frustrated, I think we should. So in evaluating, first of all I indicated that the teacher should know what's expected. But then I don't think I should be the only person involved in the evaluation. I talked about this previously. I think there are others in that, your may involve the department chair in it. It has to be viewed by the teacher as a positive kind of activity, not a I'm going to get you kind of thing. Gosh, we all got weaknesses. And these are some that we have noticed whether it be a guidance director or whatever and this is what I would suggest you might want to consider as far as strengthening these areas.
Q: What about the instructional supervisor and their roles in evaluation, if any?
A: Well, they don't like that. The instructional supervisors, are people in the department who would much prefer to work and provide technical assistance, but I don't know how you provide technical assistance if you don't know what the weaknesses are. You've got to assess what the needs are. And I think it's very important that the instructional supervisor's play a role, and it doesn't again have to be a negative role. For some teachers its going to be negative because they have not been doing the job. But 99 and 9 tenths of them are doing the job and it can be a reinforcing, positive, activity. So I think from the standpoint as I recall the administrators at West Springfield one was a math teacher, former math teacher, one had been a former phys ed teacher, and one a social studies. Well, I would suggest although we had studied some of the foreign languages for me to have observed Madam Nelson and who was a French teacher and evaluate her on her French and competencies in the language, would be difficult. So I called on the foreign language supervisor to come in and help us in that area. And here again that may be that they may need during the summer, they may need to be involved in a French speaking kind of activity, to help their pronunciation.
Q: Shifting now to, this one I guess your really have to answer from your current position and looking down on the big picture. I am interested your views on the impact on the excellence in education reports on education in Virginia as an aggregate and maybe follow on some comment on what you perceive the standards of quality have been able to do in improving or effecting building level instruction.
A: Well, I think a number of things the reform movement in Virginia has been for the most part coming from educators. Our governors have certainly been encouraging and been supportive. The General Assembly has been supportive, but we haven't had many, many laws passed that other states have encountered that makes it awfully difficult to operate within the law. You can't bend it. I've talked constantly about having to bend the regulations every once in awhile, but bending a law, you could be in serious trouble. You've got to do things, take the action at the time that is appropriate to whatever the situation is. So I think that from that standpoint that education reform has been positive. I think education reform has allowed school divisions, school boards, teachers, and so forth to do some of things they've always wanted to do and really as single board, single superintendent, or single faculty, they haven't been able to do it. They needed the support and they got the support from the state level. I think that we have been able to, by showing rather dramatic improvement we've been able to keep education in Virginia on the front burner and indeed, generate the funding that has so long been lacking in elementary/secondary education. We're not finished yet, but indeed we've come a long way. Almost over a billion and a half dollars over the past six or seven years of teacher's salary, teacher's very rapidly approaching the 25th we used to be up in the high 30s and so I think that the reform package has shown results and thus you have people that are more than willing to support increased funding. I think the program we're looking at now, which is educational performance, I've forgotten the title of it now, they should give it shorter titles. Educational performance recognition program, that we're working on now will probably do more to improve education in the Commonwealth than anything we ever done. Increased graduation requirements, on and on and on. Tougher accreditation standards. I think that this program which is now moving in probably 20 states and you'll see it in 50 in the very near future, which recognizes the job that the school is doing, based on what's happening to kids. We'll really cause those school systems and those schools who aren't doing the job to improve and provide the funding that can help them to improve. Here again, it's not something that I would like to the state declare a state a school educationally bankrupt and take it over. That's sort of negative, I think. Borders on being negative and I'm being facetious, when I say that, it's terrible. I don't think a university can operate a school any better than a' la Chelsy and University of Massachusetts. Have you heard of that? They're taking over this operation of the Chelsy schools. University of Massachusetts and the University of... one of the universities up there, I'm anxious to see that, maybe it will work, but I don't think so unless they put additional funding in there and if they do that then I'm going to say "wait a minute, you've prostituted this whole project by doing that. Put that additional money in with the existing faculty and see what happens, and administration." Anyhow, as I say, I think education in Virginia enjoys a better reputation, because we are showing that indeed good things are happening. Would I have done anything differently? I don't think so. We started off with the standards of learning. We first had to identify what it is that students should learn. I involved some 4000 teachers, principals, supervisors, college university teachers in putting that program together in the nine disciplines and I think its been effective. I've said so many times when we get one standard of learning program for a given discipline finished, we're in trouble because we should never be finished. We will constantly bring them back, bring the players back to review their work. So that was the first effort, and then we moved on into then increasing graduation requirements and things of that kind. Restructuring the middle schools, restructuring teacher education, and moved on into technology, the distance learning, and computer networks in schools and universities, 2-year colleges and so forth. So, I think it's been effective, I guess it would have been difficult without the support we've had from the public and the governors and the General Assembly and the board. I think it's needed, I think we spent the first causing young people to feel good about themselves and improve self image and so forth. I think once we do that, we will solve the drop out problem, the teen pregnancy problem along with drug problems. Kids feel good about what they're doing, and good about themselves, they're contributing citizens and needed, a lot of those other things disappear.
Q: Let me jump for minute now from the role of principal to the role of the assistant principal. You did that yourself, I suspect you supervised a number as you were in the job. Could you sort of discuss that role as you observed it and as you have perceived it evolving over the years and maybe make some ways that we can improve training and utilization of the system principals.
A: You have to be careful detailing the responsibilities of the assistant principals. Be careful that you don't allow them to get themselves all wrapped up with the keys, with things. With microphones, and keys and desks and buses and so forth and so on. Both the assistant principal and whatever, whatever you call them, Dean of men, Dean of women, instruction, administration, what ever, their first responsibility is to the young people, to the faculty and to the young people of the school. And they too have to be involved with the young people in very frequent and positive kind of activities, not meet them only when they're in trouble or created a problem and so forth. They have to make every effort to be involved in other than disciplinary kinds of problems. And also, I think the principal in selecting assistant principalship should look to people who will complement him and his training. I think you'd be ill advised to have three science majors as principal and two assistant principals. I think also as much as possible they should be human oriented as opposed to task oriented. You're going to have a business person in the school, and that person, I know, should be dollars and cents. Be very much task oriented, they've got to to keep you out of trouble. I think your assistant principals should be more human oriented than task oriented and concerned about human beings, sensitive to the needs of students.
Q: How are we doing in...?
A: Supervision? That's a difficult one, but I guess the only thing I would suggest it's got to be constant. You've got to advise. If you find an assistant principal and let's say the assistant principal has really made a bad decision, and the principal, as principal, you're caught right in between because this bad decision has really negatively, had a negative impact on the young person. And if you reverse the decision, you're letting down your assistant principal, and if you don't reverse it, you're doing damage to the young person. That's where you start walking a tight rope and somehow other it's best to let that assistant principal change his or her mind. And cause that to happen without threat. I think you can do it if you do it properly. It takes many, many hours of discussion and so forth and , but I think it can happen. I guess I would have to come down on the side of the student. If it had to be that somebody had to lose face, then it got down to the point where I had to rescind that decision, then I'd do it. I've followed that throughout my entire career. Got to come down on the side of the young person and it's not happened too many times when I've had to reverse a decision, just boldly outright reverse it. I've always been able to work around and through it and have it happen. A couple time. Often then you would spend some sleepless nights.
Q: Is there an optimal period of time that a person should serve as an AP before moving on to something else?
A: I don't think so. I think there are professional assistant principals. And I think they shouldn't feel that if they're an assistant principal for 20 years. Well, first of all, as I said before, I don't think anyone should serve in any one position more than 9 or 10 years. So I think an assistant principal at X high school as an assistant principal there but then should be moved on to another school. As an assistant principal. That should not be a sign of failure. I think there are some people out there who are outstanding assistant principals, and would be terrible principals. So, there's an optimum time.
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