This is August 16, 1990. I'm speaking with Mr. James Daughtridge at his home about his experiences as an elementary school principal.
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Q: Would you begin by telling me about your family background, such as childhood interests and development?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I came from Rocky Mountain, North Carolina to (Roanoke?) Valley in 1960, January 4, 1960. That was high school. My family background is one where I was born and raised in Rocky Mount, in North Carolina. I was the son of--well, three children--of Roy and Netty Daughtridge. I lived in Rocky Mount all of my life until I was 19 years old. I attended public schools at (Edgemont?) Elementary School, Rocky Mount Senior High School, and later went to Lake Forest University and other colleges and universities. I left Rocky Mount after my freshman year at Wake Forest to go into the service. My childhood was quite eventful, and I had a tremendous number of experiences which has led me to writing a novel at this time.
Q: Great! Thank you. Can you tell me about your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching and explain to me how many years you served as a teacher and as a principal?
A: My college preparation began at Wake Forest University in 1953, follow 1953, 1954. I went to Lake Forest with the idea of getting a business education, and it occurred to me more and more that my interests lye with being a coach or working with young people, at which time I knew that the Korean War was about to get so many of us at that time. I felt like that I should go on into the service and get my service time over with, which I did. I spent two years at Panama, which was really somewhat of an education for me because it gave me tremendous insight to the third world, which I had never had or experienced before. I led a sheltered existence in North Carolina. When I came out of the service, I was fortunate to go to East Carolina University in the summer of 1956. That began my education toward the educational field. I had made my decision that I wanted to be a coach and teacher. It wasn't until after I went through East Carolina University and was in my first year at (Androse High School?) in (Roanoke Valley?) in Salem that I began to realize that coaching was not necessarily number one, that I had other interests. Young people and I seemed to meld together and have a very comfortable existence with one another, and I felt like teaching was really my first and foremost aims at that time. So I continued to prepare myself for the educational field and any other possibilities, by taking advantage of any opportunities to get other courses and so forth as they came along. When I left the coaching profession in 1970--excuse me--in 1967, I was going to (Luxlore?), Egypt to the digs and also to help move artifacts from the rising of the (Azwan?) Dam. Having found that--I found out that my father had a stroke--changed those plans dramatically over the summer of 1967. The doctor, Herman L. (Horne?) called me into the office and offered me a job as principal at (Bearcreek?) Elementary School. My time table had been rushed a bit because I really hadn't expected to get this type of an opportunity so early, because I was really quite young. One of the deals in getting the job, however, was that I would pursue my Master's, which I already had began, so I went to (Radford?) University and as a principal at (Bearcreek?) and took night courses. And then, I took some of the courses in the summertime and completed my Master's degree in about three years. That particular educational experience was really great, but the actual on the job educational experience at (Bearcreek?) was probably one of the greatest educational factors that one could ever possibly have. I had the good fortune of having a wonderful staff who guided me in most cases during the very first years. I had told them that if they would help me out as I went into this profession that certainly I should be in a position later on to help them out when I learned something about it. I had no pretense whatsoever with my teachers. I was very honest and very straight forward, and I found out this approach was far better than if I had gone in there and acted like I really knew so much more about those things, which in reality I didn't. So this honesty carried over: I to them and they to me, to such an extent that I think we had a wonderful seven years in my first years of being principal at (Bearcreek?). It was a rather challenging community because there was a dichotomy of cultures in that particular society. You had the very agrarian society of farmers and so forth, but you had moving in, lawyers and doctors and a very social and very professional society; so therefore, it was in some ways quite challenging. We also had some very interesting religious challenges in that particular community as well, and they all tended to mold and help me in many ways to understand different ideas and so forth that people have. But completing my education at (Radford?), I went on to take many courses at the University of Virginia and also at BPI, and I feel like all these were very helpful. But I think the greatest educational experience that I ever had was my visiting Europe in 1964, where I studied Renaissance Art and History. It was there, traveling through all the old cities and [visiting] wonderful cathedrals and churches all through Western Europe and [seeing] the great art and the history that art showed me, really gave me an insight into what people were all about. I'd also have to say that the greatest portion of my education came from the fact that when I was very young, I seemed to gravitate toward older people--I mean extremely older people, like people in their 60s and 70s. And listening so often to what they had to say, I think, gave me a tremendous insight into human nature and what I could expect in human nature and what I could not expect in human nature. I also had some very excellent--and this is very ironic--so often you hear people talk about jocks taking principalships and administrative positions, but football coaches and basketball coaches that I've known in Rocky Mountain, really molded somewhat my public relations image, as I went through education. I felt this to be a tremendous asset for me. Bill Lundy?, who is Athletic Director of Rocky Mountain Senior High School in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina and Mr. Atkins, ( ?) Atkins we called him, were tremendous sources of strength and energy and ability to deal with the public in both good times and bad times. [They helped me learn] how to work with people when they were upset and how to work with people when they were on such a high that you had to bring them back sometimes. Sometimes we seemed to think of challenges in the negative. Sometimes there are positive things that happen that we have to bring people down to earth or back into certainly a position that we can all work together, because we can't all climb up to that height. So all of these things that I would say many many more. I think probably the one that meant the most to me was my mother. She was a tremendous person in the fact that she was not only my mother, but a friend, and her direction all the way through life, her ability to trust me and let me venture out on my own and find out things for myself and yet be there for me when I needed that help when things didn't go so well, I think was another great reason why I feel like that I've had such a happy really administrative history in (Roanoke?) County. Another thing too, (Roanoke?) County School system--and I'm not getting paid anything for this--to me, over the past 31 years that I've worked in it was the most marvelous place that a human being could practice his profession. And I mean that sincerely, because we've had three of the most outstanding superintendents that I think any school system could ever every have: Herman L. (Horne?), Arnold (Berton?), and the present superintendent, (Dennis Wilson?), outstanding people.
Q: Okay. So you've had experience as a principal at elementary and secondary.
A: Yes. I've been principal at (Kay?) Spring High School, and the two elementary schools, twice at one elementary school. I think being twice at one elementary school, having left to go to the high school and come back to it, is really something of a rarity for a lot of people because in actualities, that just doesn't happen, I don't think, too often. The other thing is, for an elementary school principal to take over a high school principalship is also sort of rare, I think. I went to school with 189 students for a high school with 1,890 students, so that was kind of a fun thin~ for me.
Q: Okay. You said that Dr. (Horne?) was the one who came to you and asked you to become an administrator or principal.
A: That's correct.
Q: You had entertained thoughts before that of being a principal, or what was your motivation for wanting to accept that position?
A: Well, I--to be perfectly honest, I had probably in the back of my mind that someday quite possibly Dr. (Horne?) would approach me about the possibility of being the principal, because the year before he actually offered me a job. He intimated to me that I might want to be thinking more in terms of administration. I don't know if that had anything to with my won-loss record in basketball or my ability, but since my last year was 19 and 1, I don't figure it was my won-loss record, otherwise I would have probably thought that maybe I was getting asked to go out there or someplace else for that reason. (Laughing).
A: But I think it was particularly good to have gotten that in the year that I had such a good record. But really and truthfully, I think that I had shown--and I say this with all modesty, which I'm not noted for--I believe that I had shown some administrative qualities after I had gone through my teaching career of about 12 years prior to that.
Q: Okay. You talked earlier about the importance of listening to others around you and gaining from their experiences and what have you. Would that describe your philosophy, your general philosophy of education? Or--I'm not putting words in your mouth.
A: No, you're not. No, you're not at all. I would love to define for you my educational philosophy. I had a great debate during my Master's . . . the period I was working on my Master's degree with a professor at (Radford?) University, and he listed about 18 things that were important to being a good administrator in education. And I noticed that he had charity and love, something like fifth or sixth down the list. And I took issue with him. I told him that for me that love, that the people that you were working with, was the primary thing. I think you have to really love the children and the people that you are working with, number one. Secondly, and very close to that would be the ability to listen to others. Now, quite obviously, I'm a glib person and I could talk a whole lot and that sort of thing, but there's two things that I never diA: I don't think I ever talked a teacher down. The whole time I was working with teachers or a child. I might end up talking a lot, but I always tried to let them exhaust themselves with whatever they had to say first. One piece of advise that I got out of East Carolina University one time from an administrator that really was one of the most--Dr. (Holmes?) at East Carolina University in the Education Department said that back when he was a principal--I believe he was in (Kinsten?), North Carolina--he said, "When people would come in irate and really and truly upset about something," and I think that's probably the omega of all things that happen as far as being the most serious things that sometimes administrators have to deal with, they would think. He said that the best device that he ever came up with was to allow these people to just go on and on and on, until they had completely exhausted themselves with almost any and everything they had to say about the matter. And all he did was sit back and very attentively listen to everything they had to say. He said quite often, he would find or gleaned from that information some things that really--they had a good point. Maybe we should do things a little bit differently, which is always a wonderful thing. Anytime that you can give a person who comes in complaining about something or is upset about something the opportunity to present something that you can use, you can't do anything but win. Secondly, by exhausting themselves and hearing themselves go on and on and on in a negative aim, they eventually say to themselves, "You know, I sound awfully silly," to themselves. And then, sometimes they will actually come out and say, "Boy, I'm really boring you to tears, aren't I," or something like that. And I would always try to save a little grace for them by saying, "Oh no, I'm really picking up some real interesting things here that I need to understand. " So really and truthfully, love and listening, is to me the very basic philosophical bent. Now, educators and philosophers will all come out with things like, "knowledge and education," and I don't that knowledge is all that important in the very basic meaning of all things, because most of the people you're going to be dealing with are going to be bent toward knowledge or they're not, and you can change a lot of people around. I don't mean to say that you can't. But I never found that knowledge was all that important. And my wife reminds me constantly that I have so little of it that maybe she's right. Maybe being a good administrator, knowledge wasn't all that important. But I think really and truthfully, I'd have to say that I'm a fairly knowledgeable person, generally, and that what I do is try not hold that over other people but to share it with them as easily as I possibly can. The old adage, you can force a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink, is somewhat basically true in my own experience. Although I know that the last 10 to 15 years of education, we've been trying to force that horse to drink in some cases. And I think it's worked fine, but I don't think the results have been as great as we'd thought they might have -----------
Q: Okay. When you think about, in particular, the instruction of students, how did you feel that that was best delivered, and how could you as the principal influence that?
A: I heard just the other day about a principal who just took over a new position, and the first thing this principal did was start changing people around and moving them around and everything; and I feel, surely, that that principal must have some goal in mind to make all those wholesale changes, et cetera, et cetera. But you know what I found to be best for me, and it certainly isn't a paradigm of educational virtue that everybody should use. I found that if I could--and I've always been--a very fashionable motto today is to be children oriented or a school that is for the children type of thing. I think we all more or less accept the fact that that's what we are there for, but I think that to get to the children, an educator [or] an administrator has to first get to his staff and make believers out of them in what he or she is trying to do. To give you an example, I always felt that it was better for me that, if I could get my teachers happy in what they're doing, they would be happier in doing for the children and so that so much more would be carried over to the children that way in a more meaningful way. Now, it was up to me and very (encumbered?) upon me to check to see that the teachers were doing what they were supposed to be doing and that the children were receiving the type of education that they deserve and should have. Now, to give you an example, ?) a lot of people don't really pay a lot of attention to SARA testing or the various testing measures that we used back in those days. I put high priority on it, and I wanted teachers to understand that that priority was based on the fact that it was an opportunity for us to really see what we had done. Now, the old SARA testing was a test that was based on student groups taken across the nation and how well your group measured up to somebody else's group in Ohio, California, whatever it was. Well, those testing measurements did not--that I heard a lot of complaints about them not testing accurately what we teach. And that's a very valid thing, but they never were intended to do just that. They were intended to sort of show what cross sections of students across the country and how they compared generally, not necessarily reference tests that would actually go back and pinpoint what we teach, which now we do have, which is good too. I think we always needed an account of both of those things. But then, I measured those things and looked at them. But I always, as you remember, would tell teachers when we were very high--I said, "Let's don't throw our chest out too far, or [let] our heads get too big, because maybe next year, we might have to eat crow," or something like that. But fortunately for us, it (Roanoke Cook?) as you remember, our scores went up every year, and we felt very good about that; and it was sort of, you know, a proud moment for all of us. But you can't--you have to take all the testing with a grain of salt or at least it has to be a part of a--some people would say a triad. I'd say a really a ( ?) really, there's so many points that you have to go. I'd say make it at least five. For instance, you have to take the actual grading of a child daily. You have to take the long term test grades, which you'd more or less test his retention and how well he remembers things if you had to go back through the chapters or the units and so forth. Then, you have to take the national testing, all these these in perspective. You have to take teacher's conversations with one another about children and what their day to day feelings are are very important. And the fourth one--the fifth one, excuse me--would maybe be bringing the parent in and the principal and having discussions about a child and what they know about the child, and how that child is influenced by every day things and so forth. So teaching is, someone once said, is not an easy job. It isn't left for those who couldn't do anything else. Teaching is the most important job in the world, and unless the teacher and an administrator has in their own mind that there are multi-faceted ways that we have to look at every single child to determine what that child is, how good that child is, what that child can do--correct preference tests, for instance, that can determine what a child can do there. They're not the absolutes, but they're good guides. They do give us some indication of areas in which a person might be suitable. And I think another factor that has evolved with transference of education of children administratively is that administrators cannot be--and I say this with all sincerity--cannot be overly influenced by their self importance. We all have importance in this thing we call education. Administrators, good administrators, in my opinion, were always those people who could identify with the rank and file, including--let me tell you what our most important people in any school is the custodian, the cafeteria workers, and the aides, because I can tell you now, that some of the best information I ever got, some of the most honest information I ever got came from those people, not from well trained public related minded professionals who wouldn't tell you exactly what they thought, but these janitors and custodians would tell you in a minute, where (Miss Charles?) she doesn't (talk about her room?) for a second, you know. I found out which teachers, for most people, although I take all that with a grain of mustard seed too and wouldn't overuse it, but at least you had something in your mind. Children will come up and tell you frankly, honestly what a situation is, even though sometimes it may be distorted and you have to take the distortion out and sort of work back and find out what the truth really is, but it's a good indicator sometimes of what areas that an administrators has to go to to strengthen position or a disciplinary position, or attitude position, whatever it may be. So all of those things are important, and you don't do that unless you listen and find out and hear what people are saying. And I think that's very important. I know that one rule that I always had about faculty meetings, I said, "Any faculty meeting," and you remember this I'm sure, "Any faculty meeting that lasts more than 45 minutes is a loss. " And I practice that. Any faculty meeting we ever had at (Roanoke Cook?) while you were there, lasted because teachers wanted it to last, not the principal. I think that's a rather unique thing right there, that the teachers want to stay and discuss something and the principal is ready to go home. I mean, he's not ready to go home because he wants to get out of the building and just go home, but because he doesn't want to bore the teachers to death with his verbiage, then that is important. I think I have seen more administrators destroy themselves with administrative verbiage than anything else that I know, that is talk to the people to the point that they don't know anything you ever have to say. So therefore, it's important for administrators--and we talk about educating children, but I think the education of the staff is just as important as I related to when I first started answering this question. That's very important. You could only do that if you have meaningful dialogue with your people and don't get on the box and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. So and So, " and everybody knows who you are in the first place, and then, they think that's a big joke to begin with, you know. I remember at the (Kay?) Spring High School, I used to get on the box, and I really didn't--I really wasn't so basically conceited to think that everybody knew who I was so I'd say, "This is Mr. Daughtridge." Well, I could hear the giggling throughout the whole group. Everybody knew it was Mr. Daughtridge. It didn't take me very long to realize that Mr. Daughtridge didn't have to get on the box and say, "This is Mr. Daughtridge." So after a while, I got on the box, and I would say whatever I had to say quickly, distinctly, and get off. And I think that's an overuse is when you use that thing too much. Whenever you use PTA meetings to take tired, bored teachers and bore them and tire them longer than you have a right to, when they've got other duties to perform. I think when you have something to say, say it, have it out where you can do it in a short, minimal amount of time. I always thought 20, 25 minutes or 30 minutes was the ideal PTA. If you couldn't do it then.... Now, if you have a workshop and you're preparing for some association or accreditation, that's different. Everybody understands that you're going to have to spend more time with them, but gosh, don't have a faculty meeting every Wednesday afternoon. What you do is you say, "Wednesday afternoon is going to be for faculty meetings," but you don't have a faculty meeting just because you've got Wednesday afternoon set aside. If you have one every two Wednesdays, you'd probably get just as much done as if you had one every Wednesday. So these are just little things that I know, that it's a matter of transferring what you're trying to do to somebody else who's trying to transfer up. They're trying to do to the other people that you're serving. And I think that's very important. That's probably more than you wanted to hear about that.
Q: Well see, I kind of see it as a supportive type of position where the teacher's going to be the one who's actually not putting out the information, but they have to feel good about what they're doing-
Q: And you have to provide them with the environment to feel good about that and still give them opportunities to move and to change, if that's what's needed.
A: If you want to get a person to do something, the best way in the world is give them the idea, turn it over to them, and watch them run with the ball. It won't be exactly what you wanted, but it'll be the best that person can do; and that's what you really want. You want that person to transfer the best they can be, the best they can do, to whatever it is you want done. And I found that by doing that--for instance, I used to get complaints from teachers for not giving them enough. And in a sense that I'd say, "Miss Jones, now, what I want you to do--you've been talking about you want to do this such and such and such," and I'd say, "I'm going to let you do that. Go ahead. " As a matter of fact, I think administrators say no far too much. I think the word no should be the least used word from administrators, unless somebody has really got a really ridiculous, hair-brained scheme, which might create some harm to somebody either mentally, physically, or spiritually, any way. I think you should say yes. "Yes do it. Go ahead do it. Let's see how it flies. Let's see how it works." And then, as you well know, it would happen a lot time to be really good. I never said no much. I mean, because really, I found out over the years that, first of all, I don't have a corner on all the intelligence that man has on this earth, as an administrator. Because one day somebody said, "Jim, go out there and be principal," I didn't suddenly gain all the information of the universe to handle that job. I always thought that if you had 33 people in the building, you got 33 different individual brains which could solve the same problem you're working on, turn it over to-
A: Well, I may not be the best Christian in the world, but I am a Christian. And I know that there's a separation of church and state, as it should be, but there's nothing in the separation of church and state that disallows me to follow the ten commandments of God in my church and in my everyday life, and even as an administrator of my school. As long as I don't use it in an evangelical way of trying to impress or teach other people a doctrine or whatever. I've always felt the ten commandments of God were the basis if any decision I ever made in regards to fair play. If you take out the first commandment, the second commandment, all the commandments that relate to God, and use all the other commandments: thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, or any of those things that are in the ten commandments, there would be a pretty good code to live by. You know, certainly you want to be honest, and the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, certainly is a rule that used to be across the top of our schools. It edged my school in 1941, when I started school, and yet, we don't have that anymore. And you know, I've been noticing more and more a leaning in this country, certain groups and elements, to get morality back into our schools. Well, there are a lot of people who'll tell you, "Oh gee, morality never left our schools." But they did and they have in my opinion, because we have been denied the opportunity to teach values. A director of instruction who shall remain nameless, even in our own school system--and I went into a great and long debate about this about 20 years ago. He's no longer with us, hasn't been with us for a number of years, but that man argued to me that there was no place in school for the teaching of values; because no one could determine what values our community wants to have. And I told him, I said, "Well, we didn't have any trouble with determining what values we wanted to have until people like yourself came into the school system and started telling us it was all wrong." And I haven't seen any evidence of any great educational or intelligent leaps forward since we've lost the values that we were teaching, that most people more or less took for granted at one time, that were acceptable to be taught in our schools. I said, "People like yourself, the intellectual types who come in and start arguing these things with our communities and with our societies make it a point. Then it does become an issue, and it has become an issue; and now we don't know how to handle it, because you have made an issue out of it." I know that a lot of scholars of the constitution, far greater than myself--I have spent some time studying our constitution. I haven't taught it for so long, from when I was a teacher, but I do know and understand that the fibers of our constitution, the forefathers who framed our constitution never, in their wildest dreams ever thought to totally disallow our religious heritages and our value heritages that we had developed as being true for the very reason of our declaration of independence. Honesty and justice was the most important thing, and we cannot have a society if we're going to disallow the teaching of honesty and if we're going to disallow justice and fair-play. These are values, and they have to be taught. And to say that they can't be taught because people are going to object, people will always object, but we've got to teach them. I don't think we have teach them by cramming them down somebody's throats. If somebody doesn't want to say the pledge of allegiance, we've always allowed them to step outside in the hall. We don't do away with the pledge of allegiance because someone doesn't--some religious groups don't, and I'm not saying that they're right or wrong. I'm just saying that I've always accepted that, that if someone's religion and something we were doing constituted a violation of their religion, I've always allowed them the prerogative of leaving the room. But then, if you left the prerogative of leaving the room, there's someone who objected to having to leave the room. See. Now, we're on an entirely different subject, you see. Eventually you whorl around everything to where nothing can be taught, because someone somewhere at some time is going to disagree or object to it. So that comes to the point where you have to use common sense, and there are a lot of nice papers written about common sense.
Q: (Laughter). Okay. There are a lot of people who argue that the principal should be the instructional leader and some will argue a lot that he has to be a good manager. How did you see yourself? You know, what type of style did you tend to lean towards?
A: Well, I think I've already answered that to some degree by saying that I think a good principal and a smart principal, in my own opinion--and this is my own opinion, and it circles my philosophy in some ways. As far as the management of an elementary or a high school, the first thing you will do is find one hell of a good secretary.
A: And I was always blessed with good secretaries. I don't know why God, in his infinite wisdom, chose to arm me with five of best secretaries a man ever had, but I really--the managerial, general running of the office, et cetera, et cetera, was done by my secretaries. As you well know, I have a lot of time on my hands, and I even have kids who came up and said, "Boy, I want to be a principal like Mr. Daughtridge because he doesn't do nothing."
A: And, you know, they were right to some extent, because I did--as you--you remember, I used to say this, that my job was to try to administer in such a way that I would have as little to do as anybody in the school. And I really believe that. Now, that sounds like I'm working to get out of work, but it's not that at all. The whole truth of the matter is, the better you can get other people to do what they're supposed to be doing on their own and their own initiative, their own motivation, the better your school's going to be. Some people used to say, "Well, Mr. Daughtridge, you can leave school for a whole week, go to Las Vegas to the management convention or you can go to California, and it seems to run as good as it did when you were there. " I said, "It probably runs better, " I said, "Because let me tell you something. They know that the power's on their shoulders, and they don't want to be held responsible for what happens while I'm gone. See. And so, they probably run it at a little bit higher plane than when I'm there." Then I said, "It probably would have been great if I'd have left for the whole year after I got things organized. "
A: But I said, "I was always gone for that. " But I said, "The point I'm trying to make is that you do get people to do their jobs. " You remember our cafeteria manager. He used to say, "Mr. Daughtridge, you don't come down here near enough and tell me what to do." And I said, "You know why?" She said, "No, why? Mr. So and So used to come in here all the time. Stayed into my business all the time." I said, "Because you're doing a good job. " I said, "The day you don't do a good job, you'll see me. " I said, "The day you got a problem, I'll be there, or you'll be up in the office; and you have a problem if you're up in my office, and we'll be discussing it and talking it out." I said, "But Ginny, you're doing a great job." I said, "Lord, I think the food's great. I haven't heard any complaints. I've never had a complaint from a parent. " I said, "You're doing a good job. " And I tried to make that person feel like they were the best in the world. And I don't mean flattery. I mean it had to be honest. They really had to be good. I remember one time, I had a cook at another school who was burning the biscuit, and things weren't exactly right; and I was hearing all about it right quick. I mean how long does it take somebody to go through the cafeteria to the principal's office? That's how soon you found out [that] somebody's burned the beans or ( ?).
A: Okay. Then, you've got something you can react to, something that--I mean why go looking for something that's not there when there's no problem? And I remember a lady came into our building one time. As a matter of fact, it was a teacher who I hired. And she said, "You know, our building was not the loveliest building on the outside," and as a matter of fact, here we were sitting in an area where time had passed it by, and many of families were not the wealthiest people in the world, but the sweetest and loveliest in many ways, and this teacher had come from a school that had been used to total luxury. I mean one in our own county, and we know which one that is and how great it is and everything. And she drove up into the driveway--Mr. Turner had sent her, because she had wanted a transfer--she drove up into the driveway. She looked at the building. She pulled in, and she started not to get out of the car; and something told her, "Well, go inside and at least talk to the principal. " Now, that's important. Her first contact was going to be with the principal. So she came into the building. And she told me later. In our conversation she said, "Well, Mr. Daughtridge, " and she told me all the things that I just told you, that she didn't know whether she was going to come in or not. She said, "Mr. Daughtridge, frankly, I didn't know whether I wanted to or not, but after having talked with you, I really want to come to this school. But there's another thing too. When I came into this building and walked down the halls, and I saw the children at work and I saw the teachers and I saw the way that the people in this building responded to one another, I knew this is the place I wanted to come. It was the very thing I was looking for. " She had been in another type of educational alignment, which she didn't particularly appreciate. It didn't make it right; it didn't make it wrong. It just wasn't right for her. She was a lovely person. She turned out to be a lovely, wonderful teacher for us, and I never saw a person that was happier in my life who this gal was, and I say it was the permeation of everything there. It wasn't just the principal. It wasn't just the beauty of the building, which we didn't have in the first place. And it wasn't any one factor, but it was a number of factors that come together as a culmination of something that's right for that community. And I really believe very strongly that in (Roanoke?) County School System, when I came here we had 36 schools. Every one was an autonomy. They were separate. There is lots to be said for autonomy, because uniformity, which we have more today than we did then, has not proven, in my opinion, to be correct. Autonomy--for instance, you can't teach children in (Catawba?) or (Bent?) Mountain, or (Rolany Cook?), like you can someone in (Kay?) Spring, (Harley?) Road or one of the North Side schools. They're different. The people are different. They would vary sometimes, a lot within the same geographical district, section of our county. So I think there's a lot to be said for autonomy. I think there are some things we have to have uniformity because we couldn't manage them in any other way. Now, our management system in reading, for instance, is a good system. I didn't like it when I first--when it first started out, I was a little reluctant about it. But now, I think even the teachers themselves kind of like it, because it is a managerial system that really points out what each child is doing and how well they aren't doing, you see. And it's a marvelous thing to have, that we didn't have when I first started teaching. So all these things. They can become relatively simple sometimes, but when you put them altogether, they're highly intricate and complex machines. And those things are important. And doesn't make a difference if you've got a school of 200 at (Rolaney Cook?) or 2,000 at (Kay?) Spring, wherever. You've got the interest--you have to do the simple things to make the complex things work well.
Q: I know you spoke very, very highly of the superintendents you'd worked with, and just in general of the county school system, but were there times when their central office policies got in the way of your operation of the school; and if you could, what changes would you make in that system or organization to have a more effective school?
A: Well, certainly there are always, from time to time, imperial directives from the central office which are given with the best of intentions, and I had never questioned the intentions of those imperialistic, or imperial decisions or directives, but there were many, many times that I found, in my own opinion, and in my own imperialistic way, that the other direction--you see, imperialism isn't one directional; it's multi-directional. It could come from teachers, children, parents, teachers, administrators of all types. And I think the thing that works best is when all these imperial thoughts and directives from all of us can be channeled for good by taking out--well, this sounds like a communist dialectic, I realize--but if you really negate the negatives of any directives and incorporate the positives as you see them, and as you can explain them and back them up with facts, will turn out to be very good. You see, there was the time when we had principal's meetings. The principal would get up, and anytime that he disagreed, generally he could get up and disagree. But as you well know, back in those days, even if you had 33 principals, we had high school and elementary. The principal's meeting together didn't have many middle schools at the time. I'd get up any time that I found something directly in opposition to what I believed, and I would do an incantation of the whole darn thing, you know. I'm sure I ingratiated myself greatly to a lot of the powers that be at that time, but whether I did or whether I didn't wasn't important. I thought that what we were doing was far more important than my own well-being or ingratiating myself to someone else, and so I would get up and I would tell them just exactly what I thought. And I tell you. One thing got around real quick. If you want to know what he's thinking--if you don't want to know what Daughtridge is thinking, don't ask, because he'll tell you a lot of times when you don't ask. So I would generally get up and be in direct opposition to many things. Oh yes, there were many things that I opposed, and my fellow colleagues opposed. I remember--I don't think Tommy Jones would mind me mentioning his name. He was a fellow principal at one time. He was another one who just--it wasn't courage exactly. It was just almost a feeling of necessity to get up, and we'd feel that we had to say, "Look that's not right. We can't do it that way, or if we are going to have to do it that way, we'd like to have a little explanation of how we're going to do that. " And if they had an explanation, and they explained it. They said, "It could be done this way, and this or that could be done," and it made sense why we were wrong, and we'd ( ?) and we'd say, "Sure, we can do that. That makes sense." Or if they couldn't come up with a good explanation, I mean I wanted it recorded that I got up and said, "I oppose this." I can remember when we were doing module scheduling at (Kay?) Spring High School, several of the principals called it module of madness. Well to this day, (Kay?) Spring High School is the only school I know in American education that was ever truly evaluated for a totally modular program. And I remember the visiting committee headed by Dr. (Flager?), left the building at the end of the week, muttering to themselves, wondering what the hell we were doing. I don't think four days was nearly enough time to figure out what we were doing. As a matter of fact, Dr. (Flager?) intimated to me that it was thought, "You all are doing it well, but I don't know what you're doing. "
A: But we did. We knew what we were doing, and we were doing it very well. And for the most part, module scheduling is a fantastic idea that had preceded its time, that it got there before people were ready for it to happen. But there were very definite weaknesses. A weakness in it was that, at (Kay?) Spring High School where we had about 99 percent of the students go on to higher education or other educational pursuits, whether it would be manual or scholarly pursuits--our kids adjusted to it very well. But there was a certain 5, 10, to 15 percent of our students who did not handle it well. Now, you take 10 percent of 1800 people, you're talking about 180 people. If you take 20 percent, you're talking about 360. Alright, 360 people walking around the building with nothing to do made it look real bad. You know what I mean? Well actually, I think the first year when I walked in there, it was closer to 50 percent. I mean it was sad-
Q: ( ?). (Laughter).
A: It was a sad--it was. I'm telling you. It was my introduction to being a high school principal, but I told the teachers, I said, "Hey, we're going to straighten this out. I guarantee you next year they'll all be in a classroom." I think any teacher that taught with me the second year I was there will tell you today, that the first day of school [of the] the second year we straightened it out, literally. I don't mean 100 percent, because you take 100 percent of any kind of educational diagram, and it's not going to work to perfection; but we had that thing working really well. And by the time the (visiting?) committee got there, it was really functioning quite well, but there were enough parents in the community who had enough children who were failing under it, who found that blaming module scheduling was easier to do than blame their children for their lack of industriousness, you might say, to get the education they needed. And then, there were some that fell through the cracks. There were some kids that module scheduling was not suited for, and I'll be the first to admit that. But we had alternate plans for them. But the school system wasn't ready for me to have a certain amount of money to initiate those alternate plans, so they were never instituted because of a lack of funds, not because they didn't want me to be able to do it. They were most supportive. They just didn't have the money to do it. And this is a reality that every educator and administrator has to know up front, that when he goes into it, he is not going be--he or she is not going to be able to do all the things they would like to do, because the funding just will not be there. As a matter of fact, I think one of the saddest things that we have in our commentary of education today is that so many people on so many national television networks espouse the importance of American education and under-fund areas where American education could truly be helped, like paying scientists, mathematicians, and people who command higher salaries in the business communities--this is the weakness of American education. This is where American business, who condemns us many times, should look and see what they're doing when they take our best math teachers and best science teachers out of the school. And I don't blame that science teacher or math teacher. More power to them. It's the American way in many ways to make as much as you can get.
Q: Yes. So really, you felt that it was kind of your responsibility then, to voice your opinion.
A: Absolutely. And I would say this: I was in a very distinct minority. And I'm sad to say that I felt like that too many of my colleagues--now this will not win me friends, but I know that most of my friends will tell you this was the truth--that I've never failed to speak up. And I think administrators have to weigh that very carefully. I married rich. I married a rich woman. So it was a lot easier for me to speak up. It was more of the fact that I was in a position to do so than it was for a lot of my friends. And that's an honest statement. I mean I didn't feel like, as much as I loved it, I never felt that Roanoke County School System was the only school system in the United States that I could work for, and so rather than be dishonest and sit there and listen to something that I couldn't agree with, I always voiced my opinion. And I always--and you remember this--I always encouraged my teachers to do the very same thing. At our faculty meetings, I said, "Listen, we'll close the door here, and anything you say won't be held against you. You can say anything you want to me, about me, to me right now. " You know, I've done that, and I never had any takers; so I must have been a really great, wonderful administrator.
Q: There you go. (Laughter). You have been very actively involved in community activities over the years.
Q: Was that something that you felt was a responsibility that you had as a principal, and when you reflect on those activities, which did you feel was the most beneficial to you as an administrator?
A: I never ever--now I want administrators everywhere to understand this--if I think that anyone who goes into any kind of community work does it because he's a principal, he's going in it for a gross, the most gross, unreasonable reason you could possibly have. I don't-
Q: Do you think people do that though?
A: Oh yes. Yes, I think people go to church on Sunday because they want to sell more insurance. I think people do a lot of things in the name of something else because they want to be--I think there are a lot of wonderful citizens who do it, who never give it a thought too. I don't want to be--you asked the question, "Do I think there are people?" Yes. "Do I think there are principals who would?" Yes. But then, most of the principals that I know that do these things do them because it's out of the goodness of their heart and because--and I say it was out of the goodness of my heart--many of these things I just sort of ventured into without even thinking about myself or principalships or anything else or what does it mean to me. For instance, I started a soccer event, and I started a program that grew, like Turpsey or Topsey or whatever you call it, and just--and I think we have one of the finest soccer programs in town that any community could possibly have in such a short period of time. But it wasn't Jim Daughtridge, because he started it, that it did that. It was the effort of a lot of people. Now, it can be said that I started it, I got it going, and all that, and I was the first to mention it and all that, but I never thought about what it was going to bring me. I started it because three kids riding in my car--we were going to Mt. Pleasant Elementary School--asked me if I would start a team in ( ?) so they wouldn't have to go to Mt. Pleasant every day to practice and play with the Mt. Pleasant team, because they had soccer. And I said, "Well yes, I think we could do that. " And that's when I left high school and everything. And that's the reason I left the high school, because I wanted to spend more time with my eight year old son. So I started a soccer program. Now, that to me is one of the greatest things that I felt like in some ways, I feel very good about that, because I think there are a lot of kids that are sitting at home, doing nothing, out in the streets or whatever, who are doing that. When I look at the hundreds and hundreds of players, girls and boys that are playing every year, and right down below me here, you'll see two soccer fields, and look out over my porch and I see them, and I think, "What a wonderful thing." I played football for 13 years and played college football and everything, but I don't think it's as great a game as soccer; so I think it's great for our kids, because every kid, big or small, can play. Fat or ugly, it doesn't make any difference. Black or white, it doesn't make any difference. I think it's wonderful. But the greatest and most important thing that I ever got into--two of them. When I was at (Bearcreek?) Elementary School, (Stewart McGuire?) Shoe Company was giving away thousands of shoes because they were changing their lines. I went over to this Presbyterian church. I think it's Second Presbyterian or First Presbyterian. I don't know which one it is, over there. They had all the shoes. I think they got about 2,000 pairs of shoes. And I built shelves in one of our storerooms at (Bearcreek?), and in the seven years that I was there at (Bearcreek?), I gave away every single pair of those shoes. I couldn't even think of--I mean it happened. One shoe this day; one shoe that day, a pair of shoes. Custodian, people who didn't have anything, children who didn't have anything, parents who came in who didn't have anything, and I filled them. And I put the shoes--I was a shoe salesman, before I came to, before I left (Rocky Mountain?).
A: At ( ?) down there. Well, I gave these shoes out, okay. I didn't think about anything grandiose or great about it. And people started telling me, "Well you know, that's a wonderful thing you're doing." And I'd say, "Well, what are you talking about, wonderful thing?" And Lord, you know I'm not the most shy, modest person in the world, but I honestly never put it together. And they'd say, "Giving out all those shoes." And I'd say, "What about all them shoes?" They'd say, "Were you buying them?"--and some of my teachers. I'd say, "No, you're buying them." And I didn't realize what a wonderful thing it was we had done, all of us had done. The carpenters who built the shelves, the custodian who sometimes went back when I couldn't go back and fitted shoes and everything. It's a wonderful thing. And then, it led to something that you've been involved with in the last few years that I feel very good about, that is our school had so many indigent children, who don't have Christmas. And (Norfolk Summit?), and I praise the (Norfolk Summit?) employees who allow 20 of our kids--they pay for 20 of our kids to go to ( ?) and get fitted on Christmas time. At our school, we had 120 out of 200 that needed Christmas. And you, through your effort and my effort, and in particular the Lion's Club donated $1,500 to us every Christmas, have seen to it that every one of those children had a Christmas, and we've always made sure that they get the necessities, shoes, clothing, underwear, coats, jackets, warm coats if they needed, things like that. And then, the parents could take their money, their meager amounts of money, and buy them a few toys and things. And almost every time, you remember that a lot of the kids would come up and ask us, "Well, can I buy a toy for my mom, " or, "buy something for my mom. " And we'd always allow them to do it. Whatever they asked. And that is administering too. If you don't administer to the least of your brothers, you're not going to ever have the right perspective and thought about what you've done. I tell you, a lot of people take me--and I'm sure when you first came you probably said, "Is this guy real, you know, I can't--I'm not sure about this guy, " you know. I don't mean anything good I did. It might be something bad I did. I don't know. But you had a period of adjustment, transition. "I don't know. I don't know if I could trust this guy or not. I mean, you know what kind of guy is he?" And all I want to do is to be as good to every person that I met, the children--as you well know, I did something that most principals very seldom--well, it isn't down to the level that I did it. I hug every child in my school, big, small, little. They come up and hug me as a matter of fact. Well, it's difficult to hug a child when he has body fluids coming out of his nose, he's dirty, he smells, and all that. But you've got to grab-
Q: We just have to change gears here a little bit. What about your approach to teacher evaluation?
A: Teacher evaluation. Well first of all, I follow the Roanoke County Teacher Evaluation Plan to the letter. That's the law. You should. And it's the one that, if you don't like the way they do it, you should make changes. You should speak up and make changes in the way they do it. We did that over the years. The state of Virginia, I've been told many times, adopted our teacher's plan, to some extent, when they finally implemented the plan and so forth. I have always been very teacher oriented. As a matter of fact, I was, first when we elected the chairman of Roanoke County School Board years ago, Hilary (Pollard?), and we were in debate, and I was state president of all the school principals, we had studied it very carefully, the question about teacher's grievances. I told him, "The smartest thing that Roanoke County could do was be the first county to have a teacher's grievance policy. " We were one of the very first. I think Fairfax and Roanoke County were two of the very first to ever have teacher's grievance policies. I said, "It's the greatest thing in the world." He said, "You're crazy." I said, "No, I'm not crazy at all," I said, "Let me tell you something. If someone has a legitimate grievance, it ought to be aired and corrected." And I said, "If they don't, it's the best protection you people got. " He got to thinking about that then. He said, "Jim, you know you're right." And you know, it wasn't long after that [that] we had a teacher's agreement. And I remember, it wasn't long after that [that] I was in (Kay?) Spring High School. Grievances in high school are far more prevalent usually than elementary school. Well, to make a long story short, I had many instances where grievances came forth, and I don't think one out of the three years I was in high school and all the years, 23 years, I only had one grievance that went past the principal stage. That one only went to the next stage, and it was corrected. And I feel very gleeful about the fact that it was--you know, selfish pride allows me to be gleeful that it was in my favor, but it was. And I--because I really think that anybody that came to me with a grievance that was reasonable and just, I would settle--I mean it was settled right there. And I didn't have a whole lot of them, because--I think that the philosophy that I practice was the reason we didn't have a lot of them. Now, when it came to evaluating teachers, the same thing was important. Our evaluation process, as you well know, begins in September. And you have to be sure that the teacher gets all the information pertaining to the evaluative process. In September, you go over it with each and every one of them. You hand them the material and tell them to keep it, and I must say that over the years most of the teachers did keep it, reported back in April and March when I was doing my final evaluations with the materials I had given them. But you know, and I know that a lot of teachers never saw them again, and I had to always order more evaluation sheets. And I'm not saying that to belittle them, but it's the same sort of thing that I would probably do, would have done if I had been a teacher. (Laughter). Not really, because I was a little bit better organized than that, but it could happen to all of us. But anyway, then, I always made a point, as you remember, to bring the teachers in, periodically during the year. And I didn't extend that only to the teachers. My aids will tell you that every year, about twice a year, I would call all my aids in at one time. And you know, I was always teasing them. I'd bring them in in a gruff manner, and I'd look at them very sternly, and they'd all look scared to death. They'd come in and sit down in front of me and everything, and I'd start off with a big grin and say, "You all are doing a wonderful job." And you know, just that little statement and bringing them in, taking time to bring them in, and say, "Hey guys, you all are doing a terrific job. Really. On behalf of all the teachers and the children, and particularly myself, I want to just personally thank you." And I would talk to them for about 15 or 20 minutes. And they'd go out beaming and happy, and you know their whole job was a little bit more meaningful to them. Well, I did the same thing with teachers. I didn't wait till March to call them back in and do the final evaluation. I tried to call a teacher in every once in awhile. Sometimes there were negative reasons I had to call them in, but I made sure that some time, you as a guidance counselor or something, call you in an talk to you for a few minutes and tell you, "Gee, you're doing a good job, Jean. I really appreciate it," because that's so important that they are. And if they're not, it's even, in some ways, more important, because you don't want damage out there in the school or a negative situation, attitude, or whatever it was. I think I remember best in my evaluation process, it was not a teacher. It was a cafeteria worker. And the cafeteria worker was a lovely person, but she was very negative a lot of times; and this negativism was carrying over into the lunch line and to other teachers. So I just had to call that person in and, you know, talk to them and remind them. Another time I can remember, I had a very--I had a gossiper on one of my staffs of the schools. I'd been warned that this person was creating a lot of problems because of this gossip. So I just brought the person in, and I just told them exactly what people had told me and told them, I said, "I'm sure there's no foundation in it, but this is the way some people perceive you," and the lady sort of stopped and looked at me and said, "May I say something?" I said, "Well, sure you can. " She said, "They're exactly right. " She says, "I am a gossiper, and I can't get--" She said, "Mr. Daughtridge, I can't help it, but I just love to run my mouth. Sometimes, I don't even know what I'm running my mouth about." And I said, "Well gosh, you got it half licked already." She said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, you're being honest with me about it." I said, "To me, you've already got it half licked." Do you know, that same lady I hired a few years later at another school. Brought her from--she was losing her job at the school I was at. I hired her and brought her over to a very sensitive position and a position of trust, and she was a perfectionist. She really wanted everything to be just perfect. And do you know everybody commented on it. "Where in the world did you get that lady? She's the most perfect--for that position she does a great job. You know, everything in there's confidential--" and yet, this was the same person who had been a gossiper. I've done the same thing with teachers. Now, evaluation is not just a process of sitting down and telling a teacher at the end of the year how good she is, how average she is, or how poorly she is, or how bad she is. The evaluation process in my philosophy is one where you have the opportunity to help a teacher improve. I had undeniably--and I have factual proof--I had the worst teacher at one time that ever existed on the face of this earth. (Laughter).
A: I mean, this gal was terrible. I mean, boy, she was bad. And let's say a man too so (we won't know who it is?). But let me tell you. We're talking about people from the central office, who had never said anything but positive things all their lives, came in and spent 30 minutes with this individual, who walked out and said, "Oh Lord, what are we going to do?" And I had 35 documented pages, over a two year period, on this person. Well, if I had presented the 35 typewritten documented pages on this person in a court of law, the first thing they would have done was built a case against what? I'm harassing that teacher. Right? "Well, what are you spending so much time with it?" Well, you know, they're right. I mean that could be interpreted as harassment and can be used against you, if you had to keep that person, see. But what I did was I told the personnel director, I said, "We can't go in there with 35 pages." I said, "Let's narrow this down to about three pages and take out some of the more serious things. " And we did that. Well, needless to say, after we presented the teacher with this and everything and at the end of the year, we told her that next year she was on probation. Well, she didn't improve. We tried everything, and we did work with her, and we could justify this; because we were helping. Everything was a positive thing. So we tried to help the gal or man, whoever it was. And so, at the end of the year, I called the young person in, and I said, "Now listen, you know, last year we called you in and we told you that you had a lot to improve, and I had you in my office about, at least 10 times this year, discussing this matter with you, and honestly-we can't see any improvement at all. I can't see any improvement. The director of instruction doesn't see any improvement. You're supervisor doesn't see any improvement. The personnel director doesn't see any improvement." I said, "We've done just about everything we could do. We're just going to have to ask for your resignation, and you know, that way we won't have to release you. We're going to give you the opportunity to resign. " Well, the person wouldn't resign. So, we had no choice but to ask this person to leave, and so she left. And it was a hard thing to do, and it's something you don't like to do. Unless you've exhorted every opportunity through evaluation to meet the needs of that individual, then after you've done all of that--you've been fair, and you've been just, and you have the final pinnacle of everything you do in evaluation is the individual, that there's a higher court than the individual in this case. Now, I know this might go against our training a little bit constitutionally, but it's not because educationally, the children are the pinnacle. They're the power. They're what education is all about. Without the children, you don't have education. You have no need for education, so therefore, the instrument we use to teach these children is bad and cannot improve and does not improve, then this particular instrument has to be removed, and that's what we do. And that's the way--and that's philosophically the way I approach evaluations. Evaluations are a very serious thing on one hand, [and] they're a very happy and joyous thing on the other; because--no wonder teachers think of evaluations as a negative thing, if all you ever hear out of it are negatives. It has to be a positive thing. You have to express to your teachers how well they have done, how good they are, how much you appreciate them, and not just Jim Daughtridge getting behind his desk and spouting all these things to them, but it has to be based on fact, things that you can recall from your visitations and working with that teacher, that they've done during the year, that you can go back and say, "Hey remember--" "I'll tell you, you two gals in the kindergarten room--I'll tell you, that Thanksgiving play that you guys put on with those 40 children was the best thing I've really seen in a long time. I really enjoyed it. The parents enjoyed it. The fellow teachers enjoyed it. The student body enjoyed it. You did the school a great service, and I just want to commend you for it. That was an outstanding job, as so many of the things that you do down there have been outstanding." I mean that was true of (Miss Everette?) and (Miss Vine?). It was so true of the things they did. And you don't guild it, you don't add to it, and you certainly don't subtract from it. You tell them just like it is. And there's so much good, really, to espouse on [that] it's a sin for us not to do it, really. Because that's what they're--a lot of people say, "I don't care anything about our administrator or somebody [says] about what I do. It doesn't make any difference to me. " It does. It means a lot to any human being to have praise. And it goes back to one last axiom that I used to quote to my teachers. "Criticism is the harsh thing. There is no such thing as constructive criticism." Now, I know all the philosophers and a lot of people with more intelligence than I will tell you there is constructive criticism, but, call it by any name, it hurts. And I tell them, "When people criticize me, it hurts me." And when I call them in to criticize them or have some criticism of them, it hurts, and I don't try to lessen it any. I said, "Let it hurt. Let it hurt a little bit. Let it hurt enough that you do something about it, that you get it corrected. " I said, "If you want to hate me for having said it, that's fine. I don't care. I'm big. I'm strong. I can handle that." I said, "But remember this," and you know this for a fact, "anything that's said in this room, is said to you and me. It will never go from my lips to anybody else. " If I hear about it from anybody else, it came from you not from me, because I believe that all of those things have to be confidential, a need to know basis, and the only person that needs to know after me, are the director of personnel or the director of instruction, for the purposes, not of negatively firing the individual, but to help the individual before they get themselves into a position where you have to relieve them from their position, see. That' important. And that's generally, philosophically the way I felt about evaluations, that it's an important process. We have to have it. I was evaluated, and I'll tell you something. I kind of liked the evaluative process. Gee, I was so great! I was looking forward to April to get that evaluation, you know.
A: I was glad to get in there and let (Audrey Vine?) and (Deanna Gordon?) and (Ted Byers?)--they used to tell me how great I was, you know. And so, it was kind of nice.
Q: How would you increase parental involvement within your schools? How important is that to the success?
A: I think that parental involvement is one of the most important things that we can have. The administrator, if you're talking just from an administrative viewpoint, must however realize that some of things that parents are going to suggest are not going to be things that he or the teachers may really cherish as great suggestions. I think you have to be willing to compromise and understand where they're coming from. And only in places where it was illegal or ran against the policies of Roanoke County School System did I say, "No." But anytime I said--again, the limited use of "No." I let parents do almost anything, as long as it didn't endanger the children, themselves, or the school system, or it wasn't repugnant or illegal to the school system or against policy. And then, when I said, "No," to parent involvement, it was always substantiated by facts that I could easily pull out say, "Well, Mrs. Jones we'd love to do that, but we did this about 10 years ago; and half the county got sued. " (Laughter).
A: And they'll just stop pretty quick on something. And, you know, it's got to be, of course, factual and truthful, but I think it's very important. I used to have a [saying], "Involvement, great. Meddling, terrible. Involvement, great. Meddling, terrible." And you always have to, for not only your sake, but the parents sake--remember when you say, "Okay, we're going to have parent involvement, " I think you've got to accept everyone, and you can't worry about whether she was a prostitute, or whether he was a convicted criminal for selling drugs last year or not. You know, they're parents too. You know, in high school we had a lot of prostitutes and a lot of convicted felons. Some of the best people I knew were both. And really, you've got to love those people and not take what they are, but help them develop what you would like to see them be for their children, you know what I mean? You know, you may or may not know, I involve myself with a lot of families at (Rolaney Cook?) at various periods of time and went out and talked with some of these people. One of the biggest drug dealers on the East Coast of the United States was in a raid right here on my street, (lane?) here, (Gates Lane?), one of the biggest drug arrests in the country. Well, the guy's one of the nicest men I've ever known in my life. Do anything in the world for you. Somebody said, "If he didn't do it to you." I said, "I don't know about that." I said, "Maybe he would, but he's always broke his neck for me. Anything I asked for--he said he was a carpenter. If you want something built, he'd build it. " You've got to realize that you can't throw the baby out with the bath water, and some of these people are worth salvaging. And so, if you've got somebody up here on one of the snob hills, who doesn't want to associate with the guy working at the Blue Velvet Massage Parlor, then that presents a little bit of a problem in parent involvement, now doesn't it? But, hey, I get more work out of a Blue Velvet Massage Parlor gal, sometimes than I do one of those snobs from snob hill. So when you say parent involvement, you've got to understand what that really means. To some principals and administrators it meant all the high society, or people who were in upper middle class maybe. And I always sort of cringe to that sort of thing, because if you start to in any way show any kind of racism or classism, or anything like that, you're really telling what you are. And that's not what you want to be, in my opinion, if you are administrator. You have to be a lot of things to a lot of people. But that doesn't mean that you have to change what you are. You have to be right with yourself. And that's the best point. You've got to--administrators have got to be right with themselves. They've got to feel comfortable with themselves. I think that's where my training and all the way through, from the first time I can remember anything, I've always had a very, as you well know, high opinion of myself. And I think you have to have that. And I think you really do have to have that to be an administrator. I really do. I think if you have a low opinion of yourself, you might do a good job, but you're going to always fall a little bit short of what you might really want to be as an administrator. That's important. That's why you've got to know the people. If you're talking about parent involvement, you've to know what you want and what you can handle.
Q: Okay. Let' see. Over the years, especially since you've been a principal, special ed has really emerged. How has that affected the operations of your schools, or did it cause an undue stresses?
A: No. No. Well, undue stress. You're going to always, from time to time, have stress. Undue would be the magic word there I think. Again, as you well know, we had probably--we had a child that the special centers wouldn't even take. And we took him at (Rolaney Cook?) and worked with this child, and this child is doing very well in many ways today. And you weren't there, but you've heard the stories about when he first came, how I had to wrestle the young man to the floor and hold him in a hug grip until he would settle down from these terrible convulsive temper tantrums and so forth. He would out crush any sailor in Norfolk Street in Norfolk on any night of the week, and if you can't handle that and if you can't understand that, if you can't understand where he's coming from, you're going to have a very difficult time as an administrator. I had a little 5 feet tall gal who was my behavior adjustment teacher, who I've said could handle any drill sergeant at Paris Island. She was tough, and she did a good job. I can remember at the end of the day, her coming in and showing me her legs. Now, that was always a treat. But, in her case, the reason she was showing them was because she had bruises all up and down, where that guy had kicked her, you know. If you can't handle that, you're going to have some difficulty with some students you have in behavior adjustment or special education. Now, special education is not just behavior adjustment. You have learning disabilities. You have the educable retarded. We have the trainable retarded children, et cetera. And I think the most humanitarian thing that education ever did, in my own opinion, was the day we took these kids out of the closets and brought them to school and trained them. Now, I don't--there's not full agreement with me on that, certainly, because of some of the stresses it could cause, et cetera. But I remember bringing a friend of mine who was the superintendent of the school who retired, who came to (Rolany Cook?) with Mr. Wilson to visit my school, because he wanted to see my school, because he knew me and he wanted to see what I was doing. Some people told him some things we were doing, which were quite complimentary, and he wanted to see them. And he walked into our BA room, and the Lord be my witness, those kids were better on that time that he was in that room than I had ever seen them, under any conditions. And yet, this ex-superintendent of the school, shaking his head, saying, "There's no place in school for--" Now, this is the old school, you understand. He comes from a different generation, different situation. Education was a different process. And nobody that I know can say that he's altogether wrong. But he shook his head all the way down the hall, saying, "There's no place for this in education." Because his feeling was that only those who were able to learn in the normal way--and that would have been fun trying to define in itself--you know, through the normal channels should be in school, that this sort of thing is disruptive. And in some ways, he's right. It can be. But I'll tell you this. (Charlie Mooson?) was in the first grade in 1931, and he went through the first grade--Charlie was about 10 years old in the first grade, and they finally decided he wasn't going to do any better, so we're going to moved him up. He failed the first grade four years. So they started moving him up in my class, and he was in every class I was in, all the way up to the eighth grade. And they failed him once--once, ironically, I failed the second grade, and he failed with me. So there was two morons, and he was literally interpretively a moron--I say two of us failed the second grade. I failed because I was just mean and ornery, and the teacher--you know, I didn't learn a whole lot. So when I went to the third grade, they moved Charlie up again. I thought they were keeping him with me, because Charlie liked me; and I think he did. Of course, back then we were friends. And we wound up in the eighth grade together. Of course, Charlie dropped out in the eighth grade. He didn't go on to high school, quite obviously, and dropped out at that time. And Charlie, today, is 60 years old. He was about four or five years older than I was. I'm 56. In his own way, Charlie is as successful as anybody I know, because Charlie is a water meter reader in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. And he went around with a man for about 15 years years, and all he did was he'd have a little tin cup that he'd scoop the water out, because the water would be over the meters down in these ground meters out in front of your house; and he would scoop the water out. But one day, they found out that Charlie could read the meters. He'd read them so much with this gentlemen he was going with, they found out he could read them. So when the gentlemen died, they did one of the kindest, benevolent, humanitarian things I ever did see. They made Charlie the meter reader. And he does it, and he does it better than "some of us of average intelligence" would do, because it's not boring. It's his job. He does it well. That's what I'm saying about special education. That's the message that I would present. The reason why--it's just another little thing in my background, that made special education to me seem not so unimportant. I seemed very important. I seemed to me to be the thing we ought to be doing. You see what I mean? Just a little thing in my past. Charlie (Mooson?). So Charlie (Mooson?) had a very great purpose in many ways in my life, for the children that I've had influence over, you see. So everything we do, every learning experience that we have, not just in our formal education, but in our everyday lives, from the time we're three years old, old enough to remember until to today, all carry over. All that's going to be in my book.
Q: It's going to be fascinating.
Q: Now, tell me, if you were going to do it over again, what kind of changes would you have made and have made in your principal's training?
A: Okay, first of all, if I were going to do it all over again, I selfishly wouldn't change a thing, because I enjoyed it so much; and I really did. And people that know me know that I did. And I didn't have a whole lot of bad experiences. Even the bad experiences were meaningful and intriguing, and offered to me some excitement and challenge. But what would I do? I would do pretty much what you people are doing. I think what you all are doing is on the right track, utilizing--and we've done such a poor job of this in America. The Indians have far better understanding of life than we do because they relied on the wisdom of the older and the experienced. It's not that the older were more intelligent. It was the experiences that the older had, the older Indians had, and they revered these older Indians and put them in a place of honor. Now, I'm not asking, in my life, or I don't think any of my fellow colleagues who retired would want to go that far, be placed in a place of honor, but I think there are many things, that people who have been through all these experiences--for instance, I was reading in Time Magazine not long ago that from 1972 to 1977 were the most hectic and the most trying in American education history. My principalship at (Kay?) Spring High School was 1972 to 1977. (Laughter).
A: I fully concur with Time Magazine, for once, believe me. But I wouldn't trade having been through that period for nothing in the world, because I just revere. Even with all the trauma of picking up someone who'd dropped at my feet in the cafeteria from an overdose, all of those things had some meaning in my life and had some reason. And so what you're doing and you're class is doing, going out and interviewing these people who retired, who had these experiences, to me seems to be the best way in the world to glean meaningful, meaningful real information about what the administrative process is all about. It's not what it'll be 10 years from now, or 100 years from now, but it's what it's been; and we do learn from our mistakes if we correct them properly. And we can tell you about some of the mistakes, if we're honest--I hope I have been--and we can also dream and imagine and use that as a-
Q: (Beginning of sentence is before tape begins to record), program in which an intern, an administrative student is a protege of an experienced principal?
A: To me, it's a marvelous idea, and I just hope my colleagues, fellow principals--and I think they will, and I have every reason to think that they will--will give these young people every single opportunity to experience the realities of what administering is all about; because (1) it will help them to decide whether they really want to go into it, and (2) after they did get into it, it will give them the most invaluable information in the world as to how to execute and work through the things they're going to have to work through. I think it's marvelous. I was thrown into my classroom in 1959, cold turkey. Nobody even took me to the classroom. Nobody even showed me where it was. They just told me it was in room 205, and I can remember 30 some years later 205. But I was thrown into the principalship. I had no one. All I had was (Gay Sherber?), (Neil?), (Gay Neil Sherber?), and a few other friends who were already principals that I calleA: (Fred ?), (Tommy Jones?), (Bob Patterson?), and (Gay Neil Sherber?) and a few others, (May Duncan?) and (May Franklin?), and I called them. They were dear friends, and I knew I could call on them. And that's how, literally, what you're doing is what I did on my own. And they were of immeasurable--(George Gearhart?) ( ?), fabulous. All those people were fabulous to me. They helped me so tremendously, as I've had calls from younger principals who followed me. As a matter of fact, one person who used to call me a lot is really coming from the top of the barrel and really done quite well, and I'm very proud of her. And--well, several, but this one in particular. And so, I just think it's marvelous. I think this mentor process is excellent for each principal.
Q: Therefore, I guess, could you kind of with the pros and cons of administrative service, what advice would you offer principals today?
A: Well, I think that's really what I have been all through this tape in many ways, and simply put, the pros are so many and so vast that I could not begin to illuminate or illustrate or enumerate all of them for me; and they've been so wonderful. And if I had to pick one, it would have to be the love of the children that they've shown to me and my staff members and friends in education generally, and parents everywhere, just everyone that I came in contact with. As far as the cons, rather than picking out any singular situation, I would just say that if every administrator would look upon a con or a negative as an opportunity, they will never, ever have a real serious problem in education. I believe that.
Q: (Well then, you're philosophy is?).
A: My philosophy is--well, I've always thought it--you knew I've said many times that I know problems are only challenges, and the challenges really--and I was saying that an awful long time before it became a cliched idea--that to me it's a real fact of life that you've got the challenge or the problem, or the negatives. You can sit around and gnash teeth about it and complain to everybody about it, or you can do something about it. Getting out there and doing something about it is immeasurably more meaningful to me than the other thing, really. Just make it a challenge. And, you've done that. I've seen you do it on many occasions when you worked for me, and I marveled at the situation. I admired so many of my people that have had some real tough tasks to do and the, really, the kind and generous manner in which they did it. It's very hard to do. I never saw it again. And that to me is really counting the kindness that you get back when you have a problem or a situation that arises.
Q: Alright. Well, thank you. I really appreciate this.
A: Thank you. I enjoyed it. Best of luck.
Q: Oh, thanks.
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