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Q: What do you consider to be major strengths as an administrator?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Two things basically I think that I felt comfortable with was my ability to work and get along with people and kids including adults and children, with both parents, teachers involving adults. And secondly I thought that I had a pretty good feel for the curriculum and with the basic structure of the elementary school. So I felt comfortable working in that position because of this. And I think in general, whether it be elementary, secondary or central administrator, one of the strengths has to be the ability to work with and deal with people. It's a must. If you can't do that, your success is not going to be very impressive. So that's basically what I think are the major strengths that are important in administration positions.
Q: What would your concept of the role of the principal in relation to teachers and students be?
A: I think you act as a guide, as a facilitator, a helper. The most successful people I think are the ones that can sort of get things going and then sit back and help increase the effectiveness of both the learning cycle for the kids and for the development of the teachers and staff. I don't believe you can be a director and direct traffic as an administrator. You've got to let the people develop and use their own strengths and you encourage and you're almost a cheerleader. You can be most effective, I think, in subtle ways like that than you can lead with a big stick.
Q: And the same thing with kids?
A: Same thing with kids. It works just as effective with kids. You have to trust and you have to believe in them and know that they can achieve ad do the things that you're requesting. In my imparting this to youngsters there are ways, above lots of other adversities that they may have, they can still achieve. So it works with both adults and the students.
Q: As a principal what communication approaches or systems were most effective for you? Like working with your teachers.
A: Again, emphasizing personal strengths, I think one-to-one contact is the most effective way of communicating. I've always felt very comfortable with having teachers come in at any time they wanted to visit with me and talk to me on an informal basis -- we always had an open door policy both ways. I also felt comfortable any time I wanted to enter a classroom area or teaching area to visit often enough so that it made us non threatening. I think that was probably the most effective. In some way in staff meetings it was a more relaxed atmosphere than some. I did provide agendas, always so teaching staffs knew what we were going to be talking about. They knew what we were going to discuss ahead of time. I allowed them at any time to contribute to the agendas if they felt the need. And also they could take part in any of the discussions -- a lot of give and take in staff meetings. But there was still a very personal one-to-one, or staff to principal basis. I did use all the means of communication. I used, of course, notes and letters, bulletins, taped messages, readings I felt anybody needed to be informed about some specific process or idea. I tried to provide materials and different information for them. But still I feel the most effective way was the personal one-to-one.
Q: Describe the process you used to assist personnel to adjust to new assignments so that they were not only effective in their position, but also personally satisfied. Probably speaking to people that were new in the building or reassigned.
A: First of all, you want to make them feel very welcome and that you're very pleased that you have the opportunity to work with them. Secondly, even before that, it's always good if possible to make sure that the people in question have the basic skills to be able to deal with this new position. And I think you do that even before placement is made. You want to make sure that you don't give them three strikes against themselves before they even start. They should have the strengths and ability to achieve what you've asked. Then make them feel as comfortable and as ease as you can. Give them the position and try as possible to give them the feeling that you have utmost faith in them that they are going to achieve this and that there'll be no problems and you'll give them all the help you can see that it happens.
Q: Did you ever set up a mentorship with another teacher?
A: I went through ES Internship Programs with teachers and also prospective administrators was basically, the technique I used to work with them. We were involved for approximately twelve years with the process known as Individually Guided Education. As teachers flew in and out of your building either by attrition or resignation, they were transferring, or whatever -- you had to do a lot of preparing and preparation for new people coming in. You got to lose a lot of your skills first in the selections and secondly in making them feel at home so that they fit into this particular situation. It was a little bit different than dealing with individual classrooms because they had to work very closely with a small close-knit group of four or five teachers that worked very close together. And so at times they needed work out some skills and develop some skills that allowed them to interact without lots of personality conflicts. We did some training and mentorship in order to allow them to develop those skills.
Q: What processes did you use to achieve personnel development in individual staff member's: professional performance; promoting self development to facilitate need satisfaction; development of personnel to fit staffing needs such as anticipated vacancies, promotions, reassignments, retirements, and termination? Since we touched on the other speak to somebody who is going to leave or you need to fill a position with a grade level shift. How would you assess and plan for that?
A: You always keep that in mind with your staff. Watching all the time because there will be changes in staff usually annually. You kept in mind that the position that would be possibly open. You also surveyed your staff to see if there was anybody that would fit that position or who would be interested in it. In most instances I made a definite attempt to allow a staff member to make a decision of whether or not they wished to change. And then assist them in making the changes as much as I possibly could in obtaining the skills needed, or the information they may need to fill the position successfully. It was a volunteer thing if they chose to do so, fine, and if not then I'd fill it from outside. A lot of the times in school where I operated for 23 years we had staffs that were in on the interviews and changes they had some input also because they had to work closely with these people. So many of the interviews from people coming from the outside, when we assessed skills and abilities to fill the positions, were held with four or five key staff members. It was sort of a joint selection -- I would never give up 51% of the vote because sometimes the decision had to be made and that's what they pay you for to make decisions that are not to popular. But most of the time we were in agreement and really by this kind of approach the staff feels more involved and the person coming in feels closer to the people involved. Also, you can use those people then to for cross training purposes when the new person comes in they're much more apt to be more willing, at least, to assist this person in developing any skills needed or information needed to fill that position. In fact they will bend over backwards to do it because simply they knew that were going to work with that person as a teammate. And so it solves some of your training and developmental problems. Speaking on a staff as a whole, we did lots of in service. Sometimes in-service within the school, sometimes without. I led some of them; some of the teachers led some. And then we brought people in from the outside to help us achieve some of the skills we needed to operate in a situation we were in. Those kinds of in-services especially when they were requested by the staff, are much more effective than imposed in-services that they don't necessarily feel the need for.
Q: How do you view the appraisal (evaluation) process?
A: We used a form of the Madeline Hunter appraisal that they use now. It was a little bit different. It was really a cooperative thing as far as I was concerned. Working with the staff I had and being there as long as I was, there wasn't a particular problem in working out an evaluation process that fit the district model. First of all, to sort of break the ice, I held a teaching evaluation process for myself where three teachers evaluate me on the same criteria that I was going to use on the staff. I didn't pick the subject because they all knew me well enough that I'd probably pick math or science. I had to teach composition of English to this group of fifth graders. They really laid a good one on me. Needless to say, I spent lots of hours preparing for that class because I knew what they set me up for. But it was interesting. They did a good job with their appraisal and they liked it -- me using that model -- so when the turn around came there was no real opposition to me coming in. Some of the problems earlier was that I get to select the course and I get to select the time and we talked about that even though that wasn't part of the model. That wasn't really the way it showed up, and the staff understood that. So we had an understanding that they could select one session that I observed and critique. And then I got to do one whenever I wanted to and at any time. Of course that was voluntary, I couldn't have imposed that rule, but I had 100% of them do it. They had a buy in, and not only that but I never approached the evaluation in a threatening attitude. It was always as a self-improvement thing. I think the critique offered a positive way that would help the person grow and would suggest things that may help them in any area that may be perceive as a weakness. With the idea that I would help provide this particular training or information if they needed it. I don't think you can use evaluations to threaten dismissal. I think it's a tool that can used that way, but I don't think that's a very, very small part of what it's being done for as far as I'm concerned. It's something that may be the bottom line you would use it in a case of dismissal but needless to say I think it's a small, small part of it.
Q: Describe your practices in disciplining, nonrenewing and/or dismissing teachers.
A: Disciplining is always a face to face contact with the person absolutely aware of what the problem, or problems may be. Not in a threatening manner, but in a very professional manner saying whatever the problem was it simply cannot go on and be condoned in school whether it be in teaching or personal conduct, or whatever. I found this to be as effective as anything I ever used because most of the time the person that has done something or practices something that is not really something that should be done in a school setting, they're aware of it. You don't have to appraise them of the fact that they've done it. They know they've done it. I think you can handle it in that kind of manner and most of the time get some results out of it. Obviously there will come a time when no matter what you do, that's not going to happen but when you get to the point of dismissal I don't think it's time for emotional trauma, I think you lay all the cards on the table and you make sure that you gone through the total evaluation process. This is the one time you're going to have to use it. During that evaluation process, the problems or weaknesses have shown their ugly head and also you held several conferences to show that you have asked the person to improve and that you have assisted them in various ways to improve. If nothing has happened after that you go on with the dismissal process and I don't think you'll have a bit of trouble. In fact, I never got to a proper dismissal problem. They always looked at it after all the evaluations and conferences and decided to discreetly to resign. I had to only go through it only one time. Most of the time they decided that it really wasn't the job for them and they resigned.
Q: Describe undesirable personnel performance and your techniques for coping with teacher grievances.
A: I had some grievances, but usually they were at the first level. We had at our particular process at the time three levels of grievances. There was the one that the initial phase where the process dictated that you notified your principal of the grievance and you notified your representative of the union and then you had a conference. Most of the time there was a fourth step that began earlier I guess you could call the first step before the first step. Most the time if somebody was intent in filing a grievance you got word in the first place before it was ever filed. Either personal contact with the person or in your staff by word of mouth. So you knew in advance that this is a possibility. The first thing you did was, "Okay, did I screw up? Did I really misinterpret the contract and have a problem with it? and Did I make a mistake?" If you did then you solve it right there. You don't take it any further. You call the person in and say, "Hey, you're right. I messed up. And it won't happen again if I can possibly keep it from happening, but we'll take care of it. We'll rectify it." That usually, 99% of the time, stopped it right there even before the first level. Now, if you didn't, and you knew you didn't and if there was still a question and it went to the first level, there's a personal discussion between you and the teacher or employee involved and their representative. And I'd say again at that level three-fourths of them are resolved because you have the opportunity to point out now this is why I did this and this is why I think you're wrong. If you've done your homework it's usually solved. By the time it gets to the second level if it ever happens, I personally never had one get that far. If it got to that level then you're pretty much taken out of it. You're more of, and it goes by my standard again, and it goes between your superiors and the people dealing with the contract and the teacher, and you are sort of looking on. By the time it gets to the third level it's in arbitration and obviously your control there is very limited because it's going to decided by an arbitrator. I would say 99% of the time you can solve them at the invisible level one or at the visible level one.
Q: What are you views concerning tenure?
A: I think it's a mixed bag. I think it's irrelevant. I don't feel tenure does anything for you, really, one way or another. I don't think it does anything for the teacher. I really don't think it interferes with administrative work. My personal feeling is that it's irrelevant. Any teacher that does a good job, tenure is never going to be a problem. Anyone that isn't, with all the evaluation instruments in process right now, they're going to get a fair hearing, no matter what. So tenure is almost like a wart, it's not going to bother anybody, one way or another. In fact in 23 years I never worried about whether a teacher's on tenure or not. I always informed my nontenured teachers that they had to go through all the evaluations earlier in my carrier. they were the only people we evaluated. We didn't evaluate our tenure staff or anything, so that made a little bit of difference. But later on when everybody got evaluated, it really didn't make any difference because if they were doing their job, fine. The only difference I guess is that in the first year or two -- I guess up until that third year or second semester or third evaluated, whatever it is -- I forget now how it - is exactly worded -- Districts can if nobody objects, dismiss people without reason. And some of them have done that before. But, if the individual thinks that their rights have been violated, anybody has the right to file suit, no matter what, whether there's a tenure law or not. So that's why I think it's rather irrelevant. Usually, if the district is going to dismiss somebody it's usually for a good cause. I'm say that there's some that have made mistakes, I'm sure, in the past, but usually it's for a good cause. And the person's not going to oppose it anyway because they don't want it revealed. I don't have strong feelings about it one way or another. I think if I were a superintendent it wouldn't make any differences whether there tenure or not tenure.
Q: How do you view personnel compensation in terms of career ladders, merit pay and career advancement?
A: I really believe in that. Of course I don't know how it can ever be accomplished. I really believe in merit pay. I think you deserve to be paid for the abilities you have, and for your contributions. The most horrifying thing I think in education today is that everybody irregardless of competency, contributions, whatever. are paid on the same scale. I just shudder when I think of it because I think that's really one of the big drawbacks in getting the most competent young people that come out of our society into teaching because in every other profession, they're rewarded for competency. Monetarily let's face it, that's part of the ball game. It's pretty nice to go out as a young person, a graduate and earn forty, fifty thousand dollars a year the first year if you're a very competent engineer, or a physiologist. Yet no matter how competent you are or how good you are when you go into education into teaching probably any place in the country less that twenty thousand dollars a year the first year. Which is a poverty wage, practically, and I just think we're defeating. I think that's one of the prime questions education is going to have to answer in the next fifteen, twenty years: How are they going to pay their people. They can't do it like they're doing it now because everybody can't be paid a hundred thousand dollars a years. The taxpayers won't allow it and neither will the legislature. What's going to happen if we don't solve it internally, they'll solve it for us. They'll impose some kind of system and we'll have to live with it, as educators. I don't think what they impose is going to be near as good as what the educational system could develop themselves. I have some strong feelings there. Merit pay, there's got to be some way to solve that. You reward people for going back to school and more training and developing themselves. You've got to. If you don't, who in the heck's going to do that. Who's going to spend that kind of money it takes. I sure wouldn't. I'd go fishing.
Q: Explain the process you used in recruiting and selection of personnel in your building.
A: I'll have to use the school I was in for fifteen years more or less. 1 usually look for people that were, depending on the level and place of course, bright, enthusiastic about teaching, had outgoing warm personalities. Most of the people I had on the staff were the touching people. There were a lot of hugs and pats on the back from going all different ways. Throughout the staff and even with the students there was a lot of warmth and affection. I look for that in a teacher -- without disregarding their professional abilities, and their intelligence also. I tried to find a balance in all that. Sometimes you're successful, sometimes you weren't. Most of the time I think you could pull a pretty well balanced person out of that. And to assist me, usually after I had a core of staff, we had a curriculum committee that we worked with. the staff elected these people to serve with me rather than having the total staff, we had four or five people on this committee and we ... I don't remember what we called them -- we had four or five different names I don't remember -- curriculum councils, and they were called all different kinds of things during the time we had them. Anyway a lot of times these people would sit in on the interviews and in fact we'd go over candidate lists and credentials even before time. We didn't interview everybody that was recommended or sent out. If there were fifteen, or twenty, candidates we cut them down to about five by going over all the stuff we knew we were going to look at. We'd call in the candidate, the four or five, and then they'd sit in on the interviews and make recommendations. And as long as I didn't see any glaring problems in there, I'd go along with their recommendations with a democratic vote because they had to -- work with them also. This is basically how we selected staff for years and years until the district got into a position where you couldn't do that any longer and it was a time when the district personnel office dictated it and you had no choice. Whatever came down the pipe was there. That was about two years. And it really disrupted the teaching in the school for about two years. Not because we had terrible people, just because they weren't people that were in the mold of the mold that we had in that particular staff. It just did not work as well. So I really think it's important that the building administrator and staff cooperate in selecting staff. I think it works a alot better. Get out of that position and you're in trouble.
Q: What are your views about principals' identifying and developing possible future school administrators?
A: I don't think I definitely went out, set out to recruit anybody. I was not an unhappy administrator. There was a lot of them that were unhappy. When I got to the point that I decided that schools were not going the direction that I felt should happen, and the same with the administrative position, I got out. I got the hell out. I told myself that thirty years before, that if it got to the point that where I didn't think the kids were getting a good shake as they should and staff members too, and schools in general, I wasn't going to do that any more. I felt confident enough in my abilities that I could do something else, or retire, the pay was good enough I could go without doing anything else. I didn't go out to recruit administrators, but I didn't downplay job. I always felt that it was an important and a fun job. I had fun in my work. I'll admit that it was a hell of a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. And when I got to the point where I didn't think that was going to happen anymore, I left because I didn't think I'd be doing my staff any good, or the kids in this school in general. I had too good of a feeling about education for thirty years and I didn't want that. But back to the question, I didn't actively recruit, but I did try to leave a good image about the job. And I did help train. I didn't help train three or four people now that I had on my staff now that are principals. But I did train some that are out there, or worked with them and I think it is a good job. I think it is an important job. I shudder sometimes at what's happening, but I know these people are qualified enough and talented enough that they're going to solve the problems. They're young and full of vim and vigor and they'll handle it. I think it's important that administrators do locate people that are not necessarily principals of schools, but central administrators need to look at and develop potential administrative people. And give them all the help they can because their job is certainly not going to get any easier. They're going to need all the assistance and help they can get in developing the skills they need to operate. So I'm a believer that they should be helped and you should look at people that have that potential. Not just potential, but even the interest. There's a lot of people that have the Potential but could care less about it. I think the interest has to be there. It can't be just for monetary gain because there's not that much difference. My first ten years as principal I was the sixth highest paid person on my staff. I had six teachers that made more than me. So you really don't take that job, or I guess it's a little bit different now -- they do pay a little bit more -- but it's really not for the money. But. you have to be interested so you look for those people and train them.
Q: Would you discuss a few of the most pleasant activities you were involved with during your principalship and a few of the unpleasant?
A: There are thousands of pleasant times and fun times as an administrator. I think the feelings that I got back from my staff a lot of the times. There's a lot of rewards. I had some nice positive strokes from my staff. And millions of them come from my kids and my parents. I think those are the most rewarding when you do get feedback like that, man it makes you feel awfully good. There were thousands and thousands of those. I think the most unpleasant duties sometimes were, of course, anytime you were involved in disciplining a teacher, or a youngster even. Especially if it involves their personal lives it's a pretty unpleasant task because you have to delve into some things that are pretty private. You'd rather be someplace else when that happens but you don't have the choice because that's your position. Those kinds of things. Some of the most unpleasant was the child abuse hearings. God, you felt sorry for everybody involved. You felt sorry, of course, immediately for the youngsters. You felt sorry for the parents because some of them didn't have the ability or didn't have the skill, or the knowledge to prevent things from happening. It was a pretty pathetic kind of thing and I really didn't like when I had to deal with that, but it's part of the job. The unpleasant was a very, very small percentage of what happened in thirty years. You couldn't dwell on that. Those kinds of things never caused me to leave the profession. There were other things that I think ... those things that caused me to leave were not going to be unpleasant probably during my career, but I could see unpleasantness coming down and that was the political influence on schools. From all directions that the schools were not going to be run by educators as far as I could see. They were going to be handled by people outside of education. That was the most discouraging thing I think. God bless the young ones that are in there now to take them.
Q: Can you conceptualize education in the year 2000? What things might be going on?
A: Probably, if I can say this, it will probably be different and yet the same. I don't see kids and people changing that much. I see processes, equipment, and knowledge gaining in leaps and bounds. I think the most, probably the most, impressive thing would be the amount of knowledge that's out there for kids. We've gone away from it much right now in teaching facts, but we're going to have to get farther away from it, we're going to have to teach concepts, and develop abilities to learn and seek because there's no way you're going to teach the kids everything that's out there. They're going to have to only absorb or gather up what they need to succeed and you're going to have to teach them how to do it. More so that what we are doing now because probably the jobs and opportunities for better employment and everything in the year 2000, what they'll be doing, we probably don't even know will exist right now - it probably doesn't exits. I'd say over sixty to seventy percent of the jobs that will exist then don't exist now. So we're going to have to train them for a hidden future as far as there will be employment concerned. And the only way to do that is to teach them how to learn, and how to adapt, and how to change. So that's going to be the big challenge I think, and to keep it still on a personal, warm, inattentive basis which is going to be as difficult as hell because the human contact I think isn't what it was, I just don't think, in the past. I think that's going t be the danger in leading them to a technology rather than humanity. I hope we succeed.
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make at this time?
A: I think you're in a great profession. If I had a choice and was a young person again, I'd jump right in to it again, I know. Obviously, I've left that impact on my kids because five out of the six are teachers and the other one's going back to do it. So there's something there. I just think it's a great life. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think the challenges are going to be tremendous. I don't think the rewards, despite of what I said that I think they should be, I don't think are going to be much higher because I think politics will still control. They're going to have to get their rewards from other places besides their pocket book, but I still think it's a great profession. In fact I think it's the most important task that this country will face. And if we're not successful we're going to be in a heap of trouble with the rest of the world. Because nobody else is taking the back seat. I think if we can develop in both fronts technologically and of course with all the other developments that will happen in the future that we don't even know about and still keep the humanistic feeling in our population like I think we should, then we'll be a success. If we don't do that, we're in trouble. There's a lot of challenge there. You don't get paid enough, you guys in education and you don't get the rewards you should but, God bless you and I hope it all comes out good in 2000. I hope I'm around to see it.
Q: You will be.
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