This is an interview with Mr. Lewis Andrew Evans in the dining room of his home on his experiences as an elementary school principal.
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Q: Mr. Evans would you begin by telling us about your family background, your childhood interests, and development. (Birthplace, elementary and secondary education, and family characteristics please.)
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I was born on a farm in Mecklensburg Co., and I'm the oldest of four boys. My mother was a school teacher, and she retired when I was born. I attended school, (elementary school) in Mecklensbury Co. (a little three room school). Mecklensbury didn't have a real good high school, so I went to St. Paul's High School and to Virginia State College. At that time it was Virginia State College in Petersburg. I majored in vocational agriculture, and I taught vocational agriculture for about ten years in Pittsylvania Co. I got married while I was in college. You can really put that in, and we, my wife and I came to Danville. I came to Pittsylvania because my wife got a job here, and I was still looking. I hadn't graduated from college. She talked to her superintendent about her husband, and he wanted to know where he was, and I hadn't really finished school. I came and worked in Dan River Mills for about a half a year. Dan River was a good job but, I decided right then I better finish college. I did finish and received my B.S. degree in 1955. I finished college on August the eighth and started work on August 10th. I taught vocational agriculture for ten years as I said earlier and then I got a promotion to assistant principal of a high school. From the high school I went to Mt. Airy elementary school as principal. We have three sons, and all of them are college graduates, I am glad to say. My wife also, was a teacher and she has retired.
Q: Okay, Mr. Evans you've probably answered question two, but please allow us to ask it anyway. Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching, and then, how many years did you serve as a teacher? Finally how many years did you serve as a school principal?
A: I went to Virginia State and majored in vocational agriculture. I taught vocational agriculture for eleven years at Southside High School. I went back and got a masters degree in school administration at Virginia State College and from there I was promoted to assistant principal when I received my master degree. I went back and got a certificate in audio visual education, and I got certified for audio visual. But I never used it other than working with teachers in school. My first principalship was at Mt. Airy Elementary School in 1967.
Q: I wonder if you would discuss those experiences or events in your life that constituted important decision points in your career and how you feel about them now?
A: I think one of the best decision that I made in my life was to become an elementary school principal. To me it was the most rewarding job that I have every had, and I think if I had remained an elementary principal rather than looking forward for promotions and being promoted to the central office in the later days, I still would be in education rather than retired.
Q: Would you mind talking a bit more about the circumstances surrounding the entry of your principalship.
A: Well, my first principalship was very interesting. The superintendent informed me the day before he sent me to the school that I was the principal, and it was very awkward. I went to school that morning (to the high school) and I said I had some lumber to move at the shop, I had a pair of tennis shoes on and I wasn't dressed to do anything but hard labor that day. The principal told me that the superintendent was looking for me. He wanted to see me in the next 15 min. I had to borrow a pair of shoes because I didn't want to go into his office with tennis shoes. It was real funny. When I got their I apologized for not having a shirt and tie on. I told him why. He informed me that the school board had voted for me to be principal of Mt. Airy school. Well, it was a blunt entrance. So he asked me to meet him at the school the next morning. Summer school was going on and when I got there, he said "just don't say anything to anybody I'll come down and get you and introduce you." He called a faculty meeting, and introduced me as the new principal. He told me two things to learn, he said "I want you to first learn the financial part of this school and the other thing to learn is the instructional program because I know you don't know anything about it. And don't make any changes until you know what you are doing."
Q: What experiences and or events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy, and please discuss these events.
A: Being in a school working with children, I think is the most satisfying and most rewarding thing that I could have done. It made me feel, in fact it forced me to have the best school for those youngsters and those teachers. I always strived to make that a school that everybody wanted to attend, and every teacher wanted to work. We worked with teachers, not being authoritarin to those teachers, but making them want to do well. I think my professional leadership, I hope, caused peer pressure which encouraged them to do the work. Parents worked with us very strongly, and I think that was one of our strong points, working with parents. Children, in elementary school need to be happy. They can learn and be happy because this is only the fifth year of their lives, and we've looked at it that way.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Evans. What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do? Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional characteristics of a quote "good principal" unquote.
A: Teachers expect principals first to be educational leaders. They expect principals to support them in their work. Teachers expect principals to provide the necessary tools to work with; to contact the necessary resource people to come in and to help them. Teachers expect principals, and that's one part you have to do but you don't like to, to be disciplinarians. They want us to assist them with discipline and to assist them with parent conferences. Teachers expect principals to really be teachers, a teacher of teachers. They expect principals to support them, and I think when you do all the things that you can, you have a good school, a happy school, and teachers with high morales.
Q: As a follow-up question, would you describe the expectations, both professional and personal that were placed upon principals by their employers and the community during your period of employment. And how do these expectations differ from today's situations?
A: Well, first thing, I think teachers and principals have to be a approachable; Teachers have to have an open door policy. I think one worst thing the principal can do is go in his office and close the door and not come out. He must be open to parents, recommendations, he must be open to teacher recommendation. In fact, it's a good idea to have parent and teacher committees to make suggestions. The principal needs to keep abreast of modern trends in education continue to go to school. And when we first started, you had ten years to do six hours. Later it came down to five years to do six hours. That was the greatest thing in the world because it made us go back to school. It made us learn a little administrative and supervisory skills that we need to learn. That's very interesting, Mr. Evans I know it's five now. I did not know that it was ten before. That's a piece of information that's beneficial for me to know.
Q: If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what would your advise be?
A: First, be a good teacher and learn to administer your classroom and supervise your classroom. You must love to work with people, children, adults and sometimes the most difficult people that you have to work with are adults. But if you love to work with people and love to work with adults and if you're willing to go back and take classes to learn those skills that you need, you must be willing to do those things before becoming principal.
Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader, and those that suggest that, realistic speaking, this person must be, above all a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe your own style.
A: I think you have to be both. I think you have to be an instructional leader and you have to be good administrator. Now if there is a weakness in instructional leadership, school, school boards employ people to assist you and that's how you can horn your own skills, working with supervisors or coordinators and bringing in college people who can work with you. But I think you have to be both. A strong instructional leader and a strong administrator because you can be an instructional leader and the school can go to pot. As far as administration is concerned, I don't think you can do one without the other.
Q: A good deal of attention has been given to career ladders, differential pay plans and merit pay plans in recent years. Would you give your views on those issues and describe any involvement that you had in such approaches?
A: I guess most educators would disagree with me but I've been against them (career ladders) especially in the school system with teachers. It creates animosity among teachers, then the other thing, sometimes principals. Now we're human but we can get subjective as far as grading teachers for merit pay. I might not like Ms. Jones down the hall because Ms. Jones looked at me cross eyed yesterday or she doesn't say yes sir or and Ms. X down the hall will act exactly the opposite. Now who's going to get the merit pay? This is how I feel about it. I think career ladders maybe good, but merit pay as far as teachers, I don't think its worthwhile.
Q: Okay, thank you Mr. Evans. Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of the same.
A: Teacher evaluation basically is for teacher improvement. When I visit the classroom the sun didn't set before we had a conference, and we talked about the good things; we talked about the things that need to be improved; and we talked about how to improve them. The teacher sometimes made suggestions on how she could improve. If there were areas that needed to be improved, and all of us need to improve, no matter what we do. But teacher evaluations should be positive. They should be done in a manner where the teacher does not feel threaten. As far as the evaluation is concerned, it is to me, to help the teacher to grow. The same thing with evaluations that we have from central office. That's the same approach.
Q: What in your view, should be the role of the assistant principal. Discuss your utilization of such personnel while on the job, and would describe the most effective assistant principal with whom you had the opportunity to serve. What became of this individual?
A: The assistant principal is also an instructional leader. The assistant principal really assist the principal in all of his duties. However, I assigned my assistant principal certain areas to work in, and I worked in other areas. We divided it. My assistant principal worked with the instructional program, she worked with teachers, and she work with students. Buses I did it because I felt that it didn't deal with the instructional program. Many things in administration that I took care of, most of the things, but instruction I did. My, one assistant principal I had, to me, was one of the best people that anyone could work with. She took an interest, she worked hard with teachers, teachers liked her, and she liked teachers. She is now a principal.
Q: That's the true test isn't it? It recent years more and more programs for special groups of students (LD, Gifted and Talented, Non English speaking and etc.) have been developed. Please discuss your experience with special student services and your views on today's trends and this regard.
A: Well, believe it or not, when I was promoted, I was Director of Pupil Personnel Services and I directed the special education program for Pittsylvania County. Special education number one is a headache, and I mean its mandated. I think some pressures that the federal government put on us that are unfair to the children, to the administrators, and to the teachers. I think that many times children get referred to special education because someone wants to get them out of a classroom. Sometimes a child has a discipline problem and its not a special education problem. Many children are dumped into LD and I mean the word dumped. You know, all of us are LD in one area or the other. I might not, I can't type, so I'm LD as far as typing is concerned, and we as educators, are putting children, I think in my opinion, many children in LD who do not belong there. Then the second thing, parents are putting pressure, extreme pressure on schools and on children. I had one for instance that insisted that her child would go to a private school because we could not and (which was true) we couldn't educate the child in the county. But the law says, that if the school system pays for the education of that child, then the school system selects the school as long as it is appropriate to put the child in. But this mother wanted her child to go to VA Beach to an exclusive school that cost a hundred thousand dollars. And of course, we had all kinds of problems there. We almost went to due process hearing on it. Put special education is important. There are children who benefit from it. In many cases, special education and mainstreaming, special education part of the day and mainstreaming the other part, I believe the child should get back into the environment of the whole student body as quickly as he possible can. I think again that some areas we use it as a dumping ground, and I think committees that are set up to hear these children need to be a little more careful. And we say the doctors have to examine these children, but sometimes doctors will do what you want, say what you want them to say.
Q: Salaries and other compensations have changed a good deal since you entered the profession. Would you discuss your recollections of the compensations system of your school system during your early years as principal and give your views on developments in this area since then.
A: Yes, my first year as principal the superintendent raised me $50 for the year over what I was making teaching vocational agriculture and of course I questioned that. He said well maybe you're making too much with your teaching because I was working twelve months. I started at seven thousand dollars a year for twelve months, seven thousand dollars a year as principal, and of course, there were times when certain reporters, newspaper reporters, saying that principals made too much money. They published everybody's salary and, of course, that made school boards a little reluctant to give raises. From seven thousand dollars when I left school system, it still wasn't the highest in the world. I was making thirty-eight thousand as principal, and of course, when you come from seven thousand and go to thirty-eight thousand, its a little difference. But just to show you what has happened with a part time job at a community college and retirement pay, I think it's more than when I was principal. And so these are some things I think principals need to know.
Q: So, it's been an advantage for you to retire, then?
Q: Financially. Okay, thank you very much for those enlightening comments. Mr. Evans. Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucratic complexities with which they are force to deal. Would you comment on the situation during your administrative career and compare the problems you encountered with your perceptions of the situations at the time?
A: You said exactly what we've said that principals are. For eighteen years, I was principal for eighteen years by the way and we had the same complaints, paper work on top of paper work. And it seems sometimes that people in graduate school would do a problem with somebody writing a decitation. He would make certain suggestions and superintendent would read the decitation and to implement all those good things that were there without really considering what other problems that were caused. Paper work does not make a utopias in education and people do think that. May I give you an example of what happened?
A: When I was principal, the principal had to manage the cafeteria and somebody at Virginia Tech decided that something needs to be done as far as making a study of what went into school lunch programs. Believe it or not cafeteria workers had to keep a record of the salt and paper that they used and it almost drove my cafeteria manager crazy. You're talking about paper work, that was paper work and the principal was responsible for it. However, I put it on her because she could do it and she almost quit. And so, that's what paper work will do. We have the most efficient, one of the most efficient, cafeterias by the way in the county. Our food cost was lower and participation was higher and of course it almost messed it up when someone came down, and of course it was dropped. These are things that happen in education that we get paper work on top of paper work for all year. The next year everybody has forgotten about it.
Q: Your point is well taken Mr. Evans. That indeed seems to be a current trend as well. Would you describe your relationship with the Superintendent in terms of his general demeanor toward you and your school.
A: My superintendent and I had a good relationship and the school did in fact. I think maybe one of the reason was because we have a good cafeteria and he liked to eat. He would come down and have lunch with us at least once a month and ask the cafeteria to invite him when certain menus were served even if I didn't invite him. But I did have a good relationship. We got all the equipment, almost all the equipment, I've ever asked for. We had funds to buy what we needed and I didn't mind asking and at the end of the year when there were state funds left. Of course, I got more than my share because he (superintendent) would ask in principals meeting, if you think I should pay for something, let me know now. Of course I always had something for him to pay for because PTA or somebody had borrowed it. And so that way we kept instructional supply funds pretty high and teachers could buy more in fact than they needed. They had more than the county allocated. We had about three times as much money as the county allocated for each child. That also helped our instructional program and it's because the superintendent had a good relationship with us.
Q: Since you have now had some time to reflect on your career, I wonder if you would share with us what you consider to be your administrative strengths and weaknesses.
A: I think my administrative strength was good human relations and I think this is something that is very necessary in administration. And what makes me feel good right now, well today for instance, I was in the grocery store and this women about thirty or forty year old saw me in the check-out line. I didn't know her. I never had seen her and she said I was her elementary school principal. She just loved me. At Danville Community College for an example, I have to close my door because many of my former students come by they wanted to run by and talk. The other thing, I think I was a good instructional leader and a good administrator that teachers enjoyed working with me. And I guess one of the weaknesses may have been too kind to children. I don't know. I don't think that's a weakness either, but you asked for me to be subjective as far as weakness is concerned, I'm not going to admit any. That's a testifying witness for goodness.
Q: I certainly understand that and we do appreciate you sharing with us all that you've share with us today, and we want to continue to ask you some more questions. I would like to take a few minutes just to follow up on some of your answers that you have given to this point to questions that Mr. Gunn has asked. You mentioned quite a bit about what's required to be an instructional leader, and you said that its important that a principal who is an instructional leader as well as a manager of a school. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the skills required to be a good manager in the principalship.
A: Yes, the first thing you have to be able to manage people. You have to be able to manage funds. You have to be able to work with teachers in a positive way that will make the school function smoothly. You have to work with secretaries. You have to work with cafeteria personnel. You have to work with bus drivers. You have to work with custodians. The management of the school plant is very important, and I feel that you have to be able to successfully manage a school before you can really become a good instructional leader because they work hand in hand, and they are related and they are not related. And that's double talk, but a good manager, a good school manager, you can tell very easily when you come into a school whether you have/you are a good school manager. One superintendent made the statement that when he walked into a school, and this was in a principal's meeting, when he walked into a school, that if it had a poor manager you could spot it right on the, as soon as he came into the school and it was dirty, or everything was in disarray.
Q: One additional follow-up questions related to your experiences in special education. You talked specifically about your experiences in the central office as Director of Student Services. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of your specific experiences at the principalship level related to special services? You may want to include any experiences with students as well as meetings related to this particularly issue.
A: Yes, in my schools, and I'm talking about two schools, the first school, we had the handicapped classes, and we also had the LD's. The handicapped classes were children two years old or older, who were severely handicapped and, of course, we had to provide all kinds of facilities for them. With teachers, more than one teacher, and more than one aide to work with them. The LD, we had an LD teachers at the first school who would come in once, in fact she was in everyday, working with certain groups, certain children who were identified as LD. The second school where I was principal with special education, we had EMR's and TMR's, and of course, those children were older. There were teachers and aides working with them. I found the TMR's and EMR's are easy to work with. You have to like children again. Our emotionally disturbed children were sent to another school. But in essence that was my experience working with special education. Of course, we had speech therapist to come in and work with children. We had all the services that we needed.
Q: Could you tell us just a little bit about any difficulty that might have been related to meetings, to develop IEP'S or other types of problems at the school level?
A: At the school level, there weren't many problems at our school as far as IEP's were concerned. We made sure that I participated in all IEP's. I did because I was principal of the school, and we made sure that what was included in the IEP was what was needed for that child's education. We insisted that certain things didn't get in it (IEP), for instance, we had one parent who wanted to put in the IEP that her child was to take horseback riding. We couldn't figure why. In fact, for that particular child's handicap, we didn't think horseback riding would improve, but the parent tried to get it in.
Q: You mentioned earlier that one of the keys to your success as a principal was your human relations skills. Can you cite some specific examples of those skills in building that made you think that this was one of your major strengths?
A: Yes, I thought that my being able to work with teachers and having teachers to respect me, like me, and work with me was very important. With children the same thing. Let me give you an example. What happened several times, I've gone into kindergarten rooms, first grade rooms, and a child was sitting their crying because he wanted his parent. He wanted to leave. I asked him if he wanted to go with me down the hall? With little children, I picked them up in my arms, and we went to the teacher's lounge, and we sort of played a joke. We'd get a soda and we would share it. I'd get some cups and I'd say, now don't you tell your teacher and your classmates, but you're my buddy, you're my friend and we're gonna set here and drink this soda and we did. We would go in the cafeteria, and sometimes we would walk around school. When a child was unhappy, that was one thing I tried to do. To find out why he was unhappy and make him want to be their. Teachers had personal problems, and they would come in and they felt free to talk with me about them and it was always in the strictest of confidence. You'd be surprised at the personal problems, marital problems, that teachers had. All they wanted was someone to listen. They had problems with co-workers at times. And there are times you have to be a mediator, but nobody left angry when we have those meetings. So those are some examples and with parents the same thing. We had parents to come in as volunteers, and good human relations skills with parents I think are very important. With young children, you have more problems with parents than you have anywhere else. We tried to make those parents feel wanted and feel that they could come to see you. Now we did have one rule, you didn't arbitrarily visit the classroom. If you had a problem you come to the principal and we'd work it out. But one thing we told parents, that the reason we didn't want them to do that, we didn't want to interfere with instruction. And we also asked them how would you like it if other parents came in and interrupted your child's instructional program? And we seemed to, that seemed to get over pretty good with them. So those are some of the skills, some of the things that we did as far as human relations.
Q: Okay Mr. Evans. Would you discuss your participation in handling civil rights and integration and describe your involvement with them.
A: Well, I had been a principal for two years when schools were ordered to be integrated. The first thing that happened, being a black principal, we heard from through the grape vine, and it was a pretty good reliable source, that black principals lost their jobs when schools were integrated. And it did happen at a county adjourning our county. A group of principals, all black principals, started to meet. We met in each others homes. We met in the schools. We met in lawyers offices. We discussed how we were going to handle the problems. So we decided to make an appointment with the Superintendent, but he didn't know he would meet with all of the black principals. He thought he was meeting with one and then later on, we made an appointment with the Superintendent on Saturday morning. We went to his office, and we sat there and we discussed our problem. Of course, he didn't like it because he had seven to eight principals rather than one. But he did talk to us, and we told him what our thoughts were. He said to us, suppose next saturday the group of white principals came in and make certain demands. And of course, we told him they didn't have this situation. That they weren't, their jobs weren't in jeopardy because of immigration. And of course he said, right then, "I have no plans to fire anybody." So we left happy. We had work-shops sponsored by the University of VA on intergration. Professionals came in and all teachers, all administrators attended. We did many hours of work-shops preparing for intergration. Just before school opens, every school had an open house so parents of both races could visit that school and meet the teachers and principals. And I'll never forget it, on a Sunday, this man, a community leader came to see me. In fact, he ended up on the school board. Everybody in the community respected him. He had a son who was going to be in the second grade at our school. And he walked up to me and he said, I want to talk to you, and I said fine. In my office or in the halls? He said, let's go in your office. And so, we went in the office. He said you and I are going to make this thing work. We are not, this school is expected to blow ski hi because of intergration, and we're going to make it work. And that day I felt much better about the whole situation. It worked. We didn't have the first racial problem with teachers nor students in that school.
Q: That's amazing, and its wonderful to have you share that with us, Mr. Evans. There are those who argue that standardized testing can provide a way to improve instruction. Please discuss your experiences with such testing and provide us your views on its effects on the quality of the instructional program.
A: Well, standardized testing, as far as the state is concerned, is the bible, its law, its the bible. It is, I think it is a good means to tell how a student might perform or has performed. We did work hard in school to raise test scores; however, we didn't do what I've seen people do to raise test scores. We were legal with it of course. We worked with teachers to assist those children to raise those reading levels and math levels. And our scores were usually higher than they were expected from our school. In certain communities the test scores were lower, especially the further out a school was, it seem that they were. But we realized this and we told teachers - test scores do not put their jobs in jeopardy but lets work and raise them.
Q: Let go back to a question that I passed. Cultural diversity is a topic of great interest and concern at this point in time. Would you discuss the nature of your student body (bodies) and comment on the problems challenges and triumphs in which you participated while serving as principal.
A: Cultural diversities - I'll have to put it in that racial ratios. At Stony Mill where I was principal for twelve years, we were about 52% white and 48% black. One of the things that we insisted with teachers first was, that we didn't teach children by races, we taught children. Of course I made sure when I assigned them to their classroom that they were assigned evenly, so to speak. Our school had farmers, I think a few farmers. Most of our parents worked in industry. Goodyear, Dupoint, the Brewery and most areas. In our school philosophy we respected all cultures. We respected and we tried to learn about our cultures, and we had to be told to love the cultures.
Q: Okay Mr. Evans, Thank you. Would you tell us the key to your success as a principal?
A: You want to say luck. I think caring trying to be caring and trying to make my school the best instructional school that I possibly could make it. I tried to make it the cleanest school that we could. But I feel, gifted with good interpersonal relationships with people. I think this played a great role. As far as my education was concerned we, I had some real good classes in supervision administration. Also, this sounds a little weird I guess, but my experience in education and teaching vocational agriculture, working with farmers, and visiting the community. And of course, in vocational agriculture half of the instruction is done in the community, not in the schools. I think this helped me to realize and to have a feeling for the children that I had worked with, and with the people, the parents, knowing their backgrounds. The other things that I never would give anybody the impression that I was better than they were. All of us had problems, and all of us needed to work together.
Q: While we're on that note, would you take a moment to share with us what you think universities can do to better prepare teachers for the future?
A: Well' I know it was surprising that some universities dropped most education majors. I was shocked when I found out. We need to do more to teach teachers to be teachers. Now one of the local colleges would take their first year teachers, Elementary Ed majors, and they would place them in schools to work as aides for two or three weeks. And there they would decide whether they really wanted to get into education. But, to have some kind of relationship with the school early, to work with children, and work with teachers, and work in the instructional part is wonderful, to have some hands on experience. I think universities need to provide more hands-on experiences for them. We had student teachers come to our school from local colleges. One facility, many times that we tend to put student teachers in our best classrooms where there aren't any problems. That's good, but they need to spend some time in the other classrooms and get a real feel for what's going on.
Q: That's true, very perceptive point of view, Mr. Evans. At this time, would you take us on a walk through your school describing your parents, and the unusual features of your building.
A: Alright, when you drive up to our school, and I'm going to talk about the school I spent more time in there is a front porch and the doors we painted the whole top blue. I had one of the school workers to paint it to make it attractive, and of course principals, often will place a sign on them-please report to the office. And of course my secretary was taught to smile when a stranger came in and to recognize a stranger. Don't keep your head down doing something else, stop right then and if the stranger wants to see the principal, find out the business. To be cheerful, then of course we would go down to the primary wing I guess first. Again, the school, the floors are clean the bathrooms are clean and this is something we insisted that the janitor would do. You had to clean the bathroom and check the bathroom every hour on the hour. And the halls have to be swept every hour on the hour. We spent extra funds to keep above and beyond what school board gave us to keep that building attractive and neat because, when a person walks into a school, the first thing they see leaves a lasting impression. We would take you down to the kindergarten wing, that's my favorite wing, because no matter what you do you're the king with those youngsters, and we visited there and of course after leaving the kindergarten wing we came to the first grade wing. And this is still cheerful all the way through from there we'd go to the 2nd, 3rd grade, and 4th grade. Our school was K-4. We had three mobil units, and we did a little trick with the mobil units. Of course, we had the area air conditioned. We put our top students in top grades in the mobile units. You know most of the time, schools put the slower children in the mobil unit. But parents wanted their children, they'd fuss if their child didn't get into the mobil unit and that's what we purposely did. For 4th graders I'd say. And of course, they loved it because they had their own air conditioner. The rest of the school wasn't air conditioned. Our school had a library, and librarian. We had about 25 teachers and a cafeteria staff of about six or seven full time, two janitors, a janitor and a maid rather and we didn't have a gymnasium. We had a multi-purpose room, and of course, we made sure physical education didn't take place in there while lunch was going on. Oh, we had a physical education teacher who took children outside and that gave the teachers, each teacher, a planning period. Well I said outside, we taught physical education and sometimes we didn't.
Q: You have addressed this to some degree. But maybe you have some additional comments. What techniques did you use to create a successful climate for your learners in your school and would you describe other successful and unsuccessful experiences in effecting the climate in this school?
A: I think the principal, first sets the climate. The principal smiling, the other people are going to smile. They're gonna be happy. If the principal is grouchy, everybody else is gonna be grouchy. So what we did each morning, and I guess this is far fetched and I guess I'd probably get in trouble right now if I did it now, but every morning before classes started, you see you can't pray anymore, so we played the national anthem. And the idea was to develop patriotism. We played the national anthem and then we did announcements over the PA system. Sometimes students did the announcements on the PA system. But that's what we did before classes started. The PA system was not allowed, unless dire emergency, when I say dire emergency - schools going to closed because of snow and on those things. After 9 o'clock a.m. and until 2:30 p.m. no announcements can be made on the PA system. Now we called individual rooms but, I think this is part of creating, making a good climate for our school. If I had to get a message to a teacher, I just went down or sent the secretary, or somebody went. But we didn't use the PA system. Because in the school where I taught, everytime I got started, got my children motivated, the principal would come over the PA system. That was years ago, and that was when PA systems were new.
Q: I think some of us can learn some lesson from that today. There has traditionally been a commitment in this country to the principal of universal free public education. Would you give your views on this concept and indicate your feelings on the practicality of such an approach in this day and time?
A: I would have enjoyed it. I really would. Now we had, believe it or not, we had courses, everything that we took from the University of VA, the school board paid for, principals. And so, I had a little taste of a universal education especially for us, and we were required to take the courses so we never had to go back to school to renew our certificate. When certificate renewal came time for you, you had taken about 12 semester hours almost, and we had a course every year, at least one or two in-service classes that were sponsored by the University of VA. Of course, we didn't get many from Tech, but no it's Lynchburg. We're in the Lynchburg region zone area.
Q: During the past decade, schools have become much larger. Discuss your views on this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities. And you may wish to focus on your level.
A: Alright, the larger schools are good as far as most are concerned, but my school frankly, I really believe the elementary schools should be less than a thousand people. My personal feelings, I think six hundred might be ideal with an assistant principal and all the other professional, guidance counselor, and even school nurse. I think when we tend to get larger for younger children, that they get lost in the shuffle. I think larger schools are hard to manage for one or two people (administrators). You loose interpersonal, you loose the some of the personal things that you, personal (what do I want to say) intimacy you loose that. Your little personal things that you do for individuals when it get too large. Frankly to me an ideal school is six hundred or less.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there is probably something I have left out. What have I not asked you that you would like to share.
A: Mr. Gunn, I think you have done a good job asking questions and I can say that probably I miss more - the elementary principalship. That's where the action is. I made a mistake when I got promoted to accept a promotion because the action wasn't their. Central office is not the place to be because I enjoyed working in schools. I think you have to love it to be successful. You have to enjoy it to be successful. If its a drudgery to go to work everyday then find something else. Get out of principalship especially if you have a week heart. You might want to because it is exciting and it's something new everyday. It does not get boring. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed the friendships that I made. I enjoyed working with parents. I enjoyed the children. I enjoyed it even more now when I see them on the streets, at the drug stores, and grocery stores.
Q: Mr. Evans as a personal favor to me. Would you share with me the answer to this question. What advice would you give a either a young principal starting out or a principal who has only a few years of experience about being successful in that position?
A: Well, the first thing to learn is to get as much education as you can get. That's the first thing. The second thing, work or interpersonal skills. Work on public relations and public relations are very important and I didn't say to much about this tell just now. We developed a newsletter that we sent at least once a month. We had those little decals put in you know, if it's about students. We also did them in colors. Each one was in a different color. But we kept parents informed, and this is what new principals, young principals need to do. You need to include parents in what we do as well as teachers. You can not be a dictator as far as teachers are concerned. You work with them and have them work with you. But those are skills you have to develop and you have to become a good manager. You have to, you know we had a superintendent one time that said, if anybody wants to get you fired, the easiest way is check your money. So that's something else I would tell young principals be very careful with finances.
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans, we want to thank you for your time this evening and we certainly appreciate your comments and your responses to our questions. Again on behalf of Mr. Lyle E. Evans and myself we thank you.
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