This is October 18, 1995. This is an interview with Dr. Glen Earthman in his office at 202 East Eggleston, Virginia Tech on his experiences as a school principal.
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Q: Dr. Earthman would you begin by telling us about your family background--your childhood interests and development, etc.?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well I cam from a lower middle class family. My mother was a housewife and my father was a unskilled worker. He was manager of transportation at a local confectionery company. Three older sisters and very ordinary household. Lived in a very rural area and when to a elementary school of 120 students. Had classes of 12, 10 or 12 students in each grade. And it was a very ordinary childhood.
Q: Might you tell me where this would be?
A: This was in Denver, Colorado.
Q: Denver, Colorado.
A: Suburbs of Denver, Colorado.
Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching with us?
A: Well I went to Denver University. I entered expecting to go into law and for the first two years I was in the pre-law curriculum. Then in one of the English classes that I had, I wrote a paper on the consolidation of schools. And it got me interested in the field of Education. And in my junior year I switch from liberal arts to really education. I did get my degree in history and English. But I got teaching credentials to teach.
Q: Looking back on it know do you have any regrets on making that switch?
A: No, really not.
Q: How many years did you serve as a teacher and principal?
A: I served three years as a teacher. Really I guess. Ya, three and a half year. And then as a principal, probably oh, seven, eight years as principal. Elementary school principal.
Q: Elementary school. And as you look back on your life then would you discuss those experiences or events that constituted important decision points in your career and how you feel about them now?
A: Well, I guess the first one was in college when I transferred from Liberal Arts to Education. That was obviously a very major shift. But after that I went into teaching and until I went into the principalship, why, it was rather ordinary. There's no monumental decision makes that I remember.
Q: Will you talk about the circumstances surrounding your entry into the principalship?
A: Well. In my second year in the Adams City School System. A principalship became open and the superintendent had a series of meetings of people that where possibly interested in the principalship. My principal told me that he wanted me to go. In fact, he said that I should take him to the meeting. So because of him I went. And I was not really interested in going into the principalship, but I went to the meetings with him and he eventually pushed my candidacy. I did apply for it at his insistence, kindof. And I did get the position. I was very happy teaching and I had no desire to go into administration, because I had a very good class schedule teaching English in high school. So, because of him I really got into the administration. Which I certainly thank him for.
Q: Would you walk us through your school describing its appearance and any unusual features of the building?
A: The first school I was, which I was principal was about 400 youngsters. There were three sections in each grade level. It was really first through sixth. We didn't have kindergarten. The building was fairly modern building. It was maybe ten years old. But on the same site there was an older building, perhaps fifty, sixty years old. Those two buildings constituted the Derby Elementary complex. And there were four classrooms in the old building and then the remainder in the new building. It was compared to today's schools, is very marginal. We had a gymnasium and an extremely small library that wouldn't even hold one class. And a separate building that was the cafeteria. And that was the extent of the school outside of the classrooms.
Q: That was the first school?
A: The first school. And then I opened up a brand new school. The Kemp Elementary school. This was a school of fourteen classrooms and again a gymnasium, cafeteria, and a decent library. It held about 300 and some students and I spent about three years there. I had the opportunity a new building, which was a unique experience. And then my last year as principal I was transferred to a school with 1,000 youngsters in it. A staff of about 35 people. And again it was first grade through six. And it was in a building that was probably about fifteen years old. We had a good program there. Three, well there's four section in each grade, so, plus support teachers.
Q: OK. Would you describe your personal philosophy of education? How did it evolve over the years?
A: Well I, I guess I'm probably more of a pragmatist than I am anything else. I've read a little bit of John Dewy and I seem to concur with his explanation of how education takes place. I think to think that it's rather child centered or it was when I was a principal, based upon experiences of youngsters that they learn through experience and our curriculum kinda reflected that. In that we, I tried to promote that teachers would have a rich environment in their classroom and engage students activities to learn. So that sciences lessons were conducted hands-on, as well as in other areas. So it was kindof an experimental pragmatism that I really sought to promote. I will have to say this, teachers generally did not except or did not really follow the way I thought students learned. They were very much more content driven, even on the elementary level. There was content in the textbooks that had to be taught and that was where they gained their knowledge. So I tried to, you know, through inservice and staff development activities to get them to kindof at least look at the idea of experimental approach and experience approach to education. And some took to it and some still said that they had to have certain standards and that those standards where embodied in the textbooks that they used.
Q: I'll come back that later. What techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning?
A: Well, I don't know. I didn't identify any specific techniques that I could use. I treated all the teachers as professionals and tried to allow them to have a voice in what was going on in the school. We had, I think, very congenial faculty meetings that were problem focused and I think they felt they could come to me with any problems that they had. And most importantly, that I would support the teachers very strongly. But yet at the same time, understand, the reason that we were in the schools was to educate youngsters. That they should, at least, have some kind of success. So I don't think there's, probably, techniques that I used, identified as purposeful acts, techniques. So much as, was the feeling that teachers and the principal were working together. And the purpose was to help youngsters to get through the program.
Q: What do you consider to be the personal and professional characteristics of an effective principal?
A: Well that's, well I'm sure there's a lot that's be written on that. But personal and professional characteristics. Well, I think personally they have to, a principal has to have some integrity in what that person is doing. They have feel very secure with themselves, know themselves, know their limitations and their strengths. They have to be very excepting of wide range of individuals. They have to be very comfortable with working with people. On the professional level, I think that a principal has to know what education is. He or she should have a strong philosophy of education and what he or she believes in. And should have the ability to but that into practice. I think there needs to be an awful lot of leadership shown. And good organization, I think that is part of leadership, is to organize, and to plan, and to execute well. But those are just some of the characteristics, professional characteristics I think a principal should have.
Q: As you look back now would you describe the expectations, that were placed upon principals by their employers, teachers, and the community during your period of time as a principal. Again, professional or personal characteristics.
A: I suspect it's not a great deal different than what it is today as principal from around 1957, 64, something like that and I think the expectations were about the same for principals then as they are today. Principals ought to run a good school, whatever that is defined and by whomever it's defined. The principal should probably show some concern for the program. I will say today though, there's probably more expectation than students results that will occur as a result of what the principal does. Which probably was not in evidence when I was a principal. The superintendent at the school board where I was located, most certainly expected me to run a good school. And running a good school meant to them that we don't have a lot of conflict in either the staff or the community and if there was a lot of complaints that things where not going well in the school. This was a measure of effectiveness for the superintendent. The more problems that he received on his doorstep then the less effective I would be. And I know at during my tenure there was principal that was removed from one school and put into another. Removed from a middle school and put into an elementary school. Because the superintendent felt that person wasn't handling the problems.
Q: In that line, was there a status thing with the different levels of schools.
A: I would suspect so. Course there's only one high school in the school system and that natural, the high school principal was paid more because he had a larger staff and had certain monetary privileges that the rest of us didn't have. The middle school principals, again because the schools were larger they were paid more than principals. However in our school system our pay was determined by where each individual stood on the teachers salary, then they received a styfin for every teacher. So if you had ten teachers you were paid this much. If you had twenty teachers you were paid twice as much. On the styfin. So that's how we were paid.
Q: Do you see a different between a principal who is the leader and one who is the manager. Is there a fundamental difference between a leader and a manager in your estimation?
A: Well there's seems to be in the literature, but I don't think that a principal is either or. A principal is thrown into some situations where he or she has to be a leader, at the same time that person as to be a darn good manager of resources. So sure there's different activities, but it's not an either or situation that there are certain leadership activities and situations, there are also some managerial things that have to be taken care of. I would suspect that principals are criticized and probably evaluated more on how well they manage than on how well they provide leadership. Even today. Probably loose their position because of poor management techniques than poor leadership. Supposition though.
Q: Could you describe your normal work day when you were principal? How did you spend your time basically?
A: There was a difference. When I first went into the principalship I was not even prepared for the position. I was not even certified as a principal. At that time you could become a principal without being certified. Now my tenure I did get certified. That was the first thing I did. I went back to school and became certified. Now, that didn't prepare me for it, the job. My staff prepared me for the job. And so the first year that I was on as a principal, I probably helped through the office more than I ever did anything else. Maybe supervised activities. But the last year that I was principal, I would truthfully say that spend at least fifty percent of my time supervising instruction. I was in the classroom at least fifty percent of the time. I made certain that I did that. I would come in to work at 8 o'clock and try and take care of some managerial functions, administrative functions until eight-thirty, quarter till nine, then supervise students until nine, till they got into their classrooms. And then about nine-thirty I'd hit the classrooms and I'd systematically go through classrooms until lunch time. Then I would go into the lunch room and supervise, even though we had teacher supervision. I was there to meet students and do things that. Sometimes in the early afternoon I would get back into a classroom, but then I would probably go back to the office to take care of all the malaise that piled up during the morning. But that was pretty much my routine throughout the week. I didn't very too much from it. I felt a responsibility of getting in and supervising teachers an monitoring what was going on.
Q: So on an average, what time would you be leaving school and getting home in the afternoon.
A: Oh, about five o'clock. It was about eight to five. Nine full hours of work.
Q: OK. What was one of the toughest decisions you had to make as a principal. Would you make the same decisions today?
A: There were probably two aren't great. The first one was where or not I should have paddled a youngster, a fifth grade youngster. And I had sent out edict that there was to be no snowballing on the playground, at all period. So this little third grader was caught throwing a snowball and the teacher send him down, sent the youngster down. So I debated very seriously how I should handle it. And I thought well maybe he should get a few whacks. So I gave him a whack on the posterior. I don't know if I'd do that again today. Probably not. But that was attributable to inexperience, I think. The other occurrence was when a mother came to visit her child and I had known that the child had some kind of legal problems and so I sent a note down to the teacher to take the youngster and go over to the cafeteria so he wasn't in the room. I prevented the mother from seeing the child. As it turns out that was a very good decision, because if I had let her see the youngster, then I could have been maybe held in contempt of court. Cause the court had mandated that she was not to have any contact with him and I didn't know that. The child was living with the grandmother. So that was a good decision and one that I, she threatened to get my job and this, that and the other. So I was rather concerned at the time, but it turned out to be a real good decision.
Q: What do you consider to be the key to your success as a principal?
A: Well, I don't know. I guess I liked youngsters. I like to work with people. And just very interested in the educated process. That sounds simplistic, but that's probably, if I had any success, well that contributeable to those factors. Really, if you, I think if one tries will hard, to do a job, that they probably have a measure of success. And I don't know how great or little success that is. A major success.
Q: Are you suggesting by that statement that principals are not necessarily born that they can be trained...
A: Oh YES! Right! Right!
Q: What suggestions could you offer to universities as a way of helping them to better prepare candidates for administrative positions?
A: Well I would. I'm in the business of preparing youngsters. So I know exactly what I'm doing (hahaha). I would, sometimes I useta think that if you could identify a high school senior and convince or congeal that person to go into the person to go into the principalship. And guide that youngster through the college experience, through specified programs, to help that person develop a keen philosophy of education and them guide the experiences of that person so that they don't have negative experiences or experiences that are rather marginal and then put them through a principal preparation program. Much like what we do today. And the reason I say that you should identify them early is because I think a lot of people get some experiences that really impact their entire life. I think they can be, teach in some marginal schools and their influenced by that the rest of their life. They can also be in some very unimaginative situations. Unimaginative schools, unimaginative staff, unimaginative superiors, and I would say if they didn't have those they might be better people. But I think through a longer training period and more of a controlled training experiences. But I think what we do in our principal preparation program today is the best that I've ever seen in my life. It oughtta be. And I think it works out well. We've turned out some great people. But I guess also that if you get good people, you'll end up with good graduates. So if you're very very selective on who you get, then you'll have very good graduates and very good principals. Or at least effective principals.
Q: Sure. Certainly schools have become larger since your time. In your view what is the ideal school size and its influence on administrative and instructional activities and perhaps design?
A: Well, I've always said that an elementary school ought to be at least 350 at minimum. I've been a principal of one that was 350 and one that was 1,000 and I felt that I worked just effectively at either one. The teachers work just effectively in either one. The larger the school sometimes the more resources that you can accumulate. But I think that there is a minimum at which, should have, but I also know that there are some places throughout the country where you don't have 350 youngsters in elementary school. You have only 100, so you have a school for them. There are also on the upper end some limits. I went to a high school of 3000 youngsters and that might of been too large. I think that there were chances I could slip through the cracks here and there and I did, probable. So I think upper limits are probably more of a problem than bottom ones. There's, if you have a choice, yes on the elementary, I'd say 350. Middle school should be at least 800. And maybe high school at least twelve to fifteen hundred, but all that said and done there are times when... I worked in Philadelphia public schools for eight of nine years and we routinely planned elementary schools, 900 students, every school that we planned was 900. Every middle school was fifteen hundred and every high school was built for 3,000 youngsters because you had to. And all of those schools where put on little small sites. Maybe two acres for an elementary, five acres for a middle school, and maybe if you were lucky you'd get ten acres for a high school. I suspect they do just as good as other schools.
Q: This is the end of side one, tape one. Dr. Earthman could you emphasize some more on the aspect of the design and that influenced schools?
A: I think the small schools have probably the greater problem of trying to educate youngsters because of the lack of resources. I'm reminded of a school that I use as a problem in one of my course. That high school of a 190 youngsters and the community wanted to have that school, keep that school regardless of the program. The program was marginal, there were only thirty courses in the entire curriculum and every youngster could take every course in the curriculum. And it was a marginal curriculum, but I think the problem of trying to make that program a better program is indeed monumental. And outside resources had to be brought in. But in designing schools I think that planners can mitigate against the largeness of schools. For instance, Roanoke County now is considering building a nineteen hundred pupil high school. The option was two small high schools of about a 1,000 each or 900 each. So they are probably going to opt for one large school because of the economies. Now the consultants that they used and suggested that there are ways you can mitigate against the largensons schools. Usually the technique is a school within the school. So you divide the building up into three or four different areas and put in a certain number of students in this one and each of the four different segments of the building. Nicks, called a school within a school or the house concept or anything similar to that. In these schools within the schools or the houses, usually an inner disciplinary team of teachers is housed and they teach probably English, social sciences, maybe even math and foreign languages and some other courses. And youngsters stay in that school and they become identified with it. That school can be either on grade basis: ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth or it can be multi-age or anything like that. Cause you can even go back to the old traditional English house, social science house, and math house, something like that. But that's not quite so popular today. But that's what most of they large schools have gone or at least done at least in the high school. There's a school down in Virginia Beach, I think it's Salem Elementary school, that has sixteen hundred youngsters in it. What they did is take two 800 pupil high schools and put it together with some common support facilities. A common gymnasium, cafeteria, and library and office, so forth and so on. So you end up with sixteen youngsters on one site. The economy that they achieved in doing that is just minuscule compared to the fact that you have sixteen hundred youngsters at one site. Which is just not educationally sound. Now I'm sure when each of those thirty youngsters get in to their individual classrooms. That they don't realize that there are sixteen hundred of them in there. But you can imagine when all of the fourth grade go out on the playground. Why, you've got a mess and it really was not necessary to do that. But sometimes we make decisions in education that on paper appear to save us some money only to have the end result not very satisfactory. The unfortunate part about that is that they are going to live with that for fifty years maybe a hundred years. So what little savings that they did effect are minuscule and probably negative in terms of the, a hundred years of using this school.
Q: Thank you. More and more in recent years school districts are involving students with disabilities in their regular classrooms. Did you have those kinds of experiences with students with disabilities in your time and what are you views on today's trends in this regard?
A: When I first became a principal, no we did not have any differentiation between students with disabilities. I suspect they were not in schools. They were kept at home. But I think during my second or third year as a principal, why we were assigned what we called special education class and that was about seven youngsters with a teacher and we found space for them. Unfortunately, it was in the old building with, in the, what used to be the auditorium. So you know, it was not conducive. But we just did not have a lot of experiences in that and that group of seven or eight youngsters stayed there. Separate from the rest. They did not interact with, in any way, shape, or form and they were kind of an anomaly and they were kindof a unique thing. Ms. Doyle was the teacher and everyone loved Ms. Doyle and thought she was doing a great job. But they were, you know, over there. Most of my life, well all of my life as a principal, that was the way special ed was. We had separate classrooms and we assigned, you know, how severe they were, according to the different classes and then I left the principalship in 1963. So, even down till recent times, why we were still planning schools with separate classrooms for special ed and all of the schools that I helped plan in Philadelphia had rather sophisticated special ed classrooms and spaces in every building. Now that in spite of the fact in Philadelphia they had some extremely sophisticated special ed schools. School buildings devoted to students of varying disabilities. They had one that dealt just with deaf and blind. Had one school for severely handicapped youngsters and then we had one for the orthopedically handicapped. So special schools and students where taken in from the surrounding area and into that. Now, you know, we have a more of inclusion model and I think that probably inclusion really depends on what your definition of it is and there a some applications where it is politically correct thing to do and then there are some applications where it's very rational to do. And I think there are some good applications of it, but there are probably some rather marginal applications where it's the correct thing to do. Rather than a good placement for youngsters.
Q: So that in, do you believe in inclusion? In terms of seriously and emotional disturbed kids who are severe managerial problems for teachers, discipline wise, in terms of affecting regular ed students in the classroom. How do you feel about that. Should they be included in regular classrooms?
A: Well I guess there is a problem and we haven't seen how this will be played out. But there's a problem, I suspect, in how much resources are allocated to a teacher in the regular, the regular teacher in the regular classrooms. If you can use that terminology. If that person is not supported by some very good resources than, I suspect, that there's probably an uneven distribution on her time, his or her time. That's the biggest question mark and I know there'll be some studies on achievement, student achievement in these kinds of classes and so you know it's all a mixed bag. I think the idea of the correct placement of the individual is obviously correct, but then we become sometimes clouded in our thinking as to what that is and when we have a political atmosphere within the schools that, to decide something, then sometimes that takes precedence over what, where the student should be. And grant it an awful lot of special ed students, they should be anywhere else but the regular classroom. Maybe there are some special ed students that ought to be in a better classroom than the regular. Cause they need some things.
Q: OK. Salaries and compensations have changed a great deal since you entered the profession. How does it compare with today?
A: Not very well (hahaha). I think the first position I had as a principal I was making $5,000 and that was probably in 1958 or 7, or something like that. I think that was the Eisenhower years and inflation was just very minimal and I thought I'm set for life now. I've got enough money that I can more than live well and of cause teachers salaries were, they were employing them for $3,600. So when you think about there's been a hundred percent increase. You know, their employing, or a thousand percent, because they're employing teachers now for $34,000 rather than 36. And principals are making $55,000, 60, 70, 80 thousand. I suspect educators are still underpaid today. No matter 50 to $90,000 per principal. I suspect they're still underpaid.
Q: OK. Did they have tenure in your time and continuing contract system for teachers?
A: Right. And we certainly did and that was the first six months I was principal, I became principal in January. So I had to finish out that year and in Colorado it was three years, like it is in Virginia. Three years and you have tenure and there was one teacher there that the principal that I succeeded said that this one should be canned. Just like that. Now he became assistant superintendent of schools, so that was kindof a mandate, so I called in Mrs. Gordan in March and said that we are not going to recommend you for a contract. Just like that. A brand new principal. I'd been on the job for two and a half months and called the teacher and said that. Back there that could stick and she never, she resigned, we gave her an opportunity to resign and the following...
Q: No opposition?
A: No opposition what so ever. Now today why they would have taken me to court and the former principal to the court and we, she would have still been back teaching, I'm sure. So there's good and bad to that. It was always a problem that someone would get tenure, because at that time teachers were to get. I remember employing a teacher the very day, the day before school started. Employing this person because she was breathing and alive and there and willing to work and subsequently I did recommend that she be dismissed at the end of the year. But I had trouble getting descent teachers, period, whether they were any good or not. And so it was a real hard job to get good teachers. But then you often made certain that you didn't want to keep them if they weren't. But the principal's recommendation carried an awful lot more weight then than it does today and principals have to do an awful lot of documenting of teacher activity...
A: Yes, today. Much more so than we did back then. And they have better instruments to do that and better processes and systems for doing that.
Q: In a lot of your references to teachers the gender you used is she. Were there primarily in the....
A: Elementary. Right.
Q: Were there any female principals?
A: Yes, there was. I think, what did we have, we had about eight principals and, elementary principals, and two of them were female. And very good principals, too. Excellent principals. One became the director of instruction.
Q: OK. Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work they have to do. Would you comment on that situation when you were a principal? Did you have a lot of paperwork?
A: Paperwork? Probably not as much as they have today. And, yes, I think that paperwork or the amount of bureaucratic responses that a principal has to have is much greater today than it was when I was principal. Really we, the major problem we had was keeping attendance and making the reports on attendance come out to what they should be. Now that sounds rather juvenile and simplistic, but that was a big problem.
Q: Sure. Sure. Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of educational administration, what would these areas be?
A: That's a tough one. I don't even know if I know if I even know. I don't think the principals job can, probably, changed to much. It's a difficult job, with everyone expecting the principal to be something other than what the principal, him or her believes it should be. And there's probably a lot of unfulfillment on the part of principals, teachers, students, and superintendents, and probably the principal him or her self. I don't know what you can change really. There've been a number of skeems that you would have two principal. One would take care of the administrative aspects and the other would be the instructional person. And that doesn't work out because you have divided administration and that just has never worked out. So I don't know if there, that I can give any great insight into what I would change.
Q: Dr. Earthman, what was your relationship with the superintendent in terms of his general attitude toward you and your school? What was your relationship like with your superintendent as principal?
A: Well, really coulda had a hands off policy on all principals. He felt that if he didn't hear any bad news that things were going well. And that's really the criteria he used to evaluate us I guess. If there was a problem, most certainly would would hear from him. But outside of that I didn't hear from him. I'd get memos that he would send out and communications like that, but...
Q: Where there times where you had to contact him, initiate the contact. What kinds of problems would arrive...
A: Maybe a severe discipline problem or some community aspect of unrest. I probably communicated more with the assistant superintendent that I did with superintendent and I initiated more with the assistant superintendent. So really it had to be very hard, a difficult situation, that I'd contact the superintendent. But I would memo him when anything out of the ordinary happened. So that he would have something on paper. We had a special form for it, it was green, colored green so he would know if a green slip came in, why he should at least look at it. But a kind of a distant one, he wasn't... We had principal meetings, but it was to discuss things that we where to do back in our school. And he never came to visit the schools, never did.
Q: What was the board of education. What was your relationship like with the board of education? Did you have a board of education?
A: Even more distant. There might be once a year that we would see the board. In fact, the superintendent really didn't care to have principals have any contact with the board. He felt he was the contact with the board and that was it. So we had no reason, purpose to contact board members or even go to the board meetings. If we went to the board meeting he'd want to know why are you hear. So...
Q: Do you feel that the board operations were effective, then?
A: I guess they were. The school ran alright, but I do know that principals do go to board meetings regularly now. And I think that's good.
Q: OK. If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job as principal, what kind of advice would you give that person?
A: Just be darn sure you want to go into it. Because it's a demanding field of work and it requires an awful lot of output and not an awful of praise, not an awful lot of enumeration, it's very marginal. They spend an awful lot of time at the buildings doing things. And so you have to want to be, do this. But then the satisfaction, personal satisfaction are very great I think. To be able to work with a group of professionals and to work with students at whatever level. I think it is a very stimulating reward.
Q: What kinds of procedures would you use for screening candidates who wish to become principals?
A: Screen them?
Q: Any thing you'd do in particular?
A: Well I would want to look at some things. Look at their commitment, look at their ability to withstand conflict and unsettled circumstances. But I like, I'd want to determine what their philosophy of education is. I think that's so vitally important, because a person acts according to what they believe. Which is their philosophy. So I think that I'd want to find out what they really believe, concerning how students learn, what the purpose of a school is, and so forth and so on. I'd want to at least look at that.
Q: What are your views on parent involvement in schools?
A: Well I've always been a strong advocate of parental involvement. I think there's been some research done that indicates that schools that have a high percentage of parental involvement, students do better on any measure of success. I think it's a difficult task to get people to be involved. There's just a natural tendency not too. And that of course is greater on the high school level. It's almost and impossibility to get people involved. It's a little easier on the elementary, because they like it. I know a lot of schools have some good volunteer programs going. But that's a lot of work and it's not an easy thing to mount or keep going, especially, because volunteerism is not...people enter into it with a great deal of initial activity and then it peters out and then you have to involve them. But I think it's a needed thing and you have to do it. You have fewer discipline, I think. With a lot of people in the school, I think it does tend to moderate activities of youngsters.
Q: I know we've talked about some discipline before. But when you were principal what forms of discipline where available besides paddling. What could you use...
A: Well the same things they have today. Isolation. You could suspend a student, you could recommend for expulsion if that got that bad. On the elementary level and I think it's very effective that if you bring the parent in and if the child knows that you're going to bring the parent in or can bring the parent, or at least make a contact with the home. I think that is probably the most effective way of doing it. Involve the parent in the discipline of the youngster.
Q: What is your philosophy of teacher evaluations and what was your approach to it basically?
A: Well I think it's a needed thing. But it's a difficult thing. Principals are probably not trained to do it very well and I wasn't either. I evaluated teachers, I probably got my information from classes that I had at the university when I was trying to become certified. So I'd use things that I learned out of the books, really. I'd use the instruments that someone else used. And try to adjust it for local conditions. It probably is no more effective than it was today. Just about the time I'd left the principalship, why Flanagan was starting some of his critical incidents evaluations and supervision and we tried to use some of that and...but I evaluated the teachers whether they were tenured or not and of course those that weren't tenured you had to evaluate for tenure purposes, but those who where tenured I still supervised and I evaluated then. We had conferences after ever visit and at the annual visit too. They weren't probably any better, they probably worse, more primitive than they are today. They probably have better techniques for doing it today.
Q: How did you utilize your assistant principal when you were a principal?
A: Didn't have one.
Q: Didn't have one.
A: Even when I had a thousand pupils. I didn't have an assistant principal. Had a darn good secretary. So we didn't have then in our school system. Assistant principals are probably are more recent vintage, maybe the last ten years. But I never had an assistant principal in any of the schools was principal of.
Q: Should someone who have no assistant principalship experience, but who meet principal certification requirements be assigned a principalship?
A: I know they are. Maybe it might be a personal matter, but I obviously think that if you had at least a year or two as serving under a principal, you'll have much more insight into the principals role than if you just step right into it. I did step right into it and thank goodness they had a good staff there and I didn't do any damage to them. But if I had a year of assistant principalship then....(tape ended)
Q: Dr. Earthman, would you discuss the circumstances leading up to your decision to leave the principalship at the time you did?
A: I had been working on my doctorate for a number of years. I was taking classes part time. At the last year I was principal the school district initiated a policy for sabbatical leaves and they were to offer one sabbatical leave for the next year, the coming year that would have been '63 '64 school year. And I applied and I thought I would go there. I was not chosen, so I decided to go anyway. And I just asked for a leave of absence, which they granted me. So I went to the university and finished my degree there. Spent a year and a half there. Then while I was there I saw that there was a whole bunch of other opportunities open to me that I want to explore so I thought I would take advantage of them and I just resigned without going back. Because I was not paid on my leave of absence, why I didn't owe them anything. The superintendent, he was, he said he thought I was doing the right thing and that it would be a good thing for me to leave. And it's funny, the assistant superintendent for instruction left at the same time I did. So we both finished our doctorates. He had a different institution. And we both left. But I didn't leave because I didn't like the principalship, I loved it and I thought it was great and I enjoyed it very much. I had all intends to come back to the same school and serve out my career there. I had no ambitions to be anything else, but in the university you have a rich environment with a lot of opportunities for doing different things. So I choice to do something different.
Q: Which goes right into my next question. What direction has your career taken and what direction do you intend to take in the future?
A: Well, I'm not going to take much in the future, because I am planning to retire next year. When I was at the university working on my degree, it seemed to me that I would have more influence upon education if I were to help train the leaders. So that's what I wanted to do in my first position after I got my determined degree was to go into the university and teach. And I taught there, I went to the university of North Dakota in Grand Forks and I taught for two years there as director of elementary administration and elementary education. And in following that I excepted the position with the Philadelphia Public Schools in the administrative ranks and spend I think eight years and then came to Tech and I don't regret any of the moves. They were most certainly an advancement in my career. Although I loved every job I had and I would gladly returned but you move on. Now that this is my final year that I be really employed by the university although I'll still work after I retire, after they stop paying me. I plan to finish both students that I've got advising and I plan to finish some things that I want to do as there's a little research that I want to finish up. So I'll be involved with the university here as long as I am physically, mentally able to do and as long as they have a need for me to do some work.
Q: Interestingly, the eight years you served in, where was it, Philadelphia administratively. What was the nature of the administrative position.
A: I was the Assistant Superintendent for school facility planning.
Q: And just in a nutshell what did that involve?
A: Well, I was in charge of those departments that planned new schools. So we had a section or department on site acquisition, selection acquisition. We had a department on planning schools and we had an architecture and engineering department that was actually peopled by architect and engineers who actually helped the architects with it. And then there was an equipment section. So there was about 250 employees that I supervised at that one time. And it was really to build new buildings, plan and design, construct the new buildings and that was a challenging time, a great time to be in Philadelphia. Its a revival.
Q: What was the racial composition of your school like during your time?
A: The original composition?
Q: The racial..
Q: The racial composition?
A: Racial. Where I was a principal? We had no minorities in the...no. It was a very poor area, but we had no racial or ethnic minorities, whatsoever, in my school. And in fact, all of the three schools I was involved, we had some Hispanics but they really had Hispanic names, they were not Hispanic in that they came from outside the country...
Q: So culturally they were Americans?
A: Right. And all they had was Hispanic names and probably even their parents did, were born in America too. But we did get some migrant workers because that was north of Denver and there are some truck farms around there and we get get some migrant workers. But very very few, but it was an extremely poor area.
Q: OK, I have two more questions. In your estimation what are, I'm sure you must have touched on some of these in closing. But what are some of the pros and cons of administrative, what are some things that a person must be on guard of or for as he contemplates administrative work?
A: Well, I don't know what there might be. There's...
Q: I know you eluded to something like you have to work late hours. Just some of the cons.
A: Oh, I see and your life is not your own, really. Your family has to be willing to share you with the school. Because there's a great deal in. And if your in a high school, why, you spend a lot of time there, every weekend you're there at the school. Friday night for some athletic event and Saturday and then if there's some other event you might be there and so it is very time consuming. It's not an easy job, it's a very hard, difficult job. I'm sure some feel that they are working for minimum wage, when they put in sixty hours a week at the school and it takes a toll on the family. But I think that's one thing, the time element. But then also, that you, it's difficult to establish long term relationships with professionals because if you have a large staff you know, you probably administer from a distances more than intimately. And there's always a plethora of people that you are dealing with. And you know, there's research to indicate that the average contact with a principal and another person might be less than four minutes. So it's a constant borough of people coming in your face and asking you questions, wanting something done, or something like this. So you have to be willing to have, at least put up this ambiguity and fluidity of the role. It's not something that you can sit behind the desk and do. It's not something that you can routinely say I'm going to do this, this, and this, and this, this today. Because your day is unplanned for you, if you do. You may, say I'm going to have to get these things done, but what happens in the school may prevent you from doing everything that you've got on your calendar. So you have to be able to accept that kind of interruption into what you are doing, your time is really other people's time and they don't mind interrupting you lunch even, your whatever your doing. Phone calls or anything else, to have a contact with you to get the answer. If they want an answer, where are the textbooks, they want it right now. And then they expect you to do something. So it's high demand, it's a lot of contact, it's long hours, so it's not an easy job. It's not something that you can sit back and enjoy. You can enjoy it, but you don't sit back and enjoy it. You have to like those kinds of things to really go into the principalship. And those aren't negatives, but that's just the way it is. I was visiting one of our graduates down in her school and I, this is probably a little extreme, but then I, the office was just continually full of people doing this that or the other and you couldn't tell who they were. Whether they were faculty, or staff, or parents, or something else, you know. It's just kind of a milling around of things and that happens and you just have to be able to put up with that. And then, you know, when you are the final authority for discipline of, for how people behave then you have to accept a lot of that. You have to straighten out other people's difficulties. And again, that's not easy to do. So not painting a negative picture of the principalship, just the realities of it that you have to be willing to do that and accept all of it. Because if you can't then you really aren't a good candidate for the job.
Q: As an aspiring principal, I'm a person who has no administrative experience, been a school counselor, high school, middle school, a teacher at the high school level and elementary school level. What would you recommend to be my next step in graduating, hopefully with doctorate in administration? What options do you think, what direction do you think I should go knowing that I eventually want to become a principal?
A: Well of course the first thing is the person has to do, is to be able to be certified. If they are then I think you have to find a place where you can...I don't know if you're talking about yourself personally or not...but to a person that is aspiring to be a principal. I would say that you have to find out how people are employed. What are the application procedures? What are required? What materials do you have to furnish the people? Where do you establish a permanent file of your references and experiences? And then what's the most perfishish way of sending out letters of inquiry or finding out where jobs are. At Virginia Tech we don't have a unified source of positions that are open and this is one thing that we have never been able to accomplish. So that, you cannot go to one place and say here are all the principalships open this year. It's more of an ongoing type thing. We get notices and out there on the bulletin board we put out notices right and left. One thing at least with Virginia Tech, we have a networking and often times we can secure jobs for individuals, well not we, we can put a candidate on to the graduate, notify them of a graduate, who has an opening. So this networking has helped out an awful lot of people in our program. And for someone who's in our program, why, that's and additional asset. But some graduating from another institution, why I think, they have to then go through the ordinary process, how you go about it, what paper work you need, and where job announcements might come out. That might mean that you have to be in contact with each school division personnel department. Something like that.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there is probably something I have left out. What have I not asked you that I should have?
A: I don't know. I think you...
Q: Closing remarks.
A: ...rather. Well I would close by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed being a principal. And I, although I was in one school division, I had, and in one level, I had schools that were 350 to 1,000 youngsters and had an awful lot of challenges, I thought. And yet I went home everyday happy, relatively happy, and more importantly I looked forward to going to the job the next day. So it was a particularly pleasing period of my life. With all the problems that we had, with call the limitations that we had, it was still very pleasing for me. It's a rewarding career and I think I might have had some impact on some people there. Maybe not the students necessarily, although, there were some that I can certainly see that they changed in the six years that I was able to be with them. So it's a very rewarding experience, a very trying position that demands a lot from a person.
Q: Dr. Earthman, I thank you.
A: Thank you! I appreciate it.
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