Interview with Joe Finley

February 24, 2000

Albert Harris Intermediate School  

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Q: Good Morning Mr. Finley

A: Good Morning, Thank you for inviting me.

Q: You’re welcome. We’re going to start off this morning with a series of questions, basically about your background as a principal in Martinsville City Schools. Our first question this morning is: Would you begin by telling us about your family background-your childhood interests and development. Basically like your birthplace, elementary and secondary education, and family characteristics, Mr. Finley?

finley audio (Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)

A: Certainly, I was one of four children born to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Finley in Meridan Mississippi. I received my early childhood education during the pre-World War II era, when jobs were few, money was scarce and hard to get and everybody in my family was required to work and/or go to school, do chores at home and attend church and Sunday school. Even though my father had a tenth grade education and my mother finished high school, they made us attend school daily, study hard, get good grades, participate in school activities, and respect and obey all school personnel and adults. My father believed that if we the children wanted something beyond our basic needs, like a musical instrument, skates, bicycle, extra books, etc., we would have to earn the money to buy them. On the other hand, my mother encouraged me to read, read, and read. Even though she couldn’t afford the books, she would borrow them from the white families she worked for. Because of her, I fell in love with reading and read everything I could get my hands on, comic books, Greek mythology, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, etc. As a result of her encouragement and providing reading materials, I made good grades, didn’t have a choice really, and later received two full academic scholarships. One to West Virginia State College and the other to Howard University. About the time I was ready to go to college, America was at war and I was drafted into the United States Army where I served as a non-commissioned officer, which in military terms is a First Sergeant, in the South Pacific for three and one-half years. Following World War II, I attended West Virginia State College in Charleston, West Virginia, where I received a B.S. Degree with a major in Instrumental Music and a minor in Psychology.

Q: Wow, I tell you, that is very impressive. Mr. Finley, would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching. How many years did you serve as a teacher and then as a principal?

A: Oh boy, I’ll have to do some real research here mentally to get into this. I received, as I said before, my bachelor of science degree from West Virginia State College and a Master’s from New York University in both Psychology and Instrumental Music. Then I received, what is now called at Virginia Tech and other schools an advanced degree. At that time it was in collaboration with a college or city school administration and it was called Administrative Degree, and this was worked out with the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for teachers in the Roanoke city area who were interested in becoming school administrators, to participate in a program of that sort involved, took about three and a half years. I have studied at New York University, and of course, the University of Virginia, Patrick Henry Community College, University of Delaware. As far as experience in teaching, during my service in the military I had about six months of working with persons who were interested in reading and things of that sort. Really, it was amazing that they would be in the military and could not read. We had a sort of mentoring program there and I participated in that. The experience along those lines, I think we will be getting into, other years, I was the assistant band director while a student at West Virginia State College. Rather than completing the requirement in four to five years, I tried to do it in three years because I had lost some time, I felt, in the military. So I was the assistant band director there for three years. I left there and went to High Point, North Carolina where I taught music for two years, I was also the music supervisor for the school system’s instrumental music. I became a band director in Roanoke, Virginia which could take up all of your tape if I talked about all of the activities that took place there. I was a full time band director at Lucy Addison High School. But also included in that, I had to work in the Junior High School and five elementary schools in Roanoke. It seemed that every principal, elementary principal and junior high and high school principal there wanted a band program in their school. So being the only music teacher, I had to attend to that kind of request. Then after doing that for 13 years, I ... incendentally, I should go back a bit. My first classroom, and I always like to tell this and I almost missed it, was really teaching third grade for a year in Roanoke. Because I just wanted to get that experience with the young children. That was very interesting to be in the elementary group. And then I became principal at Albert Harris High School. That position presented itself at a point when the principal over here at that time was looking for a higher position. Of course, I had married and had three children at the time. I needed just a little more of that stuff called money to take care of my family while the wife stayed at home with the children. So I decided to look into the principalship here. And so I came and served as principal at Albert Harris and then when the schools decided to desegregate, I went to Martinsville High School as the associate principal. Incidentally, that is another story. As I recall, Martinsville, Virginia and the Martinsville School Systems, was the only system in the United States that had an Associate Principal. We had Assistant Principles all over and we had Associate Professors and titles of this sort at the colleges and universities, but this was the only school that came up with the Associate Principal which meant that the two principals would have equal responsibility, equal salary, and supposedly to be in equal authority, supposed to be. Following that I moved to the Director of Instruction and Assistant Superintendent of Schools from which I retired in 1988.

Q: Thank you very much. Would you talk about the circumstances surrounding your entry into the principalship, in the early years?

A: I touched on that a little bit. As I marched up and down the streets of Roanoke, as a band director, and on the football field during half time shows, and thought about the needs of my family, and persons who were actually making the so called big bucks at that time, after 13 years of that I got a little tired and thought I would sort of look around for something else. Then of course I was encouraged by some very close friends there who kept saying that since you are president of our Teacher’s association here in Roanoke and since you are in this and that, why don’t you look at administration. In fact the Principal over there at Addisons started encouraging me to look around. When the opening came here, I came over for the interview and of course, ended up getting the position as principal of Albert Harris School. So actually the need for more income for my family, the desire to move ahead, the encouragement from friends and of course from family to move on, I decided to move into the principalship.

Q: Sounds good. Would you describe your personal philosophy of education? How did it evolve over the years?

A: My mother, really, instilled in the family the importance, but through all of that she seems to like her son. There were three of us but this one she felt very close to because parents get that way. They pick their favorite children. She instilled in the me the philosophy of learning. That if I could accept the fact that learning was a basic ingredient of living. I will say that again, that learning was a basic ingredient of living and would try to learn something every day that success would not be very far away. Education was just one of the basic ingredients needed to succeed. Not necessarily in the field of education, which was popular at that time because at that time blacks were becoming involved in teaching and becoming administrators at schools, but in the field of your choice. She always told us that everybody deserved the opportunity to be the best that they could and that one should never stop trying to be their best. I admit there were times when I felt that teachers thought I could do it all, but, I could not. I have kept trying to learn as she had taught us. So, my philosophy on that really is that one should never stop learning and one should be the best that he or she can be.

Q: Sounds good. 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 the "good principal."

A: As I started a moment ago, there were times when I felt that teachers felt I could do it all. You will get that feeling as an administrator. Really it gets very lonely up there sometimes. They felt I could be all things to all of them. It did not take me long to realize they were really seeking support when and where needed. They expected me to be a good listener, a good decision maker, a top notch disciplinarian and in some instances, serve as a buffer between them and the students and the parents. A buffer between them, the students and their parents. I really feel that a good principal is one with a whole lot of interpersonal skills. The ability to work with people, period. What they use to call a people person. Good working habits, excellent social skills, being able to do a jitterbug if necessary and a waltz if necessary and be very religious on the other hand. But, able to do all of these things but not overbearing. Be available, considerate, sympathetic, and the ability to admit when he or she does not know something but will say we will look for it together, and to admit and apologize when you are wrong.

Q: Amen.

A: I think those are good habits of a good principal.

Q: Thank you, that sounds wonderful. Cultural diversity is a topic of great interest and concern at his point and 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: In order to really give you background on that I will have to go back into my teaching experience in Roanoke. There were one hundred and fifty youngsters in what we called our main band. I, sort of selfishly, used those kids to help in what I called the desegregation process. Being a good group we worked day and night to receive the credit we got. We traveled all over this country, in particular, areas that were suppose to be so called segregated where they had the colored and white signs. So as a result, taking one hundred and fifty kids into a place where there was colored only signs did not mean a thing to us. We would walk right through it and sometimes leave with the sign in our bus, if necessary. But, this was to introduce young people to the better hotels, the better motels, the better eating facilities, how to travel using of course our own three to four buses that were in the city. The whole idea was to get them to look at this whole thing and what was taking place in America and what they could do to help by being the best that they could. This band was so good until they gave concerts at Abysenia Baptist Church of New York and played for the kings and queens birthdays in Canada. They traveled to places like Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia. Father Devine, a religious figure at that time invited us up for a three day concert for his group, they have been all down south. All of this was part of a plan to bring about change, bringing a close-up view of injustice. When I came to Martinsville, I came as a, well rather as an advocate of some of the leading civil rights fighters at that time and I still had that sort of chip but by talking with older people and people who had been involved in this whole activity I quickly learned that the decisions that would help people to come together where not being made in the streets. The decisions where being made inside the buildings in the meetings. As a result of that, you go in and you compromise and you talk and you do things of that sort. So when we got here to Martinsville, for four years, everything was purely segregated. But at about the same time there was a bond issue being passed to build Martinsville High School, the idea, I guess of being white only. At that time also the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, the state of Virginia was taking some action. So they decided that all children in certain grades would go to this new building. Which was really an advantage over the old way because the black youngsters could not say "here they come to take over our schools and the white youngsters could not say it." They all went there together. At that time I was appointed Assistant Principal because the principal over there had twelve years of experience and I went over there as his assistant. The kids came in, they came in peacefully. I can say at this point Martinsville was able to desegregate their schools without dogs and bats and cans. Sure there were little remarks and statements made but we were able to work with that, we thought, very well. The challenge was to see how peacefully we could do this really. Fortunately in Martinsville we had a number of students both black and white who were determined that they were going to make this thing work and make it work peacefully and that they would choose their friends based on their character and not the color of their skin. The challenges were pretty strong challenges but I think by working together with the community, in fact our biggest problem was not really the children or the students. Our biggest problem was with a few die hards that did not want to give up in the community. It was not just on one side of the track, it was both black and whites. There were blacks who felt we were losing the common touch, the love, the compassion, the interest of our black youngsters who were taken into this situation. There were of course whites who just felt that desegregating the school was not the thing to do at that time.

Q: Would you discuss your participation in handling the Civil Rights situation (integration) and describe your involvement with busing? You have alluded a little bit onto that with your traveling with the band.

A: I think in my previous remarks we discovered how we felt about buses. We got our own buses. We rented buses and we paid for them to travel all over so my kids were not subjected to back seats and things of that sort as I had been as a youngster. They sat wherever they wanted. Being involved, several things happened in the Roanoke area that almost caused me not to get the position over here, because as I said before, I was young enough and crazy enough I guess to think that things were being successful in the streets with the Rap Brown types and things of that sort. I marched and I carried signs, and I sat in and I went into places that said colored only and white only, and sat in the white only areas, all of those kinds of things. When I got here I was told by the superintendents that I was the best qualified person interviewed, we have had ten applicants for this job and you are the best and we would like to have you. One thing we must make clear, we checked your civil rights record, we have nothing against that. The only thing we found a problem with, it is going to be difficult for us to sit in a school board meeting and say to the school board, that you as an individual need more money and they could look out the window and see you marching around the building with a sign saying "Down with the school board. We were able to compromise and work through that and concern .

Q: That is good because you definitely need money to support yourself.

A: And as far as the other involvements, really leading up to the desegregation of Martinsville High School there were parents, there were organizations, we met at night, we exchanged concerts and programs. We played sports against each other in different gyms at night only to keep peace while we were doing it. But, we promoted those. When I was principal over here, we would take our kids over to the Martinsville High School. We would have conferences and workshops. Let them get used to each other. Choir, concert exchanges, and finally we worked around mixing some of the groups and that was our so called involvement.

Q: That is good that you were mixing some of the groups early on so that they can get used to each other. Okay, a little turn on questions here. Let’s look at standardized testing. There are those who argue that standardized testing can provide a way to improve instruction. Please discuss your experience with such testing and provide us your views on its effect on the quality of the instructional program.

A: Okay, personally I think the standardized test will always be with us, whether we want it or not, let’s get that up front. Its effect on improving instruction will always be debatable. We still debate those issues. There are those who say yea and those who say nay. My arguments, both pro and con, have been in the areas of the surveys during the development of all tests. Not just standardized, but all tests. Who makes these tests? Where is the information gathered. Are the tests being given to children in which the information is gathered. For example, a child in Martinsville would not know how oranges grow in Florida unless he has gone there. So you put a picture on there or you ask a question about it, and he has only gotten his from the stores or from the few books he has read. He is lost. I debate on the gathering of that information, on the so called teaching to the test. Should we, should we not, teach them about the tests. Teaching to it and teaching about it are 2 different things. Administering the tests, who administers and for what purpose. What are they going to be used for, we say one thing and then you use them for something else. The media will grab it and turn it into something else. So, I frankly think if it is used right or if they are used correctly, that they could help to improve instruction but there are a lot of questions still related to standardized testing.

Q: I will have to agree with you on that. Could you describe your work day. That is, how do you spend your time? What is the normal number of hours per week you put in?

A: Well, my work day started at approximately 7 o’clock in the morning daily. There was no coming in at 8 like the big shots, or the 9, or the 10. Before 7 or 7, no later. It ended around 10 p.m. daily and sometimes later. Most of the time go back on Saturday, sometimes Sunday afternoon, depending on the scheduled activities. Now, why? It is because I spent most of the day as the principal in the classrooms and in the halls. Today I still feel the effect of that as I come into this building and teachers will say, "Oh, there is Mr. Finley." I am known because I stayed in the halls and in the classrooms. I felt that this was time well spent. Teachers felt comfortable when they would see me. They would not run and duck behind the doors. They would come out in the hall and grab me and say come on in. I learned the names of the students, because somewhere back there I discovered that, early on, the students respected you more when you could call them by name. And I can give you a couple of examples of that. Some of that time I spent at night was studying year books, looking at faces and names and putting the two together so tomorrow when I saw Johnny and he had done something the night before in basketball or in a concert or program, Johnny you did great last night. He would look around, how did you know my name? Or it could work the other way. If we were having an assembly I could look out over that auditorium and find where the noise was coming from I would say "Mary, would you get those kids quiet around you because I know you are not talking." And it would work. She would say, "He knows me." I found out that I felt was time well spent by spending time during the day in the classrooms and in the halls and going back on Saturdays and Sundays studying those year books. I spent a lot of time with the kids really. This is difficult to believe but I received a letter yesterday from a young lady who wants me to counsel her daughter. This was somebody out of high school right after the 70’s over at high school when she was a student there in ‘74, but she wants to send her daughter over to our house so that I could talk with her about some problem. So I just feel that you should put in as many hours necessary to get the work done, because you really are a servant of the people, and if not for the children, and the parents, they wouldn’t need you as a principal. So there were no time limits put on our time. I enjoyed what I was doing. I spent a lot of time doing it.

Q: I think you served well. Would you describe some of the pressures you faced on a daily basis and explain how you would cope with them? Describe your biggest headaches or concerns on the job. Describe the toughest decision or decisions that you had to make.

A: That’s a good question, a very good...

Q: An in depth question.

A: I tell you. I think supporting the teachers was a challenge, pressure, a commitment. Very difficult, because a lot of times teachers were not always right. But they wanted that support, whether they were right or wrong. Parents felt that they were always right too. And in most instances, the students were going to convince you that they were the ones who were right. So this was a real thing, the difficulty seemed to be involved in making teachers aware that they too can make mistakes. And that little Johnny cannot always be punished the way teachers want him punished. I felt that once a teacher brought a student to me that that teacher had done all that she could do. That she had talked to the parents; she had researched the kid’s records; she had talked to the guidance counselors; had tried A to Z kinds of techniques to work individualized instruction; work with him after school, before school, whatever. So when she walked into the room with little Johnny saying "He’s yours", I felt real weird when they would also tell me how they felt that child should be punished. "You should send him home, or you should have his parents...". He’s mine now. You brought him to me. Give me an opportunity to see if I can work with his problem, because I always thought that there was a solution to every problem. It would give me a opportunity to work with him. But that was one of the biggies that I had. And another was encouraging the teacher to keep the monkey on his or her shoulders as long as possible before getting him to jump on mine. What I meant by that, I was telling a story in my early years of an administration when a teacher or parent or student walks into a room and say, if the student says or the teacher says or a parent says "Mr. Finley, I have a problem", the monkey is still on that person’s shoulders. But if they say, "Mr. Finley, we have a problem", and you lean forward and say "what’s our problem?", old monkey leans forward and says here I come. He’s ready to jump on you.

Q: I’m going to have to use that one some time.

A: If you say, "Well, let me see what I can do about it", who’s got the problem? You’ve got another monkey on your shoulders that you’ve got to get rid of. So it feels uncomfortable, but that was a very, very...very, very true thing that took place. We handled those as well as we thought we could by making the teacher and the parent and the student a part of the decision at the end of a conference for whatever problem you might have. That worked pretty good. We all can become involved in it, and I do believe in giving youngsters an opportunity to express themselves even though I give full support to the teachers, I want to get the youngsters’ version. That caused a problem.

Q: Yes, I am experiencing a little bit of that now. Would you tell us the key to your success as a principal? I think you touched on that a little bit already.

A: I always felt that first of all you have to have strong faith in God. My old man would pull out two sections from the Bible that he would recite I think they were from Proverbs, and he would always say, "Boy, trust in the Lord with all of thine heart and lean not unto thy own understanding." And I would say what the heck is he talking about. As I got a little older, I realized that man was smarter than I thought as a youngster. He was very smart. So that and continuous learning, of course my family’s support, a wife to stay home with the children, as I tried to work in the school system, and of course later on when she worked in the school system. That was really pressure, let me turn that back a little bit. She was a teacher in my school when I was principal here and in Martinsville High, she was physical ed teacher. My children were in my school. Those were some pressures.

Q: I would say so. So, they allowed for that, that was okay?

A: At that time, later on they began to change that because problems would come out of that. Then, I think treating others the way I would like to be treated. You will probably hear me say that two or three times during this interview but I thought that was very important to try to treat people the way I wanted them to treat me. Then, continuous improvement of interpersonal skills. You never learn enough of those. How to deal with people, get along, get them to smile, get them to cheer up, or whatever, and a strong belief that there is an acceptable, I like to use that word - acceptable - solution to every problem. I actually feel that. There are people out there this morning talking about elections. There is a solution to that problem for the handicapped to get into this building. So I was determined I was going to stand there and listen until we worked it out and we did.

Q: Great, sounds like a success there.

A: It was.

Q: Okay, what suggestions would you offer to universities as a way of helping them to better prepare candidates for administrative positions? Comment on weaknesses in traditional programs of training for administrators.

A: I am going to do this very quickly because that is a, I do not know where you got that from but that is a real touchy question. Debra, you got me there. No teacher, or professor or university or learning institution, none of these groups like to be really criticized unless it is a very, very positive type of criticism. Your question is touching on that so I do have a quick suggestion on that. Very quickly and to get down to the nitty gritty on what I feel here, having gone through some of those courses. I think what they offer is great. I think the theory, the background, history of it, studying the educational courses. I sometimes felt that I know you must have a foundation of where you begin in order to move ahead. But, sometimes I felt that too much time was being spent on the little red school house and what happened way back there in those days and the theory of the socratic method they had of teaching those courses, I thought it was disturbing particularly when you are anxious to get out there and you run into all kinds of different situations when you go into the schools, actual happenings. I would like to see more emphasis put on disciplinarian areas. By pantomiming the disciple problem during these classes and suggesting solutions. For example, how do you handle a youngster who has just broken one of the school rules. Do some pantomiming on that and let the students in those college classes act the roles. I would like to see continuous work in the area of the so called special youngsters. What do you do with a gifted youngster who is in your class. He is just as much to me a handicapped person as a physically and mentally handicapped person who has been testing and proven to be such. If a gifted child, I have always felt, is not found right individually with individualized instruction, that child could be the biggest problem in the classroom setting and can be the biggest handicapped person in there. More classes with how to get along with all people, special ed youngsters, minorities, how to work with scheduling, more work on scheduling because these are things you will run into when you walk into that office, organizing the student parental groups, sharing of the administrative duties with the same amount of authority. You see, principals very quickly say John you go and do this and they do not give John the authority to get it done. More about what we call community school or instead of the legal (we need the legal), but we also need to know what goes on in their communities, what people expect. Those kinds of things are very important. So sure, we need budgeting and the other courses, psychology courses, sociology and all of that. I am thinking here of down to earth, you might even survey to determine what these are, but down to earth kinds of things that principal is going to see the first time he or she walks into that school and into that office and little Johnny is standing there at the door, maybe with a little runny nose and maybe a little spot on his arm or something, and you have got to solve that problem. What I called actual events, maybe the professor of some of these schools do not have that right on hand but you can get it. That is the kind of thing is what I would look at as weakness in the traditional way. Just do a lot of reading and do this and do that. Let’s just get down to the nitty gritty and give them some real experiences.

Q: Okay, what is your view on the "mentoring" program for new administrators, in which an experienced administrator is paired with a neophyte. What experiences have you had with such an approach? Was there a mentor in your life?

A: I do not know if I am lucky or not lucky because I have not been involved in an administrator mentoring program. I have been right on the job and told, you do that. I personally feel that mentoring can be very valuable if handled properly. I have always felt that a good mentor wants to help the person he or she is mentoring. I see that in my every day work now in the community. We have some mentors out here that go for the media purpose, or the publicity. Little Johnny or Mary are right where they are when they first started. I do not look at that as real mentoring. When you mentor, you should take into consideration the individual weaknesses and strengths of the people that you are mentoring. Not just, I did not turn in my homework last night, will you help me with this, but what are the weaknesses and what are the strengths. You must want to do this. Mentoring should work also as an administrative type of thing. As I said earlier and you got a good laugh out of it, when I came on the job, I opened the door and the superintendent said "It is all yours." That was my training. You can take off right now.

Q: Hopefully now it is a little better, okay. I am looking forward to seeing it. Okay, It is often said that the principal should be active in community affairs. Please discuss your involvement with and participation in civic groups and other community organizations. Which community organizations or groups had the greatest influence?

A: It is going to be difficult to pick out one of the many that I can tell you about here. They all seem to be interwoven somehow and they have always meant something to me and I guess that is why I give the time. If it involves youngsters, if it involves young people, there is a certain happiness that I seem to get out of dealing with youngsters.

Q: Like a bond?

A: The biggest problem I had when I left the classroom was missing my students. In fact the day that I left I think all of us cried. I cried and they cried. Really this is the truth. We were having a graduation exercise in Lucy Addision High School, our band was playing for that exercise. Right in the middle of it the principal announced that I had signed a contract to become principal at Martinsville. First there was applause from the audience and then the kids started crying, some of the teachers started crying and then the parents just stood up and let loose and I joined them. We all cried. Really, I like kids, even now I have one or two who stop by and they call me their best friend and we talk and chat and go on. Some of these organizations and activities. Being a teacher in Roanoke, I was president of the Roanoke Teacher’s Association. I was a member of the executive board of the Virginia Teacher’s Association, district chairman for the Blue Ridge Boy Scouts. I was on many boards, board of directors, Big Brothers, mental health, Virginia secondary school principals and the first black appointed chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission for the state of Virginia, Governor Holton, at that time appointed me to serve in that position. Trustee at my church, at the hospital here in Martinsville, the Virginia Counsel of Administrators. I could go on and on there. There are a number of them, as you will check later on my vita that I have been involved in. As I said, they all mean a whole lot. I think, again, working with the youngsters. In fact just recently, three nights ago I was invited by a group in Roanoke to be one of the persons honored for having contributed more to youngsters in the valley. There were eight of us there and I felt real honored to come back after having left there some thirty years ago, to be called back and remembered for something I did thirty years ago.

Q: That is great they remembered you.

A: They remembered and I felt really good about that. Which had the greatest influence, I do not really know. I think they were all a part of the development.

Q: Sounds like you have a wealth of professional organizations there and I applaud you for that.

A: Thank you.

Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of evaluation?

A: Very simple. My approach to teacher evaluation was to inform the teachers in the development of evaluation procedures. Involve them in making up the evaluative sheet itself, the form. Thinking all of the time how would I like them to evaluate me. Should I be a part of this.

Q: Okay, yes. What goes around comes around.

A: Comes around, that day is going to happen. I always felt that the overall theme of evaluation for not just administrators but teachers and for youngsters should be to improve. Not to dismiss or put down, but to say we found a weakness here and let’s work together on it and see if we can improve on that area. Basically that was the philosophy that I used in teacher evaluations. I tried to encourage teachers to do that in student evaluations, of course it was not accepted all of the time. As one teacher said to me, "You know, you are in a different position than I am. In my room there are three answers to every question." I would look at them in a strange way and say well what are they. " Well, there is a wrong answer of course, there is the correct answer of course, and then there is my answer, what I want to hear."

Q: Yours is suppose to be the right answer.

A: If you are using that for improvement I will accept it and if not, I have a question.

Q: Well after answering this question I almost feel embarrassed to ask you this one. Would you discuss teacher dismissal and your involvement in such activities?

A: It had to be dismissal as a last resort. It has to be very flagrant and law breaking and things that the community could not afford, the teaching profession could not afford, and actually the teacher involved could not afford. It was that kind of thing that dismissal was concerned with me.

Q: What, in your view, should be the role of the Assistant Principal. Discuss your utilization of such personnel while on the job. Would you describe the most effective assistant principal with whom you had opportunity to serve? What became of this individual?

A: Boy, that is a long question.

Q: Yes, it is. According to your background you have served as an Assistant Principal.

A: I feel that the role of the Assistant Principal should be the right and left hand of the Principal, basically. As my assistant here at Albert Harris I looked upon as my right hand and my left hand, to share in every phase of the school program and he or she should not be a full time disciplinarian. Let me say that again, Assistant Principals should not just do discipline. They should share in the entire school program. The person should be preparing to become a principal really, by assisting the Principal and doing some of the things that the Principal normally would do. I do not think I would want an Assistant Principal who just wanted to be an Assistant Principal. If he or she is not interested in moving ahead by sharing my responsibilities and authority, can’t leave that out, I don’t think I would want them. I want a person who, as I said before, not just my right hand, not just my left hand, but both. Stay with me in all of the good things, the bad things, evaluations of teachers. Going to the classrooms like I would go to the classrooms, everything that I would do to make the program a success, curriculum building, writing handbooks, laws, rules. I feel the Assistant Principal should be a part of that.

Q: I would have to agree with you there with my little bit of experience, as an Administrative intern.

A: Let me tell you about the one that we had once, not under me, at the school in Roanoke. You asked what became of the individual. The one that I worked with here in Martinsville went on to become Principal, he was my assistant when I was at Albert Harris, of the Martinsville Junior High School and actually the first black Principal, full time Principal, of Martinsville High School. He was my assistant here. See when I was over there I was over there as an Assistant Principal and when I left there I came here as Director of Instruction for the city school system. I was promoted from that position upward and he moved in as Principal.

Q: Who was that?

A: That was Clyde Williams.

Q: Oh, Mr. Clyde Williams, yeah.

A: He was my assistant here at Albert Harris for the four years that I was here. When we desegregated the schools, and when we went there, I went over as the Assistant Principal, he was at the Junior High as the Assistant Principal. For the next two or three years that is where we remained. Then I was promoted from there to Director of Instruction here at the Central Staff Office. He then went in as Principal at Martinsville High School. So that is what happened to my assistant. I felt good about that because when I came here Clyde was Athletic Director, football coach, here at Albert Harris. When I came as Principal, they appointed him to serve part time in sports, athletics, and part time as Assistant Principal. Two weeks into the Principalship into the school, I had a meeting with our school board to let them know I could not handle this alone. I need a full time Assistant Principal. They appointed him full time Assistant Principal. Using this theory, when I am gone, this school is suppose to go on, and you are here. That is the way we worked. As a result of that he was able to leave from here and go, when I went over, as Assistant Principal at the High School when I went over. When you had asked what happened to him, that is what happened to him.

Q: I am glad to hear that because I know Clyde Williams. That is a piece about him that I didn’t know. In recent years more and more programs for special groups of students (LD, Gifted and Talented, Non-English speaking) have been developed. Please discuss your experience with special students services and your views on today’s trends in this regard.

A: Oh boy, right into my area. You thought that was strange, I will get him on this question. Here is the strange part. I came here as Director of Instruction, promoted me to Director, the first black really in the Central Staff Office. I stayed in there for four or five years. At the same time the Superintendent was retiring they brought in a fellow from Connecticut to be Superintendent. He felt that rather than the Director of Instruction position that we needed someone who could fill up our so called special education program. At that time, public law 94-142 was being passed by the Federal Government, that is all of the schools you must provide programs for special youngsters. You must have handicapped ramps. They had all of these things spelled out. You must have individualized programs, you must have qualified teachers in special ed, gifted and talented, LD, the emotionally disturbed, all kinds. We had to have all of those. But, the Martinsville City School System had one program, the Learning Disability Program. All other handicapped special children in Martinsville were sent to the county schools. They did the job for us. When this man came down from Connecticut, he said I am going to give you a real challenge. We are going to see if you can develop that program as a part of the Instructional Program in the city of Martinsville. I could tell you, and Joan could tell you, and others could tell you of the progress we made in those areas. We started with one LD teacher and about twelve youngsters. When I left that field, to show involvement, we had four hundred and fifty special ed youngsters and over twenty-seven teachers in special ed, trained in those special areas. We had school psychologist, we had a psychiatrist, we had nurses, we had guidance counselors, we had people in special ed that we brought in here to build that program up to that point. Actually, the involvement was very real. We had weekly special ed meetings in which parents were involved. We had advocacy groups organized in the community to support us. Our budget for special education was about a third of the budget for the school system a few years later. So, involvement in that, that was a job I really appreciated. To see a group go from one teacher to twenty seven and to discover through testing and through working with the community, with the federal and state governments, we had four hundred and some youngsters here that needed help and we were able to help them.

Q: Sounds like you were the father of Special Education. I tell you, you provided a lot here.

A: Joan and others can tell you that the program flourished and was due to their interest and parents. The hardest part really of this whole thing was getting parents to realize that this was not a negative kind of thing. That bringing little Johnny out of the so called closet because he did not learn as quickly as others, or because he had a physical handicap, or because he was emotionally disturbed or something, was not something to hide. That was the biggest problem. We would tell the teacher or nurse to go out where we heard that this youngster was being kept in a back room. We would almost have to fight the parents. After a while these parents realized, hey that group is trying to help us. Then they started coming out of the woodwork. The more they came out the more we found them and we got good teachers. The thing that I liked at that time was The Martinsville City School, I understand Dr. Trollinger is doing it now, I don’t know. The Martinsville City School system would send teachers back to school to get certified in these special areas. If they were willing to teach and work, they would send them back and pay for it with tuition.

Q: That is right, they still do that.

A: That is great. That started back with us because I said okay you want us to give you special teachers, you want us to do this. It was not easy. I was fortunate in that I had a school board member, Bill Edwards that you heard me mention who saw these programs in other schools eventually because he worked for a company who sold year books and rings and things and he traveled all over the country. He saw these programs. We would sit and talk about them. So, the special ed area, I can talk for hours about that.

Q: I will have to do another interview.

A: That was an area that I was very, very fond of.

Q: A little change here. Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucratic complexity with which they are forced to deal. Would you comment on the situation during your administrative career and compare the problems you encountered with your perceptions of the situation at this time.

A: Let me say up front, the paperwork goes with the job of an administrator. I will repeat that. The paperwork goes with the job. There is a little saying that the job is not done until the paperwork is done. As I said earlier, I tried to handle each item once. Whether it was paperwork or a real problem or whatever. Try to do it and get it off of your desk. If you have to stay overnight to handle it try to get it over with. The requirements for being a Principal, they give you this, you must have training in psychology and scheduling and bookkeeping and finance and you know all of the courses that go along with this. I had a crazy definition or requirement for being a Principal and that was that you must be certified and qualified to do the job and crazy enough to take it. You knew all of these other things were going to be involved. The solution, again, I think, and it is not the only answer but get your Assistant Principal involved with you in that paperwork right along with you. Make your secretary an important person in that office. Up front, I should have said at the beginning of this interview, a good Principal, a successful Principal is nothing without a good secretary and staff. If they do not wake up and realize that. You cannot function successfully as an administrator without a good secretary. She can serve or he can serve, whichever, as a buffer, as a record keeper, working with the paper work, even helping with the discipline, going to the classrooms to work with teachers. That secretary to me is just as important as anybody in that school system because they can do the job. But, you learn to cope with the paper. I can tell you that you must have the feeling to put in extra time. Try to get your reports out on time, they are important. Time has been an important forte throughout my life. Somebody asked me the other day what was your inspiration for becoming an educator or becoming a success and I said to them, this was on a Saturday, my inspiration was in the form of a switch and a leather shaving belt.

Q: Positive reinforcement.

A: Positive reinforcement. You were taught about time. As Joan and other will tell you I am still known as a time nut. If you said three, it is three. If you say four- I left students going on tours in the schools because they were not there at four o’clock or three o’clock, whatever time you were suppose to leave. I had two superintendents who were angry with me for quite some time, until they found out I was a nut for starting programs on time. If they told me to start at three or start at eight. As Director of Instruction I was responsible for teacher training during the preschool days, preschool conferences. I was told to start that program at eight o’clock. At eight o’clock we started, whether the others were there or not. Sometimes the superintendents would come in very upset because the program had started.

Q: Would that be because they were late? Just wanted to add that in there.

A: At that time there was a lot of paperwork. Public law 94-142 was coming into effect. Civil rights laws had been passed. You must fill out all of these things for HUD and HUGH and all of those. You must give reports on your black and white relationships, students and numbers. A whole lot of paperwork. Some of it I perceived to be very important and others I thought was just put here, just put here. I will leave it at that, not as a waste of time but just put here.

Q: Would you describe your relationship with the Superintendent in terms of his general demeanor toward you and your school?

A: In one statement. When I first became a Principal, the Superintendent was a dictator and a proponent and strong advocate of separate schools for blacks and whites. I do not want to lose my voice but still want to make it sure that was understood. He was a dictator and proponent and strong advocate of separates schools for blacks and whites. He told me what to do, and you heard that earlier, and when he wanted it done. As long as efforts were not made to infringe upon his philosophy and his beliefs, his demeanor was pleasant and polite. But being black and a fighter for equality and civil rights, he and I clashed and were involved in many confrontations and compromises. It turned out to be never a dull moment.

Q: It sounds like it.

A: He was sort of sorry, I think, that he had encouraged me to come here because he often encouraged me to leave. He would say you are doing your job educationally and academically, but you carry a sort of chip on this racial thing. He often told me that black had not been considered until I brought it up. I often reminded him that I do not see how I could change from that. I am still who I was when I came here. I still wanted equality for all youngsters because of that overriding feeling that every person, student, adult should be given the right to be the best that he or she can be. That is all I was asking for. So, the demeanor and confrontation, we got along fine. For the few years I understood him and he understood me but we confronted each other quite often. Then in came the fellow from Connecticut, what did I call him, a carpet bagger when he first got here. I said to him the first day we met, I said I know the history of the carpetbaggers and their journeys to the south. I lived in New York for thirteen years. I know how we lived there and what goes on. I said, but I will give you this, as long as what you do (Joan and them heard me say this because it was in one of these meetings), as long as what you do is for the benefit of all youngsters and all teachers in the Martinsville City School System, I will make you the best Superintendent that ever came through this school system. As long as you do that. As long as you can show me in your actions and your decisions that what you are doing is for the benefit of all children and all teachers I will work my heart out for you. That is the truth. So, as a result of the last years when I was promoted to Assistant Superintendent, he turned the school system over to me. He said with your ideas and what is going on you are right. He said we will work together. It was like I felt about my Assistant Principal, this is the way he worked with me. We worked well together. I know he does not get along right now with certain people in the system but he and I worked well together. The demeanor was great because he realized every time he got ready to do something that I was going to ask is this for the benefit of the children.

Q: Principals operate in a constantly tense environment. What kinds of things did you do to maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions?

A: Well, I am not sane.

Q: I like that question don’t you?

A: Oh yes, because I am not saying I was sane all of the time, because of some of the things. But, really we sponsored a number of activities with our teachers being involved with our students. We are not just talking about the Junior/Senior Prom. We had activities during the day in which we would go out and get gobs and gobs of people and have a pizza party with teachers and students. It was nothing just to sit around and talk and eat pizza. We would invite our college graduates back from school to tell of their experiences to the students and what they felt were the weaknesses in our curriculum and our program. I felt that this was not only relaxing but was helpful to remove some of the pressures and challenges. Then of course, I had a whole stack of good hobbies. I liked photography and I still do. Fishing is my real good thing. I love to sit out on a creek or river or ocean and just sit there, don’t catch anything. My real hobby is listening to jazz, classical, western, just listening to music and have gobs of records. We had what we called a record club at the school for a while in which the kids were encourages to bring their own records and we would sit after school and play some of these with our student groups. We would sit around and listen to music and discuss things. In order to rectify what could lead you to be insane, and we would come up with these little buffers to do little things to maintain sanity. I guess I am still sane, I don’t know. Sometimes the way I act around people I wonder. My wife asked me, "Are you okay?" But it can be very stressful. I can tell you. There was an area during this interview that it is very lonely up there. A lot of your friends become acquaintances. I don’t know if it is envy or what but it gets lonely. So you do relaxing things to get away from those pressures.

Q: From the tension. 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: Interpersonal skills, being able to laugh at yourself. If a joke is told on you or you do something funny, laugh at yourself. Laugh at others and with others. Let them know that you area a human being. I pride myself on that. I have been told by Dr. Trollinger that I can move into a setting and in a few minutes break up the whole stiffness of the things. I have been able to do that over the years and actually put people at ease. I think that is a skill that you keep building on and acquire. The ability to not embarrass while offering suggestions or corrections. For example, I will not accept criticism for the sake of criticizing.. Not for me, not for my teachers and not for my students. Have something in mind to suggest to replace that. Even if it is not as good. Don’t just say I do not think it is right. Well why not, give me a reason for it or suggestion on how to improve in that area. Put downs, I don’t put people down, I think that is a strength. I don’t know where I got that from, it could have been from the switch or the razor belt that I mentioned earlier, but I was told never to put people down. Looking for a light at the end of every problematic tunnel. Really looking and seeing the light at the end of that tunnel. I think you look for that light, if a problem comes up, I can just feel it, it can solve it. Someone asked me over at the school house, it was at the Martinsville High School and this kid was yelling in the hall. I was going to visit a teacher. I said, hey, hey, hey, hey, lets have it quiet. The teachers got real quiet and turned and looked at me and the youngster got quiet and walked on down the hall. The teacher turned to me and said that little kid did not even know you. What would you have done if he kept on yelling. I said I don’t know, I probably would have had a heart attack because I expected for him to be quiet when I said hey, hey, hey and he did. I said I don’t know what I would have done. It was not an embarrassing situation. I think the ability to work with youngsters in a way that they want you to correct them, want your help. I think I have that. I am not going to sell it either.

Q: I cannot take that from you for my future?

A: No, I don’t think I am going to put that on the market. That is something that I think you acquire. I look upon that at as a strength, really.

Q: I think that is a good strength too, definitely. Would you give us an overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service, and any advice you would wish passed along to today’s principals? For instance, me.

A: There is a good feeling when you succeed in an area. Working with teachers and watching your graduates strut across the stage in high school and college and receiving little letters a little later on. I would like to have a thousand dollar bill in the letter, but you settle for the letter of how much I appreciate what you did for me. Sometimes you get other little things. I received a letter 2 days ago from a former student of mine who is now an administrative assistant in U.S. Airways. In this letter, just to say thanks to you for what you did for me, two upgrades whenever you decide to travel U.S. Airlines. Just present these and you can be upgraded from wherever you are to first class because I know they are still paying you a little salary. He did not know I retired.

Q: I like that one, that one I could deal with.

A: I think that the good feeling that you get from helping. I think the feeling that you get also from pay. The buck stops here but I can also lead the charge to improve this. If I just sit here and do nothing it is going to stop here and it is going to be a problem. The feeling that you do have some authority to change, to make a change, to change things. As I said before, one of the cons of the thing, the negative part of the thing is that it is lonely a lot of times.

Q: At the top.

A: At the top. When you are a teacher, even a student or parent, you have got all of these friends, you call them friends. They are around you. You are working together, you are doing things together, socializing together and then all of a sudden they say hey Joe we are going to make you a Principal. Something happens, a gap. I think first of all it happens to you yourself. You say now how am I going to handle this when this problem comes up with my best friend. For example, before I left Roanoke the superintendent there had told me that when you go to Martinsville, when I was trying to get released to come here. You go for two years. After two years I am coming over to get you because I want you to be Principal, and now this was an all white school, of Patrick Henry High School. He said I am going to put you there because I think you have the mentality, you have this degree that you have gotten from University of Virginia. I have been working with, all of these things, I am coming after you. I thought it was just a statement. Two years later the Superintendent here called me into his office and there was the Superintendent from Roanoke sitting there. He said we have been talking and I have asked him to release you to come to Roanoke because I made you a promise and we are going to make you Principal of Patrick Henry High School. He said I want you to think about it before you say no. We just feel that you can do it. You know he hates to see you go but he will release you, this was that other man. He will release you. I said well, could you and I step outside for a moment. I have a couple of questions. I have three questions I want to ask you at this time. He knew, he said oh here we go. I said now as you know I worked at Addison High School as a teacher, with teachers, for thirteen years. Will those teachers be in the school you are going to send me to? He said, "Why?" I said that is going to be a problem. It is going to be difficult for me to use the same techniques with them that I use with people I do not know. Why did you say Patrick Henry when you haven’t even desegregated your schools yet. He said "I’m sorry, did I say that?" I said yes sir I believe you did. I meant I want you to be principal of Addison’s. This was still an all black school. He said it must have been slip of the tongue because in two years I am going to move you up to Patrick Henry, but right now I am going to move you to Addison’s and give you that taste of it over there. I said then that my question becomes more important. The faculty at Addison’s, will the be distributed throughout the school system or all remain in the all black school? He said we have not desegregated our schools yet so they will all be there. Your answer is that they will be there? He said, "Yes." I said, number two - will the schools be desegregated in the next two years? He said that we are working on it. Okay, that is the answer, they are working on it. number three - what is the salary? The salary that he was offering me was $1000 more than I would have been making here in Martinsville. You take into consideration moving, trying to find a place to live, assuring my wife of a job, those kinds of things. So, I turned it down. That was sort of a pro con type of thing in that situation moving up there. You have so many other things. And another is, and this is very interesting, I think. I was a band director who was interested in what? Band. You did not touch my band, you did not hurt them. They travel all over this country. They were my heart and soul. I spent more hours with them than I did with my family. We worked on Saturdays and Sundays all day because these kids had made up their mind they were going to be the best in the world. I had to go with them on that. As a result of this, when I became a Principal, guess what class I went to first to observe?

Q: Of course the band, the band room.

A: I was told very quickly by a guidance counselor here that you are no longer a band director here. You have now a whole school to observe and to consider.

Q: I can understand that, that was where your heart was at that time.

A: I know, but you lose that. You lose that contact with the students. That is one of the cons. You run into these schools to say "Hi Mary. Hi John." The second year after I left high school to come up to central staff, I had to go back over there for a program. The rooms would empty. Mr. Finley, come over here, kids came out. "Get back in your class." Kids coming up and down the halls the kids just greet you.

Q: That is a good feeling, isn’t it?

A: Oh it was good, those are the good feeling you get. That might be able to be your pro and con. Of course, the money is better.

Q: Oh yes, financially you have to consider that.

A: Financially you have to consider that along the line. Then you are in contact with what I call the decision makers. Principals and superintendents on that level have to work together. So that is a pro. So there are a number of goodies and there a number of negatives.

Q: Please discuss your style of personal management; that is, what approaches you employed that contributed to your effectiveness as a manager.

A: I felt toward the teachers the way I did toward my own Assistant Principal. If Mary Doe was in that classroom, as far as I was concerned Mary Doe was a teacher, the manager, the momma, the poppa, the daddy, the problem solver, she was it. She was an extension of my office. I tried to support and work with her along those lines. Evaluation, you and I discussed working with them. We had what we called teacher award day at which the principal had the right, the authority, to pick the teacher of the week, the teacher of the month, the teacher of the year. Then I felt that was cutting it close. We started having the teachers of areas, departments. The teacher in Social Studies, teacher in math. Teachers starting fighting over these things. Boy, I am going to do something extra. Competitive, competition. When we had that program, the kids would applaud and give ovations and all of this just as if they played a part in it. We started once to let the kids pick the teacher of the month. Then we saw something there that could cause a problem so we stayed away from that, but events of that sort. Be considerate, be considerate with them. My style with them is if they have got a problem at home I will try to work with you. I you have got to be off today, go. Teachers asked me when I first got here what clothes can we wear, can we wear..? I said I don’t buy your clothes. You wear what you feel comfortable in that does not embarrass you in your classroom, that is up to you. Prior to me, they were not allowed to wear long pants, they had to wear dresses and such. I said I don’t mind what you buy as long as you feel comfortable and decent, that is your business. Maybe go to a dance. I don’t care how you spend your life after school as long as you do not embarrass the school system or you are embarrassing yourself. That was this schools sort of style.

Q: It has been said that good personnel managers encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations on their successes. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness?

A: I think I mentioned that just a minute ago. Actually you can see the morale go up, up, up because they felt free to come to my office. They did not run, as I said before, when they would see me coming down the hall. Sometimes I wished they would go into their rooms because I would be going to see you but I could not make it past three doors, they would look out their doors, just as Joan did here and when I walked in Gwynn started teasing me, you look familiar. That kind of thing. The relationships, I think the morale was very high atleast I thought. They had just left, a dictatorship kind of superintendent who of course passed that on to his Principal. He did not even allow them to go across town to get their checks, they had to bring them here. I said, I do not want your money. You earned your money, now if you want I can have the secretary go get your checks and distribute them but I don’t have anything to do with whether or not you go across town. They were shocked at this kind of approach. I told them that - I considered myself a dusk to dawn survivor. They said what do you mean? I said emerging from one philosophy about administration to what I consider one that is growing positively now, along those lines. Because we were told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Where we could or could not go. We had all of these things facing us; now it is different. I survived, to come here. I am not bitter about it, I can laugh about it. I can talk about this man as a dictator; laugh at it. He admitted when he retired, he said you know that you and I had our differences; but I must agree that you were one of the best things that ever happened to me, because you stood up for what you believed and you did not do it angrily. He said you just told it and told it like it was, frankly I think that needed to be said, so I died hard. What is that Shakespeare thing, I died hard. But long live the king, he said just like that it and I said I appreciate it. I really accepted that and I really appreciated those remarks. We had fun competing days. I think it built morale.

Q: Some principals believe that teachers and other staff members are, in general, well-motivated and reliable self-starters. Others feel that they must closely monitor the activities of their employees. What approach did you customarily use during your administrative career? Now I think you have alluded to this a little bit.

A: You are the teacher, its your thing. I want you to create and innovate wherever those brains you have will take you. Whatever that child in your classroom can profit from and you can do. If it means getting on the desk and tap dancing. I did some crazy things as a band director. I never asked my band students to do anything that I would not do. I never asked my teachers to. I would get over there and all of us would do it together. I used to say a ship has one captain, there are a lot of sailors. You are the captain in that room. If you need some assistance, I am available because I am coming in there during the day. One time during the day I am going to say Hi. And usually it will come out, can we find something in the hall to sit on. It was not a problem, just they wanted to say Hi. They ran their classrooms, I let them run them. I tried to encourage creativeness and the need to innovate. I don’t care how silly it looks, do it. Do it if it is going to make your students learn. Try to individualize instructions. If little Johnny is sitting over here and he is not participating, I get concerned. I want him involved, I want him active. That program you guys had up here that I came to that day was my kind of activity.

Q: The Vision Celebration for accelerated schools.

A: You saw my face and you probably wondered what is that fool laughing at. I was enjoying that so much. Bruce leaned down there and said, "Mr. Finley, you are enjoying this aren’t you. I said particularly when that little kid was trying to imitate you.

Q: That was funny. Cane and all.

A: That is the kind of thing that Joe Finley likes. I love that.

Q: I like that, you have a zest for life. Mr. Finley, 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 in this oral history interview?

A: Very frankly, I think you have covered most of the questions which need to be answered in order to be a successful Principal. There are some areas that you will discover as you go in like how do you work with your custodian personnel, what kind of schedules do you set up for them. I know a lot of people think this comes from the central staff, but the Principal is responsible for that. Your kitchen staff, your menus, are you going to be a part of the menu making, what I call daily ordinary things and that sort. The philosophy you should share about parents visiting the schools, when and who and where and why. The systems used to get kids out of schools. All of these things are things that I think you will find and work on. They are not as, I don’t think they are as important as some of the questions you have asked here. The thing that I would like to leave you with is, it is something, not a question, something I use. I sort of jotted it down and it says once you become a Principal, and this is just a suggestion, I would suggest that you make this sign that I am about to read to you or a similar one and put it over the inside of your office door where you can see it each time someone comes in. The sign should read: The best people in the world walk through this door. If they are adults, treat them the way you want to be treated. If they are children, treat them the way you like your children to be treated. That was on my door in my office over at Martinsville High School. It was on my door in our offices here at Albert Harris. If someone walked through that door I had to look up and see them. If it was an adult, I tried to treat them the way I would like to be treated. If it was a child, I put in my mind, now that is your child. How would you like your child to be treated. It makes a whole world of difference in your whole attitude and actions as a Principal.

Q: I am definitely going to do that.

A: It really makes a difference because you can get angry and look up and a teacher would throw John in there, " He is cutting up in my class." You look up there and say now there is an adult and there is a youngster, how do I handle it.

Q: What if that was your child being thrown into that office. Good point.

A: So, I hope I have been able to help you my dear.

Q: Thank you so much, I appreciate this. Not only just for your history, but for the words, the wisdom and sharing with me your career. Thank you again.

A: Thank you for inviting me.

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