Interview with Eugene Goodrich


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Q: How many years have you been a principal?

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

A: Fourteen years.

Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?

A: I decided to become a principal because economically it seemed to be more feasible than coaching at that time and I didn't feel as if I wanted to be coaching when I became fifty years old. I also wanted to have an impact and be involved in the education process for kids.

Q: What do you think was the philosophy of this school when you first became an administrator.

A: When I first came to this school it was an open classroom concept. This school was designed for this open classroom concept, but four years later we went back to what is called the traditionally type schooling.

Q: What was the climate for learning like in the open classroom?

A: The climate for learning wasn't as structured as the present classroom concept. I personally feel a child can learn much better in a closed classroom as we have now. In a open classroom the bell was ringing every fifteen minutes and the kids were going from one classroom to another. Now with a more structured schedule, they have much more time to devote to their learning and the educational process; and it's a better learning process.

Q: What do you find to be most important in the learning process of students?

A: I think every child expects to receive a certain amount of discipline. And with the open concept we had, the students were not receiving that structured environment they needed. I think now that because we have gone back to the fifty-five minute classrooms the students are able to devote more time to learning and the learning style than the open classroom concept we had previously. Students need discipline and we as educators have to display this or we would be falling short of what we are here for. We are here to see that kids have what they need as far as receiving well rounded education and I believe we are doing that now with the structured classroom.

Q: When did you implement the open classroom and how successful was it?

A: One of the reasons I feel it wasn't successful was that it was brought to students who didn't have a building process since they had never had this method at an elementary level. The kids could not handle the free time and instead of using this time for study or going to the library, they thought they were on a vacation. I think the open classroom failed at my school also, because here were secondary students from different high schools at a new school who had gone through the traditional process who had this program dumped on them and a lot of kids could not adapt to this concept.

Q: So what you're saying is that this school was like a melting pot; it had kids from different schools who needed the discipline to handle the freedom and excess time on hand?

A: That is correct. As I said earlier, kids demand a certain amount of structure and discipline. This is what I felt was absent from the open classroom concept when it was first implemented here at Manor. And that is one of the reasons it failed.

Q: How did the community feel about this?

A: The community as a whole felt as you said. This school was a "melting pot". We had kids from all parts of the city and there a lot of negativism from the community displayed through the newspaper. The community didn't feel as though Manor was their school. The school and community didn't have the problems that other schools had during integration, for we did an exceptional job of involving them in the planning.

Q: How did you evaluate teachers?

A: We used a check-list form of evaluation.

Q: Did the teachers help plan for the open classroom?

A: Yes, we had team teachers at the time and a lot of them used this as ways of developing a curriculum for the students.

Q: Who planned the open classroom?

A: The Central Office staff. The administrators and the classroom teachers had no input to what the concept or scheduling was going to be.

Q: What does it take to be an effective principal?

A: To be an effective principal, first you have to have direct communication with your teachers. Dr. Cherry, who was the principal when I first came to Manor had this and that is mainly why he was as successful as he was. And in having this rapport with the teachers causes him to have communication with the students.

Q: What do you think can be done to prepare people to be a principal?

A: There is nothing I can say which would say this is the best way to prepare someone as a principal, but you have a combination of three or four things. You have to be knowledgeable of the instructional process, of the evaluationing process of teachers, of what is the power structure in the community as a principal. You have to use all three of these things to be able to communicate to your students and to the parents of those students. I think these are some of the things that are necessary to be a good and effective principal.

Q: Do you think teachers should have input in the planning process?

A: Yes, I think they should. Because if they don't have the input they will feel this is something they have been dumped into or the process has been dumped onto them. The educational process itself lends to the input of teachers. In this school system regarding the open classroom concept there was input from several teachers in the area. These teachers went through the process of planning how it should be done and helped develop different parts of the building, language labs, the field house; and several of these areas. I feel that without the input that they had into the building, there would be no way you could say this is what I want a teacher to do.

Q: What do you think are some of things that can be done to improve education and teachers?

A: The first thing that can be done is to have a good instrument to improve the evaluation of teachers. the teachers feel the instrument that is used now is not effective. To be a good teacher you have to have knowledge of how to use certain techniques as far as dealing with students and parents. You have to have an inapt desire to help kids advance themselves and the reason why they are in school is to learn. It is up to you as an instructor to teach and help them any way you can which doesn't always pertain to the subject matter. Sometimes you have to be a good friend, someone they can talk to on a one to one basis. And if this can be done, a lot of times your chances of communicating with them on the educational level will be more fulfilling for them and yourself.

Q: What are some of the problems you had during the civil rights issue, integration, and busing?

A: The largest problem was dealing with the kids itself. What I'm saying is not necessary dealing with Johnny and Susan, but dealing with the impact their parents had on them. Because they might feel things should be a certain way because of what they had been taught at home. Of course all of us are brought up in a certain area believing certain things; and then you're exposed to other areas. Using myself as an example, I was brought up in the South on a farm and going to a college that was not integrated at that time, I wasn't exposed to different races. But through the process of meeting different races of people, mostly educated; they feel as though they are as good as I am or the next person, and I agree that they are. A lot of the kids that went through integration at that time have had to judge people for what they are and not what they have been told or thought they were.

Q: What do you think the main job of a principal is?

A: A principal's job is to provide an atmosphere in which the kids can receive the educational instruction which is necessary. This entails teachers that are knowledgeable and certified, provide transportation to school if necessary, a good and clean place to eat, no interruptions in school, such as announcements; and give them an atmosphere where they feel they can learn just as much as the next student.

Q: What was your opinion of the report "A Nation At Risk"?

A: There is a lot of truth in that regarding educational reform. We need to get back to the basic of reading, writing and arithmetic. A lot of teachers had gotten away from giving reading assignments and not as much homework was given. I have found that if you're a poor reader, this will be a stumbling block in your educational process. I feel we have a more rounded and balanced student because we have gone back to a lot of the basic and traditional teaching.

Q: Do you feel the Head-Start program was effective?

A: It was effective at that time for what it was intended for. All those programs have somewhat been phased out. It served it's purpose of getting children of lower economical and social categories back into the main stream of education.

Q: What do you think about merit pay for teachers?

A: Merit pay could be effective if it is designed so teachers would know how they're being judged and who would be judging them. As of now merit pay is not an issue in my school system. Although several school administrators would like to see it implemented here. I think the biggest problem would be setting the guide lines on who will get merit pay and who will determine this. A lot of people feel implementing merit pay will make a better teacher.

Q: What can we do to make good teachers stay in the classroom and teach rather than go into administration?

A: There are several rewards from teaching and it is not always monetary. We as administrators have to make teachers feel the job they are doing is beneficial to the student's educational process. You have to support your teachers and encourage them to continue to do a good job. Those teachers who are not doing such a good job, you have to be the instructional leader and role model to make them become better teachers. I have talked to some good teachers who have gotten into the administrative end of education and who have gone back to the classroom because they feel it is more fulfilling and rewarding.

Q: What do you think of what Al Fondi, V.P. of AFT, has done to raise teacher's salary as an encouragement for good teachers to stay in the classroom?

A: I think what he has done, looking at it from a teacher's aspect, is admirable. Being a past teacher I would have loved to be in a situation no where I would be at the top of the scale. At the same time, you are keeping bad teachers in the system so that they can reach the top of the scale. A lot of times in doing so a mediocre teacher can become a good teacher. Teachers who were poor teachers throughout the process of evaluating can be told in a subtle manner that they aren't doing the job they should be doing. We don't have a teacher's union in my system, but it is positive to know that he has done a successful job in raising a teacher's salary to that level.

Q: How do you deal with an assistant principal?

A: I feel an assistant principal is an extension of my right arm. They need to be knowledgeable in instruction and dealing with students, parents, and teachers. To be able to evaluate a teacher fairly and without prejudice and favoritism. He has to be knowledgeable of the inter-working on how the school functions daily and the attitudes of the personnel. The assistant principal can make my day much easier or much worse.

Q: Is it important for the principal to be a good role model?

A: Yes! It is important for the principal to be a good role model and set an example.

Q: Why do you feel that you have been effective and successful as a principal?

A: I feel that I have been effective and successful because of the humanistic approach of dealing with people. The knowledge of the school system and inter-working of the school system. I handle most of the problems at my school along with my two assistant principals without sending them to the superintendent and we have a happy school body. According to George R. Terry, "leadership" is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for objectives. Robert Tannerbaum, and Fred Massanick define leadership as "interpersonal influence exercised in a situation and directed through the communication process toward the attainment of a specialized goal or goals. Mr. Goodrich did an excellent job of influencing his staff to accept the change in curriculum from the traditional concept to the open classroom. The leadership skills of Mr. Goodrich were excellent for achieving effective curriculum development. Mr. Goodrich also demonstrated an understanding of the procedures and functions of goal analysis and development of objectives in curriculum planning. Mr. Goodrich had teachers and students who brought to Manor widely varied mental equipment cultures, and traditions, but he was able to demonstrate an understanding of the entire teaching staff and student body. Mr. Goodrich did an excellent job of molding this school into a unit. Manor was a melting pot in a sense that the school had students from all different sections of the entire city with different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Mr. Goodrich shared the responsibility with his staff of creating a school climate for learning. The Central Administration had not included Mr. Goodrich and his staff in the planning of the change from the traditional classroom to the open classroom and had it not been for the democratic leadership of Mr. Goodrich, the implementing of this program would have been a complete failure. Warren H. Schmidt and Robert Tannerbaum wrote that concern for task tends to be represented by authoritarian leader behavior, while a concern for relationships represent a democratic leader behavior. The Central Adminstration Office approach was definitely authoritarian and Mr. Goodrich showed democratic leader behavior. The latter is the more non-directive democratic style which stresses the concern for human relationship. The open classroom implemented by Mr. Goodrich is a learning situation which encourages and enhances the widest possible range of alternatives so the child can choose what and how he will learn. Emphasis is placed on self-directed learning, which is initiated and carried on by the students themselves. Although free from authoritarianism, the open classroom needs to be well structured. The structure of the climate of the school and human interaction between peers and students with teachers. Student choose the task, issues, and involvement. Differences of students are genuinely recognized and individual choices are encouraged and respected. Rules are kept to a necessary minimum and for the most part designed to protect individual freedom from infringement on others.

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