Today's date is the 25th of January, 1988. We are at James Wood High School in Winchester, Virginia. The subject of this interview is Mr. James Givens, a retired educator who lives in Winchester, Virginia.
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Q: Mr. Givens, would you please recap for us the chronology of your professional career: When did you become an educator and what positions did you fill through the years? How many years were you an educator and how many years were you a principal? What we would like for you to do is start at the beginning of your professional career and briefly summarize it for us.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Larry, I am a native of Giles County in southwest Virginia. I attended Virginia Tech, got my B.S. degree in vocational agriculture. I began my teaching career at Gainesboro High School January 1st, 1943. I taught vocational agriculture for one-half year replacing a former teacher that had to go in the service in December. The reason I started in the beginning of the year or in the middle of the year was that it was during the war and the class that I graduated at VPI was put on a twelve months schedule and we finished six months early before the class of those that were in the military. They finished in June and we finished in December because I wasn't in the military. I finished that year at Gainesboro teaching vocational agriculture and I also taught one class of physics. There's one doctor in Winchester now that was in that class, a prominent physician along with several other people that knew more physics than I knew at the time I was teaching it. The following year I organized a vocational agriculture department at the Gore High School and up until 1944,. When, I entered the army, I taught vocational agriculture a half a day at Gore and half a day at Gainesboro, doing a little bit of basketball coaching in the afternoon at Gainesboro. I had my FFA students on Capon River camping in June of '44 and I came back and picked up my mail and I got greetings from Uncle Sam and entered the service in June of 144. December of 144, Christmas night, I headed for the Bulge and participated in the Battle of thoulge 2nd served in the service until separated in 1946 and came back to the two schools and teaching. it might be of interest that while I was away, the principal Paul Beable, who later became the first principal of James Wood High School, took over my classes in vocational agriculture at Gore, and Fred Braithwaite, who was the principal at Gainesboro, who Is still living, took over my classes in vocational agriculture at Gainesboro. So I came back in July of 146 and took over those classes. I remained in those classes until James Wood was built and along with Jim Gordan and Dick Bighoff, myself, we opened up the ag. department at James Wood. I guess one of the biggest problems that we anticipated, and which really didn't become a problem, was bringing the three oldest schools together and blending them into a one school program. We did several things together before we attempted this with the students. We had a joint banquet with all the students and we got them together and we had no problems whatsoever with the students blending into one student body. I remained as vocational agriculture teacher till 1964 at James Wood. In the meantime I attended many American Vocational Association national conferences, became active in the National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association, and was elected vice president of Region VI of the NVATA which served six states in the eastern part of the L)nited States, I served in that capacity for two years until I resigned because I left vocational agriculture and became principal of the Frederick County Middle School, which I guess was about 1965. That year the school was supposed to have been finished for us to enter but it wasn't. As a result we had to put the eighth grade, which was over 400 eighth graders, in the auditorium at James Wood and we did team teaching with this group of students. As well as I remember there were twenty groups in the auditorium comprising of about twenty students per group and all that we had was one row between each group so that the teacher of that group could get In front of the group. We had book racks In the back that each student had a place for his books and we had two tears of teachers. One team taught math and science, and the other team of teachers taught English and history. We had a physical ed. teacher and we had agriculture teachers. Lot of people said it couldn't be done but I have tried to follow a lot of these students through the years and I can see that they didn't suffer at all from this type of instruction. In fact, I've always said that some of the best instruction that ever happened happened in that auditorium, because the teacher had an hour plan and they didn't have to teach but about every other week or so. They had plenty of time to prepare and they were on the spot. They had to be ready. They had to have something to teach and they didn't waste any time because there were to many people watching them. One teacher was on the stage with a mike around their neck, with a large screen and overhead projector, and they were teaching. This is the way they taught. They taught the whole group. We did pull a few students out, what I would call advanced students, and give them advanced math and algebra, and then we had some students that took vocational agriculture. We gave them the physical education. We would take them out and if it was raining or something, we gave them the exercise right in the auditorium, standing up, doing the arm exercises or whatever they could do. They always had their physical ed.. That was quite an experience. In the meantime, we were trying to set up the Program for the county middle school, which was then the seventh and eighth grade. Maybe seventh, eighth, and ninth was in that middle school. I stayed at the middle school until 1969 and went to Dowell J. Howard Vocational School, which was in the planning stage at that time. We had trouble getting federal money but it opened in 171. I stayed as director, which they called at that time. The principal was called the director. I stayed in that capacity for about four years. Then they established a Director of Vocational Education for three school divisions, which was comprised of Frederick, Winchester and Clarke County. I was elected as that director and stayed in that capacity to 1980 at which time I retired. That is about it. So, to recap, you were in public education from 1943 to 1980, which somewhat bridges the best part of four decades, and you were a principal either of the junior high, middle school, or vocational school for about ten years. Then for the last years of your career you were the regional director of vocational education at Dowell J, Howard.
Q: A question that comes to mind, why did you choose to become a principal? Why did you leave teaching? What events led you to seek your first position in administration?
A: I don't think I sought, as I recall, I don't think I sought the position. I think Mr. Aylor, who was superintendent of schools, was looking among the teachers In the county and he approached me as to whether I would be interested In an administrative job, principal. I mentioned I was very active in NVATA at the time. I gave it an awful lot of thought because I hated to leave that position because there was a possibility that I could become president of the national organization. But after talking it over with many people, I decided to make the move. There wasn't too much further you could go In vocational education unless you went to the State Department and I had no desire to leave this area and go to Richmond.
Q: So Mr. Aylor saw In you the leadership qualities, that one at that time one would be looking for in a principal?
A: I think that is true. Yeah. We are very much Interested In the changes that have occurred in education since you entered the profession in the 1940s. To recap, you mentioned that you worked In a rural community center high school, in fact two of them, and then helped to open a consolidated high school James Wood for the whole county. You also very uniquely were principal of the school within a school for one year and then opened Frederick Counties first junior high school. Then you later opened the areas first and only vocational school. I would like for you to comment on the changes that have occurred. You might want to describe for example the early schools that you worked in, the rural high schools, and then contrast that with the more modern schools that you helped to open. What that would do for us, Mr. Givens, it would represent a generation of change locally in public education. I suspect that the greatest change that I saw was your contact with parents and students. The personal contact. At Gainesboro and Gore I knew the parents of every student, their background, the conditions under which they lived, their family problems they had, and as soon as James Wood opened and you began to expand you began to loose this personal contact that you had with the people. I cherished and I still go back to these people that I knew in those rural areas because they were sound people. They gave sound advice. I cherish it. I guess that's the change that I saw when you left the small school and came into the consolidated school.
Q: In this interview we are particularly interested in leadership. You were a leader for a long period of time for the organization we call the public school. I would like for you to talk about what your definition of leadership is? To give you an example, I read somewhere that leadership has been defined as an attempt by a person to Influence the behavior of another person. What qualities would you look for in a leader?
A: Well that's a right broad question. Right off my mind what would be the biggest quality I guess being able, the person being able, to communicate with another person. I always tried to go to the person and discuss problems with the person in person rather than writing reports, or writing a paper on the person and handing it to them an evaluation. I would rather go and discuss these things personally with the person, face to face, and find that they know where I stood and they knew where they stood with me, rather than trying to go around the bush, go through someone else. I just never liked that approach. I liked the direct approach to the person. I guess being able to communicate with your staff was, I suspect, one of the most important things that I can see in leadership. I think one had to develop goals. I think the staff needed to know where you were headed, what you wanted, and I think they needed to understand that. I was never one to check to much up on people. I told them that they had a job to do. If they did the job they wouldn't hear too much from me. If they didn't do the job, then I would be there to see why they weren't doing the job. I didn't care too much about whether a teacher left five minutes early in the afternoon, or ten minutes early, but If I would see one leave a lot of times, first thing in the morning I would be in that teacher's classroom and if I would see them fiddling around and try in g to get ready for that first class, then I would say now you left a little bit early yesterday afternoon. I think it would have been better if you had done some of these things yesterday afternoon rather than. This was, you know, I wasn't mean about it. I think it was effective. I thought it was effective.
Q: Did you vary your leadership style between the different assignments you had? For example, as the principal of the school, did you approach things differently than you did for example as director?
A: I think so. I think in vocational education that there are different methods of handling teachers, providing leadership for teachers, than there is in the academic field. In the academic I think you have got to have possible goals that you want the teachers to follow and you got to adhere pretty much to those goals because you have a broad field that you are covering. In vocational education your objectives are pretty much to teach a job skill, and there are certain procedures you follow in almost all vocational programs In teaching that skill. I think in some of the academic programs, the classes, ills a little bit different. You have to vary your methods in those fields. Yeah, I think there was a difference.
Q: From a management point of view as a manager of a school, did you follow what would have been a traditional approach to management-somewhat of a clearcut chain of command from the superintendent down through as far as decision making Is concerned? Or did you try to do what is called participative management where you somewhat set the goals or worked with the teachers to set the goals and then let them make the decisions and carry them out? What would you say your approach which category would it fall into? I realize it might vary.
A: Most of the time it is that you would, I would, get from the teachers their Input into what they thought should be in the program but along the line somewhere someone has got to make the final decision. Of course the superintendent, he's the one that is going to make the real final decision, but I think he depends upon the principal to give him the information that he needs in order to make that final decision. So really the teacher should put input into It and then I put it together and would go back and say now this is what I think you said to me and this is what I am presenting to the superintendent as a program. It was more or less a mutual agreement between everyone. We had to do annual plans, long range plans, five year plans for vocational education and sometimes I thought it was a lot of words, lot of things said that maybe could never be done. At least it gave some guideline of the direction that you wanted to go. Really this is about all that you can do in planning and managing.
Q: I want to zero in on the principalship, Mr. Givens. Of course, I guess what I think in terms of the principalship, I am always going to think of the people who served In that role when I started teaching. You were one of them. I've always had a lot of respect for people that are in leadership positions when you are involved in the organization. Looking back through the years to the mid sixties, into the mid seventies, what were the major tasks that the principal had to do? Do you want to think of it like a pie and carve it all up into slices? Maybe you could start with the one perhaps that took most of your time. Of course that might be Instruction or you name whatever they were, student services? However you looked upon it. What would you Consider to be the five or six categories that took the most time?
A: Planning the curriculum and the program I guess probably took the most time of anything - particularly when I went into principalship of the vocational center because there were some areas within the vocational field and I guess this would apply to the junior high school, too. There were areas I was weak In and I needed some help. I would usually pick out my strongest teacher and get help there in planning curriculum, or what I considered to be the strongest teacher. It may not have always been the strongest teacher, but one that I had confidence in. I guess that and oh you spend an awful lot of time on equipment, supplies and this type of thing. I guess I spent a lot of time on discipline. I always had the philosophy that you couldn't teach anybody too much if they weren't disciplined. I guess I was not the most popular principal along that line with a lot of students because I had definite ideas about how students should appear and their appearance, and how they could conduct themselves. I made them stick to that. Right today I don't suspect I would survive as a principal because of this. For instance I had a thing about long hair. When I started at the junior high school, I wouldn't let them wear long hair. I had the thing about short skirts. I said you need to dress properly to come to school and I would probably get kicked clear out of the school today if I put in some of those things. These things I thought were important In the education of a child. I think they came to appreciate It after they got out and became parents on their own.
Q: You had an assistant principal I believe through the years at the middle school or the Junior high and later at the vocational school. Some of the other areas of management of the school perhaps you delegated?
A: I let him handle most of the discipline part and I tried to handle the instructional along with the supervisor. We did most of the observation of teachers and evaluation of teachers, which was very important.
Q: What about school-community relations? That's an area that even today is very important -- being accountable to the public. What did you do as principal to promote school-community relations?
A: Well, I can tell you what I did as a teacher first. I visited in the homes and people began to know me and I began to know them. Then if they knew your program, then they supported it. I think this probably carried over some to the principalship in that we didn't get out into the parents in as often as we could, to parent night or any activity that we could get the parents and people involved in the school program. I think that is the best way that I know to get community support for your school program is to get the parents or people involved In someway into the program. It takes some doing today because people, I don't know, they've changed. They don't want to... they want to send their children to school and they want somebody else to take care of them and do the discipline and this type of thing for them. I think you have got to get them involved in the program.
Q: Other areas that I am sure you spent a lot of time in ]n school had to do with facilities, your cafeteria, your custodial maintenance operation, transportation. You had the reputation for being a very good facility manager. What would you attribute your success there in? In other words Frederick County Middle School stands today and is in very good shape. You opened it, your maintained it, you set the tone. Dowell J. Howard Vocational School, the same is true.
A: I think It Is more or less making, not making, developing a program that the students are proud of their facility and they respect it and they'll take care of it. I don't know that I have any secrets for doing that. We would call It to their attention about every time we would see something that was going on that was damaging the building. I stayed with the building when there were night programs. I was there about every night. If there was anything going on, I was there. I was watching. I always had a good custodial staff. I think that is extremely Important. If you don't have custodians that will take care of the place, then it is going to become messy and the students are going to become messy. This is going to contribute to more and more. If there is any writing on the walls in the bathroom, we took it off. We didn't leave it on there. That was the instructions to my custodians. You see something on there don't show it to me. Take it off, if you can get it off. If you can't get it off, then we have to do something else. I think students respect property and teach them... that is the best thing I can say.
Q: Of all these many tasks assigned to the principal, which did you enjoy the most. What was the most gratifying part of your job?
A: I think opening the new schools, getting the curriculum going, seeing people succeed in the program, and getting a well run school. I think that was it. I think the junior high school became that when I opened it. The vocational center became that when I opened it. I guess I look back on even when we went into the agriculture department at James Wood High School in 1950, we had one of the outstanding departments in the state. So it is just seeing a successful program after the hard work of organizing and getting the thing going.
Q: Mr. Givens I want to ask you a difficult question. With the experience you've had In public education, and involved in so many different roles in administration, what qualities would you feel... what quality would be that that would contribute to being a successful principal? If you had to look back through and you perhaps would be trying to list one or two, three things that you had to have to hire a principal and you did have to assist in the hiring of principal. You, for example, were involved in hiring the first principal I believe or second principal of Dowel J. Howard Vocational School. You probably had a role in recommending people who would take your position at Frederick County Junior High. What qualities would you look for? This could be different from being a leader because there have been many leaders who weren't principals and many principals who perhaps weren't leaders, not great leaders.
A: I think the first thing that I looked at was how successful was that individual as a teacher. I guess that in some cases probably you couldn't do it through observation but certainly by talking to people in the community in which he taught...someway getting his ability to teach. If he wasn't successful in the classroom in being able to relate to students, then I don't think that he can relate to faculty Members and I guess that would be the next priority, would be a person that can relate to other people. Now go back to this thing of communications again. you've got to have somebody that can communicate with other people. Of course you consider other things like personality and his educational background. I think you would have to go back to his success and what success he has had in the classroom and how he has dealt with the problems he has faced In the classroom, because he is going to face more difficult problems. He is going to have to be a person that can always stay one step ahead, just like a teacher has got to stay one step ahead of the students. The principal has got to stay one step ahead of his staff. If he doesn't, he's going to be in trouble.
Q: I would like maybe to expand on that a bit ... the topic of teachers and their relationship with the principal. What do you think teachers expect the principals to be? In other words, what is their perception of that man who sits in the office? What do they expect him to be?
A: Well, sometimes I think they expect him to be a disciplinarian, which I think is false. I expect my teachers to be the disciplinarian. Now the serious problems, I know that the principal or assistant principal or somebody is going to have to handle. The teacher has got to have the discipline within their classrooms so that the students can learn. If they can't do that then, I don't know whether they belong in the classroom or not. I think that Is one thing the teachers look for and falsely. I think the teacher looks to the principal to be an intermediatory between the superintendent and the other supervisory staff and themselves. I think they feel more freely to come and talk their problems out with you and I think this has all got to be held confidentially. They kind of expect you to work with the supervisors and superintendents, just to kind of be an intermediary between those people. I think is what the teachers expect from you. I think the teachers expect you to provide the material, the teaching material and facilities, they need in order to do a good job. I'm talking about the proper work books, necessary things, that they need in the classroom in order to do a good job of teaching. Those are the things I can think of right now. There are probably other more important ones.
Q: What did you do as principal to promote staff morale, to motivate teachers, to make them feel important? That's something that most of your literature addresses ... the motivators for teachers with the ideal in mind creating a climate where each teacher can give his best. What did you do as the instructional leader in the school to promote a good climate for the teachers?
A: Of course, we tried to provide the best facilities and the best materials that we could provide for them. We tried to help them solve the problems, but I am not really sure that this was as much a problem when I was principal as it is with teachers today. I think teachers then expected that they had to teach and they knew that they were going to run into problems and they seemed to be able to take hold of them and handle them a little bit better than some of the younger people coming out of the colleges today. They look for somebody else to handle their problem for them. I 'm not too sure that that makes for one of the best teachers. I don't know whether that --- that's kind of the way I see it. Of course I have been out of the school system now for about eight years.
Q: Mr. Givens let's address that a little bit more. What is a good teacher? As far as your experience, what would you consider to be a good teacher?
A: One that can take their class and determine the individual differences within that class and set objectives...not for the whole class but for each individual within that class. Now it may not be a written objective. It may be a mental objective. I don't know. I guess grouping is alright, but when I was in vocational education I had students of all levels, in one class. I found that the good students could help the poor students. I would always put good students with poor students if they were doing a job or a project or something. I don't know whether I'm getting off of the subject here or not but I recognize that there are special education students that need to be grouped. There are the gifted that maybe need some special work but there's a group within (between that) we would get in vocational education that I didn't see that they needed to be grouped because each one could help the other a great deal. I think you would find that today. Maybe we do a little bit to/much grouping.
Q: Mr. Givens is it your observation that teachers as a whole are self-directing individuals or do you think that looking back through the years that you were a principal that they needed a lot of supervision and guidance?
A: The younger teachers always needed an awful lot of supervision and guidance. Those who had been in the profession for a good many years. I think if they knew the program, knew what your objectives were and knew where you wanted to head they could take the ball and go ahead with it. So I think you had two groups. One needed an awful lot of supervision. The other maybe not a great deal.
Q: Were you ever involved in the dismissal of a teacher? I'm sure you were. Do you remember the issue or the reasons that a teacher under your supervision might be dismissed?
A: As far as I recall, most of them were classroom management. They could not maintain the discipline in the classroom and do effective teaching. In one case I recall it was a lack of ability. The teacher did not have the ability to teach particularly in the vocational area, probably more in the mechanics, farm mechanics, shop area than in the classroom. She could take the book and teach from the book but very little practical experience and no experience whatsoever in mechanics.
Q: Did you ever have to dismiss a teacher for insubordination?
Q: That would appear to be one in the literature that teachers are dismissed for that category, but you never had that experience?
A: ever had that experience.
Q: Do you support the - well let me ask you what is your opinion of the tenure law for teachers? You were a principal when that came about. I remember because I was a teacher and you were in administration. Looking back through, what's your viewpoint on that?
A: I would say probably we didn't do a thorough job of evaluation during that three year period before tenure took place. I think it Is important that the administrative staff do a thorough job of evaluation during that period because when that teacher is put on tenure, then your dismissal becomes a great deal more difficult. I suspect if I did anything wrong it was probably that I didn't do enough evaluation during that period of time.
Q: The initial period when tenure came along and you had to make a decision on your staff?
Q: You're probably aware, I'm sure you are, that administrators never have been granted tenure only as a classroom teacher. Do you think that administrators should have tenure, looking back over your years and thinking about that from your knowledge base, as administrators?
A: As administrators - no I don't think so. I say that because I think the success of a school program depends upon what the principal does and if that program is not succeeding then you have got to get somebody in there that can make it succeed. I guess you have seen some of the things on television, the principal with the bullhorn, and I think that is going to the extreme. I think the way the principal handles the school, handles the teacher, develops his program, gets the teachers involved in the program. If he cannot do that, then I think It's time to make a change and get somebody else to do it.
Q: Mr. Givens I want to get your viewpoint on something that has happened after you got out of education but in recent years with the accountability movement in public education the state of Virginia has adopted the practice called BTAP, Beginning Teacher Assistance Program, where the state sends in outside evaluators to observe and evaluate beginning teachers competencies before giving them a teaching certificate. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the program. Essentially the local administrators carry out their normal evaluation procedures for first, second, third year teachers. The actual granting of the certificate is done through the state. The teachers have to show the state their competencies. What would have been your response to something like that were you a building principal when it was enacted?
A: I probably wouldn't have thought too much of it, to be honest with you, for this reason. I have known people in the state department that have never spent a day in the classroom and I can't see how they can come in and evaluate a teacher in the classroom, if they haven't had the experience themselves of being there.
Q: What the state has done is hire a number of retired teachers as evaluators, and I'm not sure of the backgrounds of all these people but any of the new staff members, for example, at James Wood...
A: Well, if this is a person that has been in - are you saying that they make the decision themselves without consulting with the principal?
Q: That's what I'm saying. They determine the competencies of the individual. Simultaneously, the principal and his staff are evaluating the individuals with the local evaluation system.
A: Are they taking into consideration where those students are moving and how the students are responding? I think this is really important as to how the students are responding to the teacher, if the students are responding, and the person that's there daily - assistant principal, principal, or whoever, is watching or observing; I think they can see this and determine if -- I don't see how it can be very effective. Right now, from my standpoint, I would question it.
Q: Mr. Givens, the state grievance procedure came along I believe after you became vocational director but In your relationship with teachers did you ever have a grievance filed against you?
A: Not from a hired teacher but from one that was interviewed. They made the statement, or he made the statement, that I said he was too old. He filed a grievance with the federal and we went through that procedure and that was one of the worst procedures I ever went through in my life. So I guess in the interview he felt, I'm sure that I never asked him his age or I never said anything about his age, but I observed this individual as a substitute teacher in a vocational program, several vocational programs. I knew that he could not discipline students. I knew that he did not know his material and therefore I Just knew I could not hire him as a regular teacher in the program. Somewhere along the line he got the idea that I didn't hire him because he was too old and he filed a grievance. If you ever have to go through one of those, it's quite a problem.
Q: Mr. Givens you had to work with, try to run back through the years and think of this, but it seems to me you had to work with at least three superintendents in Frederick County. That would have been Mr. Kline, Mr. Aylor and Dr. Wright. Then as the director of vocational education, you had to work with three simultaneously.
A: If you want experience you ought to do that sometime.
Q: What I would like for you to do, if you would, would be to comment on the position or office of superintendent. Perhaps you can tell us what you think a superintendent should be? Or maybe you want to tell us what they should not be? Would you give us some ideas on the superintendency?
A: Mr. Kline was only there for a couple of years and of course at that time he was getting some age on him and I guess just took care of the bare necessities that a superintendent needed to do. Mr. Aylor came in and Mr. Aylor was a good administrator. His door was always open to me and if I had problems I could go in and talk to him. I remember one thing specifically about Mr. Aylor. When I was teaching vocational agriculture, I wasn't getting any money for supplies, self supplies and this type of thing. I said to him, "Mr. Aylor, if I'm going to do a good job of teaching live got to have some supplies to teach with." He said, Well, I can't do but so much each year but you send me a list of what the amount of money that you think you're going to need, and he said, "I'll do my best." So I sat down and gave him a five year projection of the money that I thought I would need in order to do an effective job of teaching these kids. At the end of five years I had that money. He did that. I think the superintendent has got to be the public relations man for the school system. I don't think he can be too dogmatic in his ways. Dr. Wright was like that I think. He was hard to change, if something was obvious to him. He had a preset Idea of what he wanted to do and this Is the way he did. Bob Aylor was like that but he would change and he would flow with the tide and final do. Dr. Walker, I know very little of his leadership. I haven't been associated with him. The superintendent has got to be the man who promotes the program of education in the county. He's got to be the man to do It.
Q: Did you feel that the central office, represented by the superintendent, allowed you to make a lot of decisions that they might not would have had to have? Did you have some decentralized authority that you felt you could make the decision yourself in many areas?
A: I think I always cleared the decision I was going to make with the superintendent. If it was something that was drastic. Sometimes I would get a no you cannot do this. Sometimes they would say go ahead. I don't think that I ever felt that I was tied down to the point that I couldn't make a decision, and I would be backed up by the superintendent. I always felt I would have the backing of the superintendent in any decision that I made. I was pretty sure I would hear about it if I made the wrong decision.
Q: Since we're into decision making. I think most people would feel that the person making the decision holds the power. The term power kind of means different things to different people, but I think generally speaking the decision maker is the power wielder. How do you look at that as far as schools are concerned that decisions primarily should be made at the top and implemented down the line chain of command? Or would you think that decisions ought to be evolved democratically in a school system and brought up from participative management?
A: I liked to see it done by participative managements in other words, more democratic. I've always said that like Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here", Somebody has got to make the final decision but I think it's valuable that he get as much information from as many different sources as he can, if, he has the time. Sometimes he doesn't have the time to do that and he has to go ahead and make the decision. I think it behooves him to get as much information from his teachers, assistant principals, principals, all down the line in order to make the right decision. These people are out on the firing line and they are the ones that are going to have to do what decision he says is going to be. If he does something that Is contrary to all the other's belief, I don't be"eve he is going to get the cooperation he would then if he would have consulted. That's kind of like a monopoly on the thing.
Q: Mr. Givens in the many years that you were a teacher and administrator you had to face a number of issues that arose. I would like to know how You handled them. You were at James Wood I believe as a teacher when the school was integrated. That's the type of issue I am talking about. We'll pass over Integration since you really weren't making the decisions as far as the school administrator unless you want to talk about it? Do you have any recollections on the integration of James Wood that you might want to mention?
A: I can't remember there being any real problems at James Wood with the integration. I can't recall any. Fact is the percentage of students, black students, in the school at that time was very low. As I recall there was only three or four. Now it became a little bit more of a problem when they got to Dowell J. Howard because we became involved with two other school division. They had a much larger black population. Yeah we received a lot of concern from the black population particularly in Clarke County. In other words we were accused of putting black students in food service. This is one of the programs we would put them in which wasn't true but you know this is the program that they enrolled in and this was where they chose to go. We got some criticism along that line. We set up some special programs. It seemed like for some reason or other, most of them were black in those special programs. We got some criticism from that. We got criticized for not having more black staff members and we were told it didn't make any difference where you had to go to get the teachers you should get them. We tried but we weren't always successful in getting teachers.
Q: You were in administration when the "Standards of Quality" program was established by the state about 1972. What Impact did you think this state action had on local education?
A: Well, I think It woke up some of the powers to be and began to put the emphasis on education where it should have been put. I had no problem with the academic part of the educational program but I do have a problem that everyone has to be in an academic program. I think there is a great need yet for vocational programs in the school. I think the Standards of Quality program mentioned this that there was a need for a vocational program. I think the requirement that they have put on a lot of students of the extra units for graduation has hurt vocational programs. I don't think there Is any doubt about It. I'm sorry to see that because we have a lot of students that go to college. We may have a lot that enter college but I think we have a lot that fall out or leave college at the end of the first semester or the first year. If they don't have the vocational skill of some kind what are they going to do? So I'm a great vocational person and I think that every student that leaves high school should have some kind of a skill. I feel sorry for the person today who retires and doesn't have something that they can do to fall back on. That they can do with their hands or have something to do. All they can do is sit.
Q: One of the big issues in the 1970s, you'll recall, was collective bargaining. For teachers it seemed to be on the upswing and then I believe it must have been about 1976 or 77 the state supreme court ruled against collective bargaining for teachers. Now that you are out of education and you can answer it unbiasedly, what is your view of collective bargaining for teachers?
A: I was never in favor of a union for teachers. I think it's a bad thing. I can't see students being denied an education because teachers don't want to work. I think the salary is set. I used to tell my teachers here's the salary. You signed the contract. You signed the contract to do a job. If you didn't want to do It why did you sign the contract? I think -they still had that opportunity and if they don't want to teach there's other fields they can go into. I just can't condone teachers going on strike and leaving the students.
Q: One of the other Issues that emerged In '70s about the time of collective bargaining was the idea of merit pay to compensate teachers. What's your feeling on merit pay?
A: I think it is to hard to administer. Who's going to do the evaluation? Who's going to say who gets merit pay and who doesn't? It's very hard to administer. I think we need to do something that across the board raises is not right because the poor teacher is getting the same as the good efficient teacher but I don't have the answer to it. There ought to be some way to reward the teacher that is doing a good job. Whether it's merit pay. I don't know that might be the way to go but it's awful hard to administer.
Q: One of the problems that seems to be facing schools today is the recruitment and holding of competent people. The problem seems to be that private enterprise Is where the more skilled people go, the more intelligent people, and often times perhaps, these individuals will enter teaching and leave because they can gain more compensation in private enterprise. What are some ideas you might have on this other than pay teachers more? What would be your recommendation for public education?
A: Probably some method of recognizing teachers that are doing a good job. Everybody likes to be thanked or have a pat on the back once In a while. I don't know whether this would do it or not. I don't know whether there's anything that you are going to be able to do if the teacher isn't dedicated enough to stay In that classroom and do the job. If what they are looking for is monetary thing that they are going to get, I don't know whether there Is a whole lot you can do to hold that teacher. I think it is a fact of dedication that they like and want to work with young people and if that's not present then maybe It is a hopeless thing. I don't care how much money you pay them if they don't want to stay. Interestingly enough, a fellow named Herzberg came up with a two factor theory of job satisfaction. He called one factor the desatisfiers, that had to do with salary and so forth, and the other one which he thought was the greatest motivators were the satisfiers. Among those he talked about recognition, achievement, and the very things you just pointed out.
Q: What would you say was the greatest crisis that you faced as a principal...the one that perhaps caused you to loose the most sleep? The toughest decision maybe you had to make?
A: Gee, that's a tough one. I guess telling a teacher that they were no longer needed within the school system - somebody that you had worked with, for Instance, for a number of years and have to go tell them we have worked with you and done everything we can do. Then I guess one of the biggest disappointments that I had some real good students that became teachers. They became very dissatisfied with It and I got some real nasty feedback. Some of them are still in the area. I have often wondered why. Why they had the feeling that they got toward teaching and toward the program. I haven't found the answer yet.
Q: Would you become a principal again if you had it to do over?
A: Yes I would. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge. I think I contributed to the educational programs. I think I contributed to programs in Frederick County. Feel that I did. If I didn't well -
Q: What advice would you give, for example Mr. Kapocsi is aspiring to be a principal or administrator ... what advice would you give to a young teacher who has determined that to be his goal?
A: Do the best job that he can do In the classroom. See that his students succeed if they have the ability. Then I think he is going to be recognized as an outstanding teacher and when that takes place somebody is going to say well this fellow will make a good administrator. They are going to seek him out. I guess in a lot of cases you have to make application to get your name before a superintendent but I think in most cases the administration Is going to seek you out if you are doing the job. I think that Is the best key I know. Just do the good job where you are and then somebody else is going to see it.
Q: Why did you retire when you did? What caused you to make that decision? 1980, I believe you said?
A: I had some things I wanted to do that we were planning on doing right much traveling,,but we didn't get to it the first year. Then I had some health problems. We didn't ever get to do the amount of traveling that we had planned to do. I enjoy a lot of sports, golf, fishing, hunting. I enjoy doing woodworking. I have my own shop and I just felt that I had had thirty-nine years. It began to get on my nerves a little bit and I just quit.
Q: What have I left out In this interview that you would like to discuss?
A: I think you have covered everything pretty much. As far as my role there is a lot of things that had happened. I can recall if I got to James Wood I can see some of the things we did. For instance, I was down there at the football game one night and I said well you know the FFA boys and I seeded that first football field. We seeded the first front lawn at James Wood. They hand raked It and hauled the rock, put the grass seed on. We planted some of those maple trees and other trees that are in front of James Wood. You see these things that you have done and say maybe It wasn't all in vain. I see the programs that are going on In the schools and I think they are good programs. You feel, well maybe you had a little bit of a part in those programs. So I think sense.
Q: I would like to take just a minute to thank Steve Kapocsi for assisting with the technical operations of this interview. Mr. Givens, I would very much like to thank you for agreeing to be the subject of the interview. On behalf of the Graduate School of Education of Virginia Tech, I want to thank you for your contributions to this historical research that's being gathered in the project on the principalship. I would also like to thank you for the many contributions that you have made to the education of literally generations of the citizens of Frederick County and for that matter, Clarke and the City of Winchester. think you have had a very gratifying career and we sincerely hope you enjoy many more years of blissful retirement. Thank you very much.
A: Thank you Larry. I am Sorry that maybe sometimes I have hummed and hawed over questions you have asked but recalling some of these things over a period of years you knov4lites kind of beginning to get difficult at times. So I have enjoyed the interview.
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