This is an interview with Mr. Frank Giangiobbe, on April 15, 1988.
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Q: OK. Why did you become a principal?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: (laugh) I have mixed feelings about it Ah, a number of reasons. The main one was, ah, upward mobility. This was promotions, success, a little bit of a self-testing to see if you can handle it. Ah, partly some money, partly some push from my wife - a range of reasons, but mostly I wanted to. If that's not your number one reason, I think you're gonna be in deep trouble.
Q: I think I can understand. In your school, in your schools, since you were principal at more than one, how did you handle the adjustment of going from one school to another school, and the public relations end with the internal structures and the external structures?
A: Well, the internal structures you have so many publics you have to relate to. I never felt I had trouble relating to the kids. With teachers, you have to get to know them, you have to know who the faculty leaders, not necessarily the nominal leaders, but who are the ones who wield influence in the faculty room when you're not there and who you somehow, you better work over to your side in something you're trying to make happen. With the broader community, particularly kind of prosaic, but again you look for the existing groups. You can't... I don't think you can form groups, at least not things that are going to be effective, unless there is already a kind of perceived need in the community for that group to exist and somehow if you happen to be there at that time, on the spot you may get to be the catalyst, but, ah, I don't think you can push people that way. Not that you should, that's another issue. But I don't think you can effectively do it. You can go out and try to identify again the groups that exist and then try to work with them, let them get to know you so that you're not a total stranger. Let 'em get some feeling for what you think things should be like, what your basic philosophy is on instruction, or, ah, materials that are in use, and how those things fit and how either good or appropriate or not. I, ah, I don't think, well I think of society as being too big and slow and kind of unwieldy to deal with. And a result of that is that you don't or very rarely find some person who moves into an area and by pure charisma and strength of will, make things happen if that small community is not ready to do it. Where is...where, where do you get that great power? I don't, I don't think you do, um. In very rare instances do you find someone who can.
Q: Were there any special techniques or methods you used in trying to relate to your internal publics, to help you get established and to help them get to know you?
A: Yeah. Mostly I tried to be a low-key kind of person. I would look for input at the faculty meetings cause I always used to be bored stiff by the kinds of things that were done. We would put out a kind of questionnaire at the beginning of the year. "What do you think...," or the end of the preceding year so you had some working time to get set-up for it. "What do you think our faculty meeting topics ought to be for the coming year?" And then, who have we got we can draw from? I, I didn't...you've had them - meetings you go to, and you wonder, "Why am I here?" That's all done and you still don't know what you were supposed to get out of it. It seemed a total waste. Ah...and you wonder how these supposedly good people could set-up something like that. (chuckle).
Q: (chuckle) Was there anything you ever did to liven those meetings up and make them more relevant or less a waste of time?
A: Ah...In the meetings themselves, joke a little, tell some stories if you know something that you know will go across well, instead of setting somebody against you right away because it was a bad choice. Ah...turn the meeting over to somebody else, very quickly if, if it was appropriate, if it fitted. Ah...I'm not an entertainer as such. If somebody else is better suited for it, then you better get that somebody else there. Ah...I still hear from some of the teachers who were my peers back when I was teaching. We, ah, had a new science curriculum put in and I had just finished a science course that was largely a hands-on kind of kitchen equipment kind of thing. And I wound up putting on some of the programs at the faculty meetings. Patty Burke, for one, says she still remembers the can collapsing under atmospheric pressure and we reversed the procedure and it just slowly popped back into shape. That kind of thing I enjoyed and Q: ..clearly she did. (chuckle) I didn't know if she was the only one. You need to talk with the rest of the people and find out if they were as impressed.
Q: (laugh) That would be another oral history.
Q: It would. What do you think your teachers expected of you? You as a principal?
A: In...in what, in what sense? Ah...
A: In instruction, in discipline and control of children, in? I'm not sure.
Q: How about...How about...
A: That's such a broad question.
Q: It is. How about...
A: Everything is the answer. (chuckle)
Q: Alright. What do you think they did expect of you as an instructional leader?
A: Partly to be able to explain what we thought central office was up to, what they wanted us to be doing. Partly to be able to give them whatever amount of freedom was workable. Ah...partly to serve as a senior instructor, if they're having difficulties. And rarely was it factual information. Oh, they're not...they're...they were all literate and they worked at their jobs and they pretty much had the subject matter background and it was a question of how do you, how do you get it across to kids. Ah...I think is terms of what I said earlier about freedom to be a little bit different. In the 60's, early 70's, the city was going through a, a spastic gyration into, an open education, open classroom, ring circus with all kinds of things going on at once. And very quickly it seemed to me that not only was that something that not every teacher was capable of, ah, for a lot of reasons, but also that not every kid fitted that, not every kid learned best in that kind of environment and if you just larded that kind of organization over a whole school a lot of people are going to be very unhappy, gonna be ineffective, gonna be hurt. And it kind of evolved and I was able to let them know that if your a conventional teacher, the kids have to behave in a certain way, you have to behave in a certain way, and yet, and you look at the end result and you're doing an effective job, fine! I'm not gonna try to bend you out of shape to conform with what central office seems to want. But lets use it, lets see if we can't also find out, at least informally poll parents for next year's organization if there are parents we know prefer a teacher whose style is that, then best assign those kids to those teachers. We had other teachers who could really juggle it and keep all the balls in the air at once in a way I never could. Ah...really open classrooms, you'd go in and there was a hum of activity, nothing untoward, nothing out of place. Kids were all working, they were all happy, they were eager, they were learning. The teachers' knew what was going on over in that corner when they were working over here with two or three other children in a small group. And we had parents who were very much into that, they felt that was the way to go. Again, why not capitalize on it if, as long as you've got some choices, why not give people their first choices if you can. And so we would make a very deliberate effort in June when we were setting-up organization for the coming year. Ah...How about this child's learning style? This child is not a self-starter, is he going to get lost in that kind of environment? Then lets not put him into it. Ah...a couple of years later we may want to change our minds, but this year at least, a very carefully structured, traditional kind of classroom, and traditional kind of teacher. Not better or worse, unless there is a mismatch, then it's worse. But simply a different kind of environment, a different atmosphere. I always thought it must be hell in a couple of the schools that were set up out in the county that were totally open schools, they were physically open, didn't have any walls. There are kids who just can't concentrate on that. They're, ah... go back to special education. There are kids who literally need a little cubicle certain times of the day so they can close out all other distractions if they had any hope of coping with what they are supposed to be learning. You don't imprison them all day, but there are times when they gotta be in that kind of setting to accomplish anything. What would an open school do to them? uh...
Q: That's an interesting problem for a principal and the teacher I'm sure.
A: If that's your only choice and you're being forced into a kind of monolithic organization and it doesn't fit everybody. So even in a relatively small school, all of the school's I was in were in the smallest third of city schools. Ran anywhere from 400-450 odd, up to 1100 pupils, with most of them well, the average may be ?00, something like that. The ones I was lucky enough to be in, cause I think its better, were the smaller ones up to 500. Except when an artificiality like opening a new neighboring middle school wiped out half our population. But I still see that...that's an arbitrary decision, that was not some thing that would have happened anyway. (mumble) Something like 250 whole population and...That was the beginning of the end for that, that school.
Q: Was that a tragedy?
A: I don't know of anybody who saw it as something good. The neighborhood didn't like it. They were losing their little school, that had been there for forty to fifty years. Parents didn't like it. Many of the parents were resisting the move to Ah...partly because of integration issues there were, that were also part of the whole thing.
A: ...from a nice cozy 250 pupil school to a school with eight or nine hundred students grades four through six, who were being brought in from three other school geographic areas.
Q: um-hum. I'd like to get back to that one. um...To get back to the previous question, as to what the teachers' expected 266 of you. What did they expect of, of you as far as discipline, within the school?
A: (chuckle) That, now, that varies, too, from teacher to teacher. Ah...you go into a building and very quickly you find out, ah, who's really effectively in control in the classroom. And who is kind of shaky. It's almost like riding the volcano. (chuckle) It's always there rumbling and you don't know when something is going to burst out. Ah...the...the, the good ones. Very rarely had any need to reach out to somebody else. On the rare occasions when they sent a child to the office with a note and you knew it was pretty serious. Sometimes, the note would just say, "I'll throttle him if he's in here any...Can you just keep him for 15 minutes and then send him back? Don't do any thing else. (laugh) I need a break from him...he needs a break from me!" And that was it. Others, by contrast, seemed to think of the office as kind of an extension of their classroom and they would have over the course of the day, two, three different children in there. It was a steady procession. And...what are you teaching this child? I don't know what you're teaching him because you're not with him very much. Ah...
A: So the, the... that was the range.
A: I, I think most teachers like, like any other group, there is a kind of middle tendency. Most of them are pretty good. They were looking for support. They were looking for...and I don't see this as really wrong. Ah...they were looking for somebody else to take care of the (sigh) the discipline because, "I'm here trying to teach or to teach the kids who come, who are ready." And 90% of that, I think, is accurate. But it's always been true, that the other, maybe 10% is a...you've still got to be in control. If you don't have control of their minds and bodies (laugh), you're not going to teach them anything. With most of the kids, that control comes easy, it's natural. But you still got to, got to have some of that iron. Got...Chris Sweeney, one of the old traditional teachers. Um...she'd have some large fourth grader at least as big as she was, (laughs, mumbles) along. "We don't do that in Mrs. Sweeney's room..." And she'd pull it off beautifully (laugh). I couldn't have done it not that way. I would have laughed at myself, or the kid would have laughed at me. (laugh) And it wouldn't have worked. But she could pull that of so beautifully and walk back into the room. There was no problem.
Q: Ah, and the ah...
A: Oh yes.
Q: (cough) Are there any times you can remember, when in the disciplinary problems, you were a bit nonplused as to what to do?
A: Regularly...sure. (pause) The...phew...we'd get kids who were borderline special education and that's a loose kind of definition. Certainly not a...a scientific one. But they were kids who needed an awful lot of help, who profited by being at least in a small class, if not formally a special education class of some sort. And, who if they had been evaluated my there was almost sure to be trouble. And you, you, you'd look, you, you'd try...sometimes you'd let them sit awhile. Don't do anything. And if you were lucky and they didn't blow up, didn't do anything wrong, you'd buy some time, they'd get quieted down and then you could, perhaps, accomplish something. Sometimes just talking quietly and let the voice trail off and get so dull that they'd (laugh) that would calm things down a bit too, and then a maybe you could make some points, try and find out what was bothering (mumble) the child at that moment. But, so, ah well, Herman Goldberg was one of the superintendents back then. He's now in the Office of Education in Washington. And in his annual address to the teachers, said, and he was at that point mostly directing us toward the question of integration which was the big deal. But it applied to so many other things. He said we have been given the ball and told to run but we don't control the playing field. All these children are educable. Yes, but we don't have control over many of the conditions that are going to make a difference in that. I used to think that rich families send their kids to boarding school and some of those schools have very, very successful, but they control all of the factors. And I'd love to see an inner-city boarding school that runs from nine Monday, to five o'clock or four o'clock Friday afternoon, not going to close the parents out. Keep it as open as you can. But they're going to sleep there, eat there, I'm going to make sure they have a good diet, I'm going to make sure they have regular set-aside study periods. I'm going make sure that they have some good physical activities. And, if I really can control ah, their lives to that extent, I ought to be successful at it, with any of them. I may wind up with some unofficial foster parents on the staff, maybe, but, OK! That's part of it, so the good role images. Ah...send them home around the corner to their homes on weekends cause I'm not trying to break up their families. But I sure do want them to have the conditions that are going to make it possible to succeed and don't give me just a little part of it and say, "OK. You got 'em during the daytime, work a miracle." It doesn't work!
Q: um-hum. (pause) How did you evaluate your teachers' performances? Were, were there any special techniques you used to make your teachers feel important and successful?
A: Yeah. There are two parts to that. There are the for mal parts that you have to do because central office says to, or because, uh...union agreements have evolved a certain procedure, which you must follow. Big systems with strong unions, you have to play that game. And it's, it's not all wrong, but (mumble) by that I mean there are these rules and they're very careful about the observance of the rules. Ah...you do that. I think you try to explain so the teachers as a whole group know what your feeling is about that, that not everybody can be in the top 10% and if everybody is in the top 10%, then the whole process is meaningless. Because I'm going to look at some other school and find out that everybody who is in the bottom 10%, if there isn't that kind of balance throughout, then I'm not sure what the words mean and I'm not sure what the judgment, the value judgments are worth in this kind of process. You got to have some kind of a scattering, ah, going almost back to the bell curve distribution sort of thing. And again, you've got to be able to defend what you're saying. You've got to have some sort of accuracy that, that will stand up. It's got to have integrity. But the other part of a lot, and, maybe more important in terms of what you asked is the, the informal part. Walking along and saying, "I loved that activity I saw. How in the world did you pull that off yesterday?" (laugh) Be walking down the hallway and you stand outside and look, ah, just walk in, drop in and say...Give them a wave off and just ignore you. And it's fine. Ah, sit down next to a child and you, you have some questions about and just watch closely what that child is doing. Ah...again, there's a line there that you want to somehow blur, I think. The line between a formal observation, which is usually part of the contract and, and, and you need to let the teachers know ahead of time, this is it, what's a good time? I'd really like to see you instructing either reading or math, so prepare it, or call me in, or lets set-up an appointment for a time when that's what you're going to be teaching." You give her all the warning you can. And the other part, which is very informal and a lot of drop-in things, and no warning (mumble) you're walking around the building and somebody's going out the door with a class, and you wonder if you haven't had some sort of a sign up, so you already knew. Find out what's going on. It gives you a better idea of what, what's, what sort of activities, not necessarily field trips, although that's what this would be in this case. Ah...what kind of richness is this teacher working in? What kind of community resources is she tapping without having to get a bus and having to go through that whole formal procedure? And, there are a lot of subtle informal things that you can take advantage of that are great.
Q: In evaluation, when you're, your teacher knew you were coming in for a formal evaluation, did they put on a show for you? Was it, was it a realistic situation for you to evaluate?
A: (laugh) You're looking for a, a pat answer to that. Yes and no. Again, it varied with the individual. Ah...mostly I don't really believe they did, cause (mumble) if...if you're doing a job right, you're in there enough other times that you...pretty much know what's normal and standard, and you know when you're seeing something that's really special and out of the ordinary for that teacher. Yup. Mostly they didn't. Ah...
Q: OK. For...Earlier, you were, you were talking about um...your philosophy. You mentioned that word in passing. What was your philosophy as a principal?
A: Do you mean philosophy of education?
A: Do you mean philosophy of dealing with kids?
Q: How about both?
A: No - well...
Q: First with education.
A: I thought, ideally, that school ought to be a place kids would be running to get into. They ought to be hustling in the morning to get to it because they were so eager to get there. Lots of things going on that would be interesting and exciting and that somehow you...you had to have the routines because that's how you get things accomplished. Um...but you also had to have breaks in those routines with things that the kids would say, "Gee, that's neat!" Ah, and that ought, had to be almost everyday. It's, it's part show biz and that's, that's fine, as long as you don't loose the fact that they should be learning and developing and that somehow you've got to be teaching that so that you know that it's happening. But learning is exciting. You need to be setting it up and demonstrating it in such a way that the kids get caught in it and somehow, we loose that. I think every, that gets lost in every school system and every school I've ever known of. Either been in as a student or as a teacher or principal. Kids start in kindergarten and they're so receptive and so eager and somehow by the time they get through fifth or sixth grade, they get turned off and playing to their peers. They don't want to do certain things, that, that two or three years earlier, they would have been perfectly willing to, because all my friends are gonna think I'm funny! I don't want to...and it even gets into a negative grading. "I don't want to work to get good marks. My friends 'll think I'm square or tack on whatever the current slang word is for it." Ah...peer pres sure gets turned around into a negative thing. And I don't know what the answer to that is. As I'm sure, I'm sure...we're not stupid. If anybody had found a magic answer somewhere in the country, everybody would have jumped on that. But something happens to them. Not all...we get those few shining lights who then the job is a joy. But, by and large, it happens and I don't know what to do. Maybe it's just the nature of the way kids learn. (mumble) We got off the farm and the simple natural life. And the sort of Thoreau and Walden Pond kind of thing. Schools become more structured and more businesslike, more factory like. Maybe that's the thing that did it. I don't know. Or maybe it just violates nature. I've never seen any studies done on this, but, ah, (sigh), as we become a more complex society, formal schooling takes a lot longer. And as the kids get more toward adulthood, they want to be independent, they want to do things and yet society says you better be in school and you better be subservient to a teacher, and you better follow all these rules, some of which you think are silly. Ah...that's not being an adult. You wouldn't have this if school ended when kids were ten. In older times, formal schooling did end, for most people, earlier. Well, huh. Do you know the answer to it? I don't.
A: No opinions.
Q: That was a statement (lots of laughter). What pressures did you face as a principal?
A: I guess the biggest thing was a kind of over- all...pervasive feeling of not having enough control and not being in charge. Being responsible for making certain things happen. For making education happen when...you didn't really have and maybe wouldn't have, complete control over the teachers who were working at it. And didn't have complete control all over all the neighborhood environment and didn't have complete control all over the kids. And yet, you're the leader and you're supposed to be producing. No. Education's a strange kind of business when you compare it to anything else. And maybe you shouldn't because it isn't like anything else, but, no manufacturer would ever tolerate conditions like that. Kodak...I want to make good film. I want a clean room. Absolutely impeccable and we're gonna have to, to make sure that it's a dust-free environment. Um...because our end product requires that. And yet, in education, because we're dealing with people, and you can't stuff them into molds that way, ah, we don't really grab, seize, control over parts of the environment that we think are critical. We know are critical. We're going to muddle along playing doormat in a way, I guess. I look at parents who are abusive parents and think, how in the world am I supposed to educate this child? Going to school and being a good kid is the lowest thing on his agenda right now. He's in a fight for survival. But we don't move in and with some kind of force, some kind of real pressure and, and correct the situation. Or make the tough decisions that say, "You ought to be out of that home, maybe not forever, but for a year or a couple of years." Because what's happening right now is not in his best interest. But what about the rights of the parents? Well, tough! They're adults and they have a little more control right now, than look out for this child. But, but, as a society, we don't do that. We let it go. Be more concerned about the rights of the parents while some child's life is going down the drain. And that somehow have the naive notion that school is going to make a big difference in this. (pause) It would take a, a naive amount of faith in the effectiveness of our schools, when we really don't support them with the kinds of things they need. Ah, society gets more complicated, families are falling apart. More and more of what used to be done by families is not being done, and somehow, we kind of, at least verbally say, well schools ought to do it, but we're not lengthening the school year. We're generally not making any real appreciable strides in lengthening the school day. Ah...we're not putting money into a whole lot of programs that are not traditional school programs. What happened to traditional time, is a new tradition being developed every year. And, and we're slow to recognize that, and slow to take corrective steps along the way. It's a different ball game today.
Q: With the problems that you did face, how did you handle it? How did you survive?
A: I'd go and kick the dog. No (laugh). Ah...I don't know. You survive. Life is facing problems and handling those you can and somehow coming into a, a tension balance with the ones you can't handle. So they don't overwhelm you. They, they do overwhelm some people. Principals who are suicides. There are principals who get burned out and who'll leave the job. Ah...I guess you look to your fellow principals. That's a tough part cause you get all wrapped up in feelings of isolation. That's one of your questions was, was on that. And I think that's a very telling area. A very important area. Principals almost always, and I think should always, come out of classrooms. Ah...I guess there are some systems where they (laugh) come from industry or somewhere else where they supposedly have some skills, and maybe they do, but I think training ground is the classroom. You leave that. You're no longer a teacher. And you think, "Hey, I'm still the same person, I'm still nice." But it's different. Your role is changed, and even the teachers you were friends with...it's different. Especially if you're in the same building. Small systems that's apt to happen and the city schools district they, ah...usually appoint you to a different building. You don't become a principal in the building where you were a teacher last year. Which, I think, is good. It's, that's one of the advantages of size and being in a big system. Ah...and then you think, the first thing is you loose is your real affinity with teachers. You are different. You don't want to be, but its there. Ah...and you think, well, central office staff. We've got the same goals, trying to do the same things, carrying out the same directions, from the school board. All the carrying out state law. All this business. And we're trying to do a good job with kids and yet, central office staff is a different breed of cats somehow. And they don't have the same goals and I think, I truly believe that gets to be more political, and the, the sense the, the main goals are not necessarily (laugh) instruction. Other agendas get wrapped up in there that, it's unfortunate they are, but I don't know how you'd separate them out. One of my fellow retiree principals says that right now, central office has the three major goals are: first, custodial care; second, providing jobs; and third, instruction. And in that order. Keep the lid on and provide daytime custodial care, (chuckle) is number one. Its cynical, but he maybe right on the money. Ah, which is unfortunate. Ah, so you loose your close friends who are your teacher peers before, because you're now different. Or at least you're seen as being different. You're not part of that large central office staff. Physically, you're not a part of them because you're physically removed and, ah...it's in terms of jobs and hierarchy. You're not really a part of it is the realization that you're really closest friends now, who've got similar jobs and similar interests, are the other elementary principals and they're removed from you because they are in different buildings. Ah, because when you get together at meetings, there's an agenda. And you don't get any, any socializing and you, your somebody elses agenda. You're not really dealing with the problems you face mutually, so that kind of meeting is not a satisfactory sort of thing. You, ah, might do it outside of school hours. Ah, and then we had a knifing. A teacher was killed in the system. Ah...and the reaction to that tended to be to tighten down a lot of things. Very careful about building security. Lock those doors, chain those doors, make everybody come through the front doors. Which was legitimate. Principals can't leave the buildings for any purpose unless you've got a back-up person available, but in many of the smaller schools, you don't have that many with the administrative staff. You don't have somebody who can simply be there in the, in the office if necessary to handle, ah, those looney-tune problems that come up, while you are over at another school, talking with one of you peers, trying to resolve the problem. So, it gets tighter and tighter. And the, ah, I guess the only answer is trying to find time to spend with (laugh) the people who come, the same sort of job problems you have, is totally off the job. So when is that, evenings? Take more time away from your family? That doesn't work either. You know, there ought to be a, a...I think ideally, there's time or there should be in the day, not... not everyday...its part of you job and it ought to be part of your working time. You should have to take that time also away from your family. Ah, you...there's enough time taken away from your family. You gotta go back to PTA meetings, you gotta go back to the school, social functions. If not, why are you not taking part in this? What is that saying about your leadership? About your level of interest and support? You have to do that and you want to be there for most of then...they're, they're fun, they're, they, they're fitting. But they also take that couple of hours of time again. Gotta drive to school and spend the time there and then drive back and that blows another evening.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, how could you better prepare yourself for a principalship, and dealing with the myriad of, of situations you faced?
A: You know, I don't know if there is a better way. I think you have to - first, you can't change the world. If you become a principal, you're taking on the situation that exists. You need to have a selection process that's going to really make it clear to candidates what they're gonna be getting into so that those who think they're not going to be able to handle it well, will back off, early. You know, with no loss. No negative in there, just, OK. I was interested, I thought so, now I've changed my mind. And nobody thinks you're the worse for that, and there needs to be room for that. Some of the workshops that use a kind of in-basket technique are good. But, I guess, if I would...I was one of the last principals in the city to come out of the classroom to go into a principalship. It's become, ah, a rule now that you will have to go through other intermediate steps on a promotional ladder. You will have to become a, a vice-principal, you will have to become an intern in another building where your job is administrative rather that classroom instruction. And you, you're judging your own performance in that position, as well as being judged by others. And it's, it's a step up the ladder, but it's a training, it's, it's training ground. And I think that's important. One more step in the kind of winnowing process, if you will. So that those people who really shouldn't be there are kind of led to making their own decisions or, turn it into another direction and go back into the classroom. Ah, without having to take the next upward steps, take on the responsibility and then fail at it. Cause the formality of failure is the, the worst thing, I think, that can happen. With kids. Ah...with everybody, but with kids. But I think often we, ah, we box in people. Ah, box in the principal. What is it, the Peter Principle, says that most people are working their failure level? You get promoted through success after success and once you start to fail, that's where it stops and you're working at your failure level, instead of one step below that. (chuckle) Ideally, you should be.(laughter) Well, I don't know - there are losses whenever you change that are artificial, I don't think have to be there. And yet, society sees it that way. And so individuals see it that way, too. Rather than a change of direction. Oh, who's that guy? I suddenly can't think of his name now. "Schools Without Failure." Psychologist on the west coast. He's so good that I, who in the world would...I forget his name. But, he used to say, "If I go to the doctor, I'm not at all interested if it took him six years in medical school or fourteen years in medical school. I want to know, at that moment, is he a good doctor?" We structure the school year into such precise little packages which are all artificial and here comes a kid who needs fifty weeks to master this course, but at the end of forty weeks, and we say pass/fail. Should have given him ten more weeks and say, "Great! You made it. You're as good as...you got the knowledge, you've succeeded as much as anybody that did it faster that you." The time is not the critical part of it. But rather the achievement level. On one side of us we say, we all are different, we progress at different rates, and yet, another side of it is totally fails to make in-school adjustments to that. We give lip service to this great idea.
A: And again, I don't know how you break that down. You've got to have a different kind of school, with whole different kind of staff, who, again would see things differently. Ah...high schools, it seems to me, although (laugh) mostly I think, these days, do a much poorer .job than elementary level. You see, self serving. Ah...how's the tape?
A: Alright? Ah...high schools have the physical set-up where they could do that kind of thing. Their compartmentalizations side is different. And there's no reason why kids couldn't be given a lowered placement in some, some subjects without having to take course one as a prerequisite. Ah...some child from a Spanish speaking family, ah, and he wants to take Spanish. Are we going to put him in Spanish I? Ah, that shouldn't be the first choice habitually. The choice ought to be, " Well, lets look around and see what he can do." And if he is really beyond Spanish I, lets not waste his time with that, or bore him either. Lets check him out for Spanish II or Spanish III, and slot him in where he's going to have some challenge and where he'll be able to grow from it. Ah, the ah...a decent sized high school ought to have enough sections that they've got that sort of flexibility available. Whether they choose to use it is the other question. Ah...elementary schools are different. It's, it's a, we're not geared that way. You know we, we get, we can get pushed into it sometimes unwittingly. And it's good. Ah, smaller school, at least in Rochester, often get forced organizationally, into multilevel grades - split grades of say 5-6 combination. You look at your organization. You've got so many teachers, so many pupils, a certain average class size that you should be aiming toward. And the numbers just don't come out right. You've got forty to forty-five 5th graders. You can't justifiably split them into two small sections, perhaps. Certainly shouldn't put them into one super large section. Tends to force you into a split grade. But, given the right teacher, who isn't forced to accept one, but who thinks that a good deal, and some of them do and, ah, putting together the right combination of kids, a good combination...I say, "the right" as if there only one, there's not, but a good combination of kids. Kids who can work will under those circumstances too. Teachers who just looks at the whole room and doesn't always see the left side as the fifth grade and the right side as the sixth grade, but here's Charlie and he's a sixth grader, but he...if I talk with him, I can get him to sit kind of comfortably with a fifth grader where he really needs to work. And it'll, it'll, by any standard it's a good choice for him, and yet it's not a demotion. And he's gonna make a year's progress this year, one way or another. (laugh) Ah...and he goes on out of sixth grade, but he's not as far behind as he was when he went into that class that year. Ah...they, they don't see things always in nice neat little boxes. And elementary schools can do that. Teaching teams, when you've got a real one. School will sometimes get organized in terms of teaching teams, and you, again, you go through the process, you play some games trying to, and again I don't mean that in a negative way. Um...trying to sort out who ought to be teamed and how, why and you put them together, but no matter how you do it, there are some people who cleave together and they work so beautifully together. And there are some others who are going through the motions. They're a team on paper, but in terms of practice, ah, they're standing away from each other as much as they can within the constraints that are there (laugh). But the good teams...they just kind of toss it all up in the air like mixed salad and they look at who can do the best job on this subject with this kid and don't care what grade level he is. And they pull it off. I look at them sometimes and I marvel at them and I wonder, I couldn't do that, but they do. Its, its the right setting for them at that time. And Great! Stand back (laugh) and don't get in the way.
Q: um-hum. I wanted to ask you if you had a vice-principal or an assistant principal in your school?
A: No. I never did, ah, because of the small size in the district. They're ah, they were assigned on the basis of size of the school.
A: Size and complexity. There was a formula. How many inner-city kids and welfare cases, ah, broken homes, that, that or some value judgments plugged into make a formula. But essentially, it was, ah, size. Smaller schools didn't get them.
A: The largest of the school had two vice-principals.
A: Yes, so that even in a, in a school of 1100 pupils, the biggest of them, the worst, I think, in terms of size, ah, there'd be a principal, two vice-principals. What we did have was cadre teachers. Ah, they were, primarily, reading specialists. Intended to provide some extra input in reading instruction. They would observe. They were supervisors helping teachers, they did not evaluate. And yet, the role kind of got to be semi-administrative. You'd certainly be talking with them about who's having problems. Or about what great thing was happening (laugh) in Mrs. So and So's room this morning. Um...it, but, you know, that, that was, ah...that was somebody who was presumably on the way up. I'm thinking now of one particular lady who's next step was into a vice-principalship. Ah, terrific lady, terrific teacher. Patient. Was sometimes a shoulder to cry on, to commiserate with. You need people like that. And, and everybody does and if you get too isolated, its...makes it very hard.
Q: Um-hum. You were talking about a, a cadre teacher you had who was a, a person who teachers could really go to and she was supportive. This raises the questions of how are vice-principals and principals selected, and do you necessarily want to have a teacher who is that good, in her own way, do you necessarily want to move her out of her position into an administrative job? So, first, how do you select principals in the city of Rochester?
A: It used to be that you were sort of tapped by the good fairy somehow. A lot of mysticism involved. Nobody was quite sure. Pulled together a committee of teachers and principals and central office staff expressly charged with coming up with a better procedure. And the result of that is what we now have. First, the individual has to formally apply. Now (laugh) some body else in the system may suggest strongly that you do apply, but that's not wrong. Ah...nevertheless, it, it starts with the application. You have to meet, of course, the state certification requirements or be in the process of meeting them before you can be appointed. But the selection procedure involves some for mal testing, there are things like SAT's only they are, ah, like Graduate Record Exams almost, except that they're aimed at specific job areas. Principal, vice-principal. Ah... instructional supervisor, a little different range. Some of the same sub-areas are given and, and yet different sub-areas are, are given as the job definitions split off. Part of it is formal testing, but only part. We talked through that and figured, "Yeah, you learned from that." You can certainly check out the background of knowledge in a very formal way and in a way which you can compare and say, " Yeah, or this test at least, this per son is clearly better." And you do need to be able to defend you self in some way in a selection process because people do question it. Another part in the formal interview, and its a weighted part of the process. You may - I've forgotten some of the details now - I guess 30% perhaps for the test performance, another 30% for your performance on the formal in-person inter view, a board is set up, a couple of central office supervisory people, former building principals, a couple of current building principals, a couple of teacher representatives ah, now they would be selected by the teachers' union. But, even before we had unions, per se, it was, a part, teachers were a part of NEA: Ah, there were teacher representatives on that whose vote finally was equal to the rest of them. Ah...and then the results of that were given numerical status and weighted, and put into the hopper for consideration. Another, um, oh, 20% possibly, was your evaluations as in those days as a teacher. In these days, it would be your evaluations, your job, job, your proven job performance, ah, as a vice-principal. To determine whether you got to be a principal. Out of this whole process, a ranking was established. And when there is a principalship to be filled, a superintendent usually is limited and must draw from the top three on the list. So he has some freedom, but not total freedom to go outside the system and pick somebody nobody knows. That's not always wrong, but it does tend to make a mockery out of the system if too much of that's done. Ah...I think now they've changed it so that 10% of the appointees he can reach outside the system and so something, too. And you may have very legitimate reasons for not wanting the thing to be so ingrown. You may want to very deliberately reach outside the system and, and bring in someone. In fairness to your current staff, that can't be the only way. It was interesting, Bill Rock, who chaired that committee, said, "Now, do we want to build into this a, a part in which we rank your teacher training institution, the college you went to. And then assign some points for some and more points for others. Fewer points for others?" Ah...absolutely. I picked the university I did for undergraduate and for graduate because I thought they were the best and I still believe they're the best. But I don't know how the devil to weight the thing. I don't know how.(laugh) I really don't know how to make it work. I think it's critical, but I don't know how to deal with it. So we wound up not doing it. But there are ways, if you've got consensus that some of this does matter you set up some kind of structure for judging it and assign a weight value to it. Is that three quarters of the value of, of a trying to prejudge how effective a principal you might be? Maybe it is, maybe 90% of it. But I don't know that. So you weight different areas of these things that you think are important considerations. And particularly you, your proven job performance. If you have to be a vice principal, by regulation before you can be a principal, fine. Now you've got a chance to watch somebody and you've got more that one person who can evaluate the performance of that person. Certainly the building principal you're working for. If you are transferred or you request transfer, so that you can get exposed to a different school, a different school population, school community, different principal you have to work with. Now you've got two different people who are making job evaluations of you which is fairer and probably also better because it's broader. Ah...you get personality clashes sometimes and, and I'm not alluding to that. Person did well in this one assignment in this one school, cause that means you're going to do equally well in the next school which may have quite a different make-up. I don't know. Not necessarily. Ah...that was one of the reasons I asked for transfers as a teacher several times. I wanted broader experience. You work for a system and particularly as you move up, ah, when you become a principal, you go where you're sent. Not true as a teacher. When you're a teacher, if you want to stay in the school, a given building, you, generally, you can. Sometimes, because of social changes, population changes, it's not always possible, but again, with seniority, your wishes be come more and more important and more protected so that (telephone ring) junior teachers get forcibly transferred and senior teachers get to stay if that's what they choose to do. That kind of thing works out. I'm going to ignore that. The answer machine will take it.
A: Um. Does that answer it for you?
Q: I think so.
A: There is a very formal process, it's spelled out, it's known and you have to apply for it.
Q: um-hum. Here's one for you. What was your biggest headache as a principal?
A: (laugh) Oh, over the years, or maybe it's because I was changing, I finally got so fed up with what I saw as union activities that were, ah, part of a different agenda and they just were not instructional issues. They weren't, in my opinion, they weren't teaching condition issues which are legitimate issues for a union to heed, And I spent more time dealing with grievances than I had in sixteen years before that. (laugh) And suddenly I'd be getting grievances, almost, ever...it seemed almost every time I turned around. And I, I just, I deplore that kind of thing because I don't see it as professional. I look at some of the things that happen now that I'm out of it. And, ah, in my opinion, hasn't changed. The union is arguing strongly, strongly for more pay, ah, as it should. Ah, I don't think that's ever wrong. But there are other things that have to do with teaching and with instruction. The union is a power block and it could use that power for such great things for kids. And I don't see that as their primary focus or even a very important secondary focus. Primary focus is money and working conditions for teachers. That's alright, but I guess if I were to look at unions with eyes that really glowed, I'd see those two things as necessary, lets tackle them first and get them out of the way and then lets get on to applying some pressure on the community to clean up some other things that are social issues, broad social issues which we're not dealing with that impact upon schools and yet, nobody is really doing much of a job with them. What the heck would happen if the teachers in a block with real unanimity said, "you're going to have this corrected by next September and we're going to make real serious inroads on it, or we're on strike. Not for money and not for working conditions, but to make something good happen." Ah...my wife would say, "What are you saying?" But I think they need to look out for some broader issues in education and I don't see that happening.
Q: Earlier, when you were talking about your isolation as a principal, you mentioned that the agenda at central administration had instruction at the bottom and now, I find that the union has instruction not as it, as a , as a goal, not as or not as its main goal.
A: Not first! (laugh) No!
Q: Who does? Where, who puts instruction at the top? Was that you as a principal or was that you and your teachers within your school?
A: I think that when you institutionalize things, the nature of institutions tends to set up other agendas and I think that when, converse to that, ah, when you find people who are really concerned with instruction first, its on an individual basis. It's this good teacher and this good teacher, and this good teacher, and there are a lot of them. But the organizations that represent them, the union on its side, the board of education on its side, the school board, which represents teachers, too, in just as important a way, ah, that's the institution. And they get so many that put other things. I don't know that, in the best of all worlds, I don't know that you could avoid it anyway. But, ah, they apply for federal grants, they have to really scurry around to not only write good proposals that will be accepted, the scurrying around for money, sometimes for bare survival money, it's always a problem. Ah...some of these things have to do with social issues and providing jobs. Often jobs for minorities. Now, with the big money that has been available in just the past two years, it may be drying up very quickly now, it seems. But that big money that's been available - some of it has gone for additional aides. The hiring of aides. My wife has a kindergarten aide - full time. Supposed to be an instructional aide. Doesn't have a lot of instructional back ground. My wife is spending some of her time supervising the aide. She's got another child in the room. It's not that bad. But, to a large extent, that's how you have to look at the thing. Ah, there are aides and then there are aides. And I'd, I don't know what the screening process was for them. I suspect not a very good one, because the screening process also tends to include the aides represented by the teachers' union. Having processes set up by which seniority is a very important part of the process. Ah, and it should be. I would never want to say, "No matter how senior you get, you're always out, you're always out there ready to have a change imposed upon you, change of position, a cut, a whatever." That shouldn't be - shouldn't be totally defenseless. But, you wind up making compromises that I, I don't like to have made. Anyway, it would seem to me that if you're going to have instructional aides, you want to go out and pick the very best instructional aides you can. With that being the first consideration. Not simply that this was a, perhaps, a lady who, who was a matron on a school bus and who now wants to be an instructional aide. So next year we'll make her an instructional aide, with nothing, no other growth having occurred in the meantime. Ah, some of these aides are tremendous. We had a, a break-aide. Her main function was simply to provide 15 minutes relief for teachers on those days when they didn't have a phys. ed. class or a music class that we'd give then some relief. Ah, one teacher was really struggling, the class would be near chaos, the aide (laugh) would arrive, she'd get them whipped into shape very quickly, good work happening, 15 minutes would go by and the teacher would come in and things would begin to disintegrate again. She was just a terrific lady. Encouraged her to go back and get the paperwork that would certify what she was in fact doing. But she thought she was too old. Fifty-ish then and going to part-time school another eight to ten years to get her degree. She didn't, but I was, I was always sorry that she didn't do it cause I thought she was the kind of person we needed.
Q: um-hum. The natural teacher?
Q: Your, your style of principalship, was it more as a building manager or more of an instructional leader?
A: No - ah, again. I think you get forced into things by circumstances. I'd like to say I was the instructional leader primarily, but in truth, it didn't work that way. Ah...you go in, you have an agenda, I, I know what I wanted to do for that day or that week. And I'd get called to quell some near riot somewhere. A couple of kids are having a fight and the teacher wanted some help right away and I'm dealing with that instead of the other things that I had planned to do. And there are the usual reports, papers to file, things of that sort. It seems that ever growing quantities and I would try to take those home and work on them at night but it seemed never to be enough time to do that as well. So, that's, that's part of what you have to contend with. Ah...you never really got to spend as much time as I wanted to, on what I considered instructional issues. Want to hold a faculty meeting, and a faculty meeting and, again, (laugh) union contract limits on how many faculty meetings you can hold and of what duration. Ah...you've got something good going, it's, it's really working. The clock says it's time to quit. Do you walk out and quit then because of the clock? Or (chuckle) you make an announcement that anyone who has to leave may leave now, but ah, and often they would have made arrangements - got a hairdresser appointment in 15 minutes because the meeting is sup posed to be over now. Alright, there's some legitimacy to that, too. I, I appreciate that. But, the, the union in Rochester, at least, kind of evolved into that thing where there wasn't a, a, a give and take - it partially depended upon who your building representative was, too. Personalities entered into it. But, the letter of the contract. That's legitimate, too, but I, I think contracts are something to fall back on when people become unhappy about something. And, I'd much rather operate - give on this because it's important that we do this. Are you satisfied with that? Can you, are you comfortable with that? You don't care what the contract says. But, so often, it seems to me recently, the first look is, "what does the contract say?" Got to comply with the contract. And you, you should. That's what contracts are for. But it's other things take priority that I don't think ought to be number one.
Q: um-hum. How did you handle teacher grievances?
A: Well, again, the process. There is a formal procedure established. Four steps in it altogether. Ah...actually five, the unwritten part was the first step. Ah...teacher would be unhappy about something. Ideally, would come in and talk with you. I want to talk with you about this - when, when can we get together?" So you pick a comfortable time for both of you and you talk about it. And then you, you'd deal with it. Ah...and ideally things should end there. But, not always. Ah...when you get somebody who's more contract oriented, the first step is filing a formal written grievance, with a copy to the union representative and a copy which I was supposed to immediately send down to central office. And then you still deal with it at building level - on that stage. But is became formalized with one more paper report immediately. When I thought it was working well, you talked about it before it even got to that point. And you, you came to some accommodation. Ah... usually it's, you're not doing something for an arbitrary reason. It's, it's a matter of understanding and looking for some sort of trade off. Ah...you're not wrong, but I'm not totally right either. How...what can we do so that we can both live with this? Kind of trade off. But, ah, once it got formalized, then you were sort of backed into a corner. Your had to follow certain procedures only. Ah...step one, you had to talk with the teacher, with perhaps with the union representative being present - depending on her wishes. If she wanted the union representative there, she had the right to do that. You talked it through and you tried to reach a solution. If you did, fine. That ended it. If you couldn't reach a solution at that point, then it was kicked up to central office level where you, ah, your supervisor, and there were, at that point, three elementary supervisors, (telephone ring) each responsible for about a third of the schools. Kicked up to my boss. Um - oh, got the phone got to me (laugh). Talked about what was going on, then had to hold a hearing at central office level. If, it could not be resolved at that level, it would go, literally to the superintendent. He would take a direct hand in it. And if it still, and of course higher level union involvement with the union president at that level. And if it still couldn't be resolved, it could eventually be kicked right up to the board of education. The school board. And in one of their formal business meetings, unless it was a personnel issue. Personnel issues are handles privately - in private session not public meetings. Ah, if it ever got to that level, the odds are it was a pretty big thing. It was probably district wide, it may have been involved in some kind of an issue over working conditions that would, ah, effect many schools, not just one. And ideally it should have been resolved at a higher level because it was so broad. Ah...but we had a very formal process. Which I didn't particularly like. You follow it, but my, I tended more to want to sit down and talk with somebody. (mumble) What, what is the matter anyway? What, what's wrong? What would you like it to be? What's real around us? What can we do? And out of that, maybe, you, you come to some, some kind of a com promise in which you don't get exactly what you want teacher, but you understand why that is and you accept the situation. I don't (laugh) get exactly what I want either. Which is usually the way it went. And that, you can't be dictatorial.
Q: What was...
A: You can't. You know you... I think some people may try to do it but you, you're dealing with people again and they have feelings and even if you win this point, you loose the war be cause somebody's unhappy with you, for years after. And it colors everything you do with that teacher from then on.
Q: um-hum. What were some of the issues that you, you remember that teachers had grievances about? Were there any specifics?
A: Yeah. One of them was like the faculty meetings. Ah...what was, I'm trying to think right now, (pause) ah...I'm trying to think what district wide some of them were. They, they were getting several grievances in each school. Total of couple of hundred across the city - having to do with some kind of work condition which had not been improved by elementary principals. Ah...there was carrying out another central office directive that the union's way of dealing with it was to, and this was not a big issue, in my opinion, but their tactic for handling it was to send in lots of grievances so that it would have to get kicked up to a third level or even to the board of education very quickly. Which was a good tactic.
A: Yeah. Often it's that. It's a direct confrontation kind of thing which I deplore. Mostly, not, not because you want to resist controversy or avoid it, but (sigh) when it gets to a war, there are loosers and to me education is the kind of field which is better typified by "I'm OK, you're OK." Or, "I want a little, you want a little." but neither of us is a total absolute looser. The same with kids who are obstreperous in class. You want to somehow deal with the situation, but you don't want the child to walk out feeling he's a loser. You will pay for that later - one way or another.
Q: OK. We, we've finished with the teacher grievances and that leads into, did you ever fire a teacher?
A: Never. Didn't have to, but there was one teacher who, ah, had come to the school highly regarded from another school. Ah, I just didn't see her as being that good a teacher. She, I, I had the feeling that she wanted to be a, a grandmother, play a grandmother role. And she was elderly, but that wasn't the issue. We had older teachers than she was who were terrific. Ah, we instituted a new reading program city-wide, supposed to be teaching this. Had a number of meetings, faculty meetings in which we talked through not only the new program but, what about the kids who don't fit the new program? And is the new program going to be effective for them? OK, you're experienced, check out the materials. Ah...and you know what's available. Figure out what you want to do, but then just check with me so that we both know the, the transition. Cause you can't forever stay off the basic reading program. At some point you've got to look at, "Is this child ready?" Put him back into the basic reading program and stop the splintering off. At some point, you, you want to direct back into the main stream. Ah...lets look at the transition. Lets look at how the materials you would prefer to use are going to, are going to fit that transition. Ah...if as the new program does, ah, start with the introduction of short vowels, and the long vowels are postponed, the glided vowels it was then, ah, if your system would start with long vowels and you move into that a little later, is, is that going to be lost? Is the child never going to get formal instruction in that? You can't play catch-as-catch-can. Be sure that we're taking a look at how the two mesh and if they mesh poorly, what are we going to compensate for that. And she wanted to teach her own reading system to everybody which in itself wasn't a measure of great issue either. But coupled with that the fact, atrocious discipline - kids wrestling on the floor - when she's teaching reading to a group. Ah...I just, I was convinced that she wasn't doing the job. A couple of the other teachers, whose work I, I thought was tremendous, would, once in a little while a little slip, a little aside comment about how they, she wasn't doing the job. Which kind of reinforced my own judgments. That's always comforting. You maybe sure in your own mind, but still nice when you get an unexpected support from somewhere. Anyway, I began talking with her about whether it might be time for her to retire. I began doing evaluations which were not as good. And being very specific about why I thought so. Contacted central office, got one of the instructional supervisors and told the lady that, ah, I wanted to do that and I wanted to get another opinion. And so, the, a central office supervisor would come in on planned occasions formal, again, formal. No, no sneak around, drop-in, catch you off guard. That's not fair in this kind of thing. I think you need to tell people so they know exactly what you're thinking, what your intentions are and, ah, you give them their best shot. If they can't do it under ideal conditions, you can be sure they're not doing it under less than that. (mumble) A kind of military inspections when I was in the Navy. I could never understand why we had all these grown men out there on Saturday morning all lined up in their nice new uniforms to see if they can get themselves dressed right. It took a long time for me for it to finally sink in and realize that there were a few of them, such foul balls, they couldn't even get that right! Oh, why would you - and, and this was cluing you into who you ought to watch in other circumstances, because you've no reason to think they're going to do a better job on something that's more difficult. They might, but you want to be careful Anyway, the upshot of it was the, the pressure was more than she wanted to continue and she decided to, she would retire. She was eligible, had been for some time. I could have gotten a grandmother, a nice grandmotherly role model out on the street anytime. That isn't what the kids needed. If she could be a grandmother as well as being a real solid, effective teacher, great!
Q: So who did do the firing?
A: In this case, nobody. She retired. It was voluntary and or her record went in as voluntary.
A: If it had come to that, you know I would have done it reluctantly, because if they resist, there's a hearing procedure. And there should be.
A: You have the right to defend yourself the best way you can. That process for the system is, ah, involved what I'd al- ready taken the first steps in that, too. The getting outside help for her, to. Ah...she knew she was facing, at best, ah, a good deal more, in terns of more supervision from outside the building, more supervision from me. And...
A: The, the central office instructional supervisor who would have been in wasn't, wasn't doing evaluations. That was not her function. Although she was quite capable of doing it. But, ah, would certainly go in spend time with the teacher, come back talk with me about what had happened, what they had set up so that I would know, so that I was proceeding along the same lines. We didn't want to be giving her conflicting information. You have to build a case and the case has to be looked at before the union strength, it still would have been looked at by the teacher, by a lawyer if she chose to bring in one. There would be a hearing at central office level. In an extreme case, if the teacher requested it, might even go before the school board.
A: In this, case it didn't happen. I never had to go through that process. It does occasionally. Ah...I think the public thinks it never happens. And that's unfortunate. I think they ought to know that it does happen and people really are doing the job are fired. But it's handled discreetly for the most part. And all of these are called personnel matters and they are not handled at public board meetings. Even if it is handled at the very top level, and the school board itself is making the final decision. Usually in hiring and firing, and principal appointments, the whole business, superintendent makes the appointment. Ah, presents it at the school board, the board formalizes it, they can reject it if the wish. They usually don't. And they picked him to run it and usually allow him to do it. Once in a great while there may be some kind of a, a personal issue or a ...our Spanish, our Hispanic member may decide to, for some reason that we're not (mumble) getting enough Hispanic appointments or something of that sort may crop up. And there'll be some in-fighting that gets resolved. For the most part its the superintendent's decision. He presents the, his recommendations to the board, and the board almost routinely ap proves. They have oversight and they can send it back and say make a different choice, but it rarely happens.
A: As you would expect. If, if, circum...if working conditions between the superintendent and the board are as they ought to be, won't happen. They're seeing closely enough together. They picked him because of his, his philosophy, his beliefs about the way things ought to be, they picked him because he pretty well lines up with what they think ought to be happening over the next few years. They're in agreement.
Q: OK. Um - the flip side is hiring. How did, did hiring teachers go and what criteria did you use to accept a teacher onto your staff?
A: Yeah. Again, I didn't have that option. It's a big city system. Ah, at its peak, Rochester out of a total of 2000 to 2200 teachers was hiring 350-400 new teachers every year. There was that kind of turn over. Largely because of it being a university city and Kodak, and job transfers, working wives, wife goes with the husband. There's a teaching opening. Ah, oh, a medical student finishes school and get his assignment to a, a, a teaching hospital, he internship, leave the city, the wife goes too. There's a teaching job open. Ah, there was a lot of turn over. Ah, it got to the point where, on the opposite side of the, six, seven, eight years ago, there were very few job openings even in the city. Now it's picking up again. Particularly in special education. But the only direct advice we gave to my daughter was, "While you're in school, double up. Qualify for special education, as well as regular education because predict- ably that's where the jobs are going to be in the near future." She did and she got hooked by it. She wouldn't change out of special education now if she could. Ah...for the most part hirees are simply assigned to buildings. Didn't have any choice. You got, you got the name in a memo and that was it. On some rare occasions, particularly in some critical kind of position, possible it was special education, possibly the teacher was transferring from another building within the system, there would be an interview. Lets feel each other out a little bit. She might not have been sure or something would happen like that, but very rarely did the building principal have any voice in who was assigned to his school.
A: It's a different world. In a small system, ah, often it's the building principal who literally does the hiring. At interviewing, he can pretty well can build the nature of his staff as he goes along. Particularly if anything about a turn over. If there is very little turnover, that's it. (laugh). That's, well, sort of like a president who has longevity and who can appoint a disproportionate number of Supreme Court justices who can really influence the make-up of the court.
Q: um-hum. OK. I'd like to go back and, and pick up a, a couple of areas that, that have been alluded to. Um, during your time as, as a school principal, the nation went through quite an upheaval in civil rights. Ah...and just a few minutes ago when talking about the school board, you mentioned, ah, a particular ethnic group that, that a, might notice something and, and effect things. How much did the civil rights turmoil in the sixties effect you situation? How did you handle any problems that occurred? If any did?
A: I was never directly in a situation where there was any outright rioting or real gang violence. There was one outstanding case in the city in the beginning of the integration movement, at Charlotte High School. There was the stoning of busses and fights between neighborhood adults, and parents of blacks who were being bussed in and more the parents than among the kids themselves, sadly. Ah, the, it was a city-wide movement, it effected by school only as one more among all the rest. Bussing added some minor headaches in terms of supervising at the beginning and the end of the day. Most of the kids were good kids. They went through a period of adjustment getting used to new schools, friendships were formed. Ah...it wasn't perfect by any means. The worst single thing, in my estimation was, the kids never really were integrated. Get back on the bus at the end of the day. Once in a great while, you'd get a little glimmer of something good happening. One of them would get invited to go home with one of the neighborhood kids and you'd have to call and get permission because it was an unexpected thing. Ah...but it was a good thing. You know (mumble) was glad to have (chuckle) an extra chore. But for the most part they even weren't able to take advantage of after school activities because you always had the questions, "How are they going to get home then?" Oh, they're, ah, boy scouts or girl scouts meeting in the school, after school one afternoon a week. Love to have these kids take part. That, that's where, in a less or a looser structured situation, that's where they're rubbing elbows and finding out what each other is really like. Less so in a formally structured classroom where they're not doing their thing. Um...but always how, what are the mechanics, how are we going to get then home afterwards? And again, when we could work out something, when the scout master said, would say, "I'll take them home as soon as their thing is over, that's no problem." Fine. The parents accept that? Yeah. OK, good. Go! But never enough that. They were never, for, for working reasons fully a part of the school. The (pause) handful of troubles that I saw coming in, really not many of them, were, ah, just personal differences. One kid didn't like another kid, maybe because he was black, but, ah, we didn't have any real formal confrontational situations. Maybe because I was lucky. I, I think luck has a lot to do with it. You...I was in a neighborhood where there was some leader ship in the community in terms of educated, liberal kinds of people who say this as kind of a little gamble, maybe a little risk, chance that it may water down some of the quality in the school. But still something which should be done and so you, you hang into it more or less willingly. And that was a big help. We didn't have small scale race riots. We didn't have gang war fare or where a lot of the whites ganging up on the blacks cause the blacks were outnumbered. Didn't happen. Could have. But it didn't.
Q: Um-Hum. So I take it from, from that remark, your school originally was all white and the blacks were bussed in?
Q: It was a white neighborhood?
A: Almost completely. Ninety percent.
Q: Um-hum. OK. At the beginning of, of the interview , we were, you were, were talking about, um, your philosophy , um, working with your publics. And we concentrated more on the internal publics. How did you, you, ah, work with, with the neighborhood and the parents. Ah... is there anything special that you did?
A: Yeah.. And some of that takes time too. It was working better I think, at 24 because I was there for longer. Two years is not time enough to do a whole lot. Um...and there's a general feeling with some people that five or six years is about the ideal time to move on to some other place. If you're going to do anything, you've done it in that time, and more time isn't going to make any difference. But two years is too short a time. Um...(pause) I , I worked with PTA and I didn't really mind it. You know that's a...there's a, there was a, there's, there's at least a chance for some tension there. PTA is a power group that wants something to happen and you may not even be ready or able to, to give it or to work for it. Ah...so here's somebody else wanting something from me that I can't do. There's always that potential. Ah, it didn't work that way. This was a good group. They, they worked hard. They cared. They cared about their own neighborhood school first, which is normal. Had a lot of activities going on that they got started. And I was able to, to take part in them willingly. One of the big things was a very time consuming thing. We made money which we used for field trips and for school equipment that we couldn't have gotten otherwise. We put on a big carnival, on the play ground, every year. It would have been a lot cheaper for me to give $20 (laugh) to stay away. But the involvement was a lot more important than that. We real...it went well and it got to be a neighborhood, more than a neighborhood kind of thing. I'd see people coming to the carnival on Saturday from outside our district. They were from 13's district, the next school over. Ah, people looked forward to it. I'd take my lumps at it to - the sponge throw. Throwing wet sponges at whoever was dumb enough to stick his head through the opening. And we had a...one of the guys was real good at construction and he made one of the, the dunking seats. Throw hard balls and you hit the target, person get dumped in a big vat of water. I took my turn on that. I think that made most of them see me as being human. And I certainly spent a lot of time on the, on the working, the organizing and the helping out of it. It was a good thing. It, it gave some school spirit, ah and it was only one, there were a lot of other things. But that was the biggy. Ah...I used to get concerned sometimes with non-parents, adults who'd come in and complain kids are picking flowers on the was to school. Stomping on my front porch and, ah, and some of those seventh graders are smoking. We had seventh graders then. And they'd get to wondering a little bit about the impact of the school in the neighborhood, upon non-parents. And, while I tried to be sensitive to that, there's not a whole lot you can do because those people don't have much occasion to come into the school. Um, put out a monthly newsletter, ah, some of it, some children's work in it, ah, part of it was my page in which I tried to explain things that were happening, try trying to explain some of the board policies for example. Ah...send home all kinds of bulletins, spur of the moment, just a report on what's happening on some thing and not, not on a put out the bulletin and the calendar be cause it's the first of the month kind of thing, but because now there's a need to do this. Especially when as we got into the time when the school was going to be closed. There will be a meeting, these people will be present, purpose is, ah, parent or non-parent. If you have concerns about this, please come. Say what you want to say, listen to what is being said.
Q: I take it this was when they were going to a middle school and the population was being cut? That was my next question. From what you said, I gathered that the community was very concerned and unsure about what was going to be taking place and how it was going to affect their children's education. How did you address that? Those, those concerns?
A: Ah...the best way I could. Ah...by being open, by trying to let them know what was happening. Gotta concern, this is ...and we anticipated most of them. Again, you know the neighborhood, you know what people are likely to be worried about. You better address that before hand. Reacting on the spot when there was something you didn't anticipate, say, "No, I'm glad you brought that up, I'll see what we can do." The planning committee, actually there were two elementary schools that were going to be closed. The first thing that happened was they opened number 12, which was grades four through six. And took those grades from two K - 6 buildings that were in existence. Old buildings and eventually they were going to have to be replaced anyway. But, you know, lots of judgments about how you can do that. Ah...they pulled together planning committees, the planning committees involved both principals, parents, ah, and again you go the existing organization and in this case it was PTA: Again I had it fairly simple compared to somebody else. Remind me to get back to that. But we had parent representatives on the committee, sharing the discussions, certainly free to talk in their own neighborhood any way they wanted to about it, but also having input on the reports that went home. And, and I, I knew when I sent something out in a bulletin home, that there were at least two parents out there who sat in on the same meeting I did and, um, they could say, "Yeah, that's what happened. That the way it worked out." Or that they would be quick to say no if I if I reported falsely for some reason. Wasn't trying to. And the thing is going to move ahead anyway because legally elected school board decided after a lot of study, that that's the way it should be. Problem at that point at building level was how best do you do it, what are the problems and what's the best job you can do resolving them? You buck it...well you can put your job on the line and decide I can't take this anymore, I can't go along with this decision. I'm going to resign. But that was never an issue for me. Ah...in the meetings we, went through and I thought a very businesslike way, took each area that needed to be concerned about. Total size, projections for enrollment were coming up, ah, make-up of the grades, the physical lay-out of the building while it was under construction, all kinds of things. There was parent involvement, central office involvement of course, ah. Three schools including one from across the river whose students became the major population for number 12. And then, the next step, phew, I guess I could have seen had I been wiser at the time, but at that, that point I didn't. There was never any plan to make the schools bigger. To, ah, add more students from wherever. Had the population been growing at that time, it might have corrected itself. It didn't. So they closed both thirteen and twenty-four, in the same year. Sent all of the kids to number 12, except those whose parents pulled them out and sent them someplace else. The city has al ways had alternative schools. Ah, kind of showcase schools in a way, but, they've been around for twenty-five years. World of Inquiry was an elementary school. Ah, open education, progressive, kids writing out contract not only about perhaps what time of day they would be working on a particular subject, but the amount of time they'd be spending, the percentage. So that kids who wanted to specialize in something, set up a scheduling for and they could. So a child was good in art could maybe get saturated in art. At the same time a kind of kindly mentor was structuring a little bit saying, "Well how are you going to work in math, because you must get math? How are you going to get in your reading instruction because you must do that? But a, a much more open kind of setting. Had a junior high called Interleuken Junior High and had a senior high called School Without Walls. So those alternative schools have been in existence, however only one of each. If there's great demand, ah, not everybody gets to go who wants to. At that time a number of them, families who were really worried about about sending their kids to twelve, chose parochial or private schools. Harley and Allendale, Columbia gained a lot right then. Twelve school finally came into being with about 900 students initially. Soon after went up to about a thousand. Ah, 60 to 70 percent minority. Ah partially open school in that the sense there were large suites of rooms, four classrooms. One big sixty-five square foot room with the...With the potential to team, ah, to merge classes in any way that they chose to. And with some of them who were using the furniture and the folding walls to bring much, to divide the room into four largely self-contained classrooms. It went both ways. So we went through another series of public meetings and hearings on the closing of the two schools. What the impact would be, why it was necessary, why the school board formally voted to do it and we just began going through the movements of, of, the mechanics of closing it up. The hard part was the emotional part was the decision time, the meeting time. Once the decision was made the rest was kind of mechanical. So, figure how you're going to do it. How you deal with the teachers who involuntarily being transferred out of a school, cause the school was closing. Ah, what choices did they have, who got first choice to do what, and ah, the first assumption was they would all be transferred to number 12 school. Then they looked at anybody who said, "No, I don't want to." What other choices were available, who gets first choice, and second choice, and so on. But when working out an equitable way to do that.
Q: OK. To, uh, to start wrapping this up, I have a couple of questions. What do you, ah, to what do you account your successes as an administrator?
A: I guess, it's because, I, I, I never thought of myself, or tried to present myself as being the superior know-it-all. When I had the feeling that things were going best, good teachers who were better than I was in a lot of respects. Um...and it would have been stupid to try to do something without (chuckle) getting their input, finding out what whey wanted to do. They had great ideas. Ah...and we liked each other, we got along well. It was fine. Once in awhile they would tell me, "That's not good. Um...if you try to do it that way, I think, it's, it's going to be bad. Why don't you try this." And being willing to listen, coming in with an idea, ah, ah, and I think they very quickly learned that I would say something and, and it was a proposal and there wasn't, I wasn't usually coming in with the thing etched in stone. This is the way it's going to be and I'm simply telling you about it. I'd present an idea and let them react to it. Or, I'd often say, ah, you know, in a couple of months we're gonna have to make a decision on this, so here's something to think about. Right now, this is what I am thinking, but what do you think about it. Don't tell me now. It was very relaxed and comfortable, and it seemed to work well.
Q: OK. Ah..back when you were talking about the middle school transition. I, I forgot to ask you, you were mentioning, ah, some of the other schools. And the administrators had it hard, and you asked me to get back to it.
A: Oh yeah, oh good. Roch...Rochester had some riots - serious race riots in '64.
Q: That would be Saul Alinsky's time?
A: Yes. And while it was limited to a kind of small geographic area, if you read only the newspapers, you would have thought the whole city was engulfed in flames, perhaps. But the fact was that the actual physical actions were confined to just a few blocks. A real limited area. The repercussions, though, non-physical, non-violent, were city-wide. Ah, and there was a lot of confrontation because Alinsky's style was confrontational. Ah...It didn't necessarily mean physical violence. But it sure was nose-to-nose. How come you're doing it this way? How come you refuse to change now? The implication is you're wrong and I think, socially, we were wrong. Ah...out of that kind of confrontational style you got different parent and community groups. Ah, there were, and no PTA: PTAs being a formal recognized part of the national PTA: I mean there were parent-teacher-student associations that sprang up in some schools. And student involvement especially in the high schools. Less so in elementary kids really know or can contribute to something like that. There were community groups which also had a quasi and sometimes formally recognized authority to deal in, ah, grants for rehabilitation of housing, federal money that was beginning to come in and state money. Who's going to administer that? Suddenly that, became that, the, the power attached to that became very important. And those groups began to, ah, I want to say, intrude and yet, that's not quite what I mean because they had a right to be there. You don't intrude when you have a right to be. It's an oxymoron kind of thing. They began to exert some control to be there and to be demanding to be a part of the process. And in several of the inner-city schools, you found principals having to deal with three different parent groups or non-parent adult groups or non-parent adult community groups. It's our community school and we're going to have a voice in running it. Ah, and for a while in a couple of cases it was touch and go about literally who was going to run the schools. Who would be the principal? Ah...that was tough because sometimes they would come in with conflicting agendas, too. And even if you went in, ah, willing to share, willing to be open, ah, to do the right thing, whatever that was, it was hard to know what the right was because nobody was in agreement on it. (chuckle) That was tough. Other schools, particularly if they weren't inner-city schools, were still pretty much dealing with the, the older PTA kind of organization. Some of those were militant, most of them were not. They, ah, were, ah, kind of quiet. PTA groups that would, ah, debate school lunches, the quality of them and they would do it on a state-wide level, and then national level. And, ah, but the real nitty-gritty of day-to-day operations, the spending of money, PTA never really got involved in that. Still don't. It's one of their announced, one of their by-laws is they're not trying to take over the running of the schools. They're support groups. Very careful about not crossing that line. (Pause) It...got to be very difficult, especially when some of these vocal, ah, vocal groups, um, now some new power and support coming from city hall and from the school board, would say, "These teachers are not doing a good job with our black kids they 88 don't know what being black is. What are you going to do about that?" Sometimes it was true, sometimes not. And that's sort through that and going back to what's real here and you've got an agenda not and you're fired up to make something happen. Let's not go over board - we're still running schools here and keep a bit of a damper on things and yet, at the same time, recognize what was legitimate and a, get them involved. And defuse it, but not just to take the pressure off. Defuse it by doing some of the social things that really needed redress. But it was tough. Ah...didn't know who some of the, ah, some of the building principals must have had days when they didn't know who was the boss. Report to the superintendent, be sure you do that. But, who am I serving here? Um...
Q: Media, had a lot to do with that time period, I'm sure. Did uh, did you and your school have much to do with media at that time?
A: I was not um, and the school was really not the center of any of these things (laugh) I'm glad. I guess nobody seeks out that kind of things. Nobody in his right mind does anyway. Uh...
A: Ah...is that what you became an educator for? I doubt it. No, ah, pretty much, we'd have something going, on that we thought was good. We'd call on the radio or television station, or newspaper to try and get some coverage for something we, thought was, was good. Hadn't changed that much. The, (sigh) Rochester is like, I guess, any big city in that you got a wide range. We have inner-city schools with all of the problems that relate to poverty, I think, is the, the prime issue involved, tends to make those schools, or did then, 58%, 59% black or black and Hispanic. Ah...we had schools which were middle class, largely working class, ah, father working, mother staying at home most of the time. Being mom. Ah, schools where, ah, a disproportionate number of the children came from the professional family both parents, perhaps, being working professionals. Father is a Kodak executive. Mother a lawyer or a teacher, or any other full-time professional with more than enough money. Money never became an issue for them. Survival was virtually assured. Ah...they were more concerned with quality things that make life good. Ah...including good education, I don't just mean, ah, physical things and possessions. All that was a part of it, too. (laugh) I used to set up science demonstrations, come up with an amateurish thing to demonstrate some kind of thing they couldn't see otherwise. "My father's got three of those things he got 'em from Kodak." Good, top quality scientific equipment. (laugh) That was tough.
A: Kept me on my toes. But, ah, there were, um, confrontational kinds of things that occurred elsewhere in, in the system. I count myself lucky not to have been right in the middle of them. By the time I got sent to number 37 school, now number 37 school is 19th ward, and 19th ward has, their reputation for being a kind of model in the city for neighborhood integration ah, not ruthless block-busting where developers and realtors would panic whites into selling and then the whole block would go black and at depressed prices, bringing in then, often, people from poorer backgrounds. And the issue, to me is not blackness, but it gets to be perceived as that. The issue is the poverty and the problems, and the, the lack of background, and the things you can't give to your kids, cause you don't possess them, in terms of training and attitudes rather than just money. Ah...you can't give to your kids what you don't have and if you have a blockbuster who comes in and property values are depressed and the poorer people are moving in, you've got a, excuse me, you've got a lot of other problems that come with that. And they tend to get lumped into a racial basket, when I think that is not really it. That may be what people focus on. No, no I don't want a white bum living next to me any more than I want a black bum living next to me.
Q: Um-hum. So ward, didn't have that problem?
A: No. They met it, they faced it, they have, a had a very active neighborhood association that did all sorts of broad neighborhood things. They still have a fair, a big parade, every spring and the neighborhood gets out a lot, lines the street, cheers the parade, goes to the carnival. And it's mixed black and white with very little racial difficulties. And they've got some relatively poor blacks and they've got some affluent blacks and plenty of good homes in that area. So, the blackness tends to get distributed over the whole thing, not only geographically but socio-economically as well. And, you get some good role models there as well as some poor ones, but that's the way I think it ought to be. They exist and you shouldn't be seeing only the bad side of it. Cause life is the whole spectrum. Anyway, 19th ward, had pretty well resolved those problems and has been stable for a long time. Predictably, I guess, it's going to stay stable because ah, they've, they've been successful. Ah...you can get good homes and because it's in the city, it's relatively cheaper. Suburban homes are expensive. You do have bus lines, and you do have museums, art gallery, that are accessible by bus. Lots of advantages. And easy now. All the things that go with, with city living. That in that ward, particularly, are quite good, but in an integrated neighborhood.
Q: So that was a successful school?
A: Yeah. It was a good school, had good staff, good principals preceded me. Ah...relatively stable neighborhood. Many of the kids had spent their whole elementary career there and that's an advantage. Too much change, I think, hurts. Too many chances for bits and pieces of learning of experiences fall through the cracks because nobody's really got a handle on it for any length of time. There's, there's a lot to be said for stability.
A: Ah, now I've kind of lost my train of thought there but, ah, yeah. There was not a great deal of upheaval and yet, it was a well integrated neighborhood. Not much bussing because the neighborhood enhanced the whole school or pretty well close to the district, ah, race balancing lines. The district set up was rough...federal government said individual schools gotta be balanced, ah, essentially in the same way the city as a whole is, and, ah, the goal of the district set us plus or minus five percentage points.
A: Strived to reach that. By and large I think they have. They, they've, they honestly attempted to deal with it. If you don't honestly attempt to deal with it, the government will be on your back very quickly to make sure you do. That's, that's happened in a few court-ordered cases. Boston, I guess, number one, most obvious one. Ah...but Rochester did come to grips with it and I think made honest efforts to, to deal with it and ah, for the most part the staff is balanced that was. The staff in the individual schools should be very close to what the over all staff racial make up for the whole city. Student body same thing.
Q: Um-hum. I had three questions for you. The first one is: Are there any humorous incidents that come to mind that you'd care to share?
A: (laugh) Humorous? Oh...yeah, some mostly they tend to be personal rather that involving the whole school. Ah, one of them could have been a disaster. I had this tremen...very conventional teacher. Probably the best teacher I ever knew. And she can be effective with anybody who came to her. Everybody in her class. Highly organized, skilled, she knew what she was doing, knew how to do it, knew what she wanted to do. Had materials from years back and she would draw from those things. And if this wasn't working, she'd pull her card file and pull out things, things that gave some other choices. (mumble) Anyway, best, probably the best teacher I had ever known. This one boy, and she was having a miserable time. She could not get to him. He...totally atypical for her. And she was beginning to send him to the office. That wasn't like her either. She just didn't do that. Didn't need to. And I tried to talk with him; find out what his problem was, why he wasn't getting along with her, pointed out what he could see - that everybody else did get along with her. But that wasn't working either. Ah...he happened to be black, but I don't think the issues were racial. But he was...he, he, he was, was just a very manipulative kid, he knew how to, how to pull out the stops. How to manipulate and really get people angry. Get other kids angry at him, at each other, get her angry at him, which was unusual. One day she had sent him to the office and I was standing near with my office door open, and he was inside with me, and he was telling me what for. He was really letting me have it (laugh) when his mother walked into the office unexpectedly. His back was out...and he didn't know it. And I saw her and didn't react and she got the whole thing. She really whipped him into line. It's one of those things that you can explain to parents, and parents natural inclination is to want to believe the best about their own kids, anyway. And that's good. Except when it goes in the face of the overwhelming evidence. And when you get it over and over and over, eventually, you gotta come around to believe there's something to it. It's not just that those school people are making up all this. But she saw it first hand. It was beautiful. I couldn't have set it up better if I had planned it that way. (Laugh) He was very meek and well behaved from that point on. She, she was a terrific lady (laugh). Oh, still laugh about that.
Q: Is that one of those moments you wish you had a camera to see the look on his face?
A: Oh yeah. Of course. All kinds of little things that you remember. Some are humorous and some are just there to provide you with a lot of insight. Special education class. I was, I just drifted in, informally, you're observing but you're not really observing. It's a kind of, keeping a feel for every thing that's going on. No other purpose than that. This one little boy was fidgeting around having trouble couldn't concentrate. "What's the matter?" the teacher asked him. "There's a fly on the locker." There was. And he was not able to handle his, his perceptual skills, he didn't have the kind of control that he could screen that out. I wasn't even aware of it. Any other, other average or quote normal kid, might have known the fly was there, but would've screened it out. Wouldn't have paid any attention to the buzzing. It wasn't really intrusive. He was not able to screen that out and concentrate. You put kids in a cubicle and a cell to work. Yeah, sometimes. And you work with them to know it's not punishment. It's to let you work in a way that you really can. "Remember the fly?" Yeah. "Well, you think about this and be honest. Does this help you get work done when you have to do it?" And when they realize it and they make a big discovery. April Fool. Quiet little girl, good student. Very, very, shy and very quiet. She came in a few minutes early and said there had been an accident down on the corner and she'd watched the police come and the ambulance, and the tow truck and got it all cleaned up. And when it was all over, she had noticed something, in the gutter. She took out this little pen box and there was this greeny-blue finger sitting in the box. (laugh) Whoa - somebody's little...and then I saw it twitch a little bit. She cut a hole in the bottom of the box and run her finger up through, and laid it down over some cotton. Completely out of character and she had me taken in completely. (laugh) I loved her.
Q: That's beautiful.
A: Yeah. (laugh) Elaine got me.
Q: OK. The last question, is...you retired at the age of 55 and what caused you to retire when you did and what have you been doing since?
A: Ha OK. Ah...two years before I was sent to a new school, not a new building, it was new to me. And I began running into union mentality that I just...hadn't had before. Six teen years of experience...of, of dealing with people. You know, friendly and successful way and suddenly, it seemed like every time I turned around, I was banging heads with somebody over something and I could not understand it. And I was...I talked with my supervisor and central office and it seemed that what I was getting from him was more "give them what they want...resolve it at any cost." Ah...not in those words, but I sure wasn't getting real strong support from him, which that made me wonder if I was wrong on some of the things that were going on. But, it suddenly was no longer the fun that it had been. Yeah...it's got to be fun. I, I guess the most fun is in the classroom anyway. You leave the classroom, you leave some of that behind. It's kind of like no longer being a high school student. You move onto college and there's a different level of seriousness there. I was not really happy. I was in a position where I didn't feel I could ask for a transfer. Ah...didn't see a way I could really make things any better. That was part of it. Then, because the district was cutting back, they were offering sizeable incentives for people who qualified to retire and suddenly, after about six months of both of these things kind of working at the same time, I thought, "I think this is it for me." I did retire. Haven't had any real regrets. You know, mostly because I, I've stayed very busy. If I were sitting around moping with time on my hands, I think I'd probably miss it a great deal. I still miss the classroom. Never get over that cause that's, that's where the fun is. Ah...I fell into some modeling, I've done some still photography modeling, I, in connection with that, I've done two, three television commercials, 30 second commercials. No residuals, just get a flat rate and it's done - never gonna get rich. But that's been an eye opening kind of thing, and, and fun, different. I, um, I've been able to spend more time with the bird carving. I think I'm still developing and improving with that. The birds I do are better that the ones a year ago. As long as I can still see that happening, it's worth pursuing. It's more that a hobby. It's not a profession because I don't think I could ever reach the point of making enough money at it that I could survive on that money. I teach bird carving at the local museum. I've done that for about three years. Thoroughly enjoy that. Ah...and I've worked with a friend on some building construction. For the last three years or so, and helped him frame up and build three or four houses. And I, I kind of enjoy that. I think it keeps me fit a little bit. I've been lucky a couple of times. I stepped off into space and could have fallen into the basement. But caught myself once and just caught by somebody else the second time, so I haven't been hurt other than by hammering a finger once in a while. And that's something that's a variety. Brings in some money, it's different, it's outdoors, and I enjoy that. Some thing I've been thinking about is, ah, joining a local group that's been started at one of the local universities. At RIT, called the Athenaeum. It's an organization of people, um, for the most part retirees, but you don't have to be retired to be a part of it. You pay a tuition on membership fee of a couple of hundred dollars a year and can take as many courses offered by the Athenaeum as you want. It's kind of under the sponsorship umbrella of RIT, but they're not college courses, per se. A course is given by other members, but they maybe in creative writing, Desmond Stone, a retired newspaper man has been teaching a course in that. It may be history or maybe income tax, or realty. It's inexpensive, it's, it's mentally rewarding. I've, I've been thinking of joining that. I'm also wondering, at this point, what's going to happen with my wife and me, because she's still working as a kindergarten teacher, isn't ready to retire, doesn't know what she, what else she would do if she were to retire. I don't think she needs to worry about it, but she worries more than I do anyway, and...so she's kind of on tenter- looks each year wondering if this is the year to retire or not, but we're both still healthy and active and I see us doing a lot of traveling and can't do very well now. Our schedule is summer and school vacations. Our free time and we just can't take off and go somewhere because of school demands.
A: The time will come.
Q: My very, very last question, because that question wasn't it. That question was number two. The last question, what have I not asked you that I should have about your principalship, and public relations? Is there anything I have, I have left out?
A: (sigh) Not really. It...it, it's an issue that I've kind of alluded to but I, I don't know that it's a question that has a workable answer. I guess I'd like to see school people, that is at all levels, be the good guys. There's a part of me, I guess, that's a romantic. Ah... I'd like to see the good guys in white hats charging in straightening out something. And I don't see educators being that kind of political activist. I guess...now with the situation you have now, you've almost got to be a political activist. That's the working arena where some thing might happen. That, we're called upon to do more and more and I think in terms of training and ability and our natures, most of us have the ability to do more. If we also have control of the circumstances. And we don't have that - not enough. I think we need to look at a lot of things - a lot that we've done traditionally. Ah...I think we stay with traditions and they have value, only up to a point and at some point, things change enough that you're best judgment is that you've got to scrap a tradition because you simply can't go with something that's no longer working. Ah, education is for everybody. I and, I still think it is. But I think the way we've gone about it is not the way to go any longer. I think we've got too many people in school, and too many students with too many non-school problems that are, essentially putting us out of business. Classrooms that aren't functioning because of who's in them. I and, I, I think we need to take a close look at something like the European system we were talking about yesterday. In which maybe a little later than they do, they make some fairly permanent, but never irrevocable decisions to funnel some students into vocational training. Not because it is second best but because, in fact, it is a better choice for that student. College isn't for everybody. Ah...somebody who can have a good life, that, that he's pleased with that makes him enough money in a trade, is fine. And you don't have to be uneducated either. There are some very literate printers. Printers are some of the most literate people going. At least in the old days when they had to hand set type and they were reading everything that went through 46 the hand. Ah...the thing - they knew a little bit about every thing. Ben Franklin stereotype kind of - ah, and I think we need to do that just to weed some of the, the unhappy kids who become discipline problems and prevent other people from learning - get them out of that situation where they're unhappy, get them into a situation where they will be happy. At least satisfy that it's taking them in a direction that's going to be good for them. And yet never permanently close the door so that the decision we might make, when they're thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old can still be turned around if they blossom later and they seriously decide that they want to go back to school. I think it's good for society to pay for that. I mean, I mean really keep the door open. You're twenty-two, you want to go back and finish high school and will take an equivalency test and go on for some more education and you want me to pay for it? Absolutely! As long as he's serious. I don't want to have basket weaving in the...for the rest of somebody's life, unless you're going to become a professional basket maker. Then, that's a - that's an outside possibility. But ah, really functionally keep that door open so that when one of these late bloomers finally wakes up and gets serious about what he wants to do with his life, it's possible because we make it financially possible for him. And that's a pay-off for all of us. He's not going to be on welfare, and he's not going to be asocial, committing crimes, which we're going to pay for anyway. We're paying for it in a positive way instead of a negative way after it's gone bad. Did you ask that? (laugh)
Q: Yes, I did. Thank you. I have learned a lot about principalship today. This is Ellen Robinson interviewing Mr. Frank Giangiobbe, on April 15, 1988.
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