Interview with Glover L. Hines


Interview with Mr. Glover L. Hines, in his fifth year of Retirement from Weeksville Elementary School, Weeksville, North Carolina. Interview held on Friday, January 22, 1987.

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Q: Could you give me some information on your educational background?

A: Well, I attended public schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and after graduation from high school I went to Moorehouse College where I received the Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. After working for about three years, I then went to North Carolina Central University in Durham where I received a masters degree with a minor in Biology and following that I went back to North Carolina Central and got the up graded masters degree which is called the two-year program and so I actually have two degrees from North Carolina Central. Now the last degree was in elementary and secondary education. The name of the program is called the Advanced Principal's Certificate which I think now is being offered to teachers as well. They can now get the advanced certificate. Well, it can be done in one year if you go straight through. It took me two years because I was working and going to school at the same time, so it took me two years to do it. I worked in education as a teacher for three years and I served in the administrative capacity for 30 years, not solely 36 years. I guess about 10 or 12 of those 36 years, not solely 30 years. I was solely in administration. The other part of the time, I was an administrator and a teacher. I spent all my years in employment in North Carolina. As soon as I finished college, I came straight to North Carolina.

Q: Which would you prefer, a teaching or administrative position?

A: Well, I have no doubt that I have preference of the two because one thing I look at the advantages one has as an administrator and there's certainly more compensation, which is the plus side so far as administration and at the same time the advantage of directing a program that you take the benefit for students. I think certainly that is the thing that attracted me. I like very much working with teachers to help students. Perhaps that is certainly the big plus for me as an administrator. But as a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed working with students and seeing the results of my work with them. I think I was a good teacher. I don't think anybody else did. (laughter) I was just joking. I thought that I could get my work load to students. I think that I had the natural nectar for students to learn. I knew my subject matter. Of course, there was a matter of devising ways so that students could learn and I was innovative in that respect. So you asked the question which I liked better, well I liked both of them.

Q: How long have you been retired?

A: This is my fifth year.

Q: What made you decide to retire at the time you did?

A: Well, I got tired. I think I say tired to mean the influx of controls of schools were emerging at that time. But it did not mean that we did not have a free hand at work as we had had in previous years. I found myself spending my time for instance, making reports and making surveys, paper work, and my great interest was students learning and there was such a demand on my time and on the teachers time to send in reports. Many times the person who requested the reports looked at a previous report they would have found the same information on it anyway. I got tired of that because I did not see time being used for what I thought it should be used. Of course, I was getting up in age and my responsibilities so far as making money had decreased in that first my wife passed and secondly, my daughter was grown. I did not need to work, I did not have to work and, of course, that is certainly one of the things of reasons for myself. I had developed some love for some outdoor sports and I did not have time to participate in them and I think that I did not have too long to be here and I wanted to enjoy some of it so that whenever it snows in the morning, I don't have to get up and go to school.

Q: How would you characterize the characteristics that principals would need today as far as furthering education and being a principal compared to the characteristics you needed?

A: I don't see that there is a difference, basically. I should say because certainly in my day and also today the principal must be one who is dedicated to provide programs and environmental situations where by students can learn. That is certainly the basic thing that I consider important characteristics. If he doesn't love to see students progress, I think he has no business in education. That is their priority. Of course, the social situation is so much different than it was when I was in school in that we have an integrated school system now and, of course, integration certainly means you have some other characteristics than I had to have. The ability to work with people of different races which I didn't have to have when I got out of school because when I got out I knew I was going to go to a black school. I knew that. The idea of having to understand, work with people of other races wasn't a thing I had to consider. Now a person in education going into administration now has to be open minded. He has to be so that he can meet the challenge that is brought about by integrated schools. Another thing which is present now is that so much of our programs in my early days had to do with raising money so that you could buy things for the school. If you had an athletic program, you had to provide for it. A matter of school supplies for kids, you had to raise money to buy things. Of course, now what has happened, money is provided for it. You do not have to raise money. Money is not a priority. It is not one of your jobs. So that now what you have to do is one must be a person who can discretely use the money which is given by the state and federal government, county commissioners, and of course by the school system. Not to say that you did not have to be discrete before because certainly if you had to spend a lot of time raising money as we did you were certainly going to be discrete in spending it. So this discretion is certainly a thing which a person must have if he is going to go into administration. We have instances now where people come and ask you what do you need. The first time I heard it, I didn't believe it. Before, I had to go out and ask my PTA to sell some fish. So, the administrator of today has got to be one who can certainly be able to use these funds as they should be. Since the money is there, he should be diplomatic enough to let it be known that he needs it.

Q: What were some of the major problems you faced as principal and how did you handle these problems that you must be a father or something to the students, teachers, PTA and the community?

A: To me my biggest problem was and has always considered this to be a problem was raising the achievement level of the students. The students must learn and if students do not achieve in a school the one to blame is the principal. (You would say the principal before the teacher?) Yes, because the principal must provide the environment and materials and the opportunities for teachers to teach and for students to learn. If a student does not learn in school, the first person I look to is the principal. In the school now, he can give excuses, but he can go back to an old Harry Truman saying, "The Buck Stops With Him." The teacher can put the blame on someone else, but the principal can't. If you are in a school and your students continue to score below the average in achievement test and does poor work, not only on achievement tests but in daily work, that is pitiful.

Q: What are some of the things you did to help eliminate some of these problems.

A: Of course, we always had in-service programs and we provided it. When I say we, I mean the administrative unit responsibility for providing in-service programs for teachers. At the same time our faculty meetings were to some extent in-service program. We would work as a team, as far as the faculty and I are concerned, to pinpoint the problem areas of learning for students and zero in on them. In my last school, we developed an entire program from kindergarten-six grades as to where we wanted our students to be when they finished a certain level of education. We found it worked. It did quite well. I left that school and I understand that it was kept in operation for about two years. I have heard lately that it is being used, but we were concerned about the fact that students didn't do as much as they could do. My whole point is that students get learning in school. They have to go to learn now to add, subtract, speak, and learn the whole thing. It is up to the principal to see that he provides the environment for them to do it. The environment, the materials, and the atmosphere for learning must be provided.

Q: As an administrator, how much opportunity did you give the faculty members to give input in new programs like this?

A: Complete. As much as they wanted. Not only as much as they wanted but even a matter of assigning them when they were reluctant to take on committee work so that we would get a broad view and input from everybody. That's what was needed. Well, we encouraged teachers to advance themselves in studying and of course, we had special incentive programs for children so they would achieve. Back to your question, I think the major problem I found was making sure students learned. (Yes, and that is still a major problem today.) Yes, certainly. Of course, you are going to have problems with students; you are going to have problems with PTA; you are going to have problems with parents; you are going to have problems with administrative staff in the central office; you are going to have physical problems with the plant; but to me all those problems are subservant, not subservant, but they don't belong at the top of the list. (So at the top of the list you should be making sure that students learn.) Yes, that's at the top of the list.

Q: Of course, I know that there are probably times that you had grievances, etc. from faculty members. How did you handle these grievances?

A: Well, I am going to have to refer you back to my last school years. What we did was the teachers appointed three people that would meet and serve on a committee. I forgot what the name of the committee was, because it has been so long. It was understood that if you had a grievance of any kind that you did not want to talk over with me, you talked with anyone of these three teachers and let them know what your grievance was and those teachers were instructed to bring the grievances when I had a meeting with that committee. They were instructed when they came in not to reveal the names of the person or give any indication of who brought the grievance. When the grievance was brought in we as a committee tried to see if we could solve the grievance. Sometimes we could solve them and sometimes we couldn't. But, that was a procedure what we used because a lot of times there is something that you will do and I do not like it, and I am not going to tell you to your face. You see because of those repercussions that you might expect, I will tell John and let John tell you and John won't tell your name. So, we had that committee and no names were allowed. We went the same route with the grievances and the problems.

Q: Did you find that most teachers liked that better?

A: They liked it better and I also found out another thing to. There wasn't a lot of grievances brought in. (That is surprising. They had a much better opportunity to do it like that.) I am thinking that I did such a good job that they didn't have anything to complain about. (Smiles.) (Well, that is good and it sounds nice.) Well, I'm thinking about there were some complaints sometimes, but we never had any major problems plus the fact that I tried to work with teachers in such a way that they would not feel threatened so that they could come to me personally. So, we kept this committee, but during the whole time we found very few problems. We met once a month or on call, but we never had any major problems.

Q: Ok, think of all the decisions you have made. I know you have been in education for a long time. What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?

A: I don't know. (Maybe I should say one or two of the toughest ones you can pinpoint, any particular one.) One of the toughest decisions you have to make is a matter of recommending teachers to discontinue services. You have on the staff members who are not meeting the standards set by the school system in general.

Q: Did you ever have to fire one?

A: Of course, I couldn't fire them. I could only recommend it. I had to, but it was a very tough thing to do because when you work with a person for a period of time there is a relationship also in jeopardy when you have to recommend that. But, I had to do it. Of course, the thing I was thinking about was the effectiveness of that teacher so far as her contributions to the education of the students. That was my major concern. The most important person in the school is not the teacher or the principal; it is the students. You know if he doesn't provide for the student, then he has no reason to be in the school system.

Q: Well, did you have conferences or anything like that before you recommended dismissal?

A: Well, I had to. Of course, it became mandated during my latter years but even before that was the law, I felt it was my duty as an administrator to do what I could to improve the problem so that the recommendation would not have to be made. I had conferences providing instructions that the teacher needed; provided in-service work shops; and then just letting them know this. One thing I keep in mind and that is that every person who is in the school system is not qualified to be there. When I say every person, I mean that "politics" play a part. This is a fact that we must face and realize. Sometimes we get teachers who just shouldn't be there.

Q: You know sometimes I've found that PTA's comes in and try to get the principal to dismiss a teacher. Did you ever run into a problem such as that?

A: Well, it's not just a matter of dismissal. I've had instances where PTA members would come in and certainly talk about the teacher in such a way that they didn't want the teacher. They would also get on the principal also the PTA gets on everybody. But, yes I've had instances where individual parents both mother and father to approach me about teachers. In their opinions the teachers were not meeting their standards. This is certainly one of the things that the new administration must expect. To every parent his or her child is a "special person" and it should be because he is a "special person". They are concerned about what we do for their child an they have to. If it is not up to their expectations, then there are grievances we expect and we have to deal with them. But as far as a organization of the PTA making demands, I have not had any. Though that does happen and I am sure you know about that. It is general knowledge that PTA's as a body, have resolutions, as best they can about those policies, some policies that schools have that they do not particularly care about.

Q: In listening to the news today, you hear a lot about problems, teen-age pregnancy, drugs, alcohol and etc. What effect do you think these social problems are going to have on our education system?

A: I've wondered about that myself. I was at the bowling alley last night and there were about a dozen look like high school students there. The aroma of marijuana was very prevalent and I said to one of my friends there that I imagine those kids give their teachers quite a bit of trouble. To me I don't think that, let me put it like this, I think that all the drugs are compounding the problems that teachers have. In my opinion that is nothing new. Students have always had that problem. I don't know if it is more promiscuousness now than before; probably so because of the contraceptive measures now that certainly were not present then, plus the matter of abortions and all that stuff that is going on now. It could be that the matter of sex is more present now than it was then. I think the main problems we are having now are drugs and alcohol. It looks to me like those things are making the work load at school more difficult. When you have to spend your time finding out who brought marijuana to school, that is time you could have to teach that child."

Q: "What effect do you think it will have on the administration or the principal of the school?"

A: They have to deal with it. "They have to deal with it"! He's going to try to find out who is bringing the marijuana to school. Of course, its getting so now that these students are selling the "stuff" in school. If you have to become a "police department," then you are not in the "education department." Your job has changed to a great extent. Of course we are concerned about the effects of these things on a person's ability to learn. How much time is he going to spend studying when he is half drunk? Can he study when he is half drunk? Because when he is drunk, half of them do not come to school no way. You have to spend your time trying to find out who is bringing those drugs into the schools now. All of this time is wasted and then solving problem concerning drugs. I had much rather hear of problems concerning a child not learning, but the drugs in alcohol problems are taking time that is needed to solve problems in education. Today, I guess you can say now that these are problems of education.

Q: How would you describe your key success as a principal?

A: I don't know if it was successful, I didn't say that.

Q: It sounds like you believe in having a lot of teacher involvement in making decisions. I know sometimes you have people that want to be so bureaucratic and make all the decisions.

A: I never did that. When I first started work I was very involved, very anxious, very much concerned about teaching biology. I loved it. I got a great joy out of it. My third year, I had a principal that was the same person you are talking about. Very autocratic, didn't listen to teachers. A little of a dictator and I said to myself, "it doesn't have to be like this." I am going to be sure that this doesn't happen anymore, and that's why I didn't do it. I always thought that an administrator could be a democratic person and I tried to practice this. Whether or not I was successful, I don't know. You would have to ask someone who worked with me if I was like this. I don't know. Certainly, I like everyone else have faults. I try to correct them. As I know, I didn't. To some I know I did not.

Q: What seemed to be teachers attitudes to yield under your leadership? Did they seem to really become involved in that more so than if you had been more of a decision maker yourself?

A: I cannot speak for the other side that is if I was a decision maker because I never practiced that, but I do know that I have no problems with teachers working with me. We were a good team, except you will find in all cases where one person this year another person another year who did not subscribe to you. You will always find someone like that, but I would certainly say that on the whole I did not suffer from the lack of cooperation. I realize the fact that the teacher in the classroom with the student everyday have a better idea of what needs to be done than I do even though I would go into classes and spend a lot of time in there, but regardless of how much time I spent in the classes I wasn't the one that was working directly with that kid.

Q: Did you let the teachers know that you would be visiting on certain days?

A: Yes. That too became a requirement by law of the state. There were to be unexpected visits where you would come in and observe what is going on, of course, afterwards have a conference with the teacher. After the observation, the person being evaluated should know what the evaluation is. We had to do it.

Q: How would you describe your philosophy of education?

A: I have already did it. That the student who's in school, he must absorb the material which is there for his own good. Whether he's going to further his education, whether he's going to go into employment or when he's going to quit school. He need not cripple himself and if I go to school and don't learn, if I go to school for a while and quit, if I go to school and do not become involved as I should be in school, then I am crippling myself not only for tomorrow, but for right now and to me education should be a living. This runs common to certainly some of the philosophy of which has been present for years. Well, I don't know if it runs common or not. I shouldn't say that. But, I need to know how to write so that I can communicate with you today. I need to know my math, so that, when I got to the store I will not be cheated. I need to know about economics, so that, I can spend my money wisely. I need to know about what's expected of me so far as my society is concerned. Really what I'm trying to say to a student is that education should provide the student with what he need to live today.

Q: How would you summarize your leadership philosophy as far as the principal is concerned?

A: Well, I think a good summary would certainly have to consider the fact that I tried as hard as I possibly could to involve the teachers in leadership plus the fact that I took advantage of in-service programs meetings which would improve my leadership. I would experiment with new programs which came upon the horizon. When I say I would experiment with them, I would talk it over with those involved to see if they had any merit or if they had any possibilities of students. If we thought they did, we would try them cause we know what happen down through years we have had all kinds of programs to come out saying this is the way and we all soon in time will get tired of these rules that last 2 or 3 years 4 or 5 years. I remember the open classroom conversation everybody opening doors and knocking down walls.

Q: But it seems like it's like that in education?

A: Oh yes. You have these people who have things work for them, but they won't work for everybody and that's one thing we have to realize. Programs which are good for one group of people is not a group for everybody. Not only programs which are good for one place are not only good for all places or communities. Because of certain situations which are present in both places.

Q: So as principal that is going to be a major responsibility.

A: You've got to evaluate things in light of your situation, in light of your personnel, and in light of your resources.

Q: What do you think teachers really expect principals to be?

A: Too many times they expect for him to be disciplinary. They expect him to be the person who straighten the child out when he's wrong. That is certainly not the way that a teacher should think that a principal should be responsible. If I'm in a school to be the disciplinary, then you are paying me too much for my job. There are a lot of people who are hired for that and a lot less money. Why should the state pay me the salary that they pay me if my chief job would be a disciplinary? Some good retired policeman could have that job and would not pay them as much as you pay me.

Q: In a normal situation when disciplinary problems came up did you delegate those problems to your assistant instead of handling them yourself?

A: I never had an assistant in the first place and if I had one I would not have done that because I think that demeans the assistant. To me it does cause I've never liked what I've seen in some schools where the principal would delegate the job to someone else. It just makes the person look so little.

Q: So it seems like you have a lot of concern for other people's feelings.

A: Oh yes I do. Like I want them to have concern for my feelings.

Q: I can see that it is very important on the administration as far as cooperation.

A: Oh yes. You have to have it if no one existed, but you are messed up if in your eyes you are the person. I love the situation and to me this was awful. I know a situation where a principal when he would walk down the hall everybody would move to the side.

Q: I've seen something like that on television, but I know that it probably does exist.

A: I know of one case where it actually existed.

Q: So what type of cooperation do you think that you would get from these type of teachers?

A: When a person cooperates out of ear that is not cooperation.

Q: What do you think motivates a person to be like that?

A: I have the opinion that it is in him. That if he was principal, if he was in the Army, if he was in business regardless of where you find him he is going to operate in that manner because it is in him. If he was the paster of a church, if he was a deacon in the church, if he was teacher in a Sunday school class, I think he would operate the same way.

Q: Okay, in your opinion what personal characteristics do you think a principal should have as far as human relation skills or job related skills?

A: He should have feelings, concern for the people, he must be one who accept responsibilities. He must have some ideas of his own and not depend on completely what he finds in a book. He must be able to get along with people.

Q: How would you describe an effective school?

A: An effective school is a school where the students achieve. It is a school which justifies its existence. I think it justifies its existence if the students are able to achieve. If they don't achieve the school should close its doors, never to open again.

Q: So how do you feel about these standardized test in relationship to the students?

A: I think that its a good measure device to compare how one student does on a standardized test with another student and one state with another state. But, the test themselves are not geared to all people in that there are certain cultures that do not fit into standardized test.

Q: How do you feel about merit pay for teachers?

A: I have considered that and I certainly think that merit pay should be given, but I have the same problem that I think that you have discussed in your classes and certainly this has been prevalent in newspapers. This is that the evaluation of teachers that get merit pay is the same. I don't think that we have an effective method of evaluation that would justify merit pay. Yes, merit, but can you justify the methods used to evaluate teachers pay that is not the same?

Q: If you had to do it all over again, name some of the things that you would do now that you didn't do then in order to help you become an effective principal?

A: I would start earlier to make my school the best it could be. One where students could achieve. I think the only thing that I would do differently would be to start earlier than I did. I don't know, but this was not drilled into me when I was in school training to be a principal and it came later than I wish it had come. I think the only thing that I would do differently is to start earlier to make my school one where the students would achieve. I keep saying this because I believe in student achievement and by achievement I don't mean by some standard, I mean by providing the kids with those tools they need to live in.

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