This is 6 March 1995. This is an interview with Mrs. Ethel Haughton in the living room of my home located in Blacksburg, Virginia.
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Q: All right, would you begin by telling me about your family background, childhood interests, your birth place, elementary and secondary education, family characteristics and things of this kind.
A: I was born is Shreveport, Louisiana...where I lived all of my life just about. I went to public schools in Cado Parish, which is a public school system. Completed elementary, jr. high and high school there and went to Louisiana College and got my BS degree in sociology. Ah.. later on I got my master's in elementary ed and educational administration.
Q: Would you discuss your college education and proportion for entering the field of teaching.... How many years did you serve as a teacher and as a principal?
A: Ah... I got my BS degree in sociology so, except for the basic knowledge that I received there ... it was not a help as far as education. Most of my learning came form the field. I taught in a small rural school in Arkansas that served the Air Force base for a while. I taught there for four years and took education courses then moved back to Shreveport and completed the requirements for my teachers certificate in Louisiana. Ah... I taught about 16 years and then I was principal for about sever or eight years.
Q: I wonder if you would discuss those experiences or events in your life that constituted important decision points in you career.
A: I first realized that I was going to be a teacher was when I went to a school to apply for a counseling job. And they wanted somebody with a masters... So they had a position for a position for a second grade class teacher and I need the money so I said OK lets go and so I just sort of just fell into it. Once I started I thought that I would like to stay with it.... So I got my masters and got my certificate and continued to teach. Ah... in the school system in Shreveport where I was there was a position as coordinator ... an administrative coordinator...Ah in this small school where I was the coordinator sort of served as an assistant principal. So I got interested in administration doing that and Ah... decided that I could do just as well, if not better than our current principal and went on and got my hours and got my recertification for administration and when a position open, I applied and got the job.
Q: What motivated you to enter the principalship?
A: Ah... I think the thing that mainly made me want to get into the principalship was because I was concerned about the school where I was. I was concerned about the fact that no one was really taking care of the curriculum and teaching matters as such. Ah, the two or three principals that we had had were more concerned with the athletic program...Ah... and just, you know,... social activities... making the school look good and I was really concerned cause we were not offering programs that were really appropriate to what our students needed, so... ah... that was part of it, I just liked administrative part of it. I enjoyed running the school and I enjoyed the power of it. Ah.. and I just enjoyed having all of it together, so that I could kind of control, or at least know what was going on in the school.
Q: You said that most of your principal experience occurred at one particular school. Would you take me on a little walk through of your school and describe the appearance to me and any unusual features of the building.
A: The building itself was built in 1921. Ah.. it served as a 1 to 12 school in an oil community. Ah... until they consolidated the high schools in that particular area it was, it had a big football team and was well known. Of course it offered everything that any high school would offer. The community was built around the school and when they took out the high school it really kind of hurt for a while but they did leave the school and added kindergarten and left the eight grade. So the building itself was very old. It was a beautiful building and had been remodeled several times over the years. Probably one of the biggest learning experiences I had was learning how to take care of the building itself. I learned all about plumbing, and all sorts of things because In a building that old, no matter how many times they remodeled everything was going to go wrong some time or another. They never could get the plumbing up-to-date and things like that. There were two, actually two separate buildings connected with a walkway. The front building that housed the offices and also housed the kindergarten, first, second and third grade and the library. Ah.. there was a walkway that then connected to the building that housed fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eight grades. For the most part, fourth and fifth grade classes were on the first floor. The middle school was up-stairs. We also had a gym, ah... it was at one time the only gymnasium in tat part of the parish. And all of the games were played there. And we had a cafeteria that had been built.... um... probably ... in the late 70's, no early 60's. So it was new compared to the rest of it. Ah... both buildings were two floors, ah... we had to have a special dispensation fro the fire marshal in order to house the first graders upstairs because they kept saying that you could not keep first graders upstairs, having to walk upstairs, but we managed to get an OK for that. E had, also had special education classes for elementary and middle school ages. Ah... our, the set-up for our school was actually two separate schools. The elementary section, they were one to five. And then grades six, seven a,d eight were middle school which we ran on the middle school principle just like any other middle school in the parish. So we had two separate programs going.
Q: OK, would you describe your personal philosophy of education... How has it evolved over the years?
A: Ah... When I first began teaching... I was pretty much bound to that textbook because I really didn't know too may other ways to teach. Ah... and ...but as I worked with kids I realized that it was not always the way to go. I remember the first African-American child that we had when we integrated schools, his name was Elvis. And Elvis came to second grade... he didn't know his colors, couldn't write his name and couldn't read. And so I was faced with a challenge,... of this child who was so different from all of the others, cause everybody else was in the Air Force that had moved already by the second grade and were aware of the world and they could read. So... I had to re-examine what I wanted for this child.
Q: What year was this?
A: This was 1963 probably in Arkansas, and .. I think that began formulating some of my ideas, ... that every child had the right to learn and it really didn't matter if he was like everybody else in the classroom or not, but that I as a teacher had to see to it that this child learned. And I think that has been my philosophy thought he years that every child, no matter what, has the right to learn and that I as the teacher had the obligation to see to it that every child learned.
Q: Will you describe the instructional philosophy of your school, telling how it was developed and evolved?
A: ... ah... After I became principal... we ... formed committees within the faculty to look at our instructional programs and to evaluate what we had been doing and what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go with our program. Ah... the elementary people pulled together ah... ideas for ??, teaching...ah.. whole language, doing a lot of things that you could do. With middle school people, began to study middle school as such. And again, to observe in other middle schools to see what was going on. We only had five teacher and 130 kids or so in the middle school, and we had experts tell us that we couldn't do it, ... and we were bound and determined to do it. So... I did not as such set the instructional policies of the school, the teachers did. Ah... the teachers... divided into groups, and one group studied math, one science, and various subject matter and tries to see what we could do to improve each of our areas. We went into an ??? program in math in the elementary, and did away with a-lot of the books. Ah.. we went into a science lab situation with science. Ah.. we began doing more with the novels, moving away from basils. And in middle, we adopted a true middle school philosophy. We blocked, we teamed, ah.. and one year got a grant form the parish so that we could add an extra teacher. And even when we lost that teacher we continued by a-lot of hard scheduling to get it done. But, I think the instructional focus of the school came from the wants and needs of the teachers, not just from my direction.
Q: What techniques did you use to create a successful environment for learning and would you describe successful and un-successful experiences?
A: One of the first things we did after I became principal was to do a school climate study.. And we had a person in our parish who did that type of work. He came an interviewed faculty, students, community parents to determine the climate of our school to help us find those things we needed to work on. Ah... and after we did that, we sat down and looked at those areas that we needed to work on. Ah.. the faculty and the parents and the teacher had a say so in the matter, and I think that helps a lot. Ah... that was one of the successful things we did. The un-successful... probably ... we had a great deal of racial tension in our school. When I took over as principal we were probably 30% minority... when I left it was about 60%. Ah... and ... whether it was my leadership or just exactly what the problem was, I never felt like we ever got a hand on dealing with the racial tensions in the school and dealing with minority students.
Q: What kind of things to teachers expect principals to be able to do and describe you views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional characteristiQ: .
A: .... I think the thing that teacher want is someone who will listen and someone who care and someone who is knowledgeable about what is happening in their classroom... someone that you know is there... ah... the teacher knew that I would be in the hall, in the classrooms, that I would be in the lunchroom, and that I would be on the playground. Ah... they knew that if they ran into a problem, they could come in a close the door and we would talk about it and that I would do my best to [help them]. Ah... they also knew that I had standards that I expected them to follow. Because I was willing to work with them. I think to be an effective principle, I keep coming back to caring. I think to become an effective principal you have to care about students in the building, I think if there is a teacher who is not doing her job and the children are suffering for it, the teacher and the principal have to talk about it. I think a principal has to care about teachers. My philosophy is that if you have happy and contented teachers you are going have happy and contented students, ... learning. So... I tried very hard to make sure that teachers needs were taken care of and that students needs were taken care of. That is how I looked at the principalship. That was my job, to care for all of the people in my charge. In caring for them helped them to care for others.
Q: As a follow up question, would you describe the expectations, both professionally and personally that were placed upon principals by their employers and the community during your [principalship]? How have those expectations differed from those you see today?
A: Ah... I think the faculty and staff of the school .. well they expected you to be able to solve all problems... find money for all programs... ah... As an administrator they expected me to run the school in a very efficient way. To make sure there were plenty of supplies. The community expected me to make sure that the school remained a part of the community and that they were welcomed in the school. We did a good job of that. The community expected the principal to make sue that the children were getting their education and that they ... ah.. and as a person, I think they expected me to be honest. Ah... to honor my obligations. They had the right to expect ???. Ah... And I, of course I have only been out of the principalship for only about a year and a half or so, but I think that still holds true and probably always will.
Q: A great deal of attention has been given to personal leadership. Please discuss your approach to leadership and describe some of the things that have worked for you.
A: Ah... my personal style of leadership was fairly laid back. Ah... I was very open about what I expected. My office staff knew that I expected them to do, they knew what I wanted them to do. The faculty knew, all of the teachers knew that certain things were expected. Ah.. and then I sat back and let them do their thing. I don't believe in micro-management. I was always one who felt like if the school was organized, everybody knew their job, then I could leave everybody to do their responsibilities. I didn't have to be there. But in order to do that they had to know what I expected. So, I was very up front about my expectations. But, then I laid back... and if a teacher came in and said that I want to try such and such, then I would say, If they could explain to me what they wanted and the rational bA: ind it and whether I thought it was going to fail or succeed, we would discuss it and I left it to them. Ah... for the most part that was the procedure. But I had a teacher who was very uncomfortable with that. And she wanted me to be the boss and come across as the BOSS, in all capital letters. And she was extremely uncomfortable with me. She was distressed width the fact that I was not ripping and romping and stomping all over the place. And I never did get her to see where I was coming from. So.. we, after the first couple of years we just sort of agreed to disagree and I told her if she would not too much rant and rave about me I would not rant and rave about her.
Q: There are those who argue, that more often than not, policies hinder rather than help administrators with caring out their responsibilities. Would you give your views on this issue and what changes in organization would you make?
A: Ah.. I whole heatedly agree that the principal ??? We have directives that come down tat do not take into consideration the differences in the various schools. In Caddo Parish they have schools as large as to having 2000 students as well as schools where there were 200 students and the same rule would apply for everybody. There was not a lot of consideration of a particular school. You did what everybody told you to do. Instead of helping the situation, more often than not it would hinder a lot of things. When I left they were experimenting with things like school based management. Ah... that they were not willing to let go of the purse strings, so what was happening was that you were allowed to make some decisions about what was going to happen in your curriculum, within setting up your own schedules and things like this. But had no money to do any of this with. You still could not hire and fire your staff. Ah... my definition of school based management is that it work well when the staff gets the credit, when it flops the principal gets that blame. [If I were going to implement school based management I would do a lot of training to make sure that principals know how to handle the budget, how to develop programs for their schools] and then let the school. board take care of what ever they need to take care of and let the different principals run his or her own school. And if get the school board out [of the business] of micro-managing.
Q: If you were advising a person who was considering an administrative job, what would you advise be?
A: Ah... make sure that you can take criticism without getting hurt. Ah... make sure that you are well grounded in curriculum matters. Instruction matters. Know how to budget. How to .. take care of the physical part of your building. .... Make sure that you know the people. One of the first things [you need to know are the people who are going to be working for you.] Ah... make sure, well first I think the very first thing [is that you need to enjoy working with all age levels]. And be prepared to stay up late at night and be there early in the morning. You [have to make every meeting, every sporting event that is held at your school]. It is a full time job.
Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader and there are those that believe that above all this person must be a good manager. Would you give me your views on this issue and describe your own style of [instructional] leadership?
A: I firmly believe that the principal should be an instructional leader, but in practicality the principal usually winds up being a manager. Ah... If you don' have an assistant principal who can handle a lot of details, as I did not have, you wind up handling all of the discipline, ah.. you handle all of the building problems, and you handle all of the faculty problems, you, community or parents, what ever happens you are the lady that has to take care of it. Ah.. by the time that you have solved all of these other things too often instruction takes a back seat . And it takes a tremendous amount of work to do curriculum and instruction, right up there with the rest. And I know that there is a lot of talk about having a principal for management and a principal for instructional leadership. In Caddo Parish they have a principal that is in charge of instruction which sounds good except it allows for the principal to move away from the instructional part. So, I think that, and I don't know how to solve that problem. I worked for eight years trying to solve the problem of how do I maintain my level of involvement with the curriculum and the instruction that I need to maintain and yet with all of these other things that I have to do, so you end up juggling all of the plates in the air.
Q: Would you describe the ideal requirements for principal certification and discuss appropriate procedures for screening those who wish to become principals?
A: Ah... principals should have a good background in education and there needs to be a good, it depends on your level of course, but in elementary you need a good grounding in elementary education. You [need to be grounded in the teaching methods]. Principals should teach, should have taught for, I say for at least five years before you branch out. Ah... certification should require finance courses, administrative type courses, ah... curriculum, ... these were all included in my program. And I think to be certified there should also be a practical, where you are able to spend time with a principal and do his job for a while. Ah.. just like student teaching, being a student principal might [help]. Ah... now where I cam from, they had what they called a level one test for anyone who was interested in going into administration and .... the questions were a lot of, "if you were in this situation... what would you do?". Ah... and I think they did the beginning screening there. They screened out, looked at people and their ideas about things, looked at your qualifications and when the time came that before you applied for a job, once you had completed all of the work. And I think this screening needs to be done. I think that somebody needs to say what would you do if an angry parent came into your office, what would you do, you know... if various things happened. Ah... and I think there should also be a writing part of it, where you are asked about your philosophy of education, ???, what your interests are. I think that to be a principal [you need to know what a person really wants to get out of this position].
Q: It is often said that the principal should be active in the community. Would you discuss your involvement and participation in civic groups and [tell which organizations that you were a member of].
A: Ah... I firmly believe that the principal should be a part of the community. I did not live in the community where I was principal, I spent a great deal of time .... It was a small town, and there was only one civic group, the Rotary. ... It was made up of mostly older men, and the idea of a women in the Rotary was just terrible to them. Until I became principal, every principal in the school had been a member of the Rotary. But, I was sort of an honorary member. And I attended meetings, they would come to the school, and they did a lot of things for us. We had a small museum in town. We worked [with them and had an annual gusher day] festival thing and we worked with that. Ah... I knew all of the pastors in town, and I visited with them regularly. ???. The chief of police, fire chief, [I knew practically everybody in town]. And they were more than glad to work with us. I think you have to do that because the school is part of the community. It is where the children are. These community leaders care about the school.
Q: It has been said that there is a whole school gap and that more parental involvement is within the school is needed. Would you give your view on this issue and describe how you interacted with the parents and the citizens who were important to the well being of the school.
A: Ah.. when I started teaching 25 to 30 years ago .... I probably had 2 parents out of 30 that did not take part in [the education of their children]. Today we are lucky if we have 2 out of 30 who do take part. There are a lot of things that are happening. There are parents working, .. ah... We had a lot of disadvantaged single mothers in our community who ... were not ... able, or just did not understand the importance of being there. Ah... we tried developing programs... ah.. we did a [parenting] course one year, a [type of parent] training program. We had a volunteer program that worked fairly well, we gave workshops for parents, we brought allow the materials and everything to get the parents there to make things and learn how to work with their children. Ah... we had a fairly active PTA. There again, we saw pretty much the same parents and very difficult to get, a very frustrating thing for me, frustrating for most of us because you can't [??].
Q: A good deal of attention has been given to career ladders and differential pay plans. Would you give your views on these issues and describe any involvement you had with such [matters]?
A: Well Louisiana was trying to end the career ladder program, so I have not had a lot of new things [??]. So form a principal point of view, I can see a lot of headaches involved. The documentation, ah... because, I can go into a teachers room one day and see an absolutely wonderful lesson, the next day they may be falling apart. You have to look over a long period of time. Ah... your documentation is involved in all of that, but I also think that we have to do something to encourage teachers to continue going to school, to continue improving themselves and that for those teachers who really put [themselves into their teaching] there should be some sort of recognition. So I don't know [??] how you can keep a program running smoothly [??].
Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of education?
A: I think that evaluation is absolutely necessary. Ah... I think the principal; has to know what is going on in a teachers classroom. An that does not mean going in there once a semester and observing one lesson. I think if you in there everyday, even if it is for 5 minutes, so that you know the general atmosphere of the classroom. I had a teacher once that, we had glass in the doors, and I would walk by and she would be sitting at her desk, then I would walk in, then she would get up and start walking around. But the only time she was up walking around was when I was observing. But I also knew that because I was up and down the halls and I could see. It was not a matter that I was snooping, I was just up and down the halls and I could see the [pattern]. Ah.. you have to know your teachers well enough to when they are playing a game. As far as putting on a fancy show, for evaluation, observation purposes. Ah.. you have to know what is going on in the classroom. And I think you have to be really tight [??], You have to be willing to say to the teacher, you are not doing your job. How can I help you? The observation and evaluation in a mater of helping them.
Q: A good deal has been said these days about teachers grievances. Would you give your views on the desirability of such procedures and describe your approach to handling teacher dissatisfaction?
A: Ah.. I think teachers need to go to the principal first. I have had them go over my head. Ah.. I think they need to go to the principal first and I agree that they should have the right to say what they want. Ah... an if a teacher and I can't work out our difference, what ever it may be, then the next step is to write, and I encourage them to go on to the next step. Ah... and do what ever it takes to make sure that what ever they are unhappy about is taken care of.
Q: Would you discuss teacher dismissal and you involvement with the subject?
A: Ah.. In a system that has tenure, such as Louisiana, [??] dismissing a teacher is an extremely tricky thing. Ah... I did have to dismiss one non-tenured teacher. It was a very difficult thing to do. There is a lot of paperwork involved. We did every thing we could to salvage this teacher. I called every resource within the parish, every place that I could find. Ah... and you have to document every step. I think you should do that. It is not easy and should not be taken lightly.
Q: What in you view should be the role of the assistant principal and discuss your utilization of such personnel while on the job. Would you describe the most effective assistant principal with whom you had the opportunity to serve?
A: I never did have an assistant principal. But I think the assistant principal should be able to get along quite well with the principal and the two meet and work together.
Q: As you view it, what characteristiQ: are associated with the most effective schools and what [are these characteristiQ: ]?
A: For an effective school you need to have caring teachers, ah.. who are well prepared, in their subject matter. Who know how to teach. That they understand the area where they are. Ah... I thing you have to build school pride within your students. For a less effective school, I think there are certain areas that tend to look a children as kid [??], I am the teacher and there the kids, and we don't do anything else. An particularly in areas where you have low SES. Too often teachers look at that. When you have teachers who don't look at that, and who don't worry about SES, they look at the children.
Q: During the past decade, schools have become larger. Discuss your view of this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional structure.
A: Our school was really too small. Ah... we had 120 kids and it made it difficult to offer enough. Around 300 to 350 I think [??]. If you get up over that you [??] kids are not lost in the school. Elementary schools I think should stay within 350 to 400, no more than that. I think, particularly when you get up to 500 [??].
Q: In recent years, more and more special groups of students and programs have been developed. Please discuss your experiences with special student services and view?
A: We had ... special education classes in the elementary and middle school. And the last school that I was principal [??]. Ah.. I have seen the paperwork in special ed quadruple. Ah.. the requirements change, it seems like form day to day. Ah.... and I am not really sure, when I began teaching special ed they were considered the dummies or what ever in the class. You just sent them off to special ed. There was not a lot of checking or making sure, so I see where we are carefully screening the children and yet we have a lot who fall through the crack. We have some who get in there who we don't know how they got in there. With the happening of inclusion, I am not really sure that all of the children [are being served]. In the process [??].
Q: Salaries and other compensations have changed a great deal since you were in education. Would you discuss your recollections of compensation systems during [your] early years as a principal and give your views on the developments in that area?
A: Ah... well, in our system, teachers and principal were paid on the size of the school and the type of school. ah... and it is still that way. We have seen some raises in pay. What has happened in the last two time is that teachers have gotten raises and [not principals].
Q: Most systems have a tenure or continuing contract system for teachers. Would you discuss this situation at the time you entered the profession and comment on the strengths and weaknesses?
A: Louisiana has a tenure system for teachers and when I left there that had been working with teachers. Ah... I think when tenure was first put in, it was done because political problems, particularly in Louisiana where politiQ: were not exactly [followed] sometimes, and even teaching jobs were political favors. So, at the time that tenure began, it was a protection clause. I think it has outlived it's usefulness because it makes it easy for teachers to become lazy. Ah.. and it makes it extremely difficult for principals to get rid of a teacher who is not doing the job.
Q: [What are you views and beliefs regarding the concept of free and equal public schools for all children?]
A: I firmly believe that our school systems should be for all children. I don't know that we are a free system anymore because parents have to pay so much for their kids things for school that assistance can no longer provide. But ah... every child has the right to obtain an education.
Q: Administrators presently spend a great deal of their time dealing with paperwork and the bureaucratic complexity [within which they must work]. Would you comment on the problems you encountered and your perceptions and situations [while you were principal]?
A: Oh... paperwork!. When you work in a very large district like ours, and there are quite a number of supervisors and people sitting around, and we would wind up with about four forms wanting the same information,... from four different people who didn't even know that anybody was working on [the same thing]. So, they didn't know what they were doing in the central office and all it did was multiply the paperwork where we were. Through the eight years that we, the eight or nine years that I was in the principalship, I saw the paperwork continue to grow and grow and grow. Despite the fact that we had become computerized, supposedly to do away with some of the paperwork, ah... I think some where along the way someone needs start looking at alternate forms and all of the stuff that is sent to our principals. Cause we spend a tremendous amount of time just taking care of paperwork.
Q: Given the administrative complexity, if there were some areas of administration where you could change the effectiveness [what would they be]?
A: Ah... well I will come back to curriculum and instruction. That is one of those areas where we really need to improve and work on. Our efficiency with that.. Ah .. I think ... the management of the school ... working our the very best out of every teacher. And I think that finances.
Q: Would you describe your relationship with the superintendent in terms of his general leadership?
A: Well... when in a very large district you don't have quite the same relationship with the superintendent that you would have in a small district. When I became principal at Oil City, Mr. Lee, he knew who I was, but that was the extent of it. He came to our school twice at my invitation. Ah.. but I could walk past him at the central office and [he would not know who I was]. Ah... and he was on that had his favorites and I was not one of them. Ah... the superintendent that replaced him was very a very friendly and outgoing superintendent. He made a point of learning every principal in the parish, by name, and who they were. Ah.. but as personal dealings in the school...[??].
Q: Would you discuss your general relationships [with the board of education], pro and con, towards education and comment on the effectiveness of school operations?
A: Ah... I had good relationships with board members. The person that represented our district was always there and was willing to fight for what we needed. He was also one that said, I will not take care of my district if it is going to harm everybody else. I appreciated that. He wanted to make sure that everybody [in the parish] had what they needed. Ah... for the most part, the board, our board, stayed out of school matters. We had one who tried to meddle in school affairs. The program for the most part, managed to stay out of the school itself.
Q: Cultural diversity is a topic of great interest and concern at this point. Would you discuss the nature of your student body or bodies, and comment on the problems or challenges and triumphs that you participated in?
A: Ah.. in Oil City, we stared off with 30% minority and wound up when I left there [around 60% or so]. It was a very trying period. Ah... I never felt successful with what I was doing there as far as minorities. The last school I was in was all black.
Q: Would you discuss your participation in handling civil rights situations and describe your involvement as principal?
A: Ah... Now when we integrated the parish I was still teaching. It was a difficult time. We would, we did it fairly peacefully. I can remember that we did have some strifes, and kids didn't show up for school. But on the whole, things were very peaceful. I was never involved.
Q: It has been said that the curriculum has become much more complex. Would you comment on the nature of the curriculum [while you were principal] and compare it to the situation in today's schools, sighting the positive and negative aspects?
A: When I first became principal ah... we were departmentalized. Well, elementary sections were self contained but we had periods of math and periods of social studies. Everything was separate and distinct. Ah... As we began to work together, we began to try to put, to integrate more of our subject areas and to work together. So I think I have seen through the years, ah.. more work toward integrating the subject matter and more work towards trying to make learning important for children and relevant for what their life is like. It is a much better situation.
Q: There are those who argue that standardized testing can provide a way [through to instruction]. Please discuss your experiences with such testing and provide us with your views on the quality of the instruction [that resulted].
A: Cado Parish spent thousands of dollars in standardized testing. We tested every child every year. I have seen children who were capable , from the working class, sit and cry... frustration form the standardized tests. And even when you tell then that you are not suppose to know all of the answers, because why are we testing if we are not suppose to know all of the answers. Ah.. we spent hours going through all of these results trying to find out which kids were that so that we could teach to these needs on these tests. And what I have seen happen over the years it that we are teaching to the test, not teaching kids [or teaching the subject matter, not what kids really need], we are teaching the test. And I think in the process, we are missing [a lot].
Q: Could you describe you work-day , that is how did you spend your time, what was the normal number of hours?
A: I was at school every morning by 6:30 or 6:45 at the latest. School started, teacher had to be there at 7:15 and classes started at 7:45. So I was there usually there at 6:30. I took this time to do the paperwork ...ah.. catch up on correspondence, I was there in case the busses didn't run. or ... you know... if we had a problem. I would go to the cafeteria at 7:00 an be on duty. The kids started coming. I would meet with parents, teachers, who ever showed up before school started. Ah... make my rounds through the entire building, make sure that everybody had gotten settled in. Ah... through a typical day I saw parents, handled discipline problems, worked with teachers, ah... on what ever problems they may have had. Community people coming in, ah... people who came in for various reasons. Going to meetings, principals go to a tremendous number of meetings. Ah.. during football season, I was, we always did a football game , one night a week. And then it would be 10:00 or 10:30 before I would get home. Basketball season, there were two games a night plus weekends. So, ah... Tuesday and Thursday night we didn't get home until 9:00 or 9:30. And then one Saturday every other Saturday was shot. Ah... on a normal day that I didn't have a ball game or something I usually left school around 4:30. So say form 6:30 until 4:30 minimum.
Q: Would you describe some of the pressures you faced on a daily basis and explain how you coped with them. Would you describe your biggest headaches that you had on the job. Would you describe the toughest decision you had to make?
A: Ah... I think that at times, dealing with parents was probably the hardest part of the job. Because they wanted, and I can understand all of this as a parent, ah.. but they are not always willing to listen and they come whit their own set agenda. So, dealing with parents can be a very tense and emotional. The hardest decision that I ever had to make was to force my custodian into retirement. I loved Joel. I really cared for him. He had been on report several times for not doing his work. And I spent so much time trying to help him and the rest of the staff trying to keep the building clean and the last time we put him on report we had told him that we had left some things to be done in the summer and if they were not done we would have to see what options needed to be taken. And he did not do any of the things on the list and so I had the choice of either firing him or getting him to retire. So I chose to [get him to retire].
Q: Would you tell us the key to your success as an administrator?
A: Ah... I think caring about students, the teachers, parents, my staff, everybody there. And being willing to see them.
Q: Please discuss your professional code of ethiQ: and give examples as appropriate.
A: Take care of all business bA: ind closed doors. Never, ever call anybody down in front of others. Ah.. anything that was said to m in confidence stayed in confidence. I never [broke a confidence]. Ah... keeping my word. Ah... and I think ... think that being honest and truthful about everything.
Q: [Can you discuss the elements of your professional frame of reference that best prepared you for the principalship]?
A: I think that ...most of it came form within. Ah.. I, when I became principal at Oil City, I had been the coordinator for four years. The last year and a-half as coordinator, the principal had all sorts of personal problems, so I pretty much ran the school. And I though I knew what o do. And I found on the first day on the job that I didn't know what I was doing. Ah.. probably the course that best help part of that as just a general administration course that was more of a seminar type thing. We talked about things that would happen and how to handle them. We looked at the difficulties of teaching.
Q: If you had to do it again, what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship?
A: Ah.. I think I would have takes a couple more curriculum courses fro the administrators point of view. .... And I would have wanted to work closely with a principal who was a totally different style than mine. Ah.. to get an idea of other ways to handle [things].
Q: What suggestions would you offer universities in the way of helping to better prepare candidates for administrative positions?
A: I think the one thing that would help would be to have seminar type things with people who are out in the field. Ah... who are working now, and different types of situations. Very large school, a very small school, ah... K to 8 school, this type of thing. Ah.. I think there needs to be a chance for principals to the students-principal type thing like student teaching. And I think you need in the coursework to make it very practical. Not just theory, and we need lots of theory, but being able to apply that theory is [what helps].
Q: Principals operate in a constant tense environment. What kind of things did you do to maintain your sanity in stressful situations?
A: For a couple of years, at lunch time, my coordinator and I walked during our lunch period. [We walked around the football field]. So that helped. Ah... I played the organ and that helped. I did a lot of reading and needle-work and I tried, once I got home, to let go of all of the tension.
Q: What do you consider to be your administrative strengths and weaknesses?
A: Administrative strengths... I knew my people, I knew my community, I knew the students. I cared about the building and I learned what to do to make sure that it was OK. I was good with the paperwork, so that it was always in on time [and correct]. I hired a good bookkeeper who knew how to take care of the books. I think pare of the administrative strength is knowing what kind of people to hire. Ah.. my weakness probably was that ... I had trouble ...dealing with... I think I was too impatient, I wanted things to happen. I had a great deal of trouble not to push to get things done.
Q: Would you discuss the circumstances leading to your decision to retire, giving your reasons and mental processes you exercised in reaching that decision?
A: Well mainly the reason that I decided to retire was to come back here to [Virginia Tech] and finish my degree. But I had always thought that when I reached 55 that I would probably [want to retire]. I would have more than enough years of service. Ah... I felt like I had done a really good job. I was ready to try something new.
Q: Would you give us the overall pros and cons of administrative service [??]?
A: Ah... Enjoying what you do. Being an administrator is a difficult job, even at your very best. But if you don't like it, if you don't enjoy it you will not succeed. Ah.. even on days when I went home thoroughly fed-up and thinking that I will never, never set foot back in that school again, I got up the next morning and I went back refreshed and I enjoyed what I did. And I think a principal who does not enjoy that work [should get out].
Q: Is there anything that you would like to add? [??]
A: I will just say that I liked being a principal. It was hard work and very draining, ... frustrating..., but I enjoyed watching the children grow and learn. And I enjoyed seeing my faculty members take charge of their learning and what they were doing of the children. And I enjoyed seeing the community getting more involved with the school. The year that I spent in the inner-city school, I really enjoyed watching the teaching and the children in the safety of a building where they can learn. [??]
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