Today is October 13, 1998. I am speaking with Mr. Bert Hindmarsh at his home in Norfolk, Virginia about his experiences as a high school principal.
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Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching? How many years did you serve as a teacher? And as a principal?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I entered The College of William and Mary in 1954, completed my Bachelor of Science in 1958, enrolled in the Master's of Education program, and completed that work in June of 1959. During that time, I had the opportunity to work closely with the professors in the Education department and the Physical Education department, gaining a wealth of experience that I knew would be available to me in the years to come. I was fortunate enough to start a program, what is known as Walsingham Academy, my senior year under the guidance of Mr. Howard Smith, the director of the Physical Education program. This gave me a step above most of the other students because I was in charge of a new program at a private school. I completed my work in June of '59 and was hired then in Norfolk Public Schools system in September. That was my first teaching duty outside of Williamsburg, Virginia.
Q: and you were a P.E. teacher?
Q: and how many years did you teach then?
A: I served as a teacher from '59 through '65 was appointed assistant principal and athletic director and remained in that position from'65 to '70. During that time, I also served as acting principal for two and a half years while my principal served as the national director of the National Education Association. That gave me a lot of experience also wearing two hats, one as an assistant principal and the other as an acting principal, having to deal with more of the overall program problems.
Q: and then you went on to be principal for how many years?
A: Following that career, I left the high school setting and assumed the position of assistant director in pupil personnel services from 1971 to 1980. This gave me a wealth of experience that helped me tremendously when I assumed the principalship in 1980. I had the opportunity to work closely with the entire school system, school board, and city attorney's office in formulating new policies and procedures for the Norfolk system. In 1970, there was a big uprising in student rights, and this was when discipline became the hot item on the burner. We developed the student rights and responsibilities pamphlet, the rules and regulations for Norfolk Public Schools that are still in existence. I had the privilege of working that into a daily usable tool for all the administrators today. From that point on, I was called upon to take over the principalship in November of 1980 at one of the local high schools, and I stayed there until 1988 when I entered into a new adventure - The Tidewater Scholarship Foundation, a privately supported program that offers financial assistance to the students in the Norfolk and Portsmouth public schools. In 1994, I retired from that position and have been out of the field of education ever since.
Q: Okay, can you talk more in detail about the circumstances surrounding your entry into the principalship at Lake Taylor?
A: Well, first of all, I have to go back to the early years of my life. One of my goals was always to be a high school principal. What brought this about might have been the fact that I lived next door to my high school principal in a small town in Pennsylvania where I grew up, and I thought the world of this fellow. Another person that had a great influence on my life was my high school coach giving me the information that I always needed in a time of need, giving me the hopes and aspirations that I might one day go on and do some coaching, which I did the first six years of my high school teaching career. These two fellows both great role models and were essentially my motivating factor for going into the field of education. I have to say also that preparation for this also came from my mom and dad. Dad was a taskmaster. My mother was a teacher. So I also knew that when I had to do something, it had to be done right. I had to plan and organize. I got those traits and characteristics from my father, and the education background, which was so needed, I guess, I gathered from my mother. So that was the background that got me into the education career.
Q: and you said you were called to be principal at Lake Taylor.
A: Yes, the situation at one of our high schools back in the late '70s was one of self destruction, and I was called upon to go in and turn the school around. A great opportunity because you had basically at your disposal everything that the school system had to offer because they had asked you to go in and straighten out a situation. That's a great opportunity for someone. This came about the first week in November. I was asked on a Friday afternoon, and the following Monday, I was introduced by the superintendent as the new principal at Lake Taylor High School. It was a good opportunity many people thought I was crazy for going in the middle of the school year of a large comprehensive high school. I disagree, I thought it was a great opportunity because it gave me a first hand look at what was right and what was wrong. I didn't have to rely to a lot of hear say from other people, and this made an interesting first six months or so because I was in a position where I could go through the building as a new man on the job take a look at what was going on and make mental notes of how we could improve or change or leave as it is. We had a lot of difficulties. When I first went into that school, substitute teacher funds exceeded the allocation. I remember the drop out rate was 21% and climbing test scores were historically at the bottom of the barrel for the city high schools and the list goes on and on. (100) So through observation, meeting with various departments in the building, having the opportunity to assess the situations, I proceeded to plan those steps that I felt would make for a better educational setting. Throughout that summer, I was able to implement most of those recommendations, and we started our first step at making effort to improve the educational setting for the students at Lake Taylor High School. It wasn't easy, because there was a lot of problems that were out of the school building and required great effort on the part of other people, namely instituting a parent-teacher group, getting the community to come into our school, working with the transportation company to see to it that the buses got in on time -at that time we were operating 45 buses a day coming into our school. One of our biggest problems - we had no walk in traffic. We drew from the northern section of the city and the southern section, the southern section mostly labor, blue collar northern and low income, northern section mostly blue collar, but they could not get to school unless they had transportation. I think 97% of students relied on automotives or buses to get to school. So this was quite a challenge trying to coordinate the efforts to create a parent involvement program and getting the school buses to get into the school on time. We were able to work this out. Again, with the assistance of some community leaders, being able to be highly visible, changing the negative attitude that seemed to exist. This took quite awhile. As an example, one of the first things I did in my office was to put a bulletin board up right across from my desk and everyday out of the newspaper I would cut out articles and post them on the board, and it just so happened that every day that I would do this for about the first eight months, it was all negative. As the news reporters would come in and so forth and teachers would come in, I kept telling them I'm going to change that so when you come in the next time you are going to see nothing but positive things about Lake Taylor. Well, slowly this type of attitude permeated the teachers. They started doing the same thing and eventually the community began to say, "Hey, that guy's got a point. Everything we're saying about Lake Taylor is negative. Let's see if we can help him turn it around." Over the first year or so it happened. Another step that came along and this I had nothing to do with but we were very fortunate in our extracurricular programs. It just so happened that we had at that time about 24 to 2500 students in our building which was built to accommodate 1800 so that created a few problems for us, but we also benefited from that in that we had a large student body, and we were able to put on the playing fields of our school outstanding basketball, football track, and baseball teams. This was a god send because when you have something positive the community gets behind you, the parents get behind you everybody loves a winner, and we had that for about three or four years and that was a factor that I believe had as much to do with turning the school around as the various other components that we implemented. It brought the school together. The fourteen-mile difference to the north to the south seemed to be very small when we were winning and that helped. All in all, we had a great turn about because the students got behind the program; the teachers got behind the problem. We instituted many things. We never had pep rallies in school. Why? Because no one took the time to organize a pep rally. The first thing I did when we started the school, I said to the faculty, "We will have dances. We will have pep rallies, and we will smile, and we will teach with our doors open." And we did. Pep rallies became the thing. We had competitions. We had the various department levels, grade levels; coordinators hold competitions during the pep rallies and made it a pep rally. The students became part of the pep rally, and fortunately we had a facility which could accommodate all the students a one time. Took a lot of work, a lot of people said I was crazy for trying to do this. I disagree. One of the things you have to be if you want to be a successful person in life is you have to be a risk taker, but at the same time, when you are a risk taker you have to plan and make sure that everything you have will accommodate the potential risk, and these things we did. Another great problem that we encountered the first year, we fed students over three periods in the school day and interestingly enough as the sixth and seventh periods rolled around a day, we had no one virtually in class. They all were taking an extended lunch period we changed that. The very next year we went to a single lunch bell stretched out over an hour and a half, and low and behold the day school opened, and we had the first lunch bell, and we had a faculty meeting that afternoon. When we walked in the teachers - I opened the faculty meeting and I said, "How'd we do?" They all stood up and cheered. That was one of the things they were frightened to death about changing the lunch bell. It just took a lot of planning. We had to sit down with the checkers in the cafeteria and count the number of students that we could get through in a thirty-five minute period. We had to see if we had tables, sufficient serving lines. The first six months I was there, we couldn't do that because we were not equipped, but over the summer we made the necessary adjustments. That September we opened up, and we were off and running. Those were just a few of the things that we've done many other things, Roni, and if I started talking about all that we'd never get off question two.
Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do? Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional characteristics of the "good principal".
A: Well, in reference to question one, I think most teachers expect the principal to be able to walk on water. (200) I think teachers as a whole expect the principal to be number one compassionate to the needs of the students and compassionate to their needs. I have to mention to you that one of the things the faculty wanted when I was at Lake Taylor was to be considered as professional, and it's not a big thing to do. It's just a matter of treating them like professionals. If a meeting is supposed to start at 2:15, it starts at 2:15. If supposed to terminate at 2:45, terminate it at 2:45. To address the teachers in the presence of students as Ms. or Mrs. little things do a lot. One of the things I noticed at my first faculty meeting was that teachers never smiled when I was in Lake Taylor. I said that's going to change, and it did change. I also noticed that when I walked to the building prior to being the principal all the doors were closed with papers over the peepholes that changed. Students roamed recklessly through the hall that changed. But it didn't come about just because of me. It came about because of the change in philosophy. I told the teachers and my administrative staff that number one I would be a highly visible principal. I would be at every conceivable, every possible event that I could be at time permitting. Saturdays I found myself talking to the students as they were there for various teams practicing. The debate team needed an instrument to make them competitive with their other schools. No problem we bought it. Saturday and Sunday mornings I'd take a trip over to school to check to see if any windows were broken, to see if the grass was cut. But it was a twenty-four hour, seven day a week job for me, and it was a pleasurable job. I enjoyed every minute I was in that building. We did a major turn around. Our students became part of the program. Kids wanted to come to school. We had an increase in out of district transfers wanting to come to Lake Taylor. We received lots of recognition from the Carnegie Foundation, Board Foundation, won numerous awards. All because of giving to the students and the parents a feeling of belonging. That's just part of education let's see.
Q: What do you think are the good characteristics of a principal? You mentioned compassionate.
A: Well, compassionate, understanding, must be able to organize, must be highly visible, and at times must be demanding when it comes to seeing that things need to get done. Those are the characteristics that I feel are essential. I wouldn't want a teacher to do anything that I wouldn't do. I remember one day, Roni, in the middle of winter I got a phone call about six o'clock in the morning from my head custodian saying that the main lobby was flooded because a pipe had broken and the foyer was flooded. So I immediately left and got over there, with a squeegee and a mop, my pant legs rolled up, and was mopping the foyer. The teachers would come in and I'd said, "Don't worry we're going to be ready to go when the bell rings at seven-thirty." By that time my regional assistant superintendent had come in asking what I was doing. I told him, I said, "What do you think I'm doing? I'm getting ready to open school." Well, I think he realized then the stupidity in his question. He immediately rolled up his pants legs and started cleaning the water out of the foyer. But the staff also saw that, and I think they appreciated the fact that I made an effort to open school, and my feeling that day was we were going to open. We weren't going to let a little water stop us. Those type of things. I'm sort of rambling here, Roni, but I think I'm trying to get my point across.
Q: Okay, will go with the next question. A great deal of attention has been given to the topic of personal leadership in recent years. Please discuss your approach to leadership and describe some techniques which worked for you and an incident in which your approach failed.
A: Well, number one I never had anything that failed. I say that in all honesty. I spent eight years in Lake Taylor High School and during those eight years everything that we attempted to implement worked. It may not have reached the goals that we wanted, but we showed improvement so I can say that to you in all honesty. As far as personal leadership, I think the biggest thing, Roni, is that you have to be organized to the point that you can get some thing accomplished without disrupting the educational process. Number two, you have to know, be knowledgeable of what is available to you within the system even outside the system that can help you accomplish educational goals. Become involved with the community, use the available facilities that are there, job opportunities for your students, on sight training. I think you have to be a risk taker. If you don't, you remain status quo, and you actually lose ground because in the field of education you have to keep up with the times, and if you don't you're losing ground because everything else is getting ahead of you.
Q: Okay, what about in recent years more and more programs for special groups of students have been developed. Please discuss your experience with special student services and your views on today's trends in this regard.
A: Well, that particular question in recent years more and more programs with special groups have been developed. 1982, Roni, I had the largest special ed program I know in the Tidewater area and probably in the state of Virginia. I had in our building at Lake Taylor; (300) I had every exceptionality housed in that building, and these students were incorporated into the daily operation period no ifs, ands, or buts. They're students we take them where we get them, and we develop them, and move them forward. That was the philosophy I preached all the time to our faculty. These students are ours, and we are going to do the very best we can do for them, and I think we were highly successful. I guess one of the crowning periods of time was I think it was in 1986, we had a young lady who was physically handicapped - was selected as our homecoming queen. This brought a little bit of concern for some of the faculty. I said, "What's the problem people?" I said, "This is our student, this is our queen. Let's go on!" At the homecoming game when we crowned the queen, the stands stood up - an outstanding ovation for this young lady. I think that depicts the atmosphere within the school. There was a sense of helping, a sense of understanding, a sense to be honored; this was just one end of the special program area. We also excelled at the upper level, offering fifth year advanced placement courses for students so I think it's a needed trend. It didn't just start. We had that back fifteen years ago, and I feel very proud of the fact that a lot of these students enjoyed their educational career while they were in attendance at Lake Taylor. We had to convince some people, some staff members that these students belonged. They are students they're our students. It was a great opportunity. I felt very proud that Lake Taylor was able to do this for these students.
Q: Okay, would you describe those aspects of your professional training which best prepared you for the principalship? Which training experiences were least useful?
A: That's a tough question, Roni. I know when I worked on My Master's program in administration at the time I didn't think some of the courses were worthy of consideration, but after a number of years you reflect. We use to do a lot of class discussion. I was the new kid on the block when I worked on my Master's, and the evening programs that I had were quite often filled with educators from around the Tidewater area with numerous years and service. I was able to sit back and listen to a lot of the experiences that these people had and how they attempted to resolve them. I guess that left a pretty good mark in my mind what I might do or I might not do. I think one of the best experiences I had was when I was acting principal for another school in Norfolk. At Norview High School during the '70s, when I was introduced first hand to the overall problems that confronted principal Bailey. It served me well. The best experience I had was the nine and a half years I spent in pupil personnel services because this is where the hub of everything evolves - around pupil personnel - from the discipline to the pupil assignments to the rules and regulations for admittance and entering, student-teacher problems, to discipline. It's just the hub of the whole educational system that gave me a broad system wide understanding of education, not just what was happening in one school. When I took the position at Lake Taylor years later, I was able to go into and look at problems system wide and how I could benefit as being principal at Lake Taylor. It served me very well. I think having the opportunity to serve the school system as an assistant principal and athletic director and serving nine years in the department of pupil personnel gave me the best experience I could possibly want. I often thought how lucky I was to have had that over a lot of my colleagues who left the classroom and immediately jumped in as principal. How insecure they must have felt for the first couple of years. I didn't have that feeling. When I went in, I said, "Here I am! I finally reached one of my goals in life. Let's run with it." So - that would the best experience, Roni, that I had. Some of the experiences least useful. I don't know if I would classify them as the least useful. Every experience you have is beneficial. It's like good days and bad days. All days are good some just a little bit better than others. That would be the same with these experiences. They're all good, but some might be a little better than others.
Q: Okay, since you have now had some time to reflect on your career. I wonder if you would share with us what you consider to be your administrative strengths and weaknesses.
A: Oh boy! Weaknesses I don't have a lot of patience for people who don't want to work. That's number one! (400) Strengths I'd like to think that I'm an organizer. That falls in line with being a risk taker. I'm not afraid to be a risk taker, but I won't take that risk until I'm sure that we've examined every potential pitfall that we might encounter in accomplishing that goal. That requires time and effort, but that's what we get paid to do. I think another strength that I have, Roni, I'm an organizer. I like things to be in their place and a place for everything. That was one of the things I needed to do when I entered Lake Taylor - to organize that building to get it functioning as an educational unit, the way it should be. I think I have compassion for the students, I love students. I love people. I'm a people person, and I think that is the number one, first and foremost. I try to be highly visible during lunch bells. I was out in the hall talking to students. After school, I would be there until five or six o'clock at various events, congratulating students both in victory and defeat and so forth. This gives the students a feeling that you care and that's what it is all about. I encourage the staff to do that, my immediate administrative staff likewise. I didn't assign any functions to my three assistant principals. I felt that I would be visible at as many functions as I could. I would hope that they would involve themselves in the same type of opportunity. After awhile, they did, but again, it was sort of a philosophical change for them. I didn't want to force any one to do anything that they didn't want to do because when you do that your end result is zero. You don't really get anywhere, but those are the things that I consider strengths. My biggest weakness was really the fact that I didn't have patience with people who didn't want to do anything and in a few circumstances we did encounter some staff members like that, but basically my objective then was then to counsel these people to either join the program or to leave. The two or three people that we encountered, I guess you could say I counseled them out of education. I think we did a service to our students, and we probably did a service to those people.
Q: Okay, please discuss the way in which you learned to lead; that is what procedures or experiences you were involved in that contributed to your effectiveness, and the contribution that professional graduate education made to your progress.
A: Well a lot of it, Roni, goes back many, many years. I always felt that you should give a day's work for a day's pay, and I guess that stuck with me all through life. I feel that you led by example, Roni, and I felt that as education administrators for Lake Taylor High School, notice I said education administrator. I didn't consider myself the educational instructional leader. One of the first things I did was hire someone with a Doctor's degree in curriculum development, but I think when you lead by example you're there when the opening bell rings, you're there at the end of the day, you're there during the trials and tribulations. I was confronted once by my assistant superintendent for our region why I didn't participate in more organizations city wide and I said, "Well, what do you want me to do- run the school, or do you want me to be an ambassador and join the Kiwanis clubs and Rotary clubs and so forth that are available." I think he understood what I was saying. When you have a leadership responsibility you have to take that responsibility. The school that I was in I needed to be visible, not only for my staff but for my students, and believe it or not my parents because they entrusted twenty-four hundred students to me. They're blue-collar people; they're welfare people. They don't have the opportunity to send their students to private schools. They don't have the opportunity to come in and see us quite as frequently as we'd like. So you set that example. You set the tone. You're available. You become the parent in essence. Teachers see what you do and they emulate that and this made for a great opportunity. Some of the experiences I had I was fortunate enough. I'm a good listener number one, and through all my education career both even at the graduate level and all through my career, I always had the ability to listen to people and while listening to their concerns I was trying to formulate in my mind a solution that would be favorable to those people, and it usually always worked. (500) Maybe not immediately at that time, but within a few days we would resolve that problem. You lead by example. I always felt that we should be professionally dressed when were in school. A man should look part of a professional, likewise with the females. I emphasize that II didn't tell them what to wear. I would never do that, but I tried to emphasize that we are professionals or we want to be classified as professionals, and if that's so, why don't we act and dress the part, and that happened. Again, lead by example. Lots of things I recall we had a school spirit day. The colors of Lake Taylor were red and white so I thought it would be great - we formed a school spirit committee and everything that came up we would talk and discuss and implement. When we went to the red and white day, I thought, what better opportunity for me to wear a white shirt and a red sports coat. That set the tone. Everybody else started you lead by example. It's fun! It really is.
Q: What contribution do you think graduate school made, if any?
A: It helped me to become a better listener number one, and a few of the courses also gave me the insight on how to plan and organize, and I think that's one of my very strong suits being prepared. I think it showed because all during my career at Lake Taylor we were the forerunner of the high schools in Norfolk. Anything the superintendent wanted it was a phone call to Bert, and it was done. I guess one of the highest compliments that could be paid to Lake Taylor and specifically to me was when the superintendent was appointed. He had his induction, if that's the correct word, ceremony at Lake Taylor. After the program, he was asked why of all the facilities and places in Norfolk did he select Lake Taylor. His answer was very simple. He said, "I wanted it done right." That didn't have a lot of impact on many people, but it had a terrific impact on me. It was a compliment to my staff in that we were able to give him what he wanted. I'll never forget that.
Q: What about coaching, did that help you out at all?
A: Oh yes that was one of the goals that in my life was to be a coach and low and behold I had the opportunity while serving at Norview High School be involved with one of the best football programs at that time in the state of Virginia. Taught me again organization because when you are coaching you have x number of minutes in a day to get done what you have to do to prepare for the game, and yet you have to be able to understand other components in coaching, not only just your sport but your colleagues who are coaching as well. Many times there is a demand for the same outstanding athletes you also have to learn to work with the staff to make sure your students that are on your team are making passing grades so you have to communicate with other staff members. You have to work with sponsors, bands, and cheerleaders, the pep club everything has to be together, and it has to be organized. If you don't, you have organized chaos and that doesn't work to well, and it was a great opportunity, and like I said it again helped me in my organization skills, human relation skills, being able to work with parents of these kids. Again a lot of time in an inner city school system, you're working with students whose parents have many, many problems. So you have to be a counselor. You have to be a surrogate parent. You have to be a psychologist. So it all ties in with the learning opportunity for you. Great opportunity for me. I'm thankful that I had that opportunity. This goes back to my high school days. You recall I mentioned I had a lot of respect for my high school coach. He was always there when I needed him, and he put in lots of extra hours. We were a small school. (600) We didn't have a lot of fancy equipment and a lot of trainers and so forth. He was always there after practice seven thirty in the evening, on three nights a week to open up the training room for the athletes to come in. He gave them himself. He was totally immersed in the program, and as I said I called on him an awful lot of times. I felt I did the same thing with our kids. Again, great experience. I was fortunate in that I coached three major sports involved my time year round. I assisted in football, head coach in indoor track, and head coach in outdoor track. What it meant I started coaching in August and quit the last day of school. With that, I have to make one other thing, too. It was, too, the efforts of my loving wife that many things came about. She was always there during my coaching career. She'd make sandwiches when we'd go away on trips for the team. Accompanied us - team effort again, it's a great experience. Yep.
Q: It has been said that good leaders encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations of their successes, no matter how small or insignificant. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness?
A: Well, I think good leaders have to encourage their staff. We did many things. Spirit day we recognized teachers, gave them special privileges and parking places. I tried to recognize for a number of years that Lake Taylor was in existence - the staff lounge was just a staff lounge. I tried to bring into the teachers' lounge a refrigerator, a microwave oven, things that they could use without ever having to leave the confines of home. Same thing with the recognition of a group of people that were never recognized and probably are not recognized today. I mentioned earlier that we had forty-five buses bringing students in - at no time in Lake Taylor history did anyone ever recognize the bus drivers. So we did that. We started the pep rallies. We would recognize teachers for trying to encourage the best homeroom attendance, recognize the teachers and the students by giving pizza parties and many, many things along the way. We were one of the first schools in the area to start an "Honors " banquet. Not only for the students, but we recognized the teachers for outstanding service, outstanding attendance, contributions to various organizations. Again all part of a team effort trying to make everybody feel like they're important. No matter how bad a student may appear, there is always some good somewhere, and you should jump on that rather than ignore it, and I might add that's the same with my philosophy with teachers and evaluations. I've known some administrators that took great delight in terminating teachers. I never went that way. I felt that if we had a teacher with problems that we in the field of education failed, and it was incumbent upon me to try to get that teacher to come out of that rut and move along. I think I was successful because a lot of teachers (700) they get a little complacent in that they don't want to go back and take extra credit courses for re-certification and so forth, and in some cases their certification expires, that diminishes their teaching capability. So you always have to stay on top of that. I never do the negative view. I always took the positive. And it worked very well for me. I said I really never had to take any teacher before a termination board. I think I had three that felt teaching really wasn't their bag.
Q: Some writers recommend that principals adjust their leadership styles to meet the individual needs of their staff. How do you feel about that idea and to what extent did you practice individualized leadership?
A: Well, I disagree with that particular statement the way it is. I think principals have to be able to do site management, and it should not be to meet the need of their staff. It should meet the need of the students. That's our primary goal, and I encountered some of that. We had to make whole cell changes, and some of the staff didn't see eye to eye with me on this, and that was fine, but we had to explore ways to improve test scores. We had to explore ways to improve teacher absenteeism. We had to explore ways to get more parents involved and to do that we had to make some necessary adjustments that would meet the needs of the students that didn't meet all the needs of the staff. I think we have to meet some needs of the staff certainly, but we have to keep in mind why we're there. We're there to teach students, and I guess what I'm saying is that in developing the program of studies some teachers had to be removed from certain teaching subjects and put into other areas where they were certified. Some of them were out of certification, and all of this so this did not set well with some of them at the very onset, but it didn't take long. Those who didn't want to participate in the program, I would do my good within my power to see that they received a transfer to the school of their choice. I had no qualms about that. Fortunately, I don't think that I had but one or two teachers that requested a transfer, and at this time some of that was understandably because they had been junior high teachers that were caught up in the middle school complex and left the middle schools when they moved the ninth graders. I had no problem with that. The big thing, Roni, is we're there to meet the needs of the students and to do that you have to be flexible. Teachers have to be flexible because it requires more of their time and attention to accomplish some of itand you have to do this to accomplish some of these goals, Roni. We all practice individual leadership because when you're tackling certain programs you sometimes feel like you are out on a limb, and you have to go at it alone. But again, that's the nature of the beast. You have to make a decision that you feel is going to best meet the needs of your school, basically the students because that's your community. We got twenty-four hundred students in that building looking for an education, and it's up to the principal to see to it that people are in the right position that classes that are offered to the students are what is needed - both for those bound for a higher education and those going into a vocational level. It's a great it was a great life - a great experience for me. I will always be indebted to Norfolk for giving me that opportunity, and I would hope I left my mark some where along the way!
Q: Okay, if you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what would that advice be?
A: Well, I think the best thing would be to become a good listener, to get to know your student body, to get to know your faculty, and to take every opportunity that you can to broaden your experience as it relates to the educational field. I think there's a great opportunity for people who want to go into administration to become familiar with the total operation of your school system. Know the rules and regulations. Know what is right and wrong. Know which department to call, and to do this, I think, you have to be willing to volunteer in some cases, volunteer in your school to go that extra mile, to ask the principal or assistant principal to watch how they handle discipline, to watch how they prepare for pre-registration, to watch how they schedule through the summer. Take advantage of these opportunities. They're there. You don't learn all this in the Master's program, but, I think, it is a great opportunity for you to become a mentor and go into this with your eyes wide open. You can do this because most principals or assistant principals would welcome the opportunity for someone to come in and become a volunteer. For example, in a free period during your day in school if you don't have some student work to do, go down and see how some of the computer work is done, how classes are scheduled, how teachers are hired, how do you interview teachers great opportunity. That would be my advice. I think that helped me tremendously having had that opportunity to work in two or three different roles in the school system before I assumed the principalship.
Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of education?
A: Oh, good ol' teacher evaluation. It is a necessary evil. In this day of accountability we have to make sure we are getting the best person in the right place. Again, I think this is a positive-negative view. Unfortunately, I believe too many school systems, too many principals, too many teachers view the evaluation process in the negative. I tried to turn it around and make it positive. First of all, I don't think I will ever in my life time find the perfect person, nor will I ever find the perfect administrator, nor will I ever find the perfect teacher so what we should do is emphasize that there is always room for improvement. This doesn't mean you're a bad teacher, doesn't mean you're a bad administrator it means that we should set goals and try to obtain these goals. Principals are evaluated on a series of about fifty different items throughout the school year test scores, attendance, and so forth. All right - the perfect situation would be for all of these to reach the maximum that will never happen, but you try to establish goals and do the evaluation. Same with teachers. We have (100) When I was there we had I would get in the classroom as often as I could. My assistant principal in charge of instruction that was basically the number one priority of that position. My department heads were also involved in evaluations so you had we also had the subject area coordinators from the central office. All of this was being done to give the teacher in question, well actually all teachers are evaluated, but to give the teacher in question a feeling that more than one person was looking at their capabilities. I think it is a pretty good way to approach it because you're bringing into play the cumulative account of about five different people before any decisions are made, and you should not be afraid of evaluations. That was the thing I tried to stress, and I think it was received very favorably is that it's a positive experience as long as you're working together to reach a positive goal. It can be done very favorably. There is a need. There is a need for accountability and that accountability comes from evaluations. It's the same with principals; principals are evaluated primarily by superintendents. Assistant principals are evaluated by in many cases by principals, but it's a process that has to be done because what you're attempting to do is to find if it does exist that individual who is unable to perform and when that individual is not removed from the classroom then we're doing a major disservice to the students that we serve. So it has to be done. I'm in favor of it. Again, thinking in terms of the positive approach making it's a vehicle that can improve education. As I said, I only had to use a negative evaluation one time in my career as assistant principal and principal, and that process believe it or not before that teacher was terminated took exactly one year and five months, but it had to be done.
Q: Okay, most systems presently have a tenure or continuing contract system for teachers. Would you discuss the situation at the time you entered the profession and comment on the strengths and weaknesses of such a system.
A: Well, I believe the tenure system is a good approach. Everyone likes to have some degree of job security and stability, and I think the tenure system is only as successful as your evaluation system. I strongly agree that teachers need to have a crutch to lean on, and tenure seems to be that crutch that they feel very comfortable with. Again, I've never had the occasion to question any weakness in the tenure system. I always felt that it served the purpose, and the major purpose in my exclamation was that it gave a sense of security to a lot of people. I think that coupled with a positive approach on evaluations works very closely and leads to a pretty good vehicle for improving staff morale. That's pretty much my views on everything, Roni. I hope we've accomplished what it is you need.
Q: Okay, thank you!
A: All right!
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