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Q: Why did you get into education?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, I grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia, which is very southern, and at the time the only person in my family, only women in my family who had a profession was my Aunt Margaret, and she was a teacher. She taught seventh grade and every year she would take her classes to Williamsburg and I would go with her. I just thought she was great. First of all, she is great. She's everybody's favorite aunt. I think she must of been a dynamite seventh grade teacher and she loved it. She just loved it and she loved seventh grade. And it's funny, I don't know, I guess I just grew up believing I would grow up and go to college and the only opening for me, and almost the only way I could justify that would be to teach. So for a while, it was just a matter of what will I teach. When I was in the sixth grade, I was going to be a P.E. teacher, then when I played in the band in high school I was gonna be a band director. And finally in college, I started out, I went to Mary Washington College, and I started out I was gonna major in music, and did complete the courses for a major. But decided I didn't want to be a full time band director, then I majored in Social Sciences.
Q: What point did you start? Did you actually start teaching right out of college?
A: Oh, I was teaching at age twenty. Because when I went to Mary Washington, World War II started, and I was a freshmen in 1941. And I was home the weekend of Pearl Harbor. When I came back to college, it was almost like the next day, the Dean called a big meeting and he said "And now a lot of you are gonna want to leave college, and go work for the war effort, in the Navy yard, or whatever." But he said the best thing you can do for your country is to stay in college, but what you could do is you could speed up your curriculum by going to summer school, and you could do four years and three years. So that's what I did. And at age 20 I was teaching English and Social Studies, at Deep Creek High School. It's down by Dismal Swamp, south of Portsmouth. I was living at home, and I taught English and Civics, I believe it was, in the seventh grade. I had that combination. That was four periods a day, my fifth period was Senior English class. That was not a K-12, they didn't have K, that was 1-12 school.
Q: How many students?
A: In the whole school probably 500. Grades 1-12. When I taught the Senior English class, that was the senior class.
Q: That was it, huh?
A: That was it!
Q: Did they have six periods? Was is set up pretty much like ours?
A: Yes, they have six periods a day, it seems like it never changes.
Q: And that was true for seventh grade also? Cause when I was in seventh grade it was like an Elementary school.
A: No, it was a six period day.
Q: How about, where do you go from Deep Creek?
A: Well I met Chuck, who was a Naval Officer. And we moved around as he finished the Navy, and then he had to go back and finish his Bachelors Degree. Which they had taken him out to send him to Officers school before he ever got his Bachelors. He had one semester left to go on that, then he chose to go to Union Seminary in New York to study Theology, and I went to Columbia University and got a Masters Degree in, actually in Christian Education. But as a requirement for that I took a lot of courses at Teachers College. And then I taught English and History, in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Q: How was that different from Deep Creek?
A: Well, this was in 1948 I guess, somewhere around the late 40's. It was after World War II, and I was very conscious of being a southerner. Teaching in Elizabeth, New Jersey and having blacks and whites together in my class. And that was the biggest difference and that I felt like I had to prove that I was a cosmopolitan, that I was not a southerner that I was not proventional. So the first thing I did was I tried to talk faster. And I did change my manner of speaking. of course I was living in New York City at the time. And I'm sort of a chameleon in terms of language, not as much as I'd like to be cause it is hard for me to learn a new language. But living in New York City I began to talk faster anyway, and change. But because of my teaching I really deliberately tried to do that and did. You can't tell now because the minute I moved back to Texas, back to the South, I started drawing real fast. But that was an accomplishment, in other words that was the first experience I had with int*grated class.
Q: How did you interact with the black kids? Was that a problem? Was it a problem for them? For you?
A: It really to my knowledge was not. I was never aware of, the school I taught in was Grover Cleveland Junior High School. And it was in an industrial section of Elizabeth, so I had a very urban junior high school. Compared to sort of a rural Deep Creek. Small school 1-12. I had this big school, I don't remember how many but I'm sure well over 1,000 kids in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade.
Q: Did you have discipline problems with anything in particular?
A: I had a problem in my third period class my first year. I had four classes of seventh grade, then third period I had ninth grade Remedial English class. And they grouped there students strictly by achievement test scores. Which I have to confess I don't think it's all bad if you go to group, but if you go to group those achievement test scores are probably as good as anything. But anyhow that class, there they were, there were thirty boys. Was not a single girl in the class. As a matter of fact, that was a policy of thelies. In the for remedial classes they segregated the girls and boys. And that was not a bad idea. It really was helpful. But anyway I was scared to death of that class because they were big old boys and there was one of them back from reform school who wouldn't do anything, except what he wanted to do. And so I tried to be very strict. And I was very dictatorial. And it wasn't working. They were resisting like crazy and I was getting into this huge power struggle. And I had four periods a day that were great with my seventh graders and it didn't matter whether it was remedial class or advanced class. Seventh grade I had no problem with. I'd hit this third period and they really had me, I was really under, I felt defeated. So I was going through the cafeteria line one day and the principal of the school says to me as a new teacher there, you know how are things going! I said everything is fine except for my third period class. He said what's wrong, what's the problem? Well, I'm having some problems with some of my students. He said "Well, who?" I didn't want to answer because I realize like it was like the whole class, I felt like I as a teacher, I wasn't doing my job, I really didn't want to reveal that. But he was very persistent. Who's giving you trouble, who's doing it? So I listed three:@ or four, he said who else, and I'd list three or four more, and I finally got up to nine kids. Well to do this with any teacher, they do pick out the nine who have given them the most trouble. It isn't the whole class, it's only a third of the class. And he, this greatly influenced, you know the way I felt with teachers later on because he called them into his office and evidently laid the law down. And they came back the next day and they were marvelous.
Q: Is that right?
A: However I continued in my same old methods. Trying to be strict. And had I continued like that you know it would have gone right back to the same old power struggle. But what happened is, one day I kept two boys after class, after school. And one of them was the kid from reform school, who I was already scared of. I was 22 years old by this time. And another kid who was much easier. And the kid who was easier and this detention I was holding with the two of them which I was trying to be very solemn and very stern and have no talking here. Started singing an Al Jolsen song. It changed everything. Cause I'm a sucker for music and I just forgot that I was a teacher, I just forgot I was trying to keep law and order and I just listened. And then I responded how much I loved Al Jolsen, cause there had just been a movie with Al Jolsen. So talking about building personal relationship, we did it right there. And then he said "you know Mrs. Jaekle, you are not gonna make it in this class." I said, "why not?" He said "because you act like a dictator, and that is not gonna go over." So the next day I walked in and I said I want to apologize for the way I've been treating you, and I said I have two periods of seventh graders and when you come then-I've been treating you like seventh graders, and I realize blah, blah, blah, you know. Well the whole atmosphere melted. And I guess out of that whole experience, I mean that was a real turning point, because I was getting ready to leave teaching as a failure. And that worked, and that class worked the whole rest of the year. They did what I asked them to do which was mostly grammar and they did it. I think two things stuck with me. One was that the support of that principal who got me through the crisis and gave me a breathing space. And then the personal relationship with that kid I became honest with myself and with the kids. Those two things stuck with me the rest of my career.
Q: So where did you go from New Jersey, what happened then?
A: Well by that time I did my Masters, and I went to being a wife and a mother. And I was out of teaching for over ten to twelve years I had two little ones, and I stayed home with them.
Q: Was this in New Jersey, or did you go elsewhere?
A: We lived in New Jersey And then New York and then we moved to Austin, Texas.
Q: What point did you get back into teaching?
A: When my little one was three or four years old. No, he was three years old, I decided when he went to nursery school, they had a wonderful, nursery school there in Austin, Texas that was a part of the University at Texas Demonstration School. And it was an all day nursery. Not like 7:30-5 but to 8-3 or something like that. So I decided that when he went to nursery school I was gonna go back to school. I had decided to be a social worker, I was gonna get my Masters Degree in social work at University of Texas. I applied and I got accepted, and I was already to be a social worker. I went over to register and the prerequisite course you had to take, either simultaneously with or before any other course, and that program started at 8 o'clock in the morning. Well to get to that class at 8 o'clock in the morning, I had to do something with Stephen, because his nursery school would take him until 8 o'clock. And I could not work that out. So I didn't go to school of social work, I went right back into education. And I got another Masters, well I didn't actually get the degree but I got the equivalent of a second masters in secondary education from the University of Texas. And that's the first place I ever really learned anything about education, it's the first time I learned about curriculum, and courses of study.
Q: Then what happened, you went back into teaching?
A: Then I went back into teaching in Austin, Texas and I taught again at a junior high school. I taught at Henry Junior High School, which was also 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. And again I had four classes of seventh grade. And then I'd have one class of ninth grade remedial reading, or I would have one class of eighth grade American History. But I taught there for five and a half years, and it was the best teaching I ever did.
Q: Why do you think it was the best?
A: Well, it was, the students were good, a lot of them had parents who were professors at the University there, so academic achievement was the of most of the kids in that school. And I think at the time I had wanted a job in Senior High School. Because I wanted a change. Bottom line was, every time I came back to seventh grade I was at home. I don't know, I guess a lot of it has to do with my early experiences with my Aunt Margaret. That was just a fun, she made it seem like, and when I went with her on those field trips it just seemed like fun. And so when I was with seventh graders it was like it was OK to teach and learn and have fun. And I was fresh out of that year of graduate work, and I had all these ideas and theories that I wanted to change. And my kids were both in school now, so I was like a housewife with lots of energy to go back out into the world and do my thing. And it was great.
Q: What point did you come up to Northern Virginia?
A: Well I never wanted to leave Austin, Texas but Chuck was a professor at the Episcopal Seminary and he had gone on the Sabbatical and he went to University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and became a marriage counselor. Then he got this job down here in Washington and that's when we came to Virginia. And it was a big move. We had lived in Texas for ten years. so when we moved here in '64 I decided I would take the first year off &" to get acquainted with a new area, to get settled and to get my kids settled, to support my husband who was in a brand new job. But I got involved in a lot of volunteer work, mainly the political campaign. This is the year Lyndon Johnson was running against Barry Goldwater, and a local guy by the name of Gus Johnson was running for Congress. So I went to work as a poll precinct captain and worked for Johnson and Johnson. And Gus Johnson lost, I believe or maybe he won that time and lost later, I don't remember. But anyway, I loved it. I very much enjoyed that. But by spring I went looking for a job, and I got a job as an English teacher at Fort Hunt High School. I finally got the High School.
Q: So what age level were you teaching there?
A: I was teaching juniors and seniors. I worked then, and a guy by the name of Jim Patasol was there, you don't know him. And Miles Higgison. And they wanted to do a pilot program called the Elective English Program. Well, I just loved that because at that time, we are talking 1965, kids were turned off. We did a survey of students at Fort Hunt High School, and asked them which was there favorite subject and which was there least favorite subject. And English was there least favorite subject. And they were all reading the Scarlet Letter and doing the deadest curriculum and they were totally turned off. So the Elective English Program was a very exciting, very stimulating thing when it was new. And the paper back books were new. And they were like thirty-five cents. So you could enliven the curriculum, and give the teachers a lot more freedom of choice as to what reading they would assign. And you could be relevant to the interest of the kids. So we were relevant, and the early years of that curriculum were very exciting. You could really see the whole thing turn around, teachers and students. And after two years of that, I became the department chairperson. I had twenty-one English teachers at Fort Hunt. We had well over, well I think we had about twenty-four hundred students, and twenty-one English teachers.
Q: At what point did you decide that you wanted to get into the Administration?
A: Well, I had to do my six hours, recertification, and so I decided I would do it in Administration and supervision. So I began to move toward and did complete my certification. But what I was doing when I was taking the courses, it was just you have to take something so I might as well get certified in something else. And I probably now would have done it on my own initiative, but it was at a time when they were moving from one curriculum specialist and two area people to four area people. They were adding English specialists, one for each area.
Q: At what point out of curiosity, does that divide into four areas? When did that happen?
A: It was after I was here. I became an English specialist in area one in 1969. So it was sometime between 165 and 169.
Q: so you were the curricular English specialist in area one?
A: Yea, what happened was that Dr. Mary Round was a curriculum specialist, and-Ida Mae Speaks was already on board as her assistant. And she came over and invited me. And she came over and invited me to apply for this new position that was opening. And I did, and I got it. And the first two years I loved it because it's an incredible staff development opportunity. Say were working in forty schools. And the,'five high schools, and the five intermediate schools, and thirty elementary schools. And there you were And you see, whatever field you're working in like English or Language Arts. And you see, you learn. I mean the staff development of that position is incredible. And then you're like a bumblebee. You pick up an idea over here and you take it over there, and you have . The first two years I loved it, then after that I did not like not being part of a local school. After that I began to daydream of getting back into teaching. I do anything to stay in one school with one group instead of flitting all around. Always being invisible. So it was in that job that I met John Alwood, he was principal of Edison. I was over there one day, and by this time as an English specialist. See by this time I had taught four years in a high school. During the four years I had taught grades 9-12. As an English specialist I worked K-12. And in that job working K-12, once again I decided that's really the junior high school level, that's really my specialty. So I was over visiting John Alwood, and by this time here again I work with forty different principals, and John Alwood was the one that I admired. His integrity, his intelligence. He was just a beautiful man. And so I heard he was going to open a new school. And I went up to visit him, and he had on the wall at his office, the floor plan of Lake Braddock Secondary School. And I walked over and I was looking at it, and he was explaining to me the sub-school organization. And he said up here are the high school sub-schools and then here is sub-school one here's sub-School two, these are the intermediate sub-schools. And I pointed to the intermediate and I said I want to be a sub-school principal, in an intermediate school.
Q: And what did he say?
A: He said, Ah, that's interesting. Says well, you should apply. Then that's all I heard. Then it was advertised. Then I applied, then I went through the panel. And i got this letter, that I had past the panel and that my name would be on the list of eligibles. So well on the panel John Alwood was president. So at the time I was naive about panels, so I interpreted this letter that said that I had passed the panel and was on the list of eligibles as saying you passed the panel but you didn't get the job. And I was heartbroken. So I called the man who was the head of Administrative Appointments, and I said that I got this letter and I guess I didn't get the job, and I'm not complaining about that. But I am curious, could you help me out. In the interview, what went wrong. Why didn't I get it. And he said oh. He said we just haven't gotten to the next step. And he said I can't tell you anything. Except it's far from what you're interpreting it. In other words he didn't say I had the job but he certainly said I was in the running, and I shouldn't feel discouraged. So I waited, and it seemed like forever. And I finally got the letter saying that, l had the job. It was extremely exciting.
Q: When you open a new school, the year before the school opens there is nobody there, right?
A: John, the principal and his secretary, Eleanor Mayhue. And the building was being built so they were not located in the building. But they had an office over at Robinson. The rest of us, the four sub-school principals, cause they just opened the school with grades 7-10. We were all appointed by December, before the school ever opened. But we didn't start to work until July 1. But John started having meetings. And held meet with sub-school principals, and Merryl Price was the associate. And he began to appoint department chairpersons. And we would meet and plan this. There is nothing anymore exciting than to open a new school. I could do that, I'd stay in and open a new school every five years.
Q: I can't imagine, you had to hire your staff. Was that a long
A: That started in the spring.
Q: This is the spring before the school opened, were there kids?
A: No kids.
Q: But kids were due the following fall?
A: Kids were due in September 173. John Alwood, and maybe his associate Merryl Price, but I don't think so cause Merryl still had a job. Unless maybe they freed him in the spring, I'm not sure. But anyway, John began to have these big meetings and held go around to different places and invite teachers to come and talk about Lake Braddock. And droves of teachers wanted to transfer. That happens I think with any new school. Teachers are looking for a new beginning. And it is exciting. You start with a blank slate. Especially if you work with John Alwood, because he was inbdvalard. He didn't want to do the same old thing. So it was wide open. So after he had his mass meetings, they had all these transfer requests, and then he would divide them up. And he'd send us out to interview different people. And I interviewed Susie Bowle, she was at Robinson. And I interviewed Chuck Rembold. He was my first counselor, and he was at Bryant Intermediate. And I was brand new at this, I had never interviewed anybody before. I think I spent four hours interviewing Chuck Rembold. He laughs and tells people that was the longest interview he ever had. Kay Ellis Tarazie, I never had to interview her because she was a resource teacher in area 4 at the time. John had already appointed her, but I had known from a curriculum workshop that we had been in together. So I asked John if she could be in my sub-school. Pat Arthur Demante, I don't know if you remember Pat, I interviewed her. She was teaching at Irving.
Q: of course the rest is history at Lake Braddock. Let me if I could just cover a few issues, educational issues, and get your response to civil rights. Were you ever involved in any situations where there were problems in Southern Virginia or New Jersey or Texas or Virginia? With kids or with teachers?
A: I don't recall any confrontations or disagreements or complaints when I was a teacher. I don't recall any when I was an English specialist. As an Administrator I would have parents complain. I think the hardest deal were the Drill-Team. We would have a black girl try-out for the Drill Team and not get it. And invariably you can expect a call and at least one conference in which weld be clearly charged with racial discrimination.
Q: And how did you handle that?
A: It was painful. It was real painful, because being from the south, I really worked on my own beliefs and feelings about people. Very conscientiously for generations I worked on that. I didn't feel very good about it. I know people say the qb* are not prejudice. I say I am not prejudiced and people say that you are and you don't know it and all of that. And I realize it's very complicated. For me, it was a very personal thing because it's just something I started working on when I was very young. My grandfather was a Methodist Minister. My husband's a Clergyman, my uncle's a Methodist minister. And I think we always wrestled with respect for your fellow man, your fellow woman, your fellow person. So even as a kid, I can remember visiting my Great Aunt in Maryland with my family in the summertime and there was old southern customs and my aunt had a maid, and the maid would come to work and she would bring her daughter with her. Her daughter was the same age that I was. So her daughter and I began to play. We were very freely, very sociably, weld be in the house and out of the house but it was only the two of us. There wasn't any other kids around. And I can remember coming in onto the front porch, and I overheard my parents talking to my aunt and uncle and saying something to the effect that I guess it's alright for Ann to play with Soingsa. But there was this issue is it alright to let her play with this black child as if they were equals. And I can remember feeling a lot of emotion around that. Just the conflict of feeling like this trying to be prejudiced person and yet it was a concern to my family and I'd be angry if they would tell me I couldn't, and of course they never did tell me I couldn't. I just feel like I grew up wrestling with the successfully so. And my second son, Stephen married a women who was half Japanese and half black. So I have a grandson who is a quarter black,.-Eric. I've not only wrestled with this, but it's like my own grandchildren now are mixed heritage in terms of the racial thing. So to be this kind of person with this kind of history sitting with a black parent, mother and father just blasting me very angrily that I and my school had turned their daughter down because she was black really upset me very much.
Q: What do you say to them when you say that's not it, it's just that she wasn't good enough.
A: Well I deny it. I could handle that way in Administration was that I would team up and I would get help. In that case I got Jean Jones and Beverly Pollard, I mean double support. And I got both of them in there with me. And how you can have a fight like that with Jean Jones and Bev Pollard, both there is beyond me. But they still were angry. I think they were probably angry because I brought them in for no thing. Might not like that, it wasn't fair. And Jean Jones and Bev had both been iudaes. Not necessarily the seventh grade Drill Team but one of them was with seventh grade and one was with eighth. Resolved it very personally, I listened with Jean, Bev and talked. I did some talking, we did a lot more listening about them, history and how everybody was prejudiced and whether they knew it or not they were always gonna be prejudiced. I think I just emotionally talked it out and ended up telling them about my grandson. And there I'm sitting in my office and on my wall I have a batik from Africa. It isn't like I feel like I'm prejudiced and it's really hard because I have a dozen times over fourteen years. Just about once a year we expect a black person to come in and blast me.
Q: How about women's rights, affirmative action and that kind of thing?
A: Well I also feel like personally I really wrestled through that. I guess what I'm saying is that when you work the school, that's really a microcosm of life. That's one of the reasons I like to work there. And when I hit issues that I felt comfortable about in my own life and they weren't all that hard to handle at school with the exception of a black parent blasting me, now that was hard cause I felt so misused. But in terms of actually dealing with a black/white:-:conflict like between students or parent complaining about a teacher or something like that. I felt comfortable dealing with that in the same way of the women's issues. I certainly grew up a very very, I don't know what you'd call it, I guess brainwashed as a little white girl. I certainly thought my father was competent, successful strong person. And I certainly saw my mother dependant upon him. My history is mainly with Chuck, my husband where it really counts. I fought to a position of self-confidence and equality. And it was a long hard struggle because I was fighting against my own history, my own beliefs about things. More than with him, because his mother was a very strong dominant person and it didn't bother him to have an aggressive dominant woman. he thought that was fun. Then once I got there, where it was no longer an issue, then I began to incorporate some of the older supportive, dependant roles women have had, that I had had, and to enjoy them. So at this point I'm no great feminist. Cause I can see advantages in both ways.
Q: How about on the job? Have you ever felt short changed, or you. didn't get what you would do?
A: No, I never did. I was one of the first female secondary level administrators anyway. So, I couldn't say I was discriminated against. And I know I felt that because I was a women that I was in anyway held back as administrator. In fact, there was a time there of a few years where being a female was even an advantage.
Q: How do you feel about that, affirmative action?
A: I think that's hard. I understand it, because if we don't have it, it's really gonna take forever and ever and ever and ever to breakthrough and I think it does help to have women administrators and minority administrators on the staff. I think that is necessary. And if you don't have any, then I think you should go with affirmative action, until you have some. But once you have broken that, and once you have that model then I would hope we could give it up. I remember as a female on the administrative staff, Johns administrative staff.
Q: Were you the only one? I guess you were, weren't you.
A: I was the only one with exception of the Media Coordinator.
Q: Did you ever get the feeling like at meetings or so forth?
A: And then those meetings, I would feel like it was hard for me to be heard sometimes. And I would feel like it was easy for me to be dismissed. But I wrestled that through in my mind and decided that it really wasn't because I was a woman, that it really was because I was not as aggressive. And that I would shut-up! it worked! It was 50/50. You know if I would have hung in there and fought things through I would have had the same chance as a man. And John was always supportive. John is very attentive, and he listens. And he listens to the quiet ones, and to the noisy ones., That's what made it all possible.
Q: Special education, any feelings about special ed? How long has that been around, 10 or 15 years or more than that? There is a law right?
A: I don't remember when that law came in. I know for a long time I resented it. To try to legislate all those answers and to be so rigid, infuriated me. I went through a period there when I didn't see why we had GT or LD or anything else. You know why didn't we just put out money in the main stream and give teachers support, and work with whoever came, and that you didn't need to slip people off into different categories. I'm very much against labeling people. I still am. I would much rather handle the GT needs and the LD needs with, I guess I prefer a form of grouping over labeling somebody GT and having a separate...I think if I had my ideal school, I'd probably have a..team like of English teachers or like we did-in the Math team. I would take everybody in GT,:LD, everybody and let the Math Team place them and screen them on the bases on their particular courses. Rather than saying this person is LD in everything, and needs a special program and-everything. Weld see where that kid was add help bases having problems and then set up groups to help and on a year by year bases. It would-not carry over to the next year.
Q: How do you feel about the Betty Shimwall situation? What she is doing.
A: I support her right, to criticize the school, that is in terms of the school taking any disciplinary action against Betty. I don't think legally the school has the right to do that, therefore she is entitled to do what she's doing. I do have a problem with loyalty. I think if you accept your paycheck from an organization that you shouldn't go out complaining about it.
Q: About the case itself. She claims the county is not providing the support which she believes she is entitled to, for her own son.
A: I don't know. I think you have to be on the committees and get, into the nitty gritty to make a decision about that.
Q: Are you following this thing between the Superintendent and Stan Parris. Are you familiar with that?
Q: Oh you didn't know about that? Betty wrote Stan Parris about the situation. She had already lost the case in court. For support of her. Fairfax should pay for her kid being educated in Vermont. And Stan Parris wrote a long letter to Superintendents. And the Superintendent wrote back saying you don't know what you are talking about or is this a sloppily conceived letter you haven't done your research. Then the local Republican Party said that the-Superintendent should be required to apologize and the Superintendent said I'm not about to apologize. And it's going back and fourth. And it hasn't been resolved yet as far as I know.
A: I think I'd support the Superintendent on that. Because I don't think any outsider, I mean her case has gone before so many reviewing committees and so many legal things that if the judgement is no, the judgement is no!
Q: Apparently they are not willing to except that I guess. One final issue, merit pay.
A: Merit pay makes me feel old fashion"'and out of it. That is such a fantastic change from what I grew up with in teaching. That, it's a new thing that I'm never going to experience. In the last year I was working it was on the horizon. And I did everything I could to get with the program. Here again, once it was settled it was too late to waste your energy fighting it. The time came where you had to make it work. As I said to teachers, when I announced my retirement, I'm not running away from merit pay, it's here and I would really like to stay and help make it work. And I believed that. I believed that it is here and everybody needs to give a 100% to make it work. And if everybody gives a 100% to make it work, it will work. If people get disenchanted and they want to sabotage it, then it won't work. Personally I think that -
Q: Say that you are still an assistant, say that you are Bill Watts. And you have to do these evaluations and Ms. Smith, you teach--her and you observe her and do.-:everything you are suppose to do and in your estimation she is effective career level 1. You have to bring Ms. Smith in, who you've worked with for years and explain to her why. How would you handle that?
A: That would be hell! And here again, there are other considerations that made me to retire when I did. And had I stayed, I would have wanted to stay right there in sub-school one and I would have wanted to do my best. I do think that would have been an extremely hard, I think it would have been easier to move than do that with a new faculty. Like with Bill, like it's easier for him to do it with sub-school one than it would have been for him to stay where he was. I think it would be easier for me to do that new system. If I didn't have years and years of a relationship. Because my relationship for fourteen years had been, I'm here to support you. And now I have to change and say I'm here to tell you where you're making this and where you're not making it according to these criteria. My problem is that it's not all that easy!-to make that judgement about teachers. That's my only quarrel, is people act like that's easy. I don't think that's easy. And I had training sessions in skillful teacher which are excellent. I think that's excellent. But you can sit right there and they can give you a video tape and you can have 30 or 40 administrators talk about that video-tape and they do not agree. Some of them say hey, he did a great job or she did a great job and others pick it to pieces. And it's the same video tape. That's the scary part. That's the dilemma because here I just said I want to work with a new faculty, but you can't know in three visits. I would have no problem knowing whether a person is competent or incompetent. That's not the problem. The problem is knowing whether they are ...
Q: Whether they are effective or skillful or exemplary?,
A: I don't have any problem with exemplary. I think you can put that so high, that a few people stand out. I think Ray Swalina is exemplary. But Ray Swalina worked about twenty hours a day.
Q: But distinguished between effective and skillful?
A: I think people are gonna disagree with that.
Q: And it's a fine distinction and yet we are talking money here.
A: Big bucks, you got to be a genius and a saint and everything else to take that work.
Q: Everybody who is eligible to apply for career level 2 in sub-school one did. And that includes counselors and teachers. I was amazed I was going around asking people, cause we were the counseling pilots. I was asking some of the counselors at the beginning of school, I said are you gonna do this. Out of many ten I talked to only three-said they were gonna do it, go for it. I was really amazed by that, including Nancy Oliver which really blew me away. But as it turned out, we finally had to turn in the paper on Friday, yesterday as a matter of fact. A lot of them went ahead.
A: Well if I were there, I would just take it step by step. I mean you look at the whole thing globally, and you try to decide, it's like oh my gosh. Johnny Jones has applied for parallel, oh my gosh is he gonna make it or not. You have to not cross that bridge. You have to with it step by step. And it pretty well is outlined. I think a lot of times things that seem overwhelming, when you first hear about them, turn out to not to be that overwhelming. when you break it down into pieces, that's exactly right.
Q: Have they figured out how to observe counselors?
A: The only thing I know at this point is the unannounced observations which I'm talking about. You can't tell anybody this, my unannounced observation is gonna be on October 20th. Chuck said on October 20th, you know everybody has a different date, Chuck said when you are ready for me to come up give me a call and I'll come up.
Q: So he is gonna sit in on a counseling session?
A: Yes, he'll sit in on a counseling session, of course there are other issues there also
Q: &e the confidentiality.
A: See, I don't agree with that.
Q: It changes the dynamics.
A: If you#-supervisor can't sit in on a parent conference or a conference with a student, certainly the two of you can be as confidential as the one of you.
Q: Yeah, I know but it does change the chemistry of the dynamics of what you're doing if this stranger walks in.
A: I think people clecept that though. I speak from, well a lot of it is your attitude though. I speak from my husband's, what I know about his experiences. He's a psycho therapist. And in that field they do from time to time staffings. Like a counselor will call Chuck, Chuck does a lot of supervision. And say I'd like to bring a client and have a staffing with that client, and you. So the three of them sit down, so Chuck is an absolute stranger. But the counselor the therapist just explains, I get a lot by having my cases reviewed and I want to go and review what we're doing. And people @accept that. And I think parents will too. And I think students will too
Q: OK, now I'm gonna go into more general questions. Some of these are kind of tough, so take as long as you want to sit and think about them a little bit, that's fine. What are the characteristics of an effective principal?
A: I was just reading an article on that yesterday in the National Association of Secondary Principals Bulletin. And I really liked the article, and I remember some points in it and they said number 1, that they can, and effective principal can lead provide, emphasize, give a culture and a value system. And they quoted this article. Quoted some of things from In Search Of Excellence, N4@htt!FRe-, Peters, and Waterhouse or whoever it was. And they taught, I'm sorry I'm rambling, this article had four nice points but to ramble a bit, the thing that I was captivated with was In Search Of Excellence they talked about a tight-loose organization or a loose-tight. And the idea was that the leader has got to be strong, on one or two important beliefs. To speak personally I think sub-school one, I think there are a couple of things that teachers never had to talk about. That they knew I had certain beliefs, I think one of them was that I really believed in a transition time for seventh graders. That our job was to take elementary students and spend a year helping them transition to secondary students. And the teachers were to be interested in the needs of a seventh grader. I think another belief, it was a strong certain belief that I think I communicated even without talking about it, was that I did believe that teachers were the most important resource in the school and that I wanted within certain bounds, I wanted to maximize the talents as teachers and give teachers as: mach freedom as possible, to exercise their own strengths. And you know if I were the principal over the whole school, my beliefs would have to be different from that perhaps. But that you have certain key beliefs that never waver like John Alwood had this faith in people. Good, bad, indifferent, weak, or strong, it was a strong belief. This respect for students. And he never wavers on these one or two overall strong beliefs. So that was tight. Like you were never gonna change his mind.
Q: Is it important to articulate?
A: Yes, yes. So an affective principal has to have a strong belief that's good for the school. He or she has to know what it is. They can't be in there wondering. They have to know what they believe, and they have to communicate it. Then, they do have to learn to use their resources of their teachers because one principal can't do much more than set the tone. The nitty gritty has to be worked out by the experts who are the teachers in the classroom. But the principal has to provide some kind of structure and atmosphere that encourages teachers to team up in some way or other in order to help each other get better. And going back to merit pay, that's the key. If merit pay, if you can still have teachers helping each other and have merit pay then fine it will work. If teachers decide to cause the merit pay they are not going to help each other and the whole thing will collapse. I think the skillful teacher with classes, probably gonna be good for that. But getting back to an affective principal, you have to have a belief, you have to know what it is, it has to be a constructive belief, it's a good belief, you have to communicate it. Then you have to get the troops, which are the teachers. In some ways they were having a constructive growth experience themselves. That they're not stagnating.
Q: What about an effective school?
A: I think it has some cohesiveness, which would make West Springfield different from Lake Braddock. For example, that it does have a culture, that it does have a climate. That the leader, who has to be the principal, cause he's or she's appointed so it can't be anybody else. Has to have that school going in the same direction on enough things to hold it together so it doesn't tend to spin out of control. Or to be totally laisser faire and anything goes.
Q: Do you think most principals have the beliefs? It seems to me that they don't, that's just my own opinion. There is a set that has certain 3 or 4 beliefs which they cling to, and articulate. See, I know you did, and I know John Alwood did, but some of the other principals I know, I'm not even sure whether they even thought about that. And I agree with you, that's important. But do you think all principals do?
A: Well, I think that's changing. I think the whole system is more competitive and that you have fewer people just rising up without any clear view of what they are suppose to be doing. I know in years past that happened. When I was an English specialist I walked into a high school one day and I talked to the new principal there. And I asked him what his day was like. And he says I never know until I get here. Well I thought that was stupid. Turns out a year or two, I think the very next year he went back to the classroom. So apparently he didn't like the job. My point is that you have got to take charge of a few things and decide what your priorities are and exercise them. I have no respect for a principal or an assistant principal who never has his or her own agenda. But are always at the beck and call of others. And when I was at Lake Braddock I usually scheduled half my day. So on an average day, I was scheduled about four hours of my day, in which I would be in observing classes or I would be talking to students, or I would be having parent conferences, or meeting with the team or whatever. Which meant I decided what was important for half the day. And as an assistant you do have to be available, probably more than a principal. That's part of your job is not totally schedule your time, but to be open to be available, say half the time. But the other thing about effective principals and I think this applies I think maybe more to assistants than the principal. I don't think you can let 10% of the kids take 90% of your time. That's a tough one though. Kind of out of control. I guess with, I don't know how many of my staff respected or understood what I was doing. Meaning I don't know how many of the staff realized how intentional I was in my ignoring of the 10%. Because the more attention you give them, the more time they take. Then I had, I would have kids who'd be sent behind the screen and sometimes a counselor or teacher would have sent them behind there and everyone, quote unquote, would assume that I would deal with them. And some those kids, like Laurie Fagar. Most of the time I would not talk to her because if I talked to her then it made even more of a point that she was in an negative situation. And chances were she would get worse instead of better.
Q: I wonder though if that's not easier to do in the seventh grade say than in the ninth or tenth grade. Cause that's one thing that Bill Watts is going on. He's dealt with more than one or two discipline things in the first month of school. And of course he said held do more than that in one hour in the tenth grade.
A: But I think that is one of the reasons I like seventh grade. Cause I know when in seventh and eighth grade year when we split I had a choice, I could of went either way.
Q: Seems to me that would be the least enjoyable part to being a principal is discipline.
A: The discipline, yes it is.
Q: And that's not why you're in education, to do that kind of stuff?
A: To make kids behave, right.
Q: You've already done this pretty much. But the next question deals with the best principal you ever worked for. That's John. What is it that made him the best?
A: That he did look at broad things and not always get up in front of faculty and complain about what was not working. That's what my previous principals have done. They'd call a faculty meeting and ball us out for letting kids out of our class during class. You know they pick up on the little student control issues and they spend 90% of their time telling the faculty how they got to do a better job. Well teachers want to teach and they want to talk about instruction and if you can't do that then it's better to just be nice to them, and leave them alone. But I think setting the tone is more important than fussing about the nitty gritty. I think George has a different style. I don't know that he fusses about the nitty gritty. I think he's very careful not to do a whole lot of that. But his style is that he, I think if I read him correctly, that he has a lot more faith in confrontation and the value of that, and that he likes to keep people off balance because he wants to be stimulating and aggressive, and to shape people up. And certainly to a certain extent, his coming to Lake Braddock and doing that was beneficial. And like everything else you can carry that too far, and I don't know how far he's gonna go with it.
Q: A lot of people would be curious about that. How about, I don't know dealings you have with Superintendents, but who has been the most effective Superintendent?
A: We'll I haven't had any personal connections with superintendents but as a member of a huge school system, I could tell you that one person can make a big difference. Which is not something I believed when I first came here in 1965. I didn't think a Superintendent had all that much power. I didn't think the Superintendent had much power until Liton Deck came. And you know Liton Deck did some good things he did some bad things and he didn't last very long. But one thing he did was he showed that one person can make a difference. He really shook the system. And Mr. Spilane is doing the same thing.
Q: How about community relations? How important, and how do you deal with the community? And what steps do you take to keep them happy and those kind of things?
A: Well I think that's the most important job that the principal has, and I think it's the hardest. And in my experience for me, the least rewarding.
Q: Why the hardest?
A: Well, cause your job is to reach out to the community and communicate to the community. To build support and respect for the school. And to start with is almost like a super human effort, because your population is so diversified. Even in a relatively homogenous school community the population is so diversified that what sends one parent into ecstasy sends the next parent into orbit against it. But the discouraging thing is that after you knock yourself out to reach out and have a good community relationship, that they move on. Especially at the intermediate school, where you only have them for two years. I'm not talking about Lake Braddock, but like Irving. Every year 50% of their community is new. And yes there is a carry over, but the carry over is mostly perception and mostly myth. What's really happening in the school changes so sometimes you get blasted for things you're not even doing now. So it's a never ending job of building community support. And that's the thing I got absolutely worn out with that.
Q: What specific things did you do? I guess, the orientation night, in that nature.
A: Well sometimes I didn't do very much because it was never clear to me what a sub-school principal is supposed to do. Because even with John Alwood it was confusing, it's like sometimes he would say I want sub-school principals to meet with parents and build their relationship with the sub-school. But other times even John decided to take the attitude that he was the principal and community relations was his job ' and he didn't want the sub-schools messing with it. So it was always kind of an off-again on-again thing and-it was so hard to start with that if i got the signal that it wasn't my job, then forget it I wasn't gonna spend any time on it. I suppose the biggest exception was when we did organize into seventh grade sub-school and then with Jerry and Nancy. God as I said before I would never do anything hard without a team. With Jerry and Nancy, we identified some parents, well we had an open invitation, I did a news letter that went out just for seventh grade. It went out every two weeks. We invited parents in and we knocked ourselves out to meet with them and work with them. And it paid off. For a year of two, I think we really turned the sentiment around, because before that one of reason we went to a seventh grade sub-school was that our parents were really pissed off that a big secondary school, and they didn't want to send their seventh graders to this big school. So we made a super human effort, in the form of news letters and other announcements through the mail. Parent Night, Spaghetti Night, all those things started very early that first year. In many meetings, well we met once a month with parents. We had coffees, we really, it was exhausting and time consuming. And I kept trying to figure out a way to get parents to pick up, and provide leadership for that. And I could never transfer that over to parents. And as I say, you can get a good group going. But then it's the end of the year and they're gone and you have to start all over again. It's as if you have never done anything. And I got real tired of trying to parents on Lake Braddock.
Q: Pressures, what are the most extreme pressures you face as a principal?
A: It's the responsibility. It's the community acting like anything that happens to their children in school is your fault. And it's the administrators fault. I mean they might be angry at a particular teacher but they'll blame the administrator for allowing that teacher to do that. And it's that responsibility, that's only pressure that got to me, it was that sense that people were holding me responsible, responsible. And I was responsible for what the P.E. teacher did, and I was responsible for what the art teacher did. And other pressures didn't bother me, deadlines, or master schedule. I came and called counselors in and say we are dissolving two sections and remember it hurt, but that what was just part of the job.
Q: How do you relieve those pressures?
A: Retire! Well I think part of that was my philosophy. If my philosophy was that I'm gonna support the teachers, and then if the community perceives that the teachers goofed up then I feel responsible. Under the new evaluation system, I guess if you can take the hard line that as a teacher it's your job and if you do something the parents don't like, then it's your problem. You know I think principals who have a different view towards teachers, then feel less responsible for everything that goes on.
Q: It seems to me that probably the most important thing you would do, most important decisions you would make, is who to hire.
A: Oh yeah that would make a pretty good school right there.
Q: How did you approach that differently, say from someone else?
A: Well, I look in a lot for people. I admired, and I would look for teachers who loved teaching. I would look for teachers who loved their subject, even at the seventh grade level I think that's important.
Q: How do you know though? How do you find out these things about people?
A: Well, I put a lot of, on the interview and I think most people do and I think that's a mistake up to a point, because some people interview beautifully and are not all that great in the classroom and vice versa. I think we should do more calling with previous administrators and get on the phone recommendations, because letters of recommendations are always good. I never saw a letter of recommendation that wasn't good. But you get on the phone and I did more of that as time went on. You can push for that administrators view of that teachers weaknesses. And begin to get a picture of strengths and weaknesses, and then you add that to your interview.
Q: Did you ever have a problem with the demand exceeding the supply? I mean, were you ever in a situation where you couldn't be choosy or you couldn't interview ten people cause there were-wepe t@.ino-t ten people interested in a job?
A: I think I had that once or twice with part-time positions that were open. And particularly if they were open after school started kind of thing. But one of those one time where applicants were scarce I picked out one of the best teachers. We know that was Jean Jones. Late in the summer we developed a need for half-time science teacher. And I only had about three applicants. And she was one of them, and that's all I needed.
Q: When you interview somebody, I have been through the process myself twice, what do you look for? You-" obviously look for certain things.
A: Well, here again with me and my personal history as involved, as I say my husband is a Psychotherapist and I studied some counseling in Psychotherapy and marriage counseling. Enough to qualify as a clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. I had some therapy myself, and therefore I think I'm very good at reading people, and in an interview I think I'm very good at tracking a person, Staying with them, pushing a question, maybe even deliberately throwing him off balance. Pushing on things like well tell me what you do when you're upset. Tell me what you do when things are not going well. Because all are great when things are going well. I want to know you better, tell me what you're like. And then setting up some situations with students that I think are particularly difficult. Pushing an applicant to tell me how they would handle that and what they would do. And I felt that after thirty minutes that a I pretty much knew.,what I was dealing with. Certainly is ...to whether it's outstanding or just blab, And if they're outstanding it was a matter of, but will this person fit in this situation. It's just like the teacher from New York. She may of turned out to be great but she's not in a good situation.
Q: What do you think went wrong there? You don't think perhaps that G.J. talked to her?
A: I think Bill talked to her. So I figured Jenny Sorrel was one competent elementary teacher, and that she would be one strong dynamite seventh grade teammate for anybody. But that Sharon Briggs especially needed that. And that Sharon was a dynamite solo teacher but was not necessarily a team player. But that Jenny Sorrel had so many skills that Sharon would respect her. And so they just had to go together and it turned out as far as I can see, it turned out to be a superb team. Well Sue Bradshaw, the next opening we wanted Sue. She had been just an outstanding substitute and part-time teacher. She improved herself, and she had been over there in the worse spot. And she %*M kept the attention of her students and she so she had to have the next opening. Then I got to her partner that was pretty much by luck, and it just turned out that Jackie McCune was the outstanding applicant and I do think that if she stays with teaching she's just gonna get stronger and stronger and stronger. She has a lot of talent. So they kind of ended up together. When I talked to them about each other, and I don't believe they ever met until after they were hired. I could relate to both of them about the other and I saw a lot of similarities so I figured they would like each other and would like to work together. I don't ordinarily choose to put together two people who are so much alike. And even Sue and Jackie said to me, we love working together we're so much alike but sometimes we wonder if we're not too much alike. And that is their problem, they are both so high energy, they drive their kids up the wall, they're not careful. And each other, because they just get so turned on. Hey Jackie McCune, Sue, both are incredible. Jackie will work on her Masters Degree and teach all day and go home and be upset cause she doesn't have anything to do. She's incredible.
Q: If you had your career to do over, would you of done anything differently? If so, what?
A: I just wish I would of known then what I know now. I mean, it's always a matter of after you experience, you can always look back and say, my gosh I could of handled that a lot better. But I don't think, that's the whole point you can't know until you experience it.
Q: Any specific incidences? I'm not talking about broad decisions but any problems or things you wish you handled differently?
A: I guess if I had it to do all over again I would try to be more flexible. I would go off on tangents, when I was at Fort Hunt and got excited about the Elective English Program. I was so gung-ho that I didn't want any teachers in the department, I didn't want to do that. So I had some conflicts with, you know for all my reputation with getting along well with people at Lake Braddock, I was an aggressive conflict in Fort Hunt and people hated me. I sit here and say if I could do it all over again I would of gone through that without so much conflict and hatred. But I don't know you just can't go back and because if I had been nice and harmonious at Fort Hunt I might never of gotten the job done that I wanted to do there. I mean it got to be an either or situation it wasn't like I was going into a new school with John Alwood and building it from the ground up. I was one of the latest people in the department trying to tell everybody what to do. And it was back before I learned how to get other people involved in the decision, but if I had gotten other people involved in the decision then we would of never had extreme change in the English department.
Q: How did you handle those people?
A: We couldn't stay together, my principal handled it. He got that other person a job at another school. Which I think is interesting in light of my work at Lake Braddock, when people didn't experience me as being so hard headed. That you either head to be with me or one of us had to go. But that's the way it was at Fort Hunt.
Q: What changed? Did you change? Or did the situation change? Or did your philosophy change?
A: Everything, all of the above.
Q: In an hypothetical situation, obviously you don't believe that a seventh grader should get F's as a final grade. And when you have a teacher who gives them F's year after year after year. And at Fort Hunt maybe you would of gotten rid of that person, or suggested that maybe they should do something else.
A: My fight at Fort Hunt, was with a pier. Even though I was the department chairperson and that person was not, never the less we were both teacher. And I think those are the worst kinds of fights are with piers. So I guess that's the main difference, that when I was the leader I could be a lot more respectful of people who I was supervising. And a lot less threatened, and I listened to teachers, whereas I wouldn't listen to my peers.
Q: Is that a good idea or not? Do you think, -is that endemic in the relationship between oders?
A: No, I think some people are better at working with peers than others. When I was, I loved the new. And if I was leading a new program I was not interested in some peer telling me the old fashion way was the better way to do it. Forget it, no tolerance for that.
Q: Teacher grievances. Were you ever involved in a grievance?
A: Yea@,;I was, but I didn't feel responsible for it. A teacher grieved about the assignment and I hadn't done the assignment. The principal and person who did the master schedule, and I was in on the grievance because I was technically that teacher's supervisor. But the teacher knew it wasn't against me, I knew it wasn't against me. My principal knew it wasn't me, so I didn't take it personally, cause it wasn't that personal. It didn't involve seventh grade assignment, it involved some high school classes.
Q: Are those the only ones?
A: I had the threat of a grievance one time when an Instructional Aid applied for a job as a teacher and the job went to somebody else, and the Instructional Aid threatened to file a grievance on the grounds that I didn't hire her or recommend her because she was a woman. But since it turned out that the person I did recommend was a woman, she couldn't get very far. My style did not create grievances.
Q: Did you ever have to fire anybody? Did you have to live through that?
A: I was getting ready to fire an assistant ADP operator one time when I was supervising the ADP people. And I was this mostly on what the bases of what the ADP operator had told me that her assistant was not doing. So I got a list of specifics and I called in the ADP operator and the assistant, and I talked to the assistant and I said we have these ten things and we can't have these and they have to change. And it was pretty serious, I didn't expect her to change, I really expected I was going to have to fire her. Which she got upset and angry and she resigned. And that's the easiest thing in the world for someone who's in that spot, is to have somebody get mad with ya and resign. Then her husband called John Alwood to complain about what I had done. But they just didn't have a case. And that was the end of that. That's a lot different from a teacher with ten years though.
Q: I bet you never had to do that.
A: I never did that, under the old system we talked about 90% of your time when 10% of the problems, you can spend an inordinate amount time trying to even put somebody on a ''yeed to improve and end up losing the case. So that I always had weigh, I am gonna go for a need to improve or am I gonna go for improving this person. And I made a decision a long time ago that under the old system it's easier to improve somebody. Now under the new system you see I wouldn't have that freedom.
Q: How about discipline? I'm talking about kids. What's the key to good discipline in a school?
A: Well, number 1, you want to create a climate with the faculty that reduces the number of discipline problems. Here again, I don't know if they work in high school. But I can remember times in the intermediate school before we were just seventh grade, we had a mixture of seventh and eighth grade. And the whole place would be like off-the-wall. There would be a discipline referral every time you turned around. And I had a policy that I would call a team meeting and I would say everybody on this team is to drop everything they are doing and we're gonna spend more time with teachers. And we believed this Jerry, and Max Durr, Bev Lantry, and we believed we saw an improvement as a result of that. That there would be fewer discipline problems. So part of it is what the adults were doing.
Q: You would just stop and meet with all your, who's the team? Your team?
A: My team.
Q: Would just stop and figure out a way to deal with all of this?
A: Weld just spend our time talking with teachers and supporting them helping them, listening to them. Make them feel like they are not all by themselves.
Q: Who was Max Durr? Wasn't Max Durr a teacher, right?
A: He worked part-time for a while as a special projects teacher. Which he really did administration. That has limited value, as I say I don't know if it will work at all in the high school, but it certainly is significant. You know what the fact he's doing, how well are the adults working together. How supportive they feel, how confident they feel, like they're in charge and the kids aren't over-running them. The other key to this plan I think though is when the chips are down and you-know here again I believe that you have to support the teacher,. And I think in the last years of my administration I didn't do as much of that with discipline problems as I had done earlier. Earlier, I would be quicker to suspend a kid who is causing everybody a lot of problems. I would be quicker tb invite that kids spend more time with me in my office. I would be quicker it calling parents ;.w'..' I'd be quicker to take stronger action to relieve the teachers of these discipline problems. In the later years, I was less inclined to do that. I think because it seemed so iAse- less in terms of the kids. They just seemed to make them worse and worse and worse. And when I had them for only one year it was just easier to just wait them out. And not precipitate everybody going bazoogies.
Q: What about the role of counselors? What should their primary role be you think?
A: Well I suppose if I stayed in there that I might be changing in my priorities. It used to be that my priorities were that counselors should be the link among the adults. That counselors should team up with teachers. That counselors should spend a lot of time teachers. Here again, the teacher's the key. And counselors should be supporting, encouraging, teaming with teachers. That's crucial. I hate schools like Fort Hunt was when I was there, when teachers and counselors hated each other. I hate that. So that was my number 1 thing, that teachers and counselors would be seen as a team. And I still think that's number I priority. When counselors separate out, they see themselves as student advocates. And then the teachers separate out and you got a mess. Yea, that was one of the biggest things I noticed when I came to Lake Braddock from Hayfield, was that the counselors are far more visible, far more important in the way the whole system worked. At Hayfield we had total conten4o,-I did, when I was an English teacher at Fort Hunt. Lord!
Q: What's the toughest decision you ever had to make?
A: That's a blank thought right out of my mind.
Q: You could feel free to pass on any of these questions you want to.
A: Certainly the hardest job as an administrator is making the tough decisions. And the tough decisions as you've heard reading in politics, reading about(hfle president, or reading about executives in business, or being a school administrator the tough decisions are the decisions in which ever way you go it's gonna be bad. And so you're deciding what is gonna be the least harmful. And I can't remember, you know in the job you have examples of that everyday. You really do, that's the challenging part of the job. Number 1, a good administrator doesn't make decisions that are easy. Because if they are easy, somebody else can make them. I guess I was making some tough decisions when I was getting ready to leave. A new evaluation system was coming in. I made a change, this was a decision in how to operate which is not really I don't think what you are talking about. Tough decisions are when you got two very strong and determined people or forces that are both totally convinced that they're right. And it's absolutely stuck, and you have to step in and make a decision. And no matter which way it goes it's gonna have a bad fall out. And some of those are between a parent and a teacher. You get some of my P.E. teachers who are hard-headed and right and some parent who is just as hard-headed and right. And then I have to say well I'm supporting this. That would seem to be really tough because on one hand, it would be most important to support the people you work with on a daily basis. All things being equal I think I would go for supporting the teacher. Then on the other hand you have to worry about the powers in the community. And part of your job is to protect the student from an unfair teacher. That's part of your job. If you think that teacher's unfair. The toughest decision of all is conflicts between ... When they are irresolvible conflicts. If you can get together with people and resolve the conflict or get the people to resolve the conflict that's great. You've made a marvelous contribution. Their answers, ever bit as good as yours, in most situations. But where you have an absolute logger-heads, and you've done everything you can to get them to listen to each other and they don't and they don't, well you have to take sides.
Q: Is it better to get people all in the same room together or do you handle it separately, and talk to one, and talk the other, or act as a mediator?
A: No, I think we need to get them all in the same room. I think if you talk to one, you talk to the other, and act as a mediator that you're not gonna have as good as result. The hardest part about an administrator job or your job as a counselor or anybody's job is having the time and sometimes you just don't, you can't work it out, you can't take the time, it doesn't merit the importance of stopping everybody's life and getting everybody together. Therefore you run around, and talk to the teacher and then you get on the phone and talk to the parent and you do the back and fourth. But that in my view is never satisfactory. Cause you're ending up interpreting and you're ending up protecting them from each other when they are really, when they're the ones that disagree, not you. But you make administrators and any leader of any organization, do make important decisions, and when I say about how I work with people, it's important. One of the hardest things in my recent time at Lake Braddock, was when we opened the school in 1973 with John Alwood we were in an age where I could promote my philosophy of faculty, we're all in this together, everybody has strengths, everybody has weaknesses, and we're gonna build on the strengths. And everybody has a strength, so everybody is equal in my eye. Even before last year, even before the new teacher evaluation system was obviously coming in. There was a change in the climate about society, I think. And it was kind of like I was bankrupting my own philosophy. I mean, you'd get to a point where it's the point of diminishing returns, and everybody is not equal. And if you treat everybody as if they're equal, then everybody begins to sink to the same level and you don't have as much stimulation and you don't have as much productivity. And I think I began to make some changes when we got the GT program in. And I think it caused troubles when I got somebody like Fran Pallmen in. I treated her like a superstar and it disrupted that old philosophy where everybody felt comfortable that everybody was equal and everybody had equal respect. And that kind of thing than began to create a lot of jealousy and hostility. And that was very painful. And I don't think I handled that very well, but as an administrator I got to the point where, you know why can't, Fran gives extra things and teaches me things why can't I give her extra attention kind of a thing. But nobody accepts that or understands that so. And I think as you move into merit pay, at that time there is gonna be more and more pressure on the administrator.
Q: So is it conscious, this is more out of curiosity than anything to do with this, but is this a conscious effort that you treated Fran differently than other folks?
A: I didn't know what it was, when she first came in, when she came not as just a teacher but she came as coordinator of the GT program in the intermediate school. And she came in from a job as resource teacher in the area office. Having been in the area office and having understood what she did before she ever came. And then add to that the fact that she is brilliant and extremely high energy. I felt there was a limit to where I could bring this superstar resource teacher in and expect her to just be a classroom teacher along with everybody else. That she needed a special position that she needed to be a GT coordinator. She needed the structure in which she could do workshops and make a contribution.
Q: The biggest headache in being a principal, the biggest nuisance?
A: For me it was complaining parents.
Q: Any particular way you deal with complaining parents, set aside from calling them in and sitting down and talking-and,-doing community relations stuff?
A: Well, it's very important to listen to them. And it's another one of those things where if you have time and you listen to them then you tell them what you believe and why you're doing it this way, and what you think is good about the school. And you admit yes we ockers. And you work and work and that you come to know each other and you come to trust each other. But here again, when you got thirteen hundred parents and next year you got thirteen hundred more parents. It's just too, for me it was just a never ending. It,:wasn't like, I and my staff didn't have the skills of working with parents. It's like it never stopped. You could never get to the bottom of it. And some of it felt so irrational. It s one thing to have a complaint with a sensible parent who's really sharing with you information, let me tell you about your school, have some problems, like yes and work and you get a good and this is my perception, and this I don't like and I don't know you can do anything about it or not but I want you to know this. Then you can view that as very helpful, that they're really cluing you in. But it's the ones who sit home and they got ten percent of the facts, and then they make this judgement. And they don't want to hear anything different, and I mean they're tough; It's very annoying, you talk about a nuisance, it's very annoying to have a parent judge a class on the basis,--of what his or her kid who's not doing well in the class tells them. Yea, I'm dealing with one of those right now as a matter of fact. That's annoying. You think you could get, you picture a twelve year old who is under the gun for not performing and you're acting like they're giving you act or description of this teacher in this class. I guess when people are dealing with their own kids it's not always rational.
Q: What is it about your personality that enabled you to be a successful principal?
A: Endurance. Yeah despite my quiet ways, and my lack of aggression sometimes. And here again, I think this is personal history. My mother's family, I mean like they endure. They endure their long history.- The Bates family arrived in Virginia soon after Captain John Smith. It's not anything dramatic in the history that I know of. But just to know them, it's just like they set their course and they just endure.
Q: What is it about your personality that maybe hindered you?
A: My shyness. My lack of communication hurt me. Because the more you let your people know where you stand and what you want, the better cooperation you can get. With me people had to read my mind and new teachers in particular. I think it took a long time for a new teacher to know anything about the values that I believed in for sub-school one. Whereof, people who have been with me for years and years and years had of solved it, and I felt here again that was one of the handicaps of standing in the same place for fourteen years. I just got tired of saying it over and over again. So I kind of lived it, but being relatively quiet, relatively shy that was a handicap. I was saying the reason I never became-an intermediate school principal was one I recognized that that job would mean that I'd work more with parents and that was the really least satisfying part for me. Buf"lierms of my own, I mean that was a choice on my part. In terms of my own weakness it was, I wasn't that comfortable speaking in groups. I wasn't that comfortable, I just wasn't that extroverted.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a good principal?
A: Well two answers. Just someone who's like in the classroom who wants to go into administration, I would say to take this major leadership jobs as you can find time for, such as department chair, such as serving on committees, such as going to county meetings, you know doing things above and beyond classroom. To get as much experience as possible. My advice to principals about being better principals is that there is a lot of literature and there are institutes and there is a lot more known and written and discussed about what makes an effective principal. In the last five years, that's been just growing and growing and so it is possible to learn a lot from the reading and from the research and from attending institutes. You know I wouldn't just assume that you can grownup and move from being a teacher to a administrator on the bases of your courses in college. That you really need to keep up with theories of management, with theories of leadership. And really try it on for size.
Q: I wonder how you do that? Do go to the library? Where is the source# of this information, I guess professional journals?
A: Well professional journals and books, I got a lot myself from reading popular non-fiction, like In Search Of Excellence. Like theory y, or theory x, or all those books that was in popular nonfiction. And kind of pick up the popular occurrence in society-, outside of your field. I think some of the best principals are people who, if they haven't actually worked outside of schools, they have to have at least some bridge to some other professions. I think one of the biggest helps for me is being educated by my husband, who's in psychotherapy, a marriage counselor doing that kind of thing. I think one of George Stepp's most interesting things about him is that he majored in economics and that doesn't impact so much on the local school but you can sit and talk to him about the direction the county is going in, and how you're gonna finance schools, and he is fascinating. I think another thing about being an effective principal is to know how to team up with people. But here again, it's a matter of style. Some leaders are solo leaders. and no way are they gonna team up.
Q: One of the hardest things dealing with difficult parents, what was probably the most rewarding thing about being a principal?
A: Working with teachers. I loved that, I just love it. I don't know why I love it so much. I loved it as a department chair, and I loved it as an English Specialist, and that's the thing I loved about my job at Lake Braddock. I just loved working with teachers.
Q: How about evaluating teachers? I'm talking about on the old system, anything different you did in evaluating teachers, or other people? And what they did not do.
A: Well I tried different things. I think the least effective thing for me was a class observation. Which was why I really paid attention in a skillful teacher, because I realized if I was gonna work in the new evaluation system, I really@had to get with that class, observation. My strength was being able to team up with a teacher. Facilitate that teacher's identification of his or her strengths and supporting that teacher and sizing and maximizing strengths. lhl-othdre,:iwords',,'imy,@management in sub-school one was to maximize strengths, to help teachers maximize strengths and manage weaknesses. So that the weakness didn't get out of control, with the strength it's big enough to offset the weakness. That's outdated now. I would have to do it differently.
Q: Without mentioning names, could you give me an example of what you are talking about? How you would maximize somebody?
A: Well, lets take a teacher that was having a problem because she was coming down too hard on kids and instead of getting kids to work harder she was turning kids off. It was not, I was not effective going in and saying hey you're coming down too hard on these kids and you're turning them off. I mean some leaders and administrators can do that and they're effective doing that. Everybody appreciates it, because it's straight, it's honest, gets the job done, move on. I, somehow that didn't work with me. When I would try that it would not work. What did work with me is to get the teacher talking about what happened in the classroom. What did you do, how did you respond? And then I would pick up, well the teacher was at war with a certain student, or a group of students. Because the teacher had in her head that this student was out to get her when in fact the student was just trying to figure out how to get the girls to pay attention to him or whatever. My work would be with the teachers personality and teachers perception of what was going on. The teachers perception itself. When teachers felt down or they felt like they were a failure. In my early days in sub-school one when I was coming on stronger with my way of working with teachers, they were very open with me. So they would come and they would say I'm having problem. I wouldn't ever have to go to them and say are you having problem, they would come to me and say it, my first period class is driving me up the wall. I would work with a teacher to free up that teachers resources. I would do counseling with a teacher, that's what I would do. Vis-a-vis, that particular job. In other words I would not counsel teachers about it this that and the other thing, but about teaching this. And I think that was the skill I had that's not easily transferable. Not many principals had as much as experience as I had, at being able to help with their own internal thinking. About what they were doing, and to be able to do that in a constructive way. Seems to be a lot of teachers to be reluctant to admit that, -especially now. The new math teacher-&a-"e -replacement, having trouble with her fifth period class I guess. Hard time controlling them, mostly GT kids. And we were talking about this yesterday at lunch, the math teacher was there and Jerry and Nancy. And Jerry said well why don't we come in and watch what goes on and maybe we can pull a couple kids and take them outside on the spot, and say listen you're doing this. They didn't seem to hear...in the new evaluation system, I really had to get with that class, observation. My strength was being able to team up with a teacher. Facilitate that teacher's identification of his or her strength sizing and maximizing strengths. in sub-school one was to maximize strengths, to help teachers maximize strengths and manage weaknesses. So that the weakness didn't get out of control, with the strength it's big enough to offset the weakness. That's outdated now. I would have to do it differently.
Q: Without mentioning names, could you give me an example of what you are talking about? How you would maximize somebody? Somebody's strengths
A: Well, lets take a teacher that was having a problem because she was coming down too hard on kids and instead of getting kids to work harder she was turning kids off. It was not. I was not effective going in and saying hey you're coming down too hard on these kids and you're turning them off. I mean some leaders and administrators can do that and they're effective doing that. Everybody appreciates it, because it's straight, it's honest, gets the job done, move on. I, somehow that didn't work with me. When I would try that it would not work. What did work with me is to get the teacher talking about what happened in the classroom. What did you do, how did you respond? And then I would pick up, well the teacher was at war with a certain student, or a group of students. Because the teacher had in her head that this student was out to get her when in fact the student was just trying to figure out how to get the girls to pay attention to him or whatever. My work would be with the teachers personality and teachers perception of what was going on. The teachers perception itself. When teachers felt down or they felt like they were a failure. In my early days in sub-school one when I was coming on stronger with my way of working with teachers, they were very open with me. So they would come and they would say I'm having problem. I wouldn't ever have to go to them and say are you having problem, they would come to me and say it, my first period class is driving me up the wall. I would work with a teacher to free up that teachers resources. I would do counseling with a teacher, that's what I would do. Vis-a-vis, that particular job. In other words I would not counsel teachers about it this that and the other thing, but about teaching this. And I think that was the skill I had that's not easily transferable. Not many principals had as much as experience as I had, at being able to help with their own internal thinking. About what they were doing, and to be able to do that in a constructive way. ems to be a lot of teachers to be reluctant to admit that, especially now. The new math teacher is having trouble with her fifth period class I guess. Hard time controlling them, mostly GT kids. And we were talking about this yesterday at lunch, the math teacher was there and Jerry and Nancy. And Jerry said well why don't we come in and watch what goes on and maybe we can pull a couple kids and take them outside on the spot, arid-say listen you're doing this. They didn't seem to hear that. It sound like a good suggestion to me, but they kept talking about other stuff.
Q: The math team?
A: The math teachers.
Q: Oh, I thought you were talking about one teacher.
A: Well the math team as a whole. Sandy Gholson was there, and Chris Michael. But they didn't seem to, I don't think they bought that and it sound like a good idea to me. So, I don't know where we're gonna go with that. I think I would of been grateful to ask for them to come in. break ... ...curriculum, more across the nation. And I think my association with that is that when I think of some of the European system. At least what we hear about them. Their content is more standard and therefore it appears that their students know more because they've concentrated on less, or maybe they've concentrated on more, but everybody has concentrated on the same relatively speaking. 1-hen I became appalled at what I'm saying because its not been my position in the past. I think that in our country there is a cry-out for that. Tries boo'jx called "%Wlellflll-teracy", I understand that's a University of Virginia professor saying, hey everybody I don't know this, and 1,Low t,,D be culturally literate. I've not read the book, I'm not sure how I would feel about it if I did. In other words, when you let everybody do their own thing whether it be an individual teacher or an individual school or an individual school system. 'Then you end up with graduates who are so different that you can't measure whether they got a good education or not-. And then people begin to lose faith in their educational system. If you go toward standardizing then you can get more people on the same track, therefore you can give them measurements and tests to indicate that they've learned the curriculum. But is that education really what they need in a world that doesn't follow the curriculum. So it looked for, same thing I said what makes an effective principal, I've looked for a tight loose answer. I would work with people to pinpoint a few things that everybody was gonna do, nationwide. I don't know, maybe the 1/27 would be in the basics like English and Math. I don't know something where everybody could be on the same wavelength. And maybe that would have to be the basic subjects. And maybe that would have to be English, Math, Social Studies, Science, I don't know. But I would look for some things I would give more local are time, more local freedom. The things that were gonna be free, would be freer than they are now, and the things that were gonna be a goal for everybody would be tighter then they are now. Some times it bothers me a lot when I hear like the California school system is awful. And the Florida school system is bad. You want to back the United States in its position in the world and you hear these things in a larger state and you know it has a poor system. Anyhow, in Fairfax County I think we have one of the best, one of the best from what I heard, from people who come from the outside. But that's not a big comfort. Because that's a tiny part of the whole system. Anyway it was a major concern.
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