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Q: Would you begin by telling us about your family background - your childhood interests and development. (Birthplace, elementary and secondary education, family characteristics.)
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I was born the son of Lebanese immigrants in 1930, the youngest of six children, five boys, and the oldest child being a girl. My childhood interests probably were characterized by the time which I lived which were the early 30's, post-depression,and our family was a family of extremely modest means. My father ran a very small business. It was one of these things were the family did well to keep body and soul together. I was a typical kid, played a lot of yard ball. We kind of found our own methods of entertainment. We had very few organized programs as we know them today. But I was a normal child in every way. I was born in Aliquippa, Pa. on March 12, 1930. All of my formal education prior to college was parochial. I attended St. Titus Elementary School from 1936 to 1944, and I attended St. Veronica High School from 1944 to 1948, graduating on June 6, 1948. I was in a class of 51 youngsters, and I was a valedictorian in that class.
Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching. How many years did you serve as a teacher? A Principal?
A: Well, my college experience Joe actually had two starts. Upon graduation from St. Veronica's I got a scholarship to Duquesne University. I was extremely young and immature at the time and I quite frankly didn't do well in that first attempt at Duquesne. That was followed by a very short period of employment until 1950, at which time the Korean War began and I got involved with the United States Air Force on the enlistment and I did not get back into education, any formal education, until 1955, at which time I entered Geneva College at Beaver Falls, Pa., and at that time I was working full-time for United Airlines. So my schooling really was done between work and the rearing of a family. It took me approximately five and one-half years to finish my undergraduate studies at Geneva.
Q: How many years did you serve as a teacher?
A: I was hired in 1962 when Center High School opened in our community here and I worked in the classroom for two years and the third year I had a partial load and a partial administrative assistant assignment, and in the fourth year I was elevated to an administrative program and began my formal graduate study leading to the Principal certificate. I was elevated to the Assistant Principalship in 1964, worked in that capacity for five years, was elevated to Principalship in 1969 and served in that capacity for twenty-four years, or until my retirement, Aug. 31, 1993.
Q: Would you describe your personal philosophy of education?
A: Well, probably Joe, it's a typical of a textbook philosophy. I have a very strong belief that the Principalship is one that requires probably very strong qualities of leadership, but you have to lead in two directions. I always felt that the teachers should be able to teach, and that, me as the Principal, I would probably be expected to supervise. I was always deeply interested in the children maximizing on instructional opportunity and within the panorama of having teachers well prepared, I believe that we should be strongly oriented towards the kids. And I think mainly, for that twenty-four years we were.
Q: What experiences/events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy?
A: Well, I think one of the things I learned, is that I thought that during the period of time that I was growing up, administrative assignments were looked upon as some manner of aristocracy, and I though this was wrong. I thought that teachers taught well when they recognized that the principal, persay, saw them as colleagues, as opposed to underlings. I think that they had to know that you had confidence in them, and within the construct of that type of arrangement, I felt that teachers could do a better job. Therefore, I didn't try to be their friend as such, Joe, but I think what I really tried to do, was to allow them to understand that I recognized that they were down in the trenches, they had the hardest assignment, not me, and I recognized that the way this teacher performed was my only direct daily form of communication with the families of our children.
Q: Can you articulate your organizational and management philosophy as it related to your duties as a Principal?
A: I thought that that's probably an area where I enjoyed the most success. For whatever reason, I rather feel that I was always blessed with the ability to recognize good talent, but I also recognized that the very best people that you elevated to positions of leadership on your team were only as effective as you allowed them to be, and therefore, what I normally looked for were individuals who were innovative, individuals who had the courage to make decisions, individuals who were not afraid to try new things, and my attitude with those individuals, I wasn't interested so much if they made a mistake, that never frightened me, what concerned me was, as long as today's mistake did not become tomorrow's habit. I wanted them to lead and I wanted them to feel free to lead, and I think you know, because you happen to know me, I think you recognize that the people that I had were very valuable to me because they allowed me to supervise instruction because they were doing other things in a leadership position that allowed me to be more free to be involved with the kids and the teachers.
Q: What techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning?
A: I think that first of all I was deeply concerned that the teachers understood that our primary concern as an instructional team was the clientele that we were serving, the kids, and it was my feeling that I wanted us to allow the kids to know they were a primary concern to us. We liked them. We were interested in them and we wanted them to grow and we wanted them to succeed.
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 I think first of all, I think that teachers tend to believe that principals no more than they do and I think they hang their hat on this. I think what they expect you to be, mainly Joe, number one, they look to you for honesty, I think they look to you for parity, they want you to treat them fairly. I think they expect you to appreciate them and to appreciate their efforts and to appreciate what they know, and I tried always to allow them to know how important they treated work.
Q: As a follow-up question to that, would you describe the expectations, both professional and personal that were placed upon principals by their employers, and the community, during your period of employment.
A: Well, let me say this about that Joe. I think that today the toughest assignment in education is the principalship. I think at all levels, middle school, high school, elementary, but particularly in the high school. I think at times there is an unreasonable expectation by boards of education and even the central office administration, that principals should take upon themselves duties which really are not theirs, in the sense that I think it is important that you understand negotiating agreements under which these teachers work. But I think there are things beyond that which they expect from us, which is unfair. I think most administrators, if they are doing their job, can honestly say that they are overburdened, and I think that you find yourself taking care of things like buildings, facilities, athletics, even though you may have underlings that perform some of those functions, you are the bottom line person responsible for them and I think that at times that is unfair.
Q: 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. I guess we could talk about both from the principal perspective and also the teacher perspective.
A: Well, let me say this. I think that the best teacher in the world is a principal who teaches by example. I think that it is eminently unfair for an educational leader to expect from his staff, or her staff, what they themselves are not willing to do. So I think that one of the things that characterized my tenure was the fact that I never, ever asked any of the instructional staff to do anything that I myself would not willingly do. Tutor children, help children, contact parents, sit down and discuss issues with families, be willing to meet. Don't treat it as if it's a burden because in the end these children are our most valued clients and I think we owe this to them. The teachers, I think, expect that from you and I don't think that if they see that example, I don't think that they mind emulating it in their own day to day instructional work.
Q: If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what advice would it be?
A: Well, this part is probably going to sound altruistic, Joe, but I am going to say this first, number one, I think that they must work desperately to remain above the political process. Not that, and please don't misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that the politics is wrong, I am merely suggesting that the staff must know that the principal is not a game player, o.k., and I think that you need to do that. Secondly, I think you have to go in recognizing you are not going to like every staff member assigned to your charge, but I think that the one thing that you have to recognize is, aside from the fact that there is a humanistic quality there, you need to look at the way they perform their job, as opposed to how they personally appeal to you, and I think that that's critically important if you are to be successful, and third, was the one I look to early on, as a good principal, I think you need to recognize that that staff person is your direct liason with families, and as they go, so is the system going to go, and so is the impression of that school going to go.
Q: There are those who would argue that the principal should be an instructional leader, and those that suggest that realistically speaking this person must be, above all, a good manager. Would you give your own views on this issue and describe your own management style?
A: Well, I am going to say this about being an instructional leader. I think that being an instructional leader carries with it caveat that you openly recognize the fact that you are not a specialist in each area of compassing. I think with regard to being an instructional leader, I think that you need to understand what qualities are necessary in the making of a good teacher. I think you need to understand what the effective modes of instructional delivery are, and I think you need to articulate that to your staff. Management wise, you've got to be sharp. I don't think that you could be a vacillator. Nothing weakens the confidence that staff members have in you if they sense that you vascilate. In one instance, you are very strong on an issue as it effects one teacher, and yet in the second instance you go away from that strength. I think they all want to know that you will handle all issues with parity, and I think they have a right to know that and I think that they have a right to expect that.
Q: A good deal of attention has been given to career ladders, differential pay plans and merit pay, would you give your views on these issues and describe any involvement you had with such approaches, such as merit pay?
A: Well, you probably asked the wrong guy about merit pay, but I am going to say this about that. I think that altruistically it is the greatest thing since sliced cheese, but whether it works in practicality, I doubt very seriously. I doubt it for the simple reason that tragically, all too frequently, personal feelings enter into performance, and I think that we tend to allow our biases to show with merit systems. I think that you should be able to reward, you know, better teachers I believe should be rewarded better. But tragically, it has also been used as a tool to abuse individuals simply based on the fact that you may, or may not have liked them, and for that I've worked under, and I was not so much a victim of it, believe me, I was reasonably well treated during my career and I left a pretty happy fellow, but I am also going to say that I happen to know that within the construct, the last eight years of my career, there were administrators who were on this system who were abused.
Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluations and give your philosophy of the evaluation?
A: Yes, I had certain biases about classroom evaluations. I always thought, and our teachers were great, they really did not want advance notice that I was coming to visit, but I've often felt that the best evaluator of staff performance are the kids. I think that kids send a message, and I think that when you have a weak staff member, or a staff member that isn't functioning as they should, the kids are the first to let you know. But you go into a classroom and you're probably going to see a very model lesson. But I think if you watch the way children, comparable kids function for one staff member, versus how they function for another staff member, I think that in itself will allow you to know what in heaven's name is going on in that room.
Q: What in your view should be the role of the assistant principal? Discuss your utilization of such personnel while on the job while you served, and would you describe the most effective assistant principal with whom you had the opportunity to serve, and we both know that your assistant later became, succeeded you, so essentially your utilization and role of the assistant principal?
A: I always felt, Joe, that the assistant principal was primarily responsible for dealing with the kids, even though I was willing at any time to jump in and assist in that function. In fact I always felt that I did a nice job with kids. I thought that the principal was responsible for staff relations and the assistant principal was responsible for student relations. I fully expected the guys that worked under me to follow closely and to watch and observe how I did things. I gave them an awful lot of authority. I allowed them to function, I allowed them to manage. I expected them to know the job as well as I did, so that in the event, of God forbidden extended illness, which did befall me in 1986, the school would operate without missing a beat. I think as far as probably the best assistant I ever had, I would have to say is the one who succeeded me. Although if I were looking at the development of a career, I would never, to be very honest with you Joe, I would have never stayed an assistant principal for sixteen years, but the kid was very loyal. I think the assistant principal has to be loyal, above all else, because that is the only way that two people can function, is as a real genuine team, and I had no reason to question that. He was very loyal, he worked very, very hard. I think that there were times, the assistant principal is going to get caught up in so many little things, he must not allow himself to become mired with any one particular thing and I think we need to watch out for that, but other than that, I felt we had a good relationship.
Q: As you view it, what characteristics are associated with the most effective schools, and what features characterize the less successful ones?
A: Well first of all I am going to say that the most successful schools are characterized by strong leaders and very strong teachers. When I speak about strong leaders Joe, I am talking about principals that have the courage to make decisions, even though those decisions may be unpopular. Now, I want to differentiate immediately when I say strong. When I say strong I mean they have courage, they have depth, they are not afraid to accept criticism, they are not afraid to site the places where they made a mistake, or say you know, I was wrong. I think we have to have the courage to let underlings lead and manage. In other words, a division of power. I think that they must have the courage to meet parents, they have to have the courage to have a strong discipline code, and live with it, at the same time they must be flexible enough to accept ideas, not be afraid to take on new things, and recognize that what worked last year is not going to work this year maybe, and make changes need be, and tremendous confidence in their staff. Weak schools on the other hand, I think are characterized by weak leaders, leaders who vascilate, leaders who pick and choose who they are going to discipline, based on someone's social position in the community, or their political position. The name of the game, as I see it Joe, is not to play games. I think that the school is going to be effective when kids recognize that they have parity in the eyes of their leaders and eyes of their teachers, I think that's what makes strong schools. But if they ever get the notion, the children that is, that you are playing games, I promise you Joe, you are going to lose it, you are going to lose their confidence, you are going to lose their desire to be a better kid, be a better pupil, and I think therein is the difference between good schools and poor schools.
Q: Most systems presently have a tenure, or continuing contract system for teachers. Can you discuss the situation at the time you entered the profession and comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the tenure system.
A: Well, I entered the field of education, when I entered Joe, tenure was already part of the codified law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I think that because of abuse, tenure became necessary, as did the notion of organization by unions. I think that the administrators and board persons abused the right to hire and fire, and as a result, you know I remember the old timers saying that once you got to two years you had to be an optimist if you got your lunch, and I think that tenure, the only thing tenure has done on the good side has stopped the abuse of authority. On the other hand, I think it has contributed in a sense to individuals approaching their work in a laxsidasical fashion. You know, a sense of, you know, but this would only be a person who I think was lazy in the first place, you know. People that were good teachers that had, that called as it were, that calling, I don't think it made a hill of beans whether they had tenure in their own mind or not. They went in their every day, they did the job as they should, and they lived without fear. I think that tenure really masquerades the conscious of the weak teacher, or the teacher who would want to be lazy.
Q: It has been said that the curriculum has become much more complex in recent years. Would you comment on the nature of the curriculum during the time you were principal, and compare it to the situation in today's school, citing positive and negative aspects of the situation then and now.
A: Well you know let me first pay a compliment to today's students by saying this to you. I am not certain I could have been a top student given the demands we are placing on the kids today in college preparatory courses and so on, perhaps I would have, but I am always awestruck by what these youngsters can do. I think there is no limit to what kids can learn. When I entered the profession Joe, the programs of study were extremely basic. You had, you know, the typical academic course with its usual demands, and a year or two of a foreign language, two or three years of math, two or three years of science, always a minimum of three years of social studies. We've expanded beyond that. When I left this year, this past year, we offered courses that 30 years ago, 38 years ago we never dreamed of. Computer science courses, computer assisted drafting, art by way of computerization, language courses that got into electronic media, we expected more from our kids. I think the colleges for entrance purposes expected more. I think there is a greater sophistication to instruction, but let me say this too. I think that in spite of all this new stuff, I think that the weak thing that the administrators get, is they get into gimmickry. What I mean by that Joe is that we try to take things that we have been doing for years and years, we recycled it, brought it out, gave it a new name, and pretended like we were doing something new and more effective with our kids, and I disliked it, I characterized it with my colleagues as voodoo education, and I think that there is much to be said for the structured instruction as we did it for years and years, but yes, should we use new approaches, no problem with that. But to suggest to our clients that we are doing something exotic, something that has never been done before I think is misleading and it is wrong, it's an unworthiness.
Q: Would you describe some of the pressures you faced on a daily basis and explain how you coped with them. Describe your biggest headaches or concerns on the job, and also describe the toughest decision, or decisions, you had to make.
A: Alright, let me start with the easiest response that many times takes up a lot of your time. I think that when I first entered the administrative program I didn't have to worry about negotiating agreement, and trying to remember 48 pages of what the teachers rights were. You know, it was almost like you worked by common law, things that made common sense, you managed by common sense. Now you have to know contracts and you have to understand that you are not violating anybody's rights, and so on and so forth. Tragically, teachers don't know their rights. So I am going to argue that you have to be a pretty moral individual and make darn sure that you follow the code, whatever it happens to be. I think the toughest thing today is trying to make people understand that the most important thing in education is education itself. There is an emphasis on all manner of things which I think are acolyte and ancillary to the instructional process that were nice if you had, but life would not end if you didn't have cheerleaders, and athletic events, and all these different kinds of things which enhance education, but are not necessary for the process to go forward. Witness how spartan the programs were in parochial schools. Parents are hard to deal with because the sociological structure of the nation has changed. The parents are not with their children enough, they are not working with their children enough and the children sense that, and as a result, it is harder to extract quality from kids today. Not because they are not able,not because they are not bright enough, but simply because there is nobody beyond the school setting, or there is only partial supervision of these children beyond the school setting. The attitude is parentally, oh, they will take care of it at school, but will be tied to school when the parent gets the notion that they haven't. So, I am going to argue that many criticisms that are leveled at the schools are not the failure of the schools, they are the sociological failure of the nation to pay attention to the rearing of our children, the care and the love of these kids, and the management of these kids, which I think is so important. Do we have a role in the schools with respect to cooperating with parents, cooperating with home, trying to reinforce the values of our society? Absolutely we do. But I am arguing that too much emphasis is being placed on what the responsibilities of the schools are, as opposed to what the responsibilities of society, parents, and so on are.
Q: Would you tell us the key to your success as a principal?
A: Well, first of all, you flatter me when you say success. I guess every gal or guy wants to presume that they have been successful. I think the key of it for me Joe, I'll be very honest with you, I loved what I was doing, even though I never dreamt I could, I loved the staff that was assigned to me, I was blessed. I had good people going for me. I had a beautiful community in which to work and in the main, the kids made every day pleasant. Did we have some rough times, sure we did. But in the main, it was always a pleasant experience and I think my understanding of people and children, and my care for both, the teachers and the children, I think was the key.
Q: Please discuss your professional code of ethics and give examples of how you applied it during your career.
A: Well, I'm going to be honest with you Joe. I was reared in a very strong christian atmosphere and I think that it is very hard to separate that from the way you conduct your daily life. People say, you know, there is no place for that in school management, because after all we separate church and state, but it's biblical. Your conduct is generally driven by what you believe and I conducted myself that way. I think that people had a sense of knowing and understanding that I had a very strong commitment in that direction and I tried my very best to lead by example. There were things like, I would not, for example, be seen going into a bar room in this community until my most recent retirement. I pretty much lived a lonely life even though I recognized that it was not wrong for people in our capacity to go in with friends and socialize, but I just felt that I owed that to the town to not get the notion that, gee, this guy is doing things which are not to be admired. I tried to live my life by giving good example and in the end I really felt that I do this day, that I have that.
Q: Would you describe those aspects of your professional training which best prepared you for the principalship. Which training experiences were least useful?
A: Well, I never could get taken up with the idea of making an exotic, some sort of pretense, as I say, I didn't believe in aristocratic leadership. I believed that people should recognize that I was very ordinary. In that regard, the guy that I probably emulated was a man who I met in graduate school who was responsible for a good amount, two of them quite frankly, of my development as an administrator. The one was Dr. Sam Francis. This man was just an absolute authority on school law. The other was Dr. Ernie Dora, I did all of my major work that was necessary in my graduate program under Dr. Dora and Dora to me was a consonant professional and I always thought that just the way he lead, the way he directed us in class, the different projects which we worked on, which I am sure you are so used to graduate school, it was almost if though, this guy was a part of us and that we were part of him, and I just felt that when I went out, this was the kind of guy I wanted to be, and hopefully that's what I was.
Q: Was there any part of your training which you felt was least useful?
A: Yes, I just felt that the theory courses were horrible, Joe. I always wanted the meat and the potatoes, the hard work, we worked public school finance, I wanted to get into this, how do you finance a school. I really was not into the philosophy of secondary ed, I mean I did, like every graduate student does, but I'll tell you right now, I really felt that it was not that useful.
Q: If you had to do it again, what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship? Would o describe your feelings, knowing what you now know, about entering the principalship yourself if given the opportunity to start anew.
A: Well, let me go back to something I think you know, because you heard me make the statement publicly. I never, ever wanted to be a high school principal. I took it, I thought I was doing something on a very temporary basis and the truth of the matter was, I feel in love with it. There is not a lot that I would do different. I think that one of the things that helped me most is that I was a late bloomer, I started late in the profession. You know when guys had nine or ten years in, I was just starting. I think that all of my experiences freed education. I was always at the leadership level where I worked. At United Airlines I had leadership responsibilities. During my tenure with the United States Air Force during the Korean War, I had leadership experience and I think I benefited by that, so that when I did get to the principalship I had no preconceived notions of how to do this on an altruistic basis. I believe you just had to be a good hard worker and it worked, and I had all this other experience. I was used to working with people operationally, so it was very easy to make this transition.
Q: What is your view on the "mentoring" program for new administrators, in which an experienced administrator is paired with a neophyte. What experiences have you had with such an approach? Was there a mentor in your life?
A: I never really worked in a mentor program where I had a personal mentor. I'm going to be very honest with you, in that, most of these people in my life, you know as well because they had touched your life in some point. But I always felt like this, I was fortunate enough to work under a man who might not have been strong on personality but was a super superintendent in terms of fiscal management, school law, school plant planning, and things of that nature, and I learned a great deal from this man and I thought I learned it very well. As mentoring goes I think that it's great and I think that internships, if that's what your eluding to, are extremely valuable and if you are going to make a cabinetry of good administrators in this state, or anyone else, I think that there should be mentoring programs. I think that the interns should come to this program with a deep desire to learn. Mentors, on the other hand, should be careful not to get the notion that their job as mentors are to clone individuals in their likeness. I think that what the interns need to be taught by the mentors is these are the chores and the tasks that we need to do and there are several ways to do it. This is how I do it, but you are free to improvise just as long as you get from point A to point B and achieve the results that are necessary for success. So, that's the only thing, mentoring I think is great, internships are great, and I think that it is very valuable.
Q: Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational administration, what would they be?
A: Well, early on in response to one of the questions, Joe, I made mention of the fact that teachers look at principals and presume that they are masters of every aspect of school management, and the truth of the matter is, I have always held that that is not so. I think that one of the things that bogs down administrative leadership and creates this complexity that you referred to is the fact that I think that too much is expected, in terms of, it's not that, I want to be careful I say expected, you know you are there to do a good job and I think you should be willing to do one. What I am saying is, you know, maybe it should not be a concern of a principal, of a building principal, to worry about transportation beyond the fact that the children should come and leave at a certain time. I think that's an assignment better left to others, but, naturally children have to come to school and have someone receive them, there has to be someone there to make sure that the buses board the children and take them home, I don't state that that is unreasonable. Plant management, I think that the principal should be aware of everything that is going on with respect to plants in the building, there are areas, if there are areas that need some attention, that is clearly their responsibility to respect. But I think supervising how it is done should not have to be that person's concern. I think that the principal should have to develop a budget for their program, but they should not have to sit there and manage every dime that comes and goes. The same thing with activities. There are a number of schools where the principal, or assistant principal is responsible for the activities program. I think there should be people to manage that. So the three things primarily though that are most concerned that are time consuming are the things in the areas of building management, in terms of the plant itself, fiscal planning, I think that transportation they shouldn't have to worry about, and beyond developing there own budget I don't think that they should have to fret over the fact that how do we raise money, how do we do this, I think that needs to be the parogetive of others.
Q: In recent years more and more programs for special groups of students (LD, Gifted and Talented, Non-English speaking) have been developed. Please discuss your experience with special student services and your views on today's trends in this regard.
A: Well I think probably no one change in education has pleased me more and excited me more than the expanded and aggressive position that the commonwealth has taken on the education and the programs pertaining to our mentally retarded and learning disabled children. The kids I think who are so precious and need our help so much. I think aside from proving beyond all comprehension, if taught at their level, these kids can achieve. I think there was an ancillary to this which was very subtle, but at the same time was extremely valuable to our society with the concept of main streaming children under federal law 94142 which is primarily the law which deals with the training of these children, the most important ingredient aside from their development was the fact that children of normal consequence and persuasion developed an understanding for these kids, and I think that even those in education discovered that these young kids, despite their disabilities, could function within the frame work of the regular school, and so I was pleased when we entered into the program and I was even more pleased when we took the programs over, and each school ran their own program. I think it has been a very excellent thing and I think the children have grown from it. I have a problem, be it minor, with the manor in which gifted education is handled. I think that gifted education in its truest sense meant serving children beyond the normal curriculum and all to many times, this in my estimation was not done, but there should be programs for these kids that they would not be seen within the normal construct of the school.
Q: During the past decade schools have become much larger. Discuss your views on this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities.
A: There is a lot to be said for being large, but I think that there is even more to be said for being a school of moderate size. When I say a school of moderate size I am saying a high school of 501 to maybe 750 kids, large maybe 751 to affinity. I have always worked in the moderate size school. In my best years at Center High School, and I think the high water mark was 1980, I was responsible for approximately 1,020 kids. I felt, the school was no harder, no difficult for me to manage, but I also felt that I would not want to have a school any larger than that because as they get enlargeness, many, many times the small problems that affect the school, instructional, learning for children, things of that nature, I think sometimes get lost and it worried me and was of great concern. I like the moderate size school. With respect to really small schools, I think that where you are at on the idea of consolidation, and I think this needs to be addressed, because we are entering a new era here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where I think that schools don't have the willingness to on a voluntary basis, go ahead and affect mergers which are in the best interest of the kids, as well as the communities involved, then what is going to have to happen is these mergers are going to have to be legislated. I don't think that you can operate anymore high schools of 195 kids, an average of 50 kids per class, run physics classes for 4 and 5 kids, this is not cost effective, I don't see how it's effective for the children. Therefore, I can see the day coming when if you cannot maintain a certain level of students then you are going to have to merge with neighboring schools, and I don't think that there is anything wrong with this. I don't think your taking economy away from communities and the management of their schools, I think the long and the short of it is, where do the children better learn, where do the opportunities maximize? They are maximized in schools of moderate size and larger, and on that supposition, I think it justifies merging schools whether we like it or not, because after all the learning of the children is what is at stake, not our own personal or sociological interest.
Q: Phil, as we move through our career, one of the things that we do is we mature both personally and professionally is this issue of organization. Could you articulate to us how that affected you and your management style with respect to organizing and organization as it applies to being a principal, and also maybe as it applies to being a teacher?
A: Well, I think that I am a very organized person and I have been my whole life. I think part of that was a result of my experiences. My experiences as I grew, as a case in point, I came out of a family atmosphere where race would be the cardinal sin for the simple reason that we had to maximize on every opportunity that we had, we had to maximize on every asset that we had and I believe that organization allows you to maximize on your strong points, I think it helps you to avoid your weak points, not necessarily correct your weak points, but helps you avoid them. You play to your strength and not your weakness. I think you can lead better when people realize that you are organized, you have a keen awareness of what you are doing, what you want to do, how you want to do it, hen you want to do it. I think it allows you to gather strength which under normal circumstances with disorganization you would never have. Secondly, I would think that it would inspire teachers to want to do the same, because here comes that example thing again that we talked about early on, I think the example of your leadership, if you manifest these organizational skills, teachers are going to want to do that to, because they are going to sense, you know, he or she, the boss, is very organized and I would think that they would be impressed if I were also organized. Finally, I think that kids in a school just absolutely take advantage of your weaknesses, of disorganization, of chaos, and I don't blame them. I wouldn't be the least bit disappointed if a child didn't do that because that's example, that's the message we've sent and therefore, I think that to get the best and most effective results, you have to be an organized person and you have to manifest those qualities.
Q: Since you now have had 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: I enjoy talking about this and not because I had so many strengths. The long and the short of my leadership if you look back over 24 years is I think, first of all, I had a very keen understanding of children. I never looked down on them, I always recognized their strong points, I was willing to allow them to discuss their feelings, new ideas, they new I understood them and they knew I cared about them and I think that is what all of us need is part of human quality. We have to know that somebody cares for us and I think that was the message I always sent to the kids. Could I be disagreeable with them? Could I be mean? If the situation dictated it, sure, and they knew it, but they always knew, even in a disciplinary situation, there was a gentility that they recognized, this guy cares for me. I think my staff got that same message. As far as I am concerned, once that relationship is established, I could flow and teach and manage and provide leadership, because I have one the confidence of the kids and I have one the confidence of the staff.
Q: Could you give us an overall comment of the pros and cons on administrative service and any advice you would wish passed along to today's principals?
A: Well, let me say this about that. If you are willing to engage in introspection, if you are willing to examine yourself, if you are willing to sit down and critique yourself, then you should be challenged by the opportunity to manage a school. As I mentioned early on, I never wanted to be a principal Joe, but I am going to say to you, once I got into it, I was thrilled with it and I think that one of the reasons I was thrilled was because it allowed me to innovate and allowed me to have a hand in doing things, sharing experiences with my staff, allowing my staff to understand that together we were building a commodity, we were building a tradition, we were building something that would be an asset to this community, I think that was critically important. I think that if you are going to be afraid to be criticized, if you are going to be afraid to make decisions, if you are going to be afraid to face parents and admit you've been wrong, or stand your ground, if you are afraid to be a political, then I think the principalship is not for you. But if you are willing to face these things, and I'm not talking anti anything, I am talking that recognizing that you have to be a man or a woman for all seasons, a man or a woman for all people, I think it is a very thrilling experience, and I would recommend it to anybody who has that courage.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there was probably something that I may have left out. Is there anything that I may have left out that you wish to add?
A: Yes, I had one philosophy about all of us who are engaged in the process of public education. I think that the best way for us to have approached it, Joe, was to understand that the school did not exist for us, it existed for the children, and I often reminded my staff, not in a mean way, not in a vindictive way, that about the time that we get the notion that the school exists for us, then I think that in the best interest of the profession, in the best interest of the community and the children, I think we ought to probably pack up our little attache cases and move on, and I mean that sincerely because this is not a game where we perpetuate ourselves, it's a game where we perpetuate the existence of those children and we prepare them for their lives work.
Q: Phil, as a former teacher under your supervision, I would like to add that you approached your work with great enthusiasm and professionalism, you were a credit to yourself, to the students, to the community, and to your profession. Phil, I thank you for taking the time to share your professional life with us.
A: It's been great Joe, thank you.
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