This oral history interview of Mr. Edison G. Lugibihl was done in Boardman, Ohio, on November 4, 1992, at 4:00 p.m. Mr. Lugibihl retired in June of 1991, as principal of Boardman Center Middle School, a position he held from 1969-1991. He spent forty-one years as a public school educator; first as a geography teacher, then as a junior high assistant principal, and finally as a middle school principal. He presently resides with his wife, Kay, at 7745 Hitchcock Road, in Boardman, Ohio. He is employed by Associated Schools Credit Union.
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Q: Mr. Lugibihl, would you begin by telling us about your family background, your childhood interests and development, like where you were born, your education, etc.?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: OK, I was born in western Ohio a small country town, Pandora. Lived on a farm, eighty acre farm with my mother and dad and my sister, and lived there for twenty-six years. Went through Pandora High School. I graduated in 1942, and was involved in all aspects of the school. I was in plays, public speaking, which I enjoyed very much. I was in sports, played football and basketball. In 1942, the war was underway and I was deferred to work on the farm, as were a lot of boys in that area at that time. But in 1944, I was drafted into the army and spent two year in the army then. I had started college right out of high school. Went to Otterbein for a semester and did not really like college. Didn't feel it was my cup of tea at that time. After two years in the army, I decided that I did want to go to college. And when I came back in 1946, I went to Bluffton College.. Started college with the idea of going into pre-med and I spent the first two years in pre-med courses. I did fairly well, but again at that point in time I didn't feel that I wanted to continue with medicine. I didn't feel that that was where I wanted to be and so I got into teacher education and finished the last two years getting my education courses that I needed to get my teaching degree. And I got my teaching degree in biological science and social studies..minor. I graduated in 1950 from Bluffton College, but I lived at home all that time..helped my father on the farm while I was going to school. I was involved in sports at college..played four years of football at Bluffton College. I came to Boardman in May of 1950 and interviewed with Mr. Nissonger for a job and when I left that interview he assured me that if I signed a contract I'd have a job.
Q: Would you talk about the circumstances surrounding you entry into the principalship?
A: In 1954 I decided that I'd like to get a masters degree in administration, so I applied at Kent and was accepted and went to Kent working on my masters. I graduated in 1959 with a masters degree and at the time Boardman was growing rapidly and I thought I'd like to get into administration here in Boardman and it looked like there were opportunities. The last elementary school to open was Robinwood Elementary School...Robinwood Lane and I thought I might have a shot at that job and I let Mr. Nissonger know that I was interested in that job. There was already a person tapped for that job, which I wasn't aware of at that point in time, and as it turned out, I felt that it was probably in my best interest that I didn't get the job because I really wasn't ready for a principalship at that time, even though that I felt that I was. So I kept working at it, took more course, tried to get as much experience as I could working around the principal and in the office and in 1967 we were growing rapidly and there were now about a thousand students in seventh and eighth grade and our principal was just overloaded, and I again let the administration know that I was interested in getting into administration, talked to Mr. Nissonger, talked to Mr. Geneske, the principal at the time and they said that it looked like a good move and they made me an assistant principal of the Boardman Junior High in 1967. I was an assistant principal for two years and those two years probably were the most valuable years that I had in preparing me for the job as a principal, because when the job did open up and we did move to the middle school concept, the first year was a very rough year, but if I wouldn't have had the two years I'd had never survived the job, I can tell you that. It was just a very difficult job.
Q: Sort of a follow-up to that. Do you feel then that really your course work from the university in the field of administration wasn't really sufficient to prepare you for the job?
A: Honestly, it wasn't, it really wasn't. The theory was fine, but the practical application wasn't there and I got that on the job. The things that I learned in the two years that I was the assistant principal were probably more valuable to me and in the first two years of being principal and being a principal in a building with 1140 kids and no assistant and only a guidance counselor to help me, was a real learning experience.
Q: I would agree with that. Would you take us on a walk through your school, describing its appearance, and any of the features of the building, and I'm thinking just basically, Center Middle School?
A: OK. Boardman Center Middle School was originally a school building in the Boardman system built for grades one through twelve and all of those grades were housed in that building up until 1950. In 1950, Market Street Elementary was built and half the elementary students left and went to Market. The other half remained in the building with the principal there also and then with seventh and eighth grade there now we're a junior high school in that building and it stayed that way until West Boulevard was built. When West Boulevard was built, they moved out...I take it back, I'm sorry, it wasn't West Boulevard, Stadium Drive. When Stadium Drive was built, they moved out and it was now just seven and eight and nine through twelve in the building. The building is a traditional high school building that was built back in the twenties and thirties, it's long narrow corridors, three floors, classrooms with wooden floors, terrazzo hallways, many nooks and crannies. The difficulty lay that it was built in those years and there was not a lot of use for electricity, except lights, and therefore there was maybe one or two outlets for electrical devices in the classroom. Then as we ran into the,...as we grew into the sixties and seventies there was more and more need for electrical outlets for overheads, for tape recorders, for movie projectors and we were really handicapped. We overcame that by running extra circuits and that over loaded the entire system and we had some problems from that point on, but essentially it was just an old high school building that was taken over and not remodeled just re-structured for middle school...grades 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Q: And the building is still in...
A: The building is still in use today as a middle school grades 5, 6, 7, and 8. It also houses the central office, the superintendent's office and all the special areas' directors and coordinators are housed there.
Q: Would you describe you personal philosophy of education and how this evolved and did it change over the years?
A: I'd say that my personal philosophy changed over the years. When we first started, ...when I first started teaching, all the students regardless of what difficulties or handicaps they may have had were in the mainstream and we tried to teach them all, and we ere not trained to teach them all, but we felt we had to, that was our job and so we did the very best we could. As time went on and things changed, we began to have classes for special education students for example and those with different learning disabilities or handicaps and so those people were put into special classrooms for that difficulty. I personally felt that, that was the way to go at that time. That, they had special teachers that were trained to handle those difficulties and those learning situations, those learning handicaps to deal with them, and to a great degree, I think I still feel that way with the most severe. The others that are not that severe, the way we are doing today I think is just the way it should be and that's my philosophy today. L.D. students should be mainstreamed with others, because their difficulties are not physical or anything like that, they have mental difficulty, they have a difficult time in learning, but they need to have the social interaction with all the students. The ones with the severe learning disabilities, that have very low I. Q's, I think they need to be in special classrooms because it becomes very disruptive to the rest of the school and to the rest of the classes and I don't think that it is in the best interest of everybody involved.
Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do?
A: Everything....That's facetious, but I think a principal has to be the building leader. Not necessary that he has to know everything about everything that goes on in the building, but he has to be the one that organizes what goes on in the building. He has to initiate; he has to listen to ideas from teachers; he has to evaluate what they are asking, and if the value is there in the collective eyes, they should try different things in education. A building principal today has be an innovator he can not sit still and hope that what he did last year, he can do the same thing this year. Each year is different, each group of students is different and each year is a different school year, and there are new things that come along and you've got to be opened minded and try those new things if they fit into the philosophy that you have for your school and your community.
Q: Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principle, both personally and professionally.
A: Professionally I think you need to have the training that you do get, even though some of the courses that you take may not help you do the job that you have to do. You have to have that background so that your thinking is geared through that and with that. I think to be an effective principal you have to say what you mean and mean what you say, and the teachers have to understand that you are not playing games, that you're honest and forthright, that you're willing to listen, but you have to make up your own mind many times and you have to make decisions that may not be agreeable to everybody. You have to make decisions that are for the best interest for your building, for you staff and for the students that you have. You have to be consistent in what you do, and how you act, and how you treat teachers. You have to be professional in the way you deal with the teachers. I think you have to listen, you have to be a good listener, and listening doesn't mean that you always have to acquest to what a teacher says. You just listen and sometimes that's all that it takes is to solve a problem that a teacher has, is to listen to what they have to say and maybe make some suggestion, maybe not make anything at all, but that has resolved the problem because the teacher has been able to share it with you.
Q: What about an instance where a teacher perhaps might feel that their request is very, very valid and you do not go along with that and they maybe have some negativism or some hard feelings. How do you deal with that?
A: I think I have had to do that a number of times and I.. after I have made a decision if I feel that it's not in the best interest of whatever is involved and I have to say no to a teacher that doesn't change how I feel about that teacher, that doesn't change that relationship and my feelings toward that teacher and my responses, my greetings, my talking with that teacher doesn't change. I hope it doesn't change, I try not to let it change because that teacher is still in the same standing as that teacher was before...the request that I had denied, the request might be for time off or whatever. It works both ways. I've had teachers come to me and ask for a day or whatever or to do something and I've had to say no and the teacher might have been angry when they left. Maybe I've had to go to that same teacher and ask something and the response is back and forth. I think if you are honest with people and if you're consistent with people and if you're that way with all people, all your staff, you don't have a problem saying no to anybody. If you're not consistent, if you say no to one and the same kind of request comes from another and you say yes...you can't, you can't do that. You've got to be consistent the way you respond to the same kind of request. I don't know if this answers the question because it's on the reverse, but I think it works both ways. I asked a teacher at one point in time to cover a class. The teacher said no, that she didn't want to or he didn't want to or whatever the response was. And, my answer was, that's fine I'll get someone else. I did get someone else to do that. It wasn't long that this teacher came back with a very definite need and a request to leave school because of an emergency. I said that's fine go ahead and go we'll take care of your classes. After that was over with, the teacher came back and said anytime you need help let me know. I think that's the kind of feeling I'd like to have with the staff.
Q: A great deal of discussion has been given to the topic of personal leadership in recent years. Discuss please, your approach to leadership and describe some techniques that work for you or perhaps maybe even an incident where what you've chosen as a way to lead failed.
A: Probably the most effective way of being a leader is to let ...to listen to people's ideas and sometimes let them think it was their idea and let them proceed with something new and help them along with whatever...to smooth the way or whatever that has to be done administratively to develop this new idea. I think that becomes effective because you're helping your teachers to be leaders. I never felt that I was an effective leader if I had to do everything and if I had to tell teachers everything that had to be done. I felt that teachers themselves all had strengths and that my job was to find out what those strengths were and to use those and that way I could be a more effective leader. I think that in placing teachers into positions where they felt secure and where they felt strong, if I could do that, it was a form of leadership because it made them a more effective teacher and a more effective employee and a happier employee. If I had a project that I wanted to do or to incorporate some new program, I would take the people that were involved or would be involved in that program and I would sit down and discuss this with them and get their feelings, their ideas and give them my feeling about it and why I thought it was important and together we would decide yes, this is something we want to try. I think that when you can get people to agree to help do something, that's when you are a real effective leader. If you have to tell people to do something and they do it only because you are the principal, that's not effective leadership, that doesn't work.
Q: So you really have to get them to buy into the idea before it becomes really useful?
Q: Maybe you never had a time in any of your leadership that failed, can you think of anything that maybe might have happened?
A: My leadership failed? Oh yeah. I know there were times that it did. It's difficult to remember exactly what the incident was. There were times when I felt that I didn't achieve a goal at all, I didn't come across.
Q: What do you do when something like that happens in the way of regrouping and starting over again?
A: I really can't remember any instance, I'm sorry I can't, but I can say this, this is a part of leadership. One of the most important things I always felt that a principal has to be as organized in whatever you do and one of the best places to be organized or the best times the most important time is the first two days of school. If you are organized and you have things organized for your teachers, they will get organized, they'll be ready to do their job to the best of their ability and I always felt the most important task I had was to be ready for that first day with the teachers and what I said and what I had to let them know what the goals for the year were and what our project was or whatever, what our target was. If I had that outlined for them and convey it to them and I usually tried to do that first of all with initiating that with a letter. I sent a letter to every teacher three or four weeks before that meeting, so that everybody had it, everybody could read it and then when they came they were ready to listen and I always tried to do something that would peak their interest a little, so that they wanted to be there and it's subtle, but I think that is part of being an effective leader.
Q: You being a good role model then, you think it's real important?
A: Definitely. I think you have to be a role model for them, just like they have to be a role model for the students, and that's what I try to get across to them. I said everyday you're in front of students, you're teaching students regardless of whether you're saying something about math, science, or whatever. You're teaching students, and so you got to be on you're best to be a good role model for kids.
Q: Next question. There are those who argue that he principal should be an instructional leader and those that suggest that realistically speaking that this person above all must be a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe really what you feel your style is?
A: My style was manager. And I'll tell you, principal ...I'm sorry, the superintendent that we had that was in charge of curriculum tried to get every principal to be an instructional leader and in theory that's good; in actual practice it's good if you have the personalities that go along with that. But I didn't, personally didn't feel that I was well enough schooled in all of the areas that are taught in school to be that instructional leader and it would have been a disservice if I would have tried to be that instructional leader and so I felt I'm going to be the best manager that I can be and the best facilitator, and then I want the best teachers I can get, and then along the way we got instructional coordinators, and they were the ones that were the pros that were the instructional leaders in those areas. The other areas, then I worked at those areas that they weren't in charge of, and I think that in our school and our situation, I think we were successful. I think that the results that we got proved that. I had good people that were instructional coordinators, and those people dealt directly with the teachers in the classroom, and they worked... helped work out the problems. I wasn't divorced with that I was a part of that, but I was there only as a principal who was a manager and a facilitator and not the leader. That person that was in charge was the leader and I think we got the best of everything going that way in our building.
Q: Do you think that..that idea of an instructional leader is more difficult today than maybe it was 15 or 20 years ago?
A: Yes, yes. When I first started teaching in 1950, the principals that I worked under and the principals that I saw in our elementary buildings were the instructional leaders, and because the topics, the courses, the things that children have to learn at those levels was not as diversified as it is today, and they were able to be. They didn't have all the other responsibilities that principals today have and they had more time to spend on the curriculum, and they were truly instructional leaders. I think the time had a lot to do when that began to disappear, and I think that that began to disappear in the seventies, that especially in our suburban area, it just wasn't possible to be all those things that principals before us had been, and I didn't see, the elementary principals today, I think some of our elementary principals still are instructional leaders, more than from that point up. I don't think that our middle school principals, for example, and I as one of those was an instructional leader as we think of them as an elementary principal was.
Q: Do you think it becomes more difficult to do, not only in the number of years, but also as you go higher in the grade...much more difficult in the high school?
A: Yes, I think so, yes very definitely. I don't think that a high school principal is an instructional leader at all, in the strictest or purest sense of the word. He is a manager of a big corporation, in essence, with lots of employees, and he's got his front line of employees just like the middle school. I look at it as stratified. You have your teachers, who are your management employees, and then you have the students, and then you have your people over here that are your support people like the custodians, the cafeteria people and all those.
Q: It has been said a lot lately that there is a home-school gap and that more parental involvement in schools needs to be developed. Would you give your view on this issue and describe how you interacted with parents and with citizens who were important to the well-being of the school?
A: I think that parents have a place to be in the school, to be involved with their child's education. When parents are concerned and involved and want to find out what's happening at school, then the education for that particular student gets along and develops better, flows better; you have a better student in most cases. I guess my personal feeling was that...I wasn't a big one for volunteers at our level. At the elementary level there are a lot of volunteer parents that come in and help. I didn't see the need for volunteers as much at our level as the elementary did. I think parents should be involved in what's going on in school, they should know what's going on in the school, they should know what their students are doing and that's one thing that I think that we tried to do very well. We tried to work at it and didn't succeed as well as I'd hoped, but when ever we had functions for parents, I made special attempts to get parents to come in because that was a time for them to find out what was going on, a time for teachers to let them know what was happening, a time for them to see their students in action, and or their children in action, and I think there needs to be more of that. I think it's in education of parents to find out what's going on in the school, and not necessary to come in and tell us what we are doing wrong or anything like that, but just to see what's going on, and if they have suggestions...sure...we'll listen to those suggestions. A lot of the things that we do at school are the outgrowth of suggestions that parents have made throughout the years.
Q: Do you think that it's more difficult to get parents into the schools today due to their own schedules and many parents working in the house?
A: Very definitely. Very definitely. We have more and more. There are two things that I think that affect that. There are more and more families with both parents working and more and more families with just one parent, and that parent working, and it's more difficult, undoubtedly. It makes it very difficult for any one of those parents to get to school because and then there is a segment of parents out there that ... they'll tell us... here's my child you teach him, it's your job...got other things to do. That's the difficult part of it.
Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and your philosophy of that?
A: OK. I like to, I like to go into a classroom and see a teacher in action. I like to see them doing those kinds of things that I've...we have an evaluation form and there are things on there that are good and some things are not so good. But, I like to go in and see them doing those things which are good teaching technique, good rapport with students, a friendly attitude, a caring attitude, a sharing attitude with the students. I assume when I go into a classroom, I assume that the teachers we have are skilled teachers. They've been screened before they were hired. They've been evaluated two or three times before. They get to the point where they have a continuing contract...at least three times...three years I should say. When we get to that point, I want to go in and see the teacher doing the job they're doing...they're suppose to be doing, and I'd like to see them doing it without thinking that I'm there to influence them doing a better job. In other words, I want to hear about the things going on in that classroom without ever having been in, and if I go in and I see the same kind of things going on, then I feel confident that what that teacher's doing is the right thing, and a good job, whatever. When I go in I want to see a teacher using proper language. I want to see them using proper writing. I want to see them setting the example for kids in all things that they do. I think it's hypocritical of teachers to grade students, to knock down student's papers, reports, their whatever, and they themselves don't set that kind of example. I think that's, that's self-defeating, and they hurt themselves. I want to see teachers,...I guess my philosophy is I want the teachers to treat their students like they wanted to be treated by me. I want teachers to be able to trust students. I want teachers to have a positive attitude about students. Then those are the things that I look for. You can't be a good teacher and be negative to students. I want a teacher that will listen to ideas that kids express and to enlarge the ideas, help the student enlarge the ideas and not just take a yes or a no and go on to the next thing. I think, I look to see what kind of questions teachers ask, if they're open ended, so that a student has to respond with more then a yes or a no. I think that's the kind of a thing I look for that I think make good teachers. That's disjointed.
Q: No, but it's all there. That's important. In recent years more and more programs for special groups of students such as LD, and gifted and talented, non-English speaking, which we haven't had too many in your district, I don't think, have been developed. You talked a little bit previously about your experience with this in your philosophy, what is your experience with special students services and the trends that are going more and more today toward perhaps more main streaming with the students?
A: Well, I think I have to go back to what I originally said, and say the same thing again. I think that for the average, and when I say the average, the average LD student, as let's say that we understand what an LD student is, we understand...that student should be mainstreamed. That student should be part of the regular school's programs and should fit in wherever they can. As an example, the kids from our LD classes, who are capable of doing let's fifth grade math, they might be 13 years old, but could do fifth grade math very well, we put them in a fifth grade math class with regular fifth grade math students, and we found that some of those students were doing very well and the teacher was even using them as tutors which gave them great self-esteem and it helped them learn faster and we moved them along as we felt as the teachers felt that they were being successful we moved them along. As just with one example I think that can happen with LD students. We had some SBH students in our building and some units there. Now in watching those students and being with them, it would be a dis...I feel personally, it would be a disservice to all the other students and for those students themselves to be in every situation mainstreamed, mainstreamed in every situation. There can be some areas where they could be mainstreamed or be with a group, but for the most part I think they do better, they, some of them will learn something in 15 minutes and in the next 10 minutes have forgotten it and it has to be relearned again. To me that's detrimental in the regular classroom. I don't think that they have a place there. Now, parents will disagree with you. They'll disagree with me, but that's the way I feel.
Q: Do you think the students that are capable, like you're talking about the average LD student being mainstreamed, the enhanced self-esteem of being in the mainstream and being able to do things that other students perhaps their same age or similar abilities are, helps them improve in their...
E. I think it does, I think it does. There has to be another thing happen. The students in your school have to accept these kids. And when they're in the classroom, they have to accept them, and that's hard to overcome. And we had a hard time when I first started being principle, the first five, six, seven years. And I think much of that can happen with the teacher. The teacher has to work at that also. And you have to have the right kind of teachers there. The first couple of years there was very difficult and the attitude that prevailed in the entire school was that these were just dummies. And ah, it would have been impossible to get them mainstreamed at that point in time. We didn't mainstream at that time. The rules and the laws changed and we got a different teacher and a different attitude prevailed. And we worked at getting acceptance. And again, that's where a principal's leadership comes in, I think. The way a principal addresses those children and greets those children and is with them in the hallway, so that the other kids can see that, that they're accepted just like anybody else, will help to enhance that. And I think that we got to that point in our building where the kids could walk into the classroom and they were a part of that classroom. And it was especially when the teachers in the classroom accepted them also and then used them as examples or used them as tutors. I mean that was great. I think that helps.
Q: Let's shift gears just a little bit and talk about salaries. Salaries and other compensations have changed a good deal since you entered the profession, I'm assuming.
Q: Would you discuss your recollections of the compensation system of your school system during your early years as principal and give your view on the developments in this area since then?
A: Well, when I started I was very naive and my first salary was twenty four hundred dollars a year. And I found out years later that you had to negotiate for your salary, only I didn't know that at the time. There were teachers hired at the same time that I was with no more experience than myself, that maybe got fifty dollars, a hundred dollars more than I did. Then about 1956, or so, we went to a single salary, so that every teacher at four years, five years, six years, whatever, whatever and the training were on the same level. And the salary schedule evolved until it's been refined to where it is today. I think great strides were made in a , I'd say, in a twenty year period, probably from the middle fifties to the middle seventies where salaries were getting at least close to where people in other professions who had the same training. The big difficulty is that you start with maybe the same salary, but it takes you fourteen years to get to the top of that ,where it might take somebody with the same education, the same training five years to get to the top at the same salary. And that's still is true today to some degree.
Q: Do you think the salary of teachers and administrators, in general, in this local area, are where they should be today?
A: That's pretty difficult to answer, really. And again, as compared to statewide and from what I still recollect, I would say that in this particular area we are pretty well off. We were pretty well in there. I'd say that we were in the upper twenty percent of the salary administrators and teachers and given our circumstances and our economics here in this area, I'd say that it was fair to that, yeah. There's always something that you're shooting for that's better than where you are, and it's very difficult to get there. I worked on a salary committee for at least twelve years as a teacher, and I worked on it at least eight or ten years as a principal. And you always, you always strive to raise your level, your salary level. But I think you have to keep in mind when you're doing that , even as a teacher, you can only go so far where you are in the area you are economically. There's a limit and you have to try to seek that limit and reach that limit. To look at someone like Shaker Heights and say well the teachers at Shaker Heights are doing the same thing I'm doing and are getting twenty thousand dollars a year more than I am. That's not right. I guess it's not right, but you're not going to do anything about it because you can't, your people, in where you are can't pay you anymore than that. I think you have to understand that. I think, when you apply for a job, and you know what the salary is going to be, you had better make up your mind you're going to be happy with that salary, if you want to work there. Not saying that you have to be satisfied with it, because you always want to increase but you can not grumble and gripe about somebody that's twenty miles away or one-hundred miles away, making more money in a different territory, in a different areas, with a different kind of an income base than you have. I think that's reality, and you have to understand that.
Q: Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucratic complexity which they have to deal with. Would you comment on this during your principalship?
A: I think that that's one of the things that probably disturbed me most. From the time I first started until I retired, in twenty-two years, I'd say that mode just increased tremendously. And a lot of it, in my humble opinion, was needless work. There is so much repetition of reports that have to be sent to either the county or the state, or even just to the state, where the same information is asked two or three different ways in two or three different reports. I think it's ridiculous! And I think today, it's even worse, from what I understand.
Q: With the advent of the EMIS system?
A: With the EMIS system, yes. I think that the people who make this kind of legislation at the state level have their heads in the sand. They don't really know what's happening in the local buildings and the local systems. They don't know what all has to go in to making this information available for them that they want, but that for me that it's meaningless.
Q: Mr. Lugibihl, it has been said that the curriculum has become much more complex in the past few years, would you comment on the curriculum during your time of principal, perhaps maybe especially at the beginning compared to how it is today?
A: I think the curriculum has changed. I think too many things, I think we try to do too many things in a public school for students. I think too many things are foisted on us by different organizations that say that it's our responsibility, it's education's responsibility to do these things. And as a result, the things that we really should be doing, the basic education that a child should be getting is being watered down, is being, they're being shorted. Not enough time can be spent by the teachers in the classroom to do the job they should be doing, let's say in English or in mathematics or in science because of all the other things that we're told are a part of what you have to do. A student has so much time in a day's time, and you can not squeeze everything in. And I think we're trying to squeeze too many things into a student's day and into a child's day.
Q: Do you think a way to change it or perhaps improve it is to make the day longer, or the school year longer?
A: No! No, I don't. I guess I'm old-fashioned in that respect. I think 180 days in school is plenty of time for a student. And maybe I'm wrong, maybe it should be longer, but I don't think so. I think what we're trying to do, there is just too many, there are just too many little things that we take time out for that should be probably taught at home, should be taught, just in the everyday, it should be a part of everyday's interaction of students, not as a separate course that takes a half hour three time a week or whatever. It's not very clear, but there are certain program's that we have had to install in our school that, they're fine, you mean you can't criticize them, they're fine programs. But we don't have time to do them. I guess there's a story that we've used and I've used. An assistant coach of Woody Hayes came to him one time and after he'd been to another school, another college, and saw their football program and came back and he says. "Woody," he says. "Here's a series of plays we ought to incorporate into our football, into our scheme of things, because it's excellent, it's ideal. And Woody said, "That's fine, what are we going to throw out?"
Q: Exactly, but we never throw anything out.
A: We never throw anything out in education.
Q: OK, let's talk a little bit about standardized testing. There are those people that argue that standardized testing can provide a way to improve instruction and much more emphasis has been put on standardized testing in the last few years due to the accountability, especially stressed by the state. What do you feel about this kind of testing and do you think there really is a gain in an effectiveness and in a quality of an instructional program?
A: I always felt that one of the tests that we used from the very beginning that I even started, well not from when I started teaching, when I first started teaching we had the Ohio Test of Basic Skills, or whatever it was called. It was the Ohio Test for Eighth Graders. If you use that same test year after year, after year and you use it the same way then it becomes valid. You have some basis to go by. We began to use the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and we used that for many years and in our school system, using it the same way each year, gave us a base of , what I thought, was validity. It was valid. And if we took it from one year to the next and used it in, well like we did, in grouping students, it worked very well for us. And you didn't use it, you don't ever say on a test of any kind, that's gospel, that's it, you know; and put that student in that box and say that because of this test you're here. It's just a guide, it's just a piece of measurement that you can use. And as long as you keep that in mind and use it that way and use the same test year after year, after year, and tests are updated just like anything else, for the times that you're living in, then I think it's valid. But to use a lot of different tests, I think that that is confusing. I don't think it's necessary. I think too much testing is done. I think a test should be used , not just at your school system, your community believes in and can trust, has a basis, you can go from it. An example of what I'm trying to get at is this. On the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the test was revised at some point in time, I forget exactly when it was, back in the sixties I think it was, when new math came into existence. And so, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, tested math traditionally, but we were teaching math as a new math. Our kids scored poorly on the math part of that test. And as I became a principal, that was still partly true in there. I never, never, I gave it validly only to the fact that from one year to the next that score stayed about the same, even though it was lower than a school that was teaching traditional math where their kids were up here in the eightieth or ninetieth percentile. But if our kids being taught the new math stayed in the sixtieth or seventieth percentile, and just maintained that, then I felt it was valid. Reasoning with parents that it wasn't really testing what they knew, what they were being taught, the rest of the test was valid. The rest of the test was teaching what was being taught. In the English and the social studies and the sciences and I used it that way. And I felt that I wanted that test because I could measure what a student was doing, up or down, on the basis of past scores. A good way to use a test, and I learned this from your husband, was you take what the score is on this year's test and take the gain on the next test, and if there was a gain there, then if it, if it was a year's difference between the time of the testing and there was a year's gain in learning, then it was valid.
Q: Could you describe a typical work day as principal, if there is such a thing?
A: Well, the typical workday is when you go to work and you are prepared for anything that can happen. A typical work day...I always like to go to school early in the morning and review what I had to do for the day and get that in order, so that when the day started if anything unexpected happened I could take care of it without being all upset, flustered, whatever. A typical day was greeting the teachers first thing in the morning and a lot of teachers would walk in. I mean it was not unusual at all for half the staff to be in the office at one time or another with a question, whatever, just to say hello and that's the way the day began and then when the students were all there and the morning announcements were out of the way and you started your school day, then you could be breath again and start doing some of the things that you had to do and maybe you had teacher evaluations to go to... student problems to take care of, parent concerns, a concerned parent coming in, or telephone calls, all kinds of things. That was typical of everyday. One thing that I felt that is important for a principal is that you never over react to anything that happens out of the ordinary. And if a teacher or a parent comes to you with a serious complaint or something that they want an answer for, something that is very important. Don't answer right away. The person that's coming to you has had time to think about what they have, the problem they have whatever. You haven't. Take your time. There are very few emergencies that arise you have to answer right now or you have to respond to right now. And I found out that that worked very well because a lot of times you were able to do a better job resolving those problems when you had a chance to think about it first. And it's not being rude to a teacher or a parent. You just listen and after you finish listening, you tell the parent or the teacher, OK, I'd like a little time to think about this and I'll get in touch with you and then follow up with that. You can avoid a lot, a lot of future problems by doing it that way, I found out.
Q: Do you have any idea what may be a normal number of hours per week you put in?
A: It varies, but I would say as a principal when I was principal there I probably put at least, I'm going to say fifty-five to sixty hours a week in because the job didn't end when you whet home and I'm talking about the phone calls you get at home as a part of the job. The things that you have to go to in the evening, the meetings I'd have in the morning. I like, I personally like morning meetings and I didn't mind coming a little bit earlier to have that meeting because I wanted the attention of the people. I wanted the attention of the teachers. I wanted them to listen to me. If I was going to call a meeting, it was important enough that they be there ready to listen and to hear what I had to say or whatever the planning was. The end of the day I didn't want a meeting any more than they did and I wasn't ready to listen, why should they be ready to listen? Sometimes it's unavoidable, sometimes you have to, but that isn't often.
Q: If we could zero in on just one or two things that you feel was your key to success as a principal, what would they be?
A: I guess somebody else has to measure your successes, but I guess I personally felt satisfied that I was doing the job that I should be doing. I was effective when other people told me of the things that were happening in our building. I'm not bragging, but had very few complaints from parents or the administration and they're the first to tell you that I wasn't doing the job and I felt that I want to be effective and to be effective I had to be organized and I had to be a step ahead of everybody and I tried to do that and there were times when I got my heels stepped on. I might, you know...I got stepped on and I was running with the crowd instead of ahead of the crowd, but if you can do those things and then you feel good about what you've done and somebody tells you, you are doing a good job, I think to me that is a measure of success, I guess. That's not very positive or very clear, but I felt we got things done that had to be done and I felt we got other things done. I think, I think the staff that I had went above and beyond many times when I asked them to do things and I think they did that because they felt that what we were doing was the right thing and it was good and they wanted to. I guess to me if people want to it because it was organized and you ask them to do it and they did without, you know, because they wanted to do it, I guess that's a measure of success.
Q: I agree with that very much. Just a couple more questions here. Principals operate in a constantly intense environment. What kinds of things did you do to maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions?
A: I prayed a lot. I'll be honest I did. And, if I had a real stressful situation and I've had a lot of them, especially were a parent was very angry about something that happened in a classroom and they came in and they wanted to chastise that teacher and it was my responsibility to alleviate the situation somehow and maintain that teachers rapport and dignity and all that bit. I prayed and I said Lord, go ahead of me and be my words and it worked. I'd have to say it worked. If it wouldn't have been that way I would have lost my sanity many times. I'll tell you the toughest time I had was the first two years. They are the toughest years because, as I mentioned before, if I wouldn't have had the two years as an assistant I wouldn't have survived that first year. It was just horrendous. Not only just administrating a building, but we were in about three or four different scheduling with three or four different computer companies to schedule and I was a neophyte. I knew nothing about scheduling and trying to schedule eleven hundred kids...it was almost an impossible job. I was up nights. I worked Saturdays and Sundays and it was fortunate that I had a staff that was sympathetic and a guidance counselor that was willing to put in all kinds of hours, and secretaries that were just outstanding who helped. Without that help, you know, it would have been impossible. The next year I got an assistant and I had one year under my belt and I had a better idea where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with the organization of the school. I had help from the administration and that was great. Morris Kirk was the Director of Curriculum and he was a great help and he made suggestions from his experience as a principal in the high school. Ed Genuske, who was my junior high principal and was the other middle school principal, was a tremendous help. And, being able to talk to those people, and then the elementary principals, they were friends that wanted to see you succeed and they helped in whatever way they could. Maybe just to call you on the phone and, you know, just talk to you for a minute. One thing I found out very quickly and I'm sure you have found this out too, before I became, ... when I became the principal all the elementary principals were friends of mine. Dave Hatcher was my former principal. Paul Huston was a good friend. Ethel Mae Burt was the elementary principal and she was a good friend, we had worked together on many committees. All these people were friends who wanted to see you succeed. They all told you things to do. What to look for. Ideas. And, I think one of my problems the first year was, I tried to do what they were telling me and I found out I had to be me. And, I had to do what, the way I saw it. Not that they didn't have some good ideas and suggestions, but you have to do it your way and when I learned that and started to get some direction that way and to run the building, to organize it, to see that things were done, when I did it my way, when I talked to teachers my way, when I did everything the way I felt comfortable then the things began to go better.
Q: You retired in the end of the school year 1991, so you've had a little bit of time to reflect on your career, is there anything that you think you would have changed or done differently or if you could do it all over again would you do it exactly the same way?
A: There are probably things that you would do different as you reflect on those things, but probably most of the things I would have done the same way. Maybe one thing I might have done differently would have been, I don't even know this, maybe a little more directive to teachers. Maybe I was as effective as I could have been. I never openly criticized many teachers. If there was something going on that I thought should be changed, I would so it in the way of a suggestion in a conversation with the teacher and I can only remember one I time that I ever really stood nose to nose with a teacher and said you are not doing the job you should be doing and if I could fire you, I'd fire you. I think I tried to talk to a teacher, to council with a teacher the way I would have wanted somebody to council me. The way I would have felt happy or confident or had a better feeling about myself, if somebody had to council me, I wanted to feel good after it was over with...not bad...not angry...not whatever and I wanted to do the same thing to that teacher. I wanted to treat them like I wanted to be treated and I didn't...I never felt that I was a better person than they were. I never felt that I was higher than they were. We are all educators and I felt that I could be most effective if I treated them like an equal. Now they understood that I was their boss. I didn't have to say anything and I never had to say to anybody, but I'm your principal. I don't remember that I ever said that or had to say that and I don't think...I think that helps to make you an effective principal when you don't have to say that. It's just like a teacher who is in a classroom and they don't have to raise their voice to have the attention of the kids. They're an effective teacher.
Q: Very good. Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in the questioning, there is probably something that I left out. Is there something that you would like to add or maybe some question that I didn't ask you regarding your principalship or leadership that you would like to end with?
A: I just have to say I guess, and you've already asked and I've already answered I think. When I retired I felt good. I felt I had done the best job I could possible do. I felt I was fairly successful, that I didn't leave with regrets, except that I was leaving a lot of good friends I enjoyed...I worked with junior high kids for forty-one years. I felt I had some understanding of how kids behaved and acted and learned. [I] tried to use that. I felt that I never wanted to put down kids throughout that whole time. I disciplined kids, I paddled kids and I learned something from Ed Genuske, in when you're disciplining a child...after it's over you still accept that kid and the way he did it...he had a unique way. He would talk to a kid, to the boy or girl, and got the boy or girl to admit that what they had done was wrong and then to accept what was going to happen and then put their arm around the shoulder and walk them out the door. I think that was the most effective way. I tried to do that. I had many feelings. I was ready to retire, but I wasn't ready to miss all the things that happened at school and all the people I was with. In a way I am still in touch, but I think it was time to move on...for somebody else to be there. I don't regret it and I feel maybe that I contributed something. I hope I did.
Q: Just a little personal add on here, I know that you did because I know you personally and I know you in the education field and you definitely did contribute to the education and enriched a lot of lives of both teachers, principals and students. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to interview with me and helping me out with this oral history project. It was a very interesting, a little bit more than an hour and you did an excellent job answering all the questions and I really do appreciate that.
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