Today's date is January 25, 1988. This interview is with Mr. William Marshall, retired principal with the Dependent Schools System at Quantico, Virginia.
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Q: Mr. Marshall, first I would like to thank you for doing this. I would like a little bit of your educational background, the college you went to, where you got your degree, what your degrees were in.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I got my undergraduate degree at the William and Mary Extension in Richmond back in 1956. At that time it was part of the William and Mary College program. Now it is VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1960, I received my Masters degree from the University of Virginia. My Masters is in Education. Since receiving my Masters, I have continued my education and have 68 graduate hours above a Masters degree.
Q: Thank you. Where did you start your career?
A: I started here at Quantico in 1956, stayed here, worked for 30 years for the Dependent School System. Started as a teacher and coach, moved up into administration, assistant principal and then to the principalship of the high school here in Quantico and served as a principal for 15 years. Retired after 30 years of service with the Quantico Dependent School System.
Q: Thank you. So 30 years in education in all, correct?
Q: What type of a teacher were you at the high school?
A: I taught government in high school. All my experience has been with the high school level. In teaching, I taught government and physical education and health and driver's education and I did some counseling on the side when I was working for my Masters degree.
Q: Did you ever teach for any other school system besides the Department of Defense?
A: No I didn't. I had a lot of contact with the local school systems in here and also throughout the country and other dependent school systems and I visited school systems in many of the states on trips that I have taken.
Q: Could you tell us what you feel were some of the differences between the Department of Defense Schools and, say, the local school system here in Prince William County?
A: One of the biggest differences is the size of our school. Here in Quantico the largest class that we have ever had here, and Quantico dates back to 1941, was 82 graduating from the high school and this was back in about 1971, 72. We have had as low a number as only 12 students graduating. Our classes hardly ever range over 20 students in a class, as an average. Few classes would get up to 25 to 30, but especially the academic and the math and foreign language classes range around 15 to 20 students, which makes an outstanding pupil ratio.
Q: How about school boards? Is the Department of Defense School Boards the same as the local school boards? I know that they are elected. You have elections, but not the intense elections that civilian schools have.
A: That's correct. In the beginning, when we first came here, the Quantico school board was appointed by the commanding general, which I personally felt worked much better than the elected boards, which the Dependent Schools went to about six to seven years ago. One of the big problems with the elected school boards is that the members are here only one or two years or maybe three years at the most and do not get the full feel of our program and what is needed and once the programs are started they are not here to see them finished. But the past three or four years, the elected school board has worked, but I don't think that it is as efficient as the appointed ones have.
Q: Are there any other big differences between the two different types of school systems that you can think of besides the sizes of the school and the school board?
A: No. I don't think that there is any really big difference. The heart and soul of a school system and a school is the teachers. If you get good teachers, they'll do an outstanding job regardless of what the board does, because they are dedicated and like their jobs.
Q: Let me ask you this. The base school system requires the same graduating requirements as the county. Correct?
A: Yes. All schools, base schools here in Virginia and there is only one other down in Colonial Beach, Dahlgren Naval Weapons Station, they all are required to meet the standards set forth by the State of Virginia and students graduating from Quantico meet all the standards as any other student in Virginia has to meet to graduate, plus they are accredited by the Southern Association.
Q: Your teachers have to meet the same requirements?
A: The same requirements that the State has to have.
Q: Becoming a principal. You were teaching. Why did you decide to become a principal? What event lead you to this position?
A: Thinking back, teaching, I enjoy that more than anything, but the economics was the primary reason because this is the only way you get up to make a real good salary and raise a family and that was the primary reason that I went into administration. I love administration. I enjoy working with people, not only the students but the staff and parents and the school board and the rank and file of the base. But the main reason was economics.
Q: How long were you a teacher before you became an assistant principal?
A: I was a teacher for 13 years and then I moved in as an assistant principal for two years and then I moved up as the principal.
Q: What was there in your personality that you felt made you a good principal, that made you successful in that job?
A: I think one major attribute that a person needs to be a good principal is to be a good communicator. You need to communicate with students, on a one to one level, and with a group, you need to communicate with the faculty and have good rapport with them and you need to communicate with the parents, solving their problems and answering their questions about their children in our school system. But I think that that is one of the major attributes of what a good principal has to have. Communication skills, both written and oral, and to get out amongst the students, talk with them, and not be an office principal. I think that this is one of the major things that a principal has to do is to get away from the office, to get out, talk to students, be in the lunch room with them, be out when the buses arrive and leave, be at the ball games, be at the plays, be at the band concerts. You have to be out where the action is, not sitting behind a desk pushing papers.
Q: Did you find that hard to do, to get out of the office? There is a lot of paper work, I know, in being an administrator.
A: No I didn't because I am a pretty good organizer. I organize my time, I hired good people, especially an outstanding secretary, who handles most of the paper work and I had an outstanding assistant principal. We divided up a lot of the paper work, administrative responsibilities and we knew what was expected from each of us and we did our jobs and my secretary knew when to schedule conferences and meetings with parents and when not to. But I think that it is very important that you budget your time but especially place in your time schedule each day a time to be out in the classes, in the hallways and in the lunchroom.
Q: Assistant principals. You had just one full time assistant principal to help you and you apparently used him more as a right hand man. Did you expect your assistant principal to be out, did you want him more in the office, handling the day to day routines, or did you want him to be in with the students, teachers and the like you saw yourself doing?
A: He did more administrative work than I did, but he too was out with the students in the lunch periods and the activities. I was very fortunate. He became the assistant principal when I became principal. He had been with the Dependent Schools overseas, as a teacher, he knew the normal routines with Dependent School Systems, about dependents that attended our schools. We sat down the very first month we were together, mapped out our strategy who was going to do what and who was going to be responsible for certain activities and we shared those. Especially the extra curricular activities. We had a schedule where he would attend certain games and activities and I would, where we both wouldn't have to be up there every day, all night long too. As a high school principal there are many many things that go on, concerts to athletic activities and on down the line. But we did share. But he did most of the administrative paper work.
Q: Did you have your assistant principal for most of your career, the same assistant principal?
A: Sure did and it was a tremendous asset.
Q: Did you get to select your own assistant principal or did you have a voice in helping select him or were you just given one?
A: The superintendent at the time that I was appointed was. He felt very strongly that the principal had the final say so in the selection of not only the assistant principal, but all of his staff. I have interviewed every teacher that was hired. It was my final decision, although it was a committee that interviewed them, reviewed the paperwork, but when it came down to the final decision, it was my decision. And this is very important. I think that any principal should have this opportunity to hire the people to work for him because, he knows the type of person he wants, the type of personality, the background, that he would like to have in his faculty and in his staff. And I was very fortunate in this.
Q: What you were talking about, the type of personality, what type of personality did you feel is important to have as your assistant principal?
A: I wanted a teacher that showed a definite and strong interest in the individual, the student as an individual. And not only wanted the teaching but would be a friend of the student and would be willing to take the responsibility for various activities that students would participate in outside of the classroom, the extra curricular activities. I did not want a faculty member that would check in at 8:00 and leave at 3:00 and not be around after school to assist students or just to talk to students.
Q: Do you feel that those are things that are strong in your personality too? So you were looking for an extension of yourself?
A: Correct. I certainly do.
Q: Did you also look for that in your teachers?
Q: That was the type of teacher that you enjoyed having also?
Q: Your leadership style, do you feel that you have had a very casual leadership style? You tell the people what you want and expect them to do it and let them do it unless you feel that they are on the wrong path? Or what exactly do you feel your leadership style is?
A: My leadership style is by example, There are many types of leadership styles. The type of person that I am, I feel I lead by example and I delegate a lot of authority and responsibility. I give them, by having a special assignment or a duty, the responsibility that I would need to take care of and need to delegate it. I would delegate it to a faculty member, we would discuss the situation and what needed, the objectives we wanted to meet, but then I would give them the opportunity to use their methods in doing it and offer my office and the rest of the staff to assist them in any way necessary. I was always open, my door was open for them to come in to discuss if they had a problem and if I felt that they were going in the wrong direction, we would just sit down and talk it over and get back on the right track.
Q: Do you feel that this would have worked? You were in a small school situation, that this type would have worked as well in a larger, say a public school, where you had a graduating class of 200 and you had 4,000 students in the entire school. Do you feel that this would have been as easily adapted as it seemed to have been to the base school systems?
A: Yes, I think so because in any task that you undertake, you break it down into parts. Certainly if you have a staff of 100 to 150, you don't have the intimate contact that you do with a small staff, but the same method would be used and it ought to be a couple, probably a few more layers that you would have to go through. But still I think I would still use the same method. I'm sure that it would be effective.
Q: Did you, do you feel that you were always like this? Did you ever feel like you started in some direction and it didn't prove successful? What was something that didn't work for you?
A: Oh gosh, I really can't think of anything that did not work for me. I can think of some things that we had to restructure when we attacked them such as the, when the evaluation committees would come in for their five and ten year check, and especially when they would have the full evaluation team come for weeks, review of your institution and program but prior to that time you are working on a year ahead of time, setting up committees to do various tasks and we get going the wrong way and we would have to crank back and start over again or change our direction because we weren't meeting the objectives that we set out to do. So we would just sit down and have a meeting and get back on the right track.
Q: At most public schools, you will have teachers who have been there for 10, 15, 20 years. Did the majority of your teachers seem to be that way or did you have a constant overturn of teachers?
A: We didn't have a constant overturn. We used to have. My staff ranged from 35 to 40 faculty members and normally we would have around 4 to 5 change each year. I did have, when I retired in 1986, of my staff of about 38 teachers, I had about 20 that had been there for over 15 years, which is good but it is also good to have an influx of new people each year and we were having 5 to 6 each year coming bringing new blood into our faculty meetings, our staff meetings, new ideas, which I think is very important. You can go overboard and have a lot of veteran teachers and get in a rut and don't change. You need some new blood in. And just the reverse, you can have a lot of new teachers and not enough veteran teachers to help your new teachers along. So I was very fortunate in having a pretty good mix for the 15 years that I was an administrator of that school.
Q: Did you have a role model, someone that you patterned yourself ~ft~r?
A: No, not really. Being a coach I think I used a lot of my methods from coaching young men in my working with the faculty. You need team work, you need cooperation. I have always been sort of a low key person. I don't get too excited about something. When something goes wrong I usually keep my cool and get it straightened out without too much of a problem. But I guess if I really had a role model it would be John Wooden who coached the UCLA basketball team for many years and I attended several conventions that he was a guest speaker and attended a basketball camp and I was an instructor and he was one of the instructors that came in from the college. He had an outstanding book on coaching. I would recommend that for anyone that goes into administration. So if I had a role model, it would be him.
Q: If you could work your day down into percentages, what do you feel consumed the majority of your time, dealing with students, dealing with administrative problems, dealing with paperwork? What?
A: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I am a pretty good organizer and I organize my day. Basically, I would spend 50% of my time during the school year with the students. This means visiting classes, observing teachers, observing students in action, in the halls during class changes, (just about every class change), in the cafeteria everY day during the lunch period, checking and being outside when buses were loading and unloading at least two to three times during the week. I just made this my priority. So 50 percent of my time was out with the people, out with the students, with the faculty members and parent conferences. About 20 percent of my time was spent with discipline. The assistant principal handled most of the discipline situations. And the other 30 percent would be administrative. But I just made this a priority because I felt that the principal should set the example for everyone in the school.
Q: Is there anything that you would have liked to have spent more time on, but your other responsibilities kept you away from or do you feel like you managed with the 50% with the students to have taken care of everything?
A: I felt that I was taking care of everything. Meeting all of my responsibilities I would not take any more time away from the student and I don't think that I could afford to put more time with them. But I made a strong effort to stay 50% public relations, be it parents, students, faculty and so forth.
Q: What type of a role do you feel that you played in public and community relations?
A: Well, I was very active in the activities here on the base and again that was another of my priorities when I first came here. My wife and I both became very active in the community activities, in the chapel program. My wife participated in the choir for many years. I served as usher for 25 years at the base chapel. After moving to administration, I could not continue my coaching at the high school level. I coached little league basketball. I ran baseball programs for the base here. I was commissioner of one of the summer programs, the Babe Ruth league here. I worked on the golf committees here at the base. I established an annual high school golf tournament, which we bring in anywhere from 30 to 40 golf teams for a two day tournament here, which has been going on for over 20 years. Great for the civilian workers aboard the base. So, I have been very active in base activities not only school activities and I have always spoken at PTA meetings and school board meetings and any time called upon regarding the school program for the dependents.
Q: How about the relationship between yourself and the school and the local school community?
A: Well, I felt that we had an excellent relationship, especially with the Prince William County schools because we had a lot of students coming in and out from their schools. I have seen Prince William County grow from two high schools to however many they have now. I don't know, but Gar-Field was the only high school on the east side of the county and Manassas was the only one on the west side of the county. So I have seen the county grow tremendously and I had an excellent relationship with the principals as the school grew, the athletic coaches and directors so Stafford's the same way. We have had good rapport with them and I have attended many meetings, local meetings. Although we are not part of the county system, the State association meetings were for sharing experience, conventions and so forth.
Q: Are you still active in the school community since you retired? Have you tried to keep your finger in?
A: Well, yes. I've tried to keep my finger in. I still am very active. I go up to a lot of the extra curricula activities at the high school here on the base. I attend the basketball games and concerts. They always let me know when something is going on. I have stayed active that way. I have continued my activities with the base, with the golf course and with the chapel. I have continued my membership with the National Principals' Association and I have done some volunteer work off and on. I am available for various things.
Q: Your superintendent. We have not touched on him too much. When you were principal, who was the superintendent at that time, when you first became principal? Had he been appointed also by the base commanding general? Or how did they select the superintendent for the base schools when you first became principal?
A: He had been, he was the first and only superintendent that they had. In fact, he had been appointed superintendent in '54 and I came in '56 and he had been a teacher/principal here prior to his appointment here. And he was my superintendent up until the last six years, until I retired. So I had an outstanding relationship with him. In fact he had hired me as a teacher. Then I worked for another superintendent for five years then when I retired, there was another one that came in for one year.
Q: How is the superintendent selected on the base?
A: Ah, they had, when the superintendent's position was open, they had an open competition publicized nationwide through the National Association and also throughout the DOD schools, applications were sent in and the base had a screening committee. And then the school board had a committee that invited people in for an interview and they made their recommendations to the commanding general. He made the final decision.
Q: Thank you. I think that we are going to end this side of the tape. This is tape 1, side B. Back to your superintendent. Ah, you didn't have any type of problems with him? His style of leadership. What do you feel that his style of leadership was?
A: His style of leadership was very much like mine, I think. He would delegate the authority and the responsibility to each of his principals. He had principals in three elementary schools and the high school, which is really a junior/senior high school. We had grades 7 through 12 there. And he would leave it really up to the school principal to meet the objectives and goals that he had set forth and let us run our schools the way we felt they should be run.
Q: The goals of the entire school system. Did, were you all allowed to provide input to the superintendent? How were they determined?
A: Oh yes. We had what is called a planning council made up of not only the administrators but also teachers from each of the schools and we would meet once a month and decide on goals for the upcoming year and how about, how to go about meeting these goals. Then we would follow up to be sure that they were met. Committees were followed within the schools to come up with plans and things of this nature. So, everyone had an input. In fact, we had students, a student on this planning committee. From the high school we always had the SCA student government president sit in on our meetings and offer input. So it was input from everyone. A parent was on this committee. The school board had a member. I was a member. It was a committee of about 12 people and everyone had an input and their suggestions and plans were submitted through the school board for the final approval to proceed and we would proceed and make a report back to the school board of our findings and accomPlishments of what was done.
Q: There were a couple of stories this morning about the elementary school up in, I believe it was Fairfax, that there was a lot of problems with schools and the test scores. They were coaching students for certain tests so they would get higher test scores so the school system would look better. Was this the important thing as far as the base school system was concerned? What seemed to be their major goal? Was there a great emphasis, as we seem to see in a lot of schools now, where test scores seem to be the almighty or what do you feel was the main goal? Did it change year to year?
A: Well naturally, ah, everyone is interested in test scores. Ah, I'm not too hep on them. I think they indicate probably some weaknesses that you need to work on as a group, especially if you can follow these students for several years. Ah, we compared our test scores with the county scores and the national. Very fortunate we usually were around the medium or a little bit about the medium. Our students, ah, I don't know the reason why, but I guess one was that they traveled quite a bit and a lot of the schools, dependent schools, are smaller classes. But we were interested in test scores, we didn't panic if we were low in one area. I remember one year in our elementary schools one grade level, 3rd or 4th was not quite up to par, ah, what we felt that was par on their reading scores, so we examined our program to see if we needed to do more to it. We made some minor changes to it. The following year the scores were up, back to the medium range so forth. Test scores are important, but I don't think people should get overly excited about them if they are down one year. If they are down for a long period of time, over several years, four or five or maybe two or three years if they are down, you need to really look at your program to see what's happening, but you also have to be sure that you are testing the same students.
Q: Discipline. What do feel your approach to discipline was?
A: My approach was if they violated any specific rules or regulations that we had, they faced the punishment. And what is the punishment? We had nothing severe, nothing of that nature. Suspension was the most severe and they were for major infractions of the rules. Ah, I think, ah, discipline is a team effort. If you don't have a team effort, you are lost. It has got to start with the classroom teacher all the way up. Because the teacher sends a student to the principal or to the assistant principal for discipline action, action will be taken by the administrator, but that student is going back to that teacher so a rapport has to be established between the teacher and the student. It was my policy that before a student was sent to the office, unless it was a really major infraction, the teacher had to take some action prior to that time. If it was a fight or something, certainly someone would come in and break it up and take action at that time, but it is still the student and the teacher had to get together and find out what the problem was. If it was teacher/student relationship, that is another thing. But again, I think that a teacher has to maintain certain control of his classroom and what is going on in that classroom and the parent would be called in, first with the teacher, if they are having a problem with the kids talking in school or not behaving in class, then after the parent and the teacher had their conference and tried to work it out and if it couldn't get worked out then, then we would take some action. The counselors would get involved in it. A lot of times I found the problem really wasn't with the teacher and the student, it related to outside, maybe something happened at home. There are lots of things. This goes back to something I said earlier, I feel that a teacher has to get to know their students, not only as a student, but something about them, what's going on other than the academic classroom, their interests and things of that nature. So I think that if a teacher and student can build a rapport, things will work out pretty good.
Q: Did you give your teachers guidelines as to how you would like to see things handled beforehand?
A: Oh yes. I had a memo out with procedures that listed all the steps to be taken before. I also felt that once they sent a problem to the office, it was our decision then. Whatever we decided, they would have to go along with it.
Q: The teacher and the student.
A: Right, because they, the teacher says I can't handle it anymore, I have tried. Now this is in your lap or our lap at the office, and we would make our recommendations after conference with the parents, conference with the student, conference with the teacher. We would outline. Say, OK this is what's going to take place, what has to take place and if it doesn't the next step would be suspension and right on up to the superintendent and to the commanding general as far as the suspension and the final outcome.
Q: That was the nice thing with the base wasn't it. There was always the fact you could hold the threat over the children's head. Um, did you try to solve things with the student as far as you could before you involved the parent. Some schools, the parent gets called immediately no matter what it is. How far?
A: Well, it depends on the situation. Anything that was major such as attacking a teacher, which we would have maybe once every so many years. That was immediate suspension at our school. Smoking, no question about it. You get caught smoking, you're suspended a day. And the parents are called to come and get the son or daughter. They are out for a day. We had no drug problem, automatically out. We had a few of these, but not as extensive as some of the public schools, because we are on a controlled situation on a base, but we had some of our problems. But for misbehavior and things of that nature, we would try and work out between the teacher and the student first, before we would call the parent. Then we would get the guidance counselor in if it was a major problem the teacher was having and she couldn't seem to solve it she would talk to the student's guidance counselor and, so maybe the guidance counselor would give her some background about the student which would explain this student's behavior then the teacher could have a better understanding and more tolerance for the person, for the student. So there were steps that we established and they were publicized through, not only to the teachers, but to the parents too in the parent handbook. These are the steps and these are the penalties and there are no questions about it. If
Q: What do you think teachers expect the principal to do?
A: I don't know what teachers expect the principal to be. When I was a teacher, when I first started, my major concern was that the principal support me in my actions. Naturally, if I was way off, hopefully he'd get me squared away with before I went too far, but I think that most of the teachers expect the principal to be very supportive in every way. Not only from personnel problems, discipline problems, but in getting supplies, making things, the school room environment, good environment to teach in and not let them worry about getting or having paper, or having supplies to work with. Ah, we, it was the administrator's responsibility to make these available for teachers and to assist them in any way possible to make their job enjoyable and easy to do because that's the toughest job in the world, being a teacher. And I think that they need all the support they can get and if you can give them that they will support you.
Q: Were there any special techniques that you used to make your teachers important and feel like they were, had your support and had your backing? Is there anything special that you tried to do for them?
A: Well, not anything special I think. But I did make it a point to compliment them on every opportunity that I could, be it from their nice bulletin board to good morning, have a nice day, have a great weekend and so forth. To recognize when they've done something and let them know that you appreciate them. When I saw that he had a good conversation or good lesson the other day, I'll stop at the end and say I liked what you did. Be supportive and be complementary and let them know that you know that they are doing a good job.
Q: Say you are in observing a teacher and he or she is going about the lesson in a way that you just do not approve of at all. That you just feel that they are doing it entirely wrong. How would you handle that? Would you stop them then, take them out and talk to them? Would you let them continue their lesson? How would you go about taking care of a situation like that?
A: I would never embarrass a teacher in front of her students. I would let them continue to a conclusion and probably send her a note at the end of the day, stop by and see me tomorrow or something of that nature. I would never embarrass the teacher in front of her students. And by sitting down the next day, when things had calmed over, and ah, I had calmed down, if I had gotten over excited and talk to the teacher in a rational way and make some suggestions and ask them why they approached it this way? Could they approach it another way? Not say do it this way or do it that way. Try to get some discussion going of why they did it, of why they were doing it the way they were doing it and maybe there's a possibility of a better way. Why the way they were doing it would not be acceptable or could not be accepted.
Q: Coming from a base school like I did, I know that at Camp LeJeune, we just never had any problems as far as protests, or negative feelings about the war in Vietnam. Of course, we were all military dependents. I'm sure now looking back at it, ah, the teachers were probably in some way guided. There just never was any negative thoughts whatsoever. You were a principal during that time and saw that it was hard on the students because their fathers were overseas. Also, being military it seems that when guys graduate from school, if their fathers are already in the military, a lot more students out of military families seem to go into the military. Was there any conscious effort in your schools to tone down the negative aspects or did you just let things go and did you have any problems during that time?
A: We didn't have any major problems. We had some students that were against the war. Ah, we had some that wanted to wear arm bands at school. We let them. We didn't have any major demonstrations. We talked with them. Their parents would talk with them. We would let their parents know that we weren't going to banish them from school if they came up with a peace symbol or things of that nature. Ah, but ah, we had some students that were very much against the war. And we tried to rationalize with them and talk with them in a knowledgeable way of why we were in it, best that we knew as a staff, but ah, not major problems. But we had some, and, it worked out real well, so we think that we got through it pretty well to be honest with you. But we had lots of demonstrations in Washington and the students would see the troops down here loading up, going up to there to calm the demonstrations and things of that nature. But most of our students were knowledgeable of what was going on or felt that they were and were not opposed, utterly opposed, against the war. Our staff was very supportive of the country's effort and what was going on.
Q: If you had, say, a teacher who was very antimilitary, suppose a new teacher had come to interview and was intense in their dislike of the military, do you think that you have even hired them or would you have screened them out of the selection process?
A: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the principal has the final say so in the staff he would select. I would not select a person of that nature, had they come in with that attitude. Had we had a teacher on our staff when all of this Vietnam war started, and he/she was very anti against it, I probably would have talked; I know I would have talked to her. I probably would have counseled him or her that maybe they should go somewhere else to work. Because not only the community would be very much against a teacher of this nature as a whole and I think that that person would be very unhappy teaching here. So I would have counseled her to other places or look somewhere else for a job. Not fire her, but just counseled her and said if you are not happy in your work, you ought to leave and I don't think that a teacher would have been happy here if they had been very active, anti Vietnam.
Q: Were there any other special things that the school system did during that time, counseling for students, to the best that you can recollect, was there ever any conscious effort made to compensate for the fact that this is a large military base?
A: No, we had several assemblies during that period of time where we had guest speakers come in, the chaplains that had been to Vietnam and experienced the war over there to talk to the high school student body and also to various classes, individual classes, government classes, classes of that nature. Not only during the war, after the war, we had people come in and talk to the older students, the juniors and seniors about what took place there and why, things of that nature. But, ah, that was about the only conscious thing that we zeroed in on.
Q: Obviously you never had problems with busing.
A: No, we haven't.
Q: Is there any other thing as far as social issues that you all had to adjust to being in the type of community that you are that had to make you special. I know segregation probably was never a problem at the base schools either.
A: No, we, ah, I kinda segregated a few public schools around here when I came here in '56 because I had ah, a black young man on my basket ball team in 1956 and we went into some of the public schools to play basketball and we walked in, they didn't know exactly what to do. Ah, but we played and nothing was done and they would come here and we would play the public schools and this was before public schools in Virginia was integrated. But, ah, we did nothing special. We were very fortunate, we've never had any big problems in the 30 years that I was there between the blacks and the whites. We actually, ah, had a very good relationship. Again, I'm sure that this was associated through the military because the military had been integrated at that time. So ah, they get along fine at the social activities, at the dances, and at the athletic events. There was really no problems whatsoever.
Q: Get back to your teachers. How did you go about evaluating your teachers?
A: We followed the Southern Association. It has a basic plan on how you should evaluate; the State of Virginia does too. An administrator is always evaluating, whether they walk into classes during the day or during the year. I had two formal evaluations of each of my teachers every year when they knew I was going to come in and evaluate them. One in the fall, or in the spring. I would, at the beginning of the school year when they arrived in August to come in they would do a list of, I would have 10 ah, 10 teachers every year when I would do a full, what is called a full evaluation of them. Where I would go in with- they would write up objectives that they were going to work on for the school year and turn them into me and I would review them, have a discussion with them about it, sometime during the first couple of months of school. Then, ah, I would visit their classrooms on a set date. They would know what date I would be coming in, which period I would be coming in to evaluate and they would, the day before I would visit their class, they would send me a memo telling me exactly what they were going to be doing, the objective they were going to be seeking with their classes, how they were going to go about it. The teaching methods they were going to use and how they were going to evaluate it. I would visit that class the following day. I would have a conference with the teacher; discussing my visit and what I observed, what tool place in the class. In the spring, I would do the same for those ten teachers. The other members, staff members, I would have what is called a partial evaluation. This is when I would go in, they would know that I would be coming in but I would not have a follow-up conference the very next day with them and I wouldn't be writing a written follow up on my part within the partial evaluation. At the end of the school year, I would have a conference with every teacher, staff member, on how the year went and did they meet their objectives. Full evaluation, have a written follow-up on everything. They would get a copy. The superintendent would get a copy. We would keep a copy in the file. On partial evaluations, they would get a checklist for that years evaluator. Ah, I would be, all during the year I would just walk in a class, in and out. It got, the students so and the teachers I could go in and it wouldn't disrupt the class. They would see that he is just coming and I would stay minutes and then I would leave. But when I did a full evaluation, I was always in the class before the class started and I stayed the full time and I left word with the secretary, never to call me out unless it was a dire emergency. Something that couldn't wait for thirty minutes or the length of the class period. Ah, and I would just sit back and observe and not participate in what was going on. But it got so, he's just walking around, he would come in, it wasn't here comes the principal we have to be good or anything. It just got to be a normal thing. And among the students during the day, that you would be just a natural thing. It's not a big thing for the principal to be here.
Q: Thank you. Teacher grievances- Did you have teacher grievances and if you did now did you have to do about handling them?
A: Ah, we had a set policy for teacher grievances. With our Quantico Education Association and the Federal government, we have to follow their grievance procedure. The normal procedure would be that if a teacher had a grievance or felt they had a grievance, they were to talk to me as the principal on an informal basis first, what their gripe was, what problem they were concerned with and we would naturally try to solve it on an informal basis. If it wasn't solved at that level, the teacher would then make a written grievance and forward it to the superintendent for his reaction and comments. Ah, then if the teacher is still not satisfied, she would make an appeal to the superintendent and up to the school board and from there to the base authority if it wasn't solved. We were fortunate, or I was very fortunate that I never had any to go any further than the informal situations. We could always, we would always work out the problems. We did not have any, major problems. There is a set informal procedure, the written, the formal procedure goes up to the superintendent of the school board, the base for the decision.
Q: Did you ever have to fire a teacher?
A: No, thank goodness I didn't. That would be one of the hardest things for me to do. It would take quite a, it would take a year to fire a teacher as far as I am concerned. If I had a teacher, and I did have several during my time as an administrator that I felt wasn't working up to what I expected and I would have a meeting with them. I did have a meeting with them. We would discuss what was going on. One case, the teacher came to me and said "Look, I need some help." and so we discussed it and worked out things. So that teacher remained on. One decided that this wasn't the place for him to work and he moved on. But ah, it is very difficult thing to do and it is a hard thing to do. And again, this goes back to the hiring of a teacher. The principal has the responsibility and the authority to say what they want. It makes a big difference. You can eliminate a lot of these problems with teachers and try to point out to the teacher things that they were doing incorrectly and make recommendations to them. Maybe going back and taking a course in teaching techniques. Usually, it is only one course and that is enough. I think that they need more courses and they need more practical experience in teaching. Some of our teachers, that we had, after a couple of years, they decided that this is not really what they want to do and so they move outside the teaching field. And several of them had told me that if they had known this before they had started, they wouldn't have come into teaching.
Q: Ok. That was going to be my next question. How you feel that we could improve the training? Virginia has started a new program, the BTAP Program.
A: That just started the year before I retired.
Q: Do the Base teachers participate in this?
A: Yes they do. They started in it my last year. I am sure that they'll continue to do this. I think that this is a very good program from what I heard of it. I attended a couple of meetings prior to the first year before it went into effect. I hope that it is working well. I haven't seen any follow-up on it. But I feel teachers need more than one semester of practice teaching. They need to do more, I don't know if the colleges can spare the time or what, but I think that they need more practical experience.
Q: What about principal training? Do you feel there should be or there is improvement in the educational administration training part? To get my degree in Educational Administration, I have to do an internship of three months. Do you feel that that it is necessary? Do you feel that this college Virginia Tech is on the right track as far as training principals? Do you think that a principal can be trained?
A: Yes, I think that a principal can be training and I think that the internship is a big step forward. I know when I went through my training and educational courses, they didn't have such a program. I learned most of my administrative experience when I was in the Army, prior to going to college. Right after high school, I went into the Army for three years and did mostly administrative work and that's where I learned my administrative skills- basically off the cuff. But, I think that it is very important for someone going into administration to have some on-hands experience as an administrator. I had one young man serve his internship at Quantico and I assigned him tasks that he would face as an administrator and he got experience working as the administrator. He had the same authority as the rest of the administrators and my assistant and I did. And we would back him up, what he said, that was it. His decision was made. I think a lot of people going into administration are not aware of the paperwork that is involved in administration and you can really get tied down into it. I know that when I was the assistant principal, I did most of the paperwork. I did all the reports for the State and all the reports for the Southern Association, which was good because I learned about them, what was going on, what was to be expected. And when I moved up into the principal's job, I knew what to expect from these associations, what needed to be done. So I think that the internship is very important and it is a big asset to anyone that is going into administration. You can't beat hands-on experience. You can talk about it in the classroom. You've got to get out and experience it.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to see changed with either teacher training or principal training?
A: No not really. I just think that more hands-on experience and an internship for administrators is essential. I also feel that the teacher training for new teachers, they just need more experience working with students in a classroom situation.
Q: Obviously, you do not have to worry too much about merit pay Base teachers do not get merit pay.
A: We do not get merit pay. It was talked five-six years ago at Quantico. I have have problems with merit pay. I just feel that I haven't seen a program that has their evaluation tools set up to really judge a teacher. I know Fairfax has gone into it. I haven't seen their program at all. But I feel that if I was going to recommend someone for merit pay, I would have to spend a lot of hours with that teacher in observing that teacher. Not once a week or 36 36 weeks out of the year. I would have to spend many hours, not only observing that teacher, knowing what that teacher is doing with that individual, as an individual. His relationship with the parents of the student. There are just so many aspects that I would have to know. Sure, I think any teacher, any administrator can go up and say that's an outstanding job or this teacher needs assistance, more assistance. But I think that the evaluation can be very difficult, I feel, if the principal has the final say so it is going to create a morale problem. I don't know the answer. I've read about school systems, when I was in graded schools back in the 50's, late 50's and early 60's, this was talked- about merit pay. I've read many articles where they're tried this and it's dropped and I think that until the teacher's associations give strong support to it and the teachers want this; it will never happen. They have a program in Tennessee that I have heard quite a bit about before I retired where they had teachers training to go in and evaluate other teachers and then the teaches got upset with the other teachers. So, again, I don't know the answer. I really don't, but I feel that it can create quite a moral problem.
Q: That brings me to another question. Peer evaluations- having another teacher going in and evaluating other teachers. Do you feel that has any positive aspects or would it create more problems than it would solve?
A: I tell you what I did at Quantico and I don't know how successful it was. I encouraged, and I know that some teachers did this, they had other teachers come in and observe their classes and offer suggestions to the other teachers. Not involving me at all or the administration; just as a friend. They ask them to come in and listen, see if they were dong something that need improvement based on the other teachers suggestion. I also encouraged some teachers to video tape themselves. I said, "I don't want to see the tape, just get the video take from the library, tape yourself. Have a student back there tape a lesson and then you take it and review it yourself. Criticize yourself. Ask what could I have done better?" This is a very good experience and I think that if a teacher would do that they would improve their teaching methods or their offerings and content to the students a great way. They can find it, they can observe things that, "I shouldn't be doing this.". Many things they can observe themselves doing and not involving or embarrassing anyone. It is just a private thing between their class and their teaching. Several of our teachers did this and they came back to me and said, "That was a pretty good idea." Some of them didn't. I didn't force them to do it. I didn't tell them they had to do it but I recommended that they do it. They also had other people come in and evaluate their class and they shared ideas amongst themselves. I think that this is a very good experience; veteran teachers as well as young teachers to share. "Boy, this has worked for me, why don't you try it maybe it will work for you too?" But, again, maybe it won't. Every teacher has their own style and some teachers can go in and lecture and everybody goes to sleep on them. But everyone has his own style. Some people can use alot of these new technical things: computers, televisions, etc., in the classroom, others cannot. It depends on how you want to use it and if you are good at it. I can think of teachers that can go in and just do a great job with a piece of chalk and I've seem simulated games used in classes. I've seen all types of methods but every method does not suit every teacher the same way. You have to match your method with what you are doing.
Q: Ah, just a couple of things that I want to wrap up with. Size of the schools: yours is a small school if you compare it to the normal size of the high schools. Today, there are more high schools going towards 2,000, 3,000, or even 4,000 students. What do you feel would be the ideal size of a school- a high school.
A: This is very interesting because I did a paper in one of my graduate classes on school size. Quantico's school size, for a high school, was too small, I feel, to offer what we really needed to offer and should have been offered. I feel that a high school and even a junior high, I was speaking of grades 7-12, a junior high should be around 1,200 students. I think that a good size high school should be between 1,500-1,700 students. The reason I say this is I feel that a school of this nature can have in their program and curriculum a wide variety of offerings for the students to do, to have a choice of. Especially in the arts, the music program, the finer arts, the computer programs and things of that nature. And to economically make it feasible, you need that size of a school. And I think that classes should average 20-25 students so you can get the interactions between the students. Some classes are too small. I think that a class of 4-5 is too small and maybe even 10 is too small for some activities. You don't want your academics such as your physics and chemistry classes to get up to 25-40 students either. You keep these around 15-20 where you get a lot of hands-on experience in the lab. I think that labs are very important, especially in your upper sciences; biology, physics, chemistry- these you need hands-on time. We were very fortunate at Quantico. We had labs two days a week. Our schedule- we had 7 periods a day. We made our schedule so that when a student was in a lab, they had a double period. I think that you need around 1,500-1,700 students to offer a variety. I think that you can get too big. I remember my daughter graduated from Garfield and they were on a split shift and year around, I think that her graduating class was about 1,200 students or something like that. It was just too large. I think that schools with 2,000 are just too big not only for students but for the staff and the whole bag of worms but I feel you need a nice size school that can offer a variety of programs for the students. I feel that every student that graduates from high school should have a skill regardless of whether they are going to college or not. They should have a marketable skill to do something that they can get a job with.
Q: That was going to be my next question. What do you see the purpose of high school being? College bound students or life skills- more schools are going back to life skills now. Trying to teach students to balance check books and being able to even write a check. Would you like to see specialized schools like they have, such as Thomas Jefferson High for those definitely bound for college.
A: I think that the specialized schools are very important for the gifted and for the highly motivated student in a field of science, something of that nature. But I still feel that they need a marketable skill when they leave high school. I think that the school, the high school has a responsibility to prepare a student so that when the graduate, to be able to go out and get a job with some type of skill. If its car repair, car mechanic, plumber, secretary as well as skills to go with the academic background to go to college- they are all important. A lot of our students are not financial able to go to college and they need a skill and they need the life skills also. Once a student graduates, he should be able to handle the life skills, you know, be able at least to fill out an application form for a job. Be able to have a skill, be it typing, any type of skill where they can say that I've got something that someone needs out there even it it's a waiter in a restaurant or something. But they need some type of skill. They need to be able to communicate, be it verbal or written. I think that this is very important. I have always said that the hardest teaching job is the elementary school. If a student is taught in the elementary school and trained to have good learning skills, ah, and it works its way all the way up through high school, they can do it. Once a student gets to the high school level, or junior high level, and have not been taught the skills of going about learning, he is going to have a very difficult time. I have had students come in the 8th-9th grades that were reading on the 4th-5th grade levels. No way can they really stay up with what is going on in that class. But we also believe that each teacher had to take that student where they were and work with them from that level on. Some of our teachers had students in the 9th grade and reading on the 11th grade level, some in the same class on the 5th-6th grade levels. If they learned these skills in the early grades, how to go about learning and have certain objectives and goals that they must meet before they move up to the high school level. When a kid finished high school, they should be able to have some kind of marketable skills regardless if they are going to college or not.
Q: Can you think of 5 of the most pleasant things of being a principal? Five of the most pleasant activities that you had a chance to participate in as principal?
A: Oh, I think that number one as being, and what I've missed most since I've retired, is my personal contact with the students and my interrelationships with them. Watching them grow and achieve various things that they said they would like to achieve. I certainly enjoyed my relationship with my staff. I miss those two the most of the things that I miss which gave me the most pleasure when I was working full time. Oh, I miss the activities too. That is one reason I continue to go back and watch and see what is going on. I really don't know any other things.
Q: What don't you miss?
A: What don't I miss? Oh, I guess the best thing that I don't miss is getting up in the middle of the night and going up when the MPs used to call me and tell me that the door was open and go up and check the building out. I don't miss some of the hassles that I had with parents. In this business, you are not going to please everyone and some parents would get down right nasty and ugly. I don't miss that.
Q: If the opportunity presented itself for you to be principal again, would you?
A: Not on a full time basis. I would like to continue my association with the education field and being able to do that in some way, but I would not want to go back as a full time principal right now. Not unless I had another excellent staff and a great assistant principal. It is a tough job. it is a demanding job and it's many hours long. Days would, for a high school principal, be much different than an elementary principal where there they usually end around 3:30-4:00 and come in the next day. Whereas the high school principal, in my opinion, if he is doing his job, has got to be there for most of the activities that take place at night, ball games and so forth. Meetings in the day don't end at 3:00 and it starts around again in the morning and usually ends anywhere from 9-10 at night when you have ball games and things of that nature. I don't miss the long hours.
Q: Did you retire because you wanted to? You thought that it was time?
A: I felt that after 30 years, good years, with the Quantico Dependent School System, I had an outstanding relationship with the base, the personnel and I had made many friends. I felt that I was healthy. I wanted to enjoy some of the things that I had ut off. I wanted to do some traveling and things of that nature. I said I'll try it for a few years and if I get bored, I'll do something else. I'll do something on a part time basis. This is basically what I've done. I retired in September, 1986, after 30 years, and my wife and I traveled quite a bit through the United States from September through June. Then I worked at the golf course during the summer and we took off again at the end of October for several places. We will probably go several places again this spring. It's nice to be able to go when you want to go. But I hope to continue to do some of those same things. I wouldn't mind doing some more in education as a consultant or part time work or something of that nature. But I'm not ready to go back full time.
Q: Anything else you would like to add? Anything you feel like I should have asked you?
A: Oh no, I think that you have covered it very well. I just feel that it is a great profession; I have enjoyed it. I've made many friends throughout this immediate area and I think that it is very important that principals get out and see what is going on in other places. Another benefit at Quantico that was offered to the administrators was that they had their opportunity to attend not only the local meetings, they attended state and national meetings. To find out what is going on in other parts of the country-to see if you are in tune with what is going on and to get new ideas. I was fortunate for the 17 years that I was an administrator, I attended either state or national conventions every year as well as attending all local meetings. From California to Florida and all across the nation, I visited schools to find out how well we are doing some things or that we were doing things they were thinking about doing. So I think that it is very important that administrators have the opportunity to go to other parts of the country and other parts of the state to see what is going on. A lot of times, principals and teachers don't even know what is going on in their own county.
Q: That's true.
A: So I think that this is very important.
Q: Well thank you. I really do appreciate this.
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