I'm in the Office of Community Foundation in Frederick, Maryland and I'm talking with Karl Manwiller, a retired building principal and now Director of Community Foundation.
Q: Mr. Manwiller why did you become a principal?
A: I think it was a job that I never wanted really. I enjoyed teaching and I thought that I would probably spend most of my career as a teacher. I think it would have been satisfying to do it--two reasons, when I came to Frederick County, I had been teaching in Long Island for about seven years and, [at] one of the really fine high schools I think, in the country: highly academic but with a group of students who were non-academic and we had done some interesting things with the curriculum for both. We did not like to fail kids who were non-academic kids and we devised a curriculum for them in which they could succeed as well as for the academic kids who went on to various schools. But, when I came to Frederick and interviewed for the job, I interviewed with the Assistant Superintendent (Quinton Erhart) one of the things he showed me were plans of this big new high school that he and Jim Sensabaugh, who was the Superintendent of Schools (later State Superintendent of Schools) and it was the basic schematic drawing of a high school built for team teaching. It involved a lot of things we had been talking about on Long Island that ought to be done in order to make our schools better. We were in a very fine school and I wondered while I was there why we wanted to change it. They were convinced that there were some things that should take place, and we talked about them. And all of a sudden, in Frederick County. I saw them design a school that was going to allow those things to happen. I became intrigued with it. Finally I asked for the job in Frederick as Supervisor of High Schools, and consequently became involved in meeting every other week with the architect, the subcontractors and the contractors--made some changes in the building, and really became intrigued. Ultimately, the county wanted to get a principal and sent away for credentials and interviewed people, and so forth. I was on the interviewing team and the Superintendent and I and the others on the team could not find anybody. The Superintendent turned to me one time and said, "Did you every consider being principal?" I said, "No, that's the last job in the world I would want." About three weeks later it dawned upon me that I had really involved myself in several years in this school, and I really would want to be principal. So, I wanted to see if you could take a building that was designed to allow things that a lot of people thought should happen; to see if they could happen and I would like to be a part of that. And that was really it. It wasn't something I set out to do, but it was something that I saw an opportunity to do. Like a lot of people, I figured that ten years down the road, if I didn't do it, I would probably kick myself in the tail for not trying, and I decided I had better take the chance.
Q: Did the project work? --to build a new school to meet some goals.
A: (Chuckle) It did a lot of the things it was designed to do. Someone once said that education is a fluid, it takes the shape of its container. And if different things were supposed to happen, obviously, you need a container or containers that are of different shapes. We did a lot of those things. In many ways I think it succeeded, in other ways, it didn't succeed: some of which I am responsible for, I'm sure. But, it was designed to do the things that we were able to do: where we had the personnel and materials to do what needed to be done.
Q: I was just getting ready to ask you to describe your school and its climate. I think you have done a pretty good job at that. Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Well, basically, it was a school being built to be flexible. The idea was that self-contained classrooms were, I often called them, womb with a view. A teacher proposes to teach in a self-contained classroom, and I suspect that no teacher is really prepared to teach everything in every subject, and in every course. So that this school was designed to have large group instruction. So that where you would have a movie, or where you would have a lecture, you would have two, three times the number of students viewing a movie, and you would free up the teacher so that they could be interacting with one another; preparing lessons; developing curricula. Then when that was over you could teach them in regular classroom groups, or you could divide them into seminars and have them operating in groups like that. One of the intriguing things about the school was that besides a fairly large central library, it had thirteen departmental libraries, called resource centers. Which meant that the social studies team in the senior high school would have space the equivalent of two class rooms which had study corrals, library-type tables, library shelves, and some meeting space for the team' as well as a space for some person to check books in and out. That meant that teachers could say, okay we're going to have such and such a movie on Monday; on Tuesday we want to divide some of these kids into regular classroom groups so that we can reinforce what went on in the movie; others we want to have in the resource center to do some further research on the topic at hand: and some we'd like to have in seminars talking about some of the implications. But basically, it meant that the teacher prescribed educational activities for kids much like a professional doctor would prescribe prescriptions for various illnesses. I think that the main object of the school is to treat the teachers as professionals and allow them to operate as professionalQ: and give them the spaces they need to do the things that need to be done. One of the problems was that such a school would use tremendous amounts of materials of instruction--both the consumable types and books. It meant that you were really going to challenge your most able students, and the text books became okay, but they were not to be all and the end all. You had to have paperbacks, magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, and things of that sort. It was a way of changing the teachers around. It also allowed for sort of a hierarchy of teachers. You could have a team leader for the tenth grade and still have a department [head] for the department. We reached an agreement with the Superintendent of Schools that for every teacher we did not take out of the allotment, we could have two aids. What we found was that we could find clerical people so that each department had its own secretary, typing equipment, and so forth, and they could do that kind of work. For the other half of that position we turned in, we could get an instructional aid. We found many woman in the community who had degrees, often Bachelor's Degrees, in the subjects that were involved. So we could have lab aids in the science department, we could have seminar leaders in the social studies department that were political science majors. If they had majored in literature, they could handle the seminars and do some of the work with individual students in English. So we were then able to have a leadership, regular teachers, and then the aids who would carry out the different taskQ: we differentiated. And when it worked, it worked very well.
Q: What was your most important achievement as principal in this school?
A: Surviving seven years. It was in '66 through '73, right at the time when the Vietnamese War, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. It wasn't long after John F. Kennedy's assassination. There was a tremendous ferment in the country, and I think, to be serious about it, maybe the outstanding achievement, or my most proud achievement was holding it together and being fair to the kids to the greatest extent possible. If the community had had its way, we would have had everyone in fruit carts. We would have had everyone prepared to go into the army to fight in VietNam. It would have had no kids using drugs. But I was aware that these kids were the children of the community. The mothers and fathers were citizens of the County of Frederick and the Town of Frederick, and that they had some rights too. So we tried at every possible opportunity to challenge theA: if they complained, we tried to say something positive about it. We were able to give them some opportunities, and I think basically, a good education too. We, among other things, developed the first advance placement tests in the county. We had advanced sections in most of the subject matter areas, and teachers would handle them in relatively small groups. We were able to handle the most deprived, or the least able, students in small groups too. We found many teachers who really cared for them. But it was not like what schools looked like to parents who had gone through very traditional schools. But I think a lot of things happened. Most of the people on that staff are in various administrative positions here in Frederick County, and elsewhere in the United States. Many of them are department chairs and so forth.
Q: Oh, so you had students that had a mixed of back grounds?
A: Students with a mix of backgrounds? Yeah, we had kids from low-income housing projects, John Hanson Apartments. Blue collar kids of all of the streets from 4th to 13th east of Market Street. We had kids from out of Clover Hill, and Braddock Heights from Eastview. College bound, vocational. We also had an extensive vocational-technical wing, and we tried anything from bricklaying to electronics. We tried to make opportunities available for kids. It was an awesome thing, we had a real cross section of children; and we had a real cross section of opportunity for children and we tried to make them match to that.
Q: With all these good things going on, did you have any disappointments?
A: Yeah. I don't think the community ever forgot the fact that they thought the building was too expensive. There were rumors going around before it began that it cost $15 million. The truth of the matter is that it cost something very close to $7.5 million. and I remember the figures because I used theA: $16.38 per square foot, which was low even in 1965 and '66. We would have people come from all over the country to see how we could build a school so inexpensively. But yet, to the people of Frederick, it was a monstrous, white elephant out there on North Market Street. I think that people were somewhat skeptical that these could happen. I don't think we were trying to put down other schools, other schools were built with long corridors and little classrooms off the side, and as I said, education is a fluid, it takes the shape of the container, and those schools had to be run differently than this school. This school did not look like other schools, and it couldn't have been run like other schools. The fact that not many people listened, and that a lot of the evaluations of the school were based upon hearsay, and it was a little or no data. We did not have a big fetish about data; we didn't collect much data at that time. I would suspect that we would have stood up against any of the other schools in the county, and what data we have indicates that we did.
Q: How did you fight this problem of the community complaining about the expense? Well, not fight it, but cope with it. I imagine you had a great impact on the morale of the teachers, students?
A: Well, yeah, we had to try at all times to explain what we were doing. We were, after all, public servants. We weren't kings or rulers or something like that. And we did. We had an active PTA, we had a parent newsletter which we printed and sent out. It had good articles. Student newspapers. When the school was open, the first year. I think I spent more time as sort of a matred to the school. We have over 600 visitors from all across the country. We had less than that, maybe only 500 the year after. But we had a string of people who came to see the various things we were doing, and it took a great deal of time. I think that people looked, and didn't understand. It was different from what had happened; and Frederick is a very conservative community, and I think that anything different, smacked of something that might be wrong to many people and that was part of the problem. We had our supporters on the Board, we had our detractors on the Board. We also did not cut hair, and we didn't have a dress code: a number of things. But I think we tried to open up public relations, but I'm not sure that the whole school system supported one school as sort of an outlier. We had the reputation of being something new and different. I think there were some, maybe it was envy, maybe it was jealousy, maybe it was just that they thought that those crazy people are doing those crazy things. and trying to make us look badly. really want to zap them. I don't think that was the intention at all. I don't think there was any malice. So far as the morale in school--we had some factions. But I would judge that the morale in school was probably as good as in any school. I don't think we had a very high rate of absenteeism. The department chairs called the shots. We wrote most of the curriculum that was written in the Frederick County School System at that time. In fact, there was no existing curriculum in the Frederick County School System in junior and senior schools at that time. And what there was, we wrote ourselves. Because everybody was teaching just strictly straight from textbooks. Of course, if we were doing a theme teaching, we couldn't do that.
Q: What does the phrase "effective principal" mean to you?
A: I'm not sure. I would like to think that I was. I have some people who think that I was, and I know some people who think that I wasn't, and that's the opinion. I think an effective principal should probably relate to his community, which I found sometimes difficult. Basically. because the school was not designed to do what the community expected. On one hand. I was expected by the administration of the school system to do what the school was designed to do, on the other hand, parents could not understand why we were doing what we were doing. Jim Sensabaugh who had been Superintendent when the school was designed, had move on to become State Superintendent, and he knew full well what I was trying to do. I found a great comfort every time I saw him. In fact. every time I turned around while I was principal of that school, and even after. I was on some advisory committee to the State Board of Education: everything from accountability to advising on the federal fund that came for federal projects. Which was interesting, but took a lot of time. But he knew what was supposed to happen, and was always very supportive, as was the superintendent who was in on the final design and so forth. But sometimes, it was an up hill fight.
Q: Describe your personal leadership style.
A: Well, I believe that a principal has to create an environment for fellow professionals that is collegial, and allows them to accomplish what they, as professionals, know they should and can accomplish. And I think it is very important that you listen to them. The organizational structure involves my assistant principals who did a lot of the nuts and bolts stuff. But the curriculum was basically the work of the curriculum council which was all of the department chairs and team leaders. We met on a regular basis and made some of the major decision, such as scheduling, the grouping of kids was done by the departments. We designed the school by sending large groups of kids to the social studies department, large groups of kids to the English department. They knew they were coming; they knew their names; they had all of the records, and then they had to divide them into the various groupings that they wanted whether it was an ability grouping, a remedial grouping, or what have you. That was up to the teachers. Then they had to design the curriculum that met the particular needs of that group of kids. That put a lot of responsibility on them, and it took a lot of time. I believe that it was my job as leader to make that happen, to allow it to happen, to criticize where I saw criticism necessary, and then defend them and get the things they needed where I saw that they were lacking -- things they needed to do what obviously should happened. I think if we took a look at the very best schools in the country, that were well managed and academic. I think you would find that this would probably happen. I am not sure that we have a whole lot, or a lot to learn from other institutions. We probably want to look at the best schools that are producing the best studentQ: the best colleges and universities that are producing the best students; then also look at businesses and other areas too, because they some managerial techniques we need to know. But we really need to stay in contact with the intellectual world, and I see that as a very important thing, and I try to do that. In fact, I did some teaching while I was principal in my own specialty area of history. I would teach a course a couple of semesters during the year, just to see how it went. I would take over some classes, or work with some of the teachers in doing some special presentations and so forth. I thought that was in important. I try to keep my mind alive--I think I did.
Q: The organization of your school sounds like there was a lot of shared responsibility: sharing administrative powers, so to speak. with your staff. Do you feel comfortable with that personally? A lot of people would have a lot of problems with that.
A: I did. The school was really three schools within a school. There was the junior high school on the first floor, and a completely separate junior high school on the second floor. It had its own English, social studies, science and math departments. They shared the otherQ: the gymnasium, the art studios, and things like that. Each of those floors had its own assistant principal so that they had to run their school. The senior high school had a vocational wing. I had an assistant principal for the vocational wing: and when it opened, I had an assistant principal and associate principal for the senior high school. I had to oversee all three (really four), all four of those units, and be aware of what was going on. So there was a great deal of responsibility placed on them. I was well satisfied with what three of the four did. I thought I had one that was less able than the others, and I had to spend some time with that individual, but I think it went fairly well. The problem was that, before it was all over, we had the same number of administrators that we started with, about 2,400 students, and before I left in 1973, we had 2,800 students (for a school that was designed for about 2,350 according to the architect). It was very difficult. We did some rearranging of the administrative responsibilities at one point. But we still had the four assistants and the fifth, the principal.
Q: How did you evaluate teachers with all that going on.
A: Well, I don't think that we did much evaluation of teachers in 1960 to 1973. I had occasion to fire some. Each of the assistant principals was responsible for the major instructional areas in his part of the building. I spent a lot of time on some of the auxiliary. I helped the art department, some of the music. I did work with the librarians and things like that. And then I also maintained a pretty careful work with the custodial and the engineering staff. It was a complicated building, completely air conditioned, and with the auditorium and gymnasium, we were also a community center. We were instructed that the auditorium was supposed to be a community center. So we had many, many performances in there by not only school groups, but out of school groups too. I had to make sure that those things went so that we did not have any embarrassment. In other words, when the Baltimore Symphony was coming to play. I had to make sure that the custodial staff had the chairs on the stage, and the lighting set properly and I had to make sure the drama coach had the materials, office space, and so forth. So we had to do a lot of managerial work.
Q: Do you think that if you were in that building today, even in the building at that time, do you thing there should have been more evaluation of teachers, or should be we doing less today?
A: Yeah, we should be evaluations of teachers. I don't have any doubt about that. I'd like to see some sort of a way where there would be more help for teachers. We have a tendency to throw teachers in their self contained classroom and then a series of people pop in and give them conflicting information about what they should do and what they shouldn't do. There is no great agreement on what is good teaching. Each person has his own idea. Teaching is more an art than a science, and I have an idea that a teacher will find his own. I would like to see more opportunity for division of responsibility where you do have department chairs--sitting in the backs of classes. Teachers exchanging classes, or sitting in the backs of other senior teachers, acting as mentors. I think that's what will make better teachers. For the most part, this is very cynical, but the average principal cannot talk meaningfully about curriculum for more than about thirty seconds with a good teacher. And I don't think that the average principal is capable of going in there and judging matters of routine as well as substance very well. But it think if the department chairs would do a lot of that. I think that we would have something happen. What is it, the Japanese adopted the American theory of management, and the decisions on problems in the assembly line in the Japanese plant are made right down on the assembly line. But when there's a problem, the hierarchy dons coveralls and comes down and gets down in the pits with mechanics and the assemblers and they look it over, and decide upon a solution and work out the solution they promulgate it and everybody does it. In America, the guy comes down with this three-piece suit and a clip board and writes down what the problem is and then takes the problem up and they solve it up in the board room in their three piece suits. Then, they send it down to the assembly line and it doesn't work. We get the Edsel and Japan gets the Toyota. I think that's the difference. I really think the teachers should be doing a lot more of that, and that's what should happen. I think we did some of that at TJ at the time. We did have department chairs who took and interest in that; worked with younger teachers; and I think because some of them watched the most expert teacher lecture, or they watched another expert teacher develop a questioning strategy for the seminars; or they watched a real scholar order the scholarly materials that went into the resource center, that they knew much more about lecturing, conducting seminars, and scholarly materials than they would have in a self-contained classroom. Where occasionally they come in contact with a curriculum person, but no principal or vice principal could ever suggest an alternative text or scholarly materials to help improve the quality of the lesson.
Q: One more question on this line of evaluations. What is good teaching and how do you tell when you see it?
A: Well, there are results. Many of which cannot be measured. It was a Supreme Court justice who, when asked about pornography said he cannot define it, but he knows it when he sees it. I sort of feel that way about teaching. It's difficult to define. I said it was an art more than a science, and I believe it is. I have seen teachers who are fairly authoritarian, which would sort of go against my grain, do a beautiful job in teaching. I've seen teachers who are very "laissez faire" who have a classroom that has more noise than perhaps I can tolerate, but then I come to realize that that noise is meaningful noise. Those kids are buzzing about important things. I think you can only know that that's happening if you know something about the subject matter, the results that are going to come forth, and you can't be approaching it as a marine drill sergeant and would expect that to happen, and it's difficult. I don't know that anyone person can evaluate every teacher, I think you need some sort of collaborative approach. I'd like to see that happen. I think the whole school should be involved in improving teaching, and not just the hierarchical group. I have an idea that a lot of people in administrative are far more interested in perks and power than anything else. And that if they can have them, then they are perfectly well satisfied, that fits their mode of operation and their psyche, but I don't think that improves education or teaching. There are different styles of teaching and its tough to recognize, and the final result is what really counts. That didn't really answer your question I don't think, but it talks about the problem.
Q: How was the teacher morale in the building?
A: I think it varied. I found that the human qualities of teachers who had to interact in team teaching was tested. There are some people who were unable to interact on an intellectual or a social level with other people. They were most unhappy. They usually moved along. There were others who enjoyed the give and take of intellectual volleyball. who like to play devils advocate. Two men or two women in front of a class arguing about the current political campaign--one democrat, one republican; and putting on a role and, almost like some Donahue, bringing out the arguments in the class. Now, it looked like chaos, but they were doing this, they were posing questions, but they were making the kids think. And those people liked the opportunity to do these different things--they did them well, and it was not typical teaching. But I think those were high morale people because they were using their skills. I think it allowed for a lot of opportunity like that. There were some people who were unhappy because there was a hierarchy. There was a team leader, also a department chair, there were people who were told you'd better handle this lecture because you do a particularly good job on that. They might have aspired to that. They might have thought that the guy who would do the lecture was the primadonna and they were merely members of the chorus in the background. And I think sometimes it was a levelling that went on among the staff, and some people were sort of bounced aside by consent of the group as not being the very best teachers, or yeah they can do this, but not that. I'm not sure that those people were very happy at all.
Q: In managing a building, how does teacher morale effect what you do during the day?
A: When teacher morale is low, a lot of people were sick. That's a good way to judge. We had some projects in the county where we tried to improve the morale of staff and the performance of staff, and one of the greatest measures was the absenteeism. I also take a look at the ______. They do report that out to the Board of Education of Frederick County. I always used to take a look at my schools when I was supervisor of high schools to see how they were doing. But there are some people who teach from a store of knowledge that was set when they graduated from college. And I don't think they maintained an interest in that subject matter. They usually don't belong to professional organizations; they don't take graduate courses; and if they are in fields like literature or history, they don't read any of the books. And when they were in with a group of people, some of whom were active professionally, and some of who were bringing in the books, reading them and talking about them, those people felt very uncomfortable. And I think that the morale of the people who were involved in that and got excited, went up. There were other places where I don't think that excitement was caught. You cannot hide in a group in a collegial situation. You cannot close the door and put on a good performance when somebody comes and sits in the back of you using a check off sheet, because you are being viewed by people in team teaching situation where you are out in the open much of the time. That caused some morale problems. With the people who enjoy that give and take and that creation of curriculum. I think that they not only grew, I think they were just as happy as could be. I see a lot of my former colleagues, and we often talk about the old days. And they keep talking about, "hey remember when we began that course in this." or "the first time we did the music appreciation, and the kids came to it." And they say, "that was really a good opportunity." And I think that led to morale, high morale for a lot of people.
Q: Whose job is it to maintain morale in the school?
A: Well, I think the principal has to set the tone. I think that's very important. I don't think that...I had 134 teachers, so I don't think that I could have made everyone of the 134 happy. I am pretty sure that better than fifty percent were. I would hope that the number would be closer to seventy-five or eighty. You'd have to take a poll of the veterans. When I retired. I got all sorts of interesting comments from my colleagues--as I went around my final round of the school for a retirement thing a couple of weeks ago. And I was pleased to see people come back, people who had been at the school only the first year; people who had been there all seven years I was there, and it was an interesting thing. Now that's not a fair sample of the all the people you would want to talk with. I had a good feeling about that.
Q: In the last question on this area, how do you make teachers want to be effective in their job in a sense of, to use your words, when the guy gets up with a cold. What do you do to make him want to come to work.
A: I think that everybody in the school has to be involved in the learning. And the teachers are learning just as much as the kids. And when that happens, I think they'll be there. I think whether it's the doubt, they will come. But I think it has to do with the excitement of the environment and moving forward. There has to be a tremendous number of opportunities for kids to succeed and for teachers to succeed. And when that happens, you're going to have to be there. But if it's going to be restrictive and low key, and repressive, I don't think anybody's going to be happy.
Q: What do you think teachers expect of a principal.
A: It varies a great deal. I think the best teachers expect the principal to get out of their way and let them get on with it, and help them get it done. The poorer teachers expect them to make the kids behave and learn because they have a hard time motivating them, and those would be the two extremes. But they have a lot of...their expectations will pretty much comply with their own expectations of themselves. They would like for the principal to be like them. If they are martinette, they'd like the principal to be martinette. If they are intellectuals, they would like the principal to be an intellectual. The principal has to try to be all things to as many people as he possibly can' but realizing that he's never going to get them all, and some places, he just has to say to hell with them, and you try to convince them that they really belong some place else.
Q: Describe your own teaching philosophy.
A: I almost did. I think. I think everybody learns. I remember going to a conference about fifteen years ago. I had opportunities to go to the educational testing services invitation research conference every year for a number of years, and one of the papers that I heard read was by someone from the educational testing service on styles. He talked about the people who are feeling dependent and who feel independent. And the feel independent person is one who is independent of a lot of outside distractions, and he becomes able to learn in very narrow bands. And he really likes to dig down deeply in a subject; sort of like a research scientist. I think mathematic teachers are this way. They really love to dig into mathematics, and they find great joy in the diminutia of mathematics--that s very exciting. There are other people who go about in that, you know, just three or four inches deep, and say "man I see a relationship in this field over here and that field over there, and I want to read something about the scientific applications of this. I don't really want to know all about the really deep stuff." And then, "I see some implications over in music, and I'd like to find out more about music and math," and I think that those two cognitive styles we find in our schools, and in our teaching staffs. Basically, what we structure our schools to do is to take that field independent person and he becomes a very narrow specialist. And we sort of hand in the people who have broad interests. I think we have to have both. We have to appreciate the fact that you need research scientists, but you also have to appreciate the fact that some people can take and see interactions and make broad improvements using a lot of divergent ideas, and so forth. I think a school should be like that. There ought to be a lot of interaction between faculty, and we ought to have a lot of interdepartmental, interdisciplinary things going on too. Big seminars on the humanities, or big assembly programs, or computer activities when you get the science and the math students together to work on narrow research projects. But it would be very important that the school have an atmosphere where that could happen. Where that happens, I think teaching is going on. I think the other thing about teaching is, the most important thing that goes on in school is learning' not teaching. You should keep looking at the learning. The learning is the doughnut, the teaching is the hole. You ought to focus on the doughnut, and watch the learning, and when that's happening, some teaching is going on, but basically you organized instructional opportunities for kids. And most people, I think, forget that. For some people, teaching is therapeutic. Getting out and molding and acting in front of the class is a little like winning an academy award. Some of those people are really phonies and are like that. Some of the ministers that we see on television today, I doubt that they really have much to offer, but then they are sure they are having a good time on television and fooling a lot of people. We have some teachers like that.
Q: How important is it that your staff members share in your philosophy?
A: I suspect that it's important that the majority do share and can react, or otherwise you are not going to get the job done, obviously. And it's hard to convince some people at times. What I'm describing is a school where everybody is excited. The faculty is excited and interacting with _____ and so are the students. But some people are not able to expand to that opportunity. A narrowly educated person, or one who is not well trained in his academic discipline, or any academic disciplines, is going to react very negatively to that, because the body of knowledge from which he operates is so small that he's threatened by people who have a wider body of knowledge. And I think that is difficult. In my mind, that's one of the main problems, not in the schools today, when when I began in school in 1934, I think that was it. Narrowly educated people who don't see interactions and don't see the opportunities for these broad things that cause more excitement to happen. I don't know the full answer to that, but there has to be probably more opportunity for adult teachers to interact with one another, and share that excitement and share their ideas, and I think that's when teachers learn and are thinking. When this broader excitement can take place in school.
Q: Did you have the opportunity to pick you own staff then when the building opened?
A: When it opened. I was able to pick some. But the schools that were losing the students because my school was opening, also lost faculty allotments, and you can imagine the skids were greased for some of them, and I got some people who really did not want to go there. And they fought it very hard, and it was a long time before some of them moved on because their reputation was so bad, that nobody else wanted them. And we didn't have much moving of teachers about at the time. There were some people who were...I can think of one department in particular that was made up of people who really didn't want to be there. And it was a department that was not one of the four big academics, but it was a department that we really needed to help large groups of students, especially underprivileged kids. And these people were all white, middle classed, up tight women, who just could not relate to them. And that department never really took its fair share of the load. and there was no way of changing it. They were nice people, I mean, nice up standing people, but they were not constituted to operate in that school perhaps any school.
Q: Maybe I have two questions to ask at once then, what happened in that department? In other words, how did you manage that situation?
A: I tried to allow them to do what they could do with the kids. They had a load of students. When the first opportunity came along that one of them left or re tired. we brought somebody completely different, which was a very big help. It was a four person department, so you had one quarter of the department doing what you wanted and that was very difficult on her. And the other three were not really very professional about the way they treated that individual. The second opening came, and then it was fifty-fifty. Then we were able to break the department down a little bit. But it takes a long time, which was basically troublesome to kids who really needed that department.
Q: Did you every have occasion to fire a teacher?
A: Yes. On the spot. He took a kid who was handicapped, got angry with him and threw him against the wall and I told him not to come back the next day--that he was fired. and then I went down to the Board to see if I could really do that, and I could. So. he never came back. Several others, too. For psychiatric reasons in one case: a couple of times we put the muscle to the individual and got them out the same day. In the case of some elicit sexual affair with a fellow staff member that was both embarrassing and illegal, there were some things like that. And then there was some incompetence and what we did was to convince them that this was not the school for them. There were some people who were competent people who could not function in the system we had. And we moved them about, and I talked pretty candidly with my colleagues that this person could function well in another situation, but that this was not for them. In all cases, I think you have to realize you are dealing with professional people or people who aspire to be professional, and it is important that you act in a professional and open manner with them. Although I guess I was guilty of some deviousness at times. but...
Q: Having to tell a teacher that you just don't fit in here, take my word for it, you're not happy here and you're going have to vote with your feet. I mean, how do you handle something like that?
A: I think I'd begin in the first place by talking with them and see that they feel comfortable where they are, if their happy. And I can usually get them to say, "well no, I really have these difficulties," and basically, you pop the question, "is this really your cup of tea because I think you might function better elsewhere and be perfectly happy." And I would say maybe seventy-five percent of the time you will get them to agree and it becomes a friendly parting of the way.
Q: One question I did want to ask you is, you seem like your management style can be characterized as hire good people, give them what they need to do the job, and then facilitate that process. At what point, or are there any points, where you need to come in and use a little "kick butt" management.
A: Oh, yes. Well, I found several departments with some. Because of the way we scheduled the school, we gave large groups of kids to a department, it was very important that they kept tract of them. For instance first period in the morning half of the junior class would be in the social studies department, the other half would be in the English department. That was done so that if the English department wanted to keep the kids for two hours for a big program in the auditorium, they would tell the social studies department, "can you arrange something for two hours with them?" "Yeah, we can do that." And then they could do it. Or, if they wanted to take the whole junior class to the auditorium to see a particular play because we had someone come in, or hear a guest speaker, they could do that. But they had to operate collaboratively. But when they broke those kids down into seminars and large group instruction of regular classrooms, they had to know where they were going, and they had to take roll. Now there was one department in particular that was not as fastidious in taking the roll as they ought to have been, and so kids would sort of look around and drift out of the doors. And we would catch them, so we had to come down pretty hard on them several times before that system. What they needed to do was to take cards and say, "okay, now these kids are going to seminar, here take the cards and check and make sure they are there," and it was that we were able to work it out. With a computer. we could probably really do it. But there were no computers then. There were times like that. For a department that I thought would be particularly intransigent in dealing with some of the lower academic students, this would be for the days of Public Law 94-142, and the particular kids that were dyslexic and had all sorts of learning disabilities as well as some social/economic problems. And the department that was really basically very middle class and unforgiving. We had to lecture them and go in and help them, and teach them to deal differently with kidQ: to set different expectationQ: to prescribe work that was within the ability level of the kids; to use materials; and it worked very well. The department came along quite nicely and was able to develop some really alternative things, but very imaginative. It took a good part of the year to get through to them and say that these are kids of this community too, and you have to teach them just as well as the others.
Q: It has been said that people do what the boss checks or cares about. What things should a principal care about and what's his limit on how many things he can care about.
A: Well, I think he should care about kids. And he will always have the kids who pop out of the system. He sees the really very good kids, because he's getting all of the awards; he sees the really bad kids because he's signing the suspension letters all the time. And what you need to do is to check in on them, and if you find one that has really been fowled up, you just trace it down and find out where it happened. Then you also have to care about your faculty. I mean, don't butter them up, but I mean to be honestly concerned with their welfare; sit in on department chair meetings; if the people say they need something, try like hell to get it. If you can't get it, go back and say I can't get it because here's the road block. We'll do what we can. What alternatives do you have? and that sort of thing. Then I think you have to be able to express to them what you want. You have to have a forum for that. I always found department chairmen were very important because I dealt with the department chairs and team leaders quite often. And I had most of my communication with them. With 130 faculty members, it was difficult to get to everyone of them. But I also tried to maintain a open door, and I think that most of my colleagues did too. I try to insist upon that. Some of them had formidable personalities, and some teachers would be frightened by them, and some of the administrators really liked that. But others, they would come openly and share their problems and so forth. They had all sorts of problems, including personal ones.
Q: You mentioned that some of the personnel in your building were handed to you. Obviously, you were able to recruit. What qualities did you look for in a teacher. If you were going to go out and find more teachers, what abilities?
A: Since that time. I have done a lot of recruiting. My work in social studies and in the last couple of years. I've gone out to a lot of colleges and done recruiting. I try to judge a couple of things, and I'm talking about the first time I meet the people. The kinds of questions I ask them, and I think I have a fairly good success rate in judging them. I usually just do some general things just to feel them out-- where did you go to school? What sort of experiences did you have there? Was it a good school? What did you like about it; what was wrong about it? Where did you get your interest in kids? I found a lot of the people did volunteer work as boy scout leaders. A lot of them taught in Sunday school. I found a number who, like my experience. was in a summer camp, where I worked with kids, and I decided I really want to spend my life doing this sort of thing. And I found a number of them who have done just exactly that. Playground programs with kidQ: summer camps and things like that. I just get some idea about how they would relate to kids, and then I ask them about what they majored in. I have a favorite question especially for English and social studies teachers, "What is the best paper you ever wrote?" And I find people who have never written a research paper. And I really got sort of frightened at that, but sometimes the best teachers will say. "Oh, I wrote a paper on." and then go on for about 15 minutes telling me about this paper: the sources they used, the kinds of conclusions they arrived at, the problems they had, and they have an enthusiasm for their subject matter that is not just an "A", it's, "man this paper was tough, but I found these sources. I did these things." Almost invariably, if I can find somebody who worked in a summer camp who really had an experience with a great research paper, I find somebody who is really a good teacher. That's oversimplified, but it gives you the general idea of what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a quality of intellect and a quality of humanity and interaction with people.
Q: What do you do all day as a principal? Describe a typical day for us.
A: The rule of thumb is that, figure out what you need to do that takes one hour, and you get that done in the day. The rest is assigned to running around, putting out fires. What I did, school opens, the late bell would be 8:10 or something like that. I always arrived somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30. And I always had two kids who helped me with the morning announcements. All the morning announcement had been gathered together the day before, and they were under the door of my desk and I would sit down and look at them. Then I would go down, tape the morning announcements, these two kids would take them, and they would play them when the late bell rang. I had a series of announcements, eight o'clock when the first bell rang, that was the morning bell. My voice would come over but it was all on tape and these kids would program that. Then I would have the morning announcements. And I did that because I realized that, this sounds funny but, Franklin Roosevelt was a good President because he used the radio so well. It was a big country that was in a lot of trouble, and the radio was very important. And he mastered the radio. As a kid I sat mesmerized in front of the radio listening to that man. And I said in a big school like this. nine acres under roof, 13-, 15-, 17-, 20-hundred students, I really need this sort of thing to get to them. So I used that. And the announcements were always what was going to happen. People who had done exceptional things, like the bricklaying team who won the state bricklaying contest. Boy, we played that up. If the football team had won, if we had three merit scholars, all that came out everyday. Everyday I tried to find something good. That was very important. When I finished taping the announcements. I took off to wander the halls and talk to kids and faculty members. I went into the rooms, and then when the late bell rang, the announcements came on, and people would look, that was my voice and there I was standing outside the door, moving through the halls. They figured it out ultimately, but that was it. After that, I usually went back and checked the schedule for the day the special events that were going on; made sure the custodial staff and the engineering staff had everything arranged to do that. First thing Monday morning I spent with the custodial and engineering staff every week: going over what was going to happen the week. So that stuff was taken care of and I knew that was okay. Then, usually I'd have some phone calls and requisitions to sign, and then the nurse would call because somebody was having an asthmatic attack, or somebody had broken a bone. Then I would move around the building, take a quick tour through the morning to see how things were going. I would supervise lunch. When I got odd moments, I would sit down and do the kinds of things that I had to do to get my correspondence. I also had a dictating machine which I carried around in the school with me and as I walked around, I would also dictate things for the engineers to do. for the teachers to do; things I noted. Then I'd take that back and the secretary would pull it off, so I'd have notes from the day on the dictating machine so I could send out things for people to do. But basically, I did not have a routine. I was there to handle the emergencies as they occurred. Then when school was out at three o'clock, or whenever it was. I would supervise the buses. Come back in and see people who needed to see me or if we had a faculty meeting. And then about four o'clock things were quiet and I got things done from four to five and then I went home. Then I came back for a meeting that night or a basketball game, or a football game. or a student meeting, or a PTA meeting--three nights a week you did that. That's what I did as a principal.
Q: Did the principal at your school supervise lunch everyday?
A: I was up and about, yes. I never ate lunch during lunch hour. I'd usually grab cookies as I went through the kitchen. But I'd never eat lunch then. If I grabbed lunch, it might be asking a couple of the assistant principals, "let's eat at one o'clock when all the things are open." We had four lunch shifts. We had two junior high lunch shifts, and two senior high school lunch shifts. We also had open campus. We had open lunch so the kids could leave school at that time too, but we had to keep an eye on the parking lot occasionally. A lot of drugs around at the time. I would say, that the job closest to the principalship was the keystone cop in the Mack Sennett movies, running around with the little blue helmets and billie clubs. Riding around in a funny car. I felt like that most of the time. That wasn't good but that's what I think you had to do.
Q: To what extent do you share decision-making responsibilities with others in the building?
A: Did I?
A: I think it was well known by my associates associates that they could call the shots. And I think we interacted well enough and often enough that they pretty much knew what my philosophy was; I knew what theirs was. Where we had any differences, we pretty well solved them. I signed the suspension letters for approval, but the suspensions were actually done by my assistants. I would see some cases that I thought had "bolexed" and then I would go back and review that and work with them on it. But I did delegate a lot of that, and I thought that was necessary. Geographically there were four separate offices in the school, and mine was only one of them. It would take me several minutes to get to any one of the other offices, so that the emergency had to be handled by people. I had good people working with me. I had Dale Gangawere and people like that, and they were good people.
Q: How about curriculum decisions; scheduling decisions?
A: That was largely the administrative staff and curriculum counseling. As I said, we did not do a lot of computer scheduling at the time. We used pigeon holes that looked like the post office when we were doing the schedule. But we did a lot of gang scheduling. Half the junior class in English and the other half in social studies. Half of the sophomore class in math, half of the sophomore class in science and things like that--divide areas. Or we'd say, half the junior class would be in phys ed. the other half would be in the arts block, and do some things like that so that we were able to put hundreds of kids in blocks and then the departments would make up the schedules, so the departments did that.
Q: Okay. I want to change this tape. While some decisions should be shared, what kinds of decisions should be made by the principal where the building principals says this is the decision. this is the way it's going to be, no discussion?
A: Now. in interpretation of specific board policies. I think that you have to be the ultimate arbitrator, because you have to answer to the Superintendent. The Superintendent is not going to come down hard on you if you don't react according to their way, and if you have stayed in contact with the Superintendent, there would be things like that. Things like attendance policies. The policy at that time, of course, it seemed to be the student body's. Half of the time, the student body was in some sort of a seething revolt because of something that happened in VietNam or somebody had been assassinated or something like that. But I would have to make some decisions about what sort of interaction we were going to have. We had black students' after Martin Luther King's assassination, were just up in arms. And I just said, we are not going to harass these people, but what I'm going to do is get together and break them into smaller groups and get out best faculty members to sit down and talk with them during their planning period, and things like that. And that's the kind of thing were going to do. We are just going to try to defuse the situation. So I think I had to make some overall decision to keep the overall peace. I couldn't delegate that. Decisions like, "Gee, I wanted to have my senior play in the auditorium that week." I said "you're not going to have it then because the Baltimore Symphony Orchestras scheduled and it's a community facility, and it's just not going to be that way." So there were some things that I had to come down and say, that's it. I guess, ultimately, who worked with the department chair, you worked with the department with my associates on that, but basically I would have to make that final decision. It's usually collaborative. I'm not a dictatorial person. And a lot of decisions were just very obvious because of what we had talked about was the alternative. Were we in large agreement with that. The last several years. I had a particularly able group of people. I remember Ken Johns or Dale Gangawere. Dave Marko and Dottie Ewing, exceptional people: all who could be trusted and utterly loyal and we met on a regular basis. I forgot which day we had our staff meeting, but it was every Wednesday afternoon at one o'clock. We would have lunch together and do the staff thing. And then, we would have individual meetings, as I moved around. It was a case where if you interacted often enough, and appropriately enough with your associates, that you almost become alter egos for one another.
Q: What was the toughest decision you made as building principal?
A: Boy. I can think of some situations that- crowd situations when you had--intracity football games or where you had something to do like that. Those were the snap ones where you were in danger of doing the wrong thing and causing a riot. You could defuse it or you could make it worse. And those were the tough ones. Those were almost life and death situations in some cases. There was real physical--the possibility of real physical damage, and I found those to be the really toughest ones. Confrontation with kids who became to dances drunk. Things such as that. Those are the ones that stick in my mind. The most frightening today.
Q: How much real authority does a building principal have?
A: I think a great deal because there's nobody with him everyday. It varies I guess from administration to administration. We have a tendency now I think to make --there are a lot more policies and directives than there ever were before and I think a principal may be less a master than he was in those days. That may be good management, it may not. I'm not sure, but it may be good management.
Q: That was my second question. What's the ideal amount of power that a principal should have in his building?
A: Depends how competent he is. If he's competent, he should have a lot. But that would be, you would need a Board of the Superintendent in large philosophical agreement with the building principal. Or the principal is able to define what that particular philosophical education orientation is, and rule accordingly. But there are a lot more directives that come from the central office now that have not been true in the past. I haven't been out of it that long, four months, but I do think that there are a lot more proscription from above than there have been before.
Q: Did you have good assistant principals?
A: Yes. I only had one, that I really found to be bad. I really had difficulty with them. It was a case, with him, it was case of disloyalty. I think that among other things, subversive. I also found out later, in talking with one of my other administrators that he had said that he wanted this person to help him undermine me so he could have my job, and I didn't know that when he went after me. But I did find out later on. But otherwise. I have good ones. And I had relatively free choice in choosing. And I think that was it. I chose people who I thought were on the same philosophical basis as I.
Q: You would say then that the most important feature of an assistant principal is loyalty?
A: That's an essential. There are other things too. I think you also have to have the heart of a lion and the stamina of an elephant, and a lot of patience. I would hope that at one point the individual had been a fine teacher too. I'm not sure that all administrators have been good teachers. I have an idea that somewhere along the line. I see people, as I said earlier. that are just probably just as much interested in power and purpose as anything. But I recognized that that is where the money is, and I suspect that there are a lot of principals and administrators who would, if it paid the same, would have stayed in the classroom, as I might have.
Q: There's one more question I wanted to ask, and that is how do you feel about taking your best teachers and making them administrators?
A: If that's what they want. I think the person controls his own self. I have encouraged people to go into administration, to be principals. One that I encouraged, had put the bee in his ear, came ultimately to be my boss, Dave Marko. He was a--I recruited him as a matter of fact. I went on a middle state evaluation of Moody High School, and he was an assistant football coach. and I think was teaching driver's ed or phys ed. and I met with him and talked with him, and said "gee this is a fine young man. He's from Frederick and he would like to come back." So the state contacted him. he came up and we hired him at TJ and he became assistant football coach. And the football team just took off, and wonderful things. At some point, a vice principalship opened up elsewhere and I went down to the phys ed office that day, and said this is an opportunity. You can do this. You really ought to do it. And he did it. And then a couple of years later, one of my assistants left, and I told the Superintendent, "I want Dave Marko." And he came and he was my assistant then. And then when I finished off my career, he was my boss. And that was a wise move, because he was one of the finest educators in Frederick County.
Q: Now you mentioned Roosevelt earlier: who were some more of your heroes?
A: My heroes? Benjamin Franklin. (Chuckle) I wrote something not long ago, and it (if I can find it)..."For his variety of interest and intellectual curiosity, his respect for logic and knowledge: his love of life; his practical wisdom; and his role in shaping the American political system. A mixture of philosophy and reality which recognizes man's potential, as well as his weakness." I don't know if you saw that or not, but that was in that magazine. But they asked me the same question and that's why it stuck out.
Q: This was the October, 1988 issue of Diversions Magazine, and this was Mr. Manwiller's article here on page 34. I picked a copy of that up at the corner liquor store, and include it in the transcript.
A: You know, when you asked me about my philosophy of education. I talked about the field dependent person with broad knowledge; I think That's why I looked to Benjamin Franklin. But I see that as a necessary ingredient. But he is one of my heroes.
Q: You talked a lot about the purposes of your building and where education was at the time of your principalship. Where's it going now. Where is education moving now?
A: I'm not really sure. I know that there's a whole new initiative in Frederick. The effective schools movement. Which is based on educational research. I've seen some of that research, and a lot of it appears to me to be common sense. Whether it's research or not. I'm not really qualified to know. A lot of it's common sense, but it has respect for kids, it expects kids to accomplish, and it purports to provide opportunities for kids to succeed. and I think that's really the direction we should be going. My problem is that I think the crisis in American schools now is a couple of things--one of which is intellectual. There's a book out now by a professor at the University of Virginia called E.V. Hirsch. You probably read about that, called "Cultural Illiteracy." And it's a book which ends with a list of about five thousand things that a well educated man will know most of. A lot of it is just sheer snobbery. But there's a big debate going on about it. Like a question of content is a very important thing. and scholarship and intellect. I have an idea that we are missing some of that right now. I think it was something was tried to do at TJ and succeeded in fair measure, but I think we have to be careful of that. Stanford University is under attack because they changed their Great Books course, and they are including books by women, and people who aren't white, western civilization types. I happen to think that that's probably a pretty good idea. We probably ought to keep all the white civilization and western civilization type books and add these others, because other cultures have offered something too. But we need to be far more aware of the great ideas that exist out there in the world. The great accomplishments. The accomplishments of science, the accomplishments of the humanities, and I'm not sure that were doing that. There was a day when, you know, marching bands were so big. I remember telling the band master at TJ before he came out, I said. "First of all, I consider marching bands to be dancing bears that play instruments, and I don't care if they ever march. I want you to play the very best music and the height of your program is going to be your spring concert. And then I want an orchestra. And then I want music history in the school taught by somebody who is competent to teach music history. That's what we want to happen there." To the arts teacher I said. "I want as many different media in different art rooms that you possibly can have, and then somewhere along the line, I want an art history course. So people who can't paint worth a damn can learn to appreciate art because know what is happening." And we did both of those things, and I thought that was important. I'm not sure that we had that same commitment any longer. We really need that. Basically, I think all educators are political animals, and we are doing pretty much what the community wants us to do. And the community sometimes is not too thoughtful, and we need to exert some leadership about that content, and so forth. I haven't answered your question. I'm not sure where its going. Not being a part of it at the present time, I'm still concerned about it, and I read a good deal about it. But I think it has to have the commitment to kids of all types, and the intellectual content of the disciplines and the arts, and so forth that we've had. But our society is in such a turmoil now. Our city schools are in such chaotic condition that, until society straightens itself out. I don't think the schools are going to anything much more than reflect the real lack of direction we have in American society today. Luckily, we have a lot of people who try. We have better teachers than we deserve, and we are holding the country together to a large extent, just because we provide some structure and some caring environments for a lot of kids. But we really need to look carefully at what we're doing as a society and put the society in order, and the school will be a part of that. But the schools are going to be one of the major tools. We still have our act more together than probably the rest of society does.
Q: When you retired four months ago, what were you most proud to leave behind?
A: The people with whom I worked, who I felt that I had enabled to do good things. And I see the many faces in principalship and vice principalships and director ships. and department chairs, and just plain old teachers who are out there. I hired a lot of people and I put them in positions of responsibility and they have succeeded well. I think I made wise choices. And that's probably it.
Q: And as you look back on your career the question that goes the route along with that was, is there anything that you regret doing in your career?
A: No. In that same article. I was asked a question not unlike that. And I said, if I had to do it over again, I'd do it over again and I wouldn't change very much. I think that I took some of the blows that I probably could have avoided if I'd been a little wiser. But I say that with 20/20 hindsight. Like some of the scars I'm very proud of. The scars were put on me by people for whom I had very little regard. They had little regard for me, and the fact that they hit me was not displeasing at all. I'm not a masochist by any stretch of the imagination, but to be known by my enemies, and I am proud that they are my enemies, doesn't trouble me at all. But my friends are far more numerous. And I feel good about that.
Q: It's a hard question. The building principal is an important man. I mean.
Q: When he walks down the hall, people noting him first, and there are knocks at his door asking what he thinks and, you know, asking little questions. Do you miss that?
A: No, because it happens to me all the time. Just the other day. I was down in Homewood, my mother is there, she is getting old, and I walked in and a young lady was coming in to take care of the other older elderly people, and she said, "I know you." And I said. "And I know you but I don't remember your name." She said. "You were my principal." She got the wrong name and she said, "Oh now I know." Because she saw my mother's name on the board. "That's who you are." And then she introduced me to one of the other aids who came in, "This was my principal in high school." So you still carry that badge around. I have people stop and introduce me to their children. I was interviewed by a student two years ago at TJ in the newspaper, whose mother had been an editor with the newspaper in the first class at TJ. and now she was one of the editors also. So I still have some things like that happening. I see the people all the time. I was in Homewood again visiting my mother and a little old lady came wheeling herself down with great big thick glasses. and she looked at me and she said, "Are you Mr. Manwiller?" And I said yes. She told me her name, she was an English teacher at Middletown High School when I first arrived as Supervisor of High Schools and we had a long talk about some of the things we had done. The past is still here. But I don't really miss that particularly. I had it then, but ...
Q: Is there any think that I haven't asked you that you would like to say?
A: No. I think I've had a great therapeutic treatment. I've gotten it all off my chest. It's nothing special, it's just that I really have felt that education was a field that was probably meant for me. I had intended at first to be a doctor, and my minor in chemistry came from the fact that I persisted taking the premedical courses knowing that I got further and further away from it. and I didn't really want to do that. And the turning point was I worked with a black sociologist and finally majored in sociology. And he was a brilliant man and fabulous teacher, and ultimately became a good friend. And he was the one who suggested, "you really ought to think about education. I have a good friend that teachers college in Columbia, you would love his courses." And I said, "you know Dr. Reed, that's some thing I think I would like to do. I think I'm going to check it out." And that was it.
Q: Alright, thank you.
A: Thank you.
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