This is November 22, 1998. I am speaking with Mr. George Marshall in the library of S.P. Morton Middle School in Franklin, Virginia on his experiences as an Elementary and Middle School Principal.
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Q: Mr. Marshall, would you begin by telling us a little bit about your family background, your childhood interests and development? You can include birthplace, elementary and secondary education and family characteristics.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: All right, I was born in Suffolk, Virginia. I was the last child and therefore the youngest in the family. Uh, my mother was a teacher prior to her becoming married and at that time she was uh, once you married, you could no longer teach. So she had to stop teaching. And uh only went back after my father's death. He died when I was five months old so she then took on the responsibility of raising the family and then went back into teaching. I would just say this also the one thing that I think helped was that her mother was living at that time and she kept myself and my brother during the day until he started school and she was a great person to read to us. She sat down everyday and read. I think my mother always felt that we had been perfect all day and were little monsters when she came home cause we had been sitting still being read to all day long. Uh, so I went through the elementary schools in Suffolk. Also graduated from what was then Suffolk High School. Uh, it's difficult. I also went to the school where my mother was a teacher and she drew a very strict line there. As a matter of fact, I had to refer to her Mrs. Marshall in the school building never as mother. I was treated as any other child but it was a good experience.
Q: Okay, well would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching?
A: All right, let's see. On graduating from high school, I went to Randolph Mason College in Ashton, Virginia which is a small Methodist-related institution with a strong program in the liberal arts. So, what I had was the traditional liberal arts education with a major in political science. I first, when I left Randolph Mason went to the University of Virginia to study graduate study rather in government and foreign affairs. I found that that was not quite my thing so I redirected and uh, then decided that I would like to teach. I got certification and began teaching fifth and sixth grades in a modified departmental situation in a school that that at time was grades five through twelve. And later became one of those combination schools that had all the grades through senior... through a senior year. Uh, before entering administration, I taught three years. The third year, I became assistant principal and the following year a principal at the age of 27.
Q: Wonderful, I wonder if you would discuss those experiences or events in your life that constituted important decision points in your career and how you felt feel about them now?
A: Well, I would say the one person who really kind of mentored me and suggested that I uh, look carefully at the career in education and in particular look at entering administration, that person was Mr. Jay Fenton Peele who was principal at Booker T. Washington School in Suffolk and Mr. Peele had had a wealth of experience. Uh, he saw something I suppose I did not know I had, but he mistakenly that I might have a talent towards meeting in the field of education and he felt I cared about children, all children and uh, in fact that's what he said to me one day. I think you really ought to consider going into school administration.
Q: How did your motives change over the years?
A: I wouldn't say that they really did. I still think that the important thing is that we all care about all the children. We take them where they are and we move them forward as far as we can. So, in that respect I wouldn't say that my views have really changed.
Q: Would you describe the instructional philosophy of your school? Tell us how it was developed and how it evolved over time.
A: This will hark back to the last question in away, but I still feel like we got to assist the kids we have when they are coming in finding where they are and determine from that point where it is we want to move them. So therefore, I guess what I am saying is we've got to meet the needs of all children so we assess them first and at that point we make decisions on what it is we need to do with them.
Q: What experiences and events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy?
A: I think in terms of experiences that that may have influenced my management philosophy, there were observations that I have made over time with administrators that I worked either with, for or had an opportunity to observe and I found and this was by listening to teachers and what they felt and how they reacted to different leadership styles that a confrontational style of leadership was not the thing to do... my personal belief. I refer back in my own mind to a teacher who told me that she had gotten her degree and she had worked hard and she didn't get it to have someone point their finger in her face and say you must do as I say. And she was referring to a specific individual that was in administration and by listening to that and observing that I found that you got less from persons if you your style was confrontational.
Q: So, your approach was humanistic.
A: Yes, yes that's want I found
Q: What techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning?
A: I think the first thing you have to do is get the staff, the entire staff in the school to buy into a philosophy and say we are all on the same wavelength we are all on the same accord and if you can get that and then set the goals, and everybody agrees on them then you can plan what you are going to do to achieve those goals. Uh, sometimes it works and sometimes it does not because you also sometimes have individuals who are not going to buy into that philosophy and when they don't they tend to try to influence others to do differently so that is the point when you would have an unsuccessful
Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do?
A: Be everything. You have to be a good communicator, good PR person, good disciplinarian, strong instructional and curriculum leader. All those things. I think right now you're going to have a magic bag of tricks to get kids to meet the SOL goals so I really think that the expectations are enormous now of anyone who's taking a leadership position in a school building.
Q: So, when you describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal both personally and professionally, uh, you feel that you have to have a magic wand and just do pretty much everything and do it all.
A: I guess nobody has the magic won, but you really have to have some skills in all the areas I just mentioned, communication, public relations, instruction, curriculum.
Q: Uh hum.
A: You have to have people sk ***professional and personal that were placed upon principals by their employers in the community during your period of employment.
Q: Share with me how those expectations differ from today's situation?
A: I think initially, going way back in time there they were looking in administration for a plant manager. You know, somebody to make the schedule, get people there on time, expect them to be in their rooms, keep the building up those things. I think that those demands were still there to an extent, but the focus is entirely different well now we are really focused on the instructional program. The curriculum that drives us and it must be now because the curriculum must tie directly to the Virginia Standards of Learning. So those expectations the building or plant manager versus strong instructional leader I think the tide has turned a bit there and we are coming more in the direction of looking for strong curriculum development and strong instructional leadership in the school.
Q: Okay. There are those who argue that more often than not central office policies hinder rather than help building level administrators in carrying out their responsibilities. Would you give your views on this issue?
A: Quite frankly, we all have to work with policies be it school board policy or the policies or procedures of a superintendent. If it does not violate the law you are going to have to work within the system. We can not those things, we can not view them as obstacles. We have to work the system. If you know how it works, then you are going to move around and around operating within the parameters that you are given in order to uh, achieve your goal. Of course, I think right now what we are having a trend nationally, of course, not to have the top down leadership, you know, from central office but we have more site based and approaching things as a team. I mean this is the whole thing with cooperative learning with kids. We're doing the same things as adults, we need to work together as as teams and I think that is what is changing and has probably changed for the better.
Q: If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what would that advice be?
A: Uh, if I were advising a person. Okay, let's see. I'd ask them to examine themselves. Make certain that they were doing this for the right reasons as far as they were concerned. In other words, were they looking to do something better for kids. You really need to look at your own motivations because if you get into it a find that out that it's not what you wanted then there's going to a problem not only for yourself professionally but for uh, the professional staff and the kids you are working with so you really need to take a good hard look within and see why it is that you want to do this.
Q: This question echoes on something that we've already said, but uh, I am going to ask this question anyway. There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader and those that suggest that realistically speaking this person must be above all a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe your own style?
A: Well, I really don't feel like the two are mutually exclusive. As I said awhile ago, we are coming now... when we say a good manager, now, we are talking about management of people and that's people skills. That's one thing, not just plant manager okay so that's why I'm making a difference here. I think that the way that I interpret your question is that it's not an either or situation. A person must be an instructional leader as well as a person who is a good manager and I'm talking about in the sense that I just discussed. You have to have a balance of both.
Q: All right. Would you describe the ideal requirements for principal certification and discuss appropriate procedures for screening those who wish to become principals?
A: Probably now, one of the best things you could do is have an assessment center, be it locally administered or regionally where you give persons an opportunity to, in a mark situation deal with the kinds of things they would deal with should they become administrators. Oh, for examples, if you were given a set of problems and you had an in box and an out box and you had to decide which ones you were going to prioritize and do first and which one could wait. You have to be able to sense those things very quickly and- that it can be a learned skill, while I also think it takes a little bit of perception on a person's part. The other thing as far as certification licensure, I still think that everyone needs a good mentor. Someone who has been there , done it and you can just run something by the person not necessarily that you are going to agree with what they say, but it might make you think well, I could do it this way or I could do that way or I could do something different. But the mentor is a good person to have and there can always be one somewhere.
A: And as a new administrator, it could well be the superintendent.
Q: It is often said that the principal should be active in community affairs. Please discuss your involvement with and participation in civic groups and other community organizations.
A: All right, my experience was that uh, one good group to work with the chamber of commerce. In one locality the chamber of commerce, they had an education committee and they were interested in what was going on in the field of education. Uh, they were supportive of efforts the schools were making in terms of changes in the instructional programs in terms of a building program those kinds of things and uh I think it's well to have your principals and central office persons involved in the chamber of commerce and their activities.
Q: Was this the only community organization or group that had the greatest influence you feel during your principalship?
A: Yes, at that time it was. Of course now we have school/business partnerships that are coming more into play and uh, there are some pluses there and then there are some times when some undue influences might take place that we might need to look at, but the important thing is that uh, we do have involvement with those organizations in the community that have a stake in what's going on in the schools.
Q: It has been said that there is a home-school gap and that more parental involvement with the schools need to be developed. Would you give your view on this issue and describe how you interacted with parents and with citizens who were important to the well being of the school?
A: There is a home school gap. I think that what we are finding now quite honestly is we don't have stay at home parents. Where there are two parent families you often find that both parents are working so it's not a case where they can take, you know, and come up to the school and check on the children and that kind of thing. I think that what we are going to have to do in the school is go to the parents. Now this will require night activities. It may require uh, locations in the community where you might have a school night where you are going to say the administrators meet with parents to give tips on homework and those kinds of things. We've got to do more community outreach now because I really think that we are talking of situations where even with two parent homes that both parents are working.
Q: A good deal of attention has been given to career ladders, differential pay plans and merit pay in recent years. Would you give your views on these issues and describe any involvement you had with such approaches?
A: In theory, it sounds good. I think the first thing you've got to do is you're going to have to have some kind of assessment done of job descriptions 200 and relate those to pay scales. Merit pay, you know, in theory sounds very very good, but it depends on what the merits are... you know the criteria at is set. Uh, it's very difficult to say to put a school administrator for example in the place of using any kind of checklist and saying therefore this person needs to make more money than that person. There are some issues there that also come into play and it can be political you know if you have four or five persons that decide say you want to give a teacher one year that they are displeased with her homework policies well they can go in and have complaints and that kind of thing and in their minds say I don't know if the person ought to get a raise and next year, parents may feel entirely different about that teacher so we have some problems there with the whole scheme of merit pay.
Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of evaluation?
A: Supervision, I'm going to say is this. The goal of supervision is the improvement of instruction. It's not hiring and firing. The goal is the improvement of instruction so therefore, when we talk about the issue of evaluation process, I'm going to say to you I think the best evaluation is a blank sheet of paper. In other words, you go in and see what the person is doing. You call attention to strengths, recommendations for improvement and you come up together with a plan on how we can do that or if it's a particular strength that could be shared with the rest of the staff let's do that too. That should be the purpose and the way an evaluation procedure works. Uh, again, the goal should be the improvement of instruction.
Q: A good deal is said these days about teacher grievances. Would you give your views of the desirability of such procedures and describe your approach to handling teacher dissatisfaction?
A: Well, by law we're going to have to have those procedures and why not, they should be in place. We should be able to informally have a conversation where I say, you know, I disagree with this I don't think this was done fairly and that kind of thing and perhaps I think nine times out of ten if not more, any real problems there are resolved at that level, but you are going to have to have that formal procedure because there are times when for whatever reason something can appear to be arbitrary, it may have actually been arbitrary, a decision that was made and I think our goal, of course, is to make certain that we're treating everyone fairly. But the first thing, let me go back to that which you asked because I think with teacher dissatisfaction the first thing is you sit down and you talk with somebody. You hear their concerns and it maybe that they are right. It maybe something that you did not think of. You were not aware that the person had that perception of your motivation of what you were trying to do and I think that's the first stage and more often than not we can resolve things at that level and that's informal before we get into the formal grievance procedure.
Q: Would you discuss teacher dismissal and your involvement in such activities?
A: That's probably the most difficult thing that you do in school administration and I've been in situations where not recommending the person for re-employment or continued employment and uh, I can recall saying, this is just about as bad as it gets because you recognize in the profession what you want in a professional and when one woefully does not meet those expectations even closely then you have an obligation to the profession to make certain that, uh, that person is steered into another line of work and the flip side of course is that you always have feelings for another person and you are concern about that, but you got in a professional way to do what right by children.
Q: What in your view should be the role of the assistant Principal? Discuss your utilization of such personal while, uh, being a principal and would you describe the most affective or effective assistant principal with whom you had opportunity to serve?
A: All right, let me tell you what I think about the role of the assistant principal. First, no one aspires to make a career of being an assistant principal. They want to be the person, the person who is making leadership decisions. In other words they aspire to be a principal Okay, so I think ideally, and this has always been my philosophy in working with an assistant principal that I shared everything with that person. They needed to know what I was thinking, why I was thinking it and have an opportunity and this is called democratic centralism to disagree and we disagreed and when we were to go forth to the staff, we are united and there can be no wedge between us. The other thing I have always found this wise and I counsel them myself. If someone wants a quick decision on something. You might say, let get right back to you because you need to compare notes someone else to find out has the person already approach them or are you going to be giving a different answer, but I really feel like the role a person should play in order to help them grow professionally is to share in everything that you do and know all the ins and outs and there are no secrets. It's not to say that the decision finally will not stop with the principal, that's true, but the other person needs to be completely aware of why it is that you are doing what you do, Uh, I guess every assistant principal that I've worked with has been affective and if I were to try to pick one in my mind I couldn't really do that. I guess what I have to do is make a composite of those individuals and uh, say that those are the persons who did just as I said. They shared with me just as I shared with them. We had an opportunity to professionally to discuss things and arrived at a decision that we were comfortable with and we could go forth and defend. Uh, every assistant principal that I worked with has become a principal. As a matter of one of them who did an internship as part of graduate work prior to getting into administration, I helped mentor the person and when a sudden vacancy occurred in the middle of the school year, they took this person and made them a principal of a small school in mid year. Uh, I have had others who have gone on and worked at central office level. I have had good experience with all the assistant principals I've worked with. Of course, I was one myself too. you know, I learned that from someone els e??schools are the ones that have the top down kind of leadership where there is not that team approach. I think that's about it on that one.
Q: During the past decade, schools have become much larger. Discuss your views on this phenomena and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities.
A: For an elementary school, I still firmly believe that a school no larger than 600 students four to five hundred would be ideal because then you would be able to get to know all the kids by names. The staff has a closer chance of interaction with one another on a regular basis. It's just not economical feasible because when you have to employ a librarian for a school for four or five hundred and another librarian for four or five hundred and two set of administrators in each building or specialist in each building then you got a cost increase, but I still feel that we do not need elementary schools approaching 800 to 1,000 students. It de-personalizes the situation It is a also hard at that point to get to know all of your parents.
Q: In recent years, more and more programs for special groups of students such as LD, gifted and talented and non-English speaking have been developed. Please discuss your experience with special student services and your views on today's trends in this regard.
A: Well, I think we are going to see more and more limited English proficient students coming in. We are going to have to develop ways of dealing with these students. I, I been in a situation where we had a student well actually a set of students who came from Cambodia and spoke no English and they arrive on the door step and we needed to do something with those students right away. Well, what the division do, we decided to hire an individual full time as an aid, we gave them some training and we actually began to sit down and teaching using picture cards colors, basic words, door, window, apple, red those kinds of things. In other words, we are going to have to deal with those kids when they come in . Uh, of course with the IDEA, I think it's important that all teachers now are cognizant of the responsibilities they have for students with any kind of disability. And it's never going to be enough to say you know I didn't know this I didn't understand this. You have to. They are going to have to be, well they are by law going to have to be closely involved in the process of setting the IEP and the goal therein and sign off that they understand it and we'll work with it. There can be no excuse given to the parent that I did not know or I did not think this was the thing to do because when we agree on it we sign for it we are going to all have to be working together on this thing. So trend wise, I mean it's out there. IDEA is in operation now and we need to make sure that all our staff are up to date on that.
Q: What about gifted and talented?
A: Certainly on a continuum we have all kinds of abilities. On one end, we have children with documented handicaps and on the other end of the scale we have those students who are identified as gifted and talented and we must have the programs in place to meet the needs of all of them not just speaking of pull out programs any more than for special education that child must be pulled out we must have a more inclusive approach as much as possible. There were also a times be some pulled out for gifted and talented students, but once again, their instruction, we are going to have to differentiate instruction for students with the designation gifted and talent just as we do for other special needs populations.
Q: Salaries and other compensation have changed a good deal since you entered the profession. Would you discuss your recollections of the compensation system of your school systems during your early years as principals and give your views on the developments in this area since then?
A: Yes, because originally when I came along, there really was no scale. You sat down with the superintendent and he decided what he was going to pay you. So in for administration, there were no real scales in existence. Eventually they came with a system that depended on the size of the school and the number of years a person had in administration and I do think it is important that we do have job descriptions for all administrative personnel and we develop scales based on responsibilities.
Q: Most systems presently have a tenure or a continuing contract for teachers. Would you discuss the situation at the time you entered the profession and comment on the strengths and weakness of such a system?
A: Well your tenure law has been in place you know since I came in. Of course we can see nationally there is a trend towards trying to remove tenure. Uhm, the main reason for it, though let's get down and be realistic was that if one had generally done a good job during those first three years, then that person was adjudged to have characteristics necessary to uh, be successful in the classroom. We would not want for a person in administration to be arbitrary and say you know where as a person had a perfect evaluation one year the next year nothing was right. And I guess, what we were trying to what the lawmakers were trying to do when they made the tenure law was to make certain that kind of thing would not occur.
Q: There has traditionally been a commitment in this country to the principle of universal free public education. Would you give your views on this concept and indicate your feelings on the practicality of such an approach in this day and time?
A: I think I believe as Thomas Jefferson did "a nation can remain both free and ignorant" and that says it all. We must have a free approach public education for all of our citizenry. There is no place for anybody to say that 400 this child does not belong in the school with that one. No, we have to meet all those needs. We are not going to remain as a nation free and have ignorance at the same time. It just does not work that way.
Q: Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucratic complexity with which they are forced to deal. Would you comment on the situation during your administrative career and compare the problems you encountered with your perceptions of the situation at this time.
A: Well, there is not doubt that the volume of paper work has increased. Some of these are the results of , you know, legal requirements. Uh, some that we are going to provide proper documentation for any of the aspects of administration, we are going to have do it. I think I said it early and I'd like to reiterate it, we can not view these things as obstacles, we have to work the system so there are some parameters that we are going to have to operate and it really does no good to complain about those parameters if they are set for us by law, by policy, we are going to have to work with it and I think that's the best view to take.
Q: Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational administration, what would they be?
A: Well, like I say, schools do not operate in a vacuum, we are responsible to the communities, all schools are responsible to the communities that they serve and and in a very large sense reflect the communities that they serve. I guess one thing that I think would improve the efficiency is that school boards should be elected bodies and not appointed. That gives them direct ties to the persons in the community who have interest in the school and is not through a middle groups. I recognize that we operate within a political situation, but I really think it's better for the school board to be elected and be directly responsible to the citizenry. Now, I'm going to hasten to add on the end of that, the other thing I would say would improve is that if the board being an elected body also had taxing authority to meet the needs of the schools without having to go to a separate body. I mean if the board is elected so as a council then I can't see anything wrong with them having the taxing authority. They are responsible directly back for the whole community and elected by them. But that is as it should be ideal.
Q: As a follow-up question, if you could change any three areas in the curriculum or overall operations of American Schools, what would they be?
A: All right, I'm going to put this in the context of the times because in Virginia, we have already had the big change in terms of curriculum which is the Standards of Learning. Uh, what I'm going to say is, I would make a change there. The standards themselves are good. What we may have done was make a mistake by going back to the test publishers to design the instruments to measure mastery on these standards of learning. In other words, in the past, we were saying that on a standardized test, it really was not measuring how much our students say knew in math. It was how much they knew about the math items on that test as compared with the students somewhere else in the nation. Mind what I said, the items on that test. The same thing has happened when we went back to the test publishers to design instruments to measure mastery of the SOL. They have selected certain items. The SOLS are broad categories. Let's say we took social studies and in a given grade they are studying China and Egypt and that's what the Standards of Learning said... have basic understanding of ancient civilization such as this and talk about the government and religion and so forth, but when you come down to that standards of learning test, the test publisher may have made a very specific questions that may change another time. The area of curriculum is so broad that it's hard to come up with that one item. I just wonder if it were not have been a better thing to have had committees of teachers and parents to examine the SOLS and then design their own ways to measure that. I recognize that it would have taken a longer period of time; however, I feel that's one failure is that we've gone back to those persons who published the tests to design what it is that's going to be mastery for our state standards of learning.
Q: Would you describe your relationship toward the superintendent in terms of his general demeanor toward you and your school?
A: I've always felt the relationship should be and it is, has been for the last few years should be one of mutual, professional, and personal trust and respect and it's got to go both ways.
Q: Would you discuss your general relationship, pro or con, and comment on the effectiveness of school board operations in general?
A: The relationship of the principal with the board of education should be this. I really believe that the principal should be the representative of the superintendent in the school. The board most important duty is to select a superintendent. Once they have done so, he must have, in the schools, those persons who represent him. In other words, if he is carrying out the policies of the board, he must rely on him and they on he to do the same. That's the ideal relationship.
Q: Cultural diversity is a topic of great interest and concern at this at this point in time. Would you discuss the nature of your student body or bodies 500 and comment on the problems challenges and triumphs in which you participated while serving as principal?
A: Well, again a school reflects the community it is a part of. I would say that it would occur in recent times in divisions I worked in is a change in the demographics. We're talking about more culturally diversed. We were getting the students with limited English proficiency. We were getting students from all parts of the nation. Students who come from inner city schools in large cities. As well as those who come from the quote more affluent areas. We're going to have to deal with the students that are sent to us.
Q: Would you discuss?
Q: Would you discuss?
A: Go ahead. Go ahead. I was just going to say that that is a challenge, but it is changing and it's changing rapidly. It is changing all the time. We're just going to have to work with the students we are given.
Q: It has been said that the curriculum has become much more complex in recent years. Would you comment on the nature of this curriculum on the curriculum during the time you were principal and compare it to the situation in today's school citing positive and negative aspects of the situation then and now?
A: I think in the past, the textbook publishers pretty much dictated what our curriculum was. We taught what was in the books and if you came right down to it. What was in the books was going to be dictated by the divisions in California and Texas where the population was large enough to so they had that kind of influence and I think the rest of the nation did that. That was a negative because we should all along be determining what is was we thought students needed to know. Alright, change, the big change of course in Virginia with the Standards of Learning is saying yes, we are deciding what it is we want our students to know. Now go out and find the resources that maybe part of this textbook, it may be something coming off the internet. It may be something in the library media center. It may be teacher developed materials. It may be supplemental resources. We're going to pull from sources to teach the curriculum as we say it ought to b e???incipal and would you describe the most affective or effective assistant principal with whom you ??s they aspire to be a principal Okay, so I think ideally, and this has always been my philosophy in wothe quality of the instructional program.
A: Okay. Well of course it depend on which kind of standardize test we are looking at. I mean if we are talking about a diagnostic test that's you know is a very good one to give us some information about students and I think we want as many pieces of the puzzle that we can have. If we are going to use a standardized test, diagnostic test, a informal inventory, teacher made test, all of us, what we're trying to get is information on the students we are serving. No matter how strong they are, what their weakness are and what we can do to improve. Uh, the caveat is what I just mentioned a few minutes ago. A standardized test, let's say let's take the Stanford 9 Achievement Test. It gives us a picture and we've got to remember it gives us just this information. It gives us a picture of how well the students we have stack up on certain items that are on that test against the students in the country also taking those same items. The question is, are the items something we value? That's an entirely different issue. They may not be.
Q: Could your describe your work day. That is how did you spend your time and what was the normal number of hours per week you put in?
A: We'll it certainly was not a nine to five day. I found
Q: This is tape one side two and we were discussing Mr. Marshall's work day. Mr. Marshall, how did your spend your time and what was the normal number of hours per week you put in?
A: You know I can think about that I, I would guess it was between uh 50 and 60 hours a week. That would be my closest estimate. I would say as far as the work day went. The one habit I had that I think is good for anybody to get into is first thing in the morning, I would try to visit every classroom in just a walk through to say good morning, get a little sense of how the building was going that morning and it gave you a feel for the day.
Q: Would you describe some of the pressure you faced on a daily basis and explain how you coped with them?
A: Certainly, I think uh the biggest pressure that anybody has in administration is is time. There's just not enough time so you have to be a careful manager of your own time. The problem is if you get in too big a hurry you begin to make mistakes so I've always felt like you should make haste slowly and you have to consciously make yourself slow down and 600 think. Uh, I've always felt that, uh, courage is strength, right thought is mastery and that calmness is power. So if you remain calm, you can get a whole lot accomplished, but that is something you have to set you have to will yourself to do.
Q: Would you tell me the key to your success as a principal?
A: I really feel like the main thing is to hold on to your principles and your philosophy because if you don't you're actually standing with your feet firmly planted in mid air and you are going to blow which ever way the forces of the strongest blow. That's, I think the uh secret.
Q: Please discuss you professional code of ethic and give examples of how you applied it during your career.
A: As I just said before, you really have to stay with your principles. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. You can't have it both ways. I don't believe in situation ethics. You really have to have a set of personal beliefs, professional beliefs that you abide by consistently. Uh, here I applied it even if it comes down to uh, let's give an example. In recommending nonrenewal for certified or licensed personnel at one time I had my evidence there and I was asked to look into some areas that did not apply to the area that I had under concern and to quote dig for other information and I felt that professionally and ethically, I could not do that. I knew the reasons that the recommendation was being made and I was not going to try and fire a shot gun and go into areas that it would not be fair to look at.
Q: Would you describe those aspects of your professional training which best prepared you for the principalship? Which training experiences were least useful as well?
A: Okay, I certainly think that course work that I had in human relations, sensitivity training was some of the most valuable because it gave me the people skills to understand you know everybody you are going to come across in the profession. Also the courses that I had that were hands-on in scheduling and making best use of the human resources in the building. They were the most valuable. I certainly think we need a strong knowledge base in the theories and that kind of thing, but practically speaking the most valuable were those that I just mentioned.
Q: If you had to do it again, what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship? Would you describe your feeling knowing what you know now about entering the principalship yourself with given the opportunity to start anew?
A: The kinds of courses that I just mentioned that are interactive uh, that are hands-on, that are problem solving kinds of activities are the most valuable things that I would for myself wish and for anyone else getting into administration.
Q: Okay. What suggestions would you offer to universities as a way of helping them to better prepare candidates for administrative positions?
A: One of the most valuable things you could have really are the seminar kind of situations I just described and actually taking real life problems maybe inviting school administrators in to talk through about in setting up problems and having to work through how to deal with it in a step-by-step fashion. That's kind of a think tank kind of situation and that kind of application reviewing problems and alternative ways for addressing the problems, I really think would be the best way to prepare candidates for administrative positions. The weakness would be that very often in traditional programs you don't see that kind of course.
Q: Principals operate in a constantly tense environment. What kinds of things did you do to maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions?
A: Laugh a lot. Uh, seriously, I think a good strong sense of humor is a healthy thing for everybody, but I think in school administration you really need to talk to yourself. Believe it or not I actually get up in the mornings and always have with this closed quotation in mind "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it" and put a smile on your face and you think positively and that's how you get through those stressful situations.
Q: Since you have now had some time to reflect on your career, I wonder if you would share with us what you consider to be your administrative strengths and weaknesses?
A: The strengths, I would say honestly I think I have always had people skills. I am positive. I don't view things as impossible. It just a way we can look at them. We can solve any given problem. I feel that I have good conceptual skills and organizational skills. Uh, if you will say its a weakness somebody might say I'm too nice, okay. Uh, and maybe and this maybe a strength or it maybe a weakness. Somebody listening will have to make the judgment as I just said you have to hang on to your principals and I do not have a great deal of patience with certain things. One of them in working with the public is saying it like it is is racism and prejudice and I have had parents to come in and look at the color of skin and judging by theirs assume that I would think a certain way and I can't do that because I just spoke about the principles that you have to have and I've actually had a parent to come in at one time and say that she would prepare that the assistant principal not discipline her child because that person was of a different race and that she did not want her child left in a classroom with children of another race by herself and when I say I have a lack a patience, I have to say it and I had to say to the parent well ma'am I'm going to be honest with you, those views that you have just expressed I feel are pure racist and I will not entertain them.
Q: Okay, would you give us an overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service and any advise you would wish to pass on to today's principals?
A: The main thing is be sure that' s what you really want to do. Then when you decide that you set your goals and you keep your eye on the goals. Now the goals have to based on a strong belief system and principles, but you must keep your eye on those goals and not forget them because there will be so many forces battering you right and left that you're not going to be able to sometimes to remember what your own purposes are. That's what I would suggest. Uh, there are many ways to serve in education and for some persons they may decide sometime or another that's not their thing. Fine.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there is probably something I have left out. What have I not asked you that I should have?
A: You know that's interesting, I would say uh, you kind of asked this earlier when you said, if you have to do this all over again would you do it, but I think that anybody in their professional career or in life period need to asked themselves what they are all about and I would say that one good thing for you to do is to say if you had to what you want for your epitaph what eulogy would you like to have delivered at you funeral. You know, I challenge anybody out there listening to examine himself or herself and ask that same question. What I would hope is that somebody would say that this was a good and gentle person who tried to do what was right as God gave him to see the right.
Q: Mr. Marshall I thank you for allowing me to interview you and this concludes the interview to satisfy my requirements for my personnel class at Virginia Tech University. Thank you so much.
Q: Mr. Marshall, you know while we were talking, a few more questions occurred to me. Do you mind answering a few more?
A: I'd be glad to.
Q: It has been said that good leaders encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations of their successes no matter how small or insignificant. To did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness?
A: I firmly believe in celebrating successes no matter what they are. It certainly encourages good morale. Uh, not being a Pollyanna, but I think very often and this is true not just in our profession, but be it in a club, be it in a church situation, in classrooms, often time we can see what 700is good and right and yet by omission to recognize it and when we do not give it the recognition that it is due in effect, we're dong...if we don't encourage right doing, then passively we saying doing is okay or we're encouraging the reverse of doing right. Let me just give you an example for a second and it's funny you should ask this one because I happen to notice this the other day. About four years ago, they were giving flu shots in the school and the nurse gave me a shot and I'll tell you the did not hurt and did not bother me and I wrote her a little card saying master shot giver. If you walk in that clinic today, from four years ago, you will see that very note hanging there. It's recognizing the small things that I really do think do a lot for morale. People appreciate it and I think we are guilty recognizing persons and we need to do it.
Q: Please discuss the way in which you were chosen for your first administrative role, as well as any subsequent assignments.
A: My first administrative role was an assistant principal. I'll be honest with you, many years ago now I was asked to do it. At that time the position was not advertised. Well I asked to do it. Uh, if I could give you a picture of that, all subsequent position, I interviewed for with and interview team and uh, was on the basic of that interview, but I think the reason that happened the first time around is I may have been the right person at the right time, but I came long time ago when there was a dual school system and in fact the first , I taught in an all black school, and when I say all black I mean I was the only minority in the building, okay. It was a valuable experience for myself and for the kids. We learned to know each other then. We learned to appreciate feelings, we got sensitized to one another. I think that helped me a great deal in terms of human relations and I think that may have been the reason was asked when that position came up to take that assistant principalship because I had a good feel for the kids.
Q: Okay. Some principal hold the view that teachers and other staff members are, in general, well motivated and reliable self-starters. Other principals feel that must closely monitor the activities of their employees to insure that they are performing "to standard." What supervisory approach did you customarily use during your career as principal?
A: Okay, again that question that particular model, you're talking about predisposes. It has to be one or the other or the other. I would say first don't think the two are mutually exclusive. You're going to have to do some of both. I really firmly believe that, but let me hasten to add to that uh, I really believe that teachers work best as does any one in a threat-free environment. In other words, if we have no or a low level of trust in the professionalism of the staff and that does not exist, then either one we have a staff with real problems or two, it's a matter of ones' own perspective and one might need to look at that. Uh, on the other hand, we agree on common goals in a school and when there are individuals do not follow through in meeting those goals certainly at that time, we need to monitor to make certain that they are doing so. That's why I say the not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Q: Okay, what model of leadership describes people as either assertive, supportive, or contemplative. Would you please categorize yourself and give your reasons for this assignment? Un, one model of leadership, that is, describes people as either assertive, supportive, or contemplative.
A: Okay, a g???s we have stack up on certain items that are on that test against the students in ???tainly was not a nine to five day. Uh, so it it kind of follows the last question you asked because I do think tht if I had to come down to one category, I would believe it's more in the in the supportive realm I guess uh, kind of going back to the last question there, when I was talking about staff and when you're looking at staff are you going to say that they need the constant monitoring or are you going to have, you know, more of a trust situation and I talked about either having a staff with a lot of problems or looking at ones' own perspective and determining whether or not one is is doing things in the right fashion. I guess the wisdom is is in knowing the difference between the two and uh in the final analysis we must also remember that the wisdom that comes with age, often comes to late.
Q: Well, Mr. Marshall again I would like to thank you again for allowing me to interview you in satisfaction of my requirement for my personnel class at Virginia Tech University.
A: Thank you. I enjoyed speaking with you.
Q: Thank you.
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