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Q: Would you please begin by telling us about your family background--where you're from and some of your fond memories of childhood?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Sure. I was born and raised in Lynchburg, VA, and I was the tenth child. My mother and father had ten children. We had one of the children die when they were just a baby. My father died when I was about a year and a half old. He died of a heart attack. My mother took the place of my father. She was a really wonderful person. She came from Scotland, and she spent a lot of time in London, England. She was a very well-educated person. She meant a great deal to me. When I was in Lynchburg, I graduated from E.C. Glass High School. It is not the E.C. Glass High School you know now. It was the old E.C. Glass High School. The one you hear about now with the football players is a new school. That's where I got my basic education. My mother, she was just a wonderful person. When I was about seven until I was thirteen, and my father had died, we would go to town--the City of Lynchburg every Saturday. And, that was quite an experience for me when we went to town. We would shop. She always ended up with two shopping bags full of groceries and items we'd bring home. From our house we had to walk about a quarter of a mile to what we called the streetcar stop. We'd get on the streetcar and go to Lynchburg. Later they changed that to buses, but I remember the old streetcars. And that was an enjoyable time because we'd talk about everything and anything, and we laughed a lot. We just had a good time, and I felt that was a bonding experience for me. The things I learned from her I think affected me the rest of my life. Saturday was just a special day. I believe that's about it.
Q: Where did you go to College?
A: My first degree was at Lynchburg College, and I got my Bachelor's Degree there. That was in education. Then I moved on from there after I received my degree and became a school principal. Then I took classes at a number of colleges. I received my Master of Education Degree at the University of Virginia. Then I went to VPI where I got my CAGS certificate, and then I received my Doctor of Education Degree at VPI. It was interesting this past weekend the game between VPI and the University of Virginia--both of them would be winners, but I was hoping Tech would win, and they did win.
Q: How many years did you teach before becoming a principal, and what were some of the influences that made you decide to become a principal?
A: That's real interesting. After I graduated from Lynchburg College and received my B.S. degree, I knew a friend of mine who was a principal at West End Elementary School in Lunenburg County. He had been a principal there for one year. He really wanted to go and do something else. So he told me about the position and I applied for it. When I accepted it I was the sixth grade teacher and the school principal, and also the custodian when he was sick. I had to help out in the cafeteria when they had problems there, in addition to being a sixth grade teacher. It was an interesting experience. That was in Lunenburg County, and the students and teachers were just great, fine people. So, when I started out the first day, I was the sixth grade teacher and the principal. The school there had about 200-300 students. There was one room classrooms for each grade of students. There was one room for each grade, first through seventh grades. I really enjoyed that experience. It is sad to say, (by the way that was a new building at that time in 1950- it was only one-year-old or maybe two-years-old) since then in about 1985 that beautiful school building was sold to a tobacco farmer. He used it as a warehouse. That really made me sad because that community really needed that school. I'm not sure how they've gotten along without it after it came to be sold to this private person. When I go by there, I see it as a warehouse, and with all the buildings added it just makes me sad.
Q: Would you discuss the way you learned to lead; that is, what procedures or experiences were involved that contributed to your effectiveness, and the contribution that professional graduate education made to your progress as a principal.
A: Well, I don't know, but I do remember that I used to deliver newspapers- the Washington Herald and the Lynchburg News and Daily Advance, and I had a number of customers. While I was a newspaper boy, newspaper carrier, I learned something about communication skills and how to communicate with people. I especially learned about this when they had a campaign. The campaign was whoever got the most customers would get fifteen cents for each of the new customers, and the one that won would win a trip to see a football game between the Eagles and the Redskins--way back there. I very much wanted to do that, and I designed my own campaign. I wrote down what I was going to say to the people, and they had to take the paper for six weeks. I planned all of that into my presentation. I communicated with new customers and I won that trip. I think that was because of planning and communication which I learned at an early age. Then later the next year they had another campaign. Everybody would get fifteen cents for each new customer and the winner got a trip to see the boxing match between Joe Lewis and Max Mellon. I wanted to win that trip. So, I sat down and planned again what I wanted to say to the people I wanted to get in touch with to sign up for the newspaper. And I got enough customers and I won that trip the second year. I got to see Max Mellon and Joe Lewis fight which only lasted about a minute or two. There were several big fights before that, and I remember that. But, it was a shock that it ended so quickly. My point here is that as a young person growing up, as a preteenager and then a teenager, I did learn how to communicate with people. I learned that you had to plan. You have to first know what your goal is, and then you have to plan how to employ that goal and execute it. I believe that type of leadership did carry over into my responsibilities as a school principal. I learned that if I had a goal and a vision, and I must have a vision, then I have to communicate that with the faculty--not forcefully, but to bring them along gradually to see what I wanted to get accomplished. To do that you do have to communicate, and I attribute that back to my early experiences.
Q: How would you describe your management style as a principal?
A: Well, I don't know that I have a special style, but I never did particularly like the hierarchical style where everything starts at the top- administrators down to the teachers where things were done in that order. I think my style is more or less that all teachers and administrators and supervisors are educators. We were all educators. I put the teachers on the same level as myself. When I needed some help, I wouldn't necessarily go to some book. I'd go to my teachers and discuss it with them. I think by putting everyone on a similar level and communicating with one another, and you didn't have to go through special channels to get communication, and you were free to communicate with anybody at any time, rather than going to the principal to line up this, that and the other. We were like a big family, a democratic family. I think my style would be similar to what I just said.
Q: Each principal has different skills that he or she brings to the job. You've already mentioned communication and planning. What would you say are the critical skills needed to be a principal?
A: I think an effective principal has to have the intellect, which is assumed, and second the necessary credentials. After you've gotten that behind you, I think to be a successful principal you have to be a very sensitive and a very caring person. As a principal, you are going to be leading your teachers, and a good principal has to first know what it is to be a principal. He has to know what are the responsibilities of the principal, and then he has to be able to convey that he is sensitive and caring about them--not only as teachers, but as individual people. I think a successful principal has to be concerned with his or her teachers and really, sincerely care about them. I'm reminded of a statement I saw in Red Bird Mission where my wife and I were some years ago in West Virginia. We saw a statement on a teacher's bulletin board that said, "I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care about me." I know that's a cliche, but I think that says an awful lot. A teacher has a feeling that the principal cares about her as a professional person and he cares about her as an individual person and shows her respect. I think I would say sensitivity, caring, respect. I think the principal has to be goal oriented. He has to have a vision. If he doesn't have a vision for his students and his school, I think he is missing the boat. He has to have a vision about where he would like these children to be ten years from now, where he'd like the faculty to be ten years from now, what he would like to accomplish in the next ten years. What is his vision to do that. I think the principal has to have a general plan to accomplish that vision. What are the steps? First thing he has to do is bring his teachers in on his vision. Not so much that they should accept it, but he wants to share that with them. Then, as time goes on, to be able to bring the teachers on the boat with hm, and get them to feel the need for it. It's not a forceful thing, it's something that you do gently, caring, lovingly. You bring the faculty in and you explain what your vision is. It's not so much, I made a mistake--it's not what my vision is, but in talking with the faculty you bring them around to the vision, perhaps, that would encompass your own vision as to what is best for the children. Then you have to have a program, step-by-step, how to accomplish that. You have to be careful not to go ahead of the teachers- that they're with you all the way through. You have to have training. You have to maintain support for teachers, and you have to evaluate whatever you're doing in an ongoing type of evaluation. I forget exactly what your question is, management styles? (Brock-critical skills). I think the critical skills are to be informed, to know your vision, to be sensitive, be caring, to be goal-oriented, and to have an outline for how you're going to do it. I'm going to be redundant and repeat myself that you do have to do this with the teachers-not that you plan and tell them "you're going to do this." You have a vision together, and you talk and plan together. They can tell you some things that are better than what you're thinking. You bring it all together in your plan as you move ahead to accomplish that vision.
Q: Looking back on your years of experience, what do you think are the most important responsibilities you had as a principal?
A: The first responsibility of a principal is the safety and well-being of all the students and teachers. It has to be a safe environment for the students and teachers. Next, I think the most important responsibility the principal has is the education of all the students, and I mean each individual student. All. And to seek ways and means to helping each student become the finest student he or she can possibly be, and I emphasize each student because each child in the school is important. Not just the talented and gifted and the average and so forth--those who are less gifted and those who are special. Every single one of them needs to know they are important. The principal's responsibility is to help his teachers to prepare and educate the students, each and every one of them, to the best of their abilities.
Q: What are some of the other responsibilities you had as a principal?
A: I first want to say that the most important responsibility of the principal is the education of the students because that's why he's there. That's why the teachers are there. That's why the students are there. If he misses the boat on that he's missed it because that is the purpose of the school. The principal has the responsibility not that once he becomes a principal he keeps on repeating everything he has been doing on down the road. You can have ten years of the principalship and one year of experience really. Each year, you have to reevaluate what you've done, and you have to update your program. A good principal is always searching for better ways to educate students, and that is his ongoing responsibility.
Q: Choosing qualified teachers must be a tough job for a principal. What are some of the qualities you are looking for in a potential staff member, and how difficult is it to choose a competent teacher during an interview?
A: Well, I think for a principal to choose a new teacher he must think about his school. He must think about the school climate. He must think about morale, respect, social relationships, academic excellence, cohesiveness, trust, warmth, and he has to involve teachers, parents, the staff and administrators in the ongoing operation of the school. One important thing he has to keep in mind is communication. That is very basic. He has to help see that his school is an attractive school. Now, your question to me is how do you go about selecting a teacher. I think when you have this in mind, then you see and talk with this person to see if she can help accomplish this type of climate in your school. You first have to be sure that they have the appropriate credentials and all those type things. Next, you want to talk with the teacher to see why she decided to be a teacher. Does she have a burning ambition to become a teacher? Does she understand what it means to be a teacher? Does she know her commitments to be a good teacher? Then you check to see if she really respects young people. Is she there to bring academic excellence to the school? Is she a person who will involve herself? Is she a person who doesn't watch the clock hours, but is concerned with the program for the children. Not a teacher who is just concerned about leaving the school at 3:30, but is there until 4 or 4:30, or whatever. I have seen many, many teachers who have that quality. I think after talking with that teacher and asking her many, many questions, you come closer to that. I like to have what I call a second meeting with the teacher I was interested in, and to do some thinking about what they said before. I try to put into perspective what it is that your concept is of that particular teacher, and to ask her questions so that you will better know her. I think after a conference like that, after one or two, you have a better perspective. You need a teacher who not only knows academics and who is intelligent and certified, but a teacher who is sensitive and caring. I think that it is real important to be a sensitive, caring person. And, a teacher has to have good communication skills. So those are the things I think I would look for.
Q: A principal wears many hats as the leader of a school. As a principal, did you see yourself as the instructional leader or an administrator?
A: A principal wears many hats. The first is that of the instructional leader because he has to lead his staff. If a principal doesn't feel the burning desire to be the instructional leader, that may not be the job for him. After that, he has the responsibility of communicating with his students. He is not their teacher, but a good principal knows his students. He helps them feel that they can come to him and talk with him. He has a rapport with students and he can do that by being out in the halls a lot while they're changing classes, or when they're arriving on the buses, or in the afternoon when they leave. He can make it a point to see them and talk to them and touch them in many ways so that he really gets to know them. Then, an important responsibility is communicating with parents. I think it is very important that he does this. He can involve parents in volunteer work at the school. They can do so many things. For instance, at my school they ran a clothing bank for the needy children and the poor who did not have proper clothing. They did a beautiful job. They can be helpful in the classroom and give instruction one-on-one if a teacher does not have time. If the teacher does not have time to help Johnny who needs extra time being helped to learn to read they can give Johnny that time. We have many capable parents and people in the community who can volunteer to work with children on a one-on-one basis. Parents can help out in so many other ways, such as special programs. If the principal makes it convenient for parents to volunteer their services in the school, he brings the community in. That can be wonderful because then when the school faces a situation or problem, if he already has communication with the parents, and they understand the situation, they will be supportive. The principal has the responsibility of maintaining those regular things such as bus duty, cafeteria management, and cleanliness of the school. He certainly wears different hats.
Q: Can you separate the role of principal from that of community leader?
A: I think a good principal is a community leader. You'll notice in some communities the principals are community leaders. They are in groups and clubs that advance the cause of education. I think a good principal is a good community leader.
Q: What expectations do you think teachers have of principals?
A: I think teachers first have to feel confident that the principal has the necessary credentials to be a principal. And, after that, I think teachers are looking for a principal who is a leader. I think a teacher is looking to a principal who is a leader in the instructional program. I think a teacher is looking for a principal who is supportive. A principal has to be supportive of a teacher. Whenever a teacher is right in whatever she is doing, and she is getting flack back from the community, or she's catching flack from a parent--I think when she knows and believes she is right, she is looking to that principal to support her in that cause. I believe a principal absolutely should. When the teacher is not exactly 100% right, the principal has to make that teacher realize that he does support her, and he must correct whatever must be corrected. I think a teacher looks to a principal to support her as a teacher and her education of her students. I think that is the responsibility of a principal. I think a teacher is looking for a principal who is a sensitive and caring person. Each teacher is different, and all teachers have problems--not necessarily in the classroom, but they may have family problems. I think a caring principal does not have to get into who's right or who's wrong, but to show her that he respects her, cares about her, and he'll do what he can to help her out of that situation. Then, she'll be free to be a master teacher. I think a teacher is looking for a principal who really understands child growth and development with the children in different age groups--5 to 7, 7-8, 8-10, and then those crucial years 11-15 and puberty. I think a teacher expects a teacher to have an understanding of child growth and development through those years, and he can respond to that in the program.
Q: Assistant principals play different roles in different administrations. What role did the assistant principal play in your administration?
A: I think the assistant principal's role also should be the instructional program. Then he has to fill in in many roles. Like when there are discipline problems in the classroom, or the bus, or whatever. The assistant principal often handles these types of problems. By the way, I encourage teachers to try to handle problems to the best of their ability and only send problems to the principal or assistant principal when it's beyond them. That gives a teacher confidence of knowing that she is in charge in her classroom. When the problems are such that they demand the attention of me or the assistant principal, then it is appropriate. The assistant principal takes care of those types of problems (discipline). He also takes care of other problems such as checking on the cafeteria is functioning properly. He checks with custodial staff to make sure everything is working properly. He works on committees to ensure that the building is attractive and there is a good environment. He works to stimulate the school climate, as does the principal. He fills in in those capacities. He is a morale booster. He is a person that the teachers can talk with and share with. He is a coworker who can fill in when the principal isn't there. He is also there to assist a child who may be hurt or sick and contact the parents. He is a communicator in many ways in the school system. He communicates with parents, staff, and faculty. He must do a number of things.
Q: How do you decide what type of relationships you'll have with individual staff members, as opposed to them as a group?
A: I think that your relationship with staff members is to show a caring attitude. Things they would discuss with you as a staff member about their family or classroom that they have concerns about, you can feel free to talk with them if they ask you to. In a group, you talk to them as a whole. In both situations you show them respect. You show respect because if they are to respect you, you must respect them. When you are sitting down on a one-on-one situation you must make her feel comfortable and show her that you care. You show her that you are there to help and serve her. You are sensitive to her concerns and problems, whatever they may be. You don't necessarily take sides, but you try to evaluate and find the truth in whatever the situation is. Then, together, you work on it. You always let her know that you are supportive and caring, and you are there to help her.
Q: It has been said that good leaders encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations of their successes no matter how small or significant. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness?
A: I think that's a good question, and I think the principal should recognize teachers for their contributions to the school. Principals should recognize the good things students and teachers do. There are different ways of doing that. At faculty meetings, you can do things there to recognize teachers for the things they do and accomplish. There is a very important point you have to keep in mind--if you have forty teachers on your faculty, you don't always want to be recognizing ten of them constantly and ignore the others. I think the principal who is wide awake wants to let teachers know he appreciates them will work out a program so by the end of the first half of the year, or June, he has a program planned where all teachers will receive some recognition. He should keep notes on that. It is through recognition that teachers are motivated to become the finest teachers they can be. A faculty will recognize immediately if the principal is only recognizing ten of the forty or fifty faculty members. He has to give some thought and planning to this. There are many ways he can accomplish this. Recognition is a very key point because recognition to the teachers promotes their self-esteem as teachers. When their self-esteem as teachers is promoted then they become better teachers to the students because they have felt they are good teachers and have been recognized for their contribution. It is something the principal should not do haphazardly. I think he should plan for this starting the first day of school all the way through the school year. One thing I used to do as a principal is when I saw something good happening, I wrote it down. When I saw a teacher doing something good in the classroom, something good in the halls, something good on the playground, or wherever the children were that I really like, I would write it down. Before that year was up, I would have some type of comment for all of the teachers in the school. Even the teachers who may not be as effective, you can recognize some good points that they have achieved. That adds cohesiveness and the warmth of feeling appreciated.
Q: Districts have deemed staff development an important issue by hiring staff whose responsibility is staff development. How important is staff development, and what should your role as principal be?
A: If I understand your question correctly, I think you are talking about the teachers' professional responsibilities. First, I think it's the principal's responsibility to promote staff development and set up programs and plans where that can be accomplished. Second, a principal has to know what his vision is for that school and what he hopes to accomplish before he calls in any other people, such as staff specialists. And then, when he does call in other people to help upgrade his teachers, I think it's important that he makes them aware of what they (the school) stand for and what their philosophy is and what they want to accomplish. Then, when he knows what his vision is, he should only bring in people who can fit into that vision that are competent, capable, innovative and creative people. Then, he can move along. I do think the principal needs to be the principal who improves staff development. I think he needs to bring outsiders, they may from the central office, the state department of education or somewhere else, but when he does bring them in, he should know what their philosophy is, and what they stand for when he brings them in. I'm not saying that he should have someone who believes exactly what he does. I'm saying that his beliefs should blend in with those others because they will have a profound influence on the faculty and direction your faculty will be going in. I think this is very important. I think principals should be constantly looking for better ways of improving instruction, and looking for creative and innovative ways of improving instruction. I think all instructional programs have to be evaluated. At the beginning of the year you should have some idea of where the kids are, excuse me--the children. That way half way down the road in January, and surely by June, you'll know where they are and if these innovative and creative programs that have been brought into your school, or are in effect in your school, you need to know did they improve the quality of education and in which ways they did improve the quality of education. If you don't, and you don't really have any control over these so-called new programs, and you don't know whether they are beneficial or not. The bottom line is if with these new programs the children have learned--they have increased or worked up to grade level or whatever, you have to evaluate that. You have to have an on-going evaluation of any type program.
Q: The principal's schedule is often hectic and varied. In a typical day, what issues did you spend the most time on?
A: Some of the issues I would spend time on was first, if parents wanted to talk about certain programs in their school, I felt that was important that I sit down and explain to the parents what we were doing, why we were doing it and what results we were having. I think that is very important. If you talk with one parent, and you help that parent see what you're accomplishing and you're respectful of that parent, and you are sensitive to the feelings of that parent, if that parent goes away feeling good, she'll go tell other parents and bring them into the school. That's one way I spent time during the day. Sometimes when there was a bus problem, and it might be between two students, then it was necessary to invite the parents to come in and talk together to see what the problem was and what could be done. To show them respect, concern and consideration, and through talking and sharing together a number of times we were able to resolve our conflicts to the point where the problem decreased. It takes time. It takes time to discuss with parents. I spent time talking with individual students who I knew had some special problems. It takes time to let them relax and listen to them. Listening is so important. We have to learn to listen to our students and teachers. Because if you help this one child you may help another child through this child passing it on to another child. To show concern, compassion, understanding, and to let the child know that you're there for him or her. Also, when staff people might have a problem, to take time to talk to them and communicate with them. I think the bottom line here is communication and understanding and appreciation. Education comes from the cognitive domain, the psychomotor domain and the other domain of appreciation and understanding, and it all comes together in the functioning of the school in communication.
Q: Many factors contribute to a successful school. How important is parent involvement for a school to be successful?
A: I think it's very important for parents to be involved for a school to be successful. Why do I say that? I say that because when parents are involved, they know what's going on in the school. When parents volunteer their services, they see what's happening in the school. They see the concerns and problems, and they are there to support the school. When the parents are involved, that brings the community into the school, and the school and community joins hands together. I think that's real important. I know of a school system where a principal told me that he tried to keep out as much parent involvement as possible--that they ran the school and knew what to do, and so forth. I noticed years down that that school had a number of problems because the parents didn't really feel they belonged to the school. They didn't feel they knew what was really going on in the school. They felt isolated. My point here is bring in as many volunteers as feasible to help the students, and to communicate from the school. You can do that through a newsletter, notes to the parents and other types of communication. It is necessary to keep the communication lines open. It is very necessary for a good school.
Q: Being a special educator I am especially concerned about special education issues. How did special education fit into your school? Were you responsible for the teachers of special education?
A: Yes, I was. And that was at Dublin Elementary School. The center of some of the special education programs was in my school. We had an old school building where the elementary school used to be. We are now in a new building, the special education center was there. Some of the classes have changed their titles, but we had EMH students, the mentally handicapped students. We had the TMH, trainable mentally handicapped students. We had the LD classes, learning disabled. We had the ED classes, the emotionally disturbed students, sometimes referred to as EH. Throughout the county we had speech handicapped and hearing and vision classes. That was back in 1983. Today they have preschool classes for the handicapped. I believe they have classes for ages 6, 7, 8, 9- developmental type programs to help them. I want to say this--these students are just as important as any other students in the school. These students all have IEPs, individualized education plans, and that's the way it should be. Because in a small class of special education students, there will be many differences in these students. The alert teacher, the special education teacher, recognizes that and plans accordingly. I do want to say this that I had some fine special education teachers. I had one special education teacher in particular. She was just excellent. She made those students believe they could do things better, and more, than what others had said they could. She knew their levels, but sometimes special education students think, I stop here and can't go any further. But, she did not. She helped those students believe they could do many good things, and they did. Let me give you an illustration. She would arrange field trips for these students, and she was taking them different places. On the school buses they would go outside of the county, or in the county they would do certain things. And I remember she planned very well. She taught those students how to behave when they went into a McDonald's for lunch, or Hardee's, or wherever. She taught them how they should conduct themselves. I also remember that she taught them when they finished they cleaned up their trays and put everything away. And when they went to the bathroom, they always left it like they found it. Even in public places. I got a call from a Hardee's restaurant after the teacher had taken them there for lunch. They had other activities throughout the day, but they stopped there for lunch. The person in charge said, "I met your special education teacher and several parents. I told them what a nice job they did and what a fine group of young people they were. The teacher said why don't I call you. That's why I'm calling you. We have had many students in here, and these are special education students, but we've never had a group in here that was nicer, politer, who took care of all their trays, who took care of the restroom facilities. It was a joy to have them, and I want you to know they're welcome back here anytime." I thanked him very much, but my point is this-that teacher had taught them they were good citizens, they could do many good things, and they believed her. And, they excelled. She would carry that over into reading and writing and whatever to say that you can go a step further. That's good, now you can go a step further. To me, that was a master teacher. She was a really outstanding person. I want to reiterate what I just said. Special education students need the time and attention of caring and loving and serving teachers just as much as the talented and gifted and others because they are children and they have a special program. We need to be sure we understand that in planning our curriculum.
Q: In the past twenty years there has been an attempt to integrate children with disabilities into the regular classroom. What are some positive and negative experiences you have had regarding this issue?
A: I think that is a real good question. First, before any integration of the special education students into the classroom takes place, I think first a principal with the assistant and central staff needs to talk with the teachers about such a program. This is not something the principal says, as of two weeks from now we are going to integrate into your classroom the special education students. To me, that's the worst way of going about it. I think you have to talk with the teachers and say to them, and do this on a volunteer basis at first, the special education students experience many good things with the regular classroom students when the classroom accepts them. The teacher has to teach the children how to accept these special education students, to be concerned and caring and to be thoughtful to them. I've seen many good things happen by that. Now, first some teachers are fearful of special education students coming into their classrooms. They may be good teachers, fine teachers, but their first concern is this will disrupt my whole classroom, and I don't know that I can handle that. You have to reassure that teacher. You have to support that teacher and say yea this will be a change. You have to support that teacher and let her know that there may be some difference there in the way things have been going in the classroom. But encourage her, although she may be reluctant, to do it on an experimental basis. Or, maybe you can visit with Ms. Jones. There are going to be several in her class. And, help her feel that she's not just being thrown into it, but she's gradually worked into the program. Help her to see the advantages of it. It can help the self-esteem of the other students when they are on a one-one-basis and help the special education students, and it promotes their self-esteem when they can share their talents with those that don't have as many talents. Gently work it out, and then, when you've got that going (maybe just several teachers are doing it), emphasize the positive. Help the other teachers to see that Johnny and Mary and Bobby are doing better because they have new friends. They are good and kind to them. Then, bring the other teachers into it. It has to be a gradual type thing. Regardless of whether the state department of education or the school division says next Monday we are going to integrate our special education students into a regular classroom, to me that's a disaster and should not be. Really, I don't think any competent division superintendent or state department would advocate that. I think they would say there has to be a planning time. There has to be a preparation time. The principal sets the stage by talking with the teachers, and the central staff talks with everybody to show how it can benefit everybody, even to these teachers. There are a lot of good things that can happen. The special education students don't think that they're completely different from everyone else. They can go to the regular classroom with other children, and that makes them feel good. But, we have to help those special education students to know that we want them in the classroom because they are good people and to help them develop positive relationships with the other students. They don't want to be argumentative and causing problems. That's another program where teachers and students have to work together.
Q: Discipline is a big topic in the news now and in pending legislation. And, it's an important consideration for safe schools. Should discipline for children with special needs be different from the discipline program for the regular school population?
A: I think the discipline program for special students has to have special considerations. I am not saying that special education students should not have discipline or not be disciplined. I am saying that we have to understand their educational, psychological and emotional well-being. When we understand that, then when there's a problem we should help the child to see that what he's doing is wrong and correct it. If this special education student does not respond to that type of teaching and training, then we have to go a step further. First, we have to be sure that each student, whether special education or regular student, that they understand that they are responsible for their own actions. Not only the regular students. The special education students have to realize that they are responsible for their own actions. I understand that with special education students that takes more training and guidance. It takes more working with them to understand that. I think it's important that they understand that to the best of their ability. When they do understand, but they don't seem to care, then I think that a form of discipline may be appropriate. Whatever that form may take. It should be to help the child to see that I am responsible and I have to assume responsibility for my own actions. I think that is very important for all the students. I think for all students the first point is they know right from wrong and they understand they are responsible for their actions. Now, I'd like to say something here that bothers me a great deal. In the early fifties, sixties and seventies, let me say at least in the fifties and early sixties, we had values in our schools. We taught values. I think there are two types of values. There are what I call universal values that pertain to all students, and there are individual values that the student has the right to choose. What are those universal values that I think pertain to all of the students? I think they are: you don't murder, you don't rape, you don't kill, you don't destroy property. They, to me, are universal values. There are other values, but those are the ones I'm mentioning right now. Those values should be taught in the family, the church and should be taught in the public school. I know I'm going to get some flack back on that, but they need to be taught in the public schools. I'm going to reiterate, we should teach school children that they don't murder, they don't rape, they don't kill, they don't destroy property, they don't steal, they don't lie, and they don't cheat. To me, these are universal values. They are right from wrong. I'm saying this because I spoke at a high school a number of years ago. I was to speak to the whole student body. My topic was on values. I asked the principal before I went in what is your feeling about values and teaching them to children. He said we don't teach values here. We don't teach values. I said well I'm thinking about what I call univeral values that you don't kill, you don't murder, you don't cheat, you don't rape, you don't lie, you don't steal. I said how about those values. What about those? He said we don't teach that. I said what do you teach. He said the guidance counselors teach the children that they have to make their own decisions. I said you mean to tell me that if a student feels that it is okay to rape another person that is his decision to make. There's no right and wrong about it. That's his decision to do that. He did not give me a complete answer. When I spoke to the student body, the students accepted that and gave me a standing ovation on that point. When I went back to the principal, I said do you still feel about universal values that you don't teach them. He said, you may have a point. And that's all he said. Now, there are other values that students have to decide for themselves like the value of their faith--whether it be Jewish, Catholic, Protestant. They decide on that as individuals and families. They decide what kind of clothes they are going to wear. They decide on what kind of movies and activities and sports events they'll attend. They are going to decide on the kind of music they like. They decide on many individual things. And that's their responsibility to decide on individual values. I know there are those who will contradict me, but I feel that our problems today in our public schools stem from the fact that back in the fifties and sixties the guidance counselors were taught that they have to tell children to make their own decisions. It's called the decision-making process. You have to make your own decisions about many things. I don't think it was ever made clear that they were teaching right from wrong, or what exactly they were teaching them to make decisions about. So, I know I may be outnumbered here, but I think that's the problem with schools today. We have students in schools today who do not know the difference between right and wrong. We may say of course they do, but they really don't. Their point is that it's right if you can get by with it. It's okay to do anything you want to do if you can get by with it. It reminds me of research that was made of about 1,600 students. The students were asked if it's alright to rape, or do you approve of rape. I think these were teenagers who were seventh graders on to tenth graders. Many of the boys said rape was appropriate under certain circumstances. If they had consumed alcohol it was okay. Surprisingly, some of the girls approved of it. This tells us that children do not know right from wrong. And that's one of those universal values. You don't rape, but that hasn't gotten over. I think our schools today are flooded with so many problems that Dr. William Bennett speaks of in his presentation. They don't have the morals and ethics when it comes down to values. I'm going to say it again. I think the families need to teach their values, universal values. The churches need to teach about universal values, and the public school needs to teach universal values. I think that's one of the reasons public schools have so many problems today. Where the failure is in our public schools is because we have thrown out the value system. I'm talking about universal values. We have brought in the decision-making process in so far that kids think it's my decision and if I think it's alright it is.
Q: Schools are in the business of teaching young people. What is the most effective way of dealing with ineffective performance from teachers?
A: That's a good question, and I'm sure all principals face that. We have to go back to our responsibilities. Our responsibility as principals is to help to see that the teachers give the students the best education possible. If you have a teacher who is not doing a good job, then it behooves the principal, he has the responsibility to sit down with that teacher and help her to correct that situation. He may have to meet with her several times throughout the year. But, he has the responsibility to see if he can help her accomplish the task of changing her ways to be a good teacher. In other words, he has a responsibility to help that teacher become a good teacher. If he has worked with her and worked with her and she doesn't seem to have the teaching qualities. Then, after working with the teacher on several occasions he needs to sit down with the teacher and say teaching is not for you. You're not happy. You're not doing the kind of job you'd like to do with your children, and you're feeling miserable about it. Let's talk about ways and things you like to do and can accomplish. Let's look at that. The principal has to feel a responsibility to help her to change from being a teacher, and help her get located in something else that is more fitting to her. I think he has that responsibility. I had that to happen once. I knew this teacher was very intelligent and had high scores in science and physics and math and one other area in college. Outstanding, outstanding. She was not adjusting as an elementary school teacher. So I talked with her and told her she had many fine, good talents. Why make yourself miserable by staying in this situation because you're making yourself miserable and the children miserable, and they are not succeeding. Why don't you contemplate changing to a situation in a college or university to bring out your excellent talents. I helped that teacher get relocated in a college. She was really happy and did a great job. It's been real successful for her, and I feel that by finding out about what the qualities are of a teacher and help her get relocated where she can utilize those good qualities. I do feel that it is the responsibility of the principal to make sure that every child in that school receives the best education possible, and if the teacher is not delivering that, or if the teacher is not accomplishing that, then I think you have to sit down and talk about it.
Q: The fact that I'm here means others view you as an effective leader. What do you think makes you effective?
A: I don't know that I'm an effective leader, but gosh. What makes me an effective leader, is that your question? I don't know. I think to be an effective leader you first have to know what job you're doing, what your responsibilities are, what your commitments are, and what your vision is. When you know all of that, the most important thing a principal, or superintendent, has to be concerned about is the teacher. He has to be really concerned about the teacher. He has to be sensitive to that teacher. Sensitive to the things that concern her. He has to be a caring person. Whatever it is he's going to do, he has to be concerned about that teacher and working with her to accomplish a goal. I think it's so important for a good superintendent or principal needs to know about each teacher and what makes her tick and what makes her feel happy and successful and work with her accordingly. He has to be a good communication person. Or she, I keep saying he. He or she has to be a person who communicates well. Above all else I've said, he has to be a good listener. It's so important that a principal, superintendent, director of instruction, or supervisor has to be a person who knows how to listen. Then you must recognize body moments with what is being said and take it all into consideration. A good principal has to be a good communicator, a good listener, an innovative person and creative.
Q: Would you list some of the accomplishments that you think best illustrate your career as a principal?
A: Well, let me simply say this. I retired from the principalship in 1983. Then I went on with the state department of education in their school climate project. I was a member of the school climate committee. We worked with high schools throughout the state. Following that, I was an adjunct professor at Radford University and worked with the student teachers before coming here to Saint Albans Psychiatric Hospital. All during that time I've had the pleasure of seeing many of my thousands of students that I've worked with through the years. I've seen them at funerals, receptions, churches, in the towns and in the streets. I've gotten letters from them. To me, that makes me happy when I know that they are still concern. That's been twelve years ago, but I still have communication with them. Just yesterday I met some at a funeral, and I got to talk with a number of the students and they reminded me of some things that went on. And it was a happy occasion. Hearing from the young people I've had the privilege of serving and hearing of their successes. We've had students to go into so many different fields: truck drivers, secretaries, authors, writers, poets, preachers, doctors, lawyers and store clerks and service station operators. I get a chance to see and hear from them. It's a good feeling when I get to talk with them. I think that's the thing that makes me happy.
Q: I'm sure that you've seen many changes occur in education during your career. What do you consider to be the most important changes that have occurred in education during you career?
A: The think the most important changes that have occurred during my career is one that's been saddening to me is that public schools, long ago in the forties and fifties and sixties had a strong system of what's right and what's wrong--universal value systems. I thought that was very important, but when new programs came into being, especially in guidance and working with children--that has saddened me. I think that has been partially the responsibility for the decay of the while educational process when the students were told they had to make their own decisions about universal values. I know that some will contradict me, but I know that they have done that. I think that changed the whole attitude of students. It has caused students to lose respect for schools, communities, teachers, and others. That they believe they could handle decisions about anything, especially those universal decisions. Another sad thing to me is the alcohol and drug problems of young teenagers. I've been president of the Pulaski alcohol task force for eleven years. We ended our program about a year ago. That gave me an opportunity to see into the schools the problems. The problems there are just very great. One serious problem is an alcohol problem. The alcohol problem affects most all high schools. I'm sorry to say that I don't think the colleges and universities have helped out in this respect. The colleges and universities have been a leader for the teenagers in high schools as far as drinking is concerned. On many college campuses today, there is far too much consumption of alcohol. I think this is a real crack in the wall of education. I really feel that the colleges' presidents and boards of visitors have really not done an effective job of working with students to see the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. Right now, specifically, alcohol. Students who graduate from high school have already consumed alcohol, and a large number of college students are consuming alcohol on a regular basis. I have statistics, but I won't quote them because I might misquote, but I know a goodly number. There was a game the other day between VPI and UVA. I know a person who said he did not go to the go to the game, which was held in Charlottesville, because there's so much drinking and foul language in those places, and he did not want to expose his children to that. So, he did not go. He goes when they are at Tech, but he says there's a certain amount of protection he has there for his children from that type of conversation. My point here is when our colleges and universities don't do anything about the alcohol and drug problems more than they are doing now, which I think is just not enough. When they don't take more responsibility for teaching young people what will really happen to them and how addiction takes place. I don't feel the leaders of our colleges and universities and their boards have really put the best foot forward to correct this very, very serious problem. I think they ought to give that more consideration because regardless of how talented and intelligent a person has, regardless of how many degrees she has, if they don't control the consumption of alcohol and other drugs, then they are a poor role model for the people growing up. I feel that's an area colleges should have a big conference, a big convocation, about what it is we must do to correct this.
Q: This oral history of the principalship serves to provide experienced principals the chance to contribute to history and to knowledge of current and future educators. What advice would you give to someone considering the principalship as a career move?
A: I would say first do you know what it is to be a principal. After he or she has determined what it is to be a principal, I would say do you feel you have those qualities that would make you a good principal. Are you willing to do those things that are necessary to be a good principal. Are you willing to go the extra mile to keep up with the advancements in education--knowledge, procedures, programs. Are you willing to do that as time changes? Basically, do you really love young people. When I say love, I mean agape love that we read about in the bible. Do really, really care about students. Do you really have a desire to help young people be the finest young people they can be. You have to answer these questions intelligently and honestly because when you have answered them, and the answer is yes and you really believe in it--learn to be a good communicator. Learn to be a good listener. Learn to be able to touch and feel the feelings in the other person you work with because when you can do this you can work with them. I think the principalship is one of the most important responsibilities a person can have. It's more important than the superintendent, director of instruction, more important than the supervisors, because the principal has a huge responsibility. He has the responsibility of educating the young people in his school. He has the responsibility of working with the teachers in his school to help them be the best teachers they can be. When all of that is said and done, and a principal can sit down and say I like what I'm doing and I feel like I'm accomplishing what I set out to accomplish. That can be a good feeling. I think every principal has to take time alone with himself to plan a vision for his school. Then, he doesn't necessarily pass that on to his teachers. He takes that and gets them together and asks what they say about his vision which may be completely different to come out with a vision with the leadership of the principal for that school for today, the next five years, the next ten years.
Q: I have tried to develop a comprehensive interview that will ve informative to all who read it, but I have probably left something out that you think should be included. What have I not asked you that I should have?
A: I feel we accomplished what we set out to accomplish. I would like to say this. We have been talking about creative and innovative programs, and that's important. But my comment here is you don't have creative and innovative programs because it's something new to have. You don't jump on every bandwagon because it's new and different. Before you accept a program, or plan a program that's going to be different, you have to say where are the children now. What success has the program had in other schools, and is that really success. Is it just propaganda. You now everyone wants to feel their program has been successful. Search that out and see if it's really successful or propaganda. If it really has helped children to improve in their education from the beginning of the school year to the end, say my children here will they be successful. Is this situation similar to that situation. If I do try this I must understand that it will only continue as long as it can prove it is beneficial to the children, and it improves the instructional program, and they benefit in the end. If it doesn't do that it may not have any value. You should have an on-going evaluation program to do that. I'm going to back to my point. Don't jump on every bandwagon for every new program. Frankly, I've seen some programs that I thought were a waste of time and were useless. I've seen some that were good. You have to evaluate your needs in your school,and then you have the teachers in on it to see if they feel it's beneficial and willing to try. You have to help teachers realize it's okay to fail if it doesn't work out. We'll just say that hasn't been successful. For every failure, as Abraham Lincoln has said, every failure is simply a stepping stone to success. So, when you see it's a failure. Stop it with the teachers help, or improve it or change it. A principal has to support teachers when they are working on a new program. The bottom line is children have to learn better. If it accomplishes that it's good. If it doesn't, we need to change. The principal has to be flexible in that respect.
Q: Dr. Pound I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to spend with me.
A: I have enjoyed it a great deal. I really have, and Kevin it has been a pleasure to meet and talk with you. Anything I can do to help you just let me know. Of course you have to remember I've been out of the principalship since 1983 and this is 1995. You might keep that in mind. I do thank you for allowing me this privilege.
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