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Q: I read in the paper that you've been here for 40 some years. Is that correct? 41 years.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Mr. Patterson: I've been in Roanoke County for 41 years. And I've been principal at William Byrd for 34 years.
Q: Wow. You came right up here from out of East Carolina?
A: Mr. Patterson: I came here from East Carolina. A gentleman named Dewitt T. Miller who was principal at Andrew Lewis High School back in the 50's was recruiting at East Carolina and I happened to be a person he talked to while he was at East Carolina and my major was in Science and I was playing college football, and ran college track and he was looking for science teacher and a football and track coach. So we just had a perfect situation there. I liked him and I think he thought maybe I could do pretty good job at his school. So he hired me. That's how I got to Roanoke county and Andrew Lewis High School used to be part of Roanoke County school system. That's in Salem.
Q: Then you've been here for 24 years?
A: I've been here for 34 years. I was at Andrew Lewis which was Roanoke County back then for 7 years.
Q: So you are getting ready to retire July 1? So you can spend more time with the grandchildren?
A: Well the main objective, I like the job I that I have. It's a very rewarding job, the students have been supportive, the parents have been very supportive, the booster clubs, the community, and everybody else. That's why I like the job so much but in the last couple of years I've had 3 grandchildren born and so I want to try to spend more time with my children and grandchildren so they remember who I was
Q: They're up in Connecticut and Maryland?
A: I have one daughter in Connecticut and I have one daughter in Maryland and I have a son in Maryland. All of them are out of state.
Q: Do you think you're going to move up north?
A: No I'm staying here. We're going to stay around here but we'll be traveling a lot.
Q: Tell me about you're family background? Your childhood.
A: I'm originally from Rocky Mountain North Carolina. That's a town about 55 miles east of Raleigh in north east of North Carolina. I came from an average size high school but it was considered one of the big high schools in the state because we played Wilmington, Raleigh and Durham and Charlotte. And had to travel all over the state for games. So it was a pretty good size school and we had a lot of good classes. All of the different foreign languages and mathematics and all of those courses that you need to get into college back then. It was a very fine high school. Very academic oriented.
Q: Then you played sports as well in High School?
A: I played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. All four sports. It was very exciting to be able to do all those things.
Q: Did you get a scholarship to go to East Carolina?
A: I had a football scholarship to go to East Carolina, where I was back-up quarterback and ended up being co-captain of the track team.
Q: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
A: I have three brothers and two sisters. My oldest brother died at age 35 with Leukemia and three children. Then another brother who's living in Chicago, is an administrator, a former administrator for a middle school. And a sister who is living in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina and then a sister who is deceased and another brother who is deceased. And my parents were very supportive of everything I did while I was at school. And very good parents. My mother always took me to church and Sunday school and that was very helpful when I was coming up.
Q: Before I jump into college do you want to talk anymore about your childhood?
A: Well, one thing I could say about childhood is that there are a lot of people out there who were very helpful to me. All of my coaches were just real supportive, they kept me busy and actively involved in sports but one of the great things I think that happened to me was that I didn't have very much money, our family was relatively poor but the men on the railroad that was big in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina paid to have some of the young people in town a membership. And so I was given a membership every year to go to the YMCA. Which really helped me tremendously as far as Christian values and learning how to play sports and that kind of thing and excellent background that I think helped shape me and helped me to prepare myself for high school and then later on for college.
Q: The railroad did that for just one person a year?
A: They did different ones such as an engineer, or someone who worked as a ticket person. They had the opportunity of donating to various children in Rocky Mountain and different kids in Rocky Mountain were able to get these memberships. So they probably gave a lot of memberships out to young people help keep them of the streets.
Q: What age was that?
A: Probably like 8-14. Something like that.
Q: All your brothers and sisters participate in that program as well?
A: Yes, yes, mainly the young men back then, there was not as much for the young women as far as sports and those kinds of extracurricular activities.
Q: You've been in education for a long time and one of the changes that has occurred is coeducation. I'm particularly interested in Physical Education change. Have you seen any noticeable change as far as gender related issues?
A: It's been a big change. It's been a very big change because we now have numerous sports for the young ladies. We have as many sports for the girls now in school as we do the boys. And even cheerleading is rapidly becoming a sport. Instead of a cheering squad they're having competitions. District, regional and state wide.
Q: Are boys involved in that as well?
A: Boys can be involved and right now they're mostly girls on the team but we have three or four boys that are helping as far as catching the girls when they leap up high and stuff like that. So the guys and the girls are getting actively involved in cheering. I think throughout the state because of the governor years and years ago developed a committee to try to get as many girl sports as there were boy sports and I just was fortunate enough to be on that the governor's committee to finished the last gap left. We met and we talked about it. Not just for high school but also for colleges. We had people on there from different colleges: Debbie Ryan from UVA was on there, and some professional athletes were on there that had been in college. We tried to develop a plan whereby we would continue to add more girl's sports until it was more equal with boy's and right now it's pretty close to being equal.
Q: Heard people talking about the soccer team.
A: Yeah we've got a girl's and a boy's soccer team.
Q: How did you get appointed onto the Governor's Commission [for equalizing boys and girls sports]?
A: Well, I was appointed on that because at that particular time I was chairman of the Virginia High School League. Which is the governing body for all the interscholastic sports throughout the state of Virginia. And being chairman that group, they asked me if I would serve on this committee to represent the high schools. Which I did.
Q: What other various commissions did you serve on over the years that really stand out?
A: Well, I was . . . being chairman of the high school league I was chairman of the executive committee of the high school league and other committees I have served on there were committees such as chairman of the financial committee for the state which is finances and high school league. And head of the appeals committee, I been head of that. I've been head of the committee to help choose people who went to the Hall of Fame for the coaches and principals group for the state. And lots of other committees I've served on and also on the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals executive committee. Which is affiliated more with legislation throughout the state than serves principals.
Q: Are you going to continue to stay on the committees? Can you stay on the committees?
A: Usually when you retire you do not stay on those committees. Sometimes they will ask you to do certain things for them which I have told them I will do. And I have volunteered my services for the high school league and for the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals. So they've got any kind of job what so ever I'll be glad to help them.
Q: When you started off preparing for your administrative position what college experiences helped play a role of your decision to go into education? Or did you know all along that that was what you wanted to do?
A: Well I . . . my brother was a role model as I mentioned one of my brothers passed away and my other brother was a science teacher and a coach and he served as really a great role model and was very helpful to me all through out my high school career. As a matter of fact he was one of my football coaches and he made it twice as tough on me as he did the other players but he being a science teacher and a coach sort of made me want to do that to. And he seemed to be happy with what he was doing and I liked science and I liked mathematics and I liked sports and so I just decided to major in science and then I also had . . . I was treasurer of the student body at East Carolina. Later on I was the student body president. And so those kinds of things sort of led me into administration too, because they had some leadership positions prior to going into teaching.
Q: What about going from being teacher to becoming a principal? I have noticed that teachers expect a certain amount from principals?
A: Teachers want to be able to have the things they need to teach. And some of the things they really need to teach are . . . they need support for one thing, they need for you to try to go out and try to get the materials and supplies and text books and all of the things they need to do the job that they have to do. They have different problems in the classrooms; such as discipline problems or things like that. They want your support. You need to support the teachers in that. You need to try to do your best as administrator; to get their salaries raised because they're so deserving and have such a tough job. You want to do in any way you possibly can support them in what they're doing. You want to try to provide them with a good schedule. You want to make sure that when you provide classes for teachers that you don't overburden them like give them four preparations. You want to try to give them as fewer preparations as possible so they can spend time . . . less time on preparing and more time on strategies for teaching students. And so there are lots of different things that you need to try to do for teachers. You need to try to keep them in their same room if you can so they won't be moving all over the building so they can keep their materials and supplies in that room that you're using for the students. Teachers expect a lot from the principals. One of the things we do to try to make sure that happens is we meet with each department chairperson before we assign any classes. We have that department chairperson makes suggestions on what each teacher in that department should be teaching and then we try to go with that. Actually we have a master builder which actually puts the master schedule on paper but we can work with that as well as what we want to teachers to have. And usually come out with what the teachers are best prepared to teach. But we also go to the supervisors who are the school board office and get their input on how they feel about this assignment of courses for teachers. You'll work real hard to try to get things that you feel like a happy teacher would be a better teacher and would be able to help the students a lot more than somebody that doesn't like what they're teaching.
Q: You mentioned a Master Builder is that the same as a curriculum builder?
A: Well we actually have a computer we put everything into a computer and the computer will schedule classes period by period so that they'll be the fewest number of student conflicts. In other words, some students will want to take advanced algebra and trig and chemistry. Well this computer will try to keep those classes at different periods not the same period so that the students will have a better chance of getting both of them and not missing out on one of them because the schedule is set in such a manner. So this master builder and that's just one of the things that's happened over the years. We use to do that by hand but now we do it with a master builder that we have set up in our computer.
Q: Is that what nationally most of the schools are doing?
A: Most of them are doing it now that are advanced at all and I would say most of them do have that technology to do that.
Q: How many students are enrolled here?
A: We have close to 1100
Q: You said the high school you graduated from was close to average size?
A: Yeah ours was about 900 to 1000 back then.
Q: You must be from a really small town?
A: It was and it was the only high school there.
Q: You go with your master builder and talk with the school administrators at a district office. Often argued that the district offices can almost hinder what go on in the schools. Theres a lot of conflicts. If you were the in charge what changes would you make in that relationship between the central office and the individual schools?
A: I would try to get more money for the teachers to use to teach in their classroom. I'm not sure that we have enough to do actually the ultimate that they would like to do. And that would be one thing I would suggest. As far as moral support and backing us up we get a lot of support from Roanoke county school board office where we have the superintendent, the assistant superintendent and all his supervisors for each of the subject areas. But I think we do need more money coming in to each department such as English, math, history, and social studies etc so that they can have more flexibility in getting some of the latest technology to use to educate the young in our school. I think we need more great big TV's in classrooms that we can pull in technology. We're making some progress with computers and printers and so forth but we still don't have enough of those. But that would be one thing, I would try to get a little more money for instruction.
Q: Sound like a good principal to have.
A: You try to back up your teachers.
Q: You talked about salaries and compensation. They've changed an awful lot over the years Can you give us any recollections of your compensations from when you started.
A: Yeah when I first started it was like 3200 dollars and 400-dollar supplement for coaches. So you started off at like 3600 but gasoline was 15 cents a gallon. And everything was pretty inexpensive as far as it is now in comparison the way it is now. But back then you probably had as much spending money as you do now.
Q: Just everything's gone up?
A: Everythings just gone up. It's inflated but I think our county has done a pretty good job keeping up but we have declined as far as Salem and Roanoke city's concerned when your comparing salaries. People use to come into Roanoke County in groves because of our salary and now our salary is not as competitive as it used to be. However because of the quality of I think of our system we're still able to get really good teachers. And the other thing that's changed is the amount of money that the state has been providing for localities. Our locality is not getting as much money from the state to run the schools as we used to. We're not getting as much money from our local supervisors as we used to. So we're having to come up with other ways of getting money like charging a few fees for this and so forth and try to come up with the money we need for instruction. And you might have heard that the state no longer wants local school divisions to charge for textbooks. So there's no charge for textbooks. So that's very helpful to the parents and does hurt the schools a little bit because we used to use some of that money for buying instructional materials such as different textbooks and stuff and might use the supplements.
Q: Another loop hole in the system?
A: Yeah and that's just the way it's been all over the state. State money and the federal money has decreased and the local money has decreased. It's just a little bit harder to make ends meet.
Q: You've mentioned some of the things you would do differently and would improve on. What kind of things do you use to create your climate for learning here? As far as from a leadership standpoint.
A: One of the things that I think you ought to try to do is to have a nice clean school. Make it a nice place for the students to come and teachers to come. You need to have an area in the school such as a computer lab, you need to have a nice library for them to go. They need to have various places they can take the students so when they have certain things they want to do, such as now you can get a lot of information for your subject off the computers. So once you get into the lab then you can pull off information that you can't get out of a textbook. So I think you need to have a variety of areas within your school to enable your students to go to gather information. And we have had in-service for teachers on things they can do to as far as using computers to pull information for the different subject areas like science and math, history, social studies and all of those areas. We wanted to have in-service activities for the teachers so we will not be disadvantaged as far as technology is concerned and gathering information. There are lots of different things that I think that principals should try to do to enhance learning. Another thing is observe the classes. You need to be in the classroom yourself as an administrator and see what's going on. And we try to get in all of the classes at William Byrd and then sit down with teacher afterwards and go over the lesson, let the teacher tell you what she thinks or he thinks they did good and some of the things they might change if they had to do it over again. And then you make suggestions as administrator on what you feel like maybe could have been done to change the instruction. Not only that but also allows students to see the administrators in the classroom and they're more apt to pay attention. Be focused on the lesson while you're in there. And we're there hundreds of times throughout the school year. And the support you're seeing throughout the building especially the classrooms.
Q: Describe your approach to teacher evaluation.
A: Then one of the other things that I think is just as important is for you to acknowledge good teaching. Let the teachers know that you think they've done a good job. If there are any awards out, like last year there was an award out, the Sally May Teacher of the Year award. We had to real good first year teachers. And this is an award that usually goes to just one teacher in the whole county. Well, we sent ours in for two teachers and both of them got it. It's the top first year teacher in the county. And I think whenever you see good teaching you need to let the teachers know that they are doing a good job and that will enhances their thinking as far as trying to do better and better and better and better. And we've had several state teachers of year here at William Byrd over the last few years which are on the Hall of Fame out in the hall. But I think you need to recognize that and the other thing that you need to do to which is on the other end of the spectrum when you see a teacher who is not doing what you think is doing a good job in the class room you need to make suggestions for improvement. You need to let them know what they need to improve on. Let them work out strategies and things they can do to improve them and continue to do that get someone from the school board to come in to verify what you're thinking, let them work with the person. And then if that person can improve enough to stay then you've done a good job helping them improve. But if their teaching is not up to par then don't renew their contract because what we're here for is the students. That's the approach you need to take to try to help as much as you can and help them improve and if that doesn't occur then you've got to go another route and try to get somebody in here that can do the job.
Q: I bet the teachers respect that. Because they know.
A: Well you have to do that sometime.
Q: What type of leader do you consider yourself? Assertive? Supportive? Contemplative?
A: I think supportive might be a good way to say it. I believe that would be the way I would be categorized because if a teacher comes in here one of the things I always ask them after I've talked to them after an observation I'll ask them; what did you do to enhance learning, if you had to do it over again what would you change and is there anything I can do to help you. And sometimes they'll say well I need a filing cabinet or I've got a couple boys I wish you'd talk to, that might help me in the classroom or whatever it is. So I think you need to offer the support that you're available for them to help them and I think sometimes teachers appreciate that. That I think is the supportive role that the principal should take in working with teachers.
Q: Do you think that most teachers or your employees are self-motivated and can work on their own or do you think you think they need to be monitored and told how to do things?
A: I think its' a mixture. We've got some people that you would never need to tell anything to. I could name them by name right now. Then you do have others that you have to monitor, observe, make sure they're doing what they're suppose to do.
Q: That's probably just part of being an effective leader is testing them.
A: That's part of being an effective leader and usually what you would do is to monitor and get in their classes more often. To see what's going on.
Q: What about, would you ever have someone who does need the motivation sit in on role model teachers?
A: Yes we can do that. As a matter of fact we also have requested that some of these folks go to another school to visit another teacher who is a very good teacher in their same materials
Q: Teachers are supportive of this?
A: Yes they are
Q: You mentioned teachers asking for filing cabinets or ask that you talk to a couple of their students. Is that something that you normally do or does the assistant principal?
A: Usually they'll come in and ask me for the equipment, supplies, that sort of thing. And the assistant principal will take care of discipline problem but I do have several contracts with probably three or four teachers about certain students who are late to their class. And they would like for me to personally call them in and talk to them about it. As a matter of fact I had one this morning who was on an athletic team here and I told that student that if they were late to this class again they were going to stay after school and miss their practice and that their coach wouldn't like it. And so I think that motivated that particular student to get to class on time for a while but there are certain teachers that would like for me to handle certain problems. But I just do it for them but by in large I have one assistant principal that handles most of the discipline problems.
Q: What do you feel the role of the assistant principal is? How do you utilize you're assistant principal?
A: We have ours broken up in two different categories. One is instruction, one of my assistants is in charge of developing the master schedule, working with teachers on instruction, whatever we get something in that's new innovated. He's responsible for getting it to the teachers and communicating to them about it. As a matter of fact we got something in yesterday for special education teachers that they felt like it was real good so we went in and bought those materials for them. So he's responsible for communicating with the teachers on anything that's instructional. Plus he and another teacher of mine are in charge of in service activities for teachers. And he is always talking to this other teacher about what do we need to do next as far as in-service for the teachers. A lot of things we do now in relation to the SOL's. As a matter of fact we're having an in service activity this Wednesday on SOL's. It's a lot of things as far as instructions is concerned. We do get our teachers to visit other schools. We have them go to classes for instruction improvement. We have them also be on evaluation committees at other schools to see what other schools are doing. We help that evaluation committee before we come back. And usually get new ideas about things that are going on at the other school. But it's a whole of things that are going on as far as improvement of scholastic.
Q: On your assistant principal? Has it always been known what your assistant principals were going to do?
A: No it hasn't been hard in a lot what you give your assistant principal as far as jobs are concerned has to do with what they are I guess I would say their aptitude in those areas. If they're pretty good as far as instruction is concerned then I'd put them in that. But if I thought they had the type of personality to work with discipline then I might put them in that. And I've switched around different years I've had different assistant principals. It depends on who they are and what capabilities they have as to what I give them.
Q: Are you involved in the hiring process for your assistant principals?
A: Usually I am. Yes. If somebody asks me at the supers office. The superintendent hires assistant principals but many times they'll ask me some questions about it and get the opportunity for impute. But the final hiring is the superintendent's job.
Q: Can you elaborate a little about your relationship with the superintendent?
A: Excellent, outstanding reporum very supportive.
Q: He's probably sorry to see you go.
A: Well we have a woman now. All of them that I've ever had were great, worked with are very supportive. You just had the kind of superintendents that you didn't mind going in and sitting down and talking to them about our schools because your objective is to give the students the best education possible. When going in there and asking him if you had that as your main objective it's hard sometimes to say no. If they got the money normally they'll support you. If they don't they can't. Really great relationships.
Q: Describe your best assistant principal you ever had and talk about the kinds of things he or she did? And maybe what has become of that person now?
A: Well I had one several years ago and she as a matter of fact was a teacher for me before she became an assistant principal. She was certified in seven different areas. And you would build your master schedule back then you didn't have the master builder to do that for you, you had to do it yourself. And usually whatever was left over after everyone had been assigned something, you'd give it to this woman. And she could do a super job with it. She knew a lot about a lot of different things. That's the reason we ended up hiring her as an assistant principal. She had a great repertoire with the other teachers. Because she knew them but she was good enough as far as communication to be able to be firm enough to say no when she wanted to say no. And to say yes when she wanted to say yes. And the teacher didn't mind coming in and talking to her. But she's real good with people. Students, she had a caring attitude, Great with parents, teacher, students, good Christian woman and well liked and respected by the community. I think that's the one I'd choose.
Q: What is she doing now?
A: She's retired now. She's in the Retired Teacher's Association. Still lives in this community.
Q: Describe some of the circumstances or reasons that made you decide to retire? And the mental process that you went through and how and when you came to that conclusion?
A: My wife has wanted me to retire for few years. I liked the job so much I didn't really want to retire. But in the last two years with the grandchildren being born I started thinking if I want them to remember me I better visit them. They're out of state. I'm going to spend more time with my family. I knew I would still be working for the county for 24 days after I retire. Which is county retirement. There's a lot of other things in the community that I'm doing. I'm on planning commissions and the highway safety commission, involved in some church activities and a few other things. So I decided it was time to retire and the main reason was spending more time with the family.
Q: Can you give advise for students like myself who are in school thinking about becoming a principal or administrator? Any important things to do?
A: One of the things and it's a philosophy for me. I think people put too much on the negative side of administration and what they have to do and so forth. And I've always tried to put it on the positive side. Of all the great students we've had here at William Byrd High School and at Andrew Lewis High School. And if you try to keep that in focus and remember that the large majority of students are really great kids and worth working as hard as you can to help get a good education. And then trying to help those who have problems to improve, to get on the right road so they can graduate if possible. If you can keep that in your mind, you can stay with it longer and enjoy more. It's just like the other day in the president of the Dogwood Festival was a former student of mine. We also have the president, CEO of Norfolk and Southern railroad is a Byrd graduate. But when you have students like that that are very successful. It makes you feel good about what you're doing. Students the last two years our seniors have gotten nearly two million dollars in scholarships. Knowing the things that they can accomplish and then our school has been best in creative writing in 96 and 97. We won a trophy for best school in athletics for the last three years. Double A. When you see all those things the students are accomplishing. And the teachers and coaches. Help solve the other problems as good as you can but provoke these other things. And that's one of the reasons I've put the hall of fame up in the hall by the gym. We have people in there that are all-state choir and all state band all-state forensics, football. So that the other kids look up in there and say "I could be up there". And provoke that. Provoke a positive attitude. That's important. I try to do that with teachers. Really the route to go. Sometimes I think people are hitting so hard on certain problems it's hard for them to see other side
Q: What about the ideal requirements for principal certification and like appropriateness for procedure for screening those who wish to be principals? Can you think of any criteria that would help in the screening process?
A: I've got twenty things you can look at there. There was an article in the Roanoke times about me and for the newspaper reporter I developed a list of 20 things I think a good principal should have.
Q: Is that something you'd be interested in doing? My class would enjoy having you speak.
Q: Home schooling? What is your opinion on that? Do you lose any students to home schooling?
A: We don't lose too many students to home schooling. Personally, I'm not in favor of it. I think it takes away some of the social skills for students. And because all of us are going to have to be out in the community and out in the world we need to learn how to get along with people. It's a possibility that a student might get a good education but certainly I'm not sure they'll get a good education as far as learning being able to get along with people. And I think that's just one of the reasons it's important for a student to be in a public school. We have people that are very educated, looking after them, and trying to help them get a good education. I just sort of think they could get a better education in public schools than they would in home schools.
Q: You have a real strong feelings for community affairs and involvement. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
A: Yes, my philosophy about community involvement is you ought to get every parent you can involved in what's going on in the school. Some years ago I established booster clubs for all of the different organizations that we have here such as the band, choir, football, basketball, baseball. They all have their separate booster clubs. Our PTA. As far as community involvement is concerned, I think that is one of the main things that a principal needs to try to do, is to get as many parents in the community, the community itself involved in what's going on in the school. One of the things, I always thought was important for our school was to establish booster clubs for the different extracurricular activities such as band, choir, football, baseball, basketball all the different sports activities. Plus I like for our local newspaper to print things that are going on in the school. They've been very supportive about that. We are a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I've been involved in personally the Lions Club, Dogwood Festival, Kiwanas club and do things for the Red Cross and so forth. I think you need to have support of your community. We've been blessed at William Byrd to have just great parental support. As a matter of fact a few years ago, and I have the article here, William Byrd became the first high school in the state of Virginia to get the state achievement award for PTSA activities. Usually it's an elementary school but our people were so actively involved. We sent in our report of what we were doing that year and they selected William Byrd High School and no other high school had received that award. It was the very first one that the state had given. I think those things where you've got parents actively involved, the students see their parents are involved. That motivates the student, it tells the coaches, and the sponsors and the teachers that you've got parents behind you. And that spurs them on to try to do a better job. And it really does come out as a teacher parent cooperative effort, to educate the children. That's what your after because once they leave our school, and I've told the parents many times, that the parents become the teachers. And the parents should see to it that there's a place for the student to study, motivate them to study, motivate them to do their homework. And make sure they're reinforcing information at home that they learned in school that day. So community activities, I can't emphasize that enough. Another thing we did that was pretty innovated that is, some of the businesses had asked us to come up with ways we could help them with their business. And so through our marketing program we went down to some of the businesses and had our students come up with questions that they asked patrons that were going into these businesses what they would like to see in those businesses. And so through our efforts we were able to gather information and get it back to the businesses and help them to modify and adjust things at their businesses that would promote better business. And so we're not just after businesses supporting the school we want to also support the businesses when they have things they want us to do for them. That's why were a member of the chamber of commerce. Another program we have here that sort of hits on that same idea is we have a program called high schools at work where we have a teacher periodically go to a business that would go to a business that would be with a businessperson all day long. That would try to find out from the businessperson what is it that you need from our students that would help you, if they come to work for you. So they try to gather that information, come back and relay that information back to the students so that the students know what is expected of them when they go out into a business. Likewise we've had many businessman and women come into our school to observe our classes. And in observing our classes we have a form they fill out to tell us what maybe we could teach here at the school that would better prepare our students to go into the business world. So we have a cooperative effort between the business and the school and trying to improve the education of the students.
Q: Sound very positive what other keys contribute to the success of the school?
A: The support of the school board over the years. And they try to give us what we needed to do the job that we're trying to do. Even though I don't believe we've been able to in the last few years get all the things that I would hope as a principal that we could get to enhance learning even more. I think that's probably happening to a lot of schools. They just don't have the finances to do everything they'd like to do. But there's so much new technology that I would like to see in the schools that would help the students learn better. We just don't have the money to do all of those things.
Q: Describe your daily routine.
A: I get in about seven thirty. I get the mail that has come in and go through that. And try to disperse the work that needs to go and answer and make any phone calls that I need to make and get that going. And then I'll probably talk to several students about various things such as if they might have to go on a trip or this or that or whatever. I had a student this morning that needed to go to a school for an interview for a scholarship. she wanted me to give her an excuse report. Of course I did excuse her for it and signed it. Fixed so she could go by and let her teachers sign it so her teachers would know she was excused. Do things like that for attendance. You might have a teacher that comes in and says my air condition isn't working can you get the janitor on that. I'll call the janitor and tell him to go to room so and so. And take care of that particular problem. Teachers will come in for other things, they want me to sign. There are just lots of things principals have to sign: contracts, checks everyday for this that and all the different activities that we have. And I try to get a lot of that done throughout the day. And then I'll try to visit classes. And then today I've been writing letters of recommendations for substitute teacher, a former student. Just those kinds of things everyday. And I go out in the hall between classes, just about every period just to see what's going on out there. Go to the cafeteria, check that, supervise that. I've been at the middle school today because we had a couple of students over there that are high school students taking classes over there that had a problem. I had to go over there and help solve that problem. And you just never know when you come into the building who is waiting for you. You have a schedule but sometimes the schedule has to be changed. That's just the way it is.
Q: So what are some of your common problems that you have to deal with and how do you cope with them?
A: Reports. Sometimes we get reports that are gotten in late to the school board office and the school board office calls us and says you have to get them back to us by such and such a date. So we have to get right on those things immediately and work on those and get those squared away. Today we had an athletic problem that I had to work on today so that the student could be eligible to participate in tomorrow's game. And short deadlines cause you some problems sometimes. You try to get things back to the school board office or the state or whoever's asking for them. But one of the things that an administrator has to be able to do is work on a lot of different things almost at the same time without getting frustrated and upset and excited about it. Because I've found over the years that by trying to do one thing at a time, and get that past you then doing the next thing and the next thing. Then you could tackle three or four things at the same time. It's not an unusual thing for a teacher to come in and say you need to come up to my room and check this and another one to come and get you while you're going out the door and say I need you for this. Then a student to say can I see you in ten minutes about this problem. You need to be able to focus on all of them but try to solve each one of them systematically one at a time. And the other thing is not to get upset and excited about it because you have three or four people trying to get you to do something right then. You should still be as polite and respectful to the third or fourth person that has asked you as you were the first one. It's not their fault they were the fourth one to come in and make a request. So I think in this position you've got to remember that all of these people are important and you need to them help them with whatever problem the need.
Q: Sounds like you do a lot of problem solving.
A: It's a lot everyday, some kind of a problem or another. Always being hit by them. You've got to work on them like they're the most important problem that you've got. I don't care how big or little. That's what I tell the students at the beginning of the year: I don't care how big or little a problem you've got don't ever hesitate to come in here and ask about it so that we can try to help you with it. To them it's an important problem, whether I think so or not you need to try to help them with it. Don't belittle them when they come in to ask you about it. Treat that as something just as important as anything else.
Q: How do you cope with everyone coming in at the same time? Close your door?
A: No never close your door leave it open. I never close my door unless I'm eating lunch something like that. Only eat lunch for 10 minutes then I open it again. I always keep my door open because I like to be accessible. And I think that's one of the attributes of a principal who really cares about the people he's working with is to allow them to come to him whenever they have something they need. You need to be accessible and even if I've got another problem I'm working on I'll ask the person to wait just a few minutes, I'll be with you and I'll try to finish this problem and I'll get to you as quick as I can.
Q: What's the toughest decision that you've had to make or some of the tougher decisions?
A: Some of the tougher decisions were when I had to recommend that a teacher not be rehired. That's one of the really toughies. But if you have worked real hard to try to help that teacher improve, if you've had the other principals go in and work with them, you go to the school board office and get the supervisor in that area to try to do things to help them. then you don't feel to bad about it. Sometimes a person might get into a profession they have good outlook on it but they get into it and it's really not for them. then it would probably be better off if they went into some other profession. Now that's been one of the toughest jobs for me because I try to be empathetic to them but when they're not doing satisfactory job in the classroom you have to say to yourself we're here for the students. And you've got to get the best teacher in that classroom.
Q: What about as far as students? Can't play in the big game?
A: I've had that with students and I've had that with coaches. I've had to keep coaches out because few years ago I had a baseball coach a volunteer coach. I kept him out of two games one more than the state required. But I think you should set example for students and I just felt he should be disciplined a little bit more. Same thing for the students it depends on the severity of what they do.
Q: If you could do it all over again and there were things that could better prepare you to be more effective and efficient especially in the early years?
A: I probably could have gone back got my master two years after I got out I would probably want to take a few more classes, talk to administrator about techniques that they've used, like you're doing now. Everything else that you should do, even the maintenance people the whole thing should be geared to students getting the best education they can. I think as an administrator it's your responsibility to see to it that it works that way.
Q: Is there any thing that you want to provide us with any key points?
A: Everybody working in the school system should be working towards improving instruction so students can learn as much as possible and better prepared them for going on to college, the world of work, service wherever it is. And that includes janitors that clean the room to make it to make it, the environment nice for the students to come into. Everybody, instructional assistance, special ed., people working in attendance greeting students and making them feel good about themselves instead of screaming at them because they were absent three days or that kind of thing. It's up to the principal to set the tone to see that all of that's done. That's a hard job but that's why the principal needs not to be sitting in the office all of the time. They need to be out observing classes and out in the hall so everybody can see them and know that they're doing the job that they're suppose to be doing. Keep the students first. Let them now you're around. Get involved.
Q: How much time do you put in during a typical week?
A: Usually about 60-70 hours sometimes more b/c of extracurricular activities. I go to all the away games because we have big spectator sports. 60 or 70 on average.
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