Interview with Bob Peak

April 12, 2000

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Q: Okay, just begin by telling us a little bit about your family background.

peak audio (Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)

A: Okay, I was one of seven children. My father worked for the North & Western Railroad in Smyth County and born in Chillhowee in 1943. I attended Chillhowee Elementary School; grade 1 through 4, Glade Spring Elementary; 5 through 7 and Glade Spring High School; 8 through 11, no 12th grade.

Q: So 11th grade was the graduation date?

A: It was. So, my interests as a kid–boyscotts, later in elementary school, sports, and then high school, all sports that were available like football, basketball, track and baseball. I played, played and participated in all.

Q: Very active.

A: Day and night, day and night. Had, had a blast as a high school kid.

Q: I guess probably as a person who chose the field of education, just like anybody else who gets in that field, you probably loved school.

A: Yes.

Q: That’s the way I was.

A: Yes. Loved the schools.

Q: Okay, question two, if you can recall, what lead to your decision to enter the field of education? Did any one person have a large effect on you?

A: Well, no. I wouldn’t say that. Several people at Tech had an influence, J. E. Litrophy died just very recently, last month.

Q: And what was his association to you?

A: He was an education professor and as a matter of fact he was distantly related to my wife. She’s a Floyd County native. Rufus Beamer and …

Q: Any kin to Frank Beamer?

A: Frank’s uncle. His father … Raymond’s brother, Rufus. I would say those are the two at Tech.

Q: Now, I know that you played sports at Tech. You played football at Tech, right?

A: I played football. I started as a freshman on the freshman team, the second team my sophomore year and started my junior year, tore my knee against West Virginia …

Q: So you probably don’t have any love loss for the Mountaineers?

A: It was legal so …

Q: All’s fair.

A: All’s fair in love and war on football.

Q: So after you got into college and were playing sports and you decided education was your field, talk about your preparation for that.

A: Okay, education wasn’t my field. I started out first quarter, mechanical engineering. I didn’t like engineering. I wasn’t really prepared with an eleven year high school. I had … at the end of high school I had to go to summer school at Tech and take Solid Geometry because we had Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 and plain Geometry in high school, so, a weak background. Any way I went to my advisor at Tech who was a Chinese student and he didn’t understand English and I didn’t understand Chinese. So, I went across campus to agriculture and enrolled in Rural Sociology. At the end of the first … pardon me, at the end of the winter quarter, we were on a quarter system then, three terms, the disbanded rural sociology but we were grandfathered in. And it so happened that I had the class guide. I signed up for my own classes, took it to the professor and he signed everything I turned in to him. So, I had a really level my education, geology, business and finance and insurance and crops and soils, philosophy and religion. I had everything and (?) for social studies, history and economics.

Q: So you name it and you pretty much …

A: I had it.

Q: So what degree did you come out of there with, I guess?

A: Rural Sociology. They … in Bachelor of Science.

Q: And then where did you go from there?

A: Well, three weeks before graduated, I was interviewing … I was certified as a state probation officer, a federal probation officer, a state social worker and a secondary teacher. I interviewed for jobs. I did my student teaching at Blacksburg High School my last quarter. And, the principal offered me a job during that last three weeks while I was there. The best job offer I had at the moment was $3900 in Wise County using my own vehicle as a Social Worker. Then I was offered a job at Blacksburg High School, ten months for $4000. Already living there so it was a no-brainer. There were several good teachers took me under their wing, gave me some good advice, helped and assistance. I coached 8th grade football and was on a twelve-month contract at the end of the first year. I taught the first year social studies. The next three years I taught Marketing and General Business. I had kids on the work-study program and went to school at Tech, part-time. I got my master’s in Vocational Administration in 1967. And, taught at Blacksburg four years, moved to Floyd County High School as assistant principal for four years, principal for seven years, moved to Willis Elementary as principal for nine years, moved to Check, principal for five years and came home.

Q: Home for good now.

A: Home for good.

Q: So, Floyd County gonna be your home I guess for …

A: Yes, for that as it is today.

Q: So, all and all it looks like you had twenty plus years.

A: Twenty-nine years plus.

Q: Okay, question number five, please describe the schools and communities where you severed. You all ready talked, talked about Floyd and the two elementary schools. So, I guess we’ll just focus mostly on Floyd County. Just kind of describe the characteristics when you were the principal there in the community.

A: The community was pretty traditional, conservative. The people were hard working. They had a strong will. They worked hard.

Q: Just your good oh country type community.

A: Solid.

Q: Religious? Fairly Religious?

A: Religious, very much so. And, had high standards.

Q: Support? I feel like they still support strongly here. Did you get that sense?

A: Oh yes. They supported education. They were (?) money.

Q: Really?

A: Yes.

Q: And I guess here there is not a lot of industry.

A: Right.

Q: There is not a pack bay for the money to be supported.

A: Correct.

Q: Just basically give us a few blurs about your personal philosophy of education or after so many years of services, some general thoughts about what you’re feelings about education is?

A: Well, I had … I had a good mentor that (?) Ray Hollinsworth. He gave me a good deal of responsibility. He was the principal at (?). He was promoted to superintendent. I was going to principal. As his assistant principal, I was athletic director and as I say … I said, responsibility and authority to handle the job. I had a lot to learn and learned it. I did pretty well. My philosophy of education was trust everybody until you have a reason not to. And if you have a sufficient reason not to trust them, get rid of them. If you were part of a professional organization, be a full fledge 100% member and act it and make a contribution.

Q: And if not, don’t do it.

A: And if you’re not, don’t do it. I felt the same for my teacher’s staff and so forth. General philosophy, the principal is only as strong as the weakest person in his work and in any position under his supervision. A poor custodian makes a poor principal. A poor cafeteria worker or bus driver makes a poor principal.

Q: Very good. I can, in fact, definitely see what you mean exactly. In you personal management style and blending that in with your philosophy, how are some ways that you handled the management personnel?

A: As Departmental Chairman, I wasn’t an all knowledgeable person about all such areas and so forth. As no one really can be. So, I gave people responsibility as departmental chairman, math or english or language just what ever and I learned from them. I would set in with their … at their meetings, departmental meetings at times for learning purposes and not making much of a contribution but having a feel for what was going on and how it was headed. You have enough people from central office to tell you what to do you don’t need man to be telling those folks.

Q: Now, so basically, I think what I hear you saying is this: you really delegated responsibility just as Mr. Hollinsworth delegated responsibility and allowed you to take the ball and run with it. You did the same with your people.

A: Right. Absolutely.

Q: And then going back to the philosophy thing, as long as you felt like they could do it, you let it continue that way.

A: Without a doubt.

Q: Now, in rare instances where you did have a problem or something where somebody had demonstrated to you that they weren’t capable, how did you handle those sorts of issues?

A: Well, didn’t give them responsibility.

Q: Just kind of put them on the back burner?

A: Well, no. Never put anybody on the back burner, not that way. You give your best people the best … most responsibility, the people that can handle it. My philosophy was always this, still is today; always find the strong point in an individual and help them to nurture that strong point. The weakest teacher in some of your staff today can meet the needs of a certain element of kids that nobody else on your staff can meet no matter how weak that teacher is. You have find the strong point, nurture it, groom it, pat them on back. If they don’t measure up, then you have to close the door, the two of you have a conversation, in my opinion, and talk about the situation. Say, "Hey, you have this opportunity. You have this responsibility. You have this … you don’t appear to be measuring up. You’re either not happy with what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re doing or something." And try to … lay it on the table and give them total responsibility. I mean total …

Q: That puts it right there.

A: Give them the ownership and move forward.

Q: Well good. Okay, We have answered a lot of the previous ones there. Lets go with number eight. It said that good personal managers encourage their subordinates and peers by celebrating their success, patting on the back. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal and to what extent did it improve moral and organizational effectiveness?

A: WE had officers over the years, teachers who were officers in Virginia Education Association, Floyd County Education Association. I always encouraged the teachers to belong to their, say the science teachers, math teachers, whatever to participate in their inservice and workshops and conferences. Gave teachers the opportunity to go. I had a lot of kids participating in those kinds of club activities and those teachers an opportunity to go to conferences, take the kids. I recall we had one boy who was just outstanding in the area of science refrigeration and so forth back in the early 70s. He and his math, no science teacher went to San Diego, California for a conference. And he had just won one second or third place nationally. The teachers didn’t get the recognition.

Q: Well, describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal. Describe the personnel and professional characteristics of a good principal.

A: Well, I think this principal looking back on the situation, needs to know what’s going on, needs to know what’s expected of the principalship, know the goals of the school board, then he needs to be able to implement programs, making assignments and putting people where they will be most effective to implement that. Then he needs to provide the resources of all types, materials in time, aid and assistants, whatever to perform the duty. The principal needs to be able to step back from and see and an overall view as how everything is going without necessarily having an hands on approach and meddling with every little thing going and coming in the school. My opinion is this; the school ought to be most effective when it’s organized as such that the principal can be away for, from work a week, return to a school being in better condition than when you left.

Q: Right. And that comes through, like you say, the delegation and having more of a team like approach.

A: Right.

Q: Rather than one person manipulating all the pieces of the puzzles.

A: Right. That’s a good word to avoid too, manipulation.

Q: Right. Right. And that’s what you end of doing when you start getting into every little …

A: Micromanagement.

Q: Right. Micromanagement. During your time as the principal, what were the expectations placed on you by both your employers and by the community?

A: Well, to see that kids came to school, stayed at school and instruction was the prevalent, that was the main thing. As far as pressure being put on by the community or the school board, I never felt that. I only had the pressure that I put on myself, which was probably too much looking back.

Q: You try to meet on the kids need and …

A: As a young principal, I thought too much about what did this person, that person or somebody over town think if they heard about this happening or something.

Q: I think I kind of can feel exactly what you’re talking about.

A: And as I look back, I think had I not worried about that as much, I could have been more effective.

Q: How do you feel that has … I mean you’re still very involved with your wife doing some work at the school and she just recently retired. How do you feel like that situation has changed over the years? What do you think that the pressures are now from the administrative staff and from the community placed on principals? How do you think that has changed?

A: Well, I think they have given principals an impossible task today.

Q: How do you mean?

A: Give me an idea of how many days a year are spent on the state and standardized testing?

Q: Oh, from an administrative standpoint …

A: 8 to 10 days a year possibly.

Q: At least by students taking tests. And then when you look at the administrative work that goes into that, you know, from my standpoint or the guidance counselor standpoint, probably 10 or 20.

A: Okay, if we used 10 additional days for instruction for kids and held the teachers responsible for the kids overall performance and have the teachers test the kids, education would be improved 20 to 30% overnight within 180 days structure.

Q: Exactly, when you look at it that way, it’s true. So, just the state testing program and all the requirements …

A: Is the requirements … the meddling by the state legislators who are trying to

Q: Establish test for kids everywhere.

A: Everywhere. As we read in the newspaper last week, part of the SOL questions for a K-7 …

Q: K-7 and then 8-12.

A: 8-12. And the kids were suppose to write on their middle school experience when the middle school doesn’t exist for most kids.

Q: Right. That’s an obvious example of how they don’t understand what’s going on in each community.

A: Well, let me give you a personal example I dealt with last year. My niece’s son is learning disabled but not classified as such. He had felled the …


A: No not the … (?) … he was in the 9th grade. He felled the reading portion, had passed the writing … what’s the 3rd class?

Q: There’s … and then is reading, writing and …

A: Well, he had passed two of them and fail the 3rd one for the fifth, sixth or seventh time he had taken the 3rd one. On July 14th of last year, he wanted to play football, big boy, size shoe 14. So, he took the test. As a matter of fact, the school came and scrimmaged out team up here. Pre-season, he was allowed to practice to scrimmage. Once the season started he could participate with the team because he had not passed the 3rd section. Oct 15th was the due date to get the test result. I contacted Allen Dudley, our legislator, asked him to look into. He’s over the education committee in the General Assembly. And he found out that the state has contracted the testing and the test scoring to some company in California. They could not pull that boy’s one sheet, run it through and say pass or fail.

Q: So he had to wait.

A: He had to wait until two weeks were left in the football season. And guess what?

Q: He passed.

A: He passed.

Q: And would have been eligible the whole time.

A: He was eligible the whole time. That is just a very, very minute tip of the iceberg. Bureaucracy and people meddling where they have no business.

Q: Absolutely.

A: You shouldn’t have asked that question.

Q: Sounds like it’s been … I mean, when anything hits you like that affects you personally.

A: Well, and we both know how important sports are to kids. This is a kid that will drop out of school the day he’s eligible if he doesn’t participate.

Q: And at the same … so many kids are kept in school by the vocational programs and by the sport programs, and without them we would lose tons of kids.

A: Certainly.

Q: That’s crazy. And if we have them, it’s a shame that he’s not even able to participate. All right, question eleven, there’s a great deal of emphasis on personnel leadership in the area of principal preparation. We’ve kind of already hit on that. What’s your philosophy in the area of leadership? Describe the leadership technique you use, an instance if you can think of one, where you’re method failed.

A: Oh, can I. The first or second year I moved from secondary, which fifteen, my first fifteen years where on the secondary level …

Q: Right. That’s when you were principal here at the high school right?

A: As a teacher. The second or third year, I forgot which, well, it’s elementary school, which was K-7. We decided, we the teachers and I, decided to departmentalize seventh grade, sixth grade, fifth grade. Well, seventh grade had always been departmentalized. So we decided to go down fifth, sixth and seventh to utilize the teachers in their work. Well, it seemed that the kids weren’t ready for it. The parents were not ready for it. And, in reality we were not ready for it. The teachers weren’t, weren’t prepared for kids who were two years younger than the teachers they had taught in the last fifteen to twenty years. And it was just pretty much a disaster to the point that the parents made accusations to me school board that the administration became involved. And the central office sent a representative to the school and we had the teachers involved, the principal and the parents came in and lodged their complaints in person with the central office person and, you know, mediated and so forth. And we made some changes, no question about it.

Q: So there again that goes back, looks back at your leadership style trying to find the best of people and put their energies into those areas and nurture those areas. So that’s kind of what you were trying to do there.

A: Well, but that didn’t work. Once you do something, you try something, if it’s not working, kind of put it on hold to evaluate it and take the input from whatever right community it is that is not satisfied. That’s why you punt the football. You didn’t make the first down that time.

Q: And I guess in education it’s real important to keep, always keep that in mind because every time you try something, you got to realize it may not work.

A: That’s right.

Q: Do you realize that they are doing the departmentalization over here in Floyd now. They are doing some of that what you’re talking about.

A: They are starting to departmentalize over there some.

Q: And I think it’s been fairly successful. I wasn’t real sure if you were aware of it. Many would say that the curriculum has become more complex in recent years. What was the curriculum like during your time as principal? How would you access the changes that have been made and how you rate the (?)

A: Other than computers, I would rate the curriculum fairly well and standard, status quo.

Q: Back then?

A: Yes. Oh with exception with some of your vocational areas like automechancis. They have to shift emphases now and that sort of thing. But as far as the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic, I would say they are comparable to both …

Q: So the infusion of technology is the only major changes that you see?

A: That I see.

Q: Okay, we’ve already talked about this a little bit. Standardized testing is a hot topic in today’s schools. Many feels that it helps improve instruction. Discuss your experiences with standardized testing and your views on how it’s affected education.

A: I’m not a strong advocate of standardized testing. You have to have a certain amount … three days a year is probably too much.

Q: Do you feel like … I know the focus of the SOLs is to try to improve instruction. Do you feel like that is going to happen?

A: No. I think that people are forced to teach to the test. There is not enough time. There are too many things to teach to that’s not as … I can’t think of the right words to use but it’s not consecutive. It’s not in order. It’s hit and miss, nothing down and here and there.

Q: It doesn’t build on itself.

A: It doesn’t build. Right.

Q: Okay. So, not a real big fan of standardized testing.

A: No.

Q: Please describe the day to day pressures that you faced on the job as principal? And how did you cope with those pressures? And what were some of your biggest headaches that you can remember, some of the things that were just a continuous type problems?

A: Well, day to day pressures were, in my opinion and I thought of this at the time and I have thought since also, when everything was going well at school, I hated it. Because I just wondered what was going … what was gonna drop in which area. As long as there was a problem and something to be concentrated on, that was great.

Q: I kind of can get what you mean by that too cause some days when there is nothing going on, you almost feel like you don’t have anything to do. And then kind of like, it’s a very kind of nervous feeling.

A: It is.

Q: So what were some of the bigger headaches that you had though, some of the real difficult problems that you faced as a principal?

A: Well, let me go back to being an assistant principal. The first summer I was here, the superintendent worked a week with me and put me in charge of summer school and he took his vacation. We started out of the front door of the high school the first week of summer school. And the star on the basketball team and a friend of his got in an automobile the south end of the parking lot face and cut diagonally across, spending his wheels over half way to the upper corner where the vocation building was at. So everybody stopped and looked at me as we walked up. And I realized the position I was in as an assistant principal. First school time assistant principal, trying to keep the kids on the school grounds, cause the previous assistant principal was a half-time industrial arts teacher. Half the day he could keep kids there. The other half of the day, they were walking everywhere. So, instead of going home for lunch, I went to the courthouse and got a warrant for the kid for reckless driving on the school grounds and so forth. Took him to court. And, he was found guilty and he was fined and given a suspended sentence. Basketball coach got upset. The principal never said a word about it. The superintendent called me over and told me to never get a warrant for a kid unless he authorized it personally there. And, of course, I was kind a man of my own means so to speak. And I told him, you know, as long as I’m in the job and I see something like that going on were it’s life and death, bodily harm, I’d have to make a decision. And I’ll make it as long as I got the position and the authority. And I’ll take into consideration what you said, give it two thoughts instead of one.

Q: You’re right there. I mean, that’s one thing I talk about with my principal now, is you’re in the middle so much. You know, you got pressure coming from both ends, over there and from down here.

A: You got pressure from everywhere. Okay, another situation that was really tough as assistant principal. The principal and superintendent where at New River Community College and the black kids and some of the white kids decided they wanted walk out and demonstrate cause there where no white kids on the cheerleading squad. So, we … I got the teachers all together … got a memo, passed it to each teacher immediately. It said call the roll, check your absentee list. I want to know who was at school today but is not in class at this particular moment. We verified that versus office records. Went outside and told the kids to return to class or get on the bus with the deputies that they were going home. They had a choice.

Q: What happened?

A: So, 10% of them went to class. They others got on the bus and they were escorted home.

Q: How many students were involved, you think?

A: 40. And they were suspended until such time the school board met and reinstated or whatever.

Q: Where there any repercussions from through the community or from the administration for that?

A: No. But, held conferences with parents, got the kids (?) school and so forth. But every parent had to have a conference with the principal.

Q: Now, I don’t think I included a question in here about the civil right, civil right issues with, you know, the start of have blacks in the school. How did that affect you in your career?

A: No problem.

Q: Never was a problem.

A: Never was a problem. Black, black and white issue was never a problem to me or for me, (?) I mean, and I feel the same today and I did then. Every kid comes in on level territory regardless (?) color skin or ability or anything. And they all have a right to success. Nobody has a right to demise somebody else’s success or take advantage of an opportunity. Nobody has that right. And it doesn’t matter who, they have to go. They can not disrupt.

Q: Describe your professional code of ethics and how it helped you to be successful in your career and education?  

A: Code of ethics, I think, a man ought to wear a tie, I’m sure, when he’s in the position to be principal or assistant principal. Matter of fact, he needs to set an example, need to be honest and hard working. One of my problems was health and missing so much work over the years.

Q: You personally?

A: My personally. Yeah.

Q: If something bothered you, you hated, you probably hated getting out but with a strong work ethic you had to …

A: Oh yeah, and you put the burden on someone else when you’re not there, either somebody above you or below you or both. Anyway, professional ethics belong to the organization that you’re eligible to belong, participate and be an officer. I’ve belonged to Virginia High School League and served as district chairman and grew to fore chairman. And (?) served on the sportsmanship committee, not sportsmanship … that Virginia High School League, eligibility.

Q: So basically, I think I hear you saying throughout some of the questions is, you know, if you’re going to be a teacher or if you’re going to be in the field of education, go at it with everything you got.

A: Everything you got. But on the other hand, I was never able to walk out the door and leave it there. I always brought it home. Not that I did things here but (?) I didn’t have a hobby. That was bad. Wrong. I’ve got a hobby now.

Q: What do you do?

A: I go out fishing (?)

Q: Like old, old leers and stuff?

A: Right.

Q: Neat. Well, you know, that’s one thing on a personal level of myself, I think my father-in-law is very similar in that respect. He had no real designed hobbies. And, you know, he had nothing else to do but to come and think, kind of think about work or bring your work home. So, yeah it is. I think it is an important point to have some hobbies. Alright, number sixteen, if you had to do it again, what kind of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship and knowing what you know now, what are your feelings about entering the principalship if given your chance to start again?

A: Well, I wouldn’t do anything differently to prepare for it. I was as well prepared as one could be, I think. I really do. I was naive. I was young. I graduated from high school at sixteen, from Tech at 20 and retired after 29 plus years at age 50.

Q: What … your first year of administrative service as an assistant principal here, how old were you?

A: Well, I was born in 43 and my first year here was 68. 25.

Q: Wow. That’s pretty young as assistant principal. Did you feel like you had any kind of … cause I know I … being 27 and you’ve got some teachers who are, you know …

A: Retired.

Q: Getting ready to retire. How did you deal with that. I mean, did you feel like that was a problem?

A: That was never a problem for me. When those, when those teachers came down and closed the door and they were the old southern, gentle type, told you what they thought, make a note and listen. If it was pertinent, attend to it. If it wasn’t …

Q: They got to say their piece.

A: They said their piece and we moved forward.

Q: So if you were talking to a, like a relative or someone and they were talking to you about the idea of entering, becoming a principal. Would … (?) encourage or …

A: If they, if I thought they were …

Q: The material?

A: The material. Yes. Certainly.

Q: Alright I made a component. Today’s principal preparation in the program that I’m in is a mentorship. And I know that through the Virginia Tech program, we do something like 720 clock hours of an internship. How do you feel about that?

A: Yeah, I think it’s great. Linda Petry and David Thompson, I was their mentor while I was in Chillhowy. David took care of attendance mostly for that certain period of time. He called the parents. He checked. He just took care of it. Linda was more involved in, I don’t want to say discipline, but handling the problems, kids problems not necessarily discipline problems. And they did a super good jobs.

Q: So the mentorship … and I know I have enjoyed it. And, I think it is very beneficial because I don’t think you can learn enough about what the job is going to be in a classroom until you’ve gotten out there …

A: Well, what I’ve found, and this is no slapping professors, but I felt like they were really out of touch with what was going on because I know having been out of education for six plus years, I’m totally out of touch with what’s actually going on. If they’ve been out of the classroom or out of the principalship or out of the school building itself, more than a couple of years, I don’t think they could probably know exactly.

Q: That’s an important point. And one of our professors actually talked about that a little bit and talked about how every several years he would go and work with a principal for year …

A: I think, I think that’s wise. Philosophy is one thing. Experience is a completely different thing that ties.

Q: Number eighteen, there are those that argue that the primary job of the principal is being an instructional leader while others suggest that above all else the principal needs to be a good manager. What are your thoughts on this topic and what was your primary focus as a principal?

A: Well, if you can put those two in a blender, that’s what I thought.

Q: You’ve got to be a little bit of both.

A: You’ve got to be both. You have to be an instructional leader. You don’t have to know everything but you have to have a good working knowledge of everything that’s being taught and what the expectations are in order to lead and to manage.

Q: Exactly. And in working as the principal, there are so much going on you have to have somewhat of that managerial type of attitude because there are so many things going on at once.

A: What I enjoyed doing was when a teacher had some time and at times when I was principal there teacher aids available that I had that I placed in a classroom. For example, if we had a resource teacher in, I could pull the teacher and put a teacher aid in with the resource person. And the teacher and I could drink a cup of coffee and talk about what’s going on in their class, what their assignments are, what their expectations are, the whole schmear. And I could get a feel and just feel I was part of the program.

Q: So you know what was going on when you went in to observe us.

A: Sure.

Q: I feel like, you know, that with the time crunches like there are now, there is very little time to go do things like that.

A: That’s the thing that I find with standardized testing. Instead of being able to do that type of thing, they’re taking up time to test. And, you know kids make designs on dot-to-dot test as well as I do. And, I’m not talking about the kids that don’t the answers. I’m talking about the kids that are bored to death with taking tests.

Q: Number 19, many feel that is important for principals to be active in their community. Do you feel like this is an important component? And, describe various ways that you attempted to be involved in the community?

A: Well, I belonged to the to Lion’s Club and the Rutian Club. Church, active in the church. Booster Club. You can name it. Where ever there was an opportunity to be available, not the heavy finger in too many things and not do it well. My philosophy was if you’re going to start something and build and grow, start with the first brick and see that that’s properly seeded and straight, then put another one beside it and another one on top of the two and then go to building. Start small and build the quality and …

Q: Do it right.

A: Do it right. Not have to redo it.

Q: Home school communications consider to be an important part of school’s program. How important is home school communication? What are some ways that attempted to improve that relationship?

A: We did all kinds of things, sent a newsletter home, of course, report cards, had parents call teachers, high school call teachers, teachers call parents not when kids are in trouble.

Q: Just in general.

A: In general. Have parents come to school for special things, activities, eat meals with kids. Anything we can do.

Q: Did you feel like that was easier to do at the elementary school?

A: Certainly.

Q: Because I know have we trouble with our PTA and things of that nature.

A: PTA is … it’s not designed for that … kids have too many activities. They’re busy. They’re a different age. Kids don’t want their parents around. I didn’t want my parents around. Now, an assembly or something, a special occasion, I loved for my mom and dad to be there. But during the school day, my parents had no business being there. They need to be home or working.

Q: I think that is still pretty much the general tend amongst teenagers, they’re not interested in their parents.

A: Right.

Q: Number 21, something … sticking with parents, sometimes when dealing parents, the situation can get a little heated. Can you think of an instances where something like that happened and how did you handle it and what are some ways that you used to diffuse those types of situations?

A: Well, the best way to diffuse a situation is before the conversation starts to lay a ground rule or two, not many. And say this conference or meeting is going to be conducted. And I usually said, "You’re hear. There’s a problem or there is a perceived problem and obviously you are upset. I’m going to set here and listen to everything you have to say. Now, I want you to be business and professional like to use the right language. I’m going to listen and I’m going to take notes to what you say. And I want the same consideration after you finish to respond to." I got to the point where I didn’t even have to bite my tongue. I could listen. I could listen so long as the teacher wasn’t or the person being complained was not available, I would listen to everything they to had to say about a teacher, about a person, a bus driver, about me, about any body. However, if the teacher happen to be there, that’s a no-no.

Q: Right. You’re not going to sit there and talk bad about another …

A: No. No way. Now, I back my people when they were right when they were wrong, so far as I could. But there was a point that I could not quote back them in front of the person. Then I said, "Listen, you’ll have to give me some time to address this." And sometimes I would back the teacher or the bus driver or whomever and after the parent left, then that person and I would close the door and we had a serious talk.

Q: Right. Because what they may have been doing wasn’t appropriate.

A: Borderline or whatever.

Q: You just let them know … how do you feel like your faculty, I mean, do you think that really strengthened your leadership amongst your faculty when …

End Of Side One

Beginning of Side Two

A: I recall the teacher brought a kid in and was furious with the kid. And she was telling me what the kid had done which was pretty bad. And the look I gave obviously to the kid while she talking to me. After she got though, she said … I didn’t say a word. But, she said, "Wait, how about if I take this kid back on my bus and me handle it?" I said, "That’s fine with me." She did. So, she brought the kid back in. Kid went to class. She came in and I said, "How come you back off so quick?" She said, "Don’t you know you gave that kid that look?" I said, "What look?" She said, "You don’t know you give kids a certain look. I thought you were going to kill that kid."

Q: That’s all it took.

A: That’s all it took. But, I was going to back the teacher, I mean, the bus driver no question. I always feel like, my philosophy you get back to your code of ethics and everything else. For every action a person needs to be held responsible. Now, that doesn’t mean that if a kid does X and the punishment is Y, that you have to add on to Y. And it doesn’t mean that if a kid does X that never …

Q: Cut a little slack or …

A: Like, that you never … well, let’s put it this way. Once a kid does X and it pays Y, it’s over. It’s done. It’s forgotten. It doesn’t exist.

Q: And when he does B you don’t look back and say, "Well, you did X."

A: No. Never. You don’t bring that up. And, you don’t bring up brother or sister or ask brother or sister about brother and sister or where are they or what’d they do or something like that. I learned that lesson real quick too.

Q: Tell a little … do you have a little story about that?

A: Yes I do.

Q: Would you like to share it with us?

A: Had a boy who recently hung himself, really after 20 some years. After he was out of high school. He would not come to school. He would miss three weeks in a row. And one day I asked his sister, I said, "Where is such and such?" And, she just exploded. She was getting an excuse from me in my office as an assistant principal. She exploded. And she cursed me. And she said, "Don’t you ever ask me about him again. I’m not responsible for him. I’m me and he’s he and so on," She slammed the door and the picture fell off my wall and she walked out of school. Well, I immediately called the guidance counselor and is I said, "Go get the girl. Take her somewhere, get her something to drink. Calm her down. Talk to her and get her in class." Then come talk to me. Well she did after about an hour. She came back and she said, "I’ve got her calmed down. She’s in class. I think she’ll be okay." So I told the guidance counselor what I had done. And I said, "A lessened learned." The kid told me what I needed to hear. I learned a lesson and that’s one I won’t do again.

Q: I bet. Now, I think I’ve, I’ve had about a few of those. I’ve never had somebody react quite that strong … but, and especially teenagers. I mean, I think she had probably been asked several times her brother and

A: Right. By several people and just got tired of it.

Q: Would you describe the teacher evaluation process that was in place when you were a principal? And what was your approach to teacher evaluation?

A: My approach to teacher evaluation was to know as best I could what was expected of them from the central office and from state departments, of course, etc. Then, I tried to learn from the teachers, talk to them. Tell them a week ahead of time that I would be coming in for a class observation and so forth. Filled out the forms in the classroom. Gave them a copy before I left the classroom, a carbon copy and went about my business. I always asked that if I was in your classroom at then end of school, you come by and set down and talk to me about it.

Q: What do you feel like in the many teacher evaluations that you did, what do you feel like were some of the characteristics that made a strong teacher and what some of the characteristics were that you saw teachers struggle with, didn’t literally … caused them to be an ineffective teacher?

A: I never saw … I don’t use the word never. I didn’t see a teacher’s intellectual level interfere with being a good teacher.

Q: I think I would agree with that.

A: I did see a lot of teachers whose personality prevented a good teaching, learning situation.

Q: Right. In my internship, I probably would have answered that question very similarly, most of the time he felt like it was a personality conflict where that teacher just was not good with kids. It wasn’t their, you know, educational level or intelligence level …

A: Or knowledge.

Q: It was more a personality thing. They just didn’t …

A: And the ability to teach and relate and to explain and to motivate.

Q: So, just in general, what would you say … how did you deal with those ineffective teachers? What were some of the things you tried to do?

A: Well, we had what we called a plan.

Q: Growth type plan?

A: Growth plan. Right. The teacher … when we did we plan for a teacher, the teacher did it first and gave it to me. And I added, deleted, modified and had the director of instruction on level whose was appropriate to look at it and talk with me about it, not talk with the teacher. And then, if there were a problem, then I would refer the problem back to that to them.

Q: So problems?

A: Right. Instructional.

Q: Do you feel like most teachers were receptive to change and wanted to do better?

A: Sure, they … see people, I think, innately want to be trusted. They want responsibility. And, they want authority to go with it. When they get to the point that they can’t do that, then they’ll take it.

Q: Right. Okay. Number 24, some principals believe that teachers and other staff members are in general well motivated and reliable self-starters. Others feel that they may need closely monitored and watched. What approach did you use? And, how did you generally feel?

A: I don’t believe people need to be monitored or watched.

Q: Right. I think we got that from the other things. You know, you feel like they need to be trusted. They need to be delegated.

A: Right. And held responsible

Q: Right. What do you feel like are the characteristics of an effective school? Like, what are the things that make a school a good, you know, institution, a good instructional school?

A: You need good leadership in the school. You need effective teachers. You need a clean place, safe place. It doesn’t have to be the most modern nor does it have to be most ancient.

Q: It’s mostly the people (?)

A: You need to involve the community. But, you don’t need to give the community the keys to it for the education now. You don’t need the community making all the decisions for you. You start that and you got a weak program.

Q: Because what’s you get your hand in the cookie jar type thing?

A: That’s right.

Q: Number 26, during the past decades school’s have become larger and larger. What are your views on this phenomenon? How do you feel … what do you feel that the optimal size for a school would be?

A: I’d say secondary schools, maximum of one thousand. Probably six, seven hundred would be idea. Elementary schools, three, four hundred maybe five hundred.

Q: Do you feel like … what are the problems you start to see when you get larger schools? What do you think?

A: Impersonal. That’s the problem that I think.

Q: Okay. You mean there’s, I guess, so many kids walking the halls that people don’t know who they are.

A: People, they don’t know each other.

Q: Okay. Salaries have changed quite a bit since you started in education. I think, what did you say $4000 or something?

A: I started at $4000. I was making $46,000 when I retired in 93.

Q: Would you discuss, I guess we just done that basically. What do you feel like … do feel like … how do feel pay is now? I mean, what would you say about current pay structure for education?

A: I’d say it’s behind, unfortunately. I think this, even Floyd County, Virginia, I think a teacher who is teaching, who is preparing a kid to become the next governor, the next position, the next commissioner of revenue, the next judge, the next tire changer, the next store manager, that teacher needs to be paid on a state average or better salary. And the state salary needs to be national average or above. And I think you need some pride. And the pride, pride means as much as money at times.

Q: Absolutely. Go ahead.

A: I think you need that in order to retain teachers. There is a shortage of teachers now. And they mark people out so that they can put young, inexperience teachers in at the cheapest salary.

Q: Well, I know … you talk about that pride thing is like I know when I would talk to some people about what I did, you know, I would tell them I was a Physical Education teacher. A lot of times, depending on who I was talking to, it made me feel small. Because society as a whole doesn’t think it’s important enough. Not necessarily the money, but the importance in people’s perspect …

A: Well, let me tell you this. The first year I was principal for Floyd County High School, Virginia, the football coach resigned to take a position at Radford High School to take a position as an assistant coach. I took him over to stopped by and pick up his contract. He picked his contract up as assistant coach and teacher. He was making more than I was as principal of Floyd County High School. And, my custodian was making more. He had been there thirty years.

Q: Was making more than you as principal?

A: Yes. As principal.

Q: Interesting. Would you discuss tenure? How do you feel about tenure and your dealing with tenure over this course of your …

A: There was no tenure really. It said the first three years a person could be let go without reason. But we tried to do that and you had to give reason. So that didn’t work. Okay. Then after ten years, if a person was not effective and so forth, then go through the (?) etc. and refer it to the school board and (?) position. Tenure is really not tenure to a teacher.

Q: Right. It’s really not. And I think if they understood that more, we’d probably be better off. But, would you give us some general pros and cons for administrative service and what kind of advice would you have for someone like myself, just starting out?

A: In what respect?

Q: Just general advice about (?) and I guess just some things to keep in mind as I’m …

A: Okay. Be decisive. Know what it is you want to do . Have a plan. All good plans and road maps are made to take on a trip but it doesn’t keep you from taking a side road from here to there and ending up on the main run later on. Work your eight, ten hours a day and leave it. Have a hobby. Be active with your family, take vacations. For the first thirty years we’ve been married, we’ve took no more than one week at a time vacation. Thirty years, stupid.

Q: I guess you’re doing a little more of that now, a little more vacation?

A: Well, yeah, pretty much.

Q: When you look back over your career as a principal, what are your fondest memories and what are you most proud of?

A: Well, most proud of that I made it without having a law suite. That’s one thing that is negative. That’s negative. I’m proud that I always had good people working for me. And if you’ve had one, I had a custodian that was stealing gas. He was going to the bus garage, getting a gallon or five gallons at a time. So we set a trap for him. I had the supervisor there to give me a phone call when he came to get gas. And, I waited for him. And, when he arrived back to school grounds, he didn’t have the gas with him. So, I said, "Where is it?" So, he said, "Come and I’ll show you. We got the truck on the top f the hill toward the landfill." He said, "Stop here." He walked over in the woods and got his five gallons of gas and brought it to the truck. Went back down. I said … took him to the office. I said, "School board’s meeting this afternoon. It just so happens. But you need to decide or I will write a letter over asking that you leave your role." So, he said, "I’ll quit." I said, "Fine." Got the secretary in. I said, "You dictate her the letter and you sign it. And I’ll take it over for you." She said … He said, "I quit. (?) caught me stealing gas." So I took it over and gave it to the school board. I’m proud of the, I guess I wouldn’t say reputation …

Q: Just the general reputation that you do have …

A: I would say …you know …

Q: (?) horn sometime.

A: Well, there were things that you do and things that you would do differently, a few. I only have four or five things thing that come to mind that I’d do differently.

Q: Well that’s going to be our next question?

A: One or two things, last day of school, I’ve had kids come to high school drinking. I suspended them from school and thus graduation. It was according to how drunk they were as to what I would do today. I thought over, I possibly would bring their parents in and make their parents be responsible for their conduct at graduation, sit with them, what ever.

Q: But still let them go through the ceremony?

A: In some cases I would. But, one of them was a school bus driver, a student and drinking. I took him home and wouldn’t let him drive his bus. His bus sat there until they got somebody from the bus garage to take the kids home. No nonsense but try to be helpful, friendly and (?).

Q: Okay. Any other regrets? Any other things you feel like you would do differently?

A: No.

Q: All right. Inspite of my best efforts, I’m sure there are some things that possibly that you would like to talk about that maybe I haven’t addressed or if there is anything that you can think of or any last words?

A: No. I just would hope that you stick with an education, that you continue going forward, that you do what you can to influence General Assembly, etc. to kind of back away and put the responsibility back in the hands of teachers and principals. I always said it this way, I like the simple version. Convince that the school board, tell the superintendent and the superintendent would me as a principal what he wanted those kids to do at the end of the school term. And say we’re here when you need. We’re here for the things that we have to be there for. Otherwise, it’s yours. We’re going to hold you responsible to see that those things happen. I would set with my faculty and tell them that same thing. It’s yours. This is what the kids are to do; one, two three and four at the end of the term. Do it. Give them the resources that back and support and hold them accountable.

Q: You feel like things would probably be better off.

A: Well, I know they would. There is no question in my mind they wouldn’t. I don’t know everything. I didn’t know everything and neither do the people in Richmond.

Q: Especially about Floyd County.

A: About Floyd County, about education and what the kids needs are.

Q: Well that concludes our interview. I appreciate it and that’s all.

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