Q: Did you start at Cooley School?(In Clarke Co., Va.)
A: I was a principal. My first principalship was at Moorefield, West Virginia.
Q: In Moorefield, West Virginia?
A: Yes, I organized a twelve year school system for Hardy County in 1950.
Q: In 1950?
Q: Were you a teacher before you became a principal?
A: I was a teacher of Vocational Agriculture and a whole lot of other things piled on.
Q: For how many years?
A: For thirteen years.
Q: Did you enjoy teaching?
A: I loved it.
Q: How many years were you a principal?
A: About 16 years. Wait a minute, I'm sorry, nine and sixteen, twenty-three years.
Q: That's a long time. Can you describe the school for us where you were the principal?
A: The school in Moorefield was the school I was first principal at. My first principalship. May I add, I didn't want it. It fell on my shoulders when the principal I worked under became ill and I had to help take care of the situation when he was in Veteran's Hospital. When he returned, well, when he left, we were having discipline problems. When he returned, we had brought them down some, at least. He came to me about the second or third day and said, "you've done an excellent job in getting discipline in line and keeping things rolling." I asked him if he thought I could ever be a principal? He said, "I don't think, I know. You are a principal. Get out and find yourself a job." I went into a night club to talk to some folks and this fella said they were building a new school in Moorefield and that they were looking for a principal. He referred me to the superintendent. There was some confusion. He thought I was looking for a teaching job. He wanted me to teach English, which I couldn't do. He wanted me to teach math, and I'm not a math major. Finally, I said to him, "I understand you're building a new Negro high school?" He said, "Yes." We talked a little bit and he said, "Well. we have an offering, opening for someone. Of course, you haven't made a formal application. You have to come over Saturday and interview. Tomorrow, we have interviews and I can't do it. The interviews call for an administration and I have a final exam, tomorrow. Will you come over Saturday morning?" My answer was, "Is it going to be worthwhile?" He said, "Well, you don't have a formal application and I'm at my home. But, in the morning when I go to my office, I'll put your name on an application form. I have eight or ten others, but, I'll put yours on the top of the stack." I went over Saturday morning and we talked approximately ten or fifteen minutes. Then he said. "The job is yours, if you want it." I accepted. It was a real typical southern community with the exception of the bleak population...(50). It was something like I imagine it was like in Mississippi at the time. After I came out and went to the new school to look at the building. He had left his keys at home. This is an interesting thing. "OH, I'll have to go home and get my keys and let you sign your contract.. I want you back here next Thursday." I said, "Why can't I sign it when I come back?" He said, "You can, but maybe you want this for security." I said, "If your word is no good, your bond is no good, and I don't want to work for ya. If we can't go into this thing on our word of honor, then I don't need to be here." So I went back and signed the contract. We started out with a very small community role. They had never had a black high school there. The children were scattered in various counties that bordered the community. We built a twelve year system bringing all the elementary children in. An interesting thing is that I was the only man on the faculty. So the women had to carry their share load. But, they did a beautiful job of it. We were certified as a first class school the first year.
Q: As a black school?
A: The first, yes, by the state of West Virginia. I promised the parents that came to our opening session on Monday morning, the first Monday morning, the parents, the school board was there, the superintendent, and other workers, and I said to them, "With your cooperation and support, the motivation of the students, and the guidance of God, we will be the first, the best, small school in the state of West Virginia in five years." Three years later, the superintendent came into the office and said, "Here's your certification for second place." I said, "Where's first place?"... I'd had some classes in administration. I'd been under Dr. Unger from the University of Vermont and somebody from Wisconsin. Because, getting my masters in administration, I picked people I wanted to be under securing my masters degree. The interesting thing was what I had been taught in high school. I had excellent teachers in high school that believed in some of these liberties that we have a whole lot of in school today. One thing they left with me was that if you have a success with school, you can only have it if you have successful students. To be successful, they must be brought into the picture. At the second or third faculty meeting, we had one practically every day for the first month, I brought in one senior, I only had one senior, and some junior students to sit in on the faculty meeting. The teachers didn't say anything, but, you could see it written on their faces, 'what are they doing here?' After the students left, there were some questions. I said we would discuss it at the next faculty meeting. I thought I could put them on the defensive by them not knowing whether or not I was going to call the students back or not. So, at the next meeting, I didn't call them in. Cause I'm a firm believer that teachers have to have input and an opportunity to give input. It may not always be like I 'd like it. Before the year was over, if we had a faculty meeting and didn't have students in, they wanted to know where they were. We worked out a system by which everybody became part of the school pride and planning. The superintendent was a real stickler for planning. He always insisted that we got the students in on the planning. We worked from that angle. Immediately, we set up a program we called 'school improvement.' I didn't have any problem getting support from the PTA because, in setting it up, I put in two or three first graders. They would sit there in meetings and wouldn't say a word. But, they were the best couriers we ever had. They would go home and wouldn't miss a word. Something that we did, and I might say we were moving along in the dark, was to get the parents involved. Early the first year, I detected we had a reading problem/ It took me a year to get the teachers convinced that we could do something about it. 'Cause ya see, we had to begin, at first, with the elementary students and then pass it on to the high school. None of the high school teachers had ever had a course of reading. We decided, that maybe near the end of the year, we could establish a program in reading in-service. The teachers kinda withdrew. But, the next time we talked about it, we had the assistant superintendent, who was in charge of elementary education, to come in and talk about getting this thing started as his thing. So he didn't get to far from my idea and didn't get much kickback. As we started out, we tested every student in grade 4 12. We didn't have any money to test. I had to go into the school budget and bring it out from other sources. But, we tested. We scored them, we scored the tests. The teachers and I had a chance to get together. From the first grade on up, we discussed it. The question came up about what we were going to do with them. My answer was to put them in the library and let the students see their own tests. After they had a chance to review their tests and see what their scores were, we called an assembly for 4th, 6th through 12th grades. And, we discussed it. You always have one or two students that you can keep pretty close to you. We did a bit of brain washing and had them tell the other students. Finally, we talked about grouping. The question came up, "Well, how can you group?" We had seniors and juniors that were reading at an eighth grade level. We had some eight and ninth graders reading on a fifth and sixth grade level. Finally, I said, "What can we do about it? What do you want to do about it?" Supposedly, the oneriest boy in school, who had been, just a year before, a couple years before, who had gone to the state reformatory for putting out, signing, some paper on his father; I don't know of anybody else who can get on with a checkbook, he got up and said, "Listen now, Mr. Radcliffe, its your responsibility to teach us to read. Regardless of where we fall, we had better do something now for ourselves." That was it. We laid the cards before the group and nobody complained. Who's going to teach them? The high school teachers? The seventh and eighth grade teachers might be up there. Nevertheless, I personally had to do to school. I found Albert Doltz, Mr. Doltz's book on reading, and he and I sat in class every night by myself. At the end of the first six weeks after the tests, we found alot of students had improved six weeks of reading. Throughout the year this kept improving. We had one girl. She was an "A" student, a ninth or tenth grader reading on a sixth grade level. A student going to class making "A". The supervisor was quite disturbed. He wanted to test her because he just couldn't see it. He'd sit in the class and observe. She would be taking leadership in the class. He tested her a couple of times. He said there was something wrong with the test. He couldn't understand how she kept functioning so low on the test. Yet, in the classroom, she was a straight "A" student. So, one day he asked me to call her into the office. I called her in and we talked. I said to her, "Rose, what do you read at home?" And she said, "Those funny books that we had in assembly program. Somebody got an idea that we have an auction sale. Most of what they had was funny books. Those funny books went for 10 or 15 cents." He turned around to me and said, "That's the problem. What do you have at home?" "That's all I have. And, the daily newspaper." We worked with her and got her on grade level. But, the big problem was we had six boys. One of them I think was a ninth grader. The others were tenth graders. All of them were reading at sixth grade level. Back in those days, you didn't have but very little material. We found some manuals in army surplus that they used to teach reading in the army. And, we taught them. We put alot of emphasis on building facilities. We had a facility about as big as any around here. I had to teach in there because everything else was crowded out. But, as I go through the list of these folks, there were some exceptional readers. My son is retired from the Navy. He'll sit down and read one book right after the other. We put the emphasis on the value of the student. We started out by saying two or three things. Number one, I made up my mind, when I began as principal, that we were going to have discipline. Never had I had very much trouble about discipline because we worked together. I noticed the same here with this group (Second Chance). We opened up Monday morning and we had discipline problems. Yesterday morning, less. This morning, none. Because the group got together and decided we're going to have discipline. We're going to be of one accord. That's the thing. In the beginning, lay the law down to the children and it works. There were some things I didn't go for. You won't believe me when I tell you that, of all my years in administration, I've never heard but three children curse. 'Cause I put the law down the first morning that there'd be no cursing on the school grounds, around the school building, in the class, or out of the class. "Cause if you use the Lord's name in vain, your not only guilty, plus the fact, that you'd make better time using the dictionary. Every word you want to use is in there somewhere, and it worked. So we moved on by then. By the second year, white children were asking to come over to our school in the heart of segregation. Couldn't help the school clash but I did. I happened to be a basketball coach. We didn't have but one sport, basketball. I'd never coached, but we taught our students to do research to find out what's happening. So when that fell on my shoulders, the only research I knew was to go down to Dr. Rupp, down at the University of Kentucky. I don't appreciate some of his tactics but he had something to give me and we used it. We always had success in winning seasons. But, there was more to coaching than just winning games. I never had to be bothered but with one boy who came down in one subject. He stayed home when we went on a trip. We had no horseplay, but, we had to involve our students to do a lot of discipline for themselves. We began to build up traditions and then we go on to Johnson-Williams now. When I came to Johnson-Williams, I founded tradition. That was in Berryville, Clark County. I was a tradition in Johnson-Williams School, which was a twelve year school, also. When a boy got into fourth grade, he'd come to school with his shoes shined, his trousers pressed, and a white shirt and tie. And, they were at the lower part of the economic level. We never had to be worried about dress codes. I knew that it would have to come sooner or later, but I think we can control it here..We (his Second Chance operation) have a young lady, a high school student, working in our program as a teacher. I said to her yesterday, "How did you like it?" She asked me why we (teachers) have to wear slacks while the students come in shorts, Just forget those days. I think this is what it was: We begin to fill...I'm not satisfied with what's happening in public education. I think we've sold ourselves short, tried to follow the masses thinking and sure we want children to have freedom, but, along with freedom goes responsibility. And, my freedom ends where your freedom begins. You sell that to students..It's a matter of getting to know people, your beginning teachers, to know what they're there for. We're not there to win popularity contests. Somebody taught somewhere that if you want something, you go out and get it...You have to get control of something and get the job done. This is where a lot of young teachers get bogged down. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm talking from a different age, but I don't think it's changed that much. Most young teachers, their first year in public schools, have nothing more than a practice year. It's up to supervisors or the person in charge of instruction, to observe, to assist, and to get that teacher to where she serves as a role model... In administration, I felt that I had to protect my teachers. I've seen some of them pretty wrong at times. For example, I've seen a teacher hit a child on the shoulder and cause her to drop her lunch. She (teacher) went into the cafeteria and began to fix her (teacher) lunch. I asked her who was going to pay for the student's? I'm not. Are you sure? I'm not going to pay, she said. But, you will pay for it. (Ratcliffe talking with teacher). I finally had to have it out of her salary. And, she gave me one of the worst cursings I'd ever had, right in the school building. The children heard her. But, one day, she was a top sergeant type of disciplinarian, she got upset with a student. I had walked out of the building to go down to the post office somewhere. Well, that evening, I got a note from her best friend on the faculty which read "did she tel you about what happened?" No, but I had already found out because the boy she had disciplined lived next door to my minister...and his wife called me and asked me to come down to their house. She wouldn't tell me what was wrong, but I went by. The boy was sitting there with five or six stitches in his head where she'd hit him with a meter stick. What do you do in a situation like that? Basically, you want to report the teacher and expose her. For three weeks, I'd gone by her classroom and said, "Good morning, Mrs. So-an-so" with little response...The mother was insisting we go straight to court. The father was a minister. He had already been to see the police as well as the prosecuting attorney. I told them I knew this was a serious thing. They were telling me the doctor said to go to court, but i wanted to hear both sides of the story. Would you and your wife both come down to school tomorrow about ten o'clock and let's have a conference. They did. I don't see how they got into the building without the teacher seeing them because they had to pass by her door. I went over to her room after I got them straightened out in the office. I said to her, "May I have this student?" And then I gave her his name. Her response was, "You can have him forever." I said, "Thank you." Later, I sent a senior to watch her class so she could come to my office. Then the teacher saw the parents. It was a different story. The mother wanted to get vicious, but I calmed her down. Then I said, "She's one of our best teachers, there's no doubt about it. Let's hear her side." She said, "Mr. Ratcliffe, the boy did aggravate me and I did get emotional with him. But, it was an accident." Of course, I knew it couldn't have been either. The father said, "Mr. Ratcliffe, what do you say? If you say it was an accident, we'll believe you, the book's closed. If you say it wasn't an accident, we go to court." Well, I'm not going to send a teacher to court. I know I'd have to be there, too, and I shouldn't have been at the post office on school time. I said to him, "Reverend (and I thought to myself about the man upstairs, 'you're going to have to forgive me for this one, for what I'm going to tell him') as sure as you gave me communion last Sunday, I think it was an accident." Closed! That's it! The next day, I went by her classroom, and I said 'Good morning, Mrs. So-n-so.' And she said, "Good morning, Mr. Ratcliffe, how are you feeling?" Her best friend told me to go in there and talk with her because she was ashamed. I put my arm around her shoulders and told her 'you're still a member of this faculty.' We got good cooperation and good work done...and that's one school where you could come in anytime, walk in any classroom and everyone was working. There was no time for foolishness. But I've always believed you have so many minutes scheduled for class, and you must use them. Going back to Johnson-Williams, I left Moorefield when they desegregated or integrated schools. We were late integrating schools because the community asked for an extension. The black community and the white community got together with the P.T.A.'s and asked for an extension.
A: To give them a chance to prepare for integration. It's one of the few places I ever heard of where people do this. When the Supreme Court ruled everybody went wild. Teachers were asking questions and I tried to keep them calm. On the street, people were asking questions, both black and white. I stayed down in the superintendents office for three or four days because my position was that 'if you want to do it, you've got to bend.' About three days later he came to see me. I didn't have a phone. He came to my house...that wasn't unusual because if we had to discuss something important, I'd say come by the house. I was too busy at school. We'd sit down and talk. He never drew any lines. But, this time, he said, "Let's meet down at my office and talk there." I said to him, "It must be quite serious." We went down to his office and started talking. He asked me to brief him on the problems on the whole system in bringing down segregation in the schools. He asked what I thought we could do? I said to him, "My friend, the Supreme Court has ruled and that's the law of the land. This is a worldwide tidal wave. Anyone who stands in the way is going to be crushed. I know not what course to take." He said, "I don't know either, but I know one thing you're going to have to carry the ball, because I don't know what it's about." It wasn't until that night that I learned that he and I had been in the same administration courses in the University.
Q: What did you do to prepare for integration?
A: We had started to prepare earlier because the first year I was there we only had one senior. The superintendent said to me, "I've talked to the board and he can graduate along with us (white students)." But, no, I didn't agree with that. We're a school. We're separate, but equal, supposedly. We don't have a secondhand piece of equipment. That doesn't mean we have all we need to get. We'll have our own commencement. And, we did. If you can imagine having a commencement with one senior. We set it up to require that the junior class march in with him and he sat on the rostrum with us. We did that and it worked out well. I'm babbling a lot. That same young man just reached thirty years in Uncle Sam's service and is the coordinator for the whole building program at South Branch Valley ever in West Virginia. I hadn't finished reading his resume' when he sent it to me because it's that (indicates) thick. I don't know that I'll ever finish it. But none the less, coming back to the integration. How did we do? We got the parents to talk about it. We got the teachers to talk about it. We had some that didn't want to go along. We had some black parents who didn't know what would happen to their children. One parent suggested giving them some time to get their children economically prepared, to get some money for shoes, books, and properly dresses. Then, on day I was down at the school working for the summer. Some people only worked ten months and got paid. When the superintendent walked in and read a letter from the West Virginia state NAACP inquiring about what we were doing about integration. In the last paragraph, Mr. T.E. Nutter, state president of the NAACP....The bee's on your back, go down there and tell Mr. Nutter. Well, let me tell you. I'll go down and talk to him if we decide to put it off this year and start next year. If we decide to integrate, I'll be a S.O.B. and if we decide to put it off again, I'll be a S.O.B. So, why don't we all be S.O.B.'s and go down and do it. So he and the president of the school board and one of his men in charge of maintenance and myself went down and talked. I'm surprised that Mr. Nutter didn't bring in one of the outstanding black lawyers in Charleston who was a classmate of mine. But he did bring in the principal of the black high school in Charleston..the first we decided was how many teachers were going to have to move around and when it would be most reasonable to try to move them, and how many teachers were retiring. By the next year, there were enough to retire to take care of our staff. So we didn't have that problem, if we waited a year. But, if we started now, we were in trouble. Then we agreed on that, and came home. After we got out of the meeting, I said, "Mr. Nutter, you said you knew me and I guess you do because you were just like a daddy to me when I was down at West Virginia State College. Why didn't you have my friend, Mr. Brown, here?" He said, "Mr. Ratcliffe, we don't need anymore legal help. I won the first desegregation case in this country as a young lawyer. I know the legal end, but I do not know the educational end, so I brought Mr. Dennison in." Then we came back and we started out getting ready and discussing because there wasn't anything to hide. So when we had this school meeting at the opening of the next year, I was staying at the black school we had turned into an elementary school, the superintendent got up and said, "You know we are going to have some cain. Everybody knows, whether you like it or you don't like it, the Supreme Court has ruled that segregation is illegal and unconstitutional and that we are making changes. Last year, for the first time, a black teacher here handled the choir for the white high school when the other teacher got sick...I want to tell you something. I am the superintendent. I know we are carrying out the law of the land. If there is one person here, bus driver, cafeteria worker, janitor, etc., anybody that has anything to do with this school system who doesn't believe in what we're doing, you may be excused as go to my office where my secretary will type up a resignation for you and I'll accept it. Another thing, we're not going to have any foolishness." The first morning of school, two things happened. One of the bus drivers who was wounded in the war, when he got down to the black community, stopped the bus and said to the children, "Right down the road we're going to pick up some black children, you're going to respect them, because I didn't suffer a wound in the European theater of war to stand for any of your foolishness. If one of you gets out of line, I'll break your damn neck." We didn't have any problems. Everybody was together. But you see, when I came to Clarke County in '59, and that was a hotbed, all over the area.
Q: How does the unique social structure that Clarke County has affect integration? Do you know what I'm referring to?
A: I think you're referring to some articles you've seen in the paper.
Q: No, the way I understand, Clarke County has a unique social structure by perhaps an elite white group whom the majority of them send their children to private schools.
A: That's correct.
Q: And then a relatively economically poor, hard working, labor black community that makes up the majority of the population in the school system.
Q: In the public school system?
A: No, only ___% (unclear, less than 50%). You are correct. Clarke County didn't celebrate, according to the Clarke County Courier, whites did not celebrate the 100th anniversary of this country. A black group from Liberty Street, I think it started from St. Luke Church...and the paper said they went to a grove to have a picnic but not one white person was in it. Racism was there then - racism is there now, there's maybe a different approach. I'll never be a citizen of Clarke County. I wasn't born there, and nobody else who thinks they can go into Clarke County and get citizenship papers has another thing coming. Now, if you go in there with a whole lot of money, you'll have to be accepted. But you see there's a number of things that's handicapping the educational system of Clarke County.
Q: Explain some of those things to us please.
A: Number one, they had some problems in Clarke County when the desegregated schools, I will constantly use desegregation instead of integration because somebody took me up on that the other day and almost proved I was wrong. But, I haven't seen any integrated schools. I don't see an integrated school when I walk down the hall and see black children over in that corner, white children up at the front, and I look over in the other corner and there might be another minority or two in there, but generally not. But, I see poor white children in the county. To me this is not only segregation but it's also unChristian and damnably unholy. As it happens, I can go to most any school, not only in Clarke County, because the majority of educators are not sold on integration. We wouldn't have had problems with the busing if the teachers, principals, and superintendents had been sold on integration. I never have, and I've gone through the mills, so I can say some of these things, I've never agreed with being one who's only going to agree with the power structure. For example, Clarke County is not by themselves. They had a riot at Handley.
Q: I was there then.
A: I was part of this riot. I had migrant students in this riot. If I pulled them out, what was I going to do with them? The parents were in the orchards. I reached into my pocket, and gave my home-school coordinator two twenty dollar bills. Put them in the car, take them anywhere you want to take them. Take them home when the parents come home. They paid through the nose, Clarke County and Handley. It may be that this would have taught Clarke County something. Because we never had it. I was the director of the federal program in Clarke County.
Q: Why didn't you have it?
Q: What was different about Clarke County?
A: It was rural. Maybe the blacks were not as aggressive. But, there was something else we had done.
Q: What was that?
A: I had a contract with the Johnson-Williams School as assistant principal and I went to the superintendent and said to him, "Now, we're going into this new program. I don't know very much about it and I'm sure you know less because you've never worn my shoes. I want to ask you a question. What's that? Where is the policy book? In my office. Why? I think you brought me here to help make policies. I hope you don't think I patted myself on the back. These are hardcore educators that you have to convince what to do. All you want me to teach is special education. I don't want to teach special education. I don't know anything about special education. What you need me here for is to help you make policies. Let's get this thing off the ground." After I talked to him awhile, he thought a little bit about it and said it sounds interesting. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll call the school board. We'll have a meeting and discuss it. The next day, he came by the school and said, "Mr. Ratcliffe, what do you want to do?" I want to be put in charge of all these federal programs. You folks are not going to do anything with them because this country doesn't want them. But they're needed. I can handle those so I'd like to be the director. So the next day, he came by and said, "I didn't hold a school board meeting, but I called all the top school board personally on the telephone. They all agreed with you. The first thing I want to do is get you back in my office." They were remodeling upstairs. He came out about 2:30 in the afternoon and said, "Hi, Mr. Ratcliffe." Then he said, "You've been with us all day long. How do you want to be treated?" I said, "I beg your pardon?" "How do you want to be treated?" I said, "Can you spell?" He said, "Yes, I can spell." I said, "What's m-a-n spell?" He said, "man." I said, "That's all you need to do. Treat me like a man." If we had that thing going trough the school system, if we treated people like they were people, whether they agree or disagree with us, that's not (unintelligible) to begin with. So we moved in and it wasn't long until the first staff meeting we had after school started. One of my former teachers had moved a student. Two white girls in the back, making noise, stopped her and still she did it again. He moved one of them up to the front row. She sat down by a black student. The next day, her mother was in telling the principal she'd have to be moved. (Apparently, the principal complied). The teacher came to me and said: What would you do? I'd put her right back on that seat, but before I'd do that I'd take my grade book down there and hand it to the principal and say, you set up an arrangement. As a teacher in Clarke County, to me, he (the principal) was way out of line. To me, he's gone out of line...you talk with the parents. So when we got to the staff meeting, this thing came up and I sat there and listened to them discuss the pros and cons. I didn't say a word. Near the end of the meeting, the superintendent said, "Well, Mr. Ratcliffe, you've been here all afternoon and you haven't said a word about this thing. What do you think?" I said, "I think damnit. Let me tell you something. Mr. X., the principal, you have set up a system in this county that we can't control. You have broken down the discipline in this county, grades 1-12. You don't permit any parent to come and tell you where to sit the students. You make the decision. I hope and trust as long as we're in this system, as long as we're working, that you'll never do it again." The meeting adjourned shortly. The superintendent called me in and said, "Let me shake your hand...there must be something up there." But it was the type of thing that we did. We worked together. Of course, in the federal programs I needed some real backing. Once we got the programs going, they kept us so busy. I didn't have time for some of this other (issues).
Q: What took the majority of your time as principal?
A: I taught classes.
Q: You taught classes?
A: Every principal should teach a class. How in the world is he going to know what students are if he's not out there with them where they are? The management of the school, evaluation of teachers or supervising teachers. But a principal doesn't have much time for supervision. That's a job within itself. Clarke County is guilty of not having any instructional supervisors. They tell me that the principal is going to do it and I tell the school board and the board of supervisors that you know better. The principal whose up there now has a doctor's degree and when he came in he was supposed to be a qualified man, and I believe he was. He had called me and asked me to go to lunch with him. He told me what he was trying to do. He'd been out in the community and everywhere. He went to visit the black homes and they said to him, "This is exactly what Mr. Ratcliffe used to do, when he first came here." They liked him. He said, "What do you think?" I think you've overstepped your bounds. You didn't have any business telling the school board that you could do the supervision and principalship. Well, I can do it - I'm highly qualified. I didn't say anything about qualifications, I'm saying you don't have time to do two jobs. I will be back down at the board of supervisors' public meeting saying the same thing. It was immune to their ears. Years later, one night I had been down there raising...about not having any instructional supervisors. The next morning, I met him on the street and he came over and shook my hand and said, "I'm leaving, and I want to tell you one thing, you were right." Does that answer your question? (last to interviewer).
Q: What would you have liked to have more time to do that you couldn't get around to doing?
A: I don't know, but off hand we spent a great deal of time with students. I would have liked to have more time to spend in the improvement of the instruction of teachers, and to have more leeway in giving teachers adequate finances to have advanced themselves.
Q: Getting to some specific areas, what do you think about merit pay for teachers?
A: Damn it! I think its the biggest political football I've ever seen. I know who's going to get merit pay.
A: The one who pleases the principal the most, and is always a lackey who doesn't contradict a thing that he's thinking. There's no principal who's perfect. I have no claim on perfection.
Q: How about career ladders?
A: I believe in it. I'll tell you why. When I was down at Eastern Kentucky at the university practicing one summer, maybe in '70, there was a young fellow there from Shepard College who was in that program, and nobody could get along with him in class. Nobody paid any attention to him in class, much less the teacher, but me, and I kept quiet and let him do all the talking. When I came back, I needed some tests and I couldn't find them anywhere, so I called him. He brought them down that afternoon and said, "I want to talk to you."" He came down, and he was in charge of career education up there. There were four whites and one or two blacks in that program. We sat there that afternoon and put all of them in that program. The blacks finished their degrees, and it didn't cost them a thing at all. We must see to it that our teachers improve themselves, and the only way to improve is to get more background in disciplines and methods.
Q: What procedures should be used before a principal is selected as principal? What requirement should a person have to work up the ladder to become principal?
A: Well, anybody can work up the ladder. It's not too hard for a person to work up the ladder when he knows what the requirements are. That doesn't necessarily make him a principal.
Q: What qualifications should a person have in order to be a good principal?
A: (laughs) May I give you another example? It was around the time when the style was to wear dark glasses, and the staff at Johnson-Williams decided they would not permit them in the classroom. The first day of school, one of my younger staff members drove up in his beautiful foreign car, got out with his briefcase, put his dark glasses on, and I was standing there waiting for him. As he came up, I said, "Good morning, Mr. ___. Don't you remember you can't wear those dark glasses here?" "Yes", he said, "but I thought you were talking about the students." I said, "You don't eat an apple in the classroom and don't let a student eat one, so neither one of you eat." He snapped them off and went down the hall. He came back to my office to see me and said, "I paid 4.50 (which was a lot of money then) for these glasses. They're my glasses, I own them, and I'll stand on my constitutional rights." And I said, "I AM THE CONSTITUTION in this building. If you choose to stand on your constitutional rights, as soon as the day is over, we'll go to the superintendent and you won't be here in the morning!" He said, "I'll think about it." He went out of the office, and about an hour later a young man brought in a note which read: "Dear Mr. Ratcliffe, I want to have a conference with you after school." I knew there was going to be more of it, so I said, "Okay, come in after school!" He came in and said, "You know, they didn't tell me this when I was in college, but you were pretty plain this morning. We have to have some rules to go by, and I'm sorry that I reacted as I did. I thought about it all day what to tell you. You're either going to be my brother, or my daddy, and it doesn't make a darn bit of difference which one." He respects me today, his daughter is my god-daughter. My point is somebody has to take over. The principal is the chief administer of the building. He needs to be able to stand on his two feet and not be nudged around. It's an easy job to please people, but be sure when you please them you're right. You may have to deal with three-sided questions, your side, my side, and the right side. You take the right stand, and you won't have any foolishness. It's business. The greatest business in America today is not defense, it's public education. This country will either be saved or destroyed. Why coddle a teacher? I started something when I started as a principal. Don't send a student to my office. Bring them to the office unless they're too unruly, even if you have to come in after school, I'll provide transportation home. I'll call the parents and let them know we have a conference and they're welcome to come. Then you sit down and listen to both sides. Generally, you find there's a little bit wrong on both sides. The right side hasn't been told. Then you as an administrator, I might be wrong, but I tried to stay over the line and protect the teacher. After the parents and student have left, then go over it in detail by detail and point out where the teacher might be wrong and their weaknesses so it won't happen again. I've had teachers tell me when a student curses in class we have to put up with it because they do it at home. I don't give a damn what they do at home. When those students come in that door in the morning (referring to the Second Chance Program), I am chairman of the board and have a responsibility to the board. If that teacher stands out there and says you can't do this, I've got to protect her. Just because they do it at home, and I've seen a lot of things here the last two days, I know that they don't so at home or they'd get the devil. Number one, vulgarity and talking back to teachers. In the first place, teachers should be careful not to let a student talk back. If you know they're going to talk back, why start the argument? You can't win. There's no way a teacher can win an argument with a student. You have to descend to their level. You're object is to get them to come up to your level. We put up with some petty things in school. Smoking areas-I had to do it when I was at Johnson-Williams. The superintendent said to provide smoking areas because of parents. One teacher said..it's not going to pay off, it's wrong. You see, I learned a lesson from suspending a boy one time, and his parents sent for me to come to his home for dinner. I went down there, and they were having their family dinner. They were all around the table, the aunts and uncles, and they all went in to the front room and began to talk. Everybody added their two cents worth, but the grandfather who sat over there and didn't say a word. I didn't back up any. He was suspended so he was suspended. Finally, his grandfather said, "Let me put my two cents in", and said to the children, "Did you ever lose a day of school, because you didn't have money for lunch? Did I ever keep you out of school a day to work? Did you ever go to school that you weren't properly dressed? Did you have a place to study when you came home in the evening? Well, what's it all about?" He turned to his grandson and said, "Listen, you have been with me ever since you were a very small child. I don't know that you even remember when your mother brought you here...the man has suspended you, I don't want to hear any more about it out of any of you, and I'll tell you why. Mr. Ratcliffe, you are part of the greatest business of this country, educating our children. If you're not going to carry out the business like it should be carried out, then you should be fired." That's it. That was all we had to do. Another thing, teachers should have time to work with their parents. What time do you have to work with parents? They work all day, and you work five days a week. The mother doesn't have time to come to school and see what's going on even though she's not working. When that one car leaves, she's immobile. Another thing, do parents feel free to come to school? I'm not too sure some of these economically insecure parents would come to school...in ordinary clothes, because somebody might make a remark. Their English is not as good as yours and mine, I'll tell you one thing, they know what they're talking about and all we got to do is understand them. I keep going back to Morfield..we sat out to give teachers time to visit parents. We would give them a day off. You went out and visited parents. The big problem with visiting parents is that the teachers don't know what to talk about. You better have it up in notes and put it up here (points to head), and don't go there and talk about somebody else's child. You're there to talk about their child. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times, you'll come away with parents supporting you. What I found when I came to Johnson-Williams...I was only there a week and a half, maybe two weeks school started, but by the second or third day I was there, I was hearing teachers sitting on their desks saying, "I've got mine, you've got yours to get." Well, you don't go out and make a lot about it but you listen. When I heard once or twice, and was sure I had enough evidence to convict them if I wanted to, I asked the superintendent to sit in on that. After we'd gone through on something, I brought this up: "Now, I'm not going to try to identify anybody, but if I hear it one more time, I 'm going to recommend to the school board that you're dismissed, because there's no place in the classroom for sarcasm. You're there to do a day's work and to get along with students, and you're friendly with them." We've created a lot of our own problems. A teacher should know, that John Smith over in that corner sat there all day and didn't say a word, something wrong...If I were observing...we'd go into a supervising conference and I'd want to know why you did not call on him to talk to him after school and go over that. Another little girl sits back there and doesn't have anything to say because she's not dressed as well as some of the others. I think I've seen some things happen, and I know they're unholy. For example, I was invited, through the state department of West Virginia to help evaluate a pretty large school of seven or eight hundred students (elementary). That was in the days of hardcore segregation. This was a white school, and I went into a classroom to observe. You could identify children, these were all white children, by where they were..and I went into this. She was a "superior" teacher, and I know that if we would have had merit pay, she would have gotten a whole lot of "merits." Every time she wanted something done, she'd call on this little girl saying, "Now, I'll call on my little helper." This little girl would come up and she (the teacher) would fix her hair, look at her face in the mirror, and...finally after they went out for recess, I said to her, "Now, Mrs. ___ who is that little girl?" "Why, don't you know, Mr. Ratcliffe, her father owns ____ and ____ car dealership, the biggest dealership around." Just a few years later, I asked one of my former teachers, "Are you going to summer school?" "No, I am going to have a job for the summer." "What are you doing?" "I'm tutoring Mr. ____'s youngest daughter, because she is going to the seventh grade and can't read." See what you do when you coddle? This other girl had it on the ball, but here comes her sister, and she doesn't know you're still coddling. We have to understand children. Another example was when I was asked to handle a teacher's class, and I did. I never will forget they were talking about "T" words. Of course, we were living in a rural area in Morfield (poultry area) and I took for granted that everybody would know the word "turkey", but this boy couldn't do a thing with it. I said, "what do you raise on a farm?' He couldn't think of it. When we went down to the playground the principal and I were down where they were playing softball, and the little boy got up to bat, dropped his bat and started yelling, "Mr. Ratcliffe! Mr. Ratcliffe! I know a "T" word, something you raise on a farm." He thought about what I'd said. "What is it?" "Tatters!" (laughs). The principal said, "Damn right!" We've got so much to learn. We have to understand our children, and we've created our own problems. I'll bet head against penny, and give you an ax or a guillotine, either one, and give you the penny that not two percent of teachers in the modern day school system are teaching children about their ethnic or racial heritage. Now, how do you bring all these children together? How do you teach the child who is economically deprived and poor white that he has a right in this country if you don't talk about some of those folks who have come up through the mill? But we spend so much time doing other things. We have just about priced ourselves out of the market. When I came along, we had no dramatics teacher, we didn't have a dramatics teacher at either Sanders or Johnson-Williams High School. We had one and three act plays. I almost got myself fires over one, nevertheless, over in Morfield, the first year we decided that each class in the high school would have a one-act play. They were very successful. One day, after the plays were over, a teacher said that next year, "Are we going to have one-act plays?" Being a good principal, I wanted to gloat a little bit, and I said, "Yes." She said, "If the white children in the Sanders High School have them, we can have them." I studied about that thing, and that night I went back down to the school and went through the transcripts. I found that my first grade teacher had fifteen hours in dramatics on her transcript. So, I called them in and said, "We're going to have one-act play and we want to have somebody to direct it...Is there somebody who will volunteer?" Finally, she says, "I'll be willing to help, I only teach first grade." It worked. The next week or so after we had it, the principal of the high school came to me and asked me, "Will you let me have three of your teachers? (this was after segregation) I'd got three I'd like to fire...we'd like to have your dramatics teacher." It seems to me, we have too much specialization. We carry special education to the hilt. I'm not too sure whether every child in special education has any business there. I'm thinking of a case in the court in education. I know when we started special education that every time...teachers sent too many children in and sent their scores to a psychiatrist.
Q: What do you think should be a curriculum in the school, and how do you think a school should go about changing the curriculum?
A: De-emphasize athletics and coaching. Do you mean to tell me that I can haul, and people cheer for it, across state lines to a football game and then we don't want to ride ten miles away from home to be with black children. We're going to have to deal with it. My first superintendent told me and about fifteen other people who went to the Baptist Church...we had better learn to get along with and understand the darker races. Because when we look at the map and statistics, we own about a third of it...Nevertheless, we need to teach the teachers to teach the children. We're not identifying or sectionalizing students...What I'm saying is this, I can go to this high school and tell you who's in the "it" clubs. How many black children are in forensics? How many black children are in the Latin Club? If Latin's good for a white child, it should be good for a black child...You see, we have to do more than say the doors are open, come in. We teach them all, they're here...I agree with Mr. Baliles that we need a program for four year olds...Is he talking about all children? (makes reference to success of Clarke County's headstart program)...I think I'd rather leave it to community groups because school have more than they can do. You can't tie teachers down, you can add more staff but you add more problems. We're fencing ourselves in and fencing the community out.
Q: How do you feel about the standards of quality?
A: I haven't kept up with it too well, but there must be standards of quality. I think its insane that we guarantee that children will read on a certain level...because you're compromising.
Q: Along the same line, what do you think about testing procedures, such as the S.A.T. test?
A: I think I've been away from it a long time. I think they need to be restudied.
Q: How about the NTE for certification?
A: I had some mighty good teachers who never had to take it, I think it's an ism, we're using it to eliminate good teachers, I have questions about it. The fact that there are a number of black teachers who are not up to par - I haven't seen any record yet to show if white teachers are up to par. I know there's some out there. It's going to eliminate a lot of minority teachers. What we are trying to do, make doctors out of them? I can see why doctors have to pass a state board, therefore I seriously question merit pay.
Q: What education related activities have you been involved with since retirement?
A: Reading a lot, talking to teachers, adult education, community groups, etc.
Q: Did you have a role model?
A: Best model was mother, also included father. Talked about them both. Also some teachers served as models. Talked about several.
Q: As principal, what were your most pleasant activities?
A: Working with teachers and students.
Q: What was your biggest crisis?
A: Recalled experience with a situation involving several students who had not met graduation requirements. Violence was threatened. Also mentioned a student strike was avoided.
Q: If you could change any five areas in U.S. education, what would they be and why?
A: Areas mentioned were unequal treatment of students, curriculum, inter-cultural understanding, prayer in school (considers to be a political football).
Q: What have I not asked that you would like to tell us?
A: Talked further about integration and racism. Also talked about drug problem and drug testing for students. Mentioned athletics again.
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