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Q: I'll start with the first question. How many years were you in education as a teacher?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: About four years I believe.
Q: What grades were you teaching--high school, middle school, or elementary school?
A: Upper grades and then I was a teacher/principal for a long time. I don't know how many years.
Q: Was this a big school or a small school?
A: I started off in a school with four teachers--no I started off in a one-room school--then I was in a four-room school, and then a six-room school, and from then to a twelve to fifteen--twelve teachers possibly--and later I was principal at a junior high school and there we had twenty-four or twenty-five teachers.
Q: How many years as a principal together?
A: Well, let's see, four from forty-seven would be about forty three years.
Q: Wow! Was it--how difficult was it to be the principal and the teacher? You said you were in a principal/teacher school.
A: Well, chiefly as a principal/teacher I taught say half a day and then the other half a day I was more or less business manager uh building manager--that type of role where you attend to many of the administrative details. I uh had very little time to be instructional leader. Of course, I also handled the major discipline problems that were referred to me and was involved to some extent in community activities as the teacher/principal. In fact, uh we went through a long period of time when most of the principals taught part of the time. We had no secretarial help--no assistant principals.
Q: You did it all. I'm familiar with the school that you were in here with the open-space school. Before that what type of school?
A: I was in a junior high school.
Q: You were in a junior high school before you came to the elementary?
Q: Was it a large school?
A: Well, we had twenty-five or twenty-six teachers and uh at most we had more than eight hundred students.
Q: What did you find the most difficult in making the transition from the junior high to elementary?
A: Well, I didn't find anything difficult because I had taught in elementary school. I was an elementary major and a secondary major in my uh training for the principalship and as a teacher--so I didn't find any difficulty in changing from the junior high school to the elementary school.
Q: Did you find any big difference in how your duties changed?
A: Yes, chiefly because uh when I went to the elementary school, I had an assistant principal who took care of many of the administrative details like following up on absentees, supervising the lunchroom activities, and things of that type and I played the role chiefly as the instructional leader.
Q: Did you enjoy that more than the administrative side of it?
A: Oh well sure, that's what principals should be doing. I never could accept the concept and the school where the principal gets an assistant and makes him an instructional leader and then he continues to be the building manager. After all, I think his training should be in the area of leadership.
Q: Do you think that your approach is unique and that more principals tend to do it the other way?
A: Yes, I think so. I visited some good schools in different parts of the country where uh the principal was the instructional leader and they were good schools.
Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?
A: Economics. I got a little pay boost uh for being principal and I needed every cent I could get. After all I was married and uh the year I had children--brought four children--and uh things were tight so I could not have stayed as a teacher had I not had this supplement of the principal and then it was difficult enough.
Q: Did you miss the children when you made the transition from being with them all the time to seeing them occasionally?
A: Sure. That's the chief disadvantage of being the principal is that you don't have as direct a role with the youngsters.
Q: To see the day to day progress?
A: Sure. And there's just a certain amount of joy in classroom teaching. At least there was for me and I miss that.
Q: During the years--forty-three years is a long time--what type of changes did you see in the children? You said it was a joy to be with them and did you see changes in the type of children you got?
A: Well, of course, in my earliest days I taught in a mountain school and then in a small country school with four teachers. Uh later as I moved into the larger school where I had more children who were exposed to the influences kids get involved in around town, sure discipline problems were different. But by and large youngsters are basically the same and uh I did see in the later years, of course, the groups coming into the schools and I had to deal a great deal more with youngsters intentionally disrupting class, uh being disrespectful to the teacher.
Q: How did you handle the drug situation?
A: Well, fortunately I got out before it got so bad, but each time we identified a youngster who was using drugs at school we just called the parents in and sat down and just uh talked with them about the matter, let them know what was going on and let the youngster know that we would not tolerate it at school and uh we had very little of it in the junior high school in the days that I was there. You must remember that I left the junior high school twelve, uh, seventeen years ago and I'm sure it's quite different now.
Q: Did you ever see any evidence of drugs in elementary school?
Q: There was just the effect of parents using drugs and the effects it could have on children in the elementary school?
A: No, I didn't see any indications of it with youngsters in the elementary school. None that were recognized.
Q: Why did you--why did you suppose and I've noticed this too about the children intentionally acting out in class--why do you suppose this has come to be so much in the classroom? Is it that they're not maybe not getting enough attention at home?
A: You mean disrupting the class? Uh hun, just intentionally disrupting. Well, I think, of course, we have a greater percentage of youngsters now who are disrespectful to their parents. Part of this is because of both parents working out of the home, not having as much time to spend with the children and I'm not sure that in many of the families both parents come home and they're not home at the same time, they're tired, they're exhausted. The wife in particular has to take care of the household chores and there's very little time to deal with the children and uh children are chiefly engaged in watching television and a lot of the examples they see are the big man stuff uh I think influences them to be uh show off, smartalecky, disrespectful to the teacher. And of course we have this not only uh we have this right on through adult level now in the community where adults are purposefully insulting to authorities--police officers and such--so that the adults are setting this type of thing as an example for the children so naturally it's going to show up in the classroom.
Q: What was your schools' philosophy?
A: Pardon me. Well, how do you define a school philosophy? What does a school believe in? It's a composite of what the staff believes in and the staff I'm sure is influenced by the philosophy of the principal as well as the belief of the other members of the staff and in an effort to write the school's philosophy. When teachers do it to do this cooperatively as a committee, usually the thing I got back even when I played a part in developing it myself was the textbook kind of quotes that maybe somebody wrote as an example of a good philosophy for a school. And it's very difficult to get teachers to compose a statement of philosophy.
Q: Do you think a school needs a philosophy?
A: Well, it has one. Defining it is difficult and usually it is defining it is pigeon-holed and seldom referred to. Maybe the act of defining it does have a positive effect. I don't know how to gauge that.
Q: Since we mentioned teachers, over the years did you generally find teachers to be cooperative or in your length of service did the teachers' approach to education change?
A: Yes, I saw uh quite a change on the part of some teachers. I believe in the later years of my teaching that I saw fewer dedicated teachers. Back in my earliest days uh nearly all of the teachers that I worked with were very dedicated and hard working and very conscientious. In my later years I would see a few who were not very dedicated and I think were looking forward to using teaching as a stepping stone to something else. Or uh not seemingly very devoted to the hard work of teaching uh particularly the planning and the preparations and the follow through on the uh checking papers. Uh now don't misunderstand me. Uh I say this about only a few. The majority of the teachers that I dealt along with in the schools I worked, worked in harmony with me. I was never in a school where there were two or three factions on the staff competing with each other and acting negatively with each other. I have observed it in some other schools. I never had this in a school where I was principal.
Q: Do you feel your approach towards the running of the school has an influence on this--that you didn't have these factions?
A: Well, I sure like to give myself whatever credit I can. I think that was a factor some way or other. The staffs that I worked with very generally uh generated a cooperative attitude and the rapport between me and most of the staff was good. I'm sure there were times when someone would get a little provoked about something. I'm glad that maybe I didn't hear some of the remarks but I never once involved in uh conflict between me and the teachers nor did I see seldom did I ever see conflict among the teachers.
Q: Can you pinpoint those things in your leadership style that you think influenced those things that kept it--kept conflict from occurring?
A: Well, I always tried to be a good listener and I always tried in discussion with teachers individually and in groups sometimes in whole staff meetings and sometimes in team or department meetings we would just sit around and talk. I tried to convey to the teachers that I was a listener, that I could listen to them and consider what they had to say. If they had a problem that they wanted to express it that and uh I would support them, that if they wanted to stick their neck out to try something that was a bit innovative why yes I would support them in it. I think such things contribute to harmony on the staff where there is trust between teachers and between teachers and principal.
Q: Did--I'm sure you were involved in teacher evaluations. How did you handle that?
A: Well, I never was ever involved very much in a checklist kind of evaluation if that's the kind of thing you refer to which is being done more now. I think that it was in my day as a principal there was a few times in my experience when the superintendent had one of his leaders develop a checklist and have us use--uh my evaluations consisted of writing annotations and filing and keeping them absolutely secret and confidential except when I was having a conversation with that teacher. I may then refer to something that occurred before especially if it was a case where the teacher needed some help and sometimes teachers needed help and they didn't know it. But uh I resolved early that if I ever had to talk to a teacher about changing direction that I would have some support for it.
Q: Did just the process of evaluating teachers become an issue of conflict--resentment on their part--something of that type?
A: Uh, yes, couple of times. I say maybe as many as three or four times, but it was not a lasting kind of conflict.
Q: Did you ever have to let a teacher go?
A: Uh, I never had that authority.
Q: Or were you in a position where you made recommendations to the Superintendent to let people go?
Q: Did you have to make such recommendations?
Q: How did you handle that in regard to your relationship with the person involved?
A: Well, of course, I never made such a recommendation unless I had uh spent a number of times talking with the teacher and reviewing the problems and uh and I never recommended the dismissal of the teacher. Twice I recommended that the teacher be moved into a different setting.
Q: Uh, a different school, a different grade level, what exactly do you mean by a different setting?
A: Well, one case it was different a different level. Yes, one teacher one time was a teacher with an elementary background and wanted to teach at the junior high school level and just didn't seem to relate to youngsters of that age very well and I recommended that the teacher go back to the elementary school. And uh this teacher uh felt like doing so would be an admission of defeat and was going to hang in there when it wasn't really good for the teacher or the children and it resolved itself very well and later on I don't think there was any enduring hard feeling about it.
Q: Do you feel that the principal should have had the power--that you should have had the power to let someone go, to terminate someone if they needed to be?
A: Well, I don't think there is anytime the principal should have the final say in a dismissal, but I think if he recommends dismissal he better have pretty good documentation of what the problem is.
Q: During your tenure as principal did you see changes--I'm talking about the documentation in what was required of you before you could make a recommendation? Did it become more stringent?
A: No, I think maybe that was maybe the absence of such of uh an attempt to define what is expected of the teacher is a shortcoming but we just never had that--any written definition of what is expected in the role even to the point of uh oh uh swearing in front of children, talking to youngsters in class about belief in free sex, and uh you can probably think of a number of extremes. And the fact that I think we have never had a definition of that type of thing I think is a shortcoming.
Q: You mentioned the type of evaluation that was a checklist--occasionally you had those. If you were going to have an evaluation system that you thought would be best for evaluating teachers what would it look like? Would you want a checklist or would you rather it was left rather subjective?
A: For my part I would rather be subjective rather than the checklist I think possibly. I can't argue against it. Uh I think if teachers would be involved in developing such a checklist, it would be more acceptable to them. Uh I know the few times I had to use such a checklist with the teacher if I uh suppose we had a scale of one to five and uh one and two is low if there was any time in evaluating that teacher that I would give a low rating I would get a negative reaction right away. And I would much rather have would have much rather sat down with you personally and privately and talked about the matter rather than coldly checking off... So you think... . . .and this goes in the file.
Q: Do you think the matter of the number itself that sort of upsets someone?
A: That may be a factor if you're going to check. Uh how do you make a checklist? Do you uh the only other way to do it would be to write an annotation after each.
Q: What was your biggest headache as a principal?
A: I would say the biggest one was the fact that we always had more youngsters than we ought to have who wouldn't study, who wouldn't do any preparation, or almost no preparation and did not feel that getting a paper in when it was due was important and uh no concern over getting a low mark. Because of uh this kind of thing was my biggest concern or my biggest headache. Now I had there were different times when certain uh uh tense issues would develop over something else, maybe over behavior such as that, and part of the going through of that period that would be a big headache, but it wouldn't be an enduring kind of thing.
Q: What was your biggest joy?
A: Well, I don't know. I just always liked to get up and go to work. I enjoyed the challenge of it and uh uh everyday was a different day. It was never monotonous.
Q: If you had it to do over, would you do it again--go into education, be a principal?
A: Sure, sure.
Q: Is there anything about it you'd change?
A: Well, there's some things I'd try to change. Sure, I'm not sure I'd be very successful.
Q: What would you like to change?
A: Uh, I don't know. I'd have to think on that one a while. You might have to stop that. What would I like to change? Well, uh I would like to on the part of the professionally-trained principal and assistant principal I would like to take away from him uh the duties any good secretary can do and I would like to take those duties away from the teacher. Uh I think the teacher ought to be able uh to really feel compelled to plan, to do preparations, and to follow through on the lesson--on the on reading those papers. How can you teach mathematics without grading the kids' papers? How can you teach English without doing it? And yet, and yet there are so many duties demanded of teachers that it's difficult to do those things. For example, when I was at the junior high school, it was not unusual for a math teacher to have 150 youngsters a day plus then uh the playground supervision, hall duties, lunchroom duties, uh collecting the lunch money--finally we got around to a cash register, that was a great help--and the things and in other words I think the thing I would like to change most is to cast the teacher always in the role of educator. Uh and uh right now the teacher has a lot of those other things to do.
Q: During your time you probably saw a lot of change and we talked about some...
A: (I'm shifting I'm sorry)
Q: O.k. Were you involved much at the time integration occurred? Was that a big factor in your district?
A: No, it wasn't any problem to us. I got the first black children in the secondary schools of Berkeley County and I didn't have any problem.
Q: Did you have any problems with parents over this situation?
A: No, just quietly came in and took their place and uh and when some of the white kids started to hassle the black youngster uh I would just call him in and talk to him about it and uh it seemed to disappear. If they didn't want to have anything to do with them they just ignored them rather than give them a bad time. And I had the first black teacher in my school the junior high school in Martinsburg and uh she taught with me for two years and then uh took off for health reasons. I think part of that was tension. After all there was a great deal of stress for a black teacher coming into a predominantly white school and but uh but I'm sure she had physical problems too. Then two years later she came back and she was an outstanding teacher. She did a good job and after a while uh she was accepted by the kids. No problem uh she didn't have any more problem than other teachers have, some other teachers have. She was really a pretty good teacher and the youngsters responded to her.
Q: Did you have any problems with parents not wanting their children in her room?
Q: When she first came?
A: No. I'm sure there was some apprehension at first but uh it didn't create any problem.
Q: What effect did the federal aid to education have on your school--Elementary and Secondary Education Act and a lot of federal aid that came in?
A: Well, it brought in some special teachers that uh would that would pull youngsters out of regular classroom settings for part of the time. Uh, uh and sometimes this was resented on the part of the regular classroom teacher because it would take the youngsters out at a time when the teacher felt that his or her role was more important. At the time this was one factor. We had special reading teachers to come in and special remedial teacher would maybe come once a week by bus. Did we have that when you were there? I don't remember. We had a hearing/speech uh therapist. I can't think of all of the impact of federal aid, but there was quite a bit of that.
Q: Do you think that overall it was a good thing or not?
A: It's difficult to judge. I have no way to measure. There were a uh couple youngsters in speech therapy that were helped greatly. Uh the struggle we have with children who need special help in reading is a struggle no matter who does it and I'm sure that the individual or almost individual help those youngsters got was uh was valuable. The regular classroom teacher who has twenty-five or thirty youngsters can find very little time to give those children the individual kind of help they need. So theoretically it was a good program--have no way to measure the results. I don't really know. All I know is that it was very costly.
Q: Did you have special education classes or classes for handicapped, classes for mentally-retarded, anything like that?
A: Well, the most seriously handicapped went to a special school. They were not mainstreamed at that time. Now they are being mainstreamed back into the classroom and uh and I have some reservations about that. On the other hand, I have a lot of reservations about some of the youngsters who were sent to the handicapped school. Some I think went because maybe certain teachers didn't want to fool with them, and I'm not sure they were candidates. Very careful screening has to be done when they are sent to a special school. On the other hand, when I see a child who needs nursing care individually all day put into the mainstream and one person full-time paid person does nothing but attend to that child I just question that child ought to be in the public school. I don't know if you have any of that in your schools or not, but I've seen--I never had it in one of my schools, one of the schools where I was principal--but I've seen it in other schools.
Q: Did you have any special ed classes in your school itself?
A: Yes, yes, we had special ed. We had a teacher full time who took youngsters for special ed, and they would be in the mainstream except to be brought out for maybe one period uh in which they worked with the special ed teacher and the teacher would have only maybe five, six, seven, or eight youngsters at a time. And then, of course, maybe another hour this teacher would take some other children see out of the mainstream of a different age. That's the way we used it in our school down at Valley View. Uh, uh I don't believe you were there at the time that came later.
Q: Do you feel that effectively met the needs of those children?
A: Well, I think it helped them. I think it helped because again those youngsters needed the small-group instruction that the regular classroom teacher just didn't have the time to give.
Q: I understand that you were also involved with an open-school.
Q: What were your views? Did you like the open-school concept or did you prefer the more traditional?
A: No, I liked it very much, and I think it's a crying shame that many open schools have been built over the country and then they were never operated as such. They were just operated as conventional schools without any walls in them. And, of course, they didn't work so of course the open concept fell into disrepute and it's been abandoned almost uh entirely. But some of the best schools I visited were schools that really were schools in which the teachers were involved in uh in team teaching, large- and small-group instruction, and this type of thing--things that you can't very well do in the conventional type of building. So I think it has a lot of strengths. It takes a lot of doing and it's hard work. It isn't easy. Yes, it's hard work, it takes dedicated teachers who are willing to work hard and long.
Q: Did you find your teachers to be receptive to doing that?
A: I had a wonderful staff uh and the ones that, and there weren't many, the ones that didn't fit in to that very well asked to be moved. We just kept it open. If you don't feel comfortable, if you don't feel comfortable in this setting and you would like to change, ask for a change and our superintendent did this. And some of our good teachers, of course, left because they moved or uh went to some other position like counseling, supervision, this type of thing.
Q: Was your school physically, how was it organized--grade-level pods, just describe it for us.
A: Well, chiefly uh we did not have the first grade. They were in another building. We got them after they had been in school, some of them kindergarten and the first grade. We got them and the second and third year youngsters uh we had in their own part, their own wing of the building and in their own teams. Now the teams were made up of mostly three teachers and about uh ninety youngsters.
Q: What type of things did they do instructionally? You talked about the teaming--the things they could do that they couldn't do in the traditional setting.
A: Well, the interaction between teachers where in one teacher is good with a large group--one teacher sometimes take 120 youngsters and do a good job with them. Uh and there was some of that done. And then, of course, when a certain type of a large group was being managed by one teacher, another teacher could take a smaller group--a smaller group that needed some type of special help. In this respect now uh these were the chief advantages of uh of that allowing for. And another big advantage I think is that you're very visible, and there's no goofing off. There's no opportunity to. You don't have a chance to. If you do, the rest of the team feels that you are dragging your feet and you're not there pulling your share of the load and pretty soon that teacher gets the message. And, of course, that's the teacher who becomes a candidate to move into some other setting. Uh another thing is that uh the teacher has to uh can observe other teachers teaching which in a conventional school when can they ever get a chance to do this, to see a good teacher teach and to uh to observe some of their techniques. So there's a lot of inter...a lot of opportunities for this type of interaction. Uh as I say, it's hard work and takes a lot of planning. Now we, of course, we set our schedule up so that uh we so that our teachers had a half day of planning every week. And uh and they used that time for planning. There was only one time when I had to ever had to in the five years that I was there that I ever had to speak to two teachers who were using planning time to be sociable and they accepted it very well and uh I didn't see it anymore.
Q: Do you feel there was any disadvantage to the open school, anything that you could put on the negative side?
A: Well, I suspect in the open concept that there were some youngsters who were who were somewhat hyperactive in that they were they always got to know what's going on so that their attention was divided a good bit. Uh how much more than in the regular classroom I don't know because that same child is diverted in the regular classroom by the other things that are going on and in the open all out in the open maybe more so. Oh I can't say. I think Mrs. Linscomb could say better than I because she worked with these youngsters, she observed them this more than I. If I walk into an area and a youngster doesn't have his nose in a book, I don't know how much of his time that he's doing this type of thing, that he's looking over to see, what's going on. It may be that I just walked in at the time he was doing it. Of course, the teacher who's there with them all the time, they would know better what kind of problem that was.
Q: We've mentioned a couple of things that probably happened during your tenure--changes like integration, the federal aid, the open school, the special education coming in--what do you think during the time you were a principal had the biggest impact on education or on you in particular? What change, what event brought the most change for you?
A: I don't know how to answer your question really. I understand your question. I don't know how to answer it really. What brought the most change for me? Uh, well, I think going from a conventionally-structured school to an open school represented possibly the greatest change for me. I did more special study for that than for any other move I made, of course.
Q: How did you see funding change over the years? Did you get more funding for the schools, was it always a struggle to try to get money from the public to support the schools, or maybe you weren't ever involved in it?
A: We went through periods uh of having bond elections and uh what we called extra levy elections uh to raise additional monies for the support of schools. The bonding issues were to build new buildings, and, of course, the extra levies were to supplement teachers' salaries and do uh oh uh maybe small improvements in certain buildings. And in the county there were times when we had uh uh very loyal support of the public. In fact, there were times when uh such elections would carry by ninety percent. Then we went through a period in which uh in which we lost these elections and the opposition was so strong against them uh that uh there was some bitterness generated between members of the public and teachers uh over the elections in fact uh.
Q: What do you think caused this shift in from support for and suddenly against?
A: Oh, I've often tried to figure out what brought that on. Uh certain negatives, certain opposition uh if it's very vocal will always generate a following and sometimes this sort of snowballs is one thing. And the other kind of thing was that, uh maybe the election wasn't very well uh promoted, wasn't very well explained. I do remember in one case in particular we were to have an election sometime in January and by the first of December we weren't making any effort in this county to explain it to the public as to what it was to be about and uh it didn't carry either and that started more or less a downhill kind of thing. Another factor is uh if uh if the superintendent is really a public relations person--here in our state uh doesn't have a great deal of charisma, doesn't generate a lot of confidence uh out in public--uh the public seems to lose confidence. This is a factor. Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not blaming it all on the superintendent but uh that's a factor. And then,too uh and uh there were times when certain when an incident too would occur in a certain school that uh brought about a negative public reaction. Uh this may be a disciplinary action or something of this type and this uh things of this kind would help you to lose elections.
Q: Do you see any difference in the public's attitude toward the teachers as far as this change in being for or against these bonds?
A: Well, uh we had uh different periods when the public seems to have a lot of confidence in teachers generally and then we go through another period sometime will last for seven, eight, or ten years in which a lot of public opinion is very negative. Sometimes this is generated at the national level as for example and I can't think of uh the study the National Council for Excellence or something of this sort that gave a report about uh seven, eight, ten years ago uh was very negative toward education, uh toward teachers, the role of teachers in particular and this uh uh gave a lot of support to the attitude of some parents that teachers are not doing their jobs until now it's uh almost a national disease that uh you see magazine article about uh teachers uh not teaching. And there's been a lot at the in the media that has uh taken confidence away from teachers and I think it's regrettable really.
Q: Do you think there should be merit pay for teachers?
A: Yes I do and no I don't. Uh it's a yes and no type of thing. For example, I think uh department heads ought to be paid more. I think uh team leaders ought to be paid more. Uh I think uh a teacher--that if we can determine, if we can find a way to determine that a teacher who has taught five years is doing a good job--ought to get more pay than one who has taught ten years and is doing a poor job. But how do you determine this? I don't know how to determine this and uh for that reason I am afraid of merit pay. I really am. I'm afraid that in uh too many cases it would become uh a favor kind of thing to pass out. I think it's regrettable that a good, hard-working, dedicated teacher teaching ten years doesn't get any more pay than one who uh isn't trying very hard, isn't getting very good results.
Q: Do you feel the same thing should be applied to principals?
A: Sure. Don't know how you do it again. Uh.
Q: Did you think--I started to ask you do you think you would have been one of them who got the merit pay but I won't do that. I'll ask you...
A: (Laughter) I would say yes. If anybody, if ask anyone and they'll say yes.
Q: I'll reword the question and say do you feel you were very effective as a principal that...
A: Yes, I do. I really do. I feel that I was because, and I still get feedback from teachers that makes me feel that I was and I get a lot of feedback from uh former students. Some of them are almost as old as I am, but I do. I get feedback which tells me this and I rarely ever had major discipline problems in school uh with uh students and it was very rare that uh I had any conflict situations with teachers, very seldom and uh those weren't lasting.
Q: If you have, you mentioned former students and when they came back and talk about remembering being in your school, do they point to one thing that they remember most about you, the one thing that sticks in their minds?
A: Sometimes, sometimes. I remember oh, oh I remember some four or five years ago uh I uh saw a woman who had to make herself known to me because it had been many years since I had her in school and uh we were talking and she said I remember the very time I got my confidence and you caused it. See uh that kind of feedback is quite rewarding.
Q: If you were evaluating yourself, what were the things that you did that made you an effective principal?
A: Well, I uh in dealing with youngsters I always tried to deal with them fairly. I always tried to make them feel like I expected certain things of them. I tried to be consistent in dealing with them. I didn't threaten them. If I told them that you do so and so something will happen, I saw to it that that took place. Uh, uh, well, that's consistency. Of course, in dealing with them and uh with uh--I don't know with teachers I tried to make teachers feel that I respected them, that I supported them, that I would get all the help for them that I could get for them, and uh factors of that kind.
Q: If you were going to give advice, say one of us is going to be a new principal and we've never been one, we're going into administration, first, would you advise us to do it? Do you think that's something, a profession you would recommend to people, to be a principal?
A: Well, I think we need principals and people who want to be principals. I don't uh I don't think I don't think people ought to be principals unless they really want to be, unless they feel like that they that they can play this role, that they can uh do whatever principals can do to help uh uh have a better school.
Q: If you had to give us uh advise, give us a key to success as a principal, what would you tell us to do?
A: Make the core of your of all of your activity the development of learning climate, that everything you do must contribute to a wholesome learning climate and that whatever else that goes on around there around school that doesn't do that, forget it.
Q: And I take it then that would also be your key to having an effective school--be the same thing. What is the relationship between a principal and the effectiveness of the school?
A: Can you have an effective school and an ineffective principal? Yell, if you have good, if it's staffed with uh with high-powered teachers and uh as long as he doesn't do a lot of negatives, uh it might be a right good school. I think it would be a better school if he could play his role with that kind of a staff.
Q: Interesting. Describe for us your typical work day in terms of how you spent your time.
A: Well, sometimes at the junior high school level, now uh keep in mind that the junior high school level was seventh and through ninth grade and we had youngsters in school who were nineteen years of age and because they were nineteen years of age and in junior high school and not graduating from high school, they uh often created discipline problems uh because of their size and their age and the fact that they felt they didn't belong uh and sometimes I would say half of my day was dealing with discipline problems.
Q: What do you think should be done with these children who are like this? What could be done to help these children?
A: I think the community uh has to face up to this sometime. I don't know when it's ever going to happen as to whether or not the overage youngster in the middle and the and who disrupts learning and takes away from all the other kids in the classroom, whether or not he's entitled to be there. The attitude now is that if he's of an age to be in school and his parents can get him to go to school, the school has to find a place for him, do something for him. Well, if the community--would many communities are searching for an answer to this. Not many have been successful. I don't know what it is really, what the answer is, but part of my answer is that he should not be allowed in the conventional school to continue to disrupt the learning of the other kids and if that's--he does not have that right and neither do his parents have that right. And in some classrooms uh one or two youngsters can uh can almost eliminate worthwhile learning activities.
Q: I interrupted you. You were saying that in seventh through ninth grades most of your day was handling discipline.
A: No, sometimes that was true. Sometimes it wasn't true. Now there when I got an assistant principal who helped with this type of thing of course then I had much more time to do the other kinds of things.
Q: This was in the junior high?
Q: How much of your time did you spend in classrooms doing observations?
A: You mean just sit there watching?
Q: Uh hun.
A: Not much. Very little.
Q: How did you get your impressions of how well your teachers were doing with their instruction? Was it just generally impressions from being in the building?
A: Well, uh being in the classroom sometimes in and out. To just go in and sit for a whole class period uh I think is a negative action. I don't think you need all that time to find out and you can find out how well a teacher's doing by talking with the youngsters. I don't need to ask questions to check up on the teacher but to talk about what they're studying, what they're learning, what project are you involved in, uh in literature what are you reading now? And if the kid doesn't know uh that tells you something uh sometimes he doesn't know. Well, of course, it tells you about the youngster. Sometimes it tells you about the teacher if there's enough of them that don't know. But uh but I think you can tell a great deal about the effectiveness of the teacher by the attitude that the youngsters have about what they're studying.
Q: How active were the parents of your students in what was going on in the school?
A: Well, at the last school I was in we had lots of parents coming in to uh help as volunteer aides. In fact, uh sometimes it worked negatively. If a parent would get up and rush through the morning chores at home, get the kids off to school, uh change his or her clothes, come into the school to offer to help and uh you couldn't find anything for them to do, that's very bad. Uh you go to a teacher and say look I got some help for you today. Would you like to use this person. I can't today. And you go to two or three places, and it just doesn't suit today, this is bad. Usually if I had some kind of a chore I had to do uh to put them on I would do that to try to use them. But by and large they would help in the media center. They would help sometimes with certain types of secretarial duties--secretary was loaded down. Uh, but chiefly they uh were used in the classroom helping the teacher with maybe three or four youngsters or a small group doing something with them or giving them practice with a certain type of arithmetic. Uh always of course under the direction of the teacher. Now if the volunteer started to take it away from the teacher, which didn't happen very often but uh it did a couple of times, you kind of eased that volunteer out. Because uh once in a while if you run into somebody that felt like I can do it better than the teacher's doing it, then they'd go outside and reflect that in the community and that's very negative kind of thing. You can't use much of that kind of help.
Q: What type of things did your school do to promote a good school/community relationship?
A: Well, we always had that little core that belonged to the parent-teacher association that came in. Of course, they met the teachers, and the teachers talked to them. And we invited parents to come into certain activities at the school and we would give them tours around. Say just make yourself at home, walk around and see what's going on and uh...When we first started they were surprised that it wasn't bedlam. Uh but uh we put out usually I would aim to get a letter out to the families once a week in which I not only just made announcements but I also would try to tell them three or four places where something special was going on in the school. Uh I think parents appreciate this type of information. Now uh if they didn't--pretty soon the kids wouldn't carry the paper home. You'd find it on the school ground or out in the neighborhood. But uh some parents don't want to see anything brought home from school so the youngster doesn't bring it. But uh by and large, they do and uh and uh I think the letter from the school is very effective. Uh if the parent had a problem and they would come in uh a little belligerent in their attitude you know angry and this type of thing, uh I always invited them to come in where it was quiet and alone and uh o.k., now what's the problem. Tell me about it. And if it involved uh the teacher and we could get the teacher in to explain their side--because often with the message the youngster carried home wasn't the same message the teachers had to tell. And uh after a while uh bring all this out. Then I generally used this technique. 0.K., now what shall we do about it? What's the answer? And uh I'd listen to what they said. Sometimes it was very possible they quieted down and were very reasonable about it. Sometimes it was something I couldn't do and I said well, I can't do that. We just talk about it uh I used the same technique basically when the teacher had a problem with a youngster. If the teacher would bring a youngster to me--this was particularly at the junior high school level where I had seen more of this type of thing--and the teacher would tell me what kind of problem the kid was having and why he was disrupting the class and why he was disrespectful to the teacher. In that way then I would always say to the youngster, now you tell your story and he would tell his story. Quite often he would just grunt and say uh that's it you know. And then I'd always say to the teacher, now what are we going to do with him because I wanted the youngster to always know that in that classroom, the teacher is in charge and I'm backing the teacher. And uh the teacher would generally would have an alternative say o.k. either this or this. And uh usually with uh dealing with parents like that when they had a grievance un they'd generally go away feeling like well at least I was treated fairly. Uh what can I add?
Q: When you had an assistant who usually handled the irate parents coming in or the problems from the classroom? Did you usually take care of those or did the assistant?
A: Well, if quite often when they're irate, they want to come see the principal and if they want to see me uh o.k. They did. If the assistant principal was on hand he generally would talk to them until I got there. If uh came in and wanted to talk about something, quite often they'd talk to the assistant principal because I had a good one that people in the community respected, that they would talk to him and feel like they had gotten treated fairly and uh treated with respect. But in the real tough cases, of course, I'd always end up with them too, see, either way. And uh once in a while, not very often, but there were more than one time when maybe some parent would come in and very loudly proclaiming their grievance and uh wanting to find out where's that teacher, that so and so and uh fortunately I headed off every one of those, every one. I was lucky. Cause it's a terrible thing for a parent to come in and beat up a teacher in front of the kids or to verbally abuse them in front of the classroom. So we were lucky in that respect.
Q: What do you see as the role of a vice principal as opposed to the principal?
A: Well, I think the vice principal ought to help the principal out in every way he can from an administrative point of view, from the standpoint of any of your problems--attendance problems, uh details of uh that has to be done by somebody, even to making reports, some reports are the ones.
Q: How did you delegate to your assistant? In other words, when you got a new assistant, how did you delegate to him what you felt his jobs were to be?
A: Oh, I'd just sit down and talk, you know, talk it over and I'd say now look I feel like I ought to be the education leader here and I want to use all the time I can. Now what can you do? Can you uh handle most of the discipline cases? Can you take care of all the little errands where people ask you to do things and things of this kind. And uh we'd just work it out uh so that he had a right clear idea of the kinds of things he could do and where his authority uh sort of ended and where he ought to consult with me and this type of thing. And, of course, they're not always single. Now you know in the end I'm still responsible and there are certain decisions that maybe you shouldn't make by yourself and you'll just have to play that by feel. So I had good relationship with the assistant and uh they were a great deal of help to me.
Q: Did you try to do any things to train the assistant in the instructional aspects--the things that you were doing for the time when he would be a principal?
A: Well, the last one I had uh was at Valley View where you were. You remember Mr. McCurio? And, of course, it was understood with Mr. McCurio when he first came there that uh uh I would be retiring pretty soon and you're going to take over here as principal, so anything you can learn uh with me while we're here o.k. Uh you just learn. And uh, of course, he sat in and participated in a lot of our staff meetings, uh particularly the team meetings. And lots of time he couldn't, but uh he would play that role and sit in and take part as a contributing member.
Q: A little bit different type question. Elementary education tends as far as the teachers goes, is dominated by women. How important is it to try to get men teachers at the elementary level?
A: Well, I think uh men have uh just as much role in the elementary school as women have. Uh the community uh doesn't look on it uh with as much prestige as in the in the high school. So most of the men who teach want to teach in the high school because of the prestige factor there or to coach in the athletic program. Uh and if uh an elementary school opens up where they need somebody to crack down on the kids, the board often will hire a coach, a man coach. The idea being that uh he'll bring order to the place and uh sometimes coaches are very good at this type of thing and sometimes they aren't. Because uh a lot of people don't like to be bossed. If that's the uh way that the if the coach becoming principal is going to operate the school like the way he directs the team, it often won't work.
Q: How effective do you feel women administrators are?
A: I don't see any difference.
Q: You never had like a woman assistant, your assistants were always male?
A: No, no, right never had but I've known some women principals who were better than some men principals. And uh the fact that they're women doesn't make that difference in disciplinary control in the classroom. Uh, and neither would it in the school as principal and their influence on behavior. The most effective disciplinarian I ever had was a little blond woman who weighed ninety pounds.
Q: What was her secret?
A: I don't know. I asked her myself. (Laughter) Gee, here she was in junior high school. Some of these great big boys eighteen years old you know standing up here like this see (gesture). She never had any problems with them but so and while uh across the hall from her--not directly across--but across the hall from her I had an ex-football player who was six-feet-two weighed about 180 pounds and he just had a heck of a time with them all the time. So that's a fact. The difference is not in the sex, see. It's all the other things, some of them a little hard to put your finger on, but uh it's the other characteristics that make the good teacher or the uh good principal rather than sex.
Q: Do you think maybe the community accepts that more though as a male position? They think more of it if you have a male or do you think that the times have changed enough that it doesn't matter?
A: Well, I think it depends on what community you're in. It's a factor there uh some communities where uh uh where the attitude of the adults is uh definitely uh male-oriented in regard to uh uh positions of authority like uh the principalship, the superintendency, this sort of thing--the mayor and the governor and the president... (Laughter) Well, in 1928 when I started to teach we had a woman superintendent up until uh 1933 when we became a county unit. And up until that time the uh superintendents of school were elected in West Virginia. Uh and uh she was elected for more than one term. I don't know how many terms she served, but then when we became a county unit the uh uh the board of education we elected a five-man board. And the board then employed the superintendent and attempted to employ somebody who was educated and trained for the superintendency. While back in the days when they were un elected, you could elect the cow if uh... (Laughter)
Q: No qualifications?
Q: Do you think it's better to have a superintendent who's appointed or a superintendent who's elected?
A: Oh, appointed by all means. Uh the elected superintendent would be elected uh on the basis of uh charisma, on how well he persuades the electorate, uh this sort of thing. And these may be qualifications as his role for public relations man but not as an educational leader.
Q: Now your board is elected. Is that correct?
Q: Now some places in Virginia, they have appointed boards as opposed to elected...
A: I know that...
Q: Do you feel one way is better than another on a board of education?
A: Well, I've never worked with any kind other than an elected board so I can't judge.
Q: Did you get much politics into it then?
A: We do in some counties. Fortunately in this county we have not been plagued with politics on the school board. It's a nonpartisan uh school board uh. They do not declare what party they belong to when they're running and they don't run on a party basis. Uh the place politics plays, its role in some counties is that the uh the custodians and the bus drivers and so on were hired somewhat on the basis of favoritism. Uh but uh that's uh that's disappearing. Uh some of the counties it use to be very bad in that respect. Uh we don't hear much of it anymore. And the same way with the hiring of teachers. By the way I remember many, many years ago one of our counties along in February had uh pink slips in the envelop with pay checks on Friday for somewhat like twenty-five or twenty-six teachers would not be needed on Monday morning. They brought in uh that many new teachers. That was purely political. But, of course, with uh now we have uh our education associations, uh and uh teacher tenure, and things of that kind to protect the teacher. And, of course, in that's been great but sometimes it protects the poor teacher too. But there isn't any perfect answer to any of these problems but uh but the politics in that respect have disappeared pretty much. Now you can't dismiss a teacher unless you have it very well documented. You better. Otherwise you'll end up in court.
Q: How active is the teacher association in Berkeley County, the education association?
A: Well, the state education association in West Virginia now is not very popular with some of our teachers because they've turned the state education association into a labor organization just as NEA has been turned into a labor organization. Now and, of course, they're striking for uh negotiations and the right to strike and uh and this type of thing. And a lot of teachers don't want to get involved in this sort of thing. They would still like to feel like they're professional people and will be treated that way. And yet the community out here doesn't seem to uh recognize this and I think uh the attitude of the community is generally going to force teachers to become labor-oriented. I don't see any...I'm very much opposed to it, but I don't see any way out of it. Because uh we have, for example, we have people, some men, we have people, for example, who are high school dropouts who are working at General Motors and places like that right here in our county now doing uh well uh uh sorting chores and this type of thing, uh nothing of any particular responsibility and they're getting what uh uh twelve, thirteen, fourteen dollars an hour plus all the perks that go with it. Uh and uh while teachers right here in the same county are starting out now at something like $14,000, $15,000, something like that and so what's the answer. I don't know. But uh if the community is not going to accept the teacher as a highly-trained professional then I think they're going to force them to become labor-oriented and use labor tactics. You don't want to hear this maybe. I don't know how you stand on this issue and I'm not going to ask you. But uh I hate to see it come. Yet on the other hand I don't see how it can be avoided.
Q: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make as a principal?
A: I think uh uh the one that probably gave me the uh greatest problem was when I closed the uh uh the junior high school lunch period, made it a closed campus so they couldn't leave, couldn't leave, everybody had to stay. Why was that so hard? Well, I got a lot of opposition. Lot of parents said, you can't tell me that I can't have my youngster come home for lunch.
Q: Why did you have to close it?
A: Well, uh, of course, uh uh the youngsters were scattering out all over town at noon and uh I was spending all afternoon uh dealing with the problems that developed at the lunch hour. Uh they'd go through somebody's yard, knock their clothes off the line, go down the street, kick their garbage cans out in the street, stone the dog. Uh the manager of the five and dime would call me and say so and so was in here a while ago and I know they stole something. I'd say well, why didn't you apprehend them. Well, it was a public relations matter. Well, how about me? And uh and so on it uh uh it was that kind of thing. And uh and, of course, they were playing uh gambling on pinball machines. Uh I never discovered any place that had slot machines. Of course, they've been out against the law for a while, a long while. But they were engaged in a lot, many such activities. So uh the only way I could see to uh to stop it would be to, and, of course, a lot of them were getting back to school late. So, of course, I talked it over with the staff and uh with the superintendent, and the superintendent he said well, he said, if you get by with it go ahead. So we closed the campus and uh that was about the middle of the year, and by the next year everybody accepted it. It wasn't any problem.
Q: But the parents gave you the most trouble on it?
A: Oh, yeah. And, of course, youngsters did too. Those who wanted to run around at noon uh uh didn't like it a bit. Another problem we had was with uh was uh a conveyor that drove a little bus that sold drinks and sandwiches and all this kind of thing would park out in the street right in front of the school. And the street which had heavy traffic on it at noontime from the high school--automobile traffic you see because we're right across from the high school uh the street was part of the campus--it was just full of kids out there around that uh that uh wagon. And he was uh allowing some of the youngsters to get in the front of his uh bus and neck. Just so many problems that went along with that noontime thing that year. I was involved with the noontime problems more than I was with anything else. So we closed the campus and it uh and it worked fine. It worked fine, but it was difficult going through the uh changeover.
Q: How supportive did you find the superintendent and the school board for decisions you would have to make?
A: Very. I was never uh there was never a case where I was uh vetoed. Uh there were a couple of times when the superintendent uh said I don't think you'll get by with this time, but uh we did. And he let he just let me hanging and we got through all right. He never did anything see against it. There wasn't very much he could do to support it except maybe to say, well, that's the way it is.
Q: Generally then he let you decide what was to be done at your building?
A: Oh, yes, yes. I had great support in that respect from the superintendent and the school board.
Q: I think maybe to conclude here--I think we're going to need to. You began did you say in 1928?
A: Yes. Teaching.
Q: When did you retire?
A: 1975 I think it was or 74.
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