Interview with Robert Swindell


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Q: The first question I would like to start of with is if you would tell us about your family background, your childhood interests and your development in your early life, if you would please.

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

A: Family background. O.K., I'm originally from New Jersey and I have a brother, and 3 sisters, and I'm the oldest. And uh as far as my background is concerned, my father was just a worker. He worked at the Philadelphia navy yard for 30 years and retired. My mother was a homemaker. I graduated from high school in 1948. Worked a year, then went to college.

Q: O.K., the next question will be leading up to that. Would you discuss your college education, your preparation for entering the field of teaching. How many years did you serve as a teacher, and how many years did you serve as a principal?

A: Okay, I uh started college in 1949, finished in 1953, I majored in physical education and social studies, joint major. And when I finished college I went in the navy and served 2 years as a naval officer, and I started teaching in 1955. And I started teaching at uh Martinsville High school. I started with Phys ed, driver education, 8th, 9th, and 10th english, senior government. I taught a total of 5 years in the classroom. My total educational experience, total all together is 34 years. Then, after uh 5 years in the classroom I was a guidance counselor, this was at Martinsville high school, then I spent the last 2 years in Martinsville as visiting teacher and uh textbook director for the city school system. And I left Martinsville city school system in 1964 and assumed the assistant principalship at Radford High School. I was assistant principal from 1964 to 1967, and from 1967 to 1978 I was principal of Radford high school. Then from 1978 to 1989 I was high school counselor and uh test director for the Radford city school system. Then I retired July 1 1989. Along the way I coached uh football, baseball, track, golf, and did some officiating.

Q: Okay, I was wondering if you would discuss those experiences or events in your life that constitute an important decision points in your career, and how you feel about them now.

A: Well probably, my Uncle, uh who graduated from Lynchburg college was a major influence as far as my going to college. He gave me a lot of encouragement and uh I guess you'd say I got the urge to go to college maybe around my junior year in high school. And I took a college prep course in high school, but I really didn't know what I was going to do. He urged me to go ahead and go to college, which I did, and I'd guess you'd say he'd be a major influence as far as attending college was concerned. Uh, when I went to college I wanted to be a teacher, uh he was a teacher, my uncle. He was a teacher, principal, and a supervisor, and so forth. And so I wanted to be a teacher, and a coach, I guess the teacher-coach. As far as the 34 years is concerned, I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. If I had to do over again I would do it over. Um, I'd probably make a few changes somewhere, but I would still pursue teaching. An extremely beneficial experience, I got a whole lot more out of it, I'm sure than I put into it.

Q: Would you talk about the circumstances surrounding your entry into the principalship.

A: Um, after 5 years of teaching, I wanted to go into the administration. While I was in the classroom I was pursuing my Masters of Education, specifically in Education Administration at the University of Virginia. And I graduated from the University of Virginia in August 1959, with my masters degree. Uh this was attained during the summers and also taking courses during the school year at Martinsville, extension courses, and in Roanoke. At the continuing education center there at the University of Virginia in Roanoke. And then, following getting my masters degree, I went back to UVA in the summer of 1960 to get certified to teach, or to become a guidance counselor. Then in 1963 I went back to get certification in uh as a visiting teacher. And there was also a year in there, 1957 where I went to UVA to get certified to teach English. So I was there for a total of 6 summers. And 3 of them specifically for my masters of education, education administration, the other 3 for certification purposes.

Q: What motivated you to enter the principalship, and how did your motives change over the years?

A: Well I felt that I like, that I wanted to be in a position where I could do things in courses of principal. You're in a position in the specific school where you are, you're in charge, you can, the skies the limit as long as it's within the school board policies and the uh state board's policies, and uh I like that kind of thing. I like the leadership positions, I had many leadership positions along the way, and I felt like I wanted to do that kind of thing. Uh I enjoyed the classroom, but I really felt that my niche was probably in administration, supervision, guidance, uh things of that nature.

Q: Would you describe those aspects of your professional training which best prepared you for the principalship and which training experiences were least useful.

A: All right, uh unfortunately, when I was finishing my undergraduate work I did not have the opportunity for any student teaching at all. Uh, I knew that uh when I finished college, I was going to have to go into the service and uh I uh got married at the beginning of my senior year, so I guess my priority was being with my wife and I just couldn't fit the idea of student teaching in. Um, so when I came out of the service I was really starting cold as far as being a teacher is concerned, I had no experience in the classroom. I had to feel my way along, I had a lot of support from other teachers and the school, and the principal, and eventually it was a very very rewarding experience being in the classroom, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Um, as far as the principalship is concerned, just observing my principals there as a classroom teacher, uh I just felt that was that I wanted to do, I felt like I could do the job, and uh, so that's when I committed my self to a major in education administration. It's the kind of thing I enjoy doing, I like to be in a position where I could cause things to happen, and I felt like in education profession the principalship is the place where things happen. And of course, during the time I was in administration 64-78, it was probably the most uh critical time in American education. That's when everything seemed to be breaking at the same time. The uh Vietnam war, drugs, protests, integration, discipline, everything else you could possible think of seemed to break about that same time. And it was a trying time, but it was interesting because on any given day you had your plans as to what you wanted to do, and hopefully you could fill those particular plans, those daily plans, but many many other things came up too that you had to handle. A very common thing was, well what's going to happen today, you know, what's going on today. So it was definitely your interesting time in the annuals of American education.

Q: What was the most leastful thing that prepared you for the principalship?

A: Well, the least thing that prepared me for the principalship is hard to decide on. The courses that I took at UVA were very very helpful, and written in official, very practical, and professors involved had had experiences as principals, and supervisors and superintendents and so forth. So uh they were excellent courses, no problem there. Um I really can't thing of anything that's the least, I think everything, all the experiences in the classroom were helpful, all the experiences as a guidance counselor were helpful, all the experiences from coaching were helpful, I think all those things were helpful, in that I had a good feel for what the teachers were involved with and what they were confronted with within the classroom, uh what the counselors are involved with, what the coaches are involved with, and uh as a principal I had a pretty good feel for what was going on. I think I had a lot of empathy for these people, you know, and its something situations or problem was referred to me, then I had a good feel for it, I had a good understanding, a real good understanding as to the gist of the problem having been there, in deference to somebody who may not have taught the classroom, or done any counseling or coaching, or you know something of that nature. Had a good feel for it. Like any principal, you have a lot to learn and you can take all the courses, and a lot of things of course that come up that are not in the course-work, but that's that's okay, that's just perfectly normal, there's nothing that's pat. There's just too many things going on. As a principal your supposed to, theoretically you've got to know what's going on in the school for that particular day and for that week and uh most importantly you've got to know what you're doing. Um, try to fake your way along and there going to fog you out in a hurry. You've got to know, you've got to be technically sound in addition to all the other aspects of the principalship.

Q: Would you describe your personal philosophy of education and how did it evolve over the years?

A: MM, well it evolved from all my own educational experiences, from elementary through high school, uh through the service, through college, uh through all the years as a teacher, counselor, administrator, and I I'm a very firm believer in a comprehensive high school. When the students finish high school, when they graduate, usually they're going to do one of three things: They're going to pursue post-high school education. Either some kind of school for whatever. Electrician, beautician, might go to a community college, four year college, your post high school per say. Or they're going to go right to work, and if they're going to go right to work, then within the high school they need some basic vocational subjects, courses, in, for instance electricity, or machine shop, or drafting, basic subjects. So that if this particular person wants to go to right to work and they apply for a job as a machinist, they can say yes, I had 3 years of machine shop in high school, they are prepared. Uh, then of course, the service is another alternative. So basically you have post high school education, service, going right to work, and of course, the other category, the one that would grieve me would be those that don't know what their gonna do and just fool around, do nothing, and wander around. Hopefully they'll find themselves after a few years, just walking the streets, I guess. But uh, of course I am a firm believer in further education, and when I gave someone a diploma on graduation, and if I were to ask them well what are you gonna do now. Here's your diploma, what are you going to do now. And if they can give me a good, rational, legitimate, solid answer, then I felt that we did our job. In other words, I have my diploma from high school, I'm going to college. I'm going to go to work, I'm prepared to go in to work, I'm going to go into the service. Now for those that took the diploma, if you asked that question and shrugged their shoulders, then I had a lot of problems with that. Uh, I felt that maybe we didn't do our job, but on the other end, maybe they didn't do much to do their part of it either. I like a comprehensive high school that prepares somebody for those 3 things I mentioned. I prefer a rather small high school. Well all my experience in education was in 2 high schools that were well known, good reputations, small, Martinsville High School, Radford High School, so it's hard for me to speak in terms of large consolidated high school with 2-3000 students. And I could see what the 2 high schools I was involved with what they did, and I feel they did a tremendous job in preparing students for their particular goals. And at the same time, developed a good feeling about themselves, and self esteem. The small school gave the opportunity to do other things. Of course the most important part of any high school is the academic curriculum, and next the extracurricular program whatever it might be, and in your small high school I think your students have the opportunity to pursue both.

Q: Would you describe the instructional philosophy of your school, telling how it was developed and how it evolved over time also.

A: Well the instructional program is the most important program within any school. It starts with staffing, finding the right teacher for the particular subject and uh security in that person's employment. But as mentioned that's the most important thing, and goes back to the idea of a good comprehensive program where you do attempt you meet the needs of the students as far as their educational, career, and personal and social goals are concerned. And you attempt to build your curriculum around those three aspects. Uh and of course, this is also, you receive your guidelines from the state department as to the requirements for a diploma, then beyond that what does the community want in the way of additional subjects. If you're in a particular community, and they have an industry that needs a lot of electricians, then you want a good electrical shop program, that kind of thing. It's important to get the communities' feelings on the curriculum beyond the basic requirements and curriculum that evolves from the state department. Of course, in this particular community there's a lot of emphasis on academic work, probably because of the clientele that live here. It's uh I don't know what the education level here is, but I'm sure It's well over high school, so there's a heavy emphasis on academic work, college preparation, advanced programs for english, math, science, gifted programs, subjects of this nature. Foreign language, such that will prepare you for college. And of course, we have what I thing is a good comprehensive vocational program. I think in this school system the emphasis is probably on college preparation. Well over 80% of the students that graduate from this high school were on some kind of post high school education program, and of course that's a lot of people.

Q: What experiences, events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy. And could you discuss these events for me please?

A: I think any time you have an opportunity to assume a leadership position, whether it's in college, or in the community where you settle, and where you begin your teaching career, uh all kinds of activities are available for your community. And as an educator, you are called on quite frequently. You take charge in church activities, you are going to be involved in civic activities and some kind of civic club. Uh recreational activities, but normally, when a person comes to a community as a teacher they are called on very frequently to assume leadership within the community, it's just an expectation, and I think anybody involved in teaching, specifically administration, will find that out. I think it's very important because it gives you an idea, an opportunity to get involved with the community, to meet the people, uh known experience, church activities, leadership and church activities, leadership and civic activities and other kinds of opportunities within the community you are in the opportunity to take a leadership position. And as a principal this is part of it, it's an expectation, and it's a good one. These people are interested in the educational being of the community. And there are goals, whatever that they have within the community. When you assume an administrative position you know you will assume a leadership position within the community as far as civic, church and other opportunities. And it's good. It's good and I enjoyed them all. I think it helps with the principalship. People know you, and get to know you, and that's important.

Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do. Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal. Describe the personal and professional characteristics of the good principal.

A: Well, the principal of course, is in charge of the school, and I think the teachers want to know who's in charge. I assume that there are schools where sometimes the principals are not in charge, somebody else might be. The head teacher, some coach might be in charge and principal may take the back seat. The secretary, even the custodian, all kinds of people that may be, in quotes, the head of the school, and in situations like this, from my observations, are a complete disaster. The principal is the person who is supposed to be in charge, and I think that's very important. The teachers have expectations, they want to know what the principals' views are on discipline, for instance. They want to know what the views are on the instructional program, uh I think most people are comfortable with working within the framework of some regulations and policies within the school. Now if course, just about all schools I know have the student handbook, and within the handbook you have all the regulations that you can spell out, and everybody needs to be informed and know what they are. In other words, there are some things that you can put down in black and white, and there are others where you have to use your judgement, and that's very important. There is good judgement involving any kind of a situation within the school setting. Now you can have things in black and white like, okay, if you're tardy to class, you know that this is going to happen. In other words, as a student I know exactly what's going to happen to me, and as a teacher, I know exactly what's going to happen. Now some discipline problems in the classrooms, in any capacity, either as a direct supervision capacity, or just to go there, see what's going on because you're interested, maybe the teacher says today we have something exciting going on, and it makes them feel very very good if you go in and just observe the class and just be with them, they feel very good about that. But I think its important that you keep everybody informed. You keep the faculty informed, keep the student body, everybody needs to be informed, now let's concentrate on the specific classroom for a minute. I feel its very very important to keep the students in the classroom, and to alleviate class disruptions as much as possible. No announcements during class unless its an absolute emergency. Absolutely no announcements that Joe Jones, come on down, you've got a telephone call. The idea is terrible, and I've seen it go on and it's a complete disruption within the class, the teacher might have the classroom in the palm of their hands, then all the sudden here comes the P.A. honking on about how many people are going to eat lunch today, or how many people are going to buy lunch, or this kind of silly thing. When I was principal I did not have a P.A. system. So, and I particularly did not want one. We had morning announcements written down, and they were to be read at a specific time and that was it. I think the less disruption you have for a classroom the better instructional program you're going to have. And its important that everybody know, everybody knows what's going on that day, that week, that month, so that you can plan accordingly. Not, come over the P.A. system with this well next period we're going to have an assembly, nobody knows about it, everybody report to the auditorium, that's a disaster, that's terrible. I think the less class disruption you have, the better situation you will have all the way around as far as instruction, learning, discipline, everything else. And there should be absolutely nobody in the hallways during class time. Without a specific written pass. Free movement in the hallway is an invitation to every kind of a problem you could think of. I know I've seen it where students, I don't know whether this is the new philosophy or not, where you just get up and go to the bathroom if you want to. Your buddy on the other end of the building, he goes, so you meet in the bathroom and you have your smoke or whatever else you do that's causes problems. I think all you do is create problems with free movement from the classroom out in the hall, during the classroom period. I'm a firm believer in keeping students in the classroom. I'm a firm believer in something going on in the classroom, teaching. Utilizing all the teaching techniques that the teacher has at their command to teach a particular subject. And I think when the bell rings, or the gong, or whatever else, and the class begins, you start. And the teacher should always have more for that period than is necessary as far as time is concerned. If the period is 50 minutes long, I need to have 55 minutes of instruction so If I run out of gas, I can keep going. Where the problems arise would be if I start teaching a particular classroom period, and 10 minutes before the class is over I finished. So there's 10 minutes where students are sitting around, not doing anything, and killing time, and there's where you have your problems. There are very very few teachers, I haven't seen any really, that go from the beginning to the end, but I think you make an effort and I think if you can take it right on up to about the end of the period you're going to save yourself a whole lot of problems that start. I know that teachers, one of the big complaints you always hear is about time, and I am one of those who takes issue with that because there are very few, and again, I haven't seen many, if any, that start at the gong, and finish at the gong, there is always 5 minutes in there, where you're calling the roll, adjusting shades, doing this, doing that, that has absolutely nothing to do with classroom instruction and its surprising that if you take that 5 minutes a day and multiply it by 180 days how many minutes, how many hours, how many periods for a whole year that there is absolutely nothing is going on, so, there is plenty of time to get done what you need to get done, believe me.

Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of the evaluation.

A: Well, first the teachers need to be familiar with the evaluation tool. What are we using. Is it some kind of a booklet, or something that was developed by the entire staff, or the central office. Hopefully it's developed by everybody; the central office, the administration, school, classroom teachers, you can even involve the community and student leaders if you want to. But a consensus to develop a good evaluation tool, and this is an ongoing process, and always will be. But I think it's important the teachers know what's included within the particular evaluation tool, whatever you're going to use. These are the things that you're going to be evaluated on. Obviously the most important is the instructional program. And therefore the principal needs to get into the classroom often. Now, that's hard to do, but you just have to do it. Normally, the conference between the principal and the teacher is held, at the final conference, at the end of the year, near the end of the year as far as the evaluation, and completing any evaluation forms, and booklets, whatever. After following up any classroom visit, I think its important that the principal and the teacher meet maybe after school, or during planning period, to go over the observation. The principal cannot be an expert in every subject you can think of, but I think a principal can recognize good teaching. I'm convinced of that. If you have that feeling that, a teacher has the students, they are all with her or him and you know that you have the feeling that learning is going on and good teaching is taking place. Now as far as when the principal is going to do this, you can do this several ways. You can tell the teacher you are going to be in there next Tuesday, or you can just go in. Or you can go in one time, and tell the teacher another time. And I think it has to be a situation where it is non-threatening, the idea here is we want the best instructional program possible for teaching and learning. This kind of approach needs to be discussed in faculty meetings and in service meetings. You know that when I come in I'm not spying on you, and I'm not threatening you, I just want to see what's going on, because I'm interested in the instructional program just as you are. Obvious, as a teacher you want to be. And when you evaluate your students, hopefully they are doing well, just as a principal, when I evaluate you, which is a professional responsibility I have, It's just something that has to be done. But it's evaluation, which is one of the most important responsibilities of the principal, and again I think the instrument used is very very important so they know what they are being evaluated on. And most schools have forms, or booklets, or something of that nature so they know what's involved. Again in the classroom I think as principal I need to know what's going on as far as the learning, the grading system, each report period I've got a report from all their teachers as far as their students, grades, and how are we doing. And if we have a tremendous failure rate, what's wrong. Let's work on it, and uh, that's important. That's a concrete criteria that you can use and look at, each report period. Here's the whole freshman class, sophomore, junior, senior, here's how were doing, and follow up with that. And I think that's extremely important.

Q: If you are advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what advice would you give them?

A: Well I think, uh, the most important thing is, for me anyway, is to know what you're doing. And if you're not sure of something, find out. Uh, in any given school year, I think on any given school year, I like some goals, short range goals, middle range, long range goals, for that particular year, these are the things we want to work on this year. I am a very organized person, so therefore organization is very important to me, I felt like I knew what was going on, I think that's important. I think you've got to have it in front of you. I'm firm believer in a calendar book, or I sat down before the school year began and filled the whole calendar book with everything that I had available to me. All the different meetings that were going to be held, faculty meetings, all the athletic events I knew that were taking place that I had at my disposal, the holidays, everything was in that book, and of course everyday I was adding something to it. So I knew what was going on, this was my bible, I carried it home every night. I also had a large desk calendar where I took everything from the book and put it right in front of me where I can see it, and in other words, at 2:00 today I'm going to do this, and all through any given day It's full. The principalship has no hours. Sure I guess your supposed to stay there from 8 to 5 or something, but really, there are no hours. It's a 24 hour job. You've got numerous activities if your secondary school principal. Every night there is something going on, whether its choral, or band, forensic, athletics, there is always something going on, The building is begin used. For rehearsals, practices, actual games and productions, maybe community affairs and you have to be around or your designee, your assistant. Don't try to do it all yourself, you won't make it, it's just too much. So you sit down with those people before the particular event so that you know they're going to be there. In other words the coach is going to be there for that practice from 7-9 tonight. Somebody, your designee, most of the time your assistant principal is going to have check up on things, and that is very very important. That's probably one of the biggest headaches a principal has, is to make sure that whenever that activity is terminated that night that everything is secure. There are more than a few times when the police department calls in the middle of the night, 2 or 3 in the morning, and say hey, the lights are on in the gym. The back door is open. So you follow up with that, and its the usual. Well I thought so and so was going to lock it up. So, that's a problem, that's one of those little problems that can get under your skin too. It's a pain in the neck. Um, but I think way back, when I was taking administrative courses, I remember writing down a word, and I'm sure your education administration professors are familiar with this word, it is mnemonic for administration, and the mnemonic was POSDCORV, P-O-S-D-CORV, and it kind of covers the whole waterfront of being an administrator. And the P of course is for planning, the O for organizing, the S for staffing, the D for directing, and the CO for coordinating, the R for reporting, and the B was for budgeting. And the principal is responsible for all those aspects. Of course they are all broken down in to numerous, numerous categories. We didn't say much about budgeting, but obviously you want to keep your school in the black. And you've got to be careful there because things can get away from you. Of course your big expenditures, you can kind of keep your finger on buying instructional materials. You have that in front of you, textbooks, other supplies, those kinds of things. You've got to be aware of the cafeteria expenditures, its a big business, and of course athletics is a big business. Now you're talking about thousands and thousands of dollars involved with instructional and with your athletic program and your cafeteria, and maintenance supplies, and things like that. And here of course you need a real, good, solid, competent bookkeeper which I had. This person was extremely helpful to me. And you need this person to count every penny that came in and went out and that's very important. Moneys within the school, and not necessarily the misuse, but not knowing what's going on, probably causes more principal dismissals than anything else. And where you get in trouble, and from what I've seen, and this is where you need a good bookkeeping accountability system are these little things. Such and such a club has a hop, so they stand at the door and they collect their quarters and half dollars, and dollars and there is very little accounting for it, and somebody may have a paper bag full of a couple of hundred dollars. There is no accounting. You have to devise a system where there is accounting for these little things. Because you're talking about hops and dances, and little things like that throughout the year, and lose hundreds of dollars at each event, all of the sudden you're riding up to several thousand. So I think you need to have a system whereby all that's accounted for. Ticket stubs, or whatever. So that when you are audited every year, which you are, the auditors will come in the summer and audit your books, that you can account for everything. I think that's very very important. So you need to know what's going on there. As I said in the beginning, the word for the principalship is periphatic. Don't ask me how to spell it. But that means you're supposed to be everywhere. You're supposed to know what's going on. You're supposed to be all over the building. You have a feel for the whole school environment on any given day. You know that so and so is practicing the play up in the auditorium third period, you know that over in biology lab they are getting ready for the science fair this afternoon, you know, up in english they are getting ready for the forensics meet next Wednesday, so you sort of know what's going on, and you go around and put your head in the door and see. And give them a pat on the back. Be very very positive, being positive is very important as far as the principalship is concerned. I think another thing that's important is to certainly be very involved with your professional organizations. Your local, your district organizations as far as the principalship is concerned. Your regional, your state, your national, be involved, attend professional meetings because you pick up ideas. If I picked up one idea at any professional meeting it was worth the time. And here of course is a principal you are going to have numerous, numerous meetings, all kinds of meetings. Let's see, just to jump around a bit, I mentioned being very prophetic, is also being visible. I think that is what we are saying there. Being visible, know what's going on, know what your priorities are as far as the school in any given school year. And certainly, don't try to do it alone, use your staff. I'm a firm believer in using, what I call my faculty liaison committee, your teachers, and we met at least once a month to discuss policies, issues, and you know I can stand up there and be a dictator and say this is where it's going to be. I can do that, I can legally do it. But I'd rather have a consensus where you'd meet once a month and say well let's do it this way. So we present it to the faculty, have good discussion, hash it out, and say all right from now on we'll do it this way. I was also a firm believer in working with your student leaders. I met with them at least once a month. If I having SCA, Student council, I want to use it. I want to get the feeling. How does the student body feel about this thing. I want to sound them out. I'm a very firm believer in working with all the other staff members. Secretarial staff, maintenance, cafeteria. Just what's going on. If I want to keep everybody informed, I think that's very important. There are certain positions where you need to spell out what they're supposed to do. A specific job description, written down. For instance, obviously the principal has one, the assistant principal, your athletic director, your secretary, your bookkeeper, cafeteria manager, your head custodian, all these things need to be spelled out. What we did there is spell them all out and put them in our high school handbook. That way people knew what was expected of them. I know that I'm supposed to do this, rather than whose supposed to do it. Whose responsible for making sure the gym is secured every night, because there is usually something going on up there. Who is responsible for it. So you spell it out. That way, I think it works much better. I think its very important that you have what I call a real educational institution where teaching and learning is going on, and not some, I use the term in quotes, country day school. I consider education a very very serious business. Many times, people who are thinking about moving in the area would come by the school, and want to know something about the school. They want to know what kind of curriculum you have, they want to know your test results. These people might be plant managers, looking to bring industry. So I think you have to have the info available. Here's where we stand, because it's very important item as far as bringing in industry for instance. And I think I'm a firm believer that we're a high school courses for the use of the community with teenagers, and that's what we are supposed to be doing. Teaching high school. Not, and this may rub some people wrong, teaching college courses in high school. I don't believe that. Let them take their college courses at college, and we will make provisions for any student we have, who would want to go over to the college, Tech, Radford, or New River, and take a course if we can work it in the schedule. Of course with the permission from the parents, and so forth. And its worked out fine. We don't teach Greek, we don't have enough people to offer Greek. But we had students go to Radford U and take Greek. Take an advanced math course way beyond what we offer. Which is great. But I think we need to concentrate on high school subjects, per say, and let the colleges take over their particular instruction program and curriculum. As a way of helping them better prepare candidates for administrative positions. Comment on weaknesses and traditional programs of training for administrators. I think one suggestion I have would be for the college professors in education have workshops periodically, throughout the year, and at these workshops bring in superintendents, principals, those people who are right on the firing line, and see how they feel about all these different issues. These are the people who have been there, they are there now, and these are the things that I as a superintendent, or a principal would like to see you do as a school administration as far as preparing teachers and administrators for us. In addition to, of course, what they are already using, the research and things of that nature. But I think that might be valuable, if they really heard from these folks. In other words, we have this particular principal employed for us, and he went through your school education, here are his strengths, he does a super job here, now here are his weaknesses too. Maybe these are just his weaknesses and her weaknesses or maybe we didn't cover these kinds of things in the school education. As an administrator, former administrator, I know they have courses in community relations, and things of this nature which are extremely important as far as the principalship is concerned. I always thought that a course, where a superintendent, and a principal might be one like educational politics. I don't know if there is such a course. But let's face it, the superintendent, is basically a politician, he's got to sell the education program to the community. And they're going to give him some money to administer. So he has to justify it, and so I just feel there is a lot of it going on whether we like it or not, and its very very important.

Q: Let's talk about the assistant principal a second. What in your view should be the role of the assistant principal. Discuss your utilization of such personnel while on the job. Would you describe the most effective assistant principal with whom you've had the opportunity to serve, and what eventually became of this individual.

A: All right, first off, you need to work very closely with your assistant principal. He needs to know what's going on. He needs to know what's going on in any given day, week, month, the whole year just as the principal. Because you don't know when you might be ill for 2 weeks, or a month, you don't know, so whatever, he has to feel very comfortable in coming right in and taking it over for you and carrying on with the program. That's very important. As mentioned before, he has to have a specific job description so he knows that I'm responsible for discipline. You know, ultimately the principal is responsible for all of this, but specifically as assistant principal I'm responsible for discipline, I'm responsible for the textbooks in the school, ordering, and inventory and all this kind of thing. I'm responsible for the attendance, I'm responsible for some supervision, I might assign the assistant principal as being responsible for the maintenance program. Now as assistant principal, If I'm responsible for maintenance obviously I've got to meet with my custodians daily, I've got to meet with others on a regular basis to see what's going on. I want to know what's going on. Again, he needs to have his calendar book and everything, so he knows that tonight there's a ball game. And again, the principal can't do everything, so its kind of, I think its a good idea to maybe divide the duties up so tonight you take the ball game, tomorrow night I'll take what's going on in the auditorium, and the next night, you know this kind of thing. One of us has to be around. Normally, a school board will have a policy that a principal, either the assistant or the principal has to be there when that building is open. Regardless of what's going on. In other words, if we're having the district forensics meet at the high school this Saturday from 8 to 5, then one of us will have to be there. Because you never know what's going to come up. You just can't turn it over to the forensic director, because she doesn't know how to turn the lights on, operate the PA, or anything else. That's a complete disaster there. So one of us is going to have to be there. And this is where we get into that technically sound stuff. We need to know how to operate that P.A. system. We need to know where the lights are to turn them on. We need to make sure there's heat in the building, we need to make sure the doors are unlocked, there is nothing worse than having 2 or 3 at the high school, standing outside the front door, and the door is locked, and they can't get in. Because the principal forgot, and he's supposed to be there at 8, he thought he had to be there at 8:30, and that kind of thing. That's real important. So, the assistant principal needs to know what's going on. The assistant principals that I have had have done very well, they've gone on to principalships and supervisory positions. I think they've felt very good about being assistant principal and had a good feel. Because when they assume the principalships they've called me more than a few times, you know, how do we do this, it's slipped my mind. And so you just refresh their memory, but you know its a key person in the school because the assistant principal is probably going to have a closer relationship with the students than the principal. The principal has got to meet with everybody, but the assistant principal will probably deal more with the students, and, of course, as a principal its one of the things I missed. In contrast to a counselor or a professional teacher is working directly with the students. Of course I had dealings directly with students, but most of the time it was just with everybody. Staff, students, and so forth.

Q: As you view it, what characteristics are associated with the most effective schools, and what features characterize less successful schools.

A: Well, you start with your instructional program, and a good comprehensive program, that, as I said a while ago, prepares a student to meet his or her particular goals. Really when you put all these goals together, you can think in terms of the three: the educational goal, the career goal, and personal and social goal. And of course they all intertwine, and regardless of what my particular goal might be in high school education, unless I'm planning to go to college for instance, out here on the horizon is this thing called career. To me that's extremely important. Eventually I'm going to sell into what I'm going to do as far as my career is concerned. Therefore, along the way through high school if I'm going to go right to work, hopefully they've prepared me to go to work. If I'm going to college, then I have the subjects necessary to get in to college. If I'm going into the service, and I have the subjects and the scores on the particular standardized tests that will get me into the service. And I think that's important. And I know one of the goals that I try to emphasize was this; Not many of us know specifically what we want to do, not many at all. But by the time I'm a senior, If I've settled in on a particular area, and I think I've done quite well as far as my career goal is concerned, in other words, I would like to go into the field of business, and there are hundreds of things you can do within the field of business. Business Management, secretary, accounting, and so forth. Or I want to go into the health services, and all the things that I know in health services. Or I want to go in to education, and all the things I can teach, not many people who go in to education stay in one particular part of it. Not many people stay in the classroom for 35 or 40 years teaching english 9. You do a lot of things in education, which is good, and you can get a feel for what the profession is all about. And, so therefore, I think this idea of educational, career, personal, social, these goals are important. And when I do finish high school, as of now I want to go into education. I might change, but at least I have a pretty good idea. Or whatever.

Q: Would you describe your relationship with the superintendent as far as his general demeanor toward you and the school.

A: As a principal, I am legally obligated to administer the policies of the school. As far as all of the school regulations are concerned, none of them can be in opposition to the school board policy. The school board policies are general, so you know, the principal has a whole lot of freedom and leeway as far as the instructional program and extracurricular program is concerned within the school. The superintendents which I had, thinking back, we would meet at least once a month in staff meetings, and staff meetings you had the central office personnel, and your principals within the school system, and they would meet and talk about different issues. It was very common for the superintendent to meet individually with principals to discuss certain issues. Everything that goes on in the high school, now I'm speaking of high school because just about all my experiences have been at the secondary level, the experiences I had at the elementary level may have been as a visiting teacher, or textbook director, or director of testing, but most of my experiences were at the secondary level. And everything that goes on within that high school comes back to the principal. So that's something you have to deal with. You know, the parent calls and gets on the coach for not playing his son. How come he's not playing, and that kind of thing. And he's probably going to call you, the principal, not the coach, because he feels like you, the principal, can tell the coach to play his son, or daughter, that kind of thing. So regardless, whatever school, parent might call and say, I don't know what in the world you all are doing feeding over there in the cafeteria today, but my daughter really disliked it, and that kind of thing. Or so and so teacher is picking on my son. You hear that. So its going to come to you, and you have to deal with it. Or some people would rather go one step up and call the superintendent, and that gets touchy. The phone call comes in, hey Bob, so and so called and wants to know about this and that, then you've got the problem. They don't call the particular person, whether its the teacher, coach, or the assistant principal, or the cafeteria managers, they go right up top. Then you have some in the community that go beyond that. They call a school board member, and then it filters on down to the superintendent, you know, the principal, then you've got to deal with the person involved. So its just something you have to handle, whether you like that or not, that chain of command, because normally you can get a little defensive about that. Well, why didn't miss so and so call me, instead of you. But some of them would rather go right to the top. And then the top will filter on down to you. But you want to be informed. It's very important that the superintendent keep you informed of those kinds of issues.

Q: Would you tell us the key to your success as a principal?

A: When I left the principalship, one of the things that I said to the student body was this; first off, I felt like this was the time to leave the principalship, it was just a feeling that I had. I had 14 years of it, it was great. And I wouldn't trade it, and there were a lot of things that went on within the school system. As I said, in the mid 60's to the late 70's you had everything imaginable to deal with. But I made this statement to, and I felt really good about my decision to leave the principalship, and I feel very good about the years that I've spent in the principalship. Obviously there are some things I would have changed, but on a whole I felt very very good about it. And I wouldn't trade it. But, there came the time where, I felt it was a good time to leave the principalship. In my particular case, both children had their college education, so this was a good time to get out. But of all the experiences I had in education, I enjoyed the principalship more than any other. I enjoyed some parts of it more than others, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a power position, you know you're in the drivers seat. You can make things happen, you can be visible in your school. You can have a good instructional, extracurricular program, which I felt like we did have. If you want to you can hide too, close the door, stay in there all day and do nothing, or look busy. But, in my own case, I like to get out, look around, be visible, and see the results. You know the results are, here they are, the instructional program, extracurricular program and I felt very good about these programs, and what we accomplished. And I emphasize we because the principal cannot do it alone. There's no way in the world they can do it alone. They just, you can get the good staff, its the staffing, get the good people, and you'll have a super program.

Q: So what do you feel are your real keys to your success, as a principal?

A: As far as my principalship is concerned, I guess my reputation is of a very organized person, I like to keep things organized, I wanted to have a good, solid, instructional program, and extracurricular program, looking for the best possible staff, and, which I felt we had. I was very fortunate in this particular area to have access to good solid instruction, and teachers that are available to us. Planning is important. All these things that I mentioned with that little mnemonic of POSCOR.

Q: So you feel they were real keys to you success?

A: They were, matter of fact, when I sat down and filled out my calendar book each year, I had that word written right there on the front cover just to remind me, just to look at it and say okay, that covers the whole educational process here at the high school, now I have to carry on from there, and there are some things here that I have some weaknesses, so I have to work on them this year, and you need to make sure I am doing a good job with the reporting, which basically is communicating. With the people in the school itself and with the community, and I want to make sure that everybody knows what's going on, where are we, where do we stand right now. Where have we been, where we are right now, and what are we going to be doing. Keeping people informed is so important, and so that they know what's going on.

Q: Would you discuss the circumstances leading up to your decision to retire at the time you did, giving your reasons and mental process you excercised in reaching the conclusion to step down.

A: Through the years as a classroom teacher, and counselor, and administration, these were my goals. I felt like I had met my goals as far as my educational career was concerned. Now originally I put some other things down. I actually wrote them on paper, I think my ultimate goal was to be a dean of a college, and through the years that changed. Then I know I set a goal as a superintendent, and that changed. And then when I got in to the principalship, I set my goal as just the principalship That's what I wanted to do, that's what I wanted to be. As far as the superintendent is concerned, I don't know whether I'd be a good one. I don't know. I think as far as the technical know-how, okay, I don't have any problem with that. As far as acquiescent to all the different whatever, within the community I don't know if I could handle it. But anyway, eventually as I got through the years, it wasn't anything that got under my skin, or anything of that nature, its just that a decision that I felt like this was a good time to leave the principalship and get back to working and dealing directly with, face-to-face with the students, as a counselor, and then I still had my finger in the administration aspect as test director for the entire city school system, K through 12. So that part of it really is administration, and then the counseling part. Working more with the students. So really I had the best of both worlds. And obviously, you know let's face it, being practical, the principal makes more money, and since I was really the breadwinner in the family, my wife did not work, and did not until the last child finished high school, then she went back to work. But, we felt very strongly that she should be in the home and we particularly did not want any latchkey kids. It was a strong feeling on our part, so we did without. And obviously, as a classroom teacher I don't know If I could have made it financially wise. But that wasn't the main reason I went in to the principalship, obviously, but I had to accumulate some finances to send my children to college, which was their goal. And so, when they had, one of them had finished and one of them half through, I felt this was a good time to leave the principalship, and get back dealing directly with the students, which I enjoy. And so in 78 I informed the superintendent in the fall that I would be leaving the principalship that particular year. I guess I could have stayed on forever, but I liked it here, where I am in Radford. Our roots are here. We've been here since 1964, and I really didn't feel like moving to any other community, so the decision was to stay here, and fortunatly the counseling and testing position was available. It worked out perfectly. I could not ask for anything better than what I received here in the Radford city school system. And there were some opportunities when I left the principalship here for other principalships. But I decided to stay here. So the 34 years in education were between two of what I consider, probably two of the best school systems in the state, Martinsville, and Radford City school systems. And I know that I missed a lot of the other part of the educational experiences. That you might have with the county, for instance, the buses and all that kind of thing, but I don't regret that. I had, really, basically two school systems that were very educationally minded, that basically you would get almost anything that was reasonable as far as finances were concerned. And, of course, each system has a tremendous percentage of students pursuing post high school education. So, and even last July when I made the decision to retire, I said to the faculty in my farewell speech that I absolutely had no regrets whatsoever, I feel very good about it, If I had to do over again, I would do it over. A lot of little things I would do differently, because there were some things I'd probably did, things I said that when I think back I wished I hadn't done it, wished I hadn't said it. But that's water over the dam; when I said my farewell I did feel very very good about it, and as of right now I feel good about retirement.

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