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Q: Describe your school?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I started off at Hermitage High School. I had 3 good years at Hermitage, really enjoyed it. I was brand new as a physical education teacher and a coach. Those were good years. They were learning years. Then I came back home and I spent the next approximately nine years at Hopewell High School. Those were good years. I did a variety of things, spent some time in Guidance, Assistant Principal. Mostly in guidance I dealt with groups of students. There was a need at that time for individual counseling but time and numbers were a problem. Had the entire freshman class and then the entire sophomore class the following year. The second year was better, I had counseled many of those young people where they needed to do a little more group work. Then as an Assistant Principal, I dealt with the discipline in the school in the late sixties, early seventies.
Q: What was discipline like back in those times?
A: Well, as I remember the lowest grade you had you got the most referrals. Probably at that time it was the ninth grade. We were going through some drug problems and it was a drug test force formed and we did extensive work in bringing people in to speak to groups of students, we did a lot of in service, we spent a lot of time on hotlines, and detoxication wards, emergency rooms, to try to get a feel for what was going on in the community at that time. We have seen a great deal of marijuana, probably alcohol was our biggest problem. The war in Vietnam was going full blast. There was a lot of resentment.
Q: So a lot of the kids were rebelling and this was their way of showing it?
A: I think that, plus the accessibility of drugs at that particular time, plus the fact that we did not know what we were doing. We embraced several philosophies and try to deal with it. First, we would try to scare them. That did not work so we showed movies, horror stories of what had happened to not only our own young people but people throughout the commonwealth. We took groups of students to various places. Dr. Bright was very instrumental in helping us at that time. He was with the Medical College of Virginia. We took a lot of courses to familiarize ourselves. The police department was very supportive. They were part of the task force. The same time the Social Services got involved very heavily. We began to get parents. We would have seminar at Hopewell High School that would bring together a hundred or more people depending on who the speaker was and what we were doing at that particular time. We are seeing a complete cycle now, we are coming back to that. I think drugs did not disappear but my experience went to elementary schools and I was away from the high schools like, Patrick Copeland, then out in the County in Prince George, Principal at the junior high, out there and I began to see it again and then when I came back to Carter Woodson. I spent nine years there as Principal and we began to see some. Then this year at Mallonee I see that I am getting back to where drugs are using problems.
Q: Are you asking for any type of drug testing with the students?
A: We request students to submit to drug test. We have had several cases where we have taken petition and we have gotten students enrolled in drug education programs through the district nineteen. That seems to be a way to go. The frequency of seeing drugs misused or abused are higher here than at Carter Woodson. I think in the last couple of years I was at Carter Woodson it was almost nonexistent probably. Anyway from our prospective we saw no paraphernalia we saw no evidence of drug abuse at Carter Woodson. Prior to that we did have one or two each year that we would confiscate mostly marijuana or medicine that were category three, I had some of that. I do not think it changed, it went underground and now it is coming very prevalent again and they are real open about it. And student seem to when they are caught have no remorse, not remembering the other ones getting real upset about getting caught. And I do not see them getting real upset that they will not only be suspended and required to go to a drug program but also will appear in court. That does not seem to bother them too much nor does it seems to bother the parent and I guess that is the frustration that we have to deal with that sometimes that we are on an island and that really nobody cares. It is not an accurate statement but it is not easy to prosecute.
Q: Especially as you say when you have got parents who have the problem and they are not concerned.
A: Well, they do not want to face up to it. Most parents do not want to admit it either to themselves or to their students that there is a drug problem.
Q: Do they take the attitude that it is the school fault and get defensive?
A: Well, they take the attitude that others have tempted their son or daughter into trying this and it is at an experimental stage that they will go through and that there is really no serious problem. Where the police get involved and they require them to take a test for drugs, then it comes back positive. They finally began to accept it and I think by the time they appear in court or if they are willing to go through the drug education programs they become aware of what it will do. Because of television I guess and because of the attitude that adults have towards alcohol particularly they see no problem that some person might experiment occasionally with a little bit of something. If they do not get burnt or no harm done, but I think that what they are doing is hiding behind the excuses rather than looking for something in solutions.
Q: What lead you to maybe want to become a Principal?
A: Well, I never really thought of becoming a Principal. I think that in my early experience I worked for the Social Services. Worked at Beaumont as a case worker. That years of experience told me that I did not want that. It is a sad type of work that you are constantly bombarded with problems and I looked to education as an alternative because it seemed to me at that time. I see no problems you go in and teach. Young people will get excited about what you are doing and the rewards will not be monitored but you go home with a piece of mind and feel like you have accomplished something. So I started teaching. I think for the most part those rewards were there. I saw myself possibly down the road moving into college, coaching and making a career there. Those opportunities did not come and I saw a need for retraining. Guidance Counselors was scarce and I saw a chance to continue, the same thing I was doing coaching. I could do as a Guidance Counselor and have more time to do it so I went into guidance. That was very rewarding. I enjoyed those years and became very close to a lot of students. Of course, as your family grows your needs grows and I looked at certification and administration it was not much differences in the degree that I had at getting certified as an Administrator so I went ahead and certified when the opportunity came to be an Assistant Principal. That meant twelve month employment for the first time. That meant I did not have to go out in the summer and look for odd jobs to carry me over. So it was kind of a natural progression. Once I had become Assistant Principal and had served in several capacity as an Assistant Principal I found that just as rewarding. There are still problems to solve and those problems sometimes are year long or sometimes short range. That was a good experience for me and I was fortunate enough that an elementary school came opened and I went to an elementary school. I enjoyed that thoroughly. That was a completely different ballgame, more self-contained classes that I could visit, easier accessible to the Principal, the story time, little organizations that were formed. Discipline was actually very easy to deal with after being in the high school. The younger children were more alert to discipline by the Principal and found it to be very rewarding. As I look back those were the happier times I guess, no tension. Students and teachers alike were more child oriented. We find that in our middle school which today we are trying to directory that it is I think in one of the editors that recently was called a wasteland. We have taken student from self-contained situations except for pull out programs and put them into seven built schedule with several personalities and they are slow to adjust because they are immature. No longer did teacher line them up and take them to lunch and bring them back. A lot of them need that to be continued pass the sixth grade. At least until the seventh grade and maybe in some cases they need it in the eight grade. It is a whole different attitude towards the learning process in a middle school and senior high than there is in the elementary schools. Teachers tend to solve problems in elementary schools and those same problems that the teachers in middle schools and high schools expect somebody else to solve. There is a different attitude from teacher to student and back. Teachers expect them to come grasp the subject as it is or as they instruct and very little reteaching goes on. Our expectations of the middle schools certainly does not match their maturation or their maturity level that is caused a void, it is a difficult time for them anyway. They are at a time in their life when the physical growth is accelerated and the mental growth stays about the same. But yet our expectations are that they master Algebra and that they master the Sciences, English, and the Social Studies at the same rate that they previously were mastering it and that is unfortunate but not very practical. In dealing with the middle school there is a great need for exploratory where students explore because they have that curiosity. Because they are growing at such a rapid rate. The expectation for academic have got to be lessened and the expectation for expiration has got to be accelerated. When we come up with a combination where those two are running parallel with each other then I think we'll have something that will offer the thirteen and fourteen year old. The type of education that they can cope with and still go ahead with that physical growth and the concerns that they have in that area. They need more of an anchor or just as much an anchor as the fourth and fifth graders.
A: The peer pressure is tremendous once you have reached this level. They expect each other to play the role that happens to be popular at that particular time. They are very clannish at this age. They are very apt to subject themselves to whatever is currently in the vogue. They are very forgetful. Their responsibility level drops that is not increased. They are not particular to details anymore. They are more apt to looking beyond what is going on right here. They are very concern with themselves and their self concepts. If they are not accepted by the peers it is a major tragedy here at this level where at the lower level you can deal with it within a classroom. Here they are subjected to in a core, they have four teachers each with different expectations along the lines of their academic teaching and they expect them to master it. There is very little flexibility so that when a student is really interested in mechanic or something in an elementary school you see teachers go off bringing the literature that deals with the subject that they are interested and teach the same English. That does not occur, I do not see it in the short time that I have been here at the middle school. It is all of none situation you either learn it all or you get none. Because students are socially conscious of their peers at this level, I am at a school that has no bells, we have run into a tremendous problem of socializing between that little period of time even when there is no movement. We see that a big majority of students all of a sudden who were very respectful to teachers are now very out spoken and very belligerent at times those same kids I had last year. Nothing has happened other than change of setting. Because they have answered to one teacher or two teachers for a period of time it is very hard for them to answer to six or seven teachers now in the course of one day. There is not that time in that fifty minutes that they are in Algebra, or in Social Studies, or Science, or Math or interact with the teacher. Our curriculum demands that we move rapidly and I am not sure that we are teaching anything new to start with. What we are finding skills that they should have. It lends me to think sometimes that if I went back and there was a gradual integration of student to the number of teachers they would see that there might create a better atmosphere by the time they reach the eighth grade of course time will tell through research and other schools tell us that it is true.
Q: By the time they reach eighth grade are they pretty much able to handle the personalities?
A: Not if you trust it to them all at once. I think that if it was a gradual increase the eighth grade has got to be pivotal year. You are going to have to get them ready for high school and maybe we can do that by a different attitude toward how we group students and how they progress through that sixth, seventh, eighth grade. But I think that the eighth grade has got to be a pivotal year. There they have to be subjected to basically to what they are going to receive the next year. But if we do it a little more gradually I think probably we will see several things happen. One, I think we will see that student still need to identify with that one teacher that they have always or most cases have respected and looked upon as a mother substitute and we have got to wean them away from that kind of progressive manner and then there is always got to be some sections in the eight grade when they are still not ready and we have to carry that on into the ninth. There will be a small percentage that still cannot cope with all those personalities. I think we have got to make allowances for that. We started a program where we this past year took twelve or fifteen students and because they had been here for several years, tried to introduce them into I. E. P. program at the high school where they could be back with their peers. Expectations would be a little bit lower and they had three directions that they can go. Continue in I. E. P. diploma or attendance diploma or gradually work themselves out of it into the main stream for a regular diploma.
Q: Did you put the students into this?
A: We had some success out of the fifteen students, twelve are still actively in it. Three will leave that program and will go into the regular diploma come June hopefully because things have gone extremely well.
Q: What do you do to create a climate for learning?
A: As a Principal, there are several things that you must do to set the stage. One, is physical, if you are in a physical surrounding and is not conditioned to learning you have got problems to start with. It has to be attractive, it has to be clean, it has to be well ventilated as well as heated, it has to be enough space so there can be interactions between the teacher and students. So you have to work on that aspect it seems most Principals cannot do too much about physical settings except keep it as clean as it possibly can. The next thing that you have got to do is you have to relate through the teachers as an instructional leader. Those things that are current. I think that you have to be flexible and that you are willing to try many different solutions to solve any particular problem. I think that you have got to be willing to at some point or time say well, that is not working I have got to change. And that change has got to be accepted so you would have to sell. Principals have to sell to teachers that the climate of learning includes all of the things that I have mentioned plus the most important ingredient and that is the teacher herself or himself. He or she has to be in tune to what the needs are at that particular level and they must in turn sell that to the students. What works in one class might not work in the other and that is where the flexibility comes about. If we say that we are child oriented and that we care about the progress the children are making then we have got to treat each student as an individual. And take it into consideration how they learn. All student do not learn the same way. Even with our groupings, we try to group students using several different variables to derive at a group that we hope will work. I am not sure that leveling students according to abilities is the best way to go although we have met with success with it in the fifth and sixth grade for a number of years. We seem to do a much better job than what we did previous to that when we were trying some team teaching. Students learn through associations we have to remember that. Students have to be put in places where learning can occur for them. Teachers must be acceptable to the fact that students might be moved around during the school year and that they have particular talents that can get this student to learn. If we have lots of Putnams and Tatums and Teachers of that caliber, who could take a young student and probably get more out of them than most, then we are heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, in teaching today there are a lot of conscientious teachers but the gift of teaching to get a student to do or work up to it's potentials we all need to work on.
Q: What techniques were successful for you as a Principal in giving leadership in your school?
A: Well, I think working through one level grade level chairman is how you organized your grade level chairman certainly had a lot to do with how much success you are going to meet with. Where you would departmentalize if you select the right people and put them in the right places that certainly opens up a line of communication to the teacher. If they are conscientiously caring for the teacher the information that they must have in order to work in a public school today that enhances it. Then there has to be a feedback, there has to be mechanisms put in place where teachers can reply not only to the curriculum decisions and the selection to textbooks, the policies that are set down to govern the school. The philosophy the school has, so your interim and accreditation years become important. That seems to pull the faculty together when they go through the self study because they all have the common goal of making better use of the facilities and the teachers that are there to teach. You especially pull in all your supportive services to teacher in the specialties in dealing with learning disabilities, emotional problems, speech disabilities, E. M. R. situations in special education. This is important where a student potential applied to a practical I. E. P., goals that they can obtain. When you get all these things working then I think probably the next important thing is interpreting that data that is constantly going to come to you. Not only through your team here. I have 16 team leaders to tell me how the core subjects are going. Then I have two additional teams. One is the physical education teachers and the shop. They must report to me how those courses and explanatory are going. Then I have the guidance and library and L. D. and E. D. into another team and their input has to be taken into consideration. If they feel comfortable in those roles, then what you will get from them is good leadership. I guess that will be as good as what you provide for them. I think you have to be willing to listen and compare. There might be those who would come forward with ideas that sound great until you test it though the total faculty. I think there have to be faculty meetings with high morale and I have always tried to attack morale problems with putting in place some social events. I would bring in some people who could deal with teacher morale. Then you would take those ideas and follow through with them. Reggie Smith was a good example. He was a great motivator. And he would come in. He would motivate to want to deal with students in different ways. He would help them want to see a different perspective and so therefore I used him a great deal.
Q: OK. J. P., my next question will be what role did you play in public and community relations as a Principal?
A: Well, it is an important part in the total job that you do as a Principal. Not only as a Principal, but it goes back to your role in the community prior to becoming a Principal. A school survives when it meets the needs of the students in the community and you cannot meet those needs without input from the parents. So from day one, I became very active whether I was coaching or teaching. I headed up the Key Club and Athletic Director and other various positions that I have held. I became very conscious that there was not a whole lot you could do without the parents. So Parent Teacher Organizations, P. T. A.'s or P. T. O's, parent advisory groups that work with schools relates very closely to how successful you are going to be with the change that will occur in the school. Of course you can borrow the old cliche that the only thing that is constant is change. You are constantly selling to parents your programs, taking their input and using that input to enhance programs or bring about meaningful change. So many times we think P. T. O.'s raise money and that is important and certainly contributes to purchasing and supplying student with some of the things you cannot get through your budget. But the most vital part that a P. T. O. or Parent Advisory Group plays is regular meetings with the Principal and Teachers to discuss problems that the parents see as far as the school. They can come up with a lot of solutions and offer you the support in solving those problems that you cannot get without them. So the consistency of meeting, debating, and then utilizing their input would certainly determine how much public relations you are going to have. Getting an article in the newspaper occasionally is certainly good, but that is only a small part of it. Having parents in and out of your school and having an open door policy where they feel comfortable in coming to school and observing what is going on, and willing to make constructive criticism is, I think, crucial to good public relations.
Q: What do you think teachers expect from Principals? What do they expect Principals to be?
A: Well, I think when we think about the leadership role of the Principal that they are looking for a person willing to make a decision based on their input plus their own, the Principal's experience. Certainly they want the Principal to be, is to back them in teaching and creating in their classroom and environment where children know their expectations. Certainly you must put down in your policies that you develop in-house within the school and those policies relating to the division policies. If teachers feel like they have some input into that and they feel like the Principal is backing them as far as allowing them to teach by controlling the disruptive factors that do occur in the classrooms then I think they feel real good about the Principal. I think regular meetings with meaning are very important. Just meeting to meet to satisfy a weekly requirement to meet becomes boring. Teachers can debate the issues and know the Principal is at least willing to listen then that enhances the relationship between the building Principal and the Teachers. They feel active and they feel needed. I guess if we could say there are 3, 4 or 5 characteristics that determine whether a Principal is going to be successful as far as his relationship with the Teachers you would have to put consistency as the number 1. There must be a consistent dialogue between the Teachers and the Principal. Secondly, I would think the Principal must establish a certain amount of rapport so he can deal with the different strengths and weaknesses a Teacher would bring to a particular school. We have had many exercises in psychological evaluation of different personalities. Some are introverts and some are extroverts, and some lean heavily to the human qualities. Some teachers want it spelled out specifically, so they can understand it better. I think that you as a Principal have to know that after you get to know your faculty and convey to them in a manner that they will accept. But again, consistency with good rapport. If a teacher feels free they can walk in and sit down and discuss the problem then I think you created a good feeling tone and they are willing to follow the direction and leadership you have. This does not mean you are always going to agree, but again, you have to look at debate as being healthy. You cannot always cater to a particular teacher wants because sometimes there are monetary restrictions. Sometimes it's physical restrictions. But in the long run if the teacher understands that within the limits that you have put on you as a principal that you have done your very best to eliminate the problem. I think you're going to come out with the leadership qualities that you need and therefore your teachers will show their respect. That does not come about overnight. It takes a period of time, of working and resolving. The best thing a Principal can do in his first year is to solve some problems that satisfy the entire faculty or as many on the faculty as possible. Then they will feel real good about the leadership. Each year that partnership should grow. I like the idea of a partnership in solving problems.
A: I guess that is the one item that has changed drastically over the past 28 or so years. As a teacher, I felt that the evaluations that were given that I had very little input to them. Most of them tended to be the good, better, or best variety. We did not deal with weaknesses so much as we complimented each other on those things that happened that were good and rewarding and kind of skirted the issue. The past few years, the movement in the entire State of Virginia, looking at evaluations and trying to put meaning into evaluations. So, what I see now has only come into being in the last few years. Evaluations now take on a different aspect. Through observation is one means. Through the daily work that the teachers turn in, such as reports and so forth, through the parents, through the teachers, you are probably looking at a teacher on 4 or 5 aspects. In the classroom, those reports that are generated and come across your desk, those concerns that students respond to, certainly give you a picture of what is going on in that classroom. Now comes the important issue. Now if there is a problem, it should be resolved in the evaluation process. Not enhances, but resolved. I do not think that portion of the evaluation was possible several years ago. I think it is possible now. There is a great deal more record keeping. There is a great deal more busy work concerned with it, but ultimately you identify strengths and weaknesses. Resolve the weaknesses and enhance the strengths. Therefore, hopefully, over a period of time, the teacher is better prepared, feels the support that is necessary, and the weaknesses not looked upon as means of reprimand, but looked upon constructively. This can be done better. I am here to help, let's progress from this point. Your suggestions are just as valid as mine. If that exists between the two parties, then the evaluation becomes very positive.
Q: What is your philosophy of education?
A: Well, I think it is very basic. We are here for kids. It is child centered. There are no two children who come to us who are exactly alike. If you embrace that concept then you can say that all children have some good, it is a matter of locating or finding and enhancing it and again you are resolving problems for the child. If we become self-centered in our approach and we become bogged down in our daily work, our own rules and regulations so that we cannot help as a child, then we are not embracing those things that are so important to the success of the school. If a student come to the school with certain problems that are disruptive, there are many ways to resolve that problem, either through flexible scheduling, through the many resource people that we have available. Through the Parent-Teacher conferences and the communications that must exist between the social. All services come into play. Both on the local level we are talking about the Social Services, talking about the Probation Officers, also you are talking about the courts. You are talking about the visiting teacher; everybody has an input. Ninety nine percent of our problems can be solved, if these services all pull together in a direction that identifies what the child needs, then does something constructively to see that the child gets it. No longer can we afford to dismiss children to achieve some kind of balance. It does not work. Every time we put one out of school or cut off one avenue of education, then we are one more person at a disadvantage as far as society is concerned with the dropout rate. We are very concerned about disruption. So between the two lies some common ground that I think we have to apply what we have with compassion and hopefully we can resolve more problems than we have resolved in the past. I do not think we can reduce a dropout rate by continuing to expel children to no particular program. We need as many counties and states or whatever to turn to alternative education. These children who cannot operate in large numbers, or cannot operate in the framework of a particular school can operate in a different environment with a different means of teaching. We had an alternative education program here in Hopewell that met with some success. I think we have to take our experience we had with that alternative program and create a better alternative program with students are put in a situation that they can perform at the level with the expectations that fit their particular needs. Sounds simple if you are sitting here talking about it. But I believe that it will work, if given the right circumstances we can teach any child that comes to us.
Q: What was your philosophy of teaching? I know we have talked about your philosophy of education. Was that basically it?
A: I think that the humanistic approach is probably where I feel more comfortable. In each of the different positions that I have had the privilege to serve in; I have found that problems are resolved mostly one on one. As a Coach, when a particular young person had a problem, and I could at least lend some prudence to the listening aspects without trying to diagnose or give them steps that they must perform. I felt very comfortable because most young people resolve their own problems. All they need is support. I still feel the same way. I do not think that has changed whether I am teaching in a classroom or a Principal of a school. I do not think that changes. I think any teacher worth their salt has to spend that time with the individual that needs it. Finding that time with the individual that needs it. Finding that time is difficult. But before class, after class, during class, sometime during that child's school day, that teacher has to be attuned to listening then rather than giving advice look for solutions that the child can contribute to. Again that sounds easy. It is not easy. Each individual brings to a classroom problems that might exist outside the classroom, and sometimes we have no control over it. But that does not mean listen and at least offer alternative. Maybe, I have always felt that if a student came to me with a problem, then that student has some respect for me. And some that I might can help him. If that is true, then all I have to do is to apply the listening techniques that I have developed over the years and ask the proper questions. And together we begin to resolve the problems. Sometimes you do not see solutions immediately and sometimes we as teachers or principals we become very impatient and we want something to occur now and it is not going to occur right now. Human nature will take its course. But I like, but I have always kept one person in mind when I talk to kids and that is Bill Merner, that you and I have talked about a great deal over the years. He was the type of person that inspired young people to achieve their potential, not only physically by academically also. He was a great listener. If I needed to talk to him, whether it was in the evening, or whenever; he was willing to give me my share of his time. I always respected that. He never told me, you do this or that. He always put it back in by ball park.
Q: J. P. what are the possibilities if you pursue the course you are following now? What could happen?
A: So he began to draw on my imagination and to draw on my wants and desires in order to satisfy the problem that I had brought to him. Many times I would walk out of his office feeling great; to realize that he had really told me nothing. He had listened well, he had agreed when it was appropriate to agree. He had disagreed if what I had planned a course that he did not think was realistic. But he made no decisions for me. He ultimately told me "You must make the decisions. Look at the ramifications, then make your decision. If they do not work, you have not met a dead end you take one step back and re-evaluate and proceed again with your second alternative". He said it was a lot like playing a ball game. You go in with a plan. If that plan does not work and you have not developed a second plan of defense then you are not going to win the ball game. So in life it is the same way. If you start out to be a doctor and for some reason you do not make it as a doctor you do not quit. You go to the next step and pursue it. Success is in the eye of the beholder. If you feel comfortable with what you are doing and you feel what you are doing is right, then you pursue it. I think that throughout the many times he has reinforced this to me and many other young people in the City of Hopewell he has set an example and he lived by what he preached, and I think we have to include that in our philosophy. If we give lip service to a philosophy, sounds great, but in the final analysis your actions speak for you.
Q: What pressures do you face as a Principal? How do you handle them?
A: Pressure is something you put on yourself. If you go in as a Principal thinking you are going to bat a 1,000, you are going to be disappointed, cause you are not going to do it. A Principal is faced with many decisions each day as young people come to them and as they become involved in the school activities of that particular day. A principal not willing to make a decision certainly dry up and not become very productive. It is a difficult question to answer because there are so many variables to take into consideration, and you do not consciously sit down and weigh everything everyday. That is idealistic. Some gut feeling has to be a part of decision making. So, pressure is really when you feel like you are not meeting expectations. That is pressure! If I set out to accomplish something, I see somewhere through the course of events that I am not going to accomplish it, I can bring a great deal of pressure to bare on myself. We set objectives, 2, 3, 4, 5, to accomplish. Those objectives are not set to apply pressure to you. Those objectives are set because that is the way to plan and a good way of meeting with more success. But we must realize when we set these, that we are not going to see the fruit of that objective in that particular year. Sometimes it might take 2 or 3 year. Some people put a lot of pressure on themselves, because everything they set out to do has to be accomplished. That is impossible. You are not going to be successful in everything we do. But as long as your batting average reaches pretty good then I think you are going to be all right and I do not think you will put pressure on yourself. It is when those objectives are falling apart that we put pressure on ourselves. Then you can look--that is the internal pressures that people put on themselves. Then there are some external pressures. Parents are not always satisfied with the way you run a school. Again relating back to the situation where you have P. T. O.'s. That is your sounding board, you can relieve some of that pressure by throwing that problem out to them and letting them look at it through their perspective and to give you some aspect. This relieves pressure. Some think, I have talked with a lot of principals who do not want a lot of parents in the school. They get in the way, they see that then that principal is not realistic because who are we serving? We are serving the kids and of course to serve them we have to serve the parents. So the external pressures that parents will always bring if things are not going well. They have to be a part of the solution that you are seeking. If your parents are conscientious, especially those who come frequently and give of their time and opinion are conscientious. They are not professionally trained educators and they realize that. But they are a part of the solution. So the external pressures, there are going to be some, but that is one thing that you have to share. Anytime pressure is brought to bear. If a person feels uncomfortable in a position, there are probably two things that caused it. They are elevated to a position that they are not confident in. People rise above their abilities called the Peter Principle. That brings a lot of pressure. I think you will see that, where a lack of training or a lack of experience maybe it is sometimes the individual does not want to serve in that capacity. They would rather do something else. So they bring pressures on them self. Policy makers, Superintendents, School Board, certainly in their inquires and being accountable to them for the running of the school can be a source of pressure. Again, it depends on the relationship you have with the Supervisors and School Board and so forth. If you take the position that they are there to set guidelines to help you, then those pressures are not quite as bad. The pressures that I have seen over the years looking back, hindsight being a whole lot better, pressures were my imagination.
Q: Did you ever fire a teacher?
A: Well, I have recommended that teacher to seek employment elsewhere! I, for me this is a very difficult thing. Emotions come in to play that you have to govern. All people are not teachers. I would not be a good Shoe Salesman, Nuclear Physicist, Instructor, so if I were in those positions and someone helped me to seek my level of competency, I think, in retrospect, I would feel good about that. I worked in a lab early on before entering the educational field. There was a Chemist there that I had a great deal of respect for because he told me early on that I was not cut out to be an Assistant Chemist, or I was not cut out to do the things the analytical testing that was going on in the research lab at Allied. He says you are not happy with what you are doing, you do not have the feel for it, and you have no background that will enhance your knowledge that will allow you to progress in this line of work. What in the world are you doing here? Well, I felt very disappointed, naturally very hurt. But I think the man did me the biggest favor. I had always wanted to be a Football Coach and be in the athletic part of it and I nursed my wounds because I had not been successful at my first try, I began to feel sorry for myself. His smack in the face woke me up. It gave me a new direction, he gave hope, therefore, he gave me a whole different outlook on life. So I have sat with Teachers and after due process and many conferences I have said to them, that I am not going to recommend you for employment for next year. What you need to do is to go back to school and you need to look at other alternatives. Maybe, teaching is what you want, but you must fortify that. Because the pitfalls you have not been able to avoid nor have you been able to constructively change your mode of teaching that would enhance the students. That is not easy to sell, but I think as an Administrator it is something that you have to do. And you have to back it up with facts. I think it is not a gut feelings at this point and it is documented that you are not meeting with success. If I felt good once or twice that person had accomplished other things or been successful in another endeavor, I felt real good. You always second guess yourself, I guess afterwards you always wonder, did I do the right thing? Did I explain in great detail so that there was an understanding between the two of us, and how was that accepted? That is the humanistic part that I applied in my role as Principal. Thank goodness there have not been too many over the years, but yes, there have been some. That is probably the least favorite thing that any principal has to face. It is one of the tougher jobs. It is, but it is your responsibility. Again, it is part of the total package. If here is any profession that is free of anything distasteful, I do not know of it. The doctor telling the patient, I am sorry, I have done all that I could do. I know no other medicines that will help you or any procedures that will give you hope, then certainly that is his first professional role and obligation to let the patient know. I think it is our obligation as we work with teachers too early on to be as honest with the teachers as we can be. Right up front from day 1, if there are problems and I tried to solve it, the teacher has put forth effort to solve it, still cannot solve it over a period of time, we tried in service, we have tried role-playing, modeling down in the classroom, this is a better way, this will bring about better results, then I cannot help but feel bad for the teacher, but also feel it is my responsibility. I must accept that. I must tell it like it is.
A: Hindsight, we did so many things wrong because we did not fully prepare for it. We skirted the issues which at the time I thought probably was right. The majority of people thought it was right. We tried token segregation. We tried freedom of choice. Actually, the black child came to Hopewell High School early on in 1962, somewhere in that area. it was a matter of choice. We felt that was the right way to go, that they should have equal facilities and equal opportunities and I think most of us embraced that. But that was not resolved, so finally in 1967 or 68 we, I say we, the City of Hopewell, under court order, proceeded to total integration. It was as difficult for white teachers as it was for black students. Because there was no understanding of each other's need, no understanding of Historical and Cultural background, that each group embraced. The things that we did wrong, of course stands out like a light bulb now. We did not take the time to sit down and work with these young people as to their desires, how they felt. We did a poor job in guidance, and being a guidance counselor for part of that, I feel real remiss that I did not understand, I felt uncomfortable counseling the black students when they first came. So we made many mistakes. Of course during that time students rebelled as we progressively made those mistakes. Many things I can look back and say, gee, wish I had done this or gee I wish I had done that. So we progressed through several trying years. Not trying anymore for the white than the black, they were both struggling for identity, struggling for there was a great deal of jealousy on the white part, that the black students coming in, beginning to take roles away from white students in athletics and in the leadership and so forth. So we had some bad theories, we used to profess. Now, years later that was not true. Each had a part to play. Some said well if we integrated from K through gradually, that would have solved some problems. I do not think so, As I thing back, in 1954, if we had read the Supreme Court and their intent and had understanding we would have started right then. But we might have been better off, and in fact I was sure we would have been. One thing we did not do was to call on the black leadership to help us. There were many people in the community that were sympathetic to integration and wanted to help. The school took almost an isolationist attitude towards that. We felt offended if the Clergy came to help. We felt offended if business leaders in the black community wanted to help. We were almost putting ourselves on an island. We tried to keep all other factors away from the school which is impossible if you look back now. Finally, we began to reach out. And we asked for some help, and this was done on an individual basis, not be the entire faculty. Because we integrated students before we integrated faculties, there were very few black teachers early on that we could share with. I guess the one person who helped me the most was Guidance Counselor, Leroy Hill. He was sympathetic not only to the black students but also the white students and the problems they were having relating to each other. When we begin to relate, students began to relate. I think when I left in 1973, it was beginning. I think it has progressed considerably over the years, but is not complete. Whether I will live to see it complete, I am not real sure. At one time I thought I never would, but now I hope that I might.
Q: I think that is great !!!
A: I might live to see the complete meeting of the minds. We still need to do many things to enhance this relationship and to resolve all the problems as they pop up at whatever grade. We are very proud of our athletic record over the past few years and we must share that. And I think we do. I think the athletics and other sports. Equal opportunity exists. Its just a shame we do not have intramural programs so that everybody could participate.
Q: Thank you for your time, sir.
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