Interview with Mr. Wood


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Q: Mr. Wood was the principal of Crestwood High School. Mr. Wood how many years were you in education as a teacher?

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

A: As a teacher I was in education for four years.

Q: And as a principal?

A: Thirty four.

Q: Could you describe your school for us please? Describe your school?

A: This school was a comprehensive high school with a faculty of eighty-four teachers and sixteen hundred students.

Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?

A: I decided to become a principal, because it has always been my desire to be a principal from childhood up. When I came into the system, I was asked to become a principal, and of course I readily accepted the idea of being a principal.

Q: What was your school's philosophy?

A: Our school philosophy was a philosophy that dealt primarily to help the child in the school, to work with the community, to develop the school, the community, and to incarnate those activities that would help improve the child, which would include all aspects of the student. The janitor was involved, health expert, the faculty of course was involved, along with the bus drivers. Everybody played a part, because they were significant in helping to develop the philosophy of Crestwood High School.

Q: How was it developed?

A: It was developed on the part of the administration, the people from the community, the school body and the laborers. Laborers are the bus drivers, the janitor, and everybody is a laborer of the school. They were a part of the communicating process.

Q: How did you create a climate for the learning?

A: What we did we tried our level best to create an atmosphere to the students that was somehow wholesome. We then tried to force them. We tried to put them at ease at all times. So they may speak, and build a relationship with them that may become a buddy rather than a fairy book. We developed a climate that was conducive to learning as we deemed.

Q: What leadership techniques did you use?

A: I used this leadership technique, I felt that a leader should have a certain amount of leadership. By calling in my department heads, and actually working with them, so they may disseminate materials to other departments, and let them know what was going on. I would not be dictatorial with them. I believe in being democratic. So they could understand what was going on, I called meetings to talk with my department heads, and with all persons concerned. So they would know and understand what was going on in the school, and be back together on problems that would affect the school.

Q: What techniques were successful and unsuccessful?

A: Unfortunately, the technique that we used in working with children was staying back with children. We found out that children had potential. They were not working up to their potential. We stayed back, we met in the mornings before class started, or we stayed after school to see if they came up to their potential. Many of these students went on to become leaders of the community. I thought this technique was very good. We could sort of get them to see themselves working up to their level of potential. Some of the things, I thought did not work too well was that most of our children, that had potential, we could not reach them as we wanted, because they came to us by buses. Of course, they could not get to the sessions that we were holding either in the morning or afternoon. Sometimes their parents would bring them. They got there to take advantage of all of the sessions.

Q: What role did you play in public community relations?

A: I attended many sessions with civic groups. I have been to PTA, feeder schools to my school, spoke to the men at churches concerning my school, went to fraternity organizations and spoke there. Of course, I was the carrier of the meeting, I had attended that was connected with my school.

Q: What do you think teachers expect principals to be?

A: Teachers expect principals to be knowledgeable of what they are doing, know what they are doing and to give leadership. At the rate, there must be somebody, they can come to get the answers. Not to get the answers, but make them encourageable.

Q: How did you evaluate teachers?

A: We had an instrument that we used to evaluate teachers that was sent down from the administration. Of course, the teachers were aware of this. It was discussed with them prior to the teacher reporting to discuss their evaluation. They were told before they got their evaluations, whether they were good or they were bad, poorly or what have you. They were told their ratings. They saw their evaluations.

Q: What techniques did you use to make teachers feel important?

A: I praised them whenever they did something outstanding. I took little insignificant things that happen to some people, and played up to them to get a teacher to come out, and actually feel they were making a contribution to the total school program. I always praised the teacher on their strengths. If I went into the classroom to observe, and saw one little thing the teacher had not done well, and I wanted to say something, I always talked to the teacher on the things she/he was doing well, before I got to the things he/she was not doing well, to let them know they sort of caved in, and were able to have dialogue together. I was able to tell them the things I wanted them to do.

Q: What is your philosophy of education?

A: My philosophy of education is to educate the whole child. Education is a continuous process that you never stop learning. It is a continuous process wherein we have to instill in children that they do not stop. Even if they get a degree you never get too much education. If only on your own, you learn something new every day. You never just stop, and say I do not care, I have reached my goal. Every day something comes up, and you have to be abreast. You are called upon so often to expound on these things.

Q: What is your philosophy of teaching?

A: My philosophy of teaching is a teacher has to not be only a person that requires knowledge, but she has to be a mother, sometimes a janitor, sometimes even a nurse in the school. Many things other than go there, and just teach the day. Many little things that approach you during the day. Your teaching job is never ended. It does not stop at 3 o'clock. It goes on, and on even after you leave the classroom.

Q: What is your personal leadership philosophy?

A: My personal leadership philosophy is I feel my leadership as a person, I must get out before the public, and let people know I have leadership ability to lead people I come in contact with, and I must be able to stand for the things I teach, the things I believe, let people know I am a person that has been indoctrinated in some field of education, that I pretend, I am in now. If I say I am an historian, then I must prove that I am a good historian. You must not say I am, then I do not prove myself. I want you to know I am a good person, and I must prove this to you.

Q: What does it take to be an effective principal?

A: It takes stamina, it takes knots, it takes things from the community, sometimes it takes a lot of things that come up daily that you can not think of when you go to school for a principal. There are so many new things that come up daily during the day that you are not cognizance of. As a principal you have to be there, to take these things, be able to give answers, and direction as they come up. Things do come up in due time, and you have to see that things are steered in the right way.

Q: What pressures did you face as a principal?

A: I faced hard pressures at one time, because my school was integrated. I had a hard time, because there was a period the people did not want their children to come to this school. They felt their children were coming to an inferior school, because of the location. This of course, put pressure on me to try to solve these things. I tried my level best as far as school being closed one time. It finally worked itself out. For a long time, I had to face call Edith, work with Harry, and work with students in small groups. Those were the pressures put on me as far as integrating my school.

Q: These were all the ways you handled that particular situation?

A: No, sometimes I went into their community and talked with them. I went in their homes. There were one or two, I had to work around me that helped a great deal.

Q: If you had to do it again, what would you do to better prepare yourself for the principals?

A: I think I would take more courses in law. I did not have any courses in law, when I was in school. I would have some things that were real pressing. I had enough education courses. I would take a course in law.

Q: How did you handle teacher grievances?

A: We had a committee that handled all of that. Of course, we worked through the committee. Being the principal, I would try to solve problems. If I could not solve the problem, and felt the committee would do a better job, I would use my committee. Sometimes the teacher would request to go through the committee.

Q: Did you ever fire a teacher?

A: Only once.

Q: Discuss the issues.

A: The issue was the teacher was incompetent.

Q: How can we improve education, teachers, etc.?

A: I think teachers need to have more education not only in the narrow sense. They need to know more fields in education than what they are getting now. They need a broader spectrum than what they are getting now. I do not think they should narrow it down to any one particular field. Teachers are going to have to deal with so many areas in the classroom. They must be able to cope with this. I think they need to know more than one area or two areas. They must know some general things that affect them with their jobs. They must specialize in those things, that will be more or less to get a varied field, that would deal specifically with their jobs.

Q: How did you handle the civil rights issue?

A: I only attended one civil rights meeting. I went there to listen about the civil rights issue. I only had one confrontation with them. This person came to the school. He wanted the children to come out of school and of course, we did not let them come out of school. He became very upset. He wanted to sit on the ground, and have the demonstration there. I was able to control it. That was the only encounter I had with civil rights.

Q: The busing issues.

A: The busing issue did not come up. What happened in my case, where I was, when they rerouted the area, when the schools were integrated, the children came to the school. They all were put on the buses together. I did not have too much mixing at my school. I did not have much fighting, because of the way the students were routed into the school.

Q: The NCEE report.

A: The NEE report.

Q: No, the NCEE report.

A: I did not have that.

Q: What procedures should be used before a person is selected to become a principal?

A: What procedures should be used?

Q: What procedures should be used before a person is selected to become a principal?

A: A person should have a trial run, have some experience as a teacher, have a test to see if he/she understands the whole area of leadership in his field in administration. He/she should have a masters degree in administration.

Q: How did you handle assistant principals?

A: I would give them certain duties to help me as a principal to better run the school, in order to have a smooth operation, in the school. For instance, it would depend on how many assistants I would have. If I had three assistant principals, one would be for instruction. I would have an assistant principal for discipline and possibly an assistant principal for transportation. I mean I would delegate the responsibilities according to the need of the school.

Q: As a principal, what was your biggest concern?

A: My biggest concern was children learning. I had to see that children had all privileges, and they were not short changed.

Q: What was your biggest headache?

A: My biggest headache was children cutting classes.

Q: What do you think of career ladders for teachers?

A: I think career ladders for teachers might be alright, but I have my reservations.

Q: What about merit pay?

A: Merit pay has some good qualities and some bad qualities. If it is used properly it will be okay. If you do not use properly it can be a dangerous thing. I think if teachers are doing a good job, they should be rewarded. If merit pay is going to be abused, I do not think it should be used. Sometimes it may not be used properly, but if it is used properly, I can go along with it.

Q: What do you think of the standards of quality?

A: I think the standards of quality is very good. I think all schools should go through the standards of quality. I went through the standards of quality, and I found it to be very good. I have nothing but commendations for the standards of quality.

Q: What are the characteristics associated with effective schools?

A: The qualities of an effective school is a good philosophy, a good parent teachers association, good quality, good relationships with the community, and providing supportive services that visit the school frequently. You must have personnel that carry out the missions you want carried out, in order to accomplish your desired goals.

Q: What do you think of the testing procedures? SAT, etc.?

A: SAT, I think is alright. SAT is a successful procedure we have to evaluate our schools and to use for students to be admitted into college. Sometimes SAT is questionable, but until we get a better way of measuring these things, I go along with it.

Q: What was the toughest decision you had to make as a principal--why was it difficult?

A: The toughest decision that I featured was sometimes very good and sometimes it was not. When it came to the reality at the end of the year with the curriculum, what am I to do, should I recommend her or should I not, and this was a very tough decision. She was not bad, and she was not very good. Sometimes she had improved. I had to balance the scale, make the decision, and that was a very tough decision.

Q: Were you a manager of a building or an instructional leader?

A: I was an instructional leader.

Q: Could you give us some examples?

A: Yes. I had the whole school. I had teachers under my administration. I had the students. I instructed them. I had workshops for my teachers. I even had workshops for my cafeteria folks. I had workshops for my patrons, and what have you. We had groups we worked with in the student council. I felt I was an instructional leader. I did a lot of instructing.

Q: What was your key to success as a principal?

A: Good human relationships.

Q: Did you have any more things to include along with that?

A: People always said I was calm and I did not get too excited. They felt I had a way people liked and greeted people in a way that made them comfortable. People could work their problems with me, and this characteristic made it easier for people to discuss matters with me.

Q: What was your code of ethics as a principal?

A: Do unto others as you have them to do unto you. I think that's good, because when you think if I were a student, I would want this person to do this to me, you put yourself in the child's place. If you are a grown person, I would do the same thing. You think to treat persons as human beings not like animals.

Q: What are your feelings about the responsibility of the principal for identifying and developing future school administrators?

A: I think the same thing, I said earlier about future administrators. I feel they should have a past endeavor to see if they can accomplish. I think they should work in an area under supervision, to see if they are capable of performing leadership in a particular field as a principal, before they become a principal, and get all of the ramifications that would be upon completion of all of the ramifications of a principal.

Q: How did you go about this?

A: What's that?

Q: How did you go about identifying people?

A: First of all, I would observe. I had two or three people to observe. I had opportunity to observe people filling out application forms watching their performance. I had a chance to go to the college and review their transcripts. I also talked with them. Afterwards I made my decision.

Q: Describe your typical work day on how you spent your time?

A: I would go to my office, and look at my schedule. I would look at the attendance, and see how the buses were coming in. When the children arrived, I stood in the halls to see that the halls were clear and what have you. After school started for the day, I would have other jobs, and a written schedule to follow. I would always spend some time in the classrooms no matter how many students approached me. I too observed classes. I would go to the classrooms to see how things were going. I would possibly work with the group in the cafeteria, check and walk around to see how the students were acting. After that, I passed through the hallways. After that it would be time to go.

Q: How did you spend the most time?

A: Most of my time was spent working in the office.

Q: Doing what type of work?

A: I would have conferences with parents, people coming in to see the principal, appointments from the main office downtown, and conferences with teachers requesting conferences. Children sometimes would want conferences with the principal. Parents would want conferences. Even the bus drivers would want conferences. It would be a multiplicity of things. This was not every day, but generally where I spent most of my time. Some days I possibly might spend more time in the classrooms. Generally I spent more time in the office. Some days I spent more time in the classrooms. Some days I would spend more time just getting around in the various halls, looking at what was going on out there, it depends on the flexibility.

Q: How do you account for your success as an administrator?

A: I account for my success as being open minded, being positive, and being very strict in the sense, and yet being fair.

Q: What caused you to choose retirement when you did?

A: I decided to come out, because I always said when I became a certain age, I was going to retire at my own chose. The administration said, I could decide when I wanted. I had already decided, I was going to retire at a certain age.

Q: What have I not asked you that I should have?

A: Let me see now. My guidance program, I thought I had a good guidance program at this school. I had my guidance program at the high school where I was. It was one of the best programs in this state. The guidance program did individual counseling for children. They gave scholarships to kids that no other schools could receive. They really counseled children to the extent that they helped identified children that were gifted. They played a very major part in the administration, and worked closely with the administration. I will never forget the guidance department, because they played a highly significant part with me in helping me to get my foot on the ground working with the gifted children. As you know Crestwood High School had quite a few.

Q: Anything else you would like to include?

A: And do not say nothing about my athletic department, and about my music department. They were just outstanding in school. All of them excelled in everything. We went to Richmond to give a performance for the teachers at the district. I never was so pleased at the way they were received by the group, the medals and a commendations for that recital. I had copies of the medals made. The people could not conceive the idea, this was a high school chorus. They thought they were some concert choir from some other place. It was just from Chesapeake. I might give them too much credit, but they did very well. I think that is just about it.

Q: I want to ask you one more question. You mentioned something about your athletes. Did your school produce any professional athletes?

A: Yes indeed, they did. Charles Stukes, Donny Green. Morris the last name is Morris. Charles Jarvis is another one. They were all football boys. They played football with NFL.

Q: Mr. Wood I want to thank you for taking time.

A: I hope I have. It's all mumble up to me now. You know how it is when you get older. I hope it has done some good, and you will find it helpful.

Q: It really has, and I want to thank you very much for taking time to let me interview you tonight.

A: Okay, okay.

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