This is an interview with Charles R. Wildman, who was principal of Stonewall Jackson Senior High School from 1964 to 1974. Stonewall Jackson Senior High School is located in Prince William County, Virginia. Today is April 1, 1988.
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Q: Mr. Wildman, how many years were you in education?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I was a teacher for ten years, and I was assistant principal for two years, high school principal for ten years, and then a supervisor in planning for the last thirteen years.
Q: That's a total of ... do we have a total of ...
A: That's a total of thirty five years.
Q: Thirty five years. Could you tell us why you decided to become a principal?
A: Well I guess the reason I decided to become a principal was maybe a couple ... one, I felt like that having been a coach for ten years, that I didn't want to stay in coaching forever. I wanted to be able to sort of run my own ship somewhere along the line. And I guess the other major motivator was the salary difference between teaching and administration.
Q: Would you describe to us what your school, Stonewall Jackson Senior High School, was like?
A: Stonewall, we opened Stonewall in what is now Stonewall Middle School in Westgate. We started out with about 325 students in grades ten and eleven. The following year we had grades ten, eleven, and twelve, with the next year nine, ten, eleven, and twelve. The school was a small school growing we also shared the facility for one semester with an elementary school that was in the process of being completed. That was the Westgate Elementary School. So we started out as a small school. Over the ten years we outgrew it. For the last three years in that building we were on a double shift. And in 1973 we moved into what is now the new Stonewall and we were there and our student enrollment had increased to twenty two hundred fifty students by that time ... over the ten years from the three hundred twenty-five students to approximately twenty-two hundred fifty. The school was one in a community, it was a brand new community. Some of our early problems in establishing that school as a high school was creating an identity for the school. The student were from other parts, other parts of the county. Some coming from outside the county to our school district for the first time. And having an identity in other schools it gave us one of the bigger problems, I think we had, and it was a blessing that we were small that we could take the small number of students and organize it and the community into a community type school ... where we had the students participating and taking pride in their school and their parents becoming involved as parents with their new school. That was one of our early and big hurdles to overcome.
Q: You said that some of these students came from outside the county. How was ...
A: Westgate where the school is located is pretty much a transient ... continues to be quite a lot a transient type community. The community is made up of a lot of people ... it's been called a bedroom community for those people who work in Northern Virginia or Washington D.C., and being a very transient school ... some were coming from military families living there ... some working for the state department from other parts of the country and had moved to this new community, Westgate. That's why many of them were not local students.
Q: Could you tell us what do you think teachers expect principals to be?
A: I think my experience has been that first of all teachers would like the principal to be supportive of them. They would like for ... and I'm speaking of the time ... this goes back between 1964 and 1974, so that in the time frame of that period, I think some of the expectancies may be different now, today, than it was then because we were on the early beginnings of teacher organizations - teacher unions, separated principals, in a sense, sort of separated principals and teachers. At that time they were the same educational organization, PWEA, Prince William Education Association, and the NEA. And they jointly planned and worked together at organization. That gave us a very close rapport and working relationship because it seemed like everyone's' goals were the same. Everyone was trying to achieve and recognize the same goals ... and teachers expected some freedom and yet wanted the principals to be supportive of them and what they were trying to accomplish in the classroom in curriculum as well as helping to work with, when necessary, students, and supporting them in the way of discipline, student discipline, and to be supportive when necessary, when we had parents involved with the teacher and some of the complaints that came to the school regarding some action or proposed action by the teacher, but primarily one of being supportive and helping them to carry out their curriculum, their instructional goals, in an atmosphere where they could teach and students could learn.
Q: Mr. Wildman, would you discuss your personal philosophy of education?
A: I guess my personal philosophy of education, I don't really have just one, I guess I don't have just one personal philosophy. One of the things that I always thought about was something that Stuart Bevil who was the superintendent of schools when I became principal ... Stuart Bevil was a man we very highly respected and was a good educational leader and did much for Prince William County in that time when it was growing so rapidly. Hugh Browning became a principal the same year that I did, and we asked Mr. Bevil if we might sit down and talk with him and just gleam some gems of wisdom from someone who had been through much of what we were getting ready to embark upon. We asked him, "What great gems of wisdom, Mr. Bevil, can you give us as we start this new venture in our lives." And what he said was very short and I guess something that I always have reflected back on and it's been a very important part of my philosophy of education. He said, "fellows just remember, schools...children were not made for schools, schools were made for children." And when you think about it, the focus, he was telling us, has to be on the child. And I guess, our expanding that to the point of trying to find out where the child is, taking the child from where the child is to where the child can go or become. That I think is the basics of any philosophy that I might have of education. Now it has to expand on the tasks of various people and how they perform that to help that child realize their potential. But the basic simple philosophy is one that the school was made for the child, the child was not made for the school.
Q: Could you tell us some of the pressures you faced as a principal and how you handled them?
A: Well, I guess I had a dream, I used to have a dream, and I guess that dream was one that would come out ... it was more of a nightmare than a dream. The nightmare basically was this: school was opening and I was going to school that day and the master schedule had not been completed. That was sort of one of the great pressures I guess and subconsciously although consciously I never really worried about it that much. Opening a new school, having two years ... having been an assistant principal for two years, and opening a new high school, I felt like I had a good background, preparing me for doing that. I thought I had a pretty good background in the way of working with people, and the skills necessary for that. But one of the things ... some of the things that I did not expect, that we would inherit as problems so early, the fact that I mentioned earlier ... trying to establish a school from students who were coming from all different directions with parents who were now a new subdivision making up a community. Pulling that all together were some of the early problems that we experienced. Our second year, we had full integration, that brought problems to us. As hard as we worked on it, and I think we were reasonably successful, that still was a big problem and a great deal of pressure. It wasn't to long until we had teachers and administrators becoming members of different organizations. The teachers had their own ... what was referred to as a union ... the NEA became and was recognized as a union. That brought on some real big pressures. Teachers expecting their rights and insisting on their rights. That wasn't necessarily bad, but at least it was a pressure that we had to adjust, we had to change the way we thought about recognizing the needs of teachers, from a demand rather than from a partnership relationship. Another thing I think was ... about that time we had the Vietnam War, we were into the emergence of a drug culture starting in this country. Those brought new and serious problems to the school ... brought pressures to the principal. Funny as it may be now, the Beatles and the short ... the long hair cuts and the mini-skirts and all of those things caused us to have to deal with problems that we hadn't been dealing with before. So I think back on it, sometimes it just scares me and I wonder how much we really were able to address the curriculum issues. We thought we were doing it, but it was in an atmosphere that took so much from us to address things that had very little to do with what we had hoped we were all about in education. But those were issues that we had to deal with and schools always have had to deal with the social issues of the time, the community issues of the time ... seems like the school becomes the ... bears the brunt of those problems. Those were the little ... I don't know that I was prepared for all of that, and when I think back on it, I think it was probably the things that drained my energy more than anything else. I spent more time on those kinds of things than I should have been spending; as such it took a great deal of the enthusiasm out of being a high school administrator. It took a great deal of joy out of that because I had to deal with so many problems that were really non school related, so often.
Q: Could you tell us how you handled teacher grievances?
A: Poorly. I had the, the ... whatever you call it ... the, unfortunate maybe is the right word, experience of being the first principal who was grieved in Prince William County. It was over an issue of time for lunch break and teachers' freedom from responsibilities during lunch break. My philosophy had been always that the teacher is never truly off duty. And that whenever there is a serious need that arises, the teacher must respond to it. It isn't a matter of saying between this period and this period I am free of any encumbered responsibilities at all. That's my planning time, that's my free time. Well that since has become pretty much ... what teachers were wanting ... at that time ... and has been pretty much a free time for the teacher to plan. I don't think that, for example, the issue was whether or not during a five minute period when a teacher is going from lunch to their room, whether or not that teacher was on duty or not. And I thought they were, they needed to be, but for the atmosphere in our school in those days, needed their supervision during that period of time, and by the way, I lost the case. But that was handled, I thought, well. The thing that I really liked about it though ... our teachers that were confronting me with this, we sat down over a long period of time and negotiated. I was telling my side and they were telling their side. We just could not see it eye to eye, but the thing that I liked about it even after that was over with, there was never a loss of rapport between the teachers and myself that were involved. And I think that that was healthy, and it is not like they won and I lost. They never thought of it that way. It was a matter of any kind of a trial. Issues were clarified and new regulations were written to deal with that later. I was administering regulations that I thought ... as I interpreted. Later I found that there was a different interpretation.
Q: Did you ever fire a teacher?
A: Yes, I had to. I fired a teacher. Well, actually the school board hires and fires a teacher but principals recommend. And in a sense the teacher that I found necessary to get ... to release ... to ask to be released from her contract, wasn't. She chose ... rather than being fired ... chose to resign instead. The incident was one where the teacher simply made a very very bad judgement in the sense that alcohol was brought into the school. And a little celebration between the teacher and a couple of students took place in the school. And that was something that there was absolutely no reason for. No teacher, I thought, deserved to hold a position of respect within the staff and the community. That was behavior that was totally unbecoming. The teacher was a pretty decent teacher, as a person in a classroom. But the judgement was so grossly ... if it had been a brand new teacher who just didn't know ... but this teacher had been teaching for seven years for me, and absolutely knew what the expectancies of ... the outcome would be ... if they hadn't been found about it, and it just so happens that it was a judgement that ... I had no other choice in my way of thinking but to recommend the teacher for release from employment.
Q: And the teacher chose to ...
A: Chose to resign rather than have it on their record that they had been in fact fired.
Q: Do you know if this teacher is out of teaching ... stopped.
A: Yes ... tried to get back in teaching, but I could not, in all honesty, recommend the teacher back for the same reason that the teacher left. It is not a matter of thinking that the teacher deserved another chance so much as after seven years of teaching you pull something like that. It's stupid. You might be pulling that your tenth year, your fifteenth year, or some place else. Because the person's judgement was so immature, that I just felt like that teacher didn't deserve another opportunity.
Q: OK. In your school how did you use assistant principals?
A: Assistant principals were one of my favorite areas quite honestly, because I went in with the idea ... when I became an assistant principal myself ... trying to be exposed to all aspects of the operation so that if I ever had an opportunity to become a principal myself I would have had experiences in most all areas of operation. And so my idea was that when I had assistant principals I wanted assistant principals primarily that were looking to become principals ... who were people who wanted to grow professionally, learn how to be an instructional leader, and learn how to assist in developing departmental plans. Assist in most mundane kinds of operations of the school. Not just become the disciplinarian of the become as involved in as much as they of the financial aspect of it, I felt not in passing on a responsibility to getting them involved in seeing how I responsibilities that come along with accounting part of it. But as far as making, they assisted me with that. Each was working ... each principal in their own area of assistant principal ... in their own area of discipline was responsible for coordinating programs within those areas. For example, the science ... one assistant school, but could possibly. I involved them, them, but worked with the the financial master schedule principal with the science teachers, the social studies, and the math teachers. Another assistant principal would work with another group, maybe the vocational people. That way we had an assistant principal working with all curriculum areas as well as my oversight to the overall operation of the school. And I felt like, not until later, not until my eighth year did I hire assistant principals that really never wanted to become principal. They wanted to stay an assistant principal. In fact those two people are still assistant principals in this county. Doing an outstanding job. One is working with the city of Manassas as assistant principal and has turned down principalships. Just wants the freedom to work with the curriculum area, he wants the freedom to ... without the whole responsibility. He does not want that whole responsibility. The other one ... both people are very very capable. One is a black female. She just helped me so much as an administrator, and that was twenty some years ago. Now she still is an assistant principal in this county doing an outstanding job, making a great contribution, because she knows her role as assistant principal, and does it well.
Q: How many assistant principals at one time did you have?
A: I think the most I had at any one time was five. it was either four or five, I'm not really sure.
Q: As a principal what was your biggest concern?
A: Maybe that dream I had about the master schedule. No my biggest concern I guess was how do you find time in dealing with all of the crisis issues, to really become an instructional leader in your school. That, I guess was the biggest concern I ever had. My energy level, I thought, was pretty good at that time, but I was absolutely and totally exhausted. We had, remember, one year toward the latter part of my ten years of principal, we had one hundred sixty-eight activities of the school. My philosophy was, they always expect the principal to be there. And I tried to be there ... from the gymnastics to whatever ... the debate team. I got to the the point where I could not cover all of them and it bothered me. I guess one of the frustrations that I have ... and I know there is a question that will come up, perhaps, as the optimum size of the school. I thought that the school was so large, not so trouble oriented, but so issues oriented. Issues that had to be dealt with that were not necessarily things to do with instruction at all. In a school of that size, discipline for example, instead of increasing as the enrollment increased on a straight line ratio, discipline in the school where you have more and more people together ... twenty four or twenty five hundred students is on a progression of more rapid increase, not a simple ration. That study after study has proven that to be true. So there is the size of the school, and I know that for me personally, and this is not from just strictly from an educational point of view but as an administrator of a school, I functioned very well and was very comfortable with from twelve hundred to sixteen hundred students. Beyond that point I became ... it's like operating a city. The building was housing a hundred and twenty some teachers and I don't know how many custodians and cafeteria workers and all the other support people that go along with it. In fact we had more youngsters in the school than we had in the city of Manassas at that time. So it was like operating something almost like a city. Now that was a little off the question that you asked me and I realize that.
Q: That's fine. What are your views on merit pay?
A: I am a supporter of merit pay. With this understanding, that you develop a system of true evaluation to recognize merit. As long as you have a system that recognizes merit and awards people who are extremely dedicated, professional, hard working teachers. I believe in those people being paid proportionate to the effort and energies and the contributions that they are making. The hardest part, I think, has been all along the way people have a hard time agreeing upon it, and that is how do you measure the merit without it in some way appearing that you are not playing favoritism, you see. But the idea of merit pay, with a proper evaluation as a criteria for selection, I'm supportive of it.
Q: You talked about your biggest concern. Could you tell us what you would consider your biggest headache?
A: I honestly don't know that I had a biggest headache. I enjoyed even ... even in the times when it was frustrated and I discussed those things that were frustrating to me. I don't know that I had a biggest headache unless it may have been of dealing with the emergence of the drug issue in the schools. Although we were, I think it was one of those things that I expected to get worse than it was, and always thought, you become suspicious of all your students, of all your kids, even your good ones. You become suspicious that this kid is acting funny, is he just having a bad day or is this youngster messing around with drugs? That was an issue ... I'm not sure that I would call it the biggest headache. You know, I guess the biggest headache was having to deal with something that I ought not have had to deal with. And that is whether or not the hair was two fingers above the eyebrows, and the girls' miniskirts were to short. Those were two. That was probably, if anything, was a headache, those two probably were .
Q: Did you consider yourself a manager of a building or an instructional leader?
A: Part of the time I really felt I was an instructional leader. And that's when we were smaller, but when we became larger, and the problems that I eluded to earlier became ... I mean ... problems for this whole society, the lack of respect for authority, the things that were associated with Kent State, Vietnam, Watergate. There was a period of time of underground newspapers, there was a period of time in there that was probably the most difficult time to address instructional issues because you were constantly addressing those other kinds of issues and it was taking up so much time. I think back on it now and no wonder Johnny couldn't read. Because so many other things were distracting Johnny from reading. I don't think it was necessarily the changes in the English program where as for punctuation, writing skills, and all that we ... What were we saying?
Q: Why "Johnny" can't read.
A: It was more than just the different approach to teaching English. We did have the basic approach that you find now, that was present before. I agree with the idea to design ... what do you call it ... in English you have to diagram these sentences. I hated to do that when I was a student. So I sympathized with the students probably more than I should have. But we left that type of thing and got to a more informal instruction. We felt, if we get the youngster enthused about reading and don't get him all tied up in these...whether these were a dangling participle or whatever you say, that we were helping him to communicate better and this was the idea that English was a matter of communications. That the student would find a better way to communicate that idea, and when the student did find the best way of communicating it would fit with the formal English grammatical organization. That probably was, if anything, what we contributed to Johnny not reading. That probably was it.
Q: What is it about your personality that allowed you to be successful as a principal?
A: Good sense of humor. I think that probably the fact that you find issues, that are very serious issues, and that you can find some humor in it. You will keep your own sanity and you, I think, get support from other people. When they see that you are not going to be jacked out of shape as the principal, on this and not going to over react ... and that is the greatest problem I think, over reacting to something. And we do an awful lot, sometimes unjust, by over reacting to an issue when it probably is not all that serious. All you have to do is look back on it from five to ten years back. You find it wasn't quite as serious, some of those knuckle heads as we call them at the time, turned out to be really great citizens. If a new teacher could understand when they look back and see some of these people as "Doodles," this guy I told you about the other day who became the superintendent of schools. You know that you could laugh about some of those things and share with them and when the students and the teachers see that you are not too serious about yourself and can share with them a humorous moment and sort of empathize with them when they're having problems. I think a good listener, you have got to be a good listener and you have got to be consistent, you can't just be one way with one group and another way with one group at one time. You've got to be consistent. They've got to know what the rules are and know that if you are going to carry out the rules and you are asking them to support you, particularly if you've had them help you design those rules to live by in the school, and I always believed in doing that. Involving them in the things that you are going to set up as rules of the school, I think helped me to become a successful father-like ... by having a sense of humor, being consistent and being fair and honest and caring ... those things are required, I think, of an administrator. Well I think they are good for anyone to have. They are good qualities for a teacher to have. And if you are going to be working with people, you will survive with those qualities. Because you can come home and smile and laugh at something that really, at the time, just made you so upset. Instead of letting it, day in and day out, eat at you until it finally comes to a crisis, find some humor in it. Say, this too shall pass.
Q: What advice would you give to a person who is considering becoming an administrator?
A: Well, I think there is not a whole lot of advice, maybe Mr. Bevil's advice as to remembering what we're all about, and that is what we do to the decisions we make and the way we are motivated and things that motivate us to do the things we do are strictly in the school and what their needs are time in their lives if you don't ... if you look at only yourself and what your needs are, I'm not sure how successful yon are going to be as an administrator, but I think you have got to be a good curriculum person. You've got to know something about what a good program of studies is. To be able to recognize it because after all you've got to evaluate. You've got to know what good teaching is and to recognize good teaching, to support good teaching. You've got to be courageous enough to say to a teacher that is "off-base" " How can I help you? it appears we're having some problems here, how can I help you bring this around? Turn this decision around?" You've got to care about people. If you don't have these qualities I would not suggest that a person even attempt to be an administrator. If you're only looking at it from what is in it for you and if you are looking at it from that point, not what you can give, but what you can receive, I feel that you are not made for administration. You've got to be a giving person, giving of yourself, your time, your energy. And your family has got to know that it is going to take a lot more time than probably anything else you've done, perhaps besides coaching. It takes time away and your energy away from it. And yet it is a rewarding thing, only if you look at it as something that you're doing and enjoying doing with and for other people. Anyone who is considering going into administration, if they are not willing to see it in some of those lengths, I would seriously wondered, if they are really going to be successful administrators. I think that you have to be very intelligent, not that I was. Because T don't think that when I was principal you had to be as astute as you do now. An administrator should be a very, very astute person in the areas of curriculum development, human relations, school and public relations. They have to be quite versatile and quite skillful because there are so many different issues that they have to address. If they are not at least showing any indications of having skills in those areas, I would seriously doubt if they should be encouraged to pursue it.
Q: What aspect of your professional training best prepared you for a principalship?
A: I think more than just classes I took, I don't know that classes themselves ... except as a basis for bouncing off new ideas or creating new ideas from those experiences there ... it's the people you are associated with along the way ... a professor that just seems to hit a hot button and inspires you to do something, has got an idea and is excited about that idea and shares those ideas with you. In turn, gets you thinking in that direction and gets the creative juices flowing. I just believe that people that you are exposed to and the opportunity you take at those times and take advantage of people like that does as much for you and molding you and preparing you for administration as anything. I think coaching ... now a lot of people really "pooh pooh" the idea that half the principals were coaches at one time, saying that that's very good background for it. The thing that is there, organizational and leadership, leading people in all kinds of your emotional situations ... when you're high, when you're low, when you're frustrated, when you've got family problems ... if you are successful when working with that you're developing skills that are necessary as an administrator. Because it takes so many of the same kinds of skills, I don't think you have to be a coach to be a very successful administrator, because you can get them in other ways. But it is one of the ways, and for me, I think one of the things that helped prepare me to deal with, compassionately, with the problems that people, young people, were facing ... to honestly look at them and recognize that they are young people who are having some serious problems. I got close enough to them and knew them well enough as a coach to know that if these people are having problems, others are having them too, and recognizing how ... gave me a way of recognizing there were problems that I ought to be dealing with and working with those youngsters.
Q: As a principal, what consumed the majority of your time?
A: I think that I've already answered that. Unfortunately during those, I think, five years too much of the time was being consumed by things that were other than instructional. You see, one of the things that we also were doing and I think even today we have a tendency to do that, and that is principals are often taken out of the school for ... to the central office for staff development kinds of activities and administrative kinds of conferences and indoctrinations or whatever it might be, whatever the issue might be that they have to bring administrators in to do, particularly when you are going from an open class ... from a closed classroom, a traditional classroom, as they call it, to an open concept. An awful lot of time was spent outside the classroom preparing principals how to provide leadership for that. When you are out of the school, you need to be preparing for your leadership and all of that, but it was taking you away from day to day leadership of the school. Those things, I think, took me away an inordinate amount of time. Growing from this school of three hundred twenty-five students to one of two thousand two hundred fifty students ... just the things that take place as you are physically going from one building to another building or planning to organize into a two shifts a day ... a school of two shifts a day that's a lot of planning and organization. Those are the kinds of issues ... if you are in a little community, the school...about the same size every year ... you know you wouldn't have those things to deal with, but in a growing, rapidly growing, and in a time when society was being strained by individual rights, and I'm for individual rights, but by being strained those issues ... because we were emerging from a time when the emphasis upon society's rights changed to the individual rights. You think, well, what does that have to do with a principalship? You had to learn to deal with those issues. You have to become knowledgeable of the law and what the changing law is, and how it effects the school, and what rights and responsibilities the students have as well as what administrators and school boards have. All of those things took a lot of time away from the day to day instruction. I just kind of longed for the kind of school that I started out with, two schools prior to coming to Prince William County. Those were small communities, three hundred..four hundred high school students, and today the schools are about the same size, and the problems there, they have their problems too, but it is such a different kind of environment where the merging and growing environment that we were in at this time distracted us from our major goal-our major purpose-that is, the administrating of the school as an instructional leader. That distracted from vis, and perhaps that is one of the reasons I left administration.
Q: Over the past decade schools have become larger and larger with student population at times exceeding four thousand students. What do you feel is the best organizational arrangement in schools this large for administration, teachers and students?
A: Well, I've never administered one of four thousand. But knowing some like T.C. Williams and others that have gotten to that size, they have developed an idea of north-southeast and west campuses, dividing their student bodies into organizational groups of four groups. And also there are many schools throughout the country that this ... that ... really large schools and they have a guidance organization, an administrative organization, and a planning organization. They are operated almost like four schools within a school, and then they have the overall leadership. That seems to be a pretty adequate way of doing it. I know that there is a level for example, at Stonewall, when we became a school of over two thousand students, we could have a very, very comprehensive program. We were able to offer across the board three foreign languages and at least three years of three foreign languages. We were able to offer advanced math-advanced so many different areas, advanced placement English, advanced placement in several different areas. We wouldn't have been able to do that if we were a smaller school and didn't have the numbers of students to support those programs within the schools. Vocational educational programs was one of the best in the state simply because we had the facilities to have a very comprehensive industrial arts program ... cosmetology ... right across the board ... there were so many things that you could offer in a large school. I don't know what, perhaps I feel personally very very comfortable with a school of twelve hundred to sixteen hundred students. I'm not saying that is optimum for organization. When you go up to the numbers of students that we were at near twenty-five...twenty-two hundred students, rather. I'm not so sure that we had the best organization for that. I'm not so sure it wouldn't have been better to divide. We even talked about it ... into sub-schools within the school and organizing our guidance and administration around those subschools. I don't know where and at what point you need to do that, but that seemed to have worked successfully for those schools that have done it. I don't know that schools that have done that unless they have about 700 to 800 students per subschool. But at least I was aware of those things happening and followed that fairly closely in my readings and visitations. In fact I visited two of the schools .
Q: Would you discuss several of the most pleasant principalship activities?
A: I guess I'm a..I function better on a personal level with people and some of the best, the most rewarding experiences have been in ways that deal with the individual students or teachers that are having successor ... experiencing successes, the ... being a part of that I always felt like when I had a teacher and a group of students that were doing some exciting things I just got excited to. I'm going to give you two examples, I suggest two. One is a very humorous example. An English teacher came to me. She was teaching at the University of Maryland. She was very suspicious that she wanted to teach at the high school level again. She had some bad experiences because she felt constrained with creativity. That she was going to be locked stopped into what everybody else was doing. In talking with her, I realized I was talking to someone who was a very sharp creative person and had a lot of exciting ideas. And so she told me later, she said, " I really didn't believe that you were going to give me the freedom that you gave me." She said, "I want to thank you for it because my energy, my creative energies, are flowing again." There is a price you pay for that and they were studying, I forget exactly what it was now, it was dressing up in original costumes of of the time, and the kids made these costumes. They studied the costumes of the period. They also studied the diets of the people at the time and fixed a meal, a feast, of the same period food. I thought that was great. They would ... were going to do this and going to have some parents there. And they were going to do this at night. About six-thirty I got a call ... six-thirty or seven o'clock ... I got a call from the custodian. And he said, "Do you realize that this teacher has these people in this room and there is straw four inches deep on the floor and they are sitting on bales of hay, and eating off that." And he said, "They have candles on the table." And he said, "It scares me to death." And I said, "No, I didn't know that they were going to get that original." I said, "What I want you to do." He said, "Should I call the fire department?" I said, "No, please don't do that. Get four water ... I mean fire extinguishers, set them outside the door and you sit outside the door. And if there is an emergency, you're ready." Well the next morning the teacher came in and she said, "I hear I have an apology to make." And she said, "I never thought about the risk of fire." And she said, "Thank heavens everything went well. From now on, Mr. Wildman, I'll assure you I won't be quite that original." But that excited me, you see, I mean, didn't feel like reprimanding that teacher. I would never let the superintendent or associate superintendent of instruction know that's what happened. That was exciting, you see. And we had...the other experience I was going to say, was an industrial arts teacher had students that teachers could not get them to do any research, would not get them to stand up and make a report in front of the class or do anything really productive to hand in written work that was of quality work. And I was invited with the guidance department and administrators ... invited up to see these students in a routine day of reporting. They were studying transportation. Any youngster could report on any kind of transportation. Then they had to design the transportation. They could make a model of it ... do some research, even if they had to go as far as wherever to get their information for research on the early history of that kind of transportation. And then report on it and say the problems that they had in developing this model and why the transportation contributed to society. Well, we had students that would never stand up in front of anybody else and make a report that was a quality report, I mean well done. The English teachers were amazed that they could not get the same students to do the same things in the English class but here, in the industrial class, they were working with the mathematics of it. They were working with some of the science parts of it. They weren't getting the very sophisticated parts of that. But they saw the relationship of science, math, literature, reporting and organization all in an area that is quite often not even considered to be one of the academic areas of the school. But here was a group of teachers, getting a bunch of youngsters turned on and excited about something. That was exciting to me, to see these youngsters who would never, would never stand up in front of their English class and make a report, making a super report. And I was ... the teacher asked the English teacher to accept the report as a written report for an English project. And some of the teachers and I had some difficulty with that because I thought they should do it. And some teachers thought that's double credit and we shouldn't give the kid's double credit. So they didn't want to do it. I didn't say you have to do it but I said I would encourage you if it would fit with what you are doing, to do it. Because it was rewarding youngsters for something they had become excited about. And had done a good job. Those are two examples of ... and I guess what those examples point out is when teachers get students excited and involved in what the curriculum discipline is whatever it might be. And there are other examples I could give you in other areas but it's generally what excited me was. . . when youngsters and teachers working together became excited about a project, worked together hand in hand, counseling with each other, guiding and helping. And students were helping each other. That was a terrific learning environment that was taking place. That excited me.
Q: We talked about some of your headaches. Do you have any other unpleasant activities that you had to take care of as principal, that you would like to share with us?
A: Not really, the ... I really got a good indoctrination my first year teaching. I thought I was pretty good you know. I thought I was somebody special, God's gift to education, and thought everybody loved me. Until I ran across ... It was necessary to discipline this young man. And the mother came to the school and told me that she wished my guts were strung from here back to West Virginia. Well that helped me because I realized not everybody was going to love me. No matter whether or not ... and I had to feel like I had done the right thing, and I had. For that youngster I had done the right thing. Thank heavens I had the principals support, and he appreciated what I had courage enough to do for the youngster. And the thing of it was I was doing it for the youngster. And the irony of it, the young boy said, "Please don't pay any attention to my mother. She really doesn't know you. She just gets angry and says things that she really doesn't mean." Well, whether he had said that or not I would have still felt like you got to be prepared for some unexpected things in this ... in education. And you can't let all of them crush you. I could just let that crush me and felt like I didn't belong in education anymore. But it didn't.
Q: Good. The master schedule determines which teachers have what responsibilities. Did you find it most effective to maintain total control of devising the master schedule or did you find it most effective to have the guidance department control the master schedule?
A: I got the ... the way the guidance department was involved in designing the master schedule was basically in making sure that youngsters that who needed certain classes, that we design the master schedule so that they could do it. I think master schedule development is an administrative problem, an administrative task and not a guidance task. The guidance task is to help youngsters get into the schedule that they needed to get into. And sometimes when you have singletons in classes that are only offered once a day and certain students taking that ... that's going to be taking another class that's offered only once a day ... helping make sure that the guidance kept you informed as to who was taking these classes so that you could schedule the students so that they would not be scheduled at the same time. In a large..smaller school have more singleton offerings. The larger the school the less single offerings you have. But no, I believe that scheduling is an administrative function not a guidance function. Guidance people claim to never have enough time to do guidance. I never wanted to burden them with more responsibility. That was not as far as I was concerned a guidance function.
Q: We talked a little earlier about assistant principals. Will you describe the most effective assistant principal you have had?
A: I've had some really good ones. Two people, and I could say this about several. In ten years in a growing school I guess and I never really stopped to count it. I probably had worked with ten assistant principals. Some went on to be principals and some went on to other things. Some are still assistant principals now. I think one of the most effective assistant principals that I had and this will describe any assistant principal that did this. We worked totally as a team. They were eager with ideas and felt free to give their ideas and would come up with ... and didn't ask for me to give them guidelines for something ... asking me how I would handle this. I wanted them to be able to handle it without coming to me, turning it ... making it my responsibility. I had two ... I had several ... two people in particular I'm thinking about. They honestly acted like principals. If I wasn't there a decision was made it went on. They reported to me what they had done, and I supported it. But that to me was something that I really wanted. I didn't want an assistant principal to back off from a hard decision ... or not take a firm position with a student, teacher, or parent. Or when we were in curriculum planning to not...that was hesitant to come up with ideas. I wanted an aggressive individual who felt comfortable in their role and I needed ... I hope I made them feel comfortable, because they knew that I said if you make a wrong decision I want you to make the decision, if you make a wrong decision I'll back you as much as I can. But if you believe that what you are doing is right you deserve my support. And I think the encouragement of wanting them to make hard decisions in my absence or even my presence if it's something they ... the timing and all would seemed to be that they were the ones that ought to deal with it. These two people never shook their responsibilities. In the sense that if there was trouble in a smoking area during lunch time, they were the first people there, after school they placed themselves without me even telling them where. They knew where the problem areas might be. If they got rumors about there might be a little rumble at a certain place at a certain time, I was told about it and they would be there. They would bring the people in and talk with them about how to avoid that rumble. In other words they were people who just took on the roles ... saw a job that needed to be done and performed them, without me having to ask that they do it.
Q: What are characteristics of the superintendent which you found most effective for allowing you the most leeway in operating your own school?
A: The characteristics of the superintendent ... back when I first became a principal there wasn't this vast, big book of guidelines, rules, regulations, and everything that we have today. It's like a Bible for doing what you are suppose to do. You are guided by these policies and regulations. The thing that brought that about of course was the teacher union. Those were all developed after that. But before that, Mr. Bevil, when he was here as the superintendent we had ... I mentioned Mr. Bevil, and we've had some very good superintendents ..I've worked under some very good superintendents; Mr. Bevil particularly had a relationship with his board that was very very good in the sense that they left the operation of the school to him and his administration. Mr. Bevil in turn gave a great deal of responsibility to administrators. Under these general kinds of guidelines, they weren't all in writing, but he let you know what he believed about education, and he kept us well informed and turned over the operation of the schools to the principals. And backed us in the support with the school board and any other necessary backing that we had a need for. A superintendent that allowed a freedom of operation to the principal ... in fact one of the superintendents that followed him later after I left the principalship ... the first year after I left the principalship, the superintendent said, " Charlie no wonder you had such a good school out there. You've got tremendous faculty." And he said, "The students are doing well because you've got a fantastic faculty. Where did you get all these people?" And you see, I had the right to pick all those people myself. And that to me ... you get the right people in the jobs and you have very few of them that you are going to have to fire, or have real problems with. I had an outstanding staff. I gave them a lot of freedom. The same kind of freedom the superintendent gave me. I gave them as much as I possibly could, and encouraged them and supported them. If they had an idea, I would say, "Go with it!" as the superintendent did to me. "Go with that idea, I want to hear it. Make sure that it is sound." And if I felt it had a chance of flying and thinking of how enthusiastic the teacher was to try this. And if it was reasonably compatible with what our goals were, I said, "Go do it." I monitored it and asked for a system of reporting and controlling it so that we knew whether or not we wanted to continue with it or not. I think that was the kind of freedom that I had from the superintendent that I enjoyed and I wanted to give the same kind of freedom to my teachers. I think that's a successful environment to work in; it was for me.
Q: What in your own experiences did you find most beneficial in helping you maintain a "sane" attitude toward being a principal?
A: Remember I said a while ago that a sense of humor was important, and I expanded on that some. I'm thinking of the same kind of response here. A sense of humor certainly is helpful, but you've got to know what you want to do. In other words you can't be a guy who laughs at everything. You've got to know what you are trying to accomplish. Once you feel comfortable with that, and know that you're moving toward that, achieving that, I think that gives you a sense of comfort ... knowing that you are moving toward a goal, if it's well defined the people that are working with you understand what the goal is, and it's a common school goal, not just yours. It's a goal that all of you have decided for this year to emphasize. This is where we are going to put our special emphasis this year. And we're going to ... and we are going to support it. And when things go wrong, we find out what went wrong and try to correct it, and in all tried to work in an environment where the people are willing to share. If I'm not willing to laugh at a serious problem, and a teacher will come up to me with that problem and will not be hesitant, like the teacher who said ... walked into my office sat down dry grass on my desk and she said ... she was an elderly lady ... she said, "Mr. Wildman, do you see that grass? It is dead and it's dried out. They haven't fixed the heat in my room, here it is spring and the heat is ninety some degrees. The same thing that is happening to that grass is happening to me and my children." Those kinds of things, where the teacher in a humorous way comes to you and very very dramatically says I need to get out under that tree out there, and please get those plumbers here to fix that radiator in my room.
Q: Is your retirement because of "administrative burn-out", age, or for going into another occupation?
A: Yes, all three. As I told you, I felt more comfortable with twelve to sixteen hundred students. I really didn't feel ... once we got up to twenty-two hundred students, that a school that size ... in the way you have to operate that kind of school, fit my personality very well. I like more of the one to one relationship with my staff as well as my students. And I couldn't have that. I thought I was loosing that. Now, so I was disenchanted, and that is the reason that I was in planning for the last thirteen years of my career. I think had I been ... stayed in the principalship ... I really think a principalship today requires a tremendous amount of energy. My energy was drained, I was feeling very exhausted by the time the school year was over. And I thought that this has been very enjoyable, but I'm not so sure that I am enjoying it as I once did. So I thought, I would like to get into another aspect of the operation at the planning level. Maybe I could use my past experiences over the last several years in a way of contributing in that direction, and hopefully I did. There was ... I had decided that thirty-five years was all I wanted to spent in education. And I also felt like I was at the age where I wanted to try something else, just to kind of bridge between a slow pace retirement and the level of work I was doing at that time ... at the time of retirement. So, all three, really. All three were reasons for me leaving the system. I think, for me, thirty-five years was enough. The principalship, I felt I had to leave the principalship because I just was not getting the personal satisfaction and enjoyment out of it that I had the eight or nine years ... the first eight or nine years. And I did want to go into something else that sort of bridged between a very very active life and a much much slower pace.
Q: OK. Is there anything I have not asked you that I should have?
A: No, you asked me everything. No, I think your questions have been good. It has brought back a lot of remembrances to me. And some of them are ... most of them are very very good. Some of them are still frustrating to me because I don't know that we handled them well. I'm thinking of the mid-sixties to late sixties when so many outside problems were being brought into the school. And I wouldn't want to go over that period of time again. So it did cause me to remember a lot of good, as well as some times that were a struggle for us. But I'm sure every principal has the same kind of memories. There are some great great times and great things you remember and enjoy very much. And there are other things you would like to forget.
Q: I want to thank you for sharing these memories with me and my class.
A: You have made this very easy for me because of your very pleasant manner in which you have made me feel at ease... sitting here with a glass of water, a cozy chair...
Q: Thank you very much.
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