March 17, 2000
This is an interview of Mr. Donald Lee Wright, retired Director of Vocational Education for Bristol, Virginia City Schools.
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Q: Mr. Wright, would you begin by telling us about your family background, your childhood interests, and development.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Yes, Id be glad to Beth. Im from a family that placed high value on getting an education. Even though my parents had only a high school education, they wanted a college education for both my sister and myself. They taught us human values at a very early age. Im from a background of spiritual upbringing, emphasis upon high morals, reputation, and leadership by example. The puritan work ethic was impressed on the minds of both my sister and myself. An important factor as we went through life.
Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching and please include the number of years you served as a teacher and a principal?
A: I have a BS degree in Industrial Technology and a Masters Degree in Industrial Education and additional courses for endorsement as an administrator.
Q: I wonder if you would discuss those experiences or events in your life that constituted important decision points in your career and how you feel about them now.
A: Had a very positive experience in both elementary and high school. We were under very strict and disciplined program in both of these areas. I had the desire to play a part in helping young people grow in knowledge and wisdom in all of the academic areas. It was necessary for me to leave the education profession for eight years and enter the industrial field for financial reasons. (Which were mainly low teacher salaries.) This is good in that this would also open my eyes to the real world outside the classroom. Given the same set of circumstances, I would make the same decision today.
Q: Would you talk about the circumstances surrounding your entry into the principalship?
A: There are probably many, however, I guess the main was a desire to help students have the opportunity to become productive citizens who would eventually be contributors in all aspects of society. My motive never really changed over the years.
Q: What motivated you to enter the principalship and how did your motives change over the years?
A: After many years as a teacher it was evident that many administrators seem to lose sight of the meaning and mission of education. They became involved in playing the game. Whether it be political or whatever. And failed to exhibit the right kind of leadership, leadership be example. Therefore, I felt that I too would like to become an administrator and make a difference in young peoples lives.
Q: Would you take us on a walk through your school, describing its appearance and any unusual features of the building?
A: It is a building that is immaculately clean, well-lit, a faculty that is dressed professionally, not in blue jeans, sweatshirts. You can walk down the hall and see teachers teaching, kids enjoying being in their class, working, time on task, bell-to-bell. A very pleasing sight to any administrator.
Q: What experiences I your professional life influenced you management philosophy?
A: I guess the puritan work ethic that I was raised with probably impacted it more than anything. However, I feel that my experience in industry for eight after I left the teaching profession and came back into it impacted my philosophy and management practices more than anything else. I feel that all teachers today should have some experience outside the classroom in order that they become better teachers.
Q: Makes sense to me! Well, what kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do? Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional characteristics of a quote "good principal".
A: On the light side I guess sometimes teachers think principals can walk on water. But, not necessarily so. Theyre human also. To be an affective principal one must always be willing to listen. And to assess all facts that are presented and then make a fair decision. Fairness is most important to the teacher as well as the student and the parent. If youre fair you cannot be faulted.
Q: As a follow up question, would you describe the expectations, both professional and personal, that were placed upon principals by their employers and the community during your period of employment. How do those expectations differ from todays situation? (Even though you only retired in 1995.)
A: I guess expectations were high for a principal from both the community and Board of Education. You were expected to be on the job, on time and be there after the students had left many times. In order to meet with parents who maybe had a problem or wanted to discuss a particular situation about their child.
Q: How is that different from today do you think, or is it that different?
A: Parents today expect their children to make As and Bs. They might not necessarily by A and B material but the parents expect it. I think they feel that we need to reassess our grade system. We need to set our standards high, we need to require the students meet these standards. But students are never going to meet these standards until we get the support of the parents.
Q: Cultural diversity is a topic of great interest and concern at this point in time. Would you discuss the nature of your student body and comment on the problems, challenges, and triumphs in which you participated while serving as a principal?
A: Cultural diversity is a major topic today. However, it has always been there, it has always been with us. For example, we had a march, black students decided at our school that they were not going to abide by the rules and regulations as set forth by the Student Conduct Code. Incidentally, it was led by two particular individuals that had recently transferred into our school from across the state line in Tennessee. The school board was very, very adamant in that all students would abide by the same rules and stood behind administration and the problem was resolved and the two students responsible for the problems that occurred soon left our school. Because they found out that they could not run our school as they had done before.
Q: This was in Bristol, Virginia. So we need to mention that Bristol is a split city. Part is on the Tennessee side of the state line and part is on the Virginia side of the state line.
Q: So the two students that led the march came from Tennessee High, is that correct?
A: That is correct, Tennessee High, correct.
Q: So still in the same city, just across the state line, correct?
Q: Could you please describe your normal work day? How did you spend your time? What was the normal number of hours per week you put in, if there is such a thing as a normal or average number for a principal?
A: Workdays started at 7am in the morning and went through at least 4 pm in the afternoon. Students arrived at school for the first period class at 7:45 and were dismissed at 2:35 in the afternoon. The normal workday started with me being in the hall when the students arrived in the morning. To be visible letting them know that they had an administrator that was interested in them and that was keeping an eye on things. I think this is most important. The visibility of any administrator. Stop the students in the hall, talk with them. This is important. Let them know that you care. If you are behind closed doors in your office. Youre never seen. They soon get the attitude that no one really cares, no one is really interested. Also, your teachers know that you are out and visible and know what is going on and you seem to encounter very few problems if you are highly visible at all times. After classes got started then it was back into the office to take care of state reports. To take care of discipline problem when I was a principal. When I was director, of course, it was more paperwork and I had a principal under me who took care of all of the discipline. Meetings with civic organizations, luncheons, these kinds of things. And you had your advisory counsels you had to meet with periodically. Each particular subject area had their advisory counsel and there was an overall advisory counsel for the total vocational program. Number of hour per week, if youre in this business youre not a clock watcher. You cannot be. You have a job to do , you do your job regardless of the number of hours required of you.
Q: You had to be there from 7 until 4 so that would give you at least a minimum of a 45 hour week.
Q: Now there were some times, I remember you were working, not as the director but when you first went to Bristol, Virginia. Your had night classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Q: How did that work? It was part of the vocational department, right?
A: It was the adult education program at Virginia High School. The GED program was every Tuesday and Thursday night from 6:30 until 9:30. Then we also had special interest classes meeting the needs of the community. Both educationally and as hobbies.
Q: Like cake decorating, flower arranging, that type thing?
Q: And that was part of your duties as assistant director or as principal?
A: As principal.
Q: Okay. Another question, would you describe some of the pressures that you faced on a daily basis and explain how you coped with them. Maybe some of the biggest headaches or concerns on the job. Or some of the toughest decisions that you had to make?
A: I guess the biggest headache that I had was adequate funding to carry on the vocational programs. Vocational education, as Im sure you are familiar with, requires a tremendous amount of equipment and supplies. That maybe a social studies class or an english class or mathematics program does not require. So I guess finances, being sure that we had adequate funding and up-to-date and modern equipment to train our students with would be the biggest headache.
Q: Would you tell us about the key to your success as a principal?
A: Understanding, fairness, truthfulness, high expectations. These would be four or five things that I feel go to make up a good administrator. Let people know you area about them. Ask about their family occasionally. If a mother or father has been ill ask how their family is getting along. And truly, truly mean it when you ask them. If its just for the sake of asking, dont even bother. They can tell when you are serious or when youre concerned.
Q: You mentioned ethics and truthfulness quite a bit. Could you discuss your personal code of ethics and give examples of how you applied it during your career?
A: I guess it comes from my upbringing as a child, as a youngster. Emphasis was placed upon reputation. A small, rural community, a mans word was his bond. And I still believe that today even after Ive retired. I believe in the Puritan work ethic as I mentioned a moment ago. I think weve lost this down through the years in the schools. The sooner we can return to that dedication and devotion to whatever profession were in, then were gonna get the job done. Good things are gonna happen. They dont happen without effort.
Q: Please discuss some aspects of your personal training which best prepared you for the principalship and which training experiences were least useful once you got your feet wet and were on the job?
A: I think good administrators are born. You do not necessarily, you are not necessarily a good administrator because you have taken x number of courses. Ive seen some very highly educated individuals who are very poor administrators. However, Im not saying that some training is not required. It is necessary to become a good manager, a good administrator.
Q: What types of classes or activities helped you the most, that you felt helped you the most, as you became an administrator.
A: School Finance is a good one.
A: Cause youre gonna be managing monies allocated to your department or to your particular area. School Law is most important in that youve got to know what you can do and what you cant do. Youve got to know where the boundaries and parameters are. You do not want to step over the line and get yourself in a crack so to speak.
Q: What were some of the classes or activities that you did that you found to be the least useful once you became a principal?
A: A lot of history and philosophy of education program courses. Useless waste of time. Some courses had a lot of frills with no substance.
Q: Did you have a personnel management class?
A: I did not, I received my management and personnel training in industry that helped tremendously. Worked in industry. Worked as a production supervisor and we had a union shop. And you will learn personnel management right quick out on the floor.
Q: If you had to do it again, what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship?
A: I dont know that I would do anything any different than what we have already discussed.
A: I feel that I was well trained as an administrator.
Q: Would you describe your feelings, knowing what you now know, about entering the principalship yourself if given the opportunity to start again?
A: I wouldnt change.
Q: For example when you walked in the first day on the job as a principal. New school, new faculty, you dont know anybody. What would you do?
A: I would go in and of course if I didnt know anyone, I would shake hands, introduce myself to each individual and begin asking a few questions to learn more about those folks who are gonna be my subordinates that are gonna be actually doing the job of educating the youngsters. An administrator never educated a child in his life. Once he or she leaves the classroom that one-on-one contact with the student is gone. Youll meet them in the halls or if theyve been sent to the office for discipline reasons. About the only time you come in contact with those students. And thats most unfortunate. However, I feel you need to place a, more emphasis on getting to know the people that do the job for you and support them in getting the job done.
Q: Okay. If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what would your advice be?
A: Go for it.
A: On the condition that this is really what you want and that you will be, or feel that you are capable of being a good manager and are truly interested in the educational benefit. If not, get out of it and go get you a job somewhere else.
Q: Well, there are those that argue that a principal should be an instructional leader and then there are those that insist that above all a principal should be a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe your own style?
A: A principal has to be both an instructional leader and a manager. I do not see how you could be one without the other and be an effective administrator. You must be able to know that the right type of instruction is taking place in your school. You cannot depend on teachers to be your instructional people and not know what they are supposed to be doing. And neither can you not be a good manager because administration is management.
Q: Would you describe the ideal requirements for principal certification and then describe the appropriate procedures for screening those who wish to become principals?
A: I do not know exactly what the ideal requirements for principal certification should be. In some cases ideal requirements for an administrator might be one thing whereas in another area it might be different. As far as discussing the appropriate procedures for screening, I think the academic background, grades that one receives in the administrative training should be considered. Personality should be considered. The desire to be fully and totally dedicated as an individual to that position if one would be lucky enough to be appointed to that position would be most important. Im finding myself rambling here a little bit.
Q: Well lets imagine that you are a director of personnel or a superintendent. And youre searching for a principal for a middle school in a county much like Washington County, where you live. And lets say its a middle school that has approximately 500 students grades six through eight. What kind of characteristics would you like for that principal to have?
A: Of course would want that individual to have experience as a teacher, probably at middle school or high school. Would be looking for an individual that would fit into and become a part of the community. Would also expect that individual to have done well in the training to become a principal. Would also talk with the professors in the classes that this individual took to get their opinion. See if this individual had worked outside of the school system for which he would be applying for a job. I would have him, I would talk with the personnel or the superintendent for the school division from which he would be leaving. To try to find out why. Be it a number of things that could be considered.
Q: Do you think its necessary for an effective principal to have taught at the level that they want to be an administrator in?
A: It would definitely be a plus for that individual. But not necessarily.
Q: Well it has been said that there is a home-school gap and that more parental involvement with the schools needs to be developed. You eluded to that a little earlier in some of your statements. Would you give your view on this issue and describe how you interacted with parents and with citizens who were important to the well-being of the school?
A: What do you mean by home-school gap?
Q: That similar to what you said earlier, parents think their students should make, their children should make all As and Bs. They dont. Theres a difference between what the parents feel the students should learn and what they actually do in school. Theres a difference between
A: Yes I guess there is a home-school gap today. However, I question how much parental involvement there should be in schools. You know, we are the educators. And supposedly, we know what content should be taught and to what extent. And today many parents are not up on modern technology and so forth. However, they have a tendency to want to tell us how we need to be doing our job. Now we, when we get to that point then we have created a lot of problems. Yes, we need to have our parents involved in the education of their students in a manner that they are gonna be supportive at home. However, they must understand that we are the educators, were doing the job and it is , most important that we as dedicated and I say dedicated educators are doing that job. If were not were creating problems not only for ourselves but were creating problems for the parents and the students all.
Q: Could you discuss your style of personnel management. For example, what approaches did you employ that contributed to your effectiveness as a manager.
A: First of all I tried to be very straight-forward. Not mealy-mouthed and what I told one individual I would tell another. Do not talk about one teacher to another teacher. Thats absolutely a no-no. Let my personnel know what I expected of them from the time they arrived until the time they left. Their life after school is theirs, it is none of the schools business as to what they engaged in or what they did. I would hope however, that they would be a model citizen in the community. I think that contributes to the total package as far as an educator is concerned. What I would do as far as a personnel person, you have to treat each person as an individual. What you might do regarding one individual would be totally different from the way you handled the second individual.
Q: What would you do, say you found you had a teacher who was working for you who was tenured, but was not getting the job done. And had not for some time. You were a new principal and walked into that situation?
A: First of all I do not agree with the tenure law in the state of Virginia. A good teacher never has to worry about whether theyre going to have a job the following school year. That job is there is they are good at their job. I had an incident where I did not renew the contract of a non-tenured individual. Because of actions within his program. And I would also start the procedure of dismissal for an individual who wasnt doing their job, that was tenured. First of all, you would give a verbal warning, maybe once, maybe twice. After giving the verbal warning I would give them a written warning. Give them a copy, send a copy to the superintendent, of course. Would have the superintendent review the warning, the written warning before I gave that to the individual teacher that was involved. Would also probably consult with or have the superintendent consult with the divisions lawyer to be sure that we were in order and in compliance with the grievance procedure within the school division and the code where we would be working. And, would definitely take steps to dismiss that person.
Q: Tenured or not?
A: Tenured or not, makes no difference. I think sometimes our non-tenured teachers are better than our tenured teachers.
Q: It has been said by some people that good personnel managers encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations on their successes. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness? Or did this occur?
A: Were not in the education business to have parties. Now that might seem a bit harsh. However, at faculty meetings I always attempted to have refreshments. Food. Sit around and talk for about eight to ten minutes. Fellowshipping with each other. I think this helps build morale and encourage teamwork. At the beginning of school we would try to have a cookout on a workday. Probably a luncheon at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometime in the spring we would have something at the end of school. A luncheon or get together and it not really be school. But, weve got to understand one thing, weve got a job to do. Were all in it together and were gonna do that job. And once , if you ever set the tone or the atmosphere that youve got a country club atmosphere within your school, then youre asking for problems. You do this off the cuff and you dont let people ever get in the position of expecting these kinds of things. You do it unexpectedly. And lots of times that means more than getting into the routine of something.
Q: Some principals believe that teachers and other staff members are well-motivated and reliable self-starters. And others feel that they have to closely monitor the activities of all their employees. What approach did you customarily use during your administrative career?
A: You have to monitor all of your teachers. Youve got to learn who is a self-starter and who isnt. The self-starter doesnt need a lot of leadership from administration. However, those who are not self-starters have to be motivated in some way. By knowing your teachers youll know the correct way to motivate the individual. But one thing is always necessary, theyve got to know that you expect them to get the job done. And as an administrator, one must always set deadlines. Dont set, never set a deadline that you dont intend to keep. And when those deadlines are not met by the subordinates, then they need to be confronted immediately, not a day later.
Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of evaluation?
A: In many cases teacher evaluations are jokes. Theyre not worth the paper that theyre written on. They could be. All teachers expect an excellent or to be evaluated on the top end of the scale. And then youve got your hands full if you give a teacher a bad mark. So many times administrators just go ahead, cut out the hassle, give everybody a good rating and everybodys happy and everybody scratches everybody elses back and we go on our merry way. And as long as we have tenure within the state of Virginia, or in any other state, were never gonna be able to get a true teacher evaluation to work. Thats why Im opposed to tenure. And be very candid in your evaluations. Call it as you see it. Dont go out with an ax to grind when evaluating a teacher. Never do that.
Q: Following up on your tenure comment, most systems presently have tenure or the continuing contract system for teachers especially in the state of Virginia. Would you discuss this situation at the time you entered the profession as a teacher and then as an administrator and comment on the strengths and weaknesses of such a system?
A: When I started teaching in 1959 there was no such thing as tenure in the state of Virginia. But our professional educational organizations have pushed for this and have gotten it within the state. I guess what brought it on is the fact that administrators werent really fair with the teachers. Or some teachers years ago and this is what prompted it, what brought it on. On the other hand, many teachers who leave a lot to be desired as educators, use this tenure law to hide behind, protect their job, and wait on a paycheck at the end of every month. There are positives and negatives on both sides and I guess administration as well as teachers have brought it on and together were responsible for something that, in my opinion, is not really good. On the other hand, as protection for a teacher it is good. I feel like everybody should do their job. If they do we have no need for a tenure law. Treat people fairly and in a manner in which they should be treated. Be respectful.
Q: To follow up a little more on the tenure law, can you discuss teacher dismissal and some of your involvements in these types of activities in a little more detail?
A: As I mentioned a moment ago I had to dismiss a non-tenured teacher. And it was all based on whats right and whats wrong as far as setting an example for young people. And the language that was used in a classroom. And I was supported by the superintendent after I had given about three written warnings.
Q: The documentation helped you with dismissal.
A: Oh definitely, document every single incident exactly as it happened, as it occurred, as it was said, verbatim.
Q: What if you have an instance in a classroom where it is the teachers word against a students word. Its a teacher that youve already had warnings cited to. What would you do in that case? You hadnt heard the comments in class but students had and parents were complaining.
A: I would be inclined to always want to support my teacher. You know, as an administrator its always wise to support the teacher. However, if you have had reason in the past to doubt that teacher. If there are things that you see personally and know for a fact is true, then you have to let the teacher be on their own. You cant stick your neck out for a teacher that is not willing to do what is correct or what is expected of him or her as their administrator. And in this particular instance, where I released this individual, I had the facts, I knew that things were going on in the classroom that the principal had encountered. A parent came in with, or both parents came in with the student. And I called the teacher to the office, we sat down and we discussed the situation. And I told the teacher there in front of the parents that I could not and would not support him.
Q: But he had already had the warning?
A: Yes. He had already had written warning. And he had made a comment about the clothes, the clothing that the student was wearing. And so happened this youngster was from a deprived home and this is about all that the kid had to wear.
Q: Taking into account this situation, this teacher was non-tenured. Would it have been more difficult, do you feel, to have a dismissal of this teacher had they been tenured. Would the superintendent, in your opinion, have been as willing to back you in this situation.
A: I dont know whether the superintendent would have been as willing to have backed me. In this situation if this individual had of been tenured. However, I would have fought just as hard to have dismissed a tenured teacher as I would have a non-tenured teacher. As far as teacher dismissal is concerned, my personal feeling is tenured or non-tenured, makes no difference to me. I will dismiss one as quickly as the other, circumstances being the same.
Q: To switch gears a little bit, during the past decade, schools have become a lot larger. Please discuss your views on this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities. You can discuss number of faculty, staff and administration going on with that ideal school size.
A: First of all, a faculty of about 25 to 30 with a principal and director of vocational education is an ideal size faculty to work with. You know the people, you know the faculty and you get a good job done day in, day out. That would amount to approximately 350 to 400 students. Of course, vocational education and class sizes are smaller because of safety concerns.
Q: So this would be a vocational
A: This would be a vocational faculty of 25. It seems as though you can get to know your teacher, you can get to know your students, you can meet their needs. You can give them a good solid education.
Q: There has traditionally been a commitment in this country to the principle of the universal free public education for all. It began back in the 1800s, I believe. Would you give your views on this concept and indicate your feelings on the practicality of such an approach in this day and time?
A: Everyone seems to have an opinion on this matter. The country club class, the rich would rather send their youngsters to private schools. On the other hand, I believe that everyone is entitled to an education, a free public education. And they should have it. I feel that we have created in public education many of our own problems in that some people feel that their child is not getting a good education in the public schools of the nation. Therefore, they have to send them to a private school. Some people feel that their children are too good to associate with the average and the lower class.
Q: What about home schooling?
A: I am opposed to home schooling.
A: Why? I do not feel that a home-schooled student, now Im not saying in every instance, but I do not feel that a home-schooled child would get a quality education that they would receive in a public school. Because of their, one thing the technology thats available in our schools today, that is not available in the home.
Q: Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational administration, what would they be?
A: First I would dismiss all administrators that werent truly devoted and dedicated to being a public school administrator. Thats the first thing I would do. Second thing I would do, is that I would give the administrators more authority when it comes to the operation of their school. And along with giving them more authority, I would make them more accountable. And with more authority and more accountability, of course I would raise their pay.
Q: That goes along with the idea of site-based management.
A: Right. The third thing, let me think a minute.
Q: Take your time.
A: The third thing I would do of course, I would expect them to be good managers or they wouldnt be there. I would expect them to be instructional leaders. I would want to see a manager and an instructional leader rolled into one in order to be an effective administrator.
Q: As a follow up question, if you could change any three areas in the curriculum or the overall operations of American schools, what would they be?
A: I think today, in todays school, we are a bit outdated in that we are still teaching, some of our older teachers maybe, are still teaching content thats not relevant to todays society. With the computer age here you have great opportunity to move forward at a much more rapid pace than we have had in the past. The body of knowledge is growing so rapidly now that we cant keep up with it in the classroom in the way we used to. So were definitely gonna have to turn to technology to get this done. I would get off of this kick of everyone must go to college. There is only a need for about 15% of our high school graduates need a college education, baccalaureate degree today with the jobs that are out there. We need more training as far as high tech is concerned. And we need to get this idea of a college education for everyone out of our minds. Lets live in the real world. I know in our particular area, and from the high school where I was, we were turning out about 65-70% of our graduates each year going on to college. At the end of that first, you find out that 40% of that 60 or 65 have already dropped out of college and are not in college anymore. So everybody thinks that if you get a good college education, they find out after they get there, they cant hack it. And Im not against a college education, dont get me wrong, I got one myself and I feel that we just need to do a better job in guidance, directing each youngster. And being up front with the youngsters and the parents. The third thing I would change if I had an opportunity would be management funds within a school division. I think many times that the money management leaves a lot to be desired. Were not spending our money in a manner that were getting out ten cents worth value out of every dime. We should not foolishly be wasting money on materials that are not up to standard. And of course it would make things harder, we have people who are putting in time and it would make things harder and make a drain on the big school budgets. I think we just need to do a better job of managing our monies across the board within each school division.
Q: Since you have now had some time to reflect on your career, I wonder if you would share with us what you consider to be your administrative strengths and weaknesses?
A: My sincere concern and desire that every student be educated to their level of intelligence. Was always fair with everyone that I knew. Was always willing to help or assist in any way that I could. I would never ask a teacher to do something I wouldnt do.
Q: To your weaknesses as a school leader.
A: If one is an egotistical, self-centered individual, I guess they would feel that they didnt have any weaknesses. But Ive never seen a human being with strengths but what they didnt have a weakness. I feel that my weakness as an administrator was that I really didnt have the time to spend in the instructional areas evaluating curriculum. In order that I was sure that it was relevant to society today. Another weakness I feel, is that I, and I dont know whether we would call it a weakness or not, is that I didnt have an opportunity to be with the young people as much as I would like to have been. Because I feel there is where an impact can be made. Sometimes I feel that I didnt have enough time to discuss programs with teachers. To see what , I didnt have the time to talk to them, to really let them voice their opinion maybe. You know, I listened to them. But I didnt have the time to really sit down and discuss things in detail with them. And I think that a good teacher likes to do that to be sure that both of you are on the same page. These are things, I dont know whether they are really weaknesses, but theyre things that administrators need to do. They have to do in order to have a real effective program. I did a lot of this but I would like to have had time to have done more.
Q: Would you discuss the circumstances leading up to your decision to retire at the time you did, giving your reasons and the mental processes you exercised in reaching your decision to step down?
A: I feel like after eight years in industry and thirty years in education that an individual needs to look at retirement. I think it is an individual kind of thing. And I think it is a sign of wisdom when an individual can make that decision himself rather than having someone else make it for them. After all of these years one becomes maybe a little tired. There are others out there, young people today, that hopefully are going to be able to move in a pick up where I leave off. And this is the educational process, thats what we as educators should be doing. We should have educated those to the point that they can move right in and move forward as we have done in the last thirty years for the next thirty years they can move it even further. And thats the process. And I feel like that we have capable people to do that.
Q: Would you give us an overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service, and any advice that you would wish passed along to todays principals, or future principals?
A: There a lot of pros and a lot of cons in the administrative business. First of all, long hours. Administrators are not compensated adequately sometimes I feel. As are teachers as well, when you compare it with industry. There are many administrators out there that are there in name only. They shouldnt be. The pros as far as being an effective administrator, if you have done the job that is expected of you and as you truly want to get done, it is rewarding. You have reached a child, you have made life better for that young person, and his family in years to come. Today I can meet students that I had in the classroom thirty years ago that come up and relate experiences that they had in my class that I had forgotten. I can remember faces, I cant remember all of those names. I mean, 5 classes a day, 25-30 students per class for 30 years, can you remember them all? You cant. But its rewarding to have that young person, that person come up and say "Mr. Wright, do you remember when you said so and so?" One example, a young man came up a few years ago and I never will forget it. He said, "Mr. Wright do you remember the day we walked into your class and you told us that if you act like children I will treat you as a child, if you act like an adult, I will treat you as an adult? " He said, "Mr. Wright, you made me feel like a man that day. I never will forget that." I had already forgotten that until he related it to me. And you know what, that meant a lot to me to know that hey, I made a man out of a little boy that day.
Q: And he remembered what you said.
A: And he remembered what I said. I had forgotten it but he refreshed my memory. And I do remember saying that. I said that to all of the young people that came into my class, I guess. So there are many rewards out there in being a teacher or an administrator and I would say to any individual that is looking to become an administrator or principal, or supervisor in the educational field to first dedicate themselves to that calling. If they cannot dedicate themselves to it and they do not have it in their heart to give 110% please dont mess up a group of teachers or the lives of young people. Stay out of it. Go find you something else to do where you will not stand a chance of impacting them in the wrong way. Or destroying a school, upsetting the school and its routine and its goals. Stay out of it. But if you are really and truly dedicated to it and will give of yourself then I wish you well.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there is probably something I have left out. What have I not asked that I should have? Or are there any comments that you would additionally like to make?
A: It looks like you have been rather comprehensive. But of all of these questions that you have asked, there will be a few that will come up when you get into the administrative field that havent been answered by any professor, by any written text or by anyone else. But using good judgement, drawing on your wisdom and your experiences, you can have, you will have made a good decision, you will have answered a question.
Q: Well, thank you for your time and for giving us this interview for class. And this concluded the interview March 17, 2000 with D.L. Wright, retired Director of Vocational Education from Bristol Virginia City Public Schools. Thanks Dad!
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