Interview with William Zepka


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Q: Where did you do your graduate and undergraduate work?

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

A: My undergraduate work was done at St. Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania. From there I moved down to Virginia here and I started on my Master's at American University in Washington, D.C. so I got my Master's from American and my BS from St. Francis of Loretto.

Q: What awards and honors did you receive during your tenure as a principal?

A: The highlight of my career was in I984 actually being nominated for the National Distinguished Principal. There were 52 of us from across the United #tates and departments of education from abroad that were selected for this nomination. We were invited to the White House and we received an award from the Secretary of Education at that time. l've also received awards from the State Department of Education, from the local Board of Supervisors, from our own Fairfax County Board of Education, from the Department of Elementary School Principals on the state level, on the local level, and the summer before last I was nominated to the Windber Hall of Fame as an out standing citizen of my former home town making a con tribution to the society. l'm very proud of that award.

Q: How many years have you been in education?

A: I started out as a teacher in Windber, Pennsylvania for four years. One of those years I was also a teacher administrator. I had a full-time responsibility of a principalship; at the same time, I had a full-time 6th grade classload. Moved down here to Fairfax County and I taught for four years in Fairfax County and I8 years as a principal.

Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?

A: Going back, I guess, I8, I9, 20 years ago; I could see where as a male figure in education I was serving as an excellent role model to a lot of the young men in school and I felt at that time I was only really modeling for the I6 or I7 boys that I had in my room. I felt, as a building principal in an education process, where predominantly we have females, that I could serve as a model to all the boys in that school whereas there aren't that many male elementary school teachers. So that was one of the main reasons I went into the principalship - because of the male image and trying to serve as a male model to a greater number of boys.

Q: How would you describe your philosophy of education?

A: Simplistic. I always felt that the biggest problem you could get into in education was the fact that if you did not provide a safe environment and when you talk about the philosophy of education, you have to provide a safe environment because the first thing parents are worried about (and the kids worry about Am I going to get to school safe and am I going to get back safe? Are the kids going to intimidate me at school?) And if you don't provide that safe environment, then the kid is not going to be educated. You're going to have all kinds of problems. With the parents because the parents are going to be unhappy. They're going to be intimidated by the situation. Second, I really feel that all children can learn. Again, safety first all children can learn. And third is that you find yourself not trying to do anything in opposition of just good common sense whether it is administrative policies, regulations, or what you hap pen to be implementing. So my philosophy of education - I could recite the educational jargon of the five past national distinguished principals from Virginia that I have known, and I've read their philosophies and I had to write my own for that particular award, but I think when it comes down to the nuts and bolts type of administration and philosophy that's going to make, this will work. I think that's tied into the human element and all three factors are important. Underlying that - all children can learn.

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

A: When I first started out as a principal, my concern was trying to please everyone - parents, kids, teachers - and I found out that's almost impossible to try to please everyone and so you start to narrow that down and you start thinking of, you know, what you can actually accomplish; and my biggest concern started was probably with the minority groups that I came in contact with in Fairfax County. And it ended up as I retired, the minority achievement priority that the County had was also my priority and that became my biggest concern probably causing some of the most frustration.

Q: Whas was your biggest headache as a principal?

A: The biggest headache as a principal. Actually the grievance procedure of the FEA. Our biggest headache was trying to provide an environment for the entire staff that would be mutual and we'd all get along with, and I guess my biggest headache was a personal problem with a reading program that was being initiated by one of the staff people that she went overboard with and it ended up under probably the category of lst Amendment Rights Grievance and that was probably my biggest headache.

Q: What role did you primarily play in school community relations?

A: I think if you're going to administration, you almost have to establish that as one of your top priorities in school/community relations. My graduate, my Master's Degree, my thesis was on how to effectively make a community school out of Mt Eagle Elementary School which was a typical Fairfax County public school. And the elements in our community school are one where you involve the community from preschool to adult education. And it has to be easily accessible to the entire com munity. My research findings at Mt Eagle School which was I8/I9 years ago, is that one, we had no preschool education and one, we had no adult education within the confines of the elementary school building. Hence, we were not truly a community school. The public rela tions, then, I guess, that came out of that was the superintendent at that time - I wrote a copy of my findings to him and he at that time says, "Well we have preschool education elsewhere in our county schools and hence, we have adult education elsewhere in our county schools so hence, Mt Eagle School was a commu nity school." However, you know, with the county with a community school county if we're going to iden tify that, but Mt Eagle was not because it didn't pro vide those services plus the transportation and easy access to the community members, so when I was appointed to my own school, the Groveton Elementary School, I had that in my background - my community school phil osophy - and I initiated a preschool program here at Groveton Elementary. We initiated some adult education courses through the County Education Department. We also established the first senior citizens program here at Groveton Elementary School that was operated. First senior citizens nutritional program operated in this state and was the first one and the only one I think to this day that's really operated full time in an elementary school from about three participants to about 65. That deals with the community school philosophy. Now the philosophy of any administrator. I think the biggest silent riders you have to take home is that, you know, 4:30 or 5:00 o'clock call as you're leaving, you know, "Why is this teacher bugging my child, or why was my child reprimanded today, why is so and so picking on my child?" The agitation that's called by that 4:30 or 5:00 o'clock phone call that goes home with you. That goes to your supper table and goes to bed with you in the evening, is there next morning with you before you go to work probably gives you a big public relations headache. And if you're not, and if you don't get yourself up before breakfast and, you know, try to see probably a problem before it encounters or write your manuals for the staff, and you set the philosophy for the staff, that Look, we don't do anything contrary to good c down or being called by the powers that be that you get the feeling well you're guilty before actually you're proven innocent whatever the case may be, and if you don't, i think, put this public relations as a top priority then I think as an administrator you're probably going to be in trouble. So that there's the two aspects of the community philosophy. Did that make sense, what I said? Questioner - "Yes." So I have the community school philosophy be it the phil osophy of community you know is a top priority because it gives you probably some of your biggest headaches and concerns.

Q: How did you handle assistant principals?

A: I really felt assistant principals in Fairfax County never reached the position where they were in a posi- tion to be a career level on their own such as high school assistant principal. Some high school assistant principals get to a level where This is the career I want, and you have teachers I don't want to be anything else but a good teacher, all right? You have high school assistant principals - I don't want to be any thing else but a good high school assistant principal. ln our County I don't think we ever reached that level where someone could honestly say Well I just want to be an assistant principal and I don't want to go any further. This is my career level for me which is all right so the only way to look at assistant principals is when they were assigned to your school they had to be assigned for a training period and they had to have an experience and they had to have the freedom to make decisions, they had to probably be exposed to the budget, they had to be exposed to personnel, they had to be exposed to evaluating, to writing the memorandums, administrative tasks. I looked at the assistant principalship as this is the place where I want you to make a mistake. lf you're going to make a mistake, l'm going to help you to overcome it right now and you're not going to make that mistake again. So that I want you to have a total experience and the only thing probably that of all the assistant principals l've had that I probably said that Well I have to make this decision was the one decision where the teacher got sick at two o'clock in the afternoon, you know. Do we assign an aide to take that place or do we call a substitute at that time point. So that when the teacher was being absent in the morning I took the responsibility of calling the substitutes and making any accommodations for staff replacements or trade offs for aides for working that day if we couldn't get a substitute. Other than that, and the only reason I took that sort of responsibility was because I found out that if two of us are doing it the staff may play one against the other or the fact is that we may both be making the same decision and we're pulling from two different ends so the only thing I withheld from assistant principals I said Look that's the only decision that I want to make. Anything else you're free to make. I definitely felt the assistant prin cipals should then have a complete experience on the elementary level where if they're going to make mis takes they make them under me. When they leave here and I make a recommendation that they're ready for a principalship, they've had all the experiences that they need possibly to make them a good principal. So in handling assistant principals it was, you know, all and I preferred that. Some principals are a little intimidated in giving the responsibility evaluations and some of the other aspects, hence, they go out and just have not had the real experience.

Q: What was the toughest decision that you had to make?

A: When you gave me that, you know, that was probably I skipped over that question and I came back to it several times without any answers. I changed it into - toughest decision. I guess I went back and said the toughest decision - I changed it to What caused the most frustration? You know, because you're making decisions you're not just - you're making a thousand decisions a day. Big ones and little ones. Whether they deal with the custodian, whether they deal with the staff, whether they deal with the kids and the curriculum, or the secretary. ln fact you probably would not get down the hallway or go from one place to another that someone's not asking a question and you're making a decision. So that in one way or another they're tough, but the ones that give you the frustration are those silent riders that you have to take home. Regrouping after the school year begins is real tough. lt causes a lot of frustration because it causes anxieties with the public relations of the parents, it causes anxieties with the kids because even after a week the kids are really used to the kids you know, the teachers that they're with. lt causes anxieties with the teachers because they're losing the kids they've already established some of the rou tines so that that was always a decision that caused me a lot of concern and headaches when they had to be made and a lot of heart had to go into them. Another decision that caused me a lot of frustration is talking a good teacher into retiring when she was physically unable to continue in her position because these teachers who have taught for 30, 35, and 40 years they just don't want to leave the profession. They want to hang on another year. They want to hang on and you could see that its no good for them and its no good for the kids when they hang on. That kind of decision maybe was probably a tough decision along with the frustrations. I think finding the system to work with ineffective teachers. I really felt that the FEA probably is more supportive to teachers than our personnel department is to elementary school principals. That was my personal feeling. lt isn't that they're not supportive to us, but I think that we can do, and our hands are tied, and we can do very little with the ineffective teacher except, you know, put pressure on a defect of an ineffective teacher and document and document and document and document to the point where you're spending more time on docu mentation and writing letters informing the teacher and I guess that was frustrating, lt's not a tough decision, but it's a tough decision when people say Well why don't you get rid of that individual? You're dealing with a life to begin with and it's not an easy thing to do. You're very humanistic and you don't want to get rid of that individual because your primary job is to shape that individual into the model or the teacher that individual could be first of all so you start to play those roles before you then go into the documentation and in saying that Look we have tried everything right now, you know, that you just should not be a teacher. You should select another career. And when you get down to that last nitty gritty stage I guess research can document for itself that there are very few teachers that are ever fired from a system unless it has to do with really morals or something such as that. Most of them are really pressured into going out and if you're pressuring a teacher to go out, you're spending a good 40% of your time, administrative time, and you're taking it away from something or other in putting that kind of pressure on a teacher to go out because it's one you've tried to change the ineffectiveness, you've tried to give the service, and that's a tough decision and it's also frustrating because there's no one simple short answer such as there are with the many decisions you make as a principal. You make the decision - you say Yes to the teacher, say No to the teacher, and it goes on its way smoothly. But those three factors I think, the regrouping and probably the ineffective teacher, cause concern, frustration and they're tough decisions.

Q: How did you handle the issues of civil rights and busing and the other types of constitutional issues that have come up over the last 20

A: were some bigots that came into the school and said I don't want my child with that teacher or in that room with that individual and the principal sat very calmly and said Just let me know what school outside of the County you want me to send your child's records to. And I guess from time to time the racial issue in the County I was always very sensitive to. I did feel there was some injustice. I was actually ap pointed to Groveton Elementary School which was in an old community and when the County integrated they advised, especially the black teachers, not to go into schools that were in the older communities in the County because there would probably be more bigotry in that type of school than some of the newer schools with newer developments, which was true. And because of the racial overtones their racial patterns were almost set in some of those wchools and I was appointed to Groveton Elementary at that particular time and I did have two black teachers in the system and I could see how parents very often were unhappy because of the situation and I handled it the same way that that principal I worked under as a teacher first of all, you know, Just let me know where you want your child I won't transfer your child out of that room. Just let me know if you're pulling your child out of the school and sending him to a private school. So, I guess that issue as I came in as a teacher and as I went out with the minority achievement really I guess gave me concern as an administrator and a teacher for the 26 years l've been in education. I didn't have that concern in Pennsylvania because we didn't have any black students in Pennsylvania. The only other, actually in response to your question, probably the only other concern I had was on the lst Amendment Rights and that was a probably a class action grievance at the time and it caused me some frustration going back to an earlier question and again the time and energy that it took out of the normal administrative tasks that I had to accomplish was not worth the effort that was put into it. And I don't know if I were to really go through something like that which is a class action probably grievance whether or not I'd really want to undertake it again. l'd probably be a better negotiator and avoid the situation rather than fight the battle and end up with a victory that probably was meaningless.

Q: What is your philosophy on the evaluation of teachers?

A: One, I really feel it is partipatory. ln other words, I was the first principal in the County that even under the old system I felt the evaluation process that we had in the County was designed for teacher success. ln other words if they did everything they could not blow it because it was all set up, you know, prear ranged in advance, preconference, postconference, pre conference and it was designed for success of the teacher so I was frustrated by that because very often if you had a conflict with what the teacher was doing it was not in conflict with what you really physically observed in that lesson. Or even if you observed it in that lesson you had a very difficult time of really giving the teacher the assistance of saying You have this problem and I recorded in my notes 3 or 4 or 5 times. lt's hard to convince a teacher that there's that problem Well look, you've done it again. So the first year the videos came out I said Look we have three observations. We only obligated two, but because I had an assistant principal I said We'll have three observations, one with the assistant and two with me, but one of the observations has to be a video tape. I don't have to be in the room for the video tape, but we observe the video tape together. I think that probably was more meaningful in correcting teacher deficiencies, pointing out ways a teacher could improve or habits a teacher had that probably she should not have so I felt that that was partici patory to the point where their really having a say so in observing this video tape and we're discussing it together as it's going on. I didn't start it just like that and say Hey, this year we're going to do that. I told them almost a half a year in advance. I said in January I told them Those of you that are going to be here in #eptember, we're going to be doing our evaluations this way. lf you have difficulty with that, you can help me in the meantime to work out the bugs to it. You can, in the meantime, think up some of the concerns that you might have with that so that you're not getting it cold and we're still protecting your rights to privacy if you feel there's a conflict personally in that respect. And so that we had a good chance to think about it in advance and all the fears the teachers had were really unfounded. They brought up their concerns and we went through it and I think it did help out. So I would like to believe then that the philosophy of the evaluation was put to partici patory and teachers did participate in it.

Q: Do you feel the teacher evaluation should be tied to performance pay?

A: No and underline No. I could be outspoken about this and I can't be fired for it. I don't believe the plan in two years is going to work. I see it at this point undoing a lot of what Jack Davis set up in the humanistic approach and Jack Burkholder followed through with a humanistic approach. I saw a lot of that coming down from the superintendent,to the area superintendents, to the principals, to the teachers, and to the kids. What l've been reading and what I've been hearing from the staff and the pressure being put on staff to be selfish in a lot of respects in what they're doing because they seem to be in com petition with one another, is not good for the kids, it's not good for the teachers because this is some thing that l've never seen before in the elementary grades. The pressure that's being put on principals this year and last year. I visited all I2I-22 elemen tary schools informally as part of my other responsi bilities since l've been retired and out of the I22 schools I actually saw four principals that were in contact with children; the rest were sitting down with paper work and meetings and two of the four that were involved with the children were sitting in a caf eteria doing paper work, but yet they were being ex posed to the children and children were still coming up with them. When I started out as an administrator I started out in a school with 240 students and I knc all the kids by first and last name. I knew the name of their pets, I knew the name of the first and last name of the staff members, thelr husbands, and their grandparents, and all their children. I knew the names of most parents that came into the building by first or last name. And as } grew from 240 kids in that oId building to this building here which at one time --I moved to this building where we had 800 kids which was more than some of our intermediate schools in .... opportunities with either the kids, the staff, or the community. 800 it is impossible to know all the kids by first and last name let alone their pets, You know. lt's impossible to know all the personal problems of the staff that, you know, with 240 you're a staff of only I2. You know, to know most of the parents that come into the building. lt is almost next to impossible. And I see this merit pay and I see the skilful teacher taking - the principal's at least two steps away in that process, you know, of the kids and as I talked to at least four principals this year they're really frustrated. We encountered I think one here at 5:00 o'clock and most of them are working, you know, at least a lO-hour day any more. And the only time they can get some of this paper work done is now at 5:30 or 6:00 o'clock hour that we're here in this building right now. That's not only true in this building, but it's almost true in I20 schools in this County. Four principals indicated to me already this year, and here it is only October, that, you know, that they're really seriously thinking of retiring.. . . . . . . to now, but, you know, the pressure the person who puts the pressure on the staff and the pressure is being put on the staff, you know, for the skilful teacher and for the merit pay. lt's being placed on the principals to be placed on the staff and I think that this isn't good. I -- at least two principals have had the comment to me that they can't afford to be a friend to any of their staff members any more. So that l'm just hoping that in the two years that this has gone this has it still has to play out before it goes into full cycle I guess that we don't lose in the County what we built up in the last 20 years with the humanistic approach. I just hope that merit pay, performance pay doesn't take that away.

Q: Did you ever fire a teacher and how did you handle it?

A: I guess I said No, but, and that is, was one of the frustrations. l've never had to fire a teacher and I explained earlier the frustrations that it caused. Really, it's almost next to impossible to fire a teacher unless there's a morals charge. You can put pressure on teachers to resign on their own because they just don't enjoy being with you or being in the school, but to fire a teacher - look how many teachers we have in the County and how many were fired last year. Not too many. Many of them quit on their own because of pressure being placed on them. A few were fired because of moral charges, but with the, you know, thousands of teachers we have in the County, it is almost impossible to fire a teacher. I've never had to fire a teacher. }n fact all the years l've been principal l've only probably recommended two or three administrative transfers for the success of the teacher and I think administrative transfers should not be looked upon as really negative because teachers I found came in ahd worked with me whereas they could not work with the personality of another principal and they found a lot of success in this building whereas in the previous building they didn't find a lot of success. And so that I looked at as administrative transfer also that Hey, you may not be able to work with me, but maybe you can work with another principal that matches your philosophy and that's very true so that administrative transfers was probably the closest thing that } came to, you know, came to be the firing of a teacher. Going back to the assistant principal too. One of the things I always told my assistant principal is that you don't want to be a Bill Zepka. Or you don't want to be a Gioia Forman. You want to take the best of Gioia Forman or you want to take the best of Bill Zepka and mold it into your own per sonal philosophy. You want to take what you feel is going to work for you that was Bill Zepka's idea or Gioia Forman's idea and you may not want to take all of Bill Zepka's ideas or all of Gioia Forman's ideas because that's not you and that's not your personality. So in telling the assistant principals I said you want to take the best of me that's going to work for you and leave the rest here.

Q: What do you think is the biggest change in the position of principal scine you have been an administrator?

A: I think the paper work that's placed on them and then I guess I just got out at the right time because with out a doubt I think if you ask any principal that retired after last year they would really cite the skil ful teacher program and the merit pay as probably making the biggest change from being into probably a manager because you're not a curricula specialist as such, you're not a people person as such, you're not working with the kids as such, but you're doing a lot of administrative tasks and the paper work. So I would say the biggest change was the increased paper work over the years that pulled you that one step fur ther away from your primary responsibility of what I felt was my goal was - to be a real model to the kids. So that the paper work continually pulled me away from that and that's maybe something personal.

Q: What aspect of your professional training best pre pared you for a principalship?

A: I think it is one of the questions I left until last too. And I was going to say you can see then maybe I0 years ago I said nothing. I really felt the best thing that prepared me was the experience I had with the first principal, the experience I had as a teacher with the first principal I served under in the County, and that was Bruce O,Dell - may his soul rest in peace. He passed away, but I think the experience that he gave me and he used the same philosophy with me even as a teacher that I tried to use with my assistant principals. He delegated a lot of responsi bility to me, he assumed I could carry them out. He, you know, picked me up when I fell on my back. Also my tail end. Also I think that that was the best train ing l've had. I think as I thought about this question when you gave it to me Who's to say any of the curric ulum courses that I had did not help me to make any of the many decisions I had to make whether it was on curriculum or writing, or something such as that. So I do feel that probably my undergraduate work, as well as my graduate, work some way tied in in the long run at one time or another in assisting me to make a good valid decision. After a few years in the principalship I think that the big thing that really helps is attend ing conferences, conventions, and keeping abreast of the literature, which is impossible to do, but I think you can get summaries by the conferences and in services on a state/national level taht really helps out also.

Q: How would you change the present certification program for principals?

A: I think that instead of the six or eight week period that the person has to serve as an intern, and generally there's a brief six or eight week period, l'm not certain what it is, but I know it's a relatively short period. I really feel that the certification pro gram should almost include a year as an intern from beginning to end - maybe even splitting up that year in two different buildings. You know, six and six. Six months here, and six months there whatever that school year is. I really felt that the intern in addition to the course work and everything else they're getting from the University has to be there physically at the start of the year when the classroom schedule's being made up, when the grouping process is taking place. And then the individual has to be there when they're closing the school at the end of the year and when they're talking about the budget for next year and planning with the PTA so that they can see the long range planning that sometimes takes place at the end of the year. I think the interns as they're set up now come in sometimes in the middle of the year, some times in the beginning, sometimes at the end and don't get the picture from September to May. And I think that in order to have a good experience as an intern if you're going into administration, you should have that kind of, I think, experience. lf you get it under two different principals that's even better. Even though they may change from . . . .you know, do a little differently but I think that is always better.

Q: What do you feel made you a successful principal?

A: I think the ability to communicate with the staff. I think I was able to listen when a staff had concerns. I was someone that they can turn to as not only an administrator but as a friend, and they know that once a decision is made it won't be held against them or it wouldn't be something negative. My phone line was always open and I guess these all probably deal with communication and caring and I think probably the communication and caring skills is what really helped my National Distinguished Principal's Award.

Q: Would you do it again the same way?

A: I gave that a lot of thought from your brochure here and I probably would. There wouldn't be a lot of things l'd want to change. Maybe a few decisions, you know, I probably would look at a little differently, react to differently. But for the most part I would probably do it all the same. I may take a few would probably take a few more risks that I hadn't taken previously.

Q: What advice would you give to a prospective admin istrator?

A: Don't be afraid to take risks. Not at the expense of, you know, violating the regulations or policies. I think that if the factors of safety, good judgement, and common sense are in play, don't be afraid of being a risk taker and probably innovating new ideas. I would never have started the preschool here if I worried about what the parents were going to say, what the school system's going to say, you know, working around the regulations I would have never gotten involved with the senior citizens because they're like five year olds in many respects. I had to take risks in those decisions. When we started the first ESL Program here there was always a burden of work being placed upon you as administrator and you're afraid to take that risk. Good golly, it's more work being placed upon you. The risk was there and most certainly it was more work, but I think it was caring and it comes down to probably being a good delegator of responsibility and having faith in the people who work under you, that you're delegating the responsibility to make it work. So if you're taking a risk, I think it is understanding the whole situation of people that's working for you. Are they capable of handling the assignments? Do They want to handle the assignments to begin with and could you convince them Hey, this is the right thing to do because this is our school and we want to do the best thing so that probably to a prospective administrator I would say Don't be afraid to take the risk. You've got to work hard. lt is not an easy job. And if you're just growing into the posi tion it is wanting to know the answer to all questions, being there when all decisions are made. Not skip ping the PTA executive board meetings, you know, saying you go one month and I'II go one month. I think being there for the whole process, be there for the budget, you know, going to the area meetings, going to the principals meetings on the county level, you know, be a part of the evaluation process, being part of the grievance process that's taking place in the school. In other words you're striving for that kind of knowledge as you're growing in the assistant principalship, and by the same token then you're developing the confidence because you've had the expe rience and once you've had the experience I guess is when you develop the confidence so as an administra tor or growing administrator the more of those kinds of experiences you get - and I had those experiences as a teacher because the principal I was with, Bruce O'Dell, he didn't have an assistant but he delegated me to go to - sometimes to assistant principals meet ings and I know he was probably delegating more responsibility to me than some of those assistants were getting that were paid for assistants, and of course I thought Bruce saw me showing initiative and wanting to learn, wanting to grasp, wanting to be a good administrator if it's ever thrust upon me. I think the advice for any teacher who wants to go in that direction is to put in the extra time and let the principal know that I'd like to sit in with the budget process, l'd like to sit in when you're writing your AOP, you know, goals. Do you mind if I attend the executive board meetings, you know. Sure that's an extra burden and that's an extra responsibility for the teacher that they're not get ting paid for, but knowledge is something you can never take away and what aspect that's going to have in your professional growth later on. What role it's going to play I think is almost like a 3-credit course sometimes in college.

Q: What do you feel is the ideal size for an elementary school?

A: 450 . . . . No, I think any principal that has right now the County says 600 you can get an assistant principal, but there are so many various programs that cause so many concerns and frustrations in the school, you know, by pupil ratio sometimes it's hard to put a handle on. But I think that any prin cipal that's in a school of 500 kids right now is really working their tail off if they don't have an assistant principal. lf they're not a good delegator, they're not going to make it in a lO-hour day. They have to be a good delegator of responsibility. They have to have participatory management or else they're not going to make it so I say 4 to 400 you still have close contact with the kids, you have close contact with the staff, you know, you still have close contact with the community because you don't have the additional burdens of responsibility with the increased student load. You're still probably making the majority of decisions in the building and you're close to the students, you're close to the staff and you're close to the parents between 400 and 450. Anything under 400 is really, I guess, ideal. But I think once you pass that 400 mark and you get closer to 500, the principal is in a tough decision. She's working or he's working their tail off.

Q: Where do you see the principalship moving? Towards a manager or a curriculum leader and I think you've answered some of that already.

A: Yeah. Actually manager, because you know our whole world is turning into a world of specialists. I think for any principal to stand up in front of any group and say that they're a curriculum leader which most certainly l'm not saying you don't have to have the knowledge of curricula. I think you have to have the knowledge of the curriculum base. To stand up and say to a lst grade teacher or a 6th grade teacher who's been teaching that level for I0 or I2 years that I know more about that curriculum on that level than you do, I think is a fool. I think there isn't a principal who can go into any one classroom, you know, and tell a seasoned teacher who is a pure professional and working at that level for six or seven or eight years that they know more about the curriculum at that level than that particular teacher -- now I'm not saying that a principal does not have to have a curriculum base. I think a principal does have to have a good curriculum base and be knowl edgeable about the curriculum, but to say that they're the specialist and they're moving to a cur riculum specialty. lf that were the case, why would we have the area offices with each of the curricu lums having their own specialists? There is such a need. So then a principal in a school to say Well, l'm the real curriculum specialist in this school. That principal may know what, maybe what their staff needs or can see what the kids need, but to say that they're the real curriculum specialist K through 6, they live in a world of fantasy if a principal says that. I think that they're in fact - now I think at one time there was a move to go into a curriculum base and you went to your administrative meetings and you know, what can you say about the curriculum? What can you tell me about the curriculum? I think the pressures being put on the principalship right now are more management type of concerns and problems than they are curriculum base. They have to be knowl edgeable about the curriculum I think that it is moving toward the paper work - is just moving them towards a management. An example is even under say the merit pay or either under the skilful teacher the superintendent could come down and say forget about cafeteria duty, forget about the PTA, don't worry about that parent that called at 4:30 in the afternoon. lf you don't worry about that parent who called at 4:30 in the afternoon, if you don't keep your PTA abreast with the executive board meeting, or you're not settling the cafeteria from time to time even though you have a good cafeteria hostess in there, what kind of school are you going to have? And how soon will it be before the superintendent's coming down and saying Look, if you can't run that place I'm going to get someone else in there who can run it. So to say for a superintendent to say Look you're no longer manager of that school; I want you to forget about the cafeteria, forget about the PTA, forget about the field trips, you know. I want you going about observing and evaluating teachers. At what expense do you want me as an administrator to sit down and worry about evaluating teachers because who's going to settle that bus problem that just came in at 3 o'clock when the kid was fighting on the bus going home. It is the principal that's going to have to settle that so that it is nice and ideal to say Hey, the skilful teacher and the evaluation plan that's your first priority, but what about that 900 of that other school day that you have to take care of. You can't dele gate that to your bus teacher. You can't delegate that to someone else unless you have an assistant principal. So that you see I feel very strong about that. I think the superintendent did ask that it move toward curriculum and it move toward teacher evaluation, but this is the same concern l'm having from a lot of the principals, you know. Sure that's okay. l'd like to do that but who takes care of all these other problems that come up in a normal school day? You have to take care of them as a principal. That's why Cynthia's still here until 6:I5 tonight and it's that way in every elementary school because she's you know I see them l'm not speaking about her particularly but I see the principal now sure trying to do that evaluation process during the school day but all these other things are going to have to be taken care of after hours.

Q: What would you change about the way Fairfax County schools are administrated?

A: How they're administrated. I like - I do like the area offices, I like the decentralization oi central services. I would like also probably that they return some of the responsibility in the decision-making process to the principal. And whether it is in relation to field trips, whether it is in relation to minority achievement, I think that the County sets out - let me give you an example. The County sets out with established I0 or I2 or I5 goals Okay and they say This is what we hope to accomplish; this is what you should do. lf they turn them down to the area office, the area office rewrites those I2 or I5 goals and then it becomes just a, you know, a homework task from the area office to the schools. The schools say, Okay, these are our goals whether they're on communication, minority achievement, or something such as that. It could be the school's not having a problem in minority achievement or crea tive writing or something wuch as that, but yet they're still obligated because this is a top priority by the School Board that comes down to the area that comes down to the schools of writing a work plan for that priority when in effect they could have another direction they want that school to go into from the experience of the PTA and input from the community and they often don't have that, I guess, power to make those kind of decisions on their own. So that if anything, l'd like to see the principal be given more authority to make decisions on their own and, I guess, that would be it if we're going to change it. I don't like the idea of the merit pay plan - I said that. I see that doing harm to the County. lf anything could be done to turn that around, fine. l'd like to see it go back to the days of Burkholder and Davis with the humanistic type of approach not the impersonalized type of approach. We're so big that I think we really have to work hard to keep it personalized and if the County is modeling all schools after a central objective, then I think it's removing some of the personalization and the community school concept to each of our schools that we have because we're making mummies or standards or whatever the case may happen to be. One school is just like any other and l'm not certain that's a direction that l'd like to see us go on.

Q: Do you believe school based management is effective?

A: Yeah and I think, basically I guess that's what I was just talking about - school based management. lt is not effective at this time because there are too many strings attached and too many approvals. Too many things on the school based management have to be approved by the area superintendent and the area superintendent is reluctant to approve them because it might be contrary to central administra tion. I like the idea and the concept of school based management if it's just not paper work. I think right now even though the school's saying we have school based management, in effect you really don't have school based management in a true sense ot the terms but I do like it. I think it can be effective and I think it is probably what I was addressing a while ago.

Q: As a closing question - What didn't I ask that I should have asked?

A: . . . . . . What role should an administrator play in professional organizations? One, I think that whether they get involved in say the leader ship of a professional organization is one thing. That may be your particular bag. if you get involved in the leadership of an organization I think that's time that you're making a commitment to and you may be taking something away from the community or the kids and the staff of your own school. However, I do feel that if you can be a leader you should be a good follower of the organization and going to the organizational meetings, you very often pick up information that's very valuable in helping you to make effective decisions in your school based program. So professional organizations I feel are very good for the professional growth of the school based administrators and that not only includes the local level as well as the state and the national level. I touched on that I guess in a couple of things. The hours in the school day to accomplish this the principal supposedly working 80-hour school day with a half hour supposedly for lunch, but none of them work 80-hour school days. The evening meetings are killing our principals. Especially in September and October they're averaging two and three a week which is a burden. You're putting in that lO-hour day and it is taking away from your family a great deal so that you are working the extra hours. We discussed the role in the community and I think this is a whole unique bag. Especially in the ele mentary school because the indigent parents who have no one to turn to say in a community as large as Fairfax County, they turn to you when their kids get into trouble outside the school as well as inside the school. The first person they go to for advice, you know, is the school principal. The first person sometimes they confide in when there's a divorce or a separation is the school principal. You're highly respected in the school community and you can't turn that off. You have to serve almost as an immediate resource and say, Look I'II call in the social services or something such as that so when we talk about the role of the community you know I speak about, you know, establishing preschool, establishing the senior citizens, or things of that nature. But I think it goes much deeper and very often your role in the community serves indirectly because that individual you're touching after school hours whether it is a civic association, a basket ball association, or meeting up at the Beason Mall as a kid in the school that they relate to - I saw your principal at the store and I asked him this or something such as that indirectly refers to that kid in school one way or another so I think that role is so . . and I think you can do probably so much research on the effectiveness of a principal and his role in the community. We touched upon that. Respect for position and family - I guess that all ties in with the role of the community and the extra hours that you put in. The silent - I call them the silent riders that you have - you have as a teacher I'm certain when you get in that car in the even ing and ride back to Chantilly or wherever you're riding, you're thinking about a particular problem you may have had with a kid that day in school or something a kid said to you that Hey, I wonder what's happening in that home - you know in that home situa tion. Or in the case of the principal's case it might be a staff member that dropped a bomb on you on the way out. Or something like that - could be a kid - as the principal's it could be a kid or it could be a custodian, could be a cafeteria person it's always constantly that silent rider that you have in the morning when you wake up. I found the technique. You know, that was one of the problems if you're humanistic you care about that. You care about what they're saying. I'm, you know, I was kidding about your having the frustration with your tape recorder on. I was really sympathizing with you because I know how frustrating that is and you care and you want to do something about that if you're a caring person, then that does affect you. So I guess that's it.

Q: Okay.  

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