This is March 1, 1994. I am speaking with Dr. Herbert Armstrong in his home on his experiences as an elementary school principal.
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Q: Please tell us about your family background in terms of your parents and the work that they did; your brothers and sisters; and some special memories that you have about growing up in your family environment.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, all I can say at this point is that I have a very interesting background. I have a mother and father who were college educated--well at that time, it was Normal School--four year normal--graduated in the class of 1910 and married in 1915; father and mother headed north--my father to New York, my mother from Roanoke to Cleveland, and my father on to Youngstown to decide what he was going to do in the way of opening up a business that he had longged--he had desires for going into entrepreneurialship--and he decided that Youngstown was a fertile spot to open a men's haberdashery. He came here to Youngstown in 1915 from Cleveland and got his store ready to open in 1916 down at Federal Street--424 West Federal Street. At that time, Belmont Bridge was not erected. Wood Street ended at--Belmont ended at Wood Street. Federal Street, the block that we were in was from Home Street which is now Fifth Avenue over to North Avenue--was one solid block of businesses. When they put Belmont Bridge through and opened it up in 1924 it threw my father's store right on the corner. The downtown fire station is now sitting on that lot. The street has, of course, been realigned to straighten it out and therefore that fire station sits a bit farther back north than what my father's store did--my father's store sat more to the sidewalk of Federal Street which was closer to the Mahoning River and, I should say the side. And I was born over his store and as a child I remembered all aspects of the store, and, of course the bridge construction; and, my mother who of course Dad I said graduated in the class of 1910--from Virginia State College--at that time was a State Normal School-repeating myself--and he mustered up the cash and credit to open up the F. F. Armstrong Haberdashery at 424 West Federal Street which was known as Spring Common Area. It was the first and only Negro owned and operated store of its kind in the city. He also went to Detroit and opened up a similar store while my mother and her brother Daniel Hart operated the Youngstown store. The financial crisis of the twenties caused my father to close the Detroit store and return to Youngstown where he struggled under financial difficulties to maintain his business. Klu Klux Klan activities in and around Youngstown divested him of customers and in 1926 he was forced to close out his business. He then went to wait tables at Ohio Hotel which he--in school, he was a waiter in the college dining room where my mother met him and knew she'd get her stomach full of food if she latched on to this waiter and they became good friends and later married as I stated and bore seven (7) children of which I am the third child. There are five (5) of us still alive--two (2) in Chicago, two (2) in Los Angeles and of course I, here in Youngstown. My mother was a very versatile and learned women. She came to Youngstown in 1916 from Cleveland because she was with child at that time and could not venture onto Youngstown with my father. After attending Hampton Institute from 1906 to 1908, she transferred to Virginia State College at Petersburg, Virginia and she and my father graduated in the class of 1910. My mother taught school-elementary school in Roanoke, Virginia and in 1915 she married my father who was her classmate. She was one of nine (9) children of Attorney and Mrs. Daniel W. Hart of Roanoke, Virginia. She studied many points of law under her then famous father who was also an ardent civil rightist of his day. She gained insight into matters of social injustices heaped upon Negroes and sought to do all within her powers to alleviate those ills. Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass were frequent visitors in the home of her parents and it was there that she learned many facets of their philosophies of life to uplift the Negro way. Of course today we are known as 'black' or African-Americans'--at that time we were known as Negroes. When her husband opened the first black owned and operated men's haberdashery she and her brother Daniel I said managed the store while he managed the one in Detroit. She and my father were among the founders and charter members of Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church which was founded in 1917 in a storefront in Himrod Avenue. In 1918 the church at 415 Belmont Avenue was purchased and occupied in January 1919. And of course I was born in April 1919 so that made me the first child born into Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church. My mother was an active worker in the Belmont Branch of YWCA which was at the corner of Rayen and Belmont Avenue where a drycleaner is now located. I don't think the building is used for such purposes today but the building still stands. She organized a Mother's Helping Hand Club and the Mother's Excelsior Club which latter club was named in honor of her mother. She opened a beauty school in 1926 in her home at 243 Belmont Avenue where she manufactured and sold her own beauty products under the label of "Forestyne System." She was always interested in furthering her endeavors, therefore she attended the Madame C. J. Walker School of Beauty Culture in Indianapolis, the Photo School of Beauty Culture in Chicago--she studied the Boyd and Bentine Systems before establishing her own system. In 1929 she opened the first Negro owned and operated beauty shop and school in Youngstown which were the first to be licensed by the State of Ohio Department of Cosmetology. She later concentrated her efforts in the missionary work of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church where she was an organizer of youth groups and active in many of the church's auxiliaries. She attended and was graduated from Anon Bible School of Columbus, Ohio where she was licensed as a church missionary in 1954. She was graduated from the World Church Theological Seminary in Los Angeles and was ordained and licensed as a minister of the gospel. Among many of her activities were the PTA in Youngstown which she was the first Negro woman to hold the position of President of local unit during the early thirties. She declined a newly created post of policewoman in favor of Mrs. Martha B. Warner. My mother organized Boys Clubs in her home at 504 Belmont Avenue during the late twenties and early thirties which gave guidance and served as character building institutes for many of the youth some of whom are currently leaders in the community having served as lawyers, judges, businessmen and educators. My mother and father reared seven children. I was always interested in becoming somebody, having listened to my mother and father talk about their educational exploits and the accomplishments of other Negroes like Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Paul Lawrence Dunbar and others who are in the history books of black accomplishments and I wanted to be like them--make something of myself and become a somebody and therefore I stayed under the tutilage of my mother and my father learning all that I could that would help me in future endeavors. I grew up over my father's store went to Kindergarten at West Side School which building is still standing at the corner of West and Mahoning Avenue. I moved at the 243 Belmont Avenue with my parents and transferred to Elm Street School which site is now located the School of Education Youngstown State University. Of course the new building--the old building I attended has been torn down. I went through the third grade at Elm School and then later moved to 504 Belmont Avenue which was on the West Side of Belmont and the dividing line for Covington and Elm Schools ran down the middle of Belmont Avenue therefore I had to transfer to Covington School. I went on through Covington School up to Hayes Junior High School. From Hayes Junior High School I went one semester to Rayen and I--with my family moved to the South side of Youngstown on Earl Avenue where I finished my growing up so to speak--I entered South High School and graduated in the class of January 1938. My brothers under and sisters under me also graduated from South High School. Still not satisfied with a high school education, I was determined as my father had told me earlier during the Depression--the Great Depression in the Thirties--Son, he said--learn all that you can...I cannot send you to college, but you can find yourself a good job, save your money and pay your own way through...that way you will appreciate the college education more so than if I had given you the money to pay for it yourself and he was so right. I was hired at the Youngstown Towel Supply as a kid. I went in there unloading trucks and getting five, ten, fifteen cents for every unloading that I did and wound up making eight (8) dollars a week...just pocket change which was really good money and I had money to spend while I went to school--junior high school and high school. I grew up in the Youngstown Towel Supply and learned quite a bit as far as the laundry and linen business is concerned. The war--World War II came along...I was drafted into the service and went in as a Private in the Field Artillery...stayed in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina for two and a half years before going to California to go overseas with the Quartermaster Corp. Spent my career--army career--in the south Pacific...came home unscathed and thankful that I was alive and able to be back home with my family. I went back to Youngstown Towel Supply...they gave me some--an opportunity to continue working with them. I enrolled in Youngstown College. I always wanted to be first a lawyer, since my grandfather was a lawyer--my mother's father that is...I wanted secondly--if it couldn't be the first choice--secondly be a businessman like my father--an entrepreneur and if I couldn't be that...then lastly, that of becoming a teacher which I did.
Q: Describe special events in your life that influenced your choices about your career.
A: Well now as I have stated that I had three fields of choice--that of being a lawyer, secondly--an entrepreneur and lastly, that of being a school teacher. When I went into the service--World War II--I served as a clerk-typist and therefore operating out of a headquarters. I had to sit in on court martial cases and certain events during the court martial cases led me to believe I could not be--make a good lawyer and keep a straight face--so I discounted law. Then I decided that I would like to become then an entrepreneur so I went to Youngstown College, took up business courses...got a degree in Business Administration ...went at that time while I was in school I was working at the Towel Supply and they allowed me to regulate my hours at work around my hours at schooling which I did and I was very grateful for that. So while I was going to school I was working at the Towel Supply and just going back and forth to school I decided well, let me check up here...see what else I need to take or don't need to take and I found out that I had so many hours in that I had enough toward a second degree. I was taking education courses that is because I went to see Dr. Wilcox and went back and entered the School of Education and was taking courses and had enough to get a second degree so I stopped right there and took the degree and got my degree in--my Bachelor's Degree in Education. I went to--back to the Towel Supply working again and went down to see Dr. Wilcox and he told me there's a job waiting for you in the Youngstown School System. He said you go down and you see the Assistant Superintendent and let him know that I sent you down. I went down and I learned from the Assistant Superintendent that there was nothing available. I went back to Dr. Wilcox and told him the story. He was perplexed. He said I don't understand...he said, because I was positive that they were going to hire you as their first black high school teacher in the field of Business Education. He said I'm going down to find out what happened. He did but he never told me but I surmised that the color of my skin was the wrong color. So he said don't let that stop you...we need men in elementary education. So I went back and took courses in elementary education. I got certified as an elementary school teacher--State of Ohio--went down to see the Superintendent who did the hiring for the elementary schools. He gave me a song and a dance. He did not believe in men teaching at the elementary school level. He did not believe in dual certification. He did not believe this and he did not believe that. And this I could take-could not take any longer so I spoke up and told him that I am not going to be so naive as to sit here and let him shove down my throat what he was trying to do to me...when every day I picked up my newspaper and I read where they are calling for qualified young men to teach at the elementary school level because the elementary child needs a male model as well as women in the school system and that I was qualified--possibly more so than anyone else he has hired for the Youngstown Schools and I am not going to stop until I get hired in some school system as a school teacher and I let it go at that. Two weeks later his secretary was calling me up. I was sent out to teach at Thorn Hill Elementary School on Wardle Avenue. I taught there about seven years...I was called to go downtown to the Central Office to serve as a helping teacher working with beginning teachers in the Youngstown System...so I had been in every elementary school building in the city working with beginning teachers. I applied for the principalship. I took the administrative exam I passed the exam. I worked with beginning male teachers as well as female. Some males--some of the male teachers were appointed principals while I'm still working with them. The road was hard and rocky for me because of the color of my skin but I was determined I was not going to quit. I was qualified...I had prepared myself because my grandmother's grandfather--which was my maternal grandfather--had instilled in his children--further your education...get all that you can because there's the day coming when you will need a college education to almost dig a ditch and he was never so right...that day is here today so he was way ahead of his thinking and I went ahead under that tutilage of my mother and my father to prepare yourself for tomorrow because when you got it upstairs (I'm pointing to my head now) they can't take that away from you.
Q: You have told me that you were the fourth black administrator in the Youngstown City Schools and the first black elementary principal. Tell us about the racial climate in Youngstown at the time of your appointment.
A: Well, taking it back before my appointment when I was trying to get in the system as a principal...with being turned down...all the stumbling blocks were put in my path and I was determined I was going to make it or burn. So I went to one of our most qualified black teachers who was the first black teacher in the system. She was teaching first grade at Harrison School and I suggested that she go down and take the administrative exam because there was a position open in the Supervisors Department of the Board of Education and she was not interested because she was afraid she would block me from becoming a principal. I said forget me...I'm not going to be hired but we've got to open these doors for other Negroes and/or blacks--whatever you want to call them--to come into the Youngstown System. She did not do it so I went to another very qualified graduate of Rayen High School who was a teacher in the system at the elementary school level...suggested that she go down and take the exam and apply for the supervisory position that was offered. She was not interested. I said well, somebody's got to open the doors...I said...and you and the other teacher that I mentioned earlier are the most qualified of any that have been hired in the Youngstown System --black or white. I said if you go down and you are not appointed we'll know its racism and then we'll have a court case. While serving as a helping teacher I was interviewed by the Curriculum Director who had me evaluated by all the Principals of the schools I served at as a helping teacher. He read me their comments--a gentleman but he's colored ...would make a fine Principal in an area that is non-delineated...the Director said shall I go on...I said yes--go on. He went on--he went on giving me their comments. I guess he was wanting me to burn but I was determined I was not going to explode. So I suggested to him the gall that he had having me evaluated and if comments like this from people who are administering the affairs of our children--black and white--and they have these kinds of attitudes-I said what are they teaching our children. So that ended that interview. I went back to Mrs. Belton and told her some of the things that were said during the interview and she burned. She said I'm going to go down and take that exam, I'm going to pass it and I'm going to apply for a position. She went down...she took the exam...she passed it and she was appointed almost "Johnny on the spot." I went back to Ann Martha and said to her Ann I said..you go down and apply for that second opening in Supervision...Mary Belton has been appointed...you go down and take the exam. Ann went down...she was hired right on the spot--she didn't even take the exam--two qualified ..overly qualified so to speak..but the color of the skin was wrong. So then Mr. Dunn who was Principal of Covington School--had been a Principal for twenty some years had a heart attack. His doctor would not permit him to even think of going back to school in September and this was during the Summer months. Schools--Principals open schools during the last week of August--the elementary schools and Mr. Dunn could not go so he called the Superintendent and suggested to him that if Mr. Armstrong would take the building I feel confident that everything will run smoothly. The Superintendent called me. I told him yes I will. So he told me to go over the Covington School and open it up. I went. I said now where am I going to get the knowledge about opening up the school but by having been a helping teacher watching the Principals in their buildings and what they did during various periods of time, the information came to me that go ahead and do the same things and that I did. Things went smoothly. When I went to Covington School, Mr. Dunn--I should say--came back in November...I was going to turn the building back to him and he said no it's your school...I'm just here...I'm just observing. He stayed with me until Washington's Birthday of '65--when he went home for a vacation. He suffered the fatal heart attack. The Superintendent called me and told me that I would be the Principal of Covington School...he would put it through the Board of Education and make it official. In the meantime, another Principal--Harrison School had a heart attack--in the hospital...he called me at Covington to go over to Harrison School. He would send a supervisor up to Covington. I went to Harrison School--was there two days when the Superintendent called me--report back to Covington School -you're going to be the Principal and I will explain to the Harrison teachers why all the shifting back and forth. I went to Covington School that evening. It had started snowing so I was delayed in getting there to attend their faculty meeting. When I came into the front door one of the teachers that was there when I was a kid at Covington School--still there--came down the hall, shook her finger at me and said Boy, you're not going to boss me. And I said to myself what do you say to this woman. Mind you I was a child at the old Covington School and she was a teacher there at the time. She was not yet old enough to retire but when she said that to me I said this to her...look--I am the Principal--I will be the Principal I said and I will expect your cooperation...that where there is cooperation there need be no bosses and I let it go at that. I worked with her and over a period of time- talk about teaching an old dog new tricks--I taught this teacher. I gave her the only extra duty assignment outside the classroom of being the financial bookkeeper for the school. She did an excellent job of keeping those financial records. I had to still work with her because she was of the old school--whereby you should tape childrens' mouths, put children under her desk etc. and so forth. I had to teach her that that's not today's way of teaching children. That has to go because if some parent comes in here and finds that this is going on you will be downtown and I would hate to see that happen. I worked with her. I worked with her and I changed her and we became the best of friends and colleagues. When she reached the age of 70, the faculty and I threw a big retirement party for her which she could not get over...she just cried and cried and cried...she didn't think we'd do anything like that for her and when I called her to come back and substitute on a short term basis she readily came...she said I will not teach for anybody but you Mr. Armstrong and I said well, thank you.
Q: As a building principal at the elementary level, tell us about some challenges that you had to deal with.
A: Well, first of all I might say running a school is a challenge within itself. But what I do recall one incident where I had a teacher who filed a grievance against me. I don't recall today just what it was all about but it was at the time when the professional associations were taking on union tactics and she wanted to do something in the building and I told her it wouldn't be permitted...couldn't permit such a thing as that so she filed a grievance--over what I don't know--and nevertheless I told her to come in the office after school and we'll sit and we'll talk and go over all of this and find out just what can be done what, and why I say it can't be done. She came with a tape recorder, sat it beside her and said she was here for her grievance procedure. I said well what is that beside you. She said that's a tape recorder. I said for what? I said there will be no tape recordings of this conversation between you and me...I said so I suggest that you shut it off. She said no. I said then there will be no grievance procedure. So then I said when you decide that you will come in and talk to me without all the extra aids, I'll be happy to sit down and talk with you. So I think it was about a week or so when she decided she would come in and we would talk without the tape recorder. Just what it was all about I don't remember to this day. But then again, another incident that was a definite challenge was when Grant School on the lower South side and Monroe on the middle South side were closed to be housed in the Hillman Junior High School Building...this was in 1980...the challenge was great. There I had to merge two schools into one. We had to change attitudes about my school...my school...Grant School...Monroe...to let me know that there was no longer any Grant School or any Monroe School. We were now Hillman Elementary School. We are combined...we are one. I had to talk to teachers about the same attitudes and I let them know that we are one unit now...forget the past...we're going forward ...Hillman Elementary School. If you know anything about junior high school buildings--they are constructed for junior high school teaching, not for elementary school teaching and as I--furthermore...Hillman Junior High School had three floors. Downtown Central Office wanted me to put some primary children up on the third floor. I refused. I said...look at the stairwells where there is an open space between the outer wall and the stairwell where an elementary child coming up this height being curious will put his head through the rails...look down and land down on the basement floor, probably kill himself. This building is not conducive to elementary education. Nobody talked to the elementary school principals...the elementary teachers nor anyone knowledgeable about the elementary education about the building construction for such a department. I got parents together in the PTA and showed them the dangers involved in this building...that we had to do something to have it corrected...went into the classrooms and of course the bookshelves were halfway up the wall where an elementary child couldn't even reach the first shelf--a primary child couldn't even reach the first shelf...the bookcases that were made for our elementary buildings were brought down to Hillman Junior High Building but we could not put them in the classrooms because the classrooms were not large enough to accommodate all that furniture and in an ele...--junior high school all you need is a desk with an armpad on it for a student and storage underneath it for books because they're not in them more than 25 or 30 minutes and a desk for the teacher and that's it and of course bookshelves enough for tall children to reach. So I called the superintendent...the Board of Education and had them all meet the parents out at the school building...took them on a tour of the building pointing out all the deficiencies that were not conducive to elementary education. The urinals in the boys lav were to high up for the little boys. They had to be changed. The sinks had to be lowered. Many things had to be done to get that building ready for those children to go on with their educational program. It got to the point where everybody was out there rehashing that junior high building. The acoustics were bad. We had to do something to correct that. All these things we were pointing out after the fact when they could have been taken care of had we been consulted as to what was necessary in an elementary classroom. But we survived. We merged the teachers, the students, the custodial staff into one unit...Hillman Elementary School and when I was evaluated by the Assistant Superintendent...he asked me Dr. Armstrong why is it that your teachers don't transfer out of your building while everywhere else I go teachers are requesting transfers. I told him--I said it's because I recognize them as professional educators. They have trained for their positions and I look at the end result. When they go into that classroom and shut their door they are there to teach the children that are under their tutilage and I give counseling and advise when necessary. We have established a rapport between us where my teachers felt that he is a very genuine sincere individual. He is honest in what he is saying and he's trying to do and we can trust him. And it was beautiful, our relationships with the faculty. My teachers did not transfer out of my building. They stayed with me for a long time.
Q: Do you feel that the advent of collective bargaining has been positive or negative in terms of the ability of an elementary principal to function as an instructional leader.
A: Well--let me say this as a professional I never felt that professional people and union people should merge...that they're two different types of entities. Collective bargaining is one thing...teaching is another. We're not in it to make money--but to take money for us to live its true--but I felt that being professionals through our professional organizations are the ones that we should bargain with/through rather than unions. I think that when unionism and collective bargaining came into this system it was like change between night and day. We lost something.
Q: Many people have described you to me as a successful elementary principal and human being. What do you think has contributed to your success.
A: Well, I might say some of the philosophies instilled in me by my parents as I was growing up that you're going to meet with adversity through life...life is no bed of roses...it is what you make it...and you must remember that people are human beings...there's no one any better than the other...you are just as good as the next person and they are just as good as you. So don't take the attitude that you are better than they because it's just not so and when you are dealing with people you have to show a genuine empathy for their feelings...their understandings. And I have learned that teachers expect principals to be able to aid them in utilizing accurate knowledge of the arts and sciences for the improvement of teaching. They expect the principal to perpetuate and through a concerted effort aid them in improving educational standards. They expect the principal to be a leader and assume an influential role in education--stimulating in others the qualities of good leadership. They look for leadership to guide students towards worthy academic moral, social and spiritual competence. It takes all the strength and effort that one can muster in carrying out the role of an effective principal. The principal must be one who is not a clockwatcher...one who must be willing to spend many hours at the task of administration. The effective principal is one who is constantly upgrading his competency by attending educational seminars...taking further coursework at the university level and other in order to keep abreast of new educational techniques. Teachers, on the other hand, expect principals to establish a two-way open door policy. This I have done. My office was readily available to any teacher who felt a need to talk with me. Regardless of what I was doing I was never to busy for my teachers to come in and talk with me. If its about a classroom problem or a personal situation, I would interrupt whatever I was doing to hear my teacher at that point in time. Teachers felt that I was genuine and sincere in establishing this positive relationship...that they welcomed me into their classrooms at any time and they did not fear when I was in observing for the purpose of evaluation. I established and gained a genuine respect for honesty--that my teachers felt that I was being sincere and being a motivator for good working relationships. They reacted accordingly. I insisted that they let me take care of their problem students...send them to the office and go on and teach the other 29 or 30 children who want to be taught and if necessary I would teach the recalcitrant child in my office which I did on various occasions ...and yet, not hold it against the teacher when it came to evaluating their performance. Because my concern was educating the majority of the children that were in that classroom who were willing to learn and send the disruptive child to me and I would be his teacher. This I did. My philosophy of education is that a positive attitude and genuine concern for the well being of pupils, teachers and staff fostered a good working relationship. Principals, teachers, students, the total education community working together for the common good can develop a wholesome climate in which effective teaching and learning takes place. I believe that a solid foundation of our society's strength is built on the quality of its educational program.
Q: If you "were in charge," tell us how you would design a program of teacher preparation.
A: Well, as I have stated during this discourse about how I dealt with certain activities under my administration...I feel strongly that teachers who are enrolled in education courses at the university, college or university level, should be required to go out into the field, teaching, getting actual experience as a part of their coursework for a period of about two (2) years before they come in as a hired professional. I feel that that gives one clear insight as to the obstacles that they are going to have to hurdle when they go into actual employment as a teacher in the classroom.
Q: If you "were in charge," tell us how you would design a program of preparation for the elementary principalship.
A: Well, for the elementary principals--there again I've been through it. I trained as a cadet principal in many elementary schools in the city of Youngstown under professional experienced educators who were the principals of the various buildings that I entered. I went/was on tour of duty for about two and a half years before I was hired as an elementary principal. Those two and a half years gave me clear insight into the functioning of a good elementary school administrator and I feel that we need to take another look at that today when we are preparing our elementary principals to enter that/any building as the commanding officer or administrator under/over the teachers and students and staff of that particular building lending all that he has to the efforts of upbringing a quality educational program.
Q: If you "were in charge," tell us three things that your would do to improve elementary curriculum.
A: Well, I imagine that the first thing I would be concerned about is having a curriculum council of teachers and administrators representing each building in the system...elementarys, junior high, high school or whatever the organizational set-up is today. We would look at the value of establishing the teaching of foreign languages at the elementary school level. I believe I am safe in saying that we are the only country where we have only one language--English--and then that is not the official language of our country. We should work toward the end of seeing that this country adopts English as its standard language- official language. Then too, we should take a look at textbooks...see that children have up-to-date textbooks in their hands and especially in the social studies where the content of a textbook deals with integrated cultures of the world so that children will grow up learning about other people and their habits, their ways of living and the whys and wherefores of their existence. Then again, I would think that we should separate the social studies into separate courses such as geography and of course a study in history. It used to be in the past that children were taught how to read maps...how to locate various sites on maps, world globe, as well as flat maps...orienting the map to find certain locations--North, South, East, and West...we teach children that North is up and South is down, East is right and West is left--but now what happens when you turn that map upside down--does that hold true? This has to be taught so that children get the right perception of what it is that we're teaching and then they can enlarge on it and take it from there. So that would be at least some of the things I would suggest that we take a look at.
Q: Why did you decide to retire and when did you retire officially.
A: Well now if my memory serves me right I decided to retire because I felt that I had given education my all...that I had paid my dues as far as educating boys and girls in the district in which I had served for thirty-four and a half years. I had a young man who was assisting me as a teacher on special assignment whom I felt had all the qualities and makings of becoming a good principal. He latched onto my philosophies, my actions, my ways of handling certain situations...he had a good grip on those types of activities and I felt that it would be a shame for him to leave the Youngstown School System. We would be at a terrible loss because he was interested in becoming a principal. So I felt--and when its time to retire...to retire, you will know it--you will know when its time for you to give it up--and I felt that it was my time. He was wanting to become a principal. And I felt that, by Jove, if I retire, I would like him to take my place. So, it I waited till June for the end of the school year, reorganizations would take place and somebody else would be put into my building over which I had no say. So I decided that in January of 1986 I was going to process my retirement papers--so I so informed the Superintendent. I did not say anything to this young man because I begged him and pleaded with him to stay with me...I was going to try and see if I could slip out and slip him in. I processed my papers...sent them in... set the date for retirement...so informed the Superintendent. I'm waiting for the Superintendent to tell me who is going to take the keys from my possession. The eleventh hour I got a telephone call that the young man that I had in mind would be the one to give the keys to. And I was so very pleased and proud of him for the way he carried out when I left. He's no longer with the system today because he's out in the county because of the upsets in our educational system here in Youngstown. He's a terrible loss to our school system and if I had to do it over again under different circumstances of which the ballgame is being played today I would love to be back in the classroom teaching children...giving them my experience of travel that I have carried on since I have retired. From halfway around the world, I'd like to bring those experiences into the classroom so that those children can see that they with the proper education, the proper attitudes, sense of responsibility, can do the same thing if they prepare themselves now.
Q: If an opportunity presented itself for you to come back into active administrative work, would you be interested.
A: As I said, its a different ballgame and I would say I wouldn't desire to go back into the situation, but...if it became absolutely necessary that my expertise could be utilized I might give it a try at my age now, I have to live for me...I've given education my all.
Q: This is Peter Chila thanking Dr. Herbert Armstrong for taking the time to share with us his experience as an elementary principal. For the record, Dr. Armstrong and myself have been friends for many years. We go back to when we both pursued the doctoral degree at the University of Akron. It was a pleasure renewing acquaintances with him. We hope that the information will be enjoyed; and, most importantly, provide much learning for those who listen to it over the next several years.
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