We are at the home of Mrs. Mary Lovett Belton in Youngstown, Ohio. Mrs. Belton is the first black elementary school teacher to teach in the Youngstown Public Schools. She is also the first black female elementary principal and the first black central office administrator.
Q: Mrs. Belton, would you like to begin by telling us about your family background, your childhood interests and developments.
A: Well, we came from Birmingham, Alabama, when I was very young, because they didn't have to pay any rate for me on the train. So, most of my elementary and high school education have been here in Youngstown. I graduated from Jefferson Elementary School and then I graduated from The Rayen School. I was a teacher in the Youngstown Schools for 21 years and I was principal six years.
Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching; how many years did you serve as a teacher and a principal.
A: Let me see, my first training was at Ohio University where I received my elementary teacher's certificate. In those days, you didn't have a degree to teach in the elementary school, but you had to have two years of elementary training and I took that experience at Ohio University. And then I received my degree from Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland. After that I received my Master's Degree from Ohio State and I've been for the graduate work at Teacher's College Columbia University, Miami University, and Westminster College.
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 felt about them.
A: Well, I always wanted to be a teacher and my mother always would tease me and say well, I guess you really got what you wanted when I was appointed in the Youngstown Schools. She said when I was in primary school I was always lining up the dining room chairs, teaching the chairs, because they were my children. So, then I got my first teaching experience, really, in the Sunday School. I was a Sunday School teacher when I was in high school. And, I knew that that was the field I really wanted to be in. And I think the Church has such a great role to play in the lives of young people. Because that's where I got my first teaching experience, in my church. And then I taught Adult Education for a while. And then from Adult Education I was appointed teacher in the elementary school.
Q: And what motivated you to enter into the principalship?
A: Well, I was advised to go into it. I really didn't have a love for the principalship at the beginning. I loved being in the classroom with the students where I could be there nine months with them. And I could measure their progress. I knew their weaknesses and their strengths and when I passed them to the next grade, I had a feeling of satisfaction that I had done something. Well, when they asked me if I would be interested in supervision. My principal, Miss Helen Buzzard. I said Miss Buzzard, I need to stay in the classroom, that's where I need to be, not a supervisor. She says, well, she says this your opportunity. You make up your mind, now. I'm not going to push, but it's a wonderful chance. You'll be able to help a lot more people if you are a supervisor than if you are in the classroom. I said but these children need me. I feel like I can really be an aid here. So, that was the reason and you say when someone offers you a job and you turn it down, it looks like you're not ambitious, you don't really care. And when she had recommended me for the job, Miss Buzzard, had recommended me for the job, I felt like it was something I had to do. So that's how I got into supervision. And I've enjoyed it.
Q: Did you think you were able to help more people in supervision?
A: I wonder, you know I had, at the time we had large classes, I sometimes had 35, 38 students. And in supervision, you can't measure what you have done, as easily as you can in the classroom. But you try to be helpful and you try to be patient and you try to be understanding and be fair with the teachers and if you can't help them, certainly don't do anything to discourage them. And I felt very, very serious about my work as a supervisor, because I was wondering if I was really helping because to me it's a helping situation. It's not a dictatorial type of thing. And I just wondered, I wondered many times if I were more helpful in the classroom than as a supervisor, I don't know as a principal, I don't know. But one thing, when you're a principal you have a lot of children that you call your own which is really exciting and you get to know them and their parents and then you know so many fine teachers and really it's just great. So all of those experiences that I've had, I wouldn't give anything for them and I can't tell you which I enjoyed most. I sometimes try to find out, but I can't decide.
Q: Sounded like to me that you were a big help. As a principal did you ever go back into the classroom, just for a couple hours, or a day and take classes over again, just to keep in touch.
A: No, not in my classrooms, but I would go to seminars and workshops in the summer so that I would be sure that I had something that I might offer them anything new on the horizon. That' why I liked Columbia University Teacher's College. They had so many outstanding educators that would come in and lecture to you and then you got to understand what was the latest in education. I did a lot of that. I went to school quite a bit.
Q: Continued to grow. You said you liked it because they brought in outstanding educators. Did you think that was much more helpful than the theory and the book reading that hearing from people....
A: Sometimes, yes, yes definitely. If a person has gone through the experiences, there's something about it that kind of makes a difference than when you are reading it on the printed page.
Q: What was the name of the first school you worked?
A: Butler Elementary School.
Q: Butler still stands. Right?
Q: Would you take us for a walk through your school, do you remember your school? Was there any unusual feature that stands out the most to you.?
A: Yes, in Butler School the thing that stood out the most - we had a playground up on the roof of the school and then we had a little playground area right out from the principal's office. Just a small area for primary children. We could take them out for a few minutes, to rest them up. And then on the roof, we usually took the upper elementary children up on the roof of the building. And it was high walled and everything; they could play up there. And I had never seen that before.
Q: I had never heard that. That is different. I have to go to Butler School and investigate that.
A: That roof would have to still be there.
Q: I think you've already touched upon this a little bit, but would you describe your personal philosophy of education and how did it evolve over the years. When you started out and things that happened to you--how did it end up and seeing some of the changes that are taking place today, take me through your philosophy from when you started and it evolved over the years.
A: Well, of course I always felt you never got to the place where you didn't learn. Children can teach you. Some of the things they say. When I first began, I thought I knew all of the answers, you know. I had had all these methods at Ohio University and I knew what to do here and I had had my student teaching at school, but it's a different thing when you get into it really, because you are working with individuals, and there are individual differences, and a lot of times the way the child reacts at school is because of the home conditions. Maybe there's been some upsetting experiences in the home and you have to really be on the alert. But I just thought you had children, and you gave them the information and they learned it. But I learned that it was a different story. You work with them daily and realize that they have their problems too and that all children don't learn at the same rate of speed. All children don't have the same abilities, but they can learn something. And that was my philosophy all through. What can I do to help this child go from this stage to the next stage. And it's a difficult job. But it's such a gratifying job to see these youngsters get out and now I just get the greatest thrill out of going to the supermarket and places because I see some of my former students and they remember, I remember when, and they make themselves known because some of them I don't know because they've gotten beards, the boys have gotten beards and the girls and I just don't know them, but they make themselves known and that's a great satisfaction to think maybe something you said had some effect.
Q: Something you mentioned, how many years have you been retired from the school system?
A: Eighteen years.
Q: Eighteen years. And you just mentioned that you realize that kids brought problems to school with them and sometimes something that happened that day could affect their abilities. What were the kinds of things compared to when you were a principal. Today we're dealing with the students who are coming from crack homes and drug addiction, divorce and all the society ills, what were...
A: Well, I was very fortunate because I began in a time when mothers were more or less at home. There wasn't a lot of work at the time it was around the depression era so the mothers were at home. I could make home calls and talk things over with the parent. We worked very closely with the parent and the teachers worked very closely. And we knew our community and you can't go in these communities now with all this crack. I even made home visits at night because my parents were working in the day. I had no problem going to Butler School at night. Nobody bothered me. But you can't do that now. So, I know there is a change. And we had the neighborhood schools. We weren't bussing like we are now. And it was more of a closer unit. The parents were built and families were built around the school. That's a great change, I think.
Q: Were there any particular experiences or events that took place that influenced your management of philosophy; students that succeeded or some highlights during your career that influenced your philosopy in management?
A: I can't think of any special, but there were highlights all along. When my students graduated from high school, that was a great thing. When they went on to college that was another great thing. When they came out and became parents and good parents. And now when I go to the hospital and I am ill, my students come and wait on me. I had nurses in St. Elizabeth's, South Side Hospital and that's a great thrill, I guess. And I don't know that they're there many times, that they're on duty. When I they find out I'm in the hospital, they find me and I say I'm in good hands now.
Q: Just talking with you, just enjoying, you're such a positive person, what techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning? Would you describe successful or any unsuccessful experiments in the building in which you were involved. What kind of climate did you work for?
A: Well first of all, we had some ideas of discipline. What was expected of me and what I expected of them. In the very beginning, when I was in the upper grades, we had to go down (Butler School has a long stairway to go down) and so the first day of school, we talked about how we are going to go down the stairway, how we're going to go one behind the other, how we're not going to touch as we go down because we might lose our balance and somebody would fall and the others would fall over them, and really I took a lot of time explaining things and why these things were. And of course, we didn't have an accident, believe it or not, all the while I was there, going down the stairs. Oh, we had accidents on the playground, little slight accidents, but none on the stairway. I think sometimes the children know what you expect of them and certainly put your expectations high. Don't decide to come down to their level. Let them come up a step or two. They may not come up as far as you want them to, but don't come to their level. And let them know exactly why and they have to feel that you are interested in them, you see. Not just teaching in a book, the subject matter, you are interested in teaching children. It's a big difference.
Q: Sincerely interested in them as an individual. I don't want to put words into your mouth, but something you just said is a philosophy I have. I hear so many teachers say today, I am the teacher, I am the adult, do as I say. But you just hit upon something that's really important to me, not only in students, but even working with other adults, taking the time to explain why we do this. It's not that we just don't want you to touch going down the steps, but we don't want you to fall and get hurt going the steps.
Q: So that explanation was very important to you then as a philosopy.
A: Yes, in the schools.
Q: What kind 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 good principal.
A: Oh, that's a little hard to do. Because, where one principal will succeed and have other characteristics than another person, you see because of individual difference, no two principals are going to be exactly alike. And it is kind of hard to say, but I believe in four B's. Be honest with your teachers; don't expect them to, if they're not doing a good job, don't discourage them, but be honest with them and do what you can to help them. Now be helpful, if you are going to criticize, use something to put in that place, so they can grow because of your criticism. And be kind. Because sometimes, they're ready to burst into tears because things haven't gone their way. You come into the classroom, and of all the things here comes the supervisor or the principal, and everything's in a mess. But you understand the situation, you've been a teacher. I've been a teacher for twenty and a half years and I knew the problems the teachers had. And I think another important thing is for a principal to first have taught school themselves, to not just become a principal. You don't know the problems, you just think you know the problems, you have to live through that sort of thing and I could tell the moment I walked into a class, cause that was the time to stay or not.
Q: A lot of empathy, constructive empathy, understanding the problem and yet still understanding their point of...
A: and then being fair with them. Because you don't go on because I like the way she dresses or I like the way she does her hair, that isn't important. What is down beneath all of that? Is she really interested in helping children? Does she really need help? Are you able to give her some help? If you are unable to give her some help, then you've failed, not the teacher.
Q: Would you like to come back as a principal now, I'll work in your building.
A: No, but you know, I did see some principals at the retired teachers luncheon Saturday, whom I had worked with and we had the best reunion. We hadn't seen each other for years. Oh, they are great, just great.
Q: I'll work in your building any time, just tell me where. I'll be there. There are those who argue that more often than not, central office policies hinder rather than help building level administrators in carrying out their responsibilities. Would you give your views on this issue and if you were king or superintendent, what changes would you make in the typical system-wide organizational arrangements as a way of improving administrative efficiency and affectiveness. I guess what we're looking at today, there's a lot of talk towards site-base management. How did you view central office as being important to help the site building manager carry out their responsibilities?
A: Well, of course, I, having been at central office, when I was supervisor, I thought we were helpful. I thought we were helpful, because we were... many times problems would come up and the superintendent and he would pass it down to the supervisors or to the director of instruction. And we worked as a unit, and if someone in the South area was having a certain problem, maybe someone in the North area by talking it over could come to some kind of agreement and help each other. And I found it very helpful that I don't know what the situation would be now, but we had a superintendent who was wonderful, Dr. Harry Wannamaker, and the atmosphere there, we were like a big family, and if one was in trouble, everybody was in trouble.
Q: I know Dr. Wannamaker, I was at Grant Elementary School when he was superintendent. And there was a dinner, held at the Idora Park Ballroom, and I don't know how I got selected, but I got selected to have dinner with him at the ball park. And that was one of those highlights you remember. So you felt, then the central office really did help.
A: Did help. And we did help. Because there was a time when we had helping teachers, because I was helping teachers for one year. We worked with new teachers coming into the system. Some teachers needed a lot of help, some didn't need any. Just say, you're doing a good job. But, we worked directly with the new teachers. Helping teachers. I did that for one year. The administrative and the supervisory support when I was in was a very good help to the teachers.
Q: So there was some mentoring going on and there is a lot of talk today about mentoring programs for new teachers, so what I hear you saying is that you guys were very much involved with mentoring new teachers and working with new teachers.
Q: It has been said that there is a home school gap and that more parental involvement with the schools needs to be developed. 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 schools? You touched on that.
A: I had talked about that. Yes, I think that's very important. Very important. Because sometimes children get the wrong idea and if you see the person face to face and talk with them and then a lot of times you need some proof. If the child is failing in math and says the teacher just doesn't like me, well one day just take all the math papers of the classroom and go see his mother and show her where Johnny fits in. Am I being partial? Here are all the grades. Here are all the pieces. Things like that. I mean you have to prove yourself. Q: That's a very interesting technique; you take all the class papers.... and when she sees what he has done, that's it. That's it.
Q: So there's a sense of working with the parents and explaining to them and not just being upset with them but trying to get them to understand what the procedure and the process is.
A: Right. Parents and teachers need to work closely together.
Q: You talked about my next question a little bit, too. Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and give your philosophy of evaluation. We talked about that when you evaluate and criticize. We talked a little bit about that. Could you give us a little more detail?
A: I don't know if I can give you any more detail, but I do know that when you are evaluating a teacher you look at more than one angle. Look at how far she has come since September, that is. The amount of improvement that has been made. You look at that. You look at her attitude; has it changed? Is she being more understanding of her situation? Is she working just as hard, you know you can work very hard and get no results and you can get so disappointed, that's the time when the supervisor should come in, the principal should come in, and give you a little pat on the back. Tell her, I know how hard you're working, I know how hard this is. But just keep doing what you're doing, you're doing the right thing. If you have something to add, and that's why it's so important that supervisors to get out in schools and get out, and I mean schools of learning, go to college, don't stop because you are a supervisor. See what is going on in other schools in other parts of the country. And that's why I like Columbia so much.
Q: A good deal is said these days about teacher grievances. Would you give your views on the desirability of such procedures and describe your approach to handling the teachers to dissatisfaction. You know a lot today what they stress is unions, there's a lot of grievances. Did you have that problem?
A: I never had that problem until I was ready to retire. So, I can't give you too much on that other than it is difficult because the teachers are in one area and the supervisors are in another area and you're both in the same building. As a supervisor, or principal of the building, you have to keep the school open; the central office says so. The teachers decide they're not coming in, so you have to recognize the facts--that they are unionized; that's why they are out because the union says they are out. And you shouldn't have any hard feelings against them because they are out of the classroom. It's a terrible hardship on the principal I tell you, but you understand because you have certain things you have to follow because of the central office. Central office says, keep the building open, you have to keep the building open if they say so, you see. So you are in two different camps and you have to respect each other's positions.
Q: And clearly define those camps and not hold it against each other. As you view it, the characteristics that are associated, what characteristics are associated with the most effective schools and what features characterize less successful ones? You touched upon all of my questions already.
A: I don't quite know how I could say anything differently, really. I don't know how I could say anything differently. Maybe you could ask me another question. Maybe that would bring it out. Maybe this one would bring it out.
Q: I think you've pretty much touched on some of what we're talking about, sincere and caring and continuing to grow, you really have. Maybe I'll take it in a little bit more - discuss your views on this phenomena and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activity. There's a lot of talk today, that our schools are too big, our classroom sizes are too big. -- for administration and instructional purposes what do you think is an ideal size?
A: Well, I'll tell you. I have taught and I had 38 students and I have taught and I had 21. You had more papers to grade, but the philosophy is still the same, it doesn't change. It's harder work and then you have so many children you can't give individual attention to the children that you'd like to give, maybe but you can get it done. But I am in favor of an average size class; my classes were too large. But there wasn't anything you could do about it at the time. But I had some classes that were really too large. But you don't have classes where you have thirty-some now.
Q: Well, unfortunately, we do.
A: Do you? Well my sympathy goes out to that teacher. I have done it.
Q: Another new trend --in recent years, more and more programs for special groups of students, LD, gifted and talented, non-English speaking, programs have been developed. Discuss any experiences you might have had with a special student and your views on today's trend toward this regard.
A: I never worked in a special class. Of course, I thought all my classes were special, in a sense because we had individual differences, but I never had a special class. I did have a special class in one of my buildings and the teacher there did a excellent job with them. So, I had very little experience with special classes, but the one that I did have experience with was very successful. And I am sure it was due to the teacher, her sympathetic understanding of children and her patience and all that sort of thing. She was an excellent teacher. And she got some excellent results from those children. And she didn't let them feel that they were, we didn't allow them to feel that they were inferior to other people because they were slightly different in some respects. And so then later, I had the area where the children were bussed in to our school for this special program and we had an excellent program and our children weren't getting into trouble either. And they were happy. And of course, a lot of that depends on the teacher, the atmosphere she sets for the children.
Q: The trends today are are more and more--now we have the gifted program, we have the English as a second language program; the LD program is broken down to LD, SBH and so many different things--how do you feel about that?
A: Well, see eighteen years ago, we didn't have all those programs. So, I should think they would be helpful, but I really don't know. Because we didn't have all those programs, so you had to be a special education teacher, you had to be a music teacher, you had to be a phys. ed., and all those teachers in one, so I really don't know.
Q: Jack of all trades. Most systems have a tenure or continuing contract system for teachers. Would you discuss the situation at the time you entered the profession and comment on the strength and weaknesses of such a system.
A: We did have a continuing contract when I was in the system, and I tell you, I was so thrilled when I got my continuing contract because this means I've done a pretty good job. And I was thrilled about it. However, I can see that there could be some difficulties because you may be able to have a continuing contract at that time and you may be really doing an excellent job, but things can happen down the line, that maybe you shouldn't be there. And then how do you get rid of them, because they have a continuing contract. That's your problem.
Q: Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paperwork and the bureaucratic complexities with which they are forced to deal. Would you comment on the situation during your administrative career and compare the problems you encountered with your perceptions of the situation at this time.
A: Well, really, I tell you when I was coming along, it didn't make any difference of how much paperwork they decided to give us. We just jumped into it and did it. We didn't even question it. That was what central office said, so we didn't even question it.
Q: You just did it. So your outlook was different on the surface. What would be some things, if you had an opportunity to change that would improve efficiency and effectiveness of education administration today. They say it's complex, there's so many lines you have to go through, what are some things that you think you could do today that would improve administration for instructional purposes?
A: Well, one thing I'd like to see the supervisors or administrators going back to school, seeing what is really going on in other places than in the local location. Being in touch with all the new things that's going on, and being sure to bring some of that back to the local situation.
Q: How do you feel about computers when you think of new....
A: There's something I don't anything about and I refuse to comment on it. I think it's fascinating to look at, but I don't know one thing about it.
Q: Well, it's a new trend today and that's a problem because a lot of the teachers are intimidated by the computers, a computer phobia; but yet it's a technology that the students need to have to succeed in life.
A: Well that's new.
Q: Would you discuss your general relationship, pro's or con's with the Board of Education and comment on the effectiveness of school board operations in general?--at the time, how you worked with the Board?
A: Well, I had no problems with the Board of Education, because I was doing the best that I could do and I hadn't had any problems with the Board of Education, I really didn't. Maybe ask me something else, maybe to pull it out, I didn't have any problems.
Q: There weren't any political differences at that time or special interest groups that were working towards their own needs and would therefore come to your building to make suggestions of curriculum or things you should have--that wasn't a concern? But then that's back to you saying you were a neighborhood school too, so your parents really knew what was going on at that particular school. A topic of real interest today is cultural diversity. The new lingo is multi-culturalism, of great interest and concern at this point and 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. Did you think cultural diversity played a part there? Talk a little bit about today's philosophy in multi-culturalism that all cultures should be recognized and respected in order for us to bring unity and to understand and work together. What were some of your views about..
A: Well, I feel the same way. I really do. I think all cultures should be brought in. Because they are important. I know when I was at Butler School, we had some Mexican families, we had some Italian families. When we had an operetta one time, we had a Mexican dance. You know, because it is no different, I mean we are all in this thing together. And they didn't want any difference made. Every once in while we would try to throw in something that would make the parents feel good, you know. Lot of times we had this Italian dance, what was that the polka? But they would do things other groups did, you know. But I don't know whether we were conscious of that or we just did it, I don't know.
Q: Even Afro-Americans, in an African-American situation, there's a push to have more teachers for role models in the schools, for minority children; how did you feel about that? Do you think that's important?
A: I think role models, good role models, are important, no matter who they are. It doesn't have to be African-American, it doesn't have to be, but have enough variety in your role models. I think they are excellent.
Q: Your key point is that everybody needs to be good role models.
A: That's right.
Q: Would you discuss your participation in handling a civil rights situation - integration. Describe your involvement, if any, with bussing when you were in the schools and any time when....
A: No, we didn't have a bussing situation.
Q: Were you active during the sixties or...
A: I was active in the NAACP and I have worked for years as a membership worker in the NAACP movement. But that's about as far as it's gone, I haven't had any experience in bussing and that sort of thing.
Q: How did you feel as the first black principal and administrator? Did you experience any direct racism or did you feel at times that you didn't fill a part or that your voice was not heard? Was there anything unique about that experience when you - did you realize how unique you were, being the first black...
A: That's it, I didn't realize it. I really didn't realize it. I thought I was going to get a job just like everybody else, you know. Because I went to schools here and all. And really, I thought, well I had my certificate and I applied two years before I was appointed though. And I guess there was that feeling, would it work here?--and that sort of thing and in the administration down town, I suppose. I didn't get a job right away, but I finally did get a job and I just thought you just had to do your job, I didn't realize all of this going on now. It wasn't obvious, it wasn't out forward in front. A black teacher, you know. When I was hired, it was just in the paper with the rest of the teachers hired, so I didn't think anything and I just knew I could teach, I thought, you know. Very naive, you know. I had graduated from Ohio University, oh, I knew I could teach. So I had no inferiority feelings. I was stupid, you know, because I didn't even know what it was all about; but I thought I knew and so I didn't have that problem. My problem was teaching the children. And there may have been undercurrents going on, that I didn't know about, maybe at the Board, that my principal didn't let me hear about; there could have been. But I do know that there were a lot of visitors in the building but I thought that was the thing that usually happens. I found later that there were some members from the Board of Education. When I was hired, I was hired as a substitute teacher, for about three weeks, and then I was given a contract. So maybe some of the Board members were just seeing the schools. I don't know. I better not say that, I don't know.
Q: Did you at any time feel that you had any problems with parents because of race, any of your - obviously....
A: I may have, but I didn't realize it. I really didn't realize it. My parents worked with me so well. And if it were a race problem, it never surfaced so far as I was concerned. It was not that problem.
Q: And even when you moved on to become a principal and administrator, you moved with the same optimistic attitude?
A: Yes. And you know, probably the thing about it, if people know you're trying to help them, why would you be against them? You're there to help, not to criticize.
Q: Do you think, today, there's a lot of talk about having an affirmative action plan to go out and recruit more minority teachers and to pull in more minority teachers. Probably, definitely at your time, but I know today, a young black male can go through school and maybe never have or see a black male role model as a teacher. Do you feel that an affirmative action plan is necessary or needed to recruit in good African-American role models?
A: If it will do that. Now you see, there are two things you have to think about, or at least one important thing. Men can make more money doing something else. They can make more money doing something else and something not near as difficult as teaching. Teaching is a hard job. It's a gratifying job. I wouldn't want to do anything else. But let's look at the facts. Look at the salaries you can make in business as to education. And sometimes it's going to be hard to get the right kind in, but they have to have a love for children to sacrifice. And I'd like to see more of our men, we need role models, men role models. A long time in the Youngstown system, we didn't even have men in the elementary school, no kind. I remember when there wasn't even any group, not only Afro-Americans, no men in the elementary school. That was stepping down. It's different today.
Q: It has been said that today's curriculum has been much more complex in recent years; now you have the computers and information growth is so rapid. Would you comment on the nature of the curriculum during the time you were principal and compare it to today's situation in the schools, citing positive and negative aspects of then and now.
A: Well, I would like to be in the system now to see. I really don't know what would happen if I had some of these things that the teachers have now. I don't know what I would do with them, I don't know how I would work with them and how much success I would have, but I'd love to be able to work it. It sounds fascinating. There is a difference. That's for sure.
Q: Could you describe your work. That is how did you spend your time as a teacher, principal and supervisor.
A: Now as a teacher. Well you see you have a regular schedule as a teacher. Certain things you do. Now first we had the pledge to the flag and read the Bible and we sang America and that sort of thing which you don't, understand, do now. You don't dare read the Bible now. But there were certain passages of the Bible we could read as an opening exercise and it kind of set the stage for the day. And then you had your regular schedule, what you had first, whether it was your reading or your language or your math or that sort of thing. And you went right through the schedule that you had for the day. But you always made your plans so you always knew just what you were going to do from one stage to the other.
Q: And how many hours?
A: Well, we worked from eight to four. We were hired from eight to four and sometimes we worked over. It all depends. Because lot of times I did extra things; maybe I wanted to grade some papers; maybe I wanted to get the tests ready for the next day; that was on your own time, of course. But our hours were eight to four at that time. Eight to four.
Q: And as the building principal, what were your days like? Were you there a lot earlier than the teachers?
A: I was there earlier and there late. Sometimes the custodian and I closed the building. Yes, there's a lot more hours you put in as an administrator.
Q: The same when you were at central office? You had more ...
A: At central office, you had special hours and you could work in and out. Because you were in and out of the building all of the time, going from building to building and it wasn't in the central office all day, because your job was in the field really.
Q: Do you remember at that time, what the size of the district was, how many schools the district had?
A: No, I don't remember how many. But, all these schools that I see closed, were open. Grant School, Thorn Hill School, and so many of these schools. We were at that time building new schools. Because, when I was there, Mary Haddow was built. So, they were building schools then, it was in a growth; because the economy was good here, the steel mills were going and people were coming into Youngstown.
Q: At that time, I think there was something like 65-68 schools; we're down; we closed quite a few. You've touched upon this too. Because you've really overlapped on all my questions. That's quite alright. Would you talk about some key codes of ethics and give examples during your career. Today we talk about professionalism and ethics. What are important things that you think would cause a teacher to be successful with professional ethics concerning professional ethics? We talked about honesty and being sincere....
A: Those things, being honest, and being fair with the people, the students, being fair with your associates and being kind, being thoughtful, being helpful, being understanding, all of those things.
Q: What did you do, as an administrator today, or a lot of times even as teachers, there seems to be a disease of paranoia going around, people are paranoid that somebody is out to get me-- as an administrator, I know myself some days I think they are all up against me today and I have to do something to work that off, to think to get out of self. What were some of the things you did, or did you experience that at any time?
A: You know, I wouldn't let myself do that. When I felt like, some days you feel like this is not my day. This is really not my day. I said well, something's wrong with me today. But always, I felt, whatever I've done made me feel this way. Not the other folks. It's usually yourself, really. When you look down, it's yourself.
Q: So you talk to yourself about it and sort of de-program yourself.
A: That's right, what have I done.
Q: What suggestions would you offer to universities as a way of helping them to better prepare candidates for administrative positions? What do you think universities could do to better prepare people for becoming a principal and what to expect and.....
A: I don't know. Because the universities have, you have your training programs, you have your teacher training programs, don't you? And you have your practice teaching programs, you have observation before student teaching and that sort of thing. I think they're doing a good job, they're trying to do a good job, and they're doing a good job. The only other thing depends on the individual. The university can't do it all. And they have all these wonderful programs, but if you don't accept them and absorb them, you're the loser. I think the universities are doing a good job. I think where the weakness would be, would be in the individual.
Q: And what are some things as an individual that we should work on? What are some personal things that we need to work on to prepare ourselves for administration?
A: Well, you know. Live by the Golden Rule. Treat other people like you'd have them treat you. Just be sure you wouldn't do something to somebody that you didn't want that person to do to you. Just use the Golden Rule. That's my advice. Treat people the way that you want them to treat you. And you'll come out on top. Because, people, even those children know when you are sincere. And people know when you're sincere. And just treat people the way you'd like them to treat you.
Q: When you were a principal, did you find that a stressful position? Did you feel like you were under stress an awful lot?
A: No, I enjoyed everything! Oh, I had many experiences, but I enjoyed. Every experience was an education and it was a growth for me. I just enjoyed it.
Q: As a principal, were you involved in a lot of social organizations, outside organizations that maybe kept you going too? Would that be something that people could use to alleviate stress?
A: Well, I belonged to, I was on the YMCA Board, McGuffey Center Board, the NAACP I had other activities and my church activities. I had a lot of activities other than just the school, I didn't just go to school and come back home. I think the more you have - diversity of activities is a great help. Because it relaxes you. You get away from that stress and strain of the classroom.
Q: When you were principal, did you have a family? Did you have children?
A: No, I only had my husband.
Q: So, you didn't have to come home and contend with little ones?
A: No. So, I had a lot more time I guess, than some people would have to devote to my work.
Q: Was your husband married to the school system, too?
A: Yes, he knew when I was supposed to go someplace. He kept me on schedule and he was very supportive and many times when I had to go away on meetings, he would so arrange that he could go with me and do the driving. And many times I took some of the other supervisors with me. And we would make that a little recreation for us. He took it easy while I was working.
Q: Since you've had some time, from retiring on your career, what do you think your strengths and weaknesses as an administrator were? What do you think were your strongest points?
A: I don't know. I don't know. Well, I know what my weakest point was. The fact that I didn't get as much done as I wanted to get done. I never was satisfied. One of those people, that I thought why couldn't I have done this a little differently. But I don't know my strongest points.
Q: What schools were you a principal at?
A: Butler Elementary and John White School. Not Butler Elementary, I mean McKinley School, which is closed now. I began teaching at Butler School and I was principal at McKinley School for four years and principal at John White School.
Q: So you taught at Butler?
A: I taught at Butler, principal at McKinley and John White.
Q: Yes, McKinley is another school that is closed on the north side. Would you discuss some circumstances leading up to your decision to retire at that time. Why you retired and what mental processes you went through, what made you decide it was time?
A: My husband. My husband said you've been in it long enough. Give some of the young people a chance at your job.
Q: He wanted you to come home.
Q: I can understand that; I could see why he would want you to come home. As lovely as you are. He wanted all that positiveness around him.
A: But he said let some of these young teachers get - give the jobs to some of them, you've been in it long enough.
Q: What advice would you pass on to today's principals? He said to come home and give some of the young ones a chance, but there's something to be said about learning from our mentors, the examples that you once set before us. What advice would you give to an administrator today or a principal today?
A: What I've always said all along in our interview. Just take this interview all along. Just really be honest with your teachers, be fair, be kind, be understanding, be truthful and don't hesitate to give them a pat on the back and give praise when they've done a good job. Tell them they've done a good job.
Q: I try to think of all the questions, that I would like to ask you, but I know I've left something out. Is there anything you would like to tell me or share with me?
A: No, only thing I'm just very happy today to talk with you. And I just hope you all the success in your field of endeavor and it's just a thrill to have you and I hope you have to come back again, when maybe you're not even making an interview. Come back any time and talk to me. I just enjoy having you.
Q: Well, I've certainly enjoyed being here. And I extend an invitation to you. You may come into our school libraries and read and volunteer, anything you like. We'd love to have you.
A: Thank you.
Q: Yes, my only last question would be, do you ever go into the schools and still talk, do you visit the schools?
A: I don't go into the schools and talk. I go to some of their PTA meetings and things of that kind, but I stay out of the classroom.
Q: Is there a reason for that?
A: I like children so well. And I like to gather them all around me and that sort of thing and I can't do that when I'm visiting. Now I was at Harrison School during Negro History Week and I got a chance to then, because I talked to them. I enjoyed it very much. It was Harrison School and I had taught at Harrison School before I was an administrator and I oh, I tell you - those little ones just get to you. One thing, I think you do have to like people and you have to love children.
Q: What advice would you give to encourage hearts today. We're dealing with children that are coming from homes with broken families and a drug problem. And when they come from where they've seen a lot of violence, maybe a death of a father or a mother, it's very difficult for teachers today to deal with that. Is there anything, any advice you could give us?
A: I just wonder what I would do in a situation. But, it's a tremendous, tremendous challenge. You see, I didn't have that problem when I was coming along. We didn't have the problem of drugs. And so, it's a different day and I don't know how I would handle the situation.
Q: There's a lot of talk of going back to stronger parental involvement and trying to involve parents in the schools; not just for report card day or grades, but along the whole process and not just for bake sales. But having them come into the classrooms to sit and to work and see exactly what is going on.
A: That's just wonderful. And when I was principal, we did that a lot.
Q: You had a lot of that, the parents coming in.
A: Yes, and they felt free to come in at any time. We made it free for them to come in and sit through the whole session and see what's going on.
Q: Did the parents have to make an appointment or were they allowed to come and say could I just sit in the back?
A: We preferred that they made an appointment. But it was alright. Sometimes they just came right into the office and I would send the secretary down and tell someone it would be alright for them to come in. But sometimes they just happen to be out in the area and they always felt free to come in.
Q: Did you have many student teachers in the building?
A: Yes. I had a student teacher.
Q: How did you work with them? What did you do to give them a positive experience?
A: I wonder, you know you should interview them and find out if I gave them a positive....now one of my teachers is a principal at Sheridan School I believe.
Q: Carol Prestley?
A: Yes. Maybe ask Carol, she might know if I did anything positively. Let's see if I have anybody else that's a principal now. I've got a lot of teachers, but I was thinking about principals. Some of the others - Reda?
Q: Joe Reda, is principal at West.
A: I was not his principal, but I was supervisor when he was doing his student teaching. Some of those people - a lot of those who were with me they are retired, too! So you have to ask someone with whom I worked because I don't know if I made any positive ... but I tried to help; I tried anyway.
Q: And I bet you did. Well, thank you for your time.
A: I thank you for coming, I enjoyed having you.
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