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Q: First, Mr. Driscoll, we'd like you to tell us about your family background, some of your childhood interests, development, birthplace, just some background.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I was born on September 26, 1924. I came from a relatively average family in that day, I would assume. There were five children; I had three sisters and one brother. My primary interest as a youngster, I guess you'd say, would be athletics and Boy Scouts. Aside from that, my childhood was very normal.
Q: Did your parents achieve far in schooling?
A: My mother had two years of college. My father had about 3 years of college at about three different colleges . . . he was not happy at any one of the colleges he went to, and therefore he moved around. Um, my dad was a very strong-minded person; my mother was an equalizer. We had very good discipline in our family, and as a result of that I was fortunate enough not to get in any big scrapes throughout my childhood.
Q: Mr. Driscoll, would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching? And, how many years did you serve as a teacher and a principal?
A: I started my education at the college level in the latter part of 1942. I attended Holy Cross College for three months, and at that time I made the decision that I was going to leave college and go into the service, as many of my friends had done. I joined the Navy, and subsequently was assigned to the USS Cavot (?), a CBL aircraft carrier, and I spent the next 27 months on the USS Cavot. We were engaged in the Asiatic Theatre, and my ship had quite a history. We were in roughly 12 naval engagements in different areas . . . I think the last one that I was involved in was at Iwo Jima, at which time we were hit by two Kamikazes, then I returned to the States. We were reassigned at that time, and I was sent to the Philippines at the end of the war, and at that time we were assigned to a weather patrol ship. I was on that for about 6 months, then I was returned to the states. I was reassigned to the USS Toledo, which is a light cruiser, and on the Toledo I was fortunate enough to make a world cruise before I was discharged. Upon being discharged, I applied to several colleges and I was placed on the waiting list at several universities, and finally I decided I would go to Central Missouri, which is a small, liberal arts college in Fayette, MO. I graduated in about three and one-half years. While I was there, I had a great college life and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a tremendous experience. Upon graduating from college, I got a job teaching in Higby, MO. It was a small, 9-12 high school with 87 children in the high school. We, uh, at that time, I had not been engaged in coaching basketball or track, nor had I any experience in coaching plays. My first teaching job I taught 5 preparations, 3 Englishes, and 2 Histories. Since the school was so small, they alternated years in which they would teach English 1, 2, 3, & 4, and of course American History, World History, and Geography. Since I was the Social Studies department in that school, and since I did have a double major in English and Social Studies, I had a variety of courses to teach. Also, in a small school like that, every teacher takes on additional duties. And I taught, or I coached the junior play and the senior play, I coached girls basketball, and track. At the conclusion of that year, I thought that it would better, in my best interests, to see if I couldn't secure a position in a larger high school where I could get a different experience. At that time, I secured a job at Woodstown High School, Woodstown, NJ. I taught there for a year. I left there and went to Merchantville, and I taught there for six years. I left there and I went to a new school that was opening upMontby Regional High School. The position that I took there was one that I had learned about during one of my graduate courses at Rutgers University, through the teacher, who happened to be the superintendent of that high school. He asked me to apply for the position, which I did. Fortunately (for me) I did, I received the position, and it was to be the head of the social studies department, at which time I think there were four teachers in my department. We were in a new school that had just started. When I went there, we had roughly 800 children in the high school, and when I left there, we had roughly 2,300 children in the high school.
Q: At what point did you know you would go into education?
A: I think I knew that almost immediately when I started . . . when I returned to college after the war. I was interested in teaching, I was interested in history, I was interested in law, I had even thought possibly that I would get a double-major in pre-law and social studies, but I never actually got enough credits to get the double major. I enjoyed learning, and I thought I would enjoy teaching. And, that's when I made up my mind about getting into it.
Q: What would be your most important decision point, then, in your educational careerin your teaching, or going into the principalship, or was it moving from moving from teacher to administrator, or what was the turning point?
A: I think . . . I think the most important was at the end of my second year teaching at Woodstown High School. I was offered a position at E.I. Dupont, since I worked there in the summer and I worked in Jackson Lab. The chemist for whom I worked offered me a position, a full-time position, in the training program for international sales. And since I did have a background, or at least I had some background in French, since that was my language that I took in college, he thought that it would be a good opportunity for me. I tried it for 3 months, and I didn't like it. I missed teaching, and I went back to teaching.
Q: That's interesting. What motivated you to enter the principalship, and administrative job, and how did that role change over the years?
A: My primary motivation I would say at the time that I decided to enter the principalship, or go for certification and get the principalship, was money. I was married, had three children, and at that time, teachers' pay wasn't that great and I saw the opportunity for advancement and improving myself and the needs of my family, and then, once I made that decision and got into it, and was selected as the assistant principal at the high school that I was teaching in, I found that this was what I really, really liked. I liked it for several reasons. My primary reason was that I like children and I like to see children succeed. And if there was anything that I could do to help them succeed, in a leadership capacity, I thought that this was the first step that I would take that would allow me to achieve this end.
Q: How did that change as you spent 32 years, 34 total?
A: I can honestly say it did not change much because I never changed my attitude toward kids. I wanted to see kids achieve their greatest potential, and if there was anything I could do to get there, I was willing to do it, and I did do it.
Q: Did you ever feel isolated from the students, not having them in a classroom? How
Q: How did you interact? How did you develop relationships with the students, then?
A: I spent very little time in my office. I spent most of time out in the classrooms, in the corridors, at athletic events, at social events, at anything that had to do with the kids. And this helped me to keep abreast of what was happening, and where the needs were, and what I could do to implement these needs.
Q: You said your school had 2,300. Was that 9 to 12?
A: Nine to twelve.
Q: Nine to twelve . . . how did you keep track of kids and families through the years? You spend 32 years in the community, and . . .
A: Well, I had not only did I have the kids but I had the kids' kids, and I had THOSE kids' kids over that period of time. So I kept in pretty close attendance, er, pretty close with the kids and their attendance through life. And it didn't end when they graduated from high school. I followed many of them up and some of them became my very good friends. They were my students at first, and then they became my friends.
Q: That's neat. As we're talking, take us on a walk through your school, describing it's appearance. You said you were rarely in your office; describe your facilities, and where you saw the kids.
A: Our facility was . . . we had a main building and a north building. Uh, the school plant was located on 56 acres of ground in Medford Towns of New Jersey. It was the eggcrate-type of building; we had I think 23 different athletic activities in the school for boys and girls. We had different theatrical groups, we had a great, one of the best bands in the state of New Jersey. We had many, many different social activities. We had a dance every week for the kids at the school. [Coughs] Excuse me. And, I'd say that it was one of the best facilities that I've ever seen for a high school. I was very, very fortunate. We had a great Board of Education, I had a very progressive superintendent. He was my nearest neighborhis office was right next door to mine. [Laughs] Sometimes that could be difficult. And many times we fought like cat and dog, because we didn't necessarily agree on everything that came down the road. Sometimes he won (which was more times than I won), but I won my fair share, and we got along beautifully. I . . . the one thing that I think I missed throughout my whole principalship was the fact that I was never completely independent in my building, because the boss was always right next door. He tried not to interfere. On occasion, I think, he just couldn't help himself. He saw something that he didn't particularly care for or like and he would like to have changed, he didn't hesitate to tell me. And, of course, I changed it, if I couldn't swing him to my way of thinking. But I was very fortunate. He was a very good boss, he was my superintendent throughout my tenure. In fact, he retired the year after I retired.
Q: How would you describe the instructional philosophy of your school, and how it evolved over the years?
A: Well, I have it right in front of me because I wrote it. I shouldn't say I wrote it, I should say I was instrumental in writing it, along with a select group of teachers and supervisors from my staff.
Q: Could you read it to us?
A: Sure will. 'We believe the function of the school is two-fold. First, to provide a stable learning environment, and second, to strive to affect students acquiring the necessary skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values, which will enable them to reach their potential as practicing members of our democratic society. We believe that a suitable learning environment requires a flexible and diversified curriculum, varied teaching methods, physical facilities conducive to the implementation of the educative process. We believe that the creation and control of this learning environment is the joint responsibility of the students, school personnel, parents, and community.' That is actually how we felt and that's what we put down as our philosophy and that's what we tried to implement.
Q: What experiences or events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy?
A: Well, I think that the biggest thing that I can think of probably was that over my years of experience, by the time I was halfway through my principalship, I had learned that you do not . . . you don't jump on every new innovation that comes down the highway. I think that new trends have to be tested. I don't necessarily want to use my children and my school as guinea pigs. I would like to see the end result before I try to implement it. And that was really, the big innovation [unintelligible].
Q: But your school was such a big school; did you feel pressured to jump on every new thing?
A: At times I did. As I mentioned beforehand, there were occasions when my boss and I differed in our thinking. And there were times when I disagreed vehemently with something that he would like to implement, but he was my boss. And, after we discussed it, and knocked it around, if he could sell me on the idea, I went with him. If he couldn't, I told him that I didn't agree but that I would go along, because he was my boss.
Q: Insofar as supervising instruction, how was that handled in your setting?
A: In our setting, in the beginning I was a supervisor, and I had a lot of experiences in supervising teachers, observing classrooms, listening to the interaction between the teacher and the children, and I had a pretty good idea of what was happening in my classes. In all of the 30 years that I was principal, I never lost that because I thought that was really the main reason that I was there. In defining the principalship, the principal is THE master teacher in that school, and I felt that my primary obligation was there. And, as a result of that, when I moved up to the assistant principalship, I tried to continue along with the other activities that I was given, the discipline, and planning and structuring new courses as they came into being, I felt that I had to rely on my teachers, I had to have teachers who had a passion for teaching, and to me that was where it all happened.
Q: As you interviewed people for employment, how did you ascertain that passion for teaching?
A: It wasn't as difficult as many people make it. I've always been a pretty good judge of character and people, and as a result of that, when I talk to a teacher, I would let them know where I was coming from before I asked them where they were coming from. I wanted them to know what I expected and my primary consideration was always that we had a student-centered school, not a teacher-centered school. We were there for kids, and they were there, not for us, but to learn. And that was my general philosophy that I discussed when hiring teachers.
Q: What other techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning?
A: Well, first of all, I think that you have to have teachers who are happy in their job. [unintelligible] for my teachers, so that they could provide the climate for their kids. And if they felt secure, and they didn't feel as though I were hanging over their shoulder, then they could do their job and do it with a passion.
Q: What experiences in your professional life, and this may be a lot of what you've already said, but that influenced your management philosophy. You spoke of your military service; how did that influence the type of administrator that you were.
A: I always felt that I was highly structured, which did I think come from my background in the military, and also from my home. My dad always expected us to reach certain goals within certain limitations. I expected the same thing from my staff, and I wanted them to expect the same thing from their students.
Q: We've talked about administrative expectations, teacher expectations, what expectations do the community have of the principalship?
A: I think the community expected pretty much the same thing that they received. I think that they expected us to provide a learning experience for their children that would prepare them for their future, whether it be in the academic area of college, or it be on into the military, whether it be going into business for themselves, or into a job industry. I think that we tried to provide that for them as closely as we could, but as you know when students complete high school, you have merely scratched the surface of what they are going to be doing for the rest of their life. I also tried to implement the attitude in my faculty that they would pass it on to their kids, that they were going to be reeducating themselves all the rest of their lives in the new technological age that's coming into being. I think the community wanted this, and I think we tried to provide it.
Q: As a follow-up question, then, what would be the characteristics of the good principal, in terms of the community's idea? The characteristics that the community would want to see in a good principal? And then I'm going to ask from an educational standpoint, an educator's standpoint.
A: Well, I like to think that they were very happy with me as the principal and that they seemed to think that I was doing a fairly decent job as far as providing for their children and getting them ready to continue in life.
Q: How many of your children in your school went on to higher education?
A: Roughly 60% of our kids went on to secondary, went on to a college or university. Another 10% went onto, went into military, and another percentage went into industry. And then there were also a number of our children that went into business schools, technical schools, and schools of that nature.
Q: Insofar as a person wanting to aspire to the principalship today, what are the characteristics of a "good principal?"
A: I think a good principal is a person who can communicate with the public and communicate with his kids and can communicate with his staff. If he can do those three things, he's going to be able to function well in his school environment. He's also going to have to keep abreast of new things that are happening, in the various fields of education and also in technology. You can't be a master of all activity, but you can at least be abreast and have a basic working knowledge of those activities.
Q: How much did you delegate authority? Did you have assistant principals, or what was your philosophy of delegation?
A: I had three assistant principals, and my philosophy of delegation was based on the ALPHA system: you work with your kids, and you work with your teachers in the alpha that you're responsible for. If you have any major problems, you need any assistance, my door is open. But you have to have a working knowledge of what's happening in your area of responsibility, and that is your area of responsibility.
Q: So, essentially, hands-off?
A: My . . . definitely, hands-off. Hands-on only when needed.
A: That's what gave me the opportunity to spend so much time out of my office and out in my building.
Q: When did you get your paperwork done? They say the bane of administration is paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. When did you do that?
A: An awful lot of my paperwork went into the circular file. [laughter] I got the paperwork that I had to get done in my school, I did it at home. I did not take very much work home with me throughout my whole professional career. I made a point never to leave school and take work home unless it was an absolute necessity. Of course, I was in school every morning at 7 o'clock and I didn't leave until 4:30 or quarter of five.
Q: But I also recall you saying, talking, thinking of writing recommendations for many of your students in the evening hours for their employers and college, and that the care that you put into that often took a lot of thought and
A: It did. Because many of the kids that you had to references for, you didn't have that much knowledge of their academic background other than the, their record. Whereas, many times I would go to their teachers and talk to their teachers, because they gave me a better insight on what to write and how to write. I did most of my writing of recommendations at home. But I didn't consider that paperwork.
Q: Okay, that's interesting. If you were advising a person who is considering an administrative job, what would that advice be?
A: I think that the advice would be that you've got to be ready to spend an awful lot of your own personal time beyond the regular eight-hour day. And if you're not willing to do that, then I don't think you can see the whole picture and really be aware of and know what's happening in your school. I'm talking particularly about the athletic activities. There are, for instance, in the winter 22 wrestling matches, 23 basketball games (girls), 23 boys basketball games, 5 plays, 4 or 5 different musical activities, always football games, new band concerts . . . there are so many activities, and I can honestly say, that throughout my period of principalship I missed very few of any of them. Home or away! That's how I got to know my kids.
Q: How would someone prepare, then, as a teacher for the. . . ?
A: You've got to like kids. You've got to like what they're involved in. You've got to let them know that you like what they're involved in. You've got to show them, you've got to be there, that's how you show them.
Q: Mr. Driscoll, it sounds like you are not a person to have a problem making a decision. It sounds like you could make decisions on your job, and carry through with them and go forward. Could you speak a little to that?
A: Yes, it was never difficult for me to make a decision. If you have all of the facts that were involved in the circumstances, it was relatively simple to make a decision. You can't satisfy everybody. You can't make everybody happy. You have to make the decision based on the merits of the situation, and then you make the decision. And I did that most of the time. I never kept a teacher waiting. If a teacher had to see me my door was open, and if there way anybody in my office that teacher could wait until they left and come right into my office. I never sent a note to my teachers that says "Please see me at 5:30 or 4:30 or 2:30 or 1:30"; if I had something to say to them, I walked down to their room and asked them to come outside and I said it. I took care of it like that. I didn't write notes and I didn't respond to notes. I thought it was very . . . it was easy, it was simple. You unload the situation immediately. Do it, don't wait on it! When it's done, it's done, then I forgot about it. Even if I had to chew out a teacher, I did it. It was done, it was over. If I had to hit the same teacher two or three times, then that was a different matter, and we handled that one in my office.
Q: What are other ways that you found to communicate with your staff?
A: Well, as I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time out in the halls and in the classroom. I also made it a point every single day to hit every corridor in both the buildings, all the gyms in both buildings. I also hit the faculty rooms in both buildings, at least once a dayevery day! There were a lot of problems solved that way. I go into a faculty room, sometimes two or three of them jump on me at the same time. I said, "Okay, let's talk about it." And we talked about it. When we got done talking about it, I said, "Well, this is the way it's gonna be. How does this grab you?" [laughter]
Q: It is said that there's a home/school gap, and parents are less involved and attentive to their children today. Can you give your views on that issue and describe how you interacted with parents, particularly of children who had serious problems in your school?
A: I've had quite a few reactions to those situations, and the way I handled them and the way I reacted to them was make an appointment with a parent, when the parent came in I always made sure I was on time and the parent always knew that they had as much time as they needed to discuss the issue with me. If I felt that there was a lapse on the part of either the parent or the child in a given situation, I told the parent exactly where I was coming from. I didn't try to guild the lily, I didn't try to let them think that "Oh, well, everything will be okay, just don't sweat it, hang in there"; that doesn't necessarily all the time work. You've got to tell them the way it is, to lay the facts on the table. I had a lot of success in doing that. I know that every parent didn't go away happy, but they at least knew where I was coming from and why I was coming from that direction and what the circumstances were and how I felt. And they were either letting down their child, or their child was letting them down.
Q: A good deal has been said today about teacher grievance. Would you give your views on the desirability of such procedures and describe your approach to handling severe teacher dissatisfaction?
A: In my tenure as principal, I think I had three grievances in 30 years. Twenty-nine years, whatever rate. Uh, I know I had many occasions when teachers were unhappy with something I had said or done. And, we were always able to sit down and discuss it, and come to a satisfactory conclusion without the situation raising up into a grievance. On the 3 grievances I did have, I won 2 and lost 1, which isn't a bad percentage. But I never had any real serious problems with my teachers association. I told them exactly how I felt, and I let them know that I wasn't the last word, if they weren't happy with me, they could go to the next step. And on one of the two occasions, well, on the three occasions, they went to the next step, and they won one and lost two. I tried to be up front. I think that's the whole thing, I think. If you're up front with people, and you're honest with them and they know you're honest with them, you can easily work out the problem.
Q: What were some common problems that teachers came to feel dissatisfied or . . . was it scheduling, or duties, or assignments?
A: No, because they're things I always made sure . . . I guess that's one of the reasons I didn't have many of those problems, because all of our assignments were always equitable. Every, single one of them. And if I made a mistake, I rectified the mistake and it was my mistake, it was no problem. But, you can't always be 100% right, but I think one of the things my teachers knew the day that they let school out the end of every year, they had their schedule in their hand for the next year. If they had any problem with that schedule, they had all summer to come in and discuss it with me. But the [unintelligible] to do it as it was, because the schedule was equitable, I was a master scheduler, I knew the scheduling procedures and I had a very, very good computer man who could work the details out.
Q: So you were directly involved in teacher assignments.
A: Every teacher assignment. [laughter] That's where . . . you've got to know your teachers, and you've got to know where you're putting them.
Q: So you knew teachers were better with a certain kind of class, or a certain kind of teachera certain kind of student, you tried to pair that up.
A: Well, you have to know your teachers, and you have to know your kids, and you have to know what kids can't get along with this person, and what person can't get along with this kind of a kid. And you schedule accordingly. Our schedules . . . I tried to be equitable in my scheduling. Every one of my teachers taught both academic and nonacademic classes. Whether it be in math, science, social studies, whatever. Because I felt that all of my kids deserved the best that I had to offer. And that's why I scheduled it.
Q: So, how did you plan new teachers' schedules? Was that any different from your veteran teachers?
A: New teachers always got a mix. They always got, out of five sections, the new teacher would get 3 academic and 2 general. Or, if it's in the academic area . . . a highly academic . . . a teacher that's highly skillful in academic areas would get maybe 2 honors, 1 academic, and 1 general and that was what the schedule was. Because I firmly believe that all kids deserve the best. You spread it around.
Q: Did you have disputes concerning grading practices, parents upset about students' grades?
A: Yeah, we did. But then we had a good system that was thoroughly explained, every parent received a student handbook at the beginning of the year. Everything was outlined for them, they had the five different levels of instruction, one which was rigorous and intensive, an academic commitment. Level 2 was instruction providing extensive academic preparation. Level 3 was instruction that was moderately paced, requiring a command of the basic skills. Level 4 was instruction which stressed the basic skills, and level 5 was instruction designed to meet the needs of the special education student. Level one was considered an honors program for students who qualify on a basis of academic excellence, or in gifted and talented. So the five different levels of instruction were such that we had something for every child, and let's face it: all kids are not the same. And they have to understand at the level that they can understand. They have to learn at that level. And as I said, I think that in grading them, in evaluation, the only problems that we really ever had as far as parental disagreement with us was usually in the honors or highly academic areas. And particularly when it came time to select your speakers for graduation at the end of the year. And my answer to the parents who did come in with what they thought were legitimate complaints was that I felt that we were much better to make that judgment since we were the ones who had their children in the various skill areas and the various academic areas, and we knew, in our opinion, who best fit those needs. We did not leave it up to the kids to select. We selected the best, and there can only be one number one, there can only be one number two. And the degree of difference is so small, that I could never understand the parents getting so upset, because my feeling was "Hey, this is high school. They're leaving here. They're going onto college. They're going to have to perform in college at our intensity. Why is it that so important that they be number one or number two. I think the importance is, how much did they learn while they were here? How well were they taught? How good is their background for going onto wherever they're going? And that was it.
Q: During the past decade, schools have become much larger. Discuss your views on this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities, keeping in mind you said your school had 2300 when you left.
A: I think that the optimal number would be about 1200. That's about half of what my high school was when I left. The reason I say that is that you could offer a variety in the curriculum . . . in the area of curriculum, that would meet the needs of almost any youngster you would have in that school. And by the same token, you don't have the confusion, you don't have the fights, you don't have the uproars, you don't have the extreme competition for girlfriends and for boyfriends and things of the social order. There is a better . . . I think you have a better opportunity of providing a more calm level for the youngsters in the school and not so much hyperactivity.
Q: How did you handle assemblies with that many students? Did you have one assembly for the entire student body?
A: Yes. We usually had six assemblies during the school year. I tried to have at least one every six weeks. And, they were of different types. Sometimes, for instance, I had the army or the navy band come in and play, or we'd have skits put on, faculty skits, student skits, we had our band, our chorus, we had a variety of programs. For every program, I spoke to the student body. I'll never forget my daughter sitting up in the stands one day while I was giving the kids a good dressing down. I was fed up with some of the attitudes that I saw going on in the school. And I happened to glance up and I saw my daughter, and she was laughing, and she could hardly hold on to her . . . [laughter] And I thought, you know, she's heard this speech many times. But, from time to time I did. I had to jump them and I did. And when I did, I was mad and they knew I was mad. And, I guess I was lucky. I had success.
Q: So you were able to get approximately 2000 or more children into a setting and able to have assembly and get them back . . .
A: Oh, yes.
Q: That seems almost impossible. How did you supervise?
A: My faculty supervised. They were expected to be there and they were in the stands. They had seats up there and they[end of side one] in fact, that's where I was after I got done talking to the kids to make sure that they weren't in [unintelligible]. They all had assignments, they knew where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to do and they were good. I had a great faculty. I was lucky. And I think one of the reasons I was lucky is because I stayed off their back and they stayed off my back.
Q: In terms of salaries and other compensation have changed a great deal since you entered the profession. Can you speak to how the compensation systems have changed through your tenure and education, and your personal views on that?
A: Yeah, they really have changed. I started out in 1950 at $2400 a year. When I . . . 10 years later when I went into my . . . became a supervisor, I was making $6500. 10 years later into my principalship, I was making $25,000. 10 years after that, I was earning $50,000.
Q: That 10 years doubled . . .
A: And 10 years after that, when I retired, I was earning $75,000. It's been five years since I retired, and those people, the people who are in my position at the present time, are making $105,000.
Q: They got you a little cheap!
A: That's the salary scale. Now, as far as changes in reaching and achieving those salaries, we had a local association and we had a state association. In the beginning, when I was teaching high school in Mercerville, I was the first president of the teachers' association. We were getting . . . I was earning I think $150 for coaching football (I was assistant football coach) and my salary at that time was about $3200. And it was hardly a livable salary for a family at that time and I had three children and my wife and myself. And we felt that we deserved more than a raise of $150 the next year. So we formed an association, and we brought in the state association, and we learned how to bargain. And that was the beginning of my experience in bargaining, in dealing with a board of education that was not at all friendly. My attitude was such that I had tenure, I wasn't going to worry about how they thought, because I knew I was a good teacher, and the parents of my kids knew I was a good teacher, and I knew they weren't going to go after me. So that's why I said, "Okay, I'll be president."
Q: And you feel that that bargaining experience helped you later with your teachers and with the parents?
A: That helped me . . . It helped me tremendously with the teachers, because I could sit there and tell them, "Look, I was in the boat . . . I was in the same boat that you're in now. I understand your problems. We'll do whatever we can. And I'll go to bat for you, with the superintendent and say 'Look, I feel that this is reasonable. I'd like you to fight for them.'" And later when they're association became stronger, then the circumstances changed somewhat. It wasn't quite as friendly as in the beginning.
Q: A little more adversarial?
A: It was much more adversarial. By the same token, when it was done, it was done. And I never, never held it against anybody only in the association or any other of those persons who bargained with them. In fact, some of the people who were presidents of their local . . . were several of my very good friends. And still are. And I could still argue with them . . . in fact, I was visiting with one of them not too long ago, in fact I think it was about a month ago, they were getting ready to bargain for next year. And I told them, I said, "Hey, lookyou guys are going to have to put the brakes on. It's getting to the point now where you are up with any other profession. Our teachers right now are making . . . a teacher with twelve years' experience and a Bachelor's Degree is making $50,000.
Q: In New Jersey?
A: In New Jersey. A teacher with a Master's at 15, is making $70,000. A Doctorate is making $80,000. A supervisor is making $85,000. An assistant principal is making $90,000. And a principal is making $105,000.
Q: Do you think those salaries are commensurate with the responsibilities today?
A: I think they are.
Q: Even though the brakes need to be put on . . .
A: I think there are . . . I think they are now, and I think they're at a level now when they should be happy with their 2.5% whatever, the CPI happens to be.
Q: What are your views, then, on tenure?
A: I am in favor of tenure for reason. I am in favor of tenure because if a teacher or administrator happens to be in a district that is politically charged with seeing to it that nobody gets on tenured, they keep the costs down, and they have the teachers living in fear of their jobs at all timesI can't understand it. I don't like it, I don't agree with it and therefore I would be in favor of tenure in those circumstances. Once a teacher has been in a district for 10 or 15 years, I don't think they need tenure anymore. If they're doing a good job, they have already made their place in that community, the community knows them, they know whether they are good or bad, and if they're good, they don't have to worry about tenure. If they're bad, they shouldn't be there in the first place. They should be canned.
Q: How . . . what if you had a teacher, and they're a fairly good teacher in the first five or six years, won even state awards maybe and a national award or so, but then start to develop some personal problems; by the 18th year, they weren't getting the job done? How would you handle that?
A: Well, I don't think it would take 18 years in the first place. I don't think that it would happen all of a sudden. I think that you would see it coming on. I think that you would have time to sit and council with that teacher and work with that teacher, if that teacher was willing to work to improve his status and to overcome the deficiencies . . . you wouldn't have to worry about me. But if he wasn't willing to make those changes, you would have a lot to worry about. I'd have to get rid of them.
Q: Have you ever done that?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: Can you speak to that in broad terms?
A: Yeah, I had a . . . I've had several of them. One two or three occasions, I've been able to talk the teacher out of his job. And tell him what was happening to him and what was going to happen to him if I had to bring tenure charges, and based on the facts of the situation, which I had cold. There would be no questions, but it would be in their best interest to leave of their own volition. Two of them did. There were . . . I think there were 3 other cases where I had to . . . first . . . in the state of New Jersey, your first approach would be to withhold an increment. After you've counseled them and they made no effort to change, you would withhold the increment. And, of course, keep records on your observations and everything that he was responsible for that he didn't meet, the obligations he didn't meet, keeping absolutely a correct record. And then, give him one more year to overcome the deficiency, and if he didn't do anything at that time, bring tenure charges. I had to go three times. And all three times, the tenure charges stuck.
Q: You talk about it very matter-of-factly, like it was a part of your job, and it was a decisionkeeping of careful records . . .
A: Oh, absolutely.
Q: Was it, though, a time of anxiety for you, or did you try to consider it part of the job? What were your feelings?
A: Well, naturally, it a part of anxiety, and you have very strong feelings about these people, particularly if they were once a good teacher, as you mentioned before. And one of these cases was. What happened with him was he got dependent on medications, drugsnot illicit drugs, but they should have fired his doctor, too, but that was another point. But, he was an excellent teacher. He was an ordained minister, he had an outstanding military record (a lieutenant in the Navy), and he was just a fine person. But he just fell apart and couldn't do it anymore, and I was able to talk him out of his job. And he made . . . got help through his church, and got all straightened out, and he went into another job.
A: No, no . . . with the church. And here again, circumstances were always different. I had two that just didn't care; they were just "You can't do this to me, I have tenure." [unintelligible] stand up. If you keep the records accurately, and you give them every opportunity to change and overcome their problems, then you've tried to help them, and they won't go for any kind of help, then it's no problem at all to break tenure.
Q: How do you . . . how does a person develop the skills and abilities to handle what the situation you've just spoke of? Is it through the assistant principalship? Is that where you developed those kinds of skills, or . . .
A: I developed them when I became a principal. I never had the problem as the assistant principal, the principal always had that problem. But, one of my problems . . . I was always part of the problems, or part of the situation, because I had to do the observing. In every case where there was a tenure situation, the assistant principal and the principal both had to observe the teacher that's teaching, and review all of his records, and keep an accurate record yourself of everything that's happened in those circumstances. But it's not that difficult. If you know your job and you know that this has to be done, and the first one to alert you of the situation if it's not the kids, it's going to be the supervisor who is always in there, on top of the situation. That wasn't my case when I was assistant principal because we didn't have any supervisors. Well, we had department coordinators but not supervisors. So, at that time it was the assistant principal's job to be in there and I observed every single teacher a minimum of three times during the school year and untenured teachers five times. Three in the first semester and two in the second. And it kept me busy. It kept you busy, because you had that and you also had the discipline. And as I said, I was a master scheduler, I was also the scheduler for the school. Which I enjoyed. That was more fun than anything else that I had to do.
Q: The scheduling?
A: Yeah. [laughs] A lot of people say, "Oh, yeah, you can get even with your teachers that way." You know, you're not getting even with teachers, you're hurting kids when you take that attitude. So, as much as you didn't particularly care for them . . . you might not particularly care for a particular teacher, but if that teacher is a good teacher you want that teacher to be with kids he's going to help.
Q: Yeah. So, when you mentioned kids alerting you first to a teacher that wasn't getting the job, did kids come and talk with you or did you find out through a parent conference or a parent coming to complain, or that kind of thing?
A: Some highly academic kids know why they're in school. They're in school because they have a purpose. If that purpose isn't being met, if they have a teacher who's just goofing around half the period, telling stories and kidding around with the kids and not teaching, these kids are going to let you know. And they do. They also talk to their other teachers and their other teachers come and they will tell you. My views are that you will never replace the education system and services that we have today.
Q: The public schools?
A: The public schools. That's not to say that parochial and private schools are not important, because they are. They're important for the children of the people who want their kids educated under those conditions and circumstances. Though, as far as the general population is concerned, the bright, the not-so-bright, the middle range child, the lower levels, then the public school education system is second to none. That isn't to say that there isn't room for improvement. But as far as I am concerned as a high school principal, the room for improvement is not necessarily in the curriculum, the room for the improvement is in the laws and the courts of this country.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: I think that educators' hands are tied because of the laws that have been thrust upon them by the courts, that liberal attitudes that we've seen developed over the years has tied the hands of the school administrators, and there's absolutely no question about it. I've seen on many occasions, situations where children have been severely disciplined by the school and had that discipline torn asunder by the courts, reversed. That has happened to me, on many occasion, in my own school. And I feel that if the teacher can teach, the children will learn. If the teacher can't teach, the children will not learn. And that's the whole purpose of teaching. The purpose of teaching is not to teach, the purpose of teaching is for kids to learn. And in my opinion, it's not going to happen unless there are some stringent changes made in the laws.
Q: Which kinds of laws in specific . . . are you thinking Special Ed-type laws?
A: I'm thinking not only in discipline, I'm thinking of new courses that are being thrust upon educators that they must include in their curriculum, taking good time away from teaching for frivolent ideologies in my opinion, and that bothers me. Special Education I think has been taken out of proportion. I can recall 20 years ago before the big glut of special education came into being, I can recall having one teacher (and this is in a high school where we had 1500 -1600 kids), I had one teacher who taught 2 double-block classes for kids with learning disabilities. And I think she achieved more than the same situation now, that I had when I left: 25 teachers. Because we didn't classify every kid that walked down the hall. We classified kids with real needs. The new classifications that come and been thrust upon us by law, in my opinion, have hurt much more than they've helped. That's not to say that we don't need special education, we do. The circumstances have changed, conditions in the economy have changed, social changes have taken place that are unbelievable, and therefore there is more need today, but in my opinion not nearly as much as we see.
Q: What suggestions would you offer to universities as a way of helping them to prepare candidates for administrative positions? And, comment on some of the weaknesses that you've perceived in traditional programs.
A: I would recommend that they: #1, use practical problems in discussing issues of the day as opposed to theoretical problems. I think theory is great, but I think you also must provide practical problems to go along with the theory so that there can be a better understanding of the issue.
Q: So, more like case study-type teaching, where you look at a particular case. How was it
A: Right. How was it handled, and also, you know, how did it apply as far as the legal applications are concerned in the situation? We all today have to be more concerned about the legal implications than we do actually about the problems, and that bothers me. It bothers me a lot.
Q: How do you feel about, in Virginia, we have a six-month internship that must be completed without pay for future principals. Not in their home school, they must go be an intern.
A: Is that with a mentor?
Q: Yes, under another principal.
A: I think that's a good idea. I'll tell you the truth, I think that you could eliminate half of the theoretical courses that they're offering and provide more of a situation of that nature with credit, and as a result of that give that person a better idea of what it's like on the firing line.
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