Interview with Pete Loving


| Back to "L" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |

Q: Mr. Loving would you begin by telling us about your family, background, childhood interest and development of your early years.

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

A: I was born and reared in Covington, my father was a local undertaker, I was the third child of six. I had two sister, older and one sister younger and two brothers younger. I attended Covington High School, graduated and went to California, and State Teacher College in Pennsylvania. I was influenced by an Industrial Arts teacher by the name of Mr. Art Beamer who taught at Covington High at the time. He got me into school in Pennsylvania. So I attended there and the war came along. I volunteered for the air corp in 1942, Jan. 1942, about three weeks after Pearl Harbor I went in service in the army air corp. I went through the Aviation Cadet program, became a pilot, and became an instructor pilot for about two years until about 1944. Then I went overseas and flew the hump as a transport pilot until about 1945 before the war was over, then came back to the states and was discharged at the end of 45. Went back to college in 46 graduated in 47 came by to Covington and taught at the Covington High School, taught history in a field totally alien to me but they needed a teacher. That was for a half year, I completed the spring session of 47 there. Then I worked for my Dad in the funeral business for one year. At the end of that year my brother who had gone to embalming school in Cincinnati came back home and it was a good time for me to make a change. Mr. Beasley, who was superintendent at that time, offered me the principalship at Falling Springs, oh wait a minute I skipped a year I taught that half year at Covington High School in History and then I got in my field in Industrial Arts at Jeter, that's where the shops were, of course we had high school students. So I taught that for a year. Then I worked for my dad a year and then at the end of that time I was offered the principalship at Fallings Springs with a year and a half experience. At that time there were not to many men in the field, teaching field, they were looking for a man to be principal, and I was tapped. I went up there and stayed until 1955. In 55 I had gotten to the great salary of $4,000, the contract for 55-56 was $4,000 and I had brought a farm and I was starving so I decided to run for county treasurer, which I did and I was successful. I was county treasurer for eight years. My little old gray headed deputy decided to run against me at the end of eight years and she managed to beat me. And then I thought I would go back into education and I thought, no there's not enough money there and I decided to go into sales. So I got into selling with IDS and I sold mutual funds and life insurance and investment plans, that sort of thing. That got rather old, by this time I had two children of my own and we were living in the country and I was working late at night. I was doing all right financially but not that great. The opportunity came along to get back into teaching in Industrial Arts, you remember Mr. Cvizic he was principal at the new Alleghany High School and he said there would be an opening there so I applied for it and took that job. I taught there for three years and then the principalship at Falling Springs School opened up again and I applied for that. It was right close to home and some of the teachers, I had twelve, fifteen years ago were still there so I went back as principal of Falling Springs in 1970 and stayed there until I retired in 1985. I was almost to my 64 birthday and I went the retirement system and one thing another and it seemed appropriate that I retire. I had stayed in the National Guard all that time until I was 60 and I flew airplanes for National Guard and helicopters for the last nine, ten years. I was in the guard-- I retired from that at age 60 and was able to draw some retirement from that along with VSRS and social security. I felt it was time to depart and get out so that pretty much sums up where I've been and what I done.

Q: My next question was what motivated you to enter the principalship?

A: There again Mr. Beasley offered it to me and it paid a little bit more I think you got $5 or $10 more a month per teacher. It offered more than the regular teaching salary and at that time it was quite a challenge. It was a small rural school and I liked it very much so I took it. I enjoyed it, the only thing wrong to begin with was the pay was not good, not at all.

Q: Would you take a few minutes to walk us through that building and tell us about your school building and facilities>?

A: It was a typical elementary school, no I shouldn't say typical elementary school, it was a typical rural school building it was one of these things built from the plans that the state provided. Way back when it was built in 1928, somewhere along there, it had eight rooms and a stage and the center portion was the auditorium and it had fixed seats in there I believe Bob Smoot took those out, you may remember that. But it had the fixed seats in there and it was not a gym. It was typical small school. We had about 250 students grades one through 8. There was one little wooden building on the grounds a little two room wooden school house. That was the original one. I guess this big eight room school was the consolidated school for Falling Springs area.

Q: Would you describe your philosophy of education? How has your thoughts on education changed over the years?

A: I don't know, this is a tough one, I don't know if I have had a definite philosophy concerning education. I think so much depends on attitude, teachers attitude and collective attitudes of all the teachers throughout the school, and the administration. I think if you get a good wholesome sharing caring attitude that you can do a lot of things. If there is a lot of dissention or people just can't get along I think it permeates the whole school and I think it down grades the results of what you can expect from your teachers. I think that getting along, caring and sharing means a great deal.

Q: What kinds of things do teachers expects principals to do? Describe your views on what it take to be an effective principal?

A: Teachers expect the principal to be fair. I think they expect an openness, to be fair, not to discuss their personal shortcomings with others. They expect you to be direct, friendly but direct, they expect your support in discipline matters, they expect your support in relationship with parents, that is very important and generally they expect your support in supplying their physical needs, their equipment, to help out in matters like that and they expect you to be the school leader.

Q: If you were looking for a principal what characteristics in a person would you look for?

A: I think he should be friendly, put his school first. Be concerned about the overall function and purpose in the school. Work to do the best job he possibly can but he must be friendly. He should have an open door policy. Teachers ought to be able to come and talk to him not have to wait, not have to make an appointment to see him. If he is too busy to listen to his teachers then he is involved in some things that he probably could put off. He has misplaced his priorities. He ought to be able to listen to his teachers when they come in all puffed up about something he should be able to listen. I think the open door policy is one thing, and also let them know that he wants to know what's going on. I personally do not like surprises. I do not like for things to develop and get to the point were people feel they have to come to me I think that a lot of these things can be treated as minor problems and be addressed before they become major problems. I don't think its fair for a teacher to leave a principal in the dark about things that are going on in the school, their relationship with students and parents and then wait until it all falls apart then come find the principal, I think that's wrong. So the principal expects then to communicate with him, talk and in turn he should be open-minded. The principal ought to listen and they ought to talk. They should have input, we should listen to what they say and their suggestions because can come up with good suggestions they have splendid solutions to problems. Communication is a big, big thing.

Q: In the recent time a great deal of attention has been given to the role of personal leadership in principals,how do you see that has changed over the years or has it changed? Styles of leadership?

A: Style of leadership pretty much falls within the individual person. The individual develops his own style of leadership they will go to classes and listen to this or that and out of this will evolve a style, and then that style will change. They will find that this doesn't work, that doesn't work, I did this without thinking and maybe next time the problem comes up I'll treat a problem differently or try a different approach. So its an evolving thing it's not something you can say this is my style and I will stick with it, come whatever that won't work.

Q: There are those who argue that more often than not that center office policies hinder rather than help the building level administrators. How do you feel about that?

A: I would hesitate to say more often than not I would say occasionally center office sets policies that do hinder. Sometimes they attach more importance to some of their things than we think they should. We think we have a bigger job to do. Generally you can accommodate that. I think in order to carry out their policies you don't have to do it yourself you can delegate it to somebody to handle that. But I would not say more often than not in some instances it depends on whose in the center office and how they perceive their job. How they think you ought to accommodate them. I don't think the tail should wag the dog I think the school is the dog.

Q: If you were advising a person who is considering to become an administrator what would be your advise?

A: I would say don't put your roots down to deep, because of other opportunities if you want to advance in administration you have to be ready to move. So many of these areas particular ours, we get in a place and stay for years and years and we hold back potential administrators, people on their way up, some of these old timers are in place and are not going to leave until they are 65 or older. I would say be careful about putting your roots down if you really want to climb the ladder. Your opportunity may be two counties over or two state over. You don't know where it's going to be and you ought to be prepared to go there. Your family ought to be prepared to move if the occasion arises. I had a farm, I had debt in the farm and it kept me there. I passed up a lot of opportunities. I did not go up the ladder. I had to get larger schools and I said I better just stick here and I stuck. I did very well I got good evaluations but I was not free to go where the good jobs were.

Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader and those who suggest that realistically speaking this person must be a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue?

A: I think he must be a good instructional leader and also a good manager and here again it's a balancing act. As an instructional leader he must realize that not every teacher will use the same instructional method that he does. I don't think the administer wants to develop clones for that particular method of instruction, because all his teachers are different. If he can lead them to develop their own style then I think that what he should do, not try to make them teach things the same way, because they don't and they won't and he can not do that so he has to encourage them to develop their own style. But he or she must be the instructional leader and if he see that they are getting out of hand then through conferences and talking and measuring results and so forth he can effect changes. I don't know many teachers who would resist change if they realize they were not doing something right and he or she has to be prepared to. I think if an instructional leader can get a teacher to motivate kids however he or she does it. Here I keep saying he or she, when I first came in as principal there were only two men and the rest were women.

Q: What do you think the ideal requirements would be for a principal what do you think they would have to have as far as education, experience and so forth?

A: I would like to see a principal who has served in the service or somewhere, who has been disciplined and then take that and modify. I'm not convinced that you can get this type discipline outside of service. I would like to see everybody have a couple years of service in one of the branches, and get that discipline early, and then get their training. They ought to be an expert in some field. Their degree ought to be in something they can say they are good in. These others things I will learn as I good along. I mentioned discipline, that can go way to far. Some people can assume that discipline is everything I going to run this thing and I'm calling the shoots. They will have problems but they should know what discipline is, when to exercise it and when not to.

Q: It is often said that the principal should be active in community affairs, please discuss your involvement with and participation in civic groups?

A: I was active in the church and formed a ruritan club I was first president and a charter member of the local ruritan club and I think that is good. However, you have to limit yourself. You don't want to get yourself to the point where you going off to some meeting somewhere every night. You got a family you got to give them some time. You don't want to get too involved with outside interest. I think keep in touch with those things. Make yourself available as a speaker let people know what's going on but don't get so involved in so many clubs and activities that you deprive yourself and your family of free time.

Q: It has been said that there is a home/school gap, and that more parental involvement in schools needs to be developed. How do you feel about that?

A: I feel that's absolutely correct. There is a reluctance on the part of teachers to contact parents. Years ago we started on something here, some role playing to show how teachers could establish contact with parents. To often it's in a negative sense. I think teachers miss an opportunity to make contact in a positive sense. When Johnny does something good it gives the teacher an opportunity to let the parent know and say let me tell you what Johnny did today and the parent appreciates this. So when the call comes that Johnny was getting in mischief of some kind it's not so bad you already have your contact. I feel the same about the PTA I think the principal ought to be involved with the PTA he should be on the board of directors and he ought to be at every board meeting. Sometimes members of the PTA will come up with something that he is not in favor of, this is the time to lead and direct and guide that to something he can go along with. If he lets that thing develop within the board of directors and go so far and then it's presented to him, he's not in the meeting, everybody thought it was a grand idea but he had a good reason that it was not a good idea but he wasn't there to tell them and the ball gets rolling and he has a heck of a time getting it stopped. So he should involve himself in every committee meeting the PTA has to let them know his wishes. It's seldom that people will try to buck the administrator unless he has let it go to far.

Q: Would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation?

A: My approach to teacher evaluation was that it was a continuous process. You walk down the hall usually the doors are open and you can get a good idea of what's going on. You can hear the teacher yelling before you get to the open door if that's what she does. You get a feel for it, you go by the kids are playing the teachers at her desk reading something you know what's wrong. Now on a formal evaluation where you go in and sit down and evaluate a teacher, she's on her best behavior. If she knows you are coming and she generally does she's got everything prepared and you going to see the best of that teacher, you may see the worst of the kids, but the best of the teacher. This tells you whether she can do it or not. It does not tell you whether he or she is doing it. You can pick up a lot in there you can see some negative things, little remarks that teachers make, if they are putting the kids down for one reason or another and you can pick up on this, and you know what's going on then, it's going on a lot. But you can observe some awfully good teachers too. When I was doing the BTap Observations I saw some excellent teachers, first year teachers that just had the group in the palm of their hands just kept them going. Formal evaluation is good but don't ever pass up the opportunity to move around in your school and see and hear, make notes. It use to be if you ever wanted to let a teacher go it wasn't hard. Now you have to have ever thing documented if you see something negative you better document it.

Q: That was my next question, you lead right into it.

A: I say document everything that you send to the board I think. There are little things you might not want to document. You will know what is significant.

Q: What in you view should be the role of the Assistant Principal?

A: I never had the pleasure of having an assistant so it's very difficult for me to answer that. You should have somebody in charge. I had a teacher in the seven grade who took my place when I was gone. It seems in some school the principals are gone attending staff meetings so you need some one in charge. I think if I had the pleasure of having an assistant principal I would have had someone to bounce ideas off of, to discuss things with, to help you carry out my policies and someone to let you know what's going on.

Q: During the past decade some schools have become much larger. Discuss your views on the increase size of schools and how you think that will effect students and teachers?

A: I'm not sure, I think the larger schools are getting like a factory. They are striving to put out a product. But its getting to impersonal. The teachers don't get to know the students and the kids don't get to know the teachers and lot of the schools have a large turn over. I think that's not good. I think the children would like a smaller school. I'm speaking from the primary and elementary level since that's where I spent most of my time on that level. You don't have the diversity of offerings in an elementary school so I think a small elementary school would be preferred over a large one.

Q: Could you put a figure on that?

A: I would say our school varied from 275 down to 235 I think a good size school would be around 400. We were a little small it was a handicap in some area but it depends on class size. If you divide them up, total students by the number of teachers you have you would have a nice size class. But they don't come through that way. Sometimes you have classes too larger for one teacher and too small for two teachers. So you ought to have a large enough school that you can adjust your faculty to class sizes reasonably. You don't want one teacher teaching 10 or 11 kids. It should be large enough to have some flexibility in assigning students to classes.

Q: In recent years more and more programs for special groups for example, Gifted and Talented, LD, non-English speaking, groups have been developed. Have you had any experience with that? How do you feel about that?

A: I lived through the beginning of that. After the law that came into effect mandated these services to special groups. It was a pain in the neck. We were not set up to accommodated small groups but we have to make do. Sometimes they were in closets. Any space we could shove them into. That was inconvenient. It created problems, the teachers would come and have so few students that they were not carry the weight as far as work other teachers had to do. The special teachers had problems in their classes but they did not have to grade papers, they did not have preparations to do and a lot of things the other teachers had to do. They were looked on as an elite group. I think we have come to understand that we have to provide these teachers but I think they should be utilized a little more. Some of them had tremendous loads and some had a type of class that at the end of the day they knew they had been there. Our school was so small and we had one or two people in these class and those teachers did not have to work hard.

Q: Salaries and other compensations have changed a good deal since you enter the profession would you discuss your recollections of compensation and what you feel about today's situation?

A: Let me put it this way, when I came out of the army in 1945 as a captain I was making over $300 a month. I went back to school and got my degree came back and started teaching, my total compensation was $135 a month, I took home $113 a month for 10 months for a year. That meant that the salary scale for a beginning teacher with a degree was $1350 a year. Needless to say that has changed. It was ridiculous then. It took a long time for that to change. Needless to say that many of the teachers who taught at that salary were splendid teachers but it was thought because their husbands worked, some teached because they loved to teach, and they enjoyed their jobs. They were not teaching to get rich. The salaries were very slowly increase in the 50's and 60's. In the 70's I think as principal of Falling Springs School I finally broke $10,000. During the 70's and early 80's we were seeing significant raises. I think teachers need adequate salaries, but some are overpaid. Some are grossly under paid. Unfortunately, some of the competent teachers are leaving the classroom and going into administration because of compensation. They should be compensated as well as the administrators simply because they are master teachers, that's where they do their best work. I have feelings about that.

Q: Most systems presently have a tenure or continuing contract system for teachers. Would you discuss the situation at the time you enter education and as it is now?

A: Teachers have had almost the same thing as a tenure situation since I can remember in the 40's, simply because they were willing to teach for that amount of money and you simply did not let them go. If she was a little incompetent she filled the classroom, she took care of this or that, so you kept her. It was almost as difficult to upgrade classroom by changing teachers then and it is now. Teachers were not that available. So if you got a teaching job you stuck to it. Administrators made allowance and unless they moved you did not change teachers. You had to do something pretty gross in order to loose your job.

Q: Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucrat complexity in which they are force to deal. Would you comment on this situation during your career?

A: I never had that much paper work to deal with. The paper work I was required to do did not take that much time. Maybe because I was in a small school. The paper work did not trouble me that much. It was getting more toward the end of my career. One of the reason, when I was principal, was I spent half day as principal. I taught half day and was principal half day. Then when I left I had a secretary, teacher's aide and other people to take care of paper work. Paper work did increase but the help to take care of paper work increased.

Q: If there were any areas in administration that you would change in order to improve the efficiency or the effectiveness what would you change, what would you do?

A: I think staff meetings among people in similar positions, for instance elementary principals, would get together and share a little more frequently. We would not have to be mixed in with high school people. They have different problems. Those who share similar problems should get together to share problems and solutions and talk about things. I would like to see more of that than staff meetings. I think we need to talk among ourselves more not with administrators looking over us. This will give us more freedom to talk about problems and possible solutions and then if it involved the administration then you had something that had been discussed and pretty well nailed down and would be a reasonable request if it involved something from the top. So I think this type of meeting instead of staff meetings would be important.

Q: Let's think about curriculum for a minute, if you could make any changes in the area of curriculum in our time what do you think it would be?

A: Well, it looks like we are offering everything under the sun anyway. I can't think of anything to add to that. I think times will dictate emphasis on that. In the 50' it was Math, then New math, then science. That's going to shift emphasis from time to time. More than curriculum, what you going to teach, I would concentrate on how we are going to teach. How you motivate and how you get people interested in a subject area. I think that is the teacher's biggest job is to get the student motivated.

Q: Would you briefly describe your relationship with the superintendent during your career and also the board of education?

A: Let's start with the board of education. I had very little contact with the board of education as a board. I knew some of the members and it was not always a comfortable situation. I think that some of the members on the board felt like you were going to ask for something. Generally speaking I had a good relationship with the board, as they sat with the board, they were kind to you as far as superintendent goes. They pretty much left me alone. They pretty much let me make my decisions and pretty much backed me up. I think if you need to solve problems when they first become problems don't let them grow. We get so taken with our positions that we feel that we can do no wrong. We know how to run the school and we will run it our way no matter what that parent say. And then it's not long before we are taken to the school board. So we have to listen to what these folks are saying.

Q: Cultural diversity is the topic of great interest and concern at this point in time. Would you discuss the nature of your student body?

A: Yes, I would be glad to. That one is easy. We had an all white school. That was in the beginning, that was due to segregation. Segregation ended but it did not end in Falling Springs School because they were all white. When I went back the second time there were 2 black children who were well thought of in the community, who were fine people, who were not outsiders and there were no problems. I used to say I don't have any race problems because I only have one race. I don't have any drug problems. So I can't speak to that problem. Our diversity was in economic problems.

Q: It has been said that the curriculum has become much more complex do you think we try to teach to many things? Have we taken on to much?

A: Well, yes I think we have identified all these little curriculum courses rather than incorporate them in the bigger picture. Sex education for example, that should have been incorporated into something else, instead of making a big issue of it as a separate course of instruction. But here we have to give it a name, prepare for it, get books for it, whereas it could have been incorporated into some other course. We are teaching a lot of things and taking less time to do it. They want more emphasis on Math and Science but we have less time to teach it. I'm concerned about the length of the day for actual instruction. The length of the school year. Kids enjoy school. I'm not sure we are spending enough time on education.

Q: Some systems have gone to year round school do you see that in this area?

A: Yes, but they don't have more than 180 days do they? So many are doing segments to utilize the building. This keeps them from having to build and expand the physical plant. But what about the human plant? Let's give the kids two hundred days and see what happens. We expect them to learn all these things in a little bit of time. I looked at the seventh grade science books, this is stuff I learned in college. If we expect more of them let's give them more time.

Q: Think back and describe a typical work day while you were principal and what pressures did you have, go through a regular day.

A: They were varied, when you have a good time you don't remember what you did. I would come in speak to the teachers, see the buses got off alright. Stay by the phone, see if we have bus problems. Get everything settled down and then you could go to work. We had milk breaks in the middle of the morning. I had to pick up the milk, at the creamery, put it in the back of my car. I picked up three or four teachers and go to Falling Springs. I get out the milk. At noon I give out the milk again because they ate lunch in their rooms. Then they got ice cream and then went to the playground. I was a teacher in the afternoon. When I finished I went out to watch the buses. When all the buses were gone we could leave. It was a pleasant working day. Oh I was the doctor too. I had to pull teeth. I'm sure they don't do that today. But the first graders would come in with a tooth dangling and I would have to pull it. I gave hair cuts. I patched up head wounds. It was interesting. We did things then that we would not dream of doing today because of the liability.

Q: If you had it to do again what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself as a principal?

A: I don't really know.

Q: What do you think universities should be doing to prepare us?

A: This is something I went through after I became a principal and one of the most helpful things I did I took a class, a Dale Carnegie Class. Nothing gave me the confidence that Dale Carnegie Class did. It made the biggest difference in my approach to teaching, my dealing with parents with teachers and with the kids. That was one of the greatest things I did.

Q: What is your view of the mentoring program for new administrators in which an experience administrator is paired with a new upcoming administrator, what experience have you had with such an approach?

A: I have had no experience with that I rather not address that.

Q: Principals operate in a tense environment today, what kinds of things do you do to maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions?

A: I must admit my situation was not one of tension. I had very cooperative parents to work with. You take care of the little problems you don't have the big ones. There were some things I wish I could have changed, take our custodian for example, they were hired to take care of the boiler, but over the years the boiler is gone they don't clean, they don't do this, they don't do that, but it would be very difficult to change the situation. In other words, you can't up and fire a custodian who has been there for 25 years. You just do the best you can. They do cause a little tension, but you do the best you can. You can't get stressed out about it you have to learn to accept the things you can't change.

Q: Since you have had time now to reflect on your career I wonder if you would share with us what you consider to be your administrative strengths and your administrative weaknesses if any?

A: I managed to get along with the staff, we had a good relationship. I liked them and they liked me and that's good when you can get along with people. I guess that was one of my strengths, my ability to get along with people. Whether they were rich or poor, whether the custodian, bus driver, no matter who they were. I enjoyed the respect of my teachers, I tried to help them whenever I could. I guess that was my strength My weakness was on occasion I would use or humiliate a student in a classroom that was one of the things I regret the most. I don't think anything sticks with you any longer than humiliation, to be humiliated in front of your peers. It happened to me several times in high school and I think I remember every time a teacher humiliated me, it wasn't often but I remember every time. I think I've made that mistake several times with kids and these are things you live to regret. How many times I've wished I could take back what I said. Another time I had a situation with a kid I didn't like, he treated me with a degree of contempt and I treated him the same way. I lately came to realize that this boy was reflecting an attitude of his parents. His parents did not like me and that passed down to the kid. I realize that he did not like me because somebody else did not like me and I didn't like him either. But I should have avoided that situation. It came back to me when I was having problems and I mentioned it to a teacher. After years go by you start thinking about some of these things and what could be done to avoid some of these situations.

Q: Would you discuss the circumstances leading up to your decision to retire at the time you did?

A: In the first place I was getting older, I was almost 64. I decided the Virginia Retirement System was good and I most admit you start thinking about liability. I did not want something to go wrong or be put in a stressful situation that I haven't had, I would quit while I was ahead. No problems, not try to push it for one or two years without extra pay. You start thinking about travel. I have to say this I made more money after I retired. I retired at the end of June I started with the BTap program in the fall of 85. In fact when the flood came along I was during an observation in Clifton. Dr. Pace hired me to be clerk of the works for repairs and clean-up to the High School. The next summer I was Btap in spring and fall and working at the high school. We spent over one million dollars there. Had I not retired I would not have been able to do any of that.

Q: I'm sure there are other areas that I have not asked questions about do you have any comments on things that I have not asked?

A: No, Lord No, I can't think of anything that you have not asked. I have seen an awful lot of fine kids go through this school and some you think will end up in prison. A lot of them are great adults now. Some doctors, some lawyers, some surprise you. I have some regrets I look at some of the opportunities I passed up to stay here. By large I have no regrets, there's not must point in having regrets now that I have retired.

Q: Well, it has been great I thank you.

A: It's been fun, it's been a fun time for me.

| Back to "L" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |