Interview of Cley Richendifer, Longmont (Colorado) High School Principal, 1961-82

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Q: How many years were you a teacher?

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

A: Twelve years.

Q: Then how many years were you an administrator?

A: Twenty-eight years.

Q: And what was it that you taught?

A: First of all, I want to say I taught kids. My subject matter was, in those days it was history, and science, and economics.

Q: Now, once you became a principal, could you describe your school that you were the principal of?

A: I became a principal in the county high school where it had only the top four grades, and I was the principal of that school. My ties ranged mainly with activities; very little, because it was a small school, to do with evaluation of teachers at that time. The superintendent was the person who did the evaluation, and not the principal. It was sort of like a custodian for the superintendent.

Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?

A: Well, back there at that time the salaries of teachers were quite low and the administrator made a few thousand dollars more, and I started to getting my masters degree at the University of Northern Colorado and working in the field of school administration, and that was the one thing that moved me into the area of administration in the public schools.

Q: What event led you to the principalship here in Longmont?

A: Well, number one was the fact they had a better retirement system in Colorado than they did in Nebraska. And we in Nebraska was looking towards that retirement system, and knowing we had a few years ahead of us. But it was a much more progressive type of educational atmosphere than it was in Nebraska at that time. Nebraska was very, very conservative, and even though Colorado is conservative, it was just an opportunity to advance.

Q: What was your school's philosophy, Longmont High School's philosophy?

A: My school philosophy for Longmont High School was nothing more than I was a vehicle to enable the teachers to be able to do a job of instructing, and the main thing was for the students to be able to master some skills, to be able to go out into an adult life and to be employed or become an employer.

Q: Was that your philosophy, or was it something developed by you and the teachers?

A: Well, it was sort of a joint philosophy with us, but I guess maybe I was the main one that kept banging away that this is our job; this is what we're supposed to do. And I would say I got a very good response from all the teachers. Now, we had good teachers and we had poor teachers, but a poor teacher didn't stick around too long, I didn't think.

Q: So this philosophy was basically yours, but the teachers...

A: Any man who is at the helm must have a basic philosophy and try to have other people more or less approve or adopt or work within that philosophy. I don't care whether you're in industry, or you're U.S. government or anything else, you've got to have some basic principles or philosophies that you go and surround yourself with people who are basically the same caliber.

Q: Then, along with this philosophy, how did you create a climate for learning?

A: Well, I thought maybe as a principal I had a great rapport individually and as a group with my teachers, and whenever we did have a staff meeting, that it was open; no one had to worry about agreeing or disagreeing, and I really probably gleaned a lot from my staff because they were where the action was, right in the classroom. They gleaned a lot from me because I was in a position where I dealt with parents, and we could trade off, and through this type of exchange we were able to go and to find some ideas, objectives, goals that we would like to pursue.

Q: What leadership techniques did you use while creating a climate for learning?

A: Well, I used strong-arm, I used the business of coaxing, I tried to build enthusiasm, I tried to develop interest. I think I tried about everything you could think of in the way of trying to motivate my teachers. And the thing that I found out was probably as good as anything is to give them a pat on the back and a little praise if they had it coming. If they didn't have it coming, sit down and talk about it. We'd leave there handshaking, and leave them saying "I'm here to help you, and if you're willing for help, you've got it."

Q: How would you describe what a strong-arm technique is?

A: Well I always said, "Hey, if you're not getting the job done, you're not going to jeopardize my job. I'm the only guy that can jeopardize my job, and you're not going to jeopardize my job." "Now you have two choices," and I said, "I'll add the third choice for you. The first choice is you can go and be the teacher that you're capable of being. Secondly, you can ask for a transfer. Third, I fire you." And that's just the way I operated.

Q: Of those leadership techniques you used, which were unsuccessful?

A: I'd say it's pretty hard for me to evaluate which was unsuccessful. You don't scare people, really, but you have to have a common ground you both stand on so that you know where you're going, and of course if I said "I'm going to fire you if you don't shape up," they would start a political action against me and then we did have a stalemate because there's only one thing left for me to do, was to either transfer them or get them out of my building on that type of thing. But I, it never went really that far. But I think anybody you work for, you must have an understanding from your boss (and you know what a boss is, don't you? It's BOSS spelled backwards: Super Son Of a Bitch), and you have to be just a little bit of that once in a while. And the other thing is you've got to go and say it's like a "KISS" spelled frontwards: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And that's kind of the way you have to operate. Unless the district has some real precise goals laid down by the board of education, the superintendent hasn't possibly established these goals, and then to follow these goals and to give the support to the administrators and to the teachers that they need. Then we will see some progress.

Q: What role did you play in public and community relations?

A: I was very public minded. I belonged to the Kiwanis Club, I worked in the Boy Scouts, I was in fund drives for a vehicle for the emergency unit here. I would take off one day or a half a day a week and visit Main Street and talk to the business people downtown. I had what we called a parents group that I would meet with once a month and any other time it was necessary to meet with them and I cultivated knowing where the power of the community lied.

Q: To have a better political understanding?

A: A better political understanding of the whole community.

Q: Now, were these public relations things you did primarily to keep your program at the high school going?

A: Yes. They were for me to keep my fingers on the pulse of, you could say, the community, as to what they expected, what they wanted. And I will say this: I felt that I always had a good, supportive base of the people in Longmont.

Q: Did that work as a great advantage to you?

A: A terrific advantage! They could talk to me and I could talk to them. And many of them would tell me, "You're going the wrong way. Turn it around." And I'd say, "OK, I'm going to think about this." And I would give it some thought, and I'd see what road we were going down and maybe we could just get a little bit away from the middle of the road and get to one side or the other side. Or if it was too far from the middle of the road maybe we could get back in the middle of the road.

Q: Would you talk to the school board members to find out...?

A: No, I didn't talk too much to the school board members, (although) some of them were my friends. I talked to ministers, I talked to lawyers, I would attend the council of churches and knew all the ministers in town. I would go and be invited to attend the other civic clubs like the Rotary, the Lions, and all that. I would work on the Elks committee selecting students for scholarships. Those are the things I tried to do to feel, or get the feel, of the public to be able to maintain a school that was trying to meet the objectives not of mine alone, but of theirs, too, is what I tried to do.

Q: So you believed in the community being in charge of the school district?

A: Oh, yes! I always feel that, now they're not trained... They're not trained as a person who's in electronics or a doctor or a lawyer. A teacher has the correct training, and as you go into administration there should be some other courses, other than knowing the history of education. Probably one week on the history of education is all that's necessary to know where we came from and how we got where we're at. But I definitely feel that an administrator should be required to take public speaking, they should be able to go and know accounting, they should know more or less how to sift information that would be pertinent, to be successful on the job. Many other things. I've been out now since '82, and I ran a small business and I got a re-education there in a hurry. I ran that for six years and I got a real education in a hurry. I got another degree: The degree of hard knocks on the thing. I have attended, and I did attend when I was in the school system, some meetings where like Carnegie, you know, public speaking, I took those courses. Didn't get any credit for it, but they did a heck of a lot more for me than some of these boring classes they had at the University of Northern Colorado, the University of Colorado, Denver University, and CSU up here in Fort Collins, and I've attended all those schools. Now, basically, I go back to my fundamental school, that we were a private school, and that it was not a teachers' college, (though) you get a teaching certificate out of that. But they believed that you should know your subject matter. And if you knew your subject matter then you could instruct. And that has always been the conflict between what we call the liberal arts colleges and the teacher colleges. But I'll say this. I didn't have to fool around with a lot of the monkey-dick classes that I had to fool around with over at the University of Northern Colorado in getting my administrative degree.

Q: Going back to the other, can you cite an example of a change you made in the high school because of community opinion?

A: Yes, I think I can cite this very, very well. At Longmont High School, we came up against the problem of mathematics, and it was about that time that new math was being introduced. And I dug my heels in because there wasn't a single staff member that had been schooled in the approach of this new modern math. And at that time, I went out into the community and I tried to explain to the community the approach of this modern math. Well now, what I knew about it you could put in my eye and I could see plenty, but I knew enough about it that I wasn't dangerous but, yet, at the same time I was able to convey to the public that we were for giving the fundamentals of mathematics and who was going to get hurt was the student; not me, but the student. And I got support and at Longmont High School we did not put modern math in. A year or two later, we put a little modern math in, but at that time it had kind of played its course. I was not opposed to the modern math approach at that level, but I was opposed because my staff members in the mathematics department was not schooled, as I said, in how to approach teaching modern math.

Q: Approximately what years were those?

A: Oh, I think that was probably somewhere around '65, if I recall correctly. It's somewhere in there, give or take in that area. Now, the other thing that I run into, which I was forced into, was changing the English program. The school district had what they called a 15-month study on the English program K-12. And 30 days before school started, I was informed by the director of curriculum in our school district that you will go and change your English curriculum. And I picked two counselors and five teachers in the English department and we went down to Arvada, and we put in this quarter system. And that was the most unruly and... It did not go and take anyone in depth far enough to be able to go and to understand that particular subject. So many of our kids, the good classes in composition and things like that, were filled up so early the only place we could push them was into Greek drama and into Shakespeare, things like that. And they were the students who should not have been in those classes to begin with, and they were not successful in those classes. We finally worked it around, worked some back-to-back that had some relationship, but we still got too many, too many fringe type of classes that the kids could not relate to and they're not getting anything out of them. Now maybe down the line, after 10, 15 years, then something will pop up and they'll say, "Oh, yeah, we remember that particular individual. He wrote such-and-such, we studied a little bit about that." But let me say this, when I came to Longmont we had a course here that, which was an honors course, taught by a professor in CSU. And, because the year before he used the book, "Catcher in the Rye," the general public rose up in arms. And I was the new principal on the block... So the assistant superintendent and I sat down and kicked this around, and I said I don't believe you've done the public relations job that we should be able to teach some of these books, because, after all, these young people, both boys and girls, are going out into adult lives and they're seeing things on television that is far, far worse. We will say anyone who wants to get into honors colloquial, we have censored the books, and that if any parent is against that the kid can drop out. He got no credit for it, but he got nothing but kind of a prestige merit badge to put on their activities saying they were in honors colloquial. Well, the thing went along and got watered down so terrifically that they dropped it finally. Because it was not the honor students, it was just the regular run of the mill, and these people were teachers that taught philosophy at CSU and CU that ran our program, and after a while they said hey, we are not geared to teach at that level. We are geared to teach at a higher level in this particular field, and so I couldn't get anybody to take the job.

Q: What do you think teachers expect a principal to be?

A: I think a modern day teacher thinks of a principal as a fall guy. That he's to get all the blame for all of their shortcomings and all the students' shortcomings. A principal, now let's say a principal in theory, is the educational leader of the school. If he is given time to play the role of the educational leader, the attitude that the teachers have will change drastically because he will be a leader, he will be a motivator, he will be a person that will create an awesome educational atmosphere and environment. And those teachers will feel his vibrations and the students will soon become the products of all of those things. Better adjusted, knowledge greater... They can talk about this drug program all they want to, until someone can get something more exciting for these youngsters than what we have at the present time, they're going to experiment. And the young kids, they do experiment. So let's get 'em experimented. I could go on here for 5, 10 hours, and tell you about some of the great schools I've visited in the United States of America and it was the principal, it was not the superintendent, it was the principal who was the workhorse that created this atmosphere that made it a great school. Now, he sold his ideas. As soon as he left that school and went to another school, the school that he had built up soon crumbled, because the next guy coming in did not know how to manipulate and to run that type of program.

Q: How did you evaluate teachers?

A: Oh, we had a lousy evaluation system. We had to visit a non-tenured teacher four times a year and when we started out we had nothing but checkpoints. And there was a little place where you could make a comment. Well, none of us liked that instrument. But, instead of letting the administrator develop that, the superintendent had a group of teachers develop the new one. Well, you know, the principal had to use that instrument the next thing. There was a lot riding on that thing, but we come down to the fact that saying, well, a non-tenured teacher's only going to be evaluated three times a year. We had to spend at least 35 minutes in the class. A tenured teacher had to be evaluated only once a year and we had to spend 35 minutes in the class. They gave the weapon to the teachers that they could write a rebuttal to the evaluation of the man who was evaluating them. Then eventually the teachers said, "We will evaluate the administration." That's where I dug my heels in and said, that's fine, if that comes about then we are going to go and have the students evaluate the teachers and parents evaluate the teachers. And then we'll go from there. Well, that scared 'em off. There's that old iron fist coming up again. That scared 'em off. They didn't want that. I was evaluated by the students of Longmont High School once, and 88 percent of them said I was doing a good job to an excellent job. I wasn't afraid of them. Didn't scare me. And the 12 percent that graded me down, I went over those papers. Some of them had a legitimate gripe, some of them had nothing but a gripe because they never looked themselves in the mirror, because it was all their fault.

Q: I think you've already hit this, but what technique did you use to make the teachers feel important?

A: Well, as I said, my greatest thing was to praise and pat 'em on the back and say you're a member of this team. Now, you've got a business here -- you may think you don't have a business, but you've got a business here. That classroom is your business, and if you're going to be successful you run that as, as successful as you know how to run that classroom, and I'm here to give you support.

Q: What's your philosophy of education?

A: Well, this is going to shock you. And this is probably going to shock that fella. Educate 20 percent of the people well. Eighty percent of the people that you educate into be productive in the jobs that they're going to secure down through life. I believe only 20 percent of the people are ever going to be successful in computers; the other 80 percent's going to learn how to play with them and buy them and everything else, but there's going to be 20 percent. Right now you'll probably read the stats that we have going in the United States of America that less than 20 percent of the people right now is supporting the U.S. government. And the other 80 percent, they may be contributing some, but not a great deal, and some are taking and not giving. And I think that same, you know, curve of learning, I think it applies to anything you do in life. A businessman, there's some that's going to be highly successful, some are going to be mediocre and some are going to fail every time they turn around. Now, I believe everyone in the United States should have the opportunity for an education and to go as high and as far as they want to, and there should be nothing restrictive in the way of money to keep those people... The G.I. Bill proved this, that when we came back from World War II, many, many guys in G.I. went on to a higher level of learning and qualified themselves for jobs that really paid the government back tenfold in IRS. Does that kind of hit the nail, what you're talking about?

Q: How about the philosophy of teaching?

A: My philosophy of teaching, I was there for the kids. First of all, I had to be a warm individual, an understanding individual. I had to have some enthusiasm going for me and I had to go and be able to master what I was teaching. My first year of teaching I probably learned more than the kids ever learned, because I went through and I did the textbook, but I never tried to tell them what related to the textbook. Now I was a history teacher, I told you. I spent 10 minutes on the lesson. I spent 25 minutes trying to relate the lesson to where they were living and where they were going to live. And then the remainder of our 55 minutes, I said to the students, "she's wide open, discuss what we've talked about today, or if you can find something that relates to this, we will discuss it." Now, I never had to be at a certain page in that book. I had to have memorization because I think the mind develops through memorization, that if you want to recall you can't just let everything slide through. I have this irrigation ditch running down through here and it's got a lot of water in it. But if they just let that thing run and not do anything about it, it's going to get into a lake and the lake's going to get it back into the river, and the river's going to take it to a bigger river and to the ocean and there it's going to be lost. I believe sometimes you've got to tap into this ditch to take something out of it to water, and to make that plant or that crop be productive, and then you will see a result from this water running down this irrigation ditch.

Q: What does it take to be an effective principal?

A: Hard work. Hard work, determination, understanding, all those beautiful words. Dedication. A lot of enthusiasm. Stay away from one thing: Bitching. A bitcher will find another bitcher, and you never solve anything by bitching. You solve things by having a good, wholesome attitude and saying, hey, I'm seeking answers. If something's working, don't throw it away just for something new, but gradually if you think what is new, work it in gradually and maybe the old will fade or maybe you can take some good from both. But in education, I've seen them run so many new programs that was not successful. They would just scrap it in a year, maybe two years. It wouldn't be successful, they'd have to go back to the old. Well the old wasn't successful, either. And so, there's a happy medium somewhere. But, I'll say this. Until the teaching profession realize that learning and teaching is hard work, we're never going to see a great improvement in education. I don't use in my lifetime even a portion of my brain. And I sometimes really get down on myself because, hey, you didn't develop it. And so the fix that you're in, don't blame anyone but you because you had the opportunity.

Q: What pressures did you face as a principal?

A: I think the greatest pressure that I faced was the, I'm going to call it the central administration, my higher-ups.

Q: What kind of pressure did they put on you?

A: Well, I thought a lot of times they were taking the easy road, and I didn't believe in the easy road. Some of their goals or objectives I disagreed with and kind of got myself in hot water with it, because I said, hey, that's not my goal, that's a false goal for me and there's no way I can achieve that goal. You're not giving me the vehicles to be successful, and you've got to give me a hammer and some nails and an apron, and I know how to be successful then.

Q: So how did you handle that pressure?

A: Well, through the newspaper, through the school board, through the community leaders and through my staff is the way I handled that.

Q: How about for yourself, for your own well-being, getting these pressures from outside...?

A: Well, I've never had an ulcer. I've lost a little sleep. In fact I've lost sleep just playing, too. Never really ever got me down, because I figured I was looking for a job when I got this one, and that was my philosophy. And if you can get my job it wasn't much of a job to begin with.

Q: If you had it to do over again, what would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship?

A: I would take all the courses that I know to be a brown-noser, and never be a man that resisted anything that come along. Just like water, when you pour it out it'll seek it's level and I'd just be like water. And I think probably that would get just as far down the line today as, or a little farther, than bucking the administration.

Q: So more courses that would teach you public relations, and accounting or budgeting?

A: I don't know that there's a course that you can take that can accomplish just what I said. I think that's covering a lot of things that you can take, but never be a person that rocks the boat. The man that rocks the boat may get thrown overboard. And so I don't know if there is a course you could take. Of all the courses you could take, I think a principal, he has to take some basic courses to understand his job. But I, again, again, I think they should have a course somewhere within the preparation of how to build goals and how to be able to accomplish those goals. And I think if they would look at industry, or at any business that is being successful, to see how those people plan and how hard they work. They don't work a 40-hour week, they don't work a 60-hour week, they work probably a 100-hour week. But they said, "We are going to be the best." And we sit back and we see this fella and he's running Chrysler Motors and making a million dollars a year, but they don't know the price that he had to pay, or is paying, at that job. And most of us won't work that hard. But if you want to be successful, it's going to take dedication and hard work in doing that. And if you devote a certain portion of your life, why do you suppose we see so many of these young fellas today that's retiring at 50 and they're multi-millionaires? Because they worked from the time they was 25 until they were 50 and they said, hey, now we're going to play. And they worked! Now, I've been out of the teaching industry long enough that I have seen these men and I have met these men and not only men but women also -- when I use the word "men" I'm using both genders, I'm not saying one or the other -- they are hard, hard workers. And they take a lot of people along with them.

Q: What about outside of the university-type courses? Are there things you'd do, say in industry, would you go into a different field for a while before going into administration?

A: Well, I don't know if I can put this into words or not when you ask that. But industry is a whole new different ball game because they've got to make the money to be successful. In the school business, there hasn't probably been one of those people that ever made up a, or paid taxes like the people do in industry or business, a payroll, meet insurance programs, worry about the water and the lights and the fuel and all the rest of it. In the teaching profession it is a government position where they are given a contract for a certain amount of money and to teach so many days and no way to grade them to see how they have accomplished or what kind of product they have really put out until the kid's outside of school and graduation, if he's able to go on to college and, if he finishes college, then maybe go out into the business world. Or maybe some of these other youngsters have gone out in the business world. But you'll probably find out, most of them will say once they got out into the business world, they learned a lot of things there, but some of the instruction they are given certainly helped them to be successful. They picked up a smattering here and a smattering there and they put it together and they developed their own philosophy or scientific invention or something else. It's different than day and night. Teaching is different than out there on the old street. Now, a teacher that gets a part-time job in the summertime, he never really understands what the boss is really doing, because he's just there a short time. I still go back to the same thing, Mike. Teachers have got to go and someway be accountable. And that's all there is to it. And when they can find that and you can say, "I'm accountable," but I look in the mirror and I think I'm a pretty fine guy, but maybe my wife and my kids and some of my friends don't think so. They may see some faults in me, but I don't want to see any faults.

Q: How did you handle grievances, say from teachers or from parents?

A: I never had a grievance against me. I don't know how to handle that. I never had a grievance against me. Now, before it ever got to that stage I imagine we sat down and talked it out.

Q: Did the district have a grievance procedure?

A: Yes, they had a grievance program. They had a grievance program. I've never been grieved at from above or grieved at from below. I have been threatened from above, never really ever felt threatened from below.

Q: Did you ever recommend that a teacher not be renewed?

A: Yes!

Q: What was that like?

A: Something I didn't like to do. Because they were human beings and they most generally had spent a considerable time in more or less qualifying themselves. But they just didn't have the knack of being successful in the classroom. And most of them once they were dismissed went from pillar to postin the teaching profession, and they were most generally fired, as you said, and they got into a business of their own where they were successful, some of them. Some of them got into the public sector, and they didn't hold a job very long and I don't know why, but no one ever to really... And we in the teaching profession never stopped to really say, hey, you know, guy, we got to turn you around here, because we didn't have time to do that. They talk about this, but they just don't have time to do this. The colleges and the universities should have turned them around. They should have never recommended them for a teaching certificate. Now we had student teachers here at Longmont High School, and I had them in other schools where I was at. I had a young fella I particularly remember, he's very vivid to me, that was a student teacher, and the teacher he was under at Longmont High School said, "I don't want him," and I said, well, I'll talk to the education department in Boulder and have him recalled. And they said we can't, you took him, you got him. Well, I said, we can't do it. He's just not cooperating, he's a rebel. And they said, yeah, we kind of know it, but he's smart, and yeah, he was smart. So it come time to give him his grade. So the teacher said, "I can't give him a grade." I said, "Well, let's give him a C." That means that he cannot go and get his teaching certificate in the state of Colorado. He could get it out of state. I had that young man come over and threaten me. I even had that cooperative professor over there come over and beg with me, and I said, "Hey, you give him any grade you want to give him. But that was the grade we gave him. And I tried to tell you that let's pull him back in, because he wasn't ready. And, I stuck to my guns and the teacher stuck to his guns, or her guns, and that was the way it was. It wasn't nice! But we said, hey, he is not the teaching caliber.

Q: How can education be improved through the university?

A: Not more money. Because more money is the means that you can get a lot of fancy programs that don't mean anything. And yet, what I'm going to say is going to cost more money. I'm saying cut down class sizes. Give the teacher an opportunity to be able to use their skills in teaching. Give them support wherever support is needed and have some specialists give him that support. A principal is a person who is an organizer, who understands the learning process, who understands the building of curriculum, should be the person who understands how to establish goals for his school, and how he can develop people to pursue those goals 'till they are accomplished. His goals have to be their goals also.
Q: This is the way, basically, you improve education. How can teachers be improved?

A: Teachers have got to remember that it's a job. It's not an 8-4 o'clock job, it's a job. And every time they turn around they must decorate that window, or put a display in that window that's going to attract attention of their students so they will be inquisitive enough to get inside the store and purchase some of those items that have been on display. Now that sounds kind of corny, doesn't it? But that's kind of what a teacher has to do.

Q: How did you handle civil rights issues?

A: I told them that my name was Cley, and I asked them what their name was, and if it was Joseph, or Carl, or anything like that I'd say well, all right, we're on a one-to-one basis. And I am a human being more or less just like you are. You've got prejudice and I've got prejudice. But let's talk about these, and I was able to resolve these prejudices and what we must do about these prejudices. Well, sure, it was the Mexican element that I first dealt with here. And they had a few public meetings and they were going to crucify some of we people, but I attended and I was never crucified. I said, you got a point. But are you willing to pay the price just the same as I'm willing to pay the price, and can we get that kid to pay the price? And that's where we went from, and I said, you're not going to correct this today and it's not going to be corrected tomorrow. It's going to take a period of time. But if you want to join my rat race and have a heart attack and ulcers or a stroke, get right into it but just don't stand there and scream. Give me a solution. And that's the way I handled it. And I have a lot of those friends out there today.

Q: How about busing issues?

A: Well, because we've become such a mobile nation, that, I don't know who introduced the idea of busing. Used to be that parents brought their kids to school, but lately we've become more metropolitan and everything else. I think that busing should be given to private industry and for the school system to get out of busing. Let the experts take care of it. They tried to hire an expert, but they have all problems in the busing. Let that company lay down the rules on that bus. And if that kid isn't adhering to those rules, let that private enterprise company handle that problem on the bus. That isn't a school's problem; that isn't the principal's problem. But it becomes part of their many, many duties that distracts from the real core of education.

Q: Did that NCEE report come out while you were still in education?

A: I think it did, but I can't recall it.

Q: What procedures should be used before a person is selected to become a principal?

A: Well, I'll turn that around. What procedure should be used to select teachers? I guess it's because you want to go into administration, because there's a dollar sign up there and there's a little prestige with this and there's a few more social things with this, all those nice things and bad things. But I can't tell you how to select a person. I've seen people from all different areas of the school go into administration. Some have been successful and some haven't been successful, and I think that probably the one thing is, if you boil it right down to, how much reasoning does that person have to be able to run a play and gain 10 yards? Now that sounds kind of, but you understand, here, I say run the play, and I'm going to use the football game, and I'm and old coach. You take 11 men and we trained all week to execute a certain play. And we told every single player on that team, "You execute, you do your job, and we've got a touchdown." Now if you only made one yard, it's because maybe we called the wrong signal. Maybe we were at the, hitting the strength of the other team on that type of thing. But, if every player, and I mean every teacher, every administrator, would do their job, education would make a touchdown every time.

Q: Would you have preferred to have stayed in the classroom than to being a principal if all things were equal?

A: Yes! I would have.

Q: How did you utilize your vice principals?

A: Well, I tried to get my vice principals involved the same way I was involved, with the public, with the staff, with the students. To take my ideas, my goals, kick 'em around! Tear 'em apart! Find all the weaknesses you can in them. Let's communicate, because we're on a team here. And just because I said it's my goals, it's our goals. It has to be our goals or not be successful. No one man can run the length of the field himself. And he has to have the people. Sure, they had assignments taking attendance and checking attendance. They had assignments for the extracurricular things. They had assignments to supervise the halls. But they also, their number one assignment was, you get in the classrooms, work with the teachers. We'll hire clerks and we'll all be out in the halls. And, if I'm there and something comes up in the way of extracurricular, I'll handle that. You don't have to handle that because we know where we're going. The other principal, he knew where he was going, he could handle it. If an attendance problem came up and I was there and that guy was out in the classroom, I handled the attendance problem, or the other guy did. In other words, we weren't into a corral, we were by ourselves and knew how to shoot to get out. We always had plenty of exits so we could manipulate, and I demanded that my assistants did everything that I did, because I've done everything they did, or doing.

Q: As principal, what was your biggest concern?

A: My biggest concern probably, and it probably never did show up, is to have a productive atmosphere that was positive rather than negative, for everybody that came through any door of that building. That probably was my philosophy. Now, I wasn't successful all the time, but there was a little bit of success along the way. You're one of them, you see! You didn't say trains, so you got something or you wouldn't be where you're at today. And maybe you didn't disagree or agree too much with me, maybe you were too busy getting along with your own thing, gathering all that you could and getting a little moss on your back 'cause you said, "I know where I want to go. And I had to go through these hoop-doos." I was going to say something a while ago. Do you know the song, "Little boxes, little boxes, red, white and blue. Put 'em in little boxes, one, two, three, and you. But don't put everybody in a little box, and the same little box, because we need those little red, white and blue and you." Now that's pretty good little philosophy. Isn't it?

Q: What do you think of merit pay?

A: Merit pay? I think it is great! But they have to find an instrument that is fair. It cannot be popularity. You invite me over to your house and you wine and dine me and you're a great fella and we go fishin' and we go huntin', our wives play bridge together and everything else, and you've got to have that social atmosphere, but it's got to be a positive instrument. And I think the only way it will be a positive instrument is if you will take other teachers, and they know good teachers and they know bad teachers. They know who's doing a bad job. If I'm a fourth grade teacher and I'm getting kids from the third grade class and they're lacking something, I know this the minute those kids come into my classroom, I know this. Because they're void in this area. And you've got a problem. You've either got to catch them up or you've lost them. And I think teachers are probably the ones who should be the people who give merit pay, but they don't want that responsibility.

Q: What characteristics are associated with effective schools?

A: An atmosphere of enthusiasm. A school where the kids can intermingle one with another, not too much of a social level. One where the teachers greet them instead of hiding from them. One where recognition and praise is very, very fluent by all members of the staff, from the custodian to the cook, to the classroom teacher to the principal. That is, you've got to create an atmosphere that is conducive, that they enjoy being in school. Now, that's pretty hard for everybody but you'd be surprised how many people will just really want to get to school every day.

Q: What do you think of the SATs and ACTs? Are they useful?

A: Oh my, I can remember the day, I can remember the time, I can remember the man who got up in the North Central Association and said, "Gentleman, we are going down a road that is going to control education." He said, "People eventually will be comparing the scores with each other and with other communities, and pretty soon we will lose sight of the objectives of what we're really trying to do, but we're teaching for these tests." And I believed this. I believe down through the years since 1967 when this came in, I believe it and I... Floyd Miller was the man's name, and he was commissioner of education in the state of Nebraska.

Q: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make as a principal?

A: I'd say to fire a teacher was the toughest decision I ever had to make. Because that was, of course I had kids that I booted out of school, but that wasn't a hard decision because they had learned all that they... I always left the door open so they could get back. And I went after them to bring them back.

Q: Did you feel you were an instructional leader or a building manager?

A: I became a building manager, is what I became. Because of our over-crowdedness and the Vietnam war, the drug program, or the drugs coming in, I felt I became a building manager, not an educational leader. Because all you were doing was using a band-aid here and a band-aid there, putting out a little brush fire here and a little brush fire there, and I never did really have time to sit down and think anything through because every day there's another catastrophe coming up and facing us.

Q: What advice would you give to a future principal?

A: Have a lot of love and compassion. That's the advice that I would give you.

Q: What changes would you make in the organizational setup of the administration's responsibilities?

A: I'm not him, but if I was the superintendent and you were my principal, Mike, I'd say, "You make your budget up. I'm not going to make your budget up for you. But you tell me what budget you have to do to be able to operate your school." Because it takes dollars first, you understand that. Other thing is, I'd say, "OK, Mike, I want you and your staff to develop me a set of goals, or which you're going to try to accomplish. Now they've got to be within the confines of the philosophy of the district, you understand this, because, we here and the board of education establishes our philosophy. But it's got to be in the confines." Then after you've made up your goals, I would say one more thing to you: "Now how are you going to attain those goals?" And I'm going to be evaluating you on your goals and you're going to be evaluating your teachers on how you achieve those goals. But you're going to run that building, and if you make some goals that are not down to earth but look good on paper, and no way you're going to accomplish it, I don't think you'll be my building principal again. Because I've got to get someone in there that can work with the confines of the district philosophy 'cause I've got to go and give my goals to the board of education, and you've got to give your goals, and we've all got to be in unity. And I'm here to help you. I believe that education should be divided into two areas: We have a general superintendent. Forget him. Throw him out. He can't be everything. We have a superintendent of instruction that knows [OFF TAPE] about instruction and curriculum. We also need a budget manager. He should be in charge of the financial end of school management.

Q: Is there a question I didn't ask that I should have asked?

A: Well, yes there is another question. Should teachers and administrators be rotated in their positions? My answer is yes, every seven years, at least.

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