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Q: Wilma, this is very special for us to be here to interview with you. It is not every day we get to interview someone who has an elementary school named after them. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, I came to Greeley in 1942 and was an elementary principal at that time in an older building, the old Central school, which is now an office building. Then, I was moved over to what was Park School in 1951. Then when the new schools were built, there were three being built at the same time all in a new area, and the school I was assigned to, Sherwood School, was totally new, everything from scratch. I was assigned that in the Spring of 63 and the building was just approved at that time. We went through the agony of trying to understand the blueprints and figuring out a school which was very different in its architectural form. We organized our faculty and parents' groups in August of that year, just asking for people who would be in the new district to come. From September, when they opened school, we were at five different campuses then with the faculty and children and did not move into the new building until January of 64. It was a show place of interest all over the nation because it was a round school, it was carpeted, which was something very new at that time, and we had a host of visitors. At that time we were not a full school until the next year and then we had a complete school. It was built with the idea of team teaching and that was quite a new area at that time. The school with its portable walls made it very easy for us to carry on that. I was there until I retired in the Spring of 69 and totally to my surprise at the reception they had for me as I was leaving, the name was changed to the Wilma M. Scott School. It was a move of the Parents' Association and was the first time in Greeley that a school had been named after a live person.
Q: That just doesn't happen very often. That is a wonderful, special tribute. You had a couple special experiences, moving into a brand new school, and then having a school named after you. What went through your mind, how did you feel at that time?
A: Well, it was a terrific challenge and I think about it now and wonder how I was equal to it. But I guess we met those challenges. I had not asked to be transferred, but I felt I didn't have very many years left and really felt I should stay where I was. But, I was asked to take that school, by the Board and by the Superintendent, and so, you do what you are asked to do in such a case as that. So, it really was a challenge. Then, of course I think we were all so stimulated to make a success of it because we were certainly a show place. We even had people from Realty Magazine in Paris come over and spent a week with us, taking our pictures. We appeared in Life Magazine, Time Magazine, because it was a novel school.
Q: Did you save these articles?
A: Oh, yes. I have a scrap book that tells the whole story. That was an inspiration, it was also a very difficult task for me because I really felt like that first half year I was more a tour director than I was a working principal, because we did have so much company. I had a very fine faculty, several members moved when I was moved, and a parents' organization which happened to have a nucleus of former students, who by that time were parents. So I had a lot of things working for me to make it a success.
Q: Before you became a principal, how many years did you have as a teacher?
A: Well, I started out, of course, at a country school straight from high school back in Nebraska. I taught for a couple of years as a third and fourth grade teacher in a small town and then moved to Hastings where for eight years I was a Social Studies teacher in an elementary school that was departmentalized and then became a principal there. I was a principal for eight years before I came out here and then twenty-seven while I was here at Greeley.
Q: What led you to decide to be a principal?
A: I don't know. I don't know what leads you to think you want to do into administrative work. I had a lot of encouragement from the people with whom I was working to take up that kind of work starting in Hastings. Then I came out here for my master's degree and with a very firm feeling that no one should break their contract. But I did, because at the first of August when I got my master's degree up here I had my credentials collected here, thinking that the next year I would apply for other jobs. I was called in for an interview and I told them that I had said that did not want any interviews because I was under contract, buy they said they felt that this was something they felt I should not turn down, to at least go in and talk to the Superintendent. Well, of course, I couldn't turn it down.
Q: Who was the superintendent?
A: Eldridge was the superintendent at that time.
Q: So you got your master's degree from UNC at Greeley, Colorado?
Q: Where did you get your bachelor's degree?
A: From Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln, Nebraska. Having taken all but two years in summer school at the end of my second year of college I intended to go back, I was already in the Hastings school. That was at the time we had the depression and the banks failed and I had to go back to work, so I just never gave up a contract again.
Q: Was it pretty common at that time, you didn't have a degree?
A: That's right. Of course, I started just coming out of high school with a county certificate and then I went two years so I had a certificate that was equal to what Nebraska schools needed, even when I went to Hastings. I didn't get my degree until I had been at Hastings several years.
Q: What did you have to do to get a county certificate to teach?
A: Well, we had a course in high school that was supposed to be, you know, along that line and all the rest, but other than that I didn't even have to take an examination, I just applied for, they needed teachers, so it was very simple.
Q: What kind of degree was necessary to be a building principal or were they requiring degrees?
A. Oh yes.
Q: A masters?
A: Well, you see I didn't have my masters as a principal at Hastings. But I knew that I just had to have one, that's all there was to it in order to make an advancement any place. So, I came out here four summers to do my masters.
Q: That was a lot of work to get done. Did you live in the dorms?
A: Yes and no. I came with a friend, but we couldn't find an apartment so we lived in a home for two years and then the other two years were in the dorms.
Q: You talked about when you move into the new school and some of the fine faculty; Fred has some questions that relate to that. One of the questions that I have is just the processes that you used for recruitment of staff. How did you recruit the staff?
A: Well, at that time, now you are speaking about the new school, because really even at that time we really didn't do the hiring and the rest. Now, I always had some contact with the Superintendent and with the ones who were being considered, but as far as recruitment was concerned that was not part of my job. Now, when we moved into the new building, of course, the same faculty just went along with me, but when we moved to the new building, teachers were given a chance to move to a new school if they so desired and so part of my faculty went with me. Others transferred from other schools that had asked, so you see, to start with that was our process. And then, of course, through the years then, as we needed new teachers, then I would have a part in the interview, but not in the recruiting, really.
Q: Were you able to ask some of the teachers that you had in previous buildings to come over to your new school?
A: Well, I didn't. I couldn't do that. I have always operated on the idea that we are all equal, so as far as the faculty and I were concerned I wouldn't have picked out, but I got some of the best ones, I might say that, that came along with me. But, it was purely their choice.
Q: After you did move to the new school and you got more involved in the selection of teachers, how did you choose the right teacher? What processes did you go through?
A: Well, it's just sitting down and talking to them about their background, their experience, their interest in teaching and you know, I think you spend some time, and hour or so, with a person, you get a pretty good idea of whether they are really interested. In the first place, I want to know for sure that they are interested in children and that that is their main concern--that they help children get a good foundation in elementary work. I missed on some, but totally I think I was pretty successful.
Q: How would you find out if they were interested?
A: Just by questioning.
Q: You would probably ask more than just are you interested in children?
A: Oh yes. I would want to know what--well just to give some idea of what kind of planning they would do for their job and all the rest, and then of course, what background they had for it too--if they had, you know, their interest in college work too, if they had, you know, interest in their college work, if they taught someplace else and how successful they felt they had been, and if there was some are in which they felt they were more successful than others. I think they most difficult part of all of that and the part that was always the hardest for me to know was how to help teachers, if they were not good disciplinarians because that is something that is real hard to teach somebody. You just are or you aren't. The only thing that I always started out the first of the year by saying be firm, but be just and you can let up, but if you don't do it right to start with, and get off on the right foot with your children right to start with, you are in trouble. By voice control or by a lot of other things that seem to have an effect on children.
Q: Let's say that an outstanding teacher came in from out of state, applied with you to your school and he or she also applied to some of the Denver schools where they pay you a lot more money. How could you attract a teacher away from the Cherry Creek or Englewood schools into coming to Greeley district 6?
A: Well, I would tell them that Greeley was a lot better place to live to start with, we don't have the traffic and all the rest. But, well, I think I would want her to visit the school--that would be the first thing I think I wold want her to do. Of course, if school wasn't in session, I still think I would want her to because I think that if you are in the setting that she/he would know that....he would know that that helps a lot. And then, I'd probably have a course of conversation with her and then I would tell her about some of the things that we did, how we work together and some of our, well, such things as our contact with parents and cooperation among teachers and things that we do. You know, social things and all of this. I have to sell myself, I guess, as an administrator, if I was really going to be able to get her I wouldn't certainly want to start out making her think that I was a dictator and they my way was the only way.
Q: Were you ever told by a superintendent that this teacher is really a good teacher and I feel that you should hire him/her? In other words, superintendent's son-in-law or board members' daughter or something along that line? Have you ever been told to do that.
A: No, I don't think so. I was one time asked if I would take a teacher who was not performing in another school and that the principal there just was not at all satisfied with her. So, I did. She was not a good teacher, I don't want to say that; she was a good teacher in a way. She wasn't a super teacher; a master teacher, but she was on tenure at that time so I think that was maybe the one time I was not too eager to take her on.
Q: What would you have done if the superintendent had come up many, many years ago and said, I have a daughter that just graduated from college and she needs a job and I want you to hire her?
A: Well, I would be glad that I had been in position where I didn't have the last word about hiring, but if she had qualifications and all of that, I would certainly. Because she was the superintendent's daughter would not keep me from having here on the staff certainly. But I would still want to know that she was qualified, that she hadn't done secondary work and just wanted to be down in elementary school or something like that. That wouldn't work.
Q: The questions that I have been asking you about recruitment and selecting teachers is there anything else you would like to say about that? Can you think of right now before the next set of questions.
A: Well, of course I think you always study the recommendations that come from other schools, that is, if they have experience or even the recommendations that come from college, or credentials that they have because that should tell you something about them. I think that you should see the credentials before you actually do the interviewing. That would usually come through the superintendent first and then to you. However, I did interview over the telephone one time. We were in a tight place an needed a third grade teacher because of increase in our staff, or enrollment. We were only out there three years before we had to move one whole grade because we were, you know, just filled up so fast. Her credentials were good, but anyway, she couldn't come for interview very well, and so I had a long chat with her over the phone and she turned out to be a very good teacher.
Q: Have you ever been told to hire for racial balance? That you have to have a certain percentage of minorities?
A: No, because I retired before that was any problem and I did not have, let's see, yes I did have, one Spanish-American teacher. He was a gym teacher and I don't know, he was just like the rest of us. I didn't think about that at all. So, that wouldn't make any difference to me. I don't have any prejudice about that. I don't like the idea that you have to have a certain percentage or that I'd have to take a teacher in order to meet that, but I certainly would be very willing to have them on the basis of their qualifications, but I didn't have that much experience because we didn't have that happening here. It was already happening back in other schools, but not here at that time.
Q: You told us a little bit about having a concern that the teacher could discipline and take care of the classroom. Was that more of a concern with your new teachers when they would come in?
A: Well, of course, you like to think that they get off on a good start with it and then you give them all the help you possibly could at that time. But, I think some of the biggest problems that I had were from the older teachers. It wasn't necessarily young teachers that I had acquired, but teachers that were already in the system.
Q: How did you work with these teachers, these would have been tenured teachers then?
A: Well, one of the things that I always did was the teacher conferences. I had regular scheduled conferences because our set up was that they would have free periods for music or PE or something. I think probably a conference about once every two weeks was as much as we could to it. I think to bring a teacher in and have a talk with her outside of the classroom and all that was one way of helping. Then, of course, I think that if someone was having difficulties at that time, then I would spend more time in the classroom with her. In doing that, then I was better able to make suggestions that probably what she was doing wrong or what she could do. You know one of the things that was always difficult for me were teachers that would lose control of their voices. So in very subtle ways in teachers meetings and so on, we would spend time emphasizing how important it was for us to have a teaching voice because your voice has a whole lot of control. I had such an example of that when I was in the Hastings schools. I had a teacher who was a yeller, there just was no other word for her, and she quit in the middle of the year. There was a teacher hired and at that time I didn't have much say in who came--the superintendent was the kind that did the hiring and you took what he sent you. But here came a tiny little person and I thought, oh my goodness, she'll never be able to control that class. And do you know, it made all the difference in the world. She had a nice quiet voice and it was just totally different. I think that, I was a pretty young principal at that time, and I think that made me realize how important it was to have a pleasant teaching voice and be able to control it no matter how much your patience wore you down.
Q: You mentioned that you tried to talk at faculty meetings about voice control, etc. Were there some other ways that you tried to develop the faculty?
A: Well, yes, of course I think that that's maybe one of the biggest jobs a principal has. Well I guess that maybe the best way I have, best example that I could talk about, was when we started doing team teaching because that was a pretty new idea and to start with. I said I would not assign two teachers to work together, they had to make that decision on their own. So, I made suggestions of possibilities and all that. But, they had to work this out between them, so some of them were doing it and some of them were not actually working as a team. Now, we did some, even though some were not working as a team together. One of them maybe was stronger in science and another better reading. We would make some suggestions about actually helping set up a schedule for that kind of work. But those who teamed together and rally wanted to do it were very successful and of course, I helped in any way that I could. It was still largely up to the teachers to make a success of it.
Q: Team teaching, you mentioned earlier it was a new concept.
A: Yes, it was quite a new concept at that time.
Q: Did you have a chance--was there a way for those teachers that were coming into that building to investigate team teaching?
A: Well, of course, when you came into the building you had a feeling that you wanted to experiment with things because it was so totally different. You could see it close up. You could be a simple classroom teacher if that was where you operated best, and I think in a lot of cases that it worked out that way there, I can't speak for what's being done out there now, but a lot teachers just couldn't find team teaching really, they would just rather have their own group. So I didn't feel that it was something that we had to do in order to have a good program, because I don't think you should force teachers into a system that they are not comfortable with.
Q: Did you have any directives from your superintendent or any other kind of development that you needed to do in your school?
A: Well, of course, we had an elementary supervisor and of course we worked with him. As a principal I got suggestions from him. They didn't do very much visiting in the building. They did some, not a lot, but then they still had a pretty good idea of what we were doing and all that, but I never was in any way hampered by the superintendent or supervisor in doing something that we wanted to do. We had a pretty free rein to do that.
Q: How did you evaluate teachers?
A: Well, there was a form that we had to fill out and that was the only way we could do that. I hated evaluations, that is I mean written ones, but since it was required of us, we had a form. Of course, I visited classrooms because I don't think you can evaluate sitting in your office not knowing what's going on. Then I think another thing that helped was the conferences I had with teachers on a regular basis because that gave a chance to talk about things. Then I filled out the form that was given to us and then they came in and we evaluated together before it was sent to the main office.
Q: What kind of criteria were you looking at? What do you look at for evaluations?
A: Well, it was just really general conditions of the room, behavior, and where the strengths were in certain areas and how well they cooperated with other teachers in planning and all that kind of thing. Just sort of a summary of their whole program was really what it was.
Q: Were those items on that form?
A: Yes, there were certain forms and we graded accordingly. There was always a place for our comments about it so we could show places a little weak or show places that were strong.
Q: Did you ever see that as a growth experience? You said that you didn't like them.
A: I'm not sure. It was something that was required by the administration and I suppose the school board. I was always thankful that we didn't go to a merit system in which it became a real problem because I think well, I don't know, I never felt that it would work some way or other.
Q: Do you keep up on merit systems or career ladders?
A: Not too much. I was ready to quit when I quit. I determined that I was not going to involve myself because I felt that I had turned it over to someone else. So, except for some ad hoc committees that I've been on, I haven't done anything in the system.
Q: Let me ask you some questions about teacher discipline. You did tell us that you went into classrooms a lot when a teacher was having problems with discipline. Were there some other problems that would come up that some kind of teacher discipline was required?
A: Well, I asked for the transfer of one teacher to a higher level because he was not successful at the elementary--taught over the heads of the children-and so on-and I did that in the early time when he was still on probation. [Break] If I had a feeling at all that a teacher was not going to be a success where she was or he was I would want to ask for someone to be transferred to another building very early in the process. Now there was--I can think of one or two cases where I had that. They sorta took care of themselves. They didn't feel like they were being a success so they did not want to stay in the system. If I made them feel that way, I don't know exactly what I did, except that I had to keep working with them through the year, and so they moved on. I never really had to just tell somebody that they had to leave, that I couldn't have them any longer in my staff.
Q: Did that go on? Were there some cases of that in any of the districts you were in. That they had to dismiss a teacher?
A: Well, I think that the case where I was asked to take a teacher was almost at that point, as far as that principal was concerned anyway, he felt that he could not work with her any longer. I don't recall any teacher that was, there may have been some in the other schools high up, but not in the elementary schools.
Q: For the most part was it a more common practice to try to move them somewhere else?
A: That's right. To work with someone else to see if they would be more successful working. I think that if there is a personality conflict then you feel it then it is hard to keep on working with them. I can only think of two cases in which I feel that was the case at all. It would just be better if they worked with someone else. I think in both cases they left the district, went elsewhere.
Q: When you wanted to transfer a teacher was the Superintendent involved in that?
A: Oh yes. You had to go through the whole process. It wouldn't be just your decision. It would be a decision made by the total administration.
Q: There were some procedures you followed?
A: I'm sure there was. This one case is really the only one I can think of where the teacher was transferred to a high level.
Q: This is on money. We always have to get around to money sometime or other. During the years you were a principal do you feel that your teachers were being paid enough? If so, why? If not so, why?
A: Well, since I was principal through all of those terrible depression days we were just glad to get paid. In Hastings, we always did get our salary. It wasn't very much, but at least we got it. In a lot of schools that was not the case. So, I don't think that I could say the through the years that we were ever paid as much as they should have been, but it was not an issue back then as much as it is now.
Q: Let me interrupt you. I'm just curious back during the depression years, how much did a teacher make a month or a year? Do you remember?
A: Well, I think if you were, let's say, a principal in the Hastings schools--I was getting, let's see, the last year I was there I was getting $1,200 a year and that was as a principal and so a teachers would be less than that. I started out my teaching at $90 a month for nine months--$810. But, that was in a country school. When I came here then I came at $1,800 which was an increase over what I was getting in Hastings. $1,800 that was it for the year. That was in '42 and things are very different now. Course things are very different now than they were when I retired because teachers are getting far more than I got as principal.
Q: Do you think they are getting paid what they should or?
A: Well, it sounds awful good to me. I don't know, it is such a relative thing, you probably think that what they do is probably more important than what a football player does, as far as the welfare of children and all are concerned. But, there is a terrible difference in the price that they are paying, so I don't know what criteria you would use to know if it was really enough or not.
Q: Do you feel that back several years ago or even now, that if teachers were paid more that we would have better schools, that we would attract better teachers?
A: I don't know whether you would attract better teachers or not. I really don't. Course I know that there are a lot of good teachers that have quit and gone into other things, so there is that side that probably proves that that is the case. I look back over my years and I surely had some very fine teachers.
Q: Looking at the staff and the personnel in the school district do you feel that just the teachers or maybe just the administrators should be paid more? Or should everyone be paid more--the custodians, the cook, the aides?
A: Well, certainly not all the same level. An administrator I think. Just the responsibility that you have as an administrator of the whole school and all the rest should be paid more than a teacher with one classroom. Then aides and so on according to the responsibility they have.
Q: When you were principal surely you had fringe benefits at different times?
A: Very few benefits.
Q: Tell us about it. Were there fringe benefits at all when you started?
A: No, I don't think of any. I really don't. When you think of insurance and tenure, of course we did have tenure. I don't remember about Hastings but of course all the time here in Greeley you're on tenure after three years. So that can be considered, but not all the fringe benefits they have. We did have sick leave. That's another thing we had. We did not draw the sick leave that we had left over when we retired as they do now. Personal days--there wasn't anything like that at all. You were supposed to be in your building. I guess I could say that teachers could be excused for a convention or something that was typical of their work, but not very many.
Q: You have stated a few fringe benefits. Do you think the teachers would have preferred each year a bigger increase in their salary or maybe more fringe benefits? Maybe an extra day of sick leave or maybe a personal day or some insurance?
A: I think money talks. I think the money would be first. It was what brought me out here, I would have to confess that. But, of course, I could see the possibility for opportunities that I didn't have with the job I had back in Hastings, being offered several hundred dollars more a year than I was getting back there. I would have to say that would be money first.
Q: You talked briefly earlier about merit pay. Listening to you sounds like you weren't really crazy about it. Why is that true?
A: I guess probably the thing I think of first is that it would be likely to cause a feeling within the building. You know, I certainly wanted the faculty to work together. I just think it would cause a little friction if, for instance, it were my responsibility to say I have two teachers that are deserving of merit pay and others aren't. Now I could give those two teachers plenty of praise on their evaluation, and I always did, but I would think it comes down to really pointing them out for money and I would be a little bit cautious about it.
Q: You mentioned that tenure is a fringe benefit and plenty of praise on the evaluation. Were there other things that you think an effective principal does to help make the building a secure, safe environment for teachers to teach and continue to improve?
A: I think the first thing that you need to do to make them feel secure in the building is that you have absolutely an open door policy as far as their coming to you with their problems, personal and every other. I think the more open you can be the better. I always told my people I never felt they were working for me, I felt they were working with me. I think that if you can make the teacher feel that way about it, then they feel more secure. I think you have to make yourself available to them whether it is a problem with the children, a personal problem, it makes no difference. I think, well, just a general atmosphere of the building by the bulletin boards and different things that you have about the building which are attractive--and when anyone steps into the building they have a feeling that there are really things going on in there. There are lots of ways of showing it. Another point, I think faculty meetings have a whole lot to do with the satisfaction of staff. If they are long and drawn out, no point in particular to them or if they get to be a hash of what's wrong here and what's wrong here with some student or something, then they are no good. So, I think you need an agenda and really make the teachers feel that it was worth the time they were there after a tiring day.
Q: You held your faculty meetings after school. How often or did you hold them on an as needed basis?
A: No, they were regularly scheduled. I don't remember now what our schedule was on the faculty meetings. At least every two weeks we would have a meeting. Then I also felt it was important that there be social times in the faculty lounge over the lunch hour and at the time to have a place where they could go when they did have a break. I think that's all a part of making it easy for them.
Q: Would you relate all that to part of the school climate?
A: Yes. I think you need to have things well scheduled too so they are working within certain guidelines. Now I think, for instance, that parent/teacher conferences were always made out for the teachers. I made them out so there were scheduled families coming in to meet the different teachers. That was something that I could do that made it much easier for the teachers to carry on.
Q: The conferences, of course, that's one thing that helps promote school/community...were there some other things you did to help improve community relationship?
A: We also had a parent's organization. We got away from the old idea of parent/teacher's association which they did have when I first came out here and got away kinda from that. Each school had their own local one. That was why I called a meeting of all the parents when we were organizing the new school, I can't remember the details, there was an announcement sent out. I guess it was sent out in the schools, that children would be coming from into the new school--that we would have parents' meeting. I think we had it in August before school started, and that was when there were several of the parents that showed up that were my former pupils. I had been hoping that some of them would be old patrons, at least, but here they showed up saying that their child would be in my school. Nevertheless, that was a nice, cozy. little nucleus to organize. We had a very strong teachers' organization out there all the time I was out there. They started having a yearly fun festival. That brought all the parents and townspeople together to raise money to buy other things that we could have in the school. As I said, they were the ones that were responsible for starting the movement for having the name of the school changed too. It was not by my request.
Q: You know, in education there are always issues, either issues that come up with the district or national issues. Over your career as a teacher and principal can you think of some major issues that were factors in any of the districts?
A: Well, within the school, how about modern math? That hit us in the face as something that we were supposed to do. That was a very trying time for teachers because that was a new concern. I guess maybe my feelings kinda showed because I just never wanted to wander away from the fundamentals that I thought we were doing a pretty good job in teaching. So, to go on to something new that we tried, and it worked well for students that were already good math students. It didn't help the ones that weren't.
Q: Did you have to have any workshops or training for the teacher?
A: There were some meetings, yes. There were some training meetings. That's one thing I think they are doing much more of in schools now. In fact, I have complaints from teachers that think there are too many workshops and training sessions and all that. But, I do think there are a lot of newer things that have come into the school since I left. They talk about some of these initial things and I am just blank not knowing exactly what they are talking about. I haven't followed it like I probably should have.
Q: You felt there was some need for some training, more training that they had at one time?
A: Yes, I think so because they do need to keep up. Of course, there are requirements of keeping up with their work if they are wanting to go up on the pay scale they have to put in so many hours. For a long time, there was a committee, and I happened to be on that committee. There was credit given for other things than going to school--travel and different projects that teachers might do to add some credit for advancement. I think now it is mostly a matter of who works up. I know teachers are given days. There are some days set aside just for work sessions here in the Greeley schools. We didn't have anything like that.
Q: Would that have helped you a little bit if you had some days for you and your faculty to move together?
A: I don't feel like it was something that we needed. I just hated to take time away from the children. I felt like that was what we were supposed to be doing and we could do the planning some other way.
Q: Teachers didn't have a problem coming in at other times? Was that ever an issue--that they had to stay after school or come in before?
A: No, I don't think so. I think we did a lot of it in our faculty meetings and then with individual teachers. For instance, there would be things that would come up, say at sixth grade level that had nothing to do with kindergarten or first grade, then we could work with them separately.
Q: If you were advising a principal, a would be principal or a new principal, what do you think it takes to be an effective principal?
A: Well, I think the first place to start out is by putting yourself on the same level as they are. And, as I said before, tell them that we are going to work together. I never felt that they were working for me. I know that probably some of them called me their boss, but I don't think it was meant like the autocratic way at all because, well, I just never wanted it to be that. I think just being open, fair with them.
Q: Did they help with the planning, so you think that's a good idea?
A: Oh, yes, I think they should. There was planning for moving into the new building. Even so, we had to come together from maybe five different places in order to get together. We needed to have an orientation to that new building which was certainly a far cry from where we had been working. There had to be a lot of planning with that.
Q: What consumed the majority of your time as a principal? I mean other than the tours of the new building? What kind of activities took a lot of a principal's time?
A: Well, actually I used to think when I would go to school that I had my day well planned with just what I wanted to do that day and I maybe never did get around to that. I don't know what, I guess just working with the teachers, I would have to say that.
Q: You spent a lot of time working with the teachers?
A: In the classrooms and of course there were things that had to be done in the office too. I had an efficient secretary, I didn't spend most of my time in the office. I could do that on Saturday and other times. I just think it is working in the system more than anything else.
Q: Going back to the amount of time you spent and people that are just going into administration--that's what I'm doing. I've taught for 17 years and I'm going back to school now so that I can someday be a principal. I have two children, they are older now, 8 and 12, my wife is a head nurse here at the hospital, so she is very busy herself, so here I want to go back and spend more of my time at the skill, am I crazy?
A: Well, there's a tremendous satisfaction from it if you really feel like that is what you want to do. Now there are a lot of things that you are free from. For instance, the paper work of a teacher. You don't have to do that, but you have to assume a lot of responsibility for the things that go wrong in the building and working to keep teacher/parent relationships on an even keel. And always being willing to listen to the parents as well as to the teacher and standing by the teacher as much as you can. There were so many rewards in it for me that I would never tell somebody that they were crazy for thinking about being a principal, if you really do want it. If you really feel that's what you'd like to do.
Q: Did you feel the same rapport with students? Did you feel that as a principal you still got to work with students?
A: Yes, because you work with them over a period of years so you really have, in a way, an advantage over a teacher because you work with families along the way.
Q: Is that one of the pluses?
A: It is. That's one of the things. There is nothing more rewarding than to have somebody come up to speak to you. I go out to the mall and somebody rushes up and saying "you were my principal.: Here they are grown up men and women and all that, but that's one of the advantages you have over a teacher with just one classroom and then you have another group of children and all the rest. You get to know the children and families, and of course that's a big help to helping the teachers along the way because you pretty much know what you can expect with certain students over the years of time.
Q: Let's take a situation. I'm your assistant principal, this is in an elementary school, I really messed up on disciplining two different kids--one I gave a lot harsher discipline to than the other. The parents are in your office complaining that Mr. Wilson doesn't know what he is doing. What would you do?
A: Well, I would try to tell them some of your good points and that perhaps you did make a mistake. I would certainly want to know your side of the story and I would hope that you'd got to me with it before the parents did because then I would have had some basis to talk to the parents. If I didn't know I would tell the parents I would want to talk with Mr. Wilson before we make a decision and try to get the two of you together to get it settled.
Q: We've been here a long time and we should begin to give you rest, but I want to ask you was there anything that really was very distasteful for you in the job as a principal? Anything that you wished didn't come along with it?
A: Well, there were some sleepless nights over individual cases. I think that you can't avoid that, I guess that comes just with life. I tried very hard at the very beginning of principalship that if I was going to be a principal, that I had to try my best to settle problems while I was there, do what I could and forget them knowing I had done the best that I could do. But that doesn't always get done in one day. So, I think that is most, I hate arguments and I like to get along with people so that to me is the most distasteful part. When a problem comes up between a teacher and a pupil and then you have to bring the parents in and all of that, then its hard. Of course, there are a lot of unfair things, I can think of one time when I had a very irate parent because she blamed the teacher absolutely for her child not succeeding. Your know, I knew the teacher--I knew how hard she struggled with all the rest and you certainly feel for a parent too. They have that right thinking. There are some rough and that is why I think today they should debate a little more.
Q: What were the most pleasant principal activities?
A: Well, I don't know. I guess there is nothing that succeeds like success. If you could see that pupils were moving along and teachers were doing a good job and the rest. I still say that when I read about one of my former pupils that has made a tremendous success in life that I think oh, I had something to do with that. Then, of course, if it's someone that's in jail then I feel it is none of my business but then I wonder if I could have done something more.
Q: What do you think of corporal punishment in the schools?
A: Only once did I lay my hand on a child and give him a spanking. I'll have to admit that I was angry that day. I just feel there are other ways of handling it.
Q: What had the child done?
A: Well, he was one of the provoking kind that was in the office a lot. I recall I was down in the first building here when it happened and I called the truant officer in to talk to him. I don't remember whether he had to go and get the child or what, but anyway we were talking to him and my telephone rang and this kid said "answer your phone," just like that. The truant officer said I didn't think you would ever do that Miss Scott. I didn't use a stick or anything else on him, I just gave him a swat. I believe in shaking them sometimes, but not in corporal punishment.
Q: Is there something that we should have asked or something that you would like to tell us that we didn't touch on?
A: Well, there is a lot that happened over 27 years of being a principal so I don't know. I hope I have given you an idea of what I think is a real fine professional life. I certainly feel like I owe a lot to this community for having provided me the chance of being there and able to work the way I did. Of course, I'm enjoying my retirement because I'm doing a lot of things that I didn't have time to do. I work at the hospital here two mornings a week as a volunteer and I've done lots of things in the community. Different committees and all that.
Q: When you retired, were you ready to retire?
A: Yes, I was ready to retire.
Q: You had lots of special years.
A: Yes, I did have. I have never been bitter about it at all. I would do the same thing all over again if I had the chance.
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