Retired 1981. Interview Date: February 18, 1993.
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Q: Would you begin by telling us about your family background, your childhood interests and development? (birthplace, elementary and secondary education, family characteristics)
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: All right. I was born and raised on the south side of Youngstown, Ohio, during the Depression era. My father was an engineer on the B & O Railroad. We lived with my grandfather at that time on West Evergreen Avenue, who was a carpenter foreman with U. S. Steel. My mother and father were divorced when I was approximately eleven years old, and this had a great effect on me as you were looked down upon in those days having come from a divorced family. I've been working since I was eleven years of age, as there was not any welfare to fall back on at that time; you either worked or got very hungry. I worked at cutting lawns, cleaning garages and cellars, and just whatever else would come along that I could do, shoveling snow and that in the wintertime. I believe out of this whole thing, this made me a stronger person and a more compassionate person in the long run. I attended Monroe Elementary School, Princeton Junior High School, and graduated from South High School in June of 1946. Shortly after graduation I entered the U. S. Air Force and served three years there as an Air Force policeman.
Q: That sounds interesting.
A: Which, I believe, all again made for, you know, a stronger background for me and places, too, it really trained me in working with people practically. Well as I said, from ten years of age, I've been working with people.
Q: Yeah, and those are the skills you really need in administration.
A: In the Air Force Police, we were taught certain ways to handle situations and here again I think this helped me in meeting both pleasant situations and unpleasant situations in a polite, yet strong manner.
Q: Would you discuss your college education and preparation for entering the field of teaching? How many years did you work as a teacher and how many as a principal?
A: During my tour in the Air Force, I decided to attend Youngstown College. Now my high school days were not exactly known as the best grades and so on, but part of that was divorced family, had to work, attention, division. The courses I liked I got As and Bs in. My mother only asked me to pass, which was a C. And so I made it through high school. No problem. While in the service, there were three teachers who were in fulfilling their military requirement, and we struck up a friendship and talking and so on, is when I decided that's what I felt I wanted to do. So when I came out of the service, I wasn't quite sure whether I was making the right decision or not, so I went back to South High and visited Dave Williams who was still the Dean of Boys. I talked to him quite frankly about it. I wanted his honest opinion of whether he thought I could make it as a college student. And of course, Youngstown College, it was Youngstown College then, they did not have to accept me. So he said, "I'll put a word in for you. But," he said," I'm going to give you some books I want you to go over, and you and I will get together (I think it was three or four times) during the summer." And Dave helped me out a lot. He put a word in for me, and said, "I have no doubt but what you'll make out if you stick with it. And," he said," That, of course, is up to you." And I've never forgotten that, and will never forget Dave for that. Of course, that was Ellen Friend's father.
Q: That was kind of a mentoring relationship then, wasn't it?
A: Yes, very much so. Dave was a, I always looked up to him and I think most of the boys at South High at that time did. He was willing to listen. He was willing to work with you on the problems, and was very sincere about the way he handled it, you know. I was also very lucky there to have a commanding officer who took an interest and listened and tried to, you know, get me on down the road to something along that line, and he was always complimentary and any way he could help me, he was willing to do it. Mr. Gordon Lewis also was an influence on me when I, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Well, this is in the same question, isn't it?
A: Well, I taught fifteen years at Williamson Elementary, which was an inner city school at that time, and I loved the fifteen years I was there. I feel that was the last school that was built in this area that was meant to teach in. For example, my first class at Williamson was in 1953, was 41 children. And I still had room in the classroom for displays, etc. and so on, you know. Mr. Gordon Lewis, who was, I served under three principals there, but the last one I was under the last four or five years I was there was Mr. Gordon Lewis. And again, he and I struck up a pretty good relationship. He was more like a father to me, and I was in charge of safety patrol and a lot of things. I was the building representative to YEA for fifteen years, and things like that. He was the one who would suggest that I go into elementary administration. He thought I would make a good candidate for it with his experiences with me, so that after about six or seven years teaching is when I decided to go after my Masters. I signed up down at Westminster, went down there, enjoyed my time down there. I went down there with a number of friends who were, you know, teaching in Youngstown at the same time, and got my Masters in 1965. And right about that time, let's see, I think the summer of '64 and for five years after, my wife and family and I directed the Youngstown Fresh Air Camp, which gave me an administrative experience, so to speak, which we enjoyed greatly. But we were the only idiot family in Youngstown that enjoyed moving twice a year to camp and back from camp. But we did. I think it was a great experience for my kids, because we had an example of many of the races out there, many religions and so on, which a lot of kids at their home school don't get to, and we enjoyed it, and the kids always enjoyed it very much. As I said again, Mr. Lewis was almost like a father image to me too, and urged me on to this. I wasn't really seeking administration. I thought when I looked at the curriculum, the kinds of things that were there would help me be a stronger and better teacher, which I think they did. I don't know whether you knew Mr. Ed Isaly, who used to be president of YEA. Well, Ed and I became pretty good friends, and he went down to West Branch, I'm trying to think what years; he must have been down there three or four years, so probably around '60 or '61 he must've gone down there. And it was the last summer I was at camp I got a call around July. "Chuck, it's Ed Isaly." I wonder what Ed's calling me for, you know. He said, "Are you interested in an administrative position?" I said, "Well, in a way I am." I said, "Ed, to be very honest with you, I'm not quite sure." I said, "Well by the way, where are you going? Or," I said, "Who's leaving down there?" He said, "Well, I am." I said, "Where are you going?" Well it was Lakeview or something like that, one of those places up around the Cleveland area. "And," he said, "There's going to be an opening here at Maple Ridge School." He said, "I'd like to put your name in." He said, "I think you stand a pretty good chance of getting it." I said, "Well, I tell you what, Ed. Let me talk to my wife this afternoon." I said, "I'll give you a call tomorrow down at school, OK?" He says, "Fine."
Q: Was he at Maple Ridge at the time?
A: Yeah, he was down at Maple Ridge. And so we talked it over. Of course we had just bought our new home there in Austintown and everything was sort of... the dust was just beginning to settle. So I called him back the next morning and told him I would be interested, and said, "What do I do to arrange an interview?" He said, "I'll take care of that for you." He said, "Just tell me, you know, some days or something, you know, that you'd be able to get down here." So I arranged a time to go down to the building with the principal and got the OK, went down, had my interview with about six others down there that day, and Mr. Heacock, and before I left, he says, "Well, Mr. Wilhide, if you are interested in the job, it's yours." I was dumbfounded at being told right on the spot. I never expected it. So I said, "Well, the only thing I have to do is, I do have to get my release from the Youngstown Board. And," I said, "I'll get that as soon as I can, if that's all right, and get back to you." He said, "No problem." Well, I was sort of flustered at that point. You know, I enjoyed my teaching greatly, and the only thing that really made me, I think, go ahead and cross over, at that time the Youngstown Board was in a... losing its good members. Warren Williamson left, Dr. Young left, and we were getting, well some people on there who liked to hang the dirty laundry out in public, which I did not think befitted the Youngstown Schools and did them any benefit. So I did take it, and I did get my release. And I was glad I got it after I was down there. I was very pleased. I had an experience I'd like to pass on. First year, and I know these people were wondering what this city slicker's going to do now when he comes down to the country. You could tell the force field was out. Everybody was very polite, very nice, but only to a certain point. So you've got to learn to handle that, and not try to push it. It will go down when it's supposed to. And I almost cost myself a job there, because one day at a staff meeting, and you remember the staff that was there. Well I used the word, "You know, we do have an old staff," and I knew right then I had blown it. I used the wrong word. Use the word, "experienced" staff. And I probably extended the force field about another three months when I did that, but it all worked out fine. They were, they were a great bunch to work with, the parents were a great bunch to work with. The thing I liked about it was you had basically a family attitude there, whether it was in the building, outside of the building, with parents, with staff. Everybody pulled together. Well you remember the playground equipment and stuff we put up from the Sheriff, you know, the one that had problems with the money, at that time. But every year for about four years, I got $900$1100 from the Sheriff's department for playground equipment down there that we could not afford to buy. Well, the farmers brought their drilling rigs in and their trucks in and everything else, and everybody got together. The principal stayed at night; we put the stuff together and put it up. You remember how we changed the front. That whole thing, other than what the Board paid for that corner lot, cost us $600. And that was the final grading of the parking lot when we extended it, and the original base of the heavy cobblestone. That was all we had to pay for. There was one father had a tree service, cut the shrubs and stuff out for nothing. We had two other families built the long picnic table to put over where the trailer was, so we could have the classes outside. Some others brought their tractors and stuff up and they tore some of the ground up, turned it over and then seeded it and everything, and turned it into grass. And that saved us from having a business on that corner and somebody's trash container at our office door. But it was a very unique experience for me, that everybody, all you had to do was ask for something and away you went. But you had to return in kind.
Q: What year did you go to Maple Ridge?
A: 1968. I was down there until 1976. Enjoyed every year. I always had a thing. Whenever a job change came along or something, I always sat down and made two columns, pros and cons. Maple Ridge had the majority of the cons, or pros, I'm sorry, staffwise, studentwise, parentwise, and so on. But the only thing I, which I'll admit to today, I made a misjudgment. What I looked at was an immediate $4500 pay increase, which is an immediate $1200 increase in my, in my retirement. And thinking of the time I had left, and what that would do...and I had known Dr. Zorn because he used to call around to get our orders and our needs for maintenance supplies for the County Office. We struck up a pretty good friendship, and I thought from talking to him and my interview with him, we'd get along pretty good. So I decided to take the position in Poland. Mistake. Mainly because of, I don't know, the type of people we had out there, the camaraderie we had in the staff, the cooperation we had in the staff and with the families and parents, it was a very unique position.
Q: Yeah, I agree with that.
A: Very enjoyable.
Q: How many years were you full time in Poland?
A: '76 to '81, so that was five, and then I was there half time two years, '84 and '85, when I went back to help close Union.
Q: We talked a little bit about what motivated you to enter the principalship. You had a mentor that really ...
A: Yes, the Dean of Boys from South was a big influence. The three fellows that I met in the Air Police were a big influence, gave me a lot of insight, you know, into the classroom. Mr. Lewis then, when I did get into teaching, was another mentor or father figure and really urged me on into, whether you want to say, bigger and better things. I'd say bigger and better challenges. And I was never sorry for it.
Q: Okay. Would you describe your personal philosophy of education and tell me how it changed over the years.
A: My own philosophy, and that's all I'm going to say it is, of education has been to teach the whole student. When I was at Williamson Elementary, we had Chinese children from the Chinese markets and so on, along Market Street. We had Puerto Rican children from the men who had been brought into the mills. We had all cross sections of European culture in that area from the mill workers who had lived in that area for many, many years. So you had a lot of variations of home backgrounds and so on. The thing I always thought, you must show enthusiasm when you teach, above all, because enthusiasm is infectious, which later played a role in my administrative. The first thing I looked for in interviewing a teacher, before I even brought up, I mean I had looked over their scholastic record and so on, was their enthusiasm. Second, how they would get along with the staff and parents, or not get along with the staff and parents. I think you must show a student compassion, teach them compassion and understanding where needed, and teach self worth above all. Irregardless of what they say in some of the innovative curriculum, I think some skirt that as a concept. A child, many of these children need taught self worth. We, I had children in my class who sometimes slept in the boxcars on a siding in South Side Park. Parents didn't know where they were, and furthermore, didn't care. So what self worth did they have? And I'll go into how I did this a little later if the opportunity comes in. Each student must learn, I believe, that they are responsible for their learning habits, work habits, responsibility, respect and how well they learn, whether it is in or out of school. I believe this is a must if they are to succeed in life. No one else can make you do it. Someone must help you to see you must do it. Too often education stops with subject matter.
Q: We're discussing that a lot. I'm taking a fundamentals of curriculum development class and we are talking a lot about Dewey's philosophy, and some of the other philosophies of education, which is very interesting to me.
A: If I can extrapolate on this a little bit. The way I did this... The first two years I taught was basically the way you were taught in college. You're the boss. You spit it out and they spit it back, and you grade them, and so on. And the more I saw of this, and the type of students, and the cross section of students that I had there, I thought to myself, this was not cutting it. It wasn't getting to where I felt I needed to get. It was not only what's in the book, but what's around the book. I read in some professional magazine or something about some teacher who had utilized student government in her room. And I said, "That's it!" So I took the United States Constitution, broke it down to the level of a sixth grade class, as to what sections we could use and couldn't use, but based on the Constitution. "We, the students of Room 203 Williamson School," and so on. We worked out a set of bylaws, which all the students worked on and voted on, to follow or not follow. It worked strictly on, based on a city government, which we used to take field trips to City Hall, to the county court house, to the Youngstown Vindicator, and mainly because they could more directly associate with that, what a mayor was, what a councilman was, president of council. So when we utilized it, we first of all went over the Constitution. "This is what we need to govern ourselves in here." That was always stressed, and tried to give them examples of, for instance, "Suppose you own a home. Some kids are walking across your home and for some reason some day just pick up a rock and wing it through your window. Is that right or is it wrong?" I said, "We have the same type of thing here. You're out on the playground some day. Some boy comes around and knocks you down and hurts you. Is that right or is it wrong?" I said, "This is what we're going to base our bylaws on. What are we going to allow in class, and what are we not going to allow in class? And if a rule is broken, what shall the punishments be?" So therefore, if a child ever got paddled, it was only as a result of first of all, going through a trial, being found guilty or not guilty. Secondly, whether the, the only way, the only thing I did in this was act the part of judge on Friday afternoons. The only time it came up to whether the teacher would paddle a child or not was if it was in the law and the Constitution. It was not whether I would do it or not. So first of all the children knew what the rules and laws were going in. They knew what the rules were, and out of 13 years, there were only two classes who couldn't handle it because of immaturity. But what was interesting to watch, of course everybody wanted to be the big cheese, the mayor, the president of council, the councilman. Now the councilman had two jobs. The councilman was not only the councilman, he was also the policeman. And each row was a ward. And we operated that way. But what was interesting was all of a sudden, now the big cheese has to write up their best friend. And it was interesting to see how they would wrestle with that for maybe two or three days before, 'cause we had, I ran off on the mimeograph a summons, and it worked the same way. Your name, you know, the child's name, etc. and so on, the date, what the person was charged with, and so on. And the court bailiff read this to the court and the judge. I said we had a prosecuting attorney and the child could have anybody in the room they wanted to be their defense attorney, and we had our trial. And what was, as I said, very interesting watching a child wrestle, "Oh, I got to write up my best friend now." And my first problem was, "How am I going to help him through this?" I didn't want to push them too much, so that, "Okay, I'm making the decision." So I'd usually ask a question of some kind to try to get them to open the door and maybe talk about it. And the approach I would usually use was the one I used when we started the student government. Well, this person, their best friend, did they do right or did they do wrong? And I said, "That's what we have to decide here." And I said, you know, "If that person is such a good friend, they wouldn't do something to make you write them up." But it was interesting how some kids, they could get over it pretty quick, and others had to wrestle several times. And usually, of course at that time, grade periods were six weeks apart, so we had elections each time, so we could kind of give more people a chance to get around and do things. And I think it was a tremendous growth, growing experience for them. I was not afraid, I never did, never had to, but I was not afraid to be out of my room for two hours, because assignments were on the board. I was not the authority figure anymore, and as I said, except for two classes, which just because of immaturity, they just couldn't get ahold of it and handle it. So I felt that after we did two terms of it, and said well, it's best we just go back. But it was tremendous for the kids that come up. I still have run into kids out at the Hobby Shop and different places, and, "Well, how're you doing? Remember student government?" But it was really enjoyable. I think it was one of the best things I ever stumbled across as a teaching tool. And I think it was sixth grade. Course that was the top end of the elementary then. It was a good time to initiate it with them, and they got a kick out of it. They learned that's what it was about.
Q: What experiences or events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy?
A: Is that seven?
A: Five. I guess you can go clear back as a child when I was working. I had a schedule, a time and so on. But I think in college, well in the Air Force Police I got a little taste of it, but college really put the picture on the screen for the need of efficiency. The need of efficiency in college for study, organization, classroom were prime influences, because I also had to work when I was going to college. So I had to arrange and so on, very carefully, and plan. I feel efficiency and planning are prime in lesson planning, lesson presentation, reports, record keeping, grouping and individual help. I think due process and special education really brought these areas into clear focus.
Q: Okay. What techniques did you use to create a successful climate for learning?
A: I'll go back to the one on student government.
Q: Yeah, that was a good one.
A: Really, because again it was working and focusing on the individual. I used to tell the children, some couldn't quite get it across at first, you know, "On a day you want to turn and point a finger at somebody, 'It's your fault because this happened,' stand in front of the mirror first and see who you can point your finger at." I say, "You know, you can say it's mom's fault, it's dad's fault, it's brother's fault, Mr. Wilhide's fault, Mr. Lewis' fault, but if you got a bad grade on a paper, whose fault is it really?" I said, "Now granted, hey, I'll admit as a teacher, maybe I made a mistake, and just didn't get it across to you." And I found that a thing, very often that I woke up at 2:00 in the morning, well, Mary's having trouble with a concept in science. How am I going to get it across? I've tried this and this and this. And various students and so on. But I just kept hammering at them. "It's you. Mom can't come to school and study for you. Dad can't do the homework for you. Your sister can't do this." I said, "It's you, you're here, you're to be learning. So if you're not sure, all you have to do is ask me. And we'll go over it again. Whatever you need in help, we'll do. But," I said, "You have to tell me first." I have no machine I can point at you and say, "Aha, Bobby doesn't know this, now we'll do such and so." I said, "We have to talk back and forth." And the kids were very open and willing to do that. And I think probably, the majority of kids each year, and as I said, we had a broad variety of ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, and everything else there, that when they learned it isn't because you are tall or short or skinny or fat, black or white, red or yellow, or anything which says you are going to be a good student, a poor student, a good person, a bad person, it's you yourself. And I said, I just kept hammering that across to students, not only as a teacher, but as a principal. "It's you. You are you and if you goof up, then you must blame yourself. And, if you can, and if you are a real person, correct it."
Q: Was that effective with the staff, as well as with the students?
A: Yes. Oh yeah. I found that to be.
Q: Chuck, what kind of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do?
A: What do teachers expect principals to be able to do?
Q: To be an effective principal, how would you go about that? I mean ...
A: Be a magician. I found that teachers expect you to be open with them, honest with them, fair with them and a leader, both educationally, professionally and personally. I think the principal has to take on the collar of a minister or priest sometimes. Teachers have personal problems sometimes. You can be a good listener, or help. Maybe something to do with school, themselves, advancing, you know, into another degree, or, you know, "What would you think would be good for me to do to help my teaching," and so on. I think teachers want a person who is open and honest and strong, with strong leadership. To give you an example, at Maple Ridge, I think that the first time I made points down there, that I could count on, if you want to put it that way. The second year I was there, they needed to elect somebody to the WBEA as their rep, and I noticed for two or three days the teachers in the morning were outside talking about this thing. But, I don't know whether I was coming from the cafeteria or somebody was coming down to the office, there were about five or six teachers outside, and they were discussing that. I said, "Could I say something that maybe will help you with your decision here?" I said, "I've been listening to the discussions going on around the building for three days, and granted this is a teacher decision, but if I may just throw another visual angle in on this," I said, "We need somebody (I used the word we, not they). What we need at WBEA is a person who's willing to stand up and talk for Maple Ridge." That's all I said. They just looked at me, and I went on. That afternoon we had a rep elected. And it took several months later, but they, they said that was what they needed, because you know, as a teacher, you look at your personal friends, and this, that and the other thing. And that worked out. But I think you need, you wear many hats as an administrator. You're in the hierarchy looking down at things and planning and extrapolating and evaluating and everything else, but then you also have to be a human being, be available for them when they need you. The first thing I did with evaluation time, which is what I was concerned about because I was concerned about really how I was going to handle evaluating. It was the first time for me to do it. So I had a lot of staff meetings at coffee in the morning. One of the things about that is you don't have to call on a regular scheduled staff meeting and we got to say things on a level that weren`t so formal. Gave me a lot of insight to work on, too. And, now I forgot what I was going to say. I think it's important that the principal have a good rapport with the staff. Oh, what I was going to say was, I asked the teachers, I said, "I know from me asking questions of other principals, you are evaluated once a year, about half an hour to an hour." I said, "Do you want me to put your professional position on, in a position on one evaluation?" I said, "What I'm asking, so I get to know you, and you get to know me, I'm asking if I can drop into your room any time. Now we will have the formal evaluation, but," I said, "The reason I want, I want to get to learn your approach to teaching, the kids' reactions to your teaching, what you're doing, how you're decorating your room, that I don't, that I can say, if a teacher calls and says, 'Well I know Miss So and So is doing this,' I can say you're wrong, or you're right, whichever the case may be. And you're not having to ... And," I said, "I'd be willing to make this concession. If I walk in your room on a day for evaluation, and you don't want evaluated, it's a bad day, just tell me. I'll leave. We'll do it another time. No problem there." I said, "I'm not here to try and put you in a corner." And it worked out very well. It worked out great for me, because down there I knew every kid by name. And the teachers liked it. In fact, it did save a teacher's bacon one day when a parent called and complained about what was going on in the room. And I had been in the room twice the week before, and I knew where she was coming from, she was wrong. And it killed it there. But then teachers did...it was a little more of my time, but I didn't stay for a great length of time. I'd go in and maybe watch part of a math class or of a certain class, or I'd see how they were doing their bulletin boards, how the room was arranged, and things of this kind. Just got to know that person, that class. I think you need to do that too, rather than just, "Ah boy, this is the day I go in and evaluate them." And the staff you put on there is a long lasting effect.
Q: Do you think that might be different today than it was back then, in terms of the strength of the union and the contracts that have been negotiated?
A: I think it depends on the individual teacher and the individual principal. And the reason I did it, and I also told them this too, I said, "I don't want to make this an arbitrary thing or a place where you stand off at each other." I said, "I don't think that's what evaluation should really be. I want to give, to be able to give an honest evaluation that you are an excellent teacher, and be able to say where I believe you are excellent. And if I do have to say, well I think you could improve here, I'm not going to do it on one time, which could have been a bad day, or whatever." And even the teachers in Poland felt the same way, only with the two buildings I didn't get to do that too much. It was a fiasco there.
Q: Okay, as a followup question, would you describe the expectations, both professional and personal, that were placed upon principals by their employers and the community during your period of employment? Do you think that's changed now that it...
A: You'll notice the second word I have here, the tensions provided educators today are very high. Too many children come to kindergarten, as I see it in this day and age, 'cause I'm still visiting my schools where I was a principal in Poland from time to time, talking to teachers who have retired just recently, principals and so on, and what I just read in the paper, and what I saw coming before I retired. Too many children come to kindergarten or first grade, today, poorly prepared in reading especially, since both parents are working and television is the babysitter. And I'm not saying that to condone, or anything else with parents, it's a fact. Children are not read to like they used to be, to get a base of reading skills and visualization skills. In the past fifty years there has been an explosion in data and subject matter, yet the time schedules are basically the same to teach them. Ethics and values are of less predominance today, or I should say the lack of them create many problems we did not used to have. "You will not touch my child!" "You will not discipline my child!" I know, I could even see it my first principalship at Maple Ridge, which there was not near that many there as there is in a suburban, affluent community. All you have to do is listen to the children talk. You know who is sitting at the breakfast table or the supper table saying, "Well, you know, if you go to the school, and if you have any problems down there, let me know and I'll go down and straighten it out." It's not, "What did you do today?" "You are not to act in a disrespectful manner at school. You are there to learn." You know, when I went through elementary school, or even through high school, I would have never dared gone home and said, "Dad, I got sent to the principal's office today." I'd 've got skinned. I was told I was not there to be a problem, I was there to get my education. And there was no leeway to that. Today, parents will lie their children didn't do that, or they weren't there, and, "Oh yeah, my child is home sick," when the other kids told you exactly where the other kids are playing hookey, and so on. They don't want their child to answer up to a goofup. It's a coverup. And I think this is one of the big things that has to be addressed no matter how you innovate the curriculum in getting parents involved in planning and so on. I learned in Psych 101, you can't teach them anything if they don't want to learn. So that's simple and basic and truthful. And until we can get kids coming into school where you don't have to spend your first two years in school getting them to understand they must be polite, "You shall conform," and, "You have to conform to certain things that you're not used to at home," without going home and telling mom and dad, and they're down to school screaming, "You're not treating my child right."
Q: So the community pressures are a lot different now than they were ...
A: Much. Much.
Q: ...back in the old days.
A: And again, I think this is probably more true in your suburban areas, but I've talked to a few of the teachers at times out in the West Branch area and some of the rural areas where some of those problems are stretching out there, too, but not to the degree, as such.
Q: Okay. A great deal of attention has been given to the topic of personal leadership in recent years. We talked a little bit about leadership before, is there something that you want to add to what we talked about before?
A: Well, my own personal approach again. I found being open, happy and honest help. I truly and honestly believe that a level of fun must be interjected. "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy," was a saying when I was a child. I think all of us at times need some time to sit back and have a good laugh, laugh at yourself or laugh at the thing, and get your mind off that "test the kid screwed up so badly today," or the parent who just came in and wanted to hang you in the coat cupboard and leave you for the police to find, or whatever. And I just used to try and interject humor wherever we could. Well then the teachers caught on. We did the same thing, in the hallway or in the office or in the lunchroom or, or wherever. I found, even in suburbia, in fact I'd say more so in suburbia where the tension is greater. We had coffee and doughnuts every Friday morning, sometimes Wednesday and Friday mornings. It's amazing what the principal learns at a coffee and doughnut session, of which maybe you can talk out a little bit, or at least get some foresight, and steer clear of a lot of problems down the road in a formal teacher's meeting. But again, as I say, being open, being happy, being honest...I have found that I think teachers have appreciated, I always have tried to keep an open office for staff and parents and students. These items do not always work, because there are those who are not happy unless they get exactly what they want.
Q: There are those who argue that, more often that not, central office policies hinder, rather than help, building level administrators in carrying out their responsibilities. Would you give your view on this issue? And, if you were king, what changes would you make in the typical systemwide organizational arrangements as a way of improving administrative efficiency and effectiveness?
A: Okay. Well, central office policies are a two-way street. The way I look at it, there has to be understanding both ways. I believe that there is a way to develop these policies with input both ways. This can help, but this is not always possible. The question is, "Are there ways to approach these areas with suggestions to improve the policies?" If I were king, I would try to develop this system first and take the data and material and everything else and work it accordingly and get it into a two-way communication as close as possible as you can in the development of policies.
Q: So you'd solicit input from everyone and then try and develop...
A: I believe today from the state level, from the county level at times, and I'm sure at the city level, it's nice if you send an edict down, "It shall be followed." But without knowing all the ramifications that take place from there, sometimes we are not doing what I would call a real intelligent thing. Sometimes though, it is expedient and necessary to do it that way. But I believe there should be, "Come on, ask the folks at the grass roots first." And then develop your policies to try and fit without hammering somebody out of position or shape or something out of shape inadvertently. Something you intended as good in the first place would cause you five other problems in the end. It may take a little bit longer, not quite as efficient, but maybe a heck of a lot more satisfying in the end. Although, to be honest, having been at the lower end, there are those who don't care what the higher end does so again at both ends, it has to be fixed and considered. If you're going to have input, then by George you ought to follow it and believe in it. I can think of fellow principals who, well, due process is a very good example, who ignore it. I know one principal who told a teacher when she went in to talk about, "Junior has a problem", to go back to her room and try harder. So it's at both ends. You know you can't blame just central office. Where it can be, I think, I've always believed anyway, it's more efficient if you have two-way communication.
Q: The next question has to do with sitebased management. Is that a concept you're familiar with?"
A: No, I'm not. That is one that I ...
Q: ...had a question about? Okay, we'll skip over that, then. Principals now often have advisory committees of teachers and/or parents to provide input to management decisions in the schools. How did you or would you feel about that and how would you work with such a group?
A: Believe in it fully. I had them. I had a public relations committee, advisory committees on different things, safety, you know, building safety, to and from school safety. We talked about curriculum, asked for an exchange of parental ideas and what we were doing, what we were planning, or possible changes we were making in what we already had established and so on. We never made a promise to them that it would be exactly the way they wanted, but at least it gave me a feel both ways, from staff, from parents, as to how to try and best approach this and make it a more fulfilling situation. But I believe in utilizing those systems to the nth degree. It's a little more tension, a little harder job, but I think you're getting a fairer distribution of ideas and coming up with a better all around idea more acceptable to all, and of course to fulfill the basic thing you're trying to do.
Q: During the past decade, schools have become much larger. Discuss your views on this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities.
A: Well things have changed so much. The school size (my first school had 690 students in it, as a teacher) and we have reached through the fifteen years I was there between 630 and 690, somewhere.
Q: That was a pretty goodsized school, then.
A: Of course we didn't have as many things to deal with, the due process and so on, as you do now. As I said my first class was 41. The only class I had under 32 was my last one. But I never felt that, then, under those circumstances, that it was a pressure. Today it would be, with all the paper work and the different things you have to do, which I'm not knocking, I'm for. I would say probably the optimum class size should not be above 22 to 24 students. If indeed, the, your main classroom teacher is going to be working with these identified students too, or again even with, I said, the curriculum people feel that's how it is. I remember exactly what I had in 6th grade curriculum. My God, the stuff that has come out, especially in social studies and science, and you're still teaching the same number of minutes per week in the subject. Impossible. Impossible. I would say we probably need to look at, somewhere down the road, rewriting the books in a way to cut out some of the older, not as important, items to bring it down, or looking at making the school year longer. Otherwise we're missing something somewhere along the line. I look at countries that don't even exist anymore that did when I was a kid, or boundaries that have changed into something all together different, and, as I said, yet we`re still using the same amount of time.
Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader, and those that suggest that, realistically speaking, the principal must be, above all, a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe your own style?
A: Well, as I said earlier, efficiency is a thing I learned. And I think you have to be a good planner in order to get all things done that are out there. There are certainly a lot more things in there now than when I was in it in the early 80s. I think you must be efficient, a good planner, a good manager, and again very strong. I think those things, I always say those things stick out in a good principal or leader or administrator or whatever you want to call him. And it's a real problem today. To give an answer that would... we haven't got any room to say, "Well, try harder" anymore. There is a time when the minutes in the day are gone, the type of student you have to work with, the reports you have to make out, both in-building, in-district, in-state and wherever now, especially as an administrator, are overwhelming. So much time is there, that I'm afraid... I firmly believe that the principal is the head teacher, the instructional leader, and should be up on the latest things where you can suggest teachers to go and see something that is being tried to see if it would have an application in your own situation, in your own building, in your own district, that will be an improvement, that will be a help. And I think that is a way to use professional days. That's the way I did at Maple Ridge. You remember some of those early things, at North Olmstead and different places were going on. I went over to see Mr. Heacock at the time, and he granted the use of the professional days for that. And the staff utilized them. I think that's another type of thing we need, but I think, granted, you have to be efficient. You have to be a good strong manager and you have to be the instructional leader. That's what you are, supposedly.
Q: By definition.
Yes. Yes, and you need to be aware of what is new, what the teachers are using, maybe be able to give some suggestions, not necessarily demands, but maybe something else to look at that might help. That's your job.
Q: Especially in dealing with certain students, I would think.
A: Yes, especially with children with specific problems, special problems. There's a lot of them out there today.
Q: A lot more than there used to be it seems.
A: Well, I think that goes back again to what I said, the home... We have lost in America the family honor. I can remember when the big deals... I had Dr. Cockerille over at Westminster whom I thought was the greatest prof I ever had in my life. She was a lady that read like a person who was trying to gain 400 pounds. She could talk to you on Forever Amber or the latest statistical data on Russian schools or anything you wanted to name. She had it. She had read it. She had it in her mind. And when we're talking about the Japanese schools, "The Japanese children are smarter than us." That's hogwash. They are not smarter than us. But the American people do not know that Mom has to go to 1st grade with the kids. And somewhere, I forget now, 3rd or 4th grade, the children start cram school, two hours a night, five hours on Saturday. Can you imagine the cry and uproar in this country? But they're not smarter, but they have: 1) family honor, which is the most important of anything, plus the fact they work the daylights out of them, and if you look at the suicide rate as it went up, you can see what it's doing. And a lot of people don't look at that, all they look at is ... I hate seeing these figures being thrown out, that this country's kids are smarter than ours, or we're below in our math skills, and so on. I'm sorry, I believe in math, and some basic math needs to be known. If you're going to be an engineer, a space scientist, or something, then going into all these elaborate maths, fine. I went up through second year algebra because I had to to go to college. I've never used it a damn day since, you know. So, did that do me any good? Not a bit in my work. So I object to a point. While some of the subject areas and degrees to which they are carried... If you're going to be a good student, you have to do this. Baloney.
Q: What do you think about the proficiency tests?
A: I believe in them. As long as the local level has input, that the changes can be made as needed. Well, this isn`t working, this isn't giving us a true picture or this is not even in what we are teaching, in some cases. That those can be adjusted to try and reach a true measuring stick, I believe in them. Well, heck, when I went to school, if you got an F you failed. That was it. The only way you got around it, you took it over again and passed it. Not like we do today. Push them on. I disagree with that, I'm sorry.
Q: So you feel there ought to be a certain minimum level of skills?
A: Yes. Otherwise you repeat it. Because, are we being honest with that student? Are we being honest with that family? And are we being honest with the work world? Oh yes, this child has a diploma. I know of areas, degrees have changed, in high school where kids are pushed out just to say, "We passed. We graduated another one." We lie and that could be the worst black mark against education there ever is. If a child doesn't cut it, he doesn't pass. Take it again. Kids don't have to worry about that anymore. "Mom and Dad will straighten it out. We got what we want. We're passed on. We get the new teacher." Or whatever.
Q: As you view it, what characteristics are associated with the most effective schools, and what features characterize less successful ones?
A: Okay. I wasn't real sure here, but looking at it as I interpreted it, I think the most effective schools will have a building and grounds that are well kept, and provide the room and equipment to answer the needs of the staff and the students. The school will have an efficient and enthusiastic administration and staff to provide a rounded and uptodate education, not only for today, but several years into the future. All ineffective schools will lack the previously mentioned steps.
Q: You see it like the two ends of a continuum?
A: Yes. I don't think you need the newest school. If you have a wellkept building that gives you the room to work in, to provide the experiences necessary, you have the money to have the materials to provide the programs to the children and the testing. That's where your most effective schools are.
Q: There has traditionally been a commitment in this country to the principle of universal free public education. Would you give your views on this concept and indicate your feelings on the practicality of such an approach in this day and time?
A: I definitely believe in a free education for those that can not afford or do not wish to attend a private school. It must however, provide a good rounded, sound education from the students themselves to the broadest of subject matter. I believe this is our best chance to give a rounded education without certain divisions of our populace in this country teaching only what they want. And what you want to go into, religions or voodooism... The way things you hear today that are going on in places... I'm just a little skeptical of, say, "Well, let's turn the whole thing into a private situation," because then how do you really keep everybody in bounds? That could be a difficult, difficult thing. But I do believe in a free education.
Q: What about the voucher system that has been proposed to help pay for private education for students?
A: I believe private education is there for anybody who wants it and can afford it. Vouchers? I don't know. Personally I think there are better ways the money can be used. Personally I feel a person has the right to choose a private school. But they better have the money to put it in there. For example, my oldest boy who is now a Major in the Army has had the wonderful opportunity to go to Harvard and get his Masters in Russian Studies. Thank God Father didn't have to pay ... Well, I couldn't have. Uncle Sam did because it was fulfilling a niche he was in in rounding him out in explosive arts demolition teams. But I couldn't, as much as I would have wanted my son to go to Harvard, I couldn't put him there. I don't think I should expect somebody else to do it for me.
Q: I think that's the bottom line. What about home schooling? Have you heard about people who teach their children at home because they don't want them in the public schools? What do you think about that?
A: Again, how do you follow up on that? I equate that to, since I work with Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and so on, in the classes that I taught, one of the techniques I had again going back to my way of doing the class, we had baking contests and modelbuilding contests and sewing contests and so on to help put a little more fun and enjoyment into it, yet will still teach them some practical experiences. When you got the item to school, did Mom and Dad do it, or did the child do it?
Q: That's your concern about home school?
A: That's right, very definitely. When I see, and the last experience I had as an administrator, how parents will lie and how they will do anything up to the threat of taking you to court and suing you to get what they want. No, I am not for it.
Q: Administrators presently spend a good deal of time complaining about the amount of paper work and the bureaucratic complexity with which they are forced to deal. Would you comment on the situation during your administrative career and compare the problems you encountered with your perceptions of the situation now?
A: To base it very simply again, with due process and the things we were doing, we had paper work and so on. Course it was not near what we have now. I believed in it, I think it was necessary to know what you needed to do, how you were doing it, was it being done, was it getting through. I think we have to have a certain amount of that. How to control what's going on today, again, I'll go back to a statement I made earlier. I think state-levels and county-levels, need more two-way communications, need better planning than what they have done so far in some of this paper work, like state reports and so on that, "Well you've done it. Now we`ve revised that; you've got to do it over again." Come on, folks! Get it in gear first or park it in the garage!
Q: A lot of it's redundant.
A: Yes. Yes. Today you can't afford that time in school, to waste. The school day is no longer. The class time in teaching is no longer. The subject matter is a heck of a lot more voluminous, so let's be honest with ourselves. The people, this is where I think the people in the higher echelon and with machines are getting away from the true need. I can see reports to the state and their need for them. But boy, have your act together before you start on that road.
Q: Once is enough.
Q: Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational administration, what would they be?
A: That was one I didn't answer, as I was not quite sure what you wanted there.
Q: Based in your experience, is there something you would like to change to make the schools more efficient or effective?
A: Lot of things I'd like to. How is the question. It's complex. There are no two ways about it. I don't honestly have an answer. Being honest, being away for a number of years, I have sort of gotten a little rusty around the edges of just what is happening. I know some of the major things that are going on.
Q: Yeah, the stuff that's in the paper.
A: Yes. Certainly things have to be done. But I won't know that areas they're honestly ... Well, to say this is what I'd do.
Q: What about curriculum areas or areas of overall operation that you would like to see changed? Can you think of anything there? We've talked about the fact that you need to make room for more instruction.
A: Right. That would be my basic answer there, too. With the explosion of data that has hit us in the last 35 years, social studies-wise, science-wise, health-wise, and many other ways, we've got to do something to try and get that stuff in where we can teach it. Maybe we need to look at some things now that 50 years ago were important but now, well we can briefly touch and go. Bring in the new things that are really vastly affecting us now.
Q: Thinking more relevant?
A: Yes. More relevancy, rather than spending too much time on what was and isn't any more. Touch on it and go. What are we into today? I hear so many kids today, and this is what bothers me, I've heard relatives of my family in the high schools and so on, and I'm sure it starts down in elementary, "Why is history important? That has nothing to do with us." Smack 'em, somebody, because somewhere they have not put across the real reason what does history teach us. And what has happened there? The interest in certain subjects (course I know where that has happened) because nobody at home again pushes that you're there to learn. And all of these things are important to you to be a rounded person, to get out of school, and this again is going back to the individual student, seeing himself or herself. When you get out of school, Mom and Dad aren't going to support you anymore. You're on your own. There's too many things out there today that people are expecting, welfare and everything to take, and that isn't going to do it either. You have to look at yourself and put the finger there. "It's up to me, not Mrs. Jones, my first grade teacher, not Mr. Welsh, my principal, not Joe Doaks, or anybody else." That's why I firmly believe that in elementary you need to get into the kids, "It's you or nobody." As you get out of school today, there is nobody there that's going to help you get a job. Because you're going to have footprints all over your back of everybody else trying to get to that same job. If you aren't prepared, you're too late. Just too late.
Q: Would you describe some of the pressures you faced on a daily basis and explain how you coped with them? Describe your biggest headaches or concerns on the job.
A: Well, my first administrative position, there were pressures but again when we were starting due process, there were things, but I don`t think those were things we couldn't cope with. The pressures that do come to bear, one I can relate to on the first-hand basis, is I don't believe any person should be subjected to being administrator of a dual building principalship. Today it's impossible, with what you have. First of all, you can't do your job as you know you need to do it. "Okay, here's our test results, staff. What do we need here now to do to bring our kids up to a little higher level, or to meet the standards, etc. here?" You don't have the time. That created a greater tension with me because I knew I wasn't getting my job done. I was at school at 7:00 in the morning and I was there till 4:30 in the afternoon. I was still not getting it done. I was carrying stuff home to try to get it done, which took away from my family, so therefore, I'm not being a good parent "Don't bother Father, he is busy in his room doing work." Kids want to see their father at night or their mother at night and so on and so forth and do things together. I think these tensions were going to have to... I would be willing to bet, the two buildings I had when I retired, that 85staffs were on something for tension, some medication, be it only aspirin, something to help them handle tension, just in the classroom. The thing that saved my neck was the boat we had that we could get out in the evening, away. Relax. I didn't have to worry about the phone ringing, the door bell going off, or anything else. I could go back to school the next day ready to take on the onslaught again. And I think all we're doing in some of the things we're doing today, is just taking good people and wearing them out far before their time. Teachers, I am including in there, administrators, psychologists, anybody that's in this realm of trying to do as much as we can for the kids. I think we need to take another look at it, and say, "Whoa, can we make this thing more streamlined and more efficient, without putting so many people in the hospital?" The fellow that was going to relieve me at the two building positions, I gave him suggestions. I said, "Look, I did this for the five years." I said, "I didn't follow the suggestion I'm going to give you." I said, "I'm giving it to you because I know it's getting worse. You've got a day, you feel that tension's building up that you almost want to explode, call and say, 'I'm sick.' Give yourself 24 hours to come back down to Earth." That was one of the things that was getting to me also at the end of five years. Harder and harder each year to cope with that demand, the time demand, the pressure demand, "Get this done, this in, that out." It was just getting impossible with two schools. I can imagine what it would be like if you had one building with 500 to 600 kids in an elementary school. Because you still have, you know, the special ed areas to handle. You have the problems to handle. The problems today... horror... 20 times greater than when I retired in '81, mainly because the kids come to school without ethics. The expectations are there. They know they can lie because Mom and Dad will back them up. They're not worried about passing because they can lie and say, "Well, the teacher didn't do this." And the teacher can't raise cane without taking the child in and setting him down and saying, "Look, do we have a problem here? What is it?"
Q: Would you tell us the key to your success as a principal?
A: Any success as a principal I can claim was because I loved what I was doing, and worked as hard at it as I could. Again, I also tried to sprinkle it with fun along the way, not only for the principal, but for the staff, children, and parents. I think you have to have, well, I'll equate it. Who wants to sit down and eat a meal that has only one thing to eat? And I think here, and especially much more so than when I was in it, this is necessary that you have some kind of relief.
Q: I agree with that. Please discuss your professional code of ethics and give examples of how you applied it to your career.
A: All right. My code of ethics was simple. I worked as hard as I could for what was right, what was for the school district, the staff, the parents, but above all, the student. And I applied it that way as I had mentioned before from the time I taught with the student government, selflearning, selfgovernment, learn and see how it is, up through the teachers. They had a part in to say, it wasn't just me getting in to a staff meeting and getting up on a podium and saying that we're going to do this and we're going to do that, we're going to do this how, it's going to be done then, and so on. It was done as a team.
Q: Since you've now had some time to reflect on your career, I wonder if you would share with us what you consider to be your administrative strengths and weaknesses.
A: I think my strengths, as least as I see them, was the love of students, working with people, being organized and efficient. My inability or weakness, if I had to say was one, unfortunately is the inability to be able to work with people I can't trust. There were some people along the lines in different places and times, I had to really push myself to work with them, because I didn't trust them. And I would say that would be at least what I would say was the weakness I had during that time. But, it all basically worked out.
Q: Would you give us an overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service, or any advice you would wish passed on to today's principals?
A: Well, just to reiterate what I've said, I think: 1) an administrator has to be strong because you're getting it both ways. You're getting it from above, you're getting it from below, and you're getting it from the outside from parents. I think you have to have the strength. I think you have to know your areas. You have to know what's new out there and good in the curriculums that can help teaching methods and so on and so forth, combining things, utilizing what you have in your district in parents or organizations that can help out. There are many things there you can use. Again, I think you have to be compassionate, understanding, and organized and efficient to make it all come out to where you can sit back and say, "Well, I've enjoyed this." There are some tough rocks you stub your toes on, but I don't care where you go, that happens. But I always looked at administration and teaching as two jobs I enjoyed, really liked. And there are some times you have to put yourself out, you have to put yourself last, put the other things first to get it done, and get it done properly. Some people can't do that, but I think for those who are in administration today, it's even much more so, because the demands are ten times greater than they were when I was an administrator. From what the public wants, what the state wants, the expectations, what the staff wants and needs, (I'm not saying that their wants are, you know, just wanton) I think it's an altogether different ball game. Where the answer is, I don't know. And again, where you can, throw a basket full of fun. Sometimes it, I can remember, both in when I was teaching at Williamson and when I had the two positions at North and Union, and the one at Maple Ridge, there's the toughest time of the year is what I called and classified the "blahs" time, which was right around the end of January into February, when the staff was getting sick with pneumonia and flu and colds and viruses and catching all the stuff the kids had, and was damn sick and tired of all those pressures that was on them up to this point, and was beginning to argue with each other in the halls and so on, was the most important time to throw a little frivolity into some staff party or some darn thing that'll bring the cohesiveness back again. Relax, get away from the school. Come on, and just relax.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there's probably something I've left out. Can you think of anything that I should've asked you that I didn't?
A: I can't think of anything, Kim.
Q: Okay, on that note I will say thank you very much for your time.
A: You're welcome. Thank you.
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