Title: John Seay
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Title: John Seay
Series Title: John Seay
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HFE 4a

subject: John Seay

interviewer: Arthur White


W: Arthur White, Assistant Professor of Education, University of

Florida interviewing John Seay, Deputy Commissioner of Education)

on his role in the 1968 teacher strike in Florida. Mr. Seay,

if you would give us generally/how Floyd Christian divided up

responsibility among his staff members during this crisis.

S: The commissioner was very much concerned about the teacher

walkout and as far as I was able to serve him, he called upon

me to, on many occasions, to try to intervene and to help and

assist his office in trying to resolve the differences between

teachers and boards, and other educational groups throughout

this state.

W: If this is inappropriate, Mr. Seay, I will delete the question,

but I'd like to take you back to September of 1967, when the

preliminary walkouts occurred, I believe, in Broward County and

Pinellas County. Did you play any role, or were you on the scene

in these strikes, and what were the objectives of Mr. Christian

as you remember them, and your own objectives?

S: I played a role in the Broward County sanctions at the time,;

before the teachers walked out. I met with the board in Broward

County, along with the commissioner's attorney at that time,

Gene Garfield. And my role in that relationship with the Broward

board was to get them14 at least talking to the teachers and

listening to the teachers, and more or less realizing that the

commissioner was very much interested in resolving the differences

that they had. Now, they, did you say the Palm Beach County board?

HFE 4a 2


J5',No, the Pinellas)

S: ie Pinellas County county board, I was not involved in that at


W: Do you remember, I can't recall any, but do you remember any other

negotiations that occurred between the state department and

any boards of education or the F.E.A. that was prior to the strike?

Do you recall any negotiation you engaged in at that time?

S: Yes, I recall that I was called along with Cecil Golden to go

over to Washington County and meet with that board on an occasion.

And then also, the board in Pasco County, I went there with

Herman 4 and we met with representatives of the teacher

group, and with the board of education, oaf trying to open up

lines of communication between the two groups.

W: I)'general, can you tell me in particular what was blocking

communication, and what the frustrations were here, what were

the major issues, talking about Broward County, why was the board

uncooperative with teachers in this county, what was blocking

negotiations? Was Claude Kirk's men on the scene helping the

situation, was the Republican nature of the Broward board contributing

to the antagonism between teachers? What were the kindsof

factors that were frustrating the situation. I believe this

strike lasted two or three weeks, and that's a long time for a

strike to be sustained. Would you want to comment. f4

S: I really don't know that the, Kirk, as governor, republican, and

as members of the board who were republicans were in a fight

against the democratic members of the board or the democratic

commissioner of education. I really didn't sense it in that

HFE 4a


S: light in the Broward County situation. Although) as it developed,

it could very well be that the board got split between the members

of the democrats and the republicans, but I believe the crisis

came about over the fact that the Broward board had members on

there that were just unbending. They were determined to play the

role of management to the degree that teachers and their organization

to their leadership of the C.T.A. or the County-wide Educational

Association would have to knuckle under to the requirements of

the board. And it was more on the hard-nose aspect of the

negotiations than it was on the political side as I, I looked at

it from the beginning. Now, later on, we might bring in some of

the stubbornness of the governor and some of the positions that

he took on trying to bring teachers under the rule of thumb, but

at that particular point, I did not see the politics as much as

possibly developed later.

W: Are you speaking of in the first week of the strike, is this

essentially the earliest phase of this....

S: I'm thinking about before the strike, when the Broward County

board and teachers were trying to, they were under a threat of

a strike, and the sanctions, and this kind of thing.

W: This was prior to the strike? Did you, when a strike actually

occurred in Broward County, did you actually have any participation

at that point?

S: I recall none after the, after the teachers walked out, other than

telephone conversations.

W: And were any of these significant, did you go on to talk....

S: No, no, no more than just what I did with every county on behalf

HFE 4a 4


S: of the commissioner, trying to boards not to dismiss teachers

immediately, to hold it open and try to negotiate and get them

back, because Florida at that time)had an acute shortage of

teachers, and we did not want to lose a single good teacher for

Florida. And the commissioner's interest at that time)was to keep

the boards SCW as such that the teachers could come back

and they could maybe resolve their differences of opinion.

W: This is the nre-strike period?

S: No, that was at the strike,.when they walked out, twenty-five,

and the commissioner was trying to get as many of them back as


W: I see. The telephone conversations occurred during the Broward


S: Right.

W: So we are still talking about September of '67. This isn't the

big strike yet, we haven't gone into it. Um, when Mr. Christian

spoke to you, do you remember any of the conversations of how he
tried to,Ahow your role was negotiated, how these kinds of

decisions were made, what he had to say, when he said you are

to go down there and do this or that. Do you remember any of these


S: I don't remember the specifics, but I do remember some of the

general remarks that he made to me. He said ,"Johnny, I want

you to go to Broward County, I'll have a transportation readied

for you, and I want you-to go down there and see what you can do,

take Gene Garfield with you and see if you can't get the teachers

and the board to talk to each other and maybe resolve their differences,

HFE 4a


S: because my concern," as he stated it to me, was "to keep as many

of those Broward teachers in the classrooms as possible." Because

as I said, the shortage was acute, and we needed every good

classroom teacher we could, had, and we wanted to recruit others.

And his concern primarily was for the children of Florida, to

keep those teachers in Broward County, and resolve the differences

if his office could play that kind of a role.

W: I, I wasn't sure about the newspapers saying exactly who played

what role, but you moved from September of 1967 to October. At

this point, Phil Constans has 31,449 or so resignations in hand.

The governor has moved in and out of a commitment to a special

session, away from a commitment to a special session, he's

being very fickle about this. Constans prepares for a showdown.

He's, I believe, October 22, Sunday, the teachers were to go to

Tangerine Bowl again and vote on whether to walk out. There's

a series of negotiations and meetings that led to a compromise

where Kirk was willing to call the special session and speed

up the report of his blue ribbon commission on education, etcetera.

Did you play any role in this? Do you recall anything about

these days?

S: Yes, I recall these days very vividly. These were the days we

worked day and night, weekends. We had many meetings with Phil

Constans and the representative from the N.E.A. in Washington,

with the governor and with the governor's staff at that time

Chuck Perry was involved, Xe's now president of the university

in Miami, the new one there, the Florida International University,

and we had many, many hours when the governor, along with the

HFE 4a 6


S: commissioner and the staff that I mentioned, meeting to try

to get the governor to bring about a special session, which he

finally agreed to do. And at this time, everything was under

sanctions, everything was being held in abeyance, pending the

action of the governor. So there was no strike at this particular


W: At this time, things that I probably could never get from

newspapers or anything like that, and of course you don't

remember if any-of these are important, but do you remember

if there was any particular style of the negotiators, what was

Phil Constans like at this time, what was Chuck Perry like,

how did they negotiate, and as you came to know them and

understand them, do you recall any of these things?

S: Well, I think the thing that I saw in Constans wasAvery arrogant

type of attitude, a stubbornness, one that was just,* demanding.

I saw in Chuck Perry a fellow that was easier to talk with, he was

more amenable to the both sides of the issue. Constans, it appeared

to me, was strictly a teacher representative, he did not appear

at that time to be the management concerned person at all. Now,

the thing that froze up a lot of people in Florida in this process

of negotiating was the fact that not only did N.E.A. send in a

staff to work outthe F.E.A. office here in Tallahassee and

particularly meet with the governor and the commissioner and

members of the legislature, but they had regional offices around

the state where they'd offer their assistance to each of the

C.T.A.'s that wanted them to come in and help them negotiate with

boards. And this caused a lot of people to clam up and that

HFE 4a


S: relationship was not goodas I recall.

W: Who would you say was the most effective negotiator in bringing

about compromise as you remember it? Who got the credit for this

in terms of the inside people, who did they think was most

effective'if anyone was, or was it a composite of people?

S: I really don't know if there was a one person. Of course, I

look upon the man that stood head and shoulders above all in

the state, was the commissioner's role. Now, the commissioner

got blamed, he was not popular with the boards of education,

he was not popular with some of the superintendents that were

appointed at that time by boards-and felt loyal to their boards,

and they differed with the commission. But he commissioner's

role was, I think, centered toward keeping teachers for children.

I don't believe that he was popular to the extent that he was

asking boards to do that which the boards themselves did not

want to do. On the other hand, the commissioner realized all

along that he absolutely had no authority in the matter because

it was a board of education and an employee relationship. The

commissioner's role was strictly an advisory, an in the middle

type of a role that he had no authority to tell boards what to

do, but he was trying to persuade, he was a great persuader.

And on the basis of his persuasion, I think a lot of good things

came out of it that the teachers never realized. And they never

did give him credit for the role that he did play, which was that

of the child and the teacher and getting kids back in school and

keeping doors open. Now, on the other hand, I suspect, from the

way I see it, that the teachers representative side absolultley

HFE 4a 8


S: failed. The legislature came through in fine fashion. I think

the legislature came through in good style, brought forth an

additional amount of money that was available for teacher's

salaries, and any package program that improves the ~ae rhinlt

situation) To every point, as I recall, that the teachers

were in grievance over. But it was not openly revealed to the

teachers and many of them walked out when they walked out,

they did not realize what the legislature had done on a Friday

at the end of the session as they walked out on a Monday through

the insistence of their leaders.

W: This relationship with Kirk is of interest to me. At first,

Mr. Christian, even during Kirk's campaign for office negotiated

with, and seemed to have cordial relationships. Mr. Seay

yourself was a member of Kirk's "think team" on education. I

think you helped him organize his early conferences on education,

he had three of four of them of different, with different themes

connected with them. What do you recall about those cordial

days with Mr. Kirk and how you felt about him?

S: Well, in all of the relations that I had with the governor,

Governor Kirk at that time, were good. He used the name of

Commissioner Christian quite frequently, and it was always in

the vane of being complimentary. He did ask me, along with

some othersto join his think team. We, on one occasion, went

to Clearwater and for a couple of days and nights, helped him

plan some of his goals, and write some of his statements that

he was going to make to the legislature on education. On many

occasions, when we met with educational groups throughout this

HFE 4a 9


S: state, and the student leaders throughout the state. He was

always complimentary of what Commissioner Christian was doing,

he was not critical, in my presence. He was very willing to

look to the commissioner for those matters dealing with education.

Now, the role that he played actually in the political arena was

somewhat different from that. As you recall, he himself, as

governor of Florida, took over the superintendency of Manatee

County. He actually carried with him staff to that county office,

and he sat there in the superintendent's office and had telephone

connections wired in so he could handle governor's affairs in

Tallahassee and run the superintendency of Manatee County. Now

that was contrary to any role that Christian would have approved

of, and so, in that light, he more or less took it on himself

to be Commissioner of Education, and undermine the commissioner

and break down many of the things that the commissioner's

trying to do in order to bring about a better relationship. But

publicly, in meetings that I was in the presence of the governor,

he never, in any way, at that time made any remarks that would

reflect critically upon the commissioner.

W: Could I be oriented A2;fih? Was the Manatee County situation

over bussing and desegregation, and this was later, after the

strike? This, and of course, there was the textbook problem,

and this was much retribution later. He did, let's go back

to '67 again, and talk about when the relationships began to

deteriorate between the office of the governor and the governor

himself and the office of the commissioner and the commissioner.

Did you begin to change your attitude toward5Kirk when he began

HFE 4a 10


W: to veto legislation coming out of the '67 legislature reducing

teacher's salaries and this sort of thing. Was this where you

began to get the word on khat his, when did you begin to be

aware that Mr. Kirk was not supportive to the commissioner's


S: In '67, in the fall of '67, the teachers and the commissioner

were very much disappointed that the appropriations were not

adequate to do the job of retaining the teachers and to providing

for the programs that were needed in a growing state. Kirk

had come in office as you recall, on a platform of making education

first. He was strong in his statements as he ran for the office

of governor in making education first in the nation. His

treatment of the budget, not the budget necessarily, but the

appropriations act, that came out of the '66 legislature didn't

indicate that he was at all concerned with making education first

unless it could be done with less dollars. And of course, that

was one of his main arguments)was that more dollars wouldn't

necessarily buy better education, and he was interested in

ways in which he could reduce cost, and maintain quality of

education, and the ways in which he wanted to maintain or

reduce cost didn't seem appropriate to the people who were

committed to, for certain programs that were going on. So in

the fall of '67 the commissioner could read in between the lines

quickly, that here is a man advocating education first in the

nation and not willing to support the appropriation ven that

the legislature had voted for education, and so the line item

vetoes were, I guess, that act was a beginning of the Christian

HFE 4a 11


S: analysis of Kirk being more of a talker than he was of producing


W: All right, the next thing was the, you spoke of this already,

but, now we move that the special session is occurring, and this

was in January of '68. Now prior to that, there was a crash

program to try to get this blue ribbon commission report ready

so that the, we could fall back on a, a substantial report in

building the legislation into the special session. Did you play

any role at all in the crash program to get the blue ribbon

commission's report ready under Jacobs in Jacksonville you recall

WAs supposed to have fifteen months and they cut a year off it,

and had to report in three months, and the public relations

firm from New York, of course, is always part of a Kirk operation,

was cut out, and most of the state department, I imagine)was

doing a good deal of the work. Do you recall anything about this?

S: Yes, in fact, not only under the Kirk administration, but as I

see it, under attempts by several of the governors, they have

tried to do an education study in such a short limited span of

time and such a broad aspect of what they were trying to deal

with that none of them, in my opinion, have really produced

quality studies. Now over the years you can go back from the

Bryant administration on and see how legislation has produced

programs in education and funding in education that could be

tagged to any, some of these studies. But this matter of

concentrating and giving tS green light to his committee to

get something ready for the special session was just buying

time in my opinion, for him to delay calling the special session,

HFE4a a


S: with that as being the vehicle that he would use for the reason.

W: Did you do any work with this group?

S: Yes, I did some work with the group, in fact, I met with them

each time that they met as the commissioner's representative,

I was also an advisor to Kirk on educational matters, and not

a member of the study commission of the Kirk one. I was of the,

I was a member of the Burns and the Bryant studies previous to'

to that4 jut I was not a member, I met with them, we worked day

and night, much of the data and the materials that were produced

by the department of education staff.

W: We'll-move now to the actual session. Do you recall anything

particular about this session, the lobbying that was done, what

the state department was trying to achieve, did you have any
-f Mean, like yyiui9
role at all during the actual session?A Di; to explain the

program that the state department was interested in putting across,

or the program from the blue ribbon commission. Were, were you
involved dJ this at all?

S: Yes, daily, I was involved in the session. In fact, the commissioner

had grounded many of his staff, that is, grounded meaning that

we had to stay in Tallahassee, we were here until the end of the

session in order to be assistance to the legislators and to the

governor's office. And we daily tried to bring about an improved

appropriation. And as I recall it, at this time, it was greatly

improved, we tried to offset this thing of the teachers argument

of some of the appropriations of the '66 session, or '67 session

being tax relief. That was a compromise that was made in the

legislature, and we think appropriate, although about $664 6

HFE 4a 15


S: as I recall was not directed towards improving education, but

tax relief. And soI worked with the legislature daily along

with other staff members of the commissioner.

W: Among the commissioner's staff, who had major responsibilities t

besidess yourself, in relation to the crisis and the frustration

of the teachers?

S: We always, as long as I was deputy commissioner under Floyd

Christian, we had a legislative team. I chaired this team, but

we had people like Cecil Golden and Herman Myers, and Howard

Friedman always an effective member of this team because he

had been in state government for so long, he had served under

Colin English and Tom Bailey and Floyd Christian, and he knows

the legislative process as well as any man that I've ever observed.

So he was very effective, and at the same time hated by some

of the people who didn't want to be supportive to the position

of the commissioner and his staff. Mitchell Way was very

effective, Marie Kohler, these, and Ray Tipton and others, I

failed to name all of them, I'm sure, but all of us, plus, plus

the heads of the divisions like Lee Henderson injunior colleges

and Shelley Boone in division of elementary and Carl Praile at

that time, all of us worked on a team, we met daily, we developed

our strategy, and we tried to, the best we could, serve the

purposes of the commissioner's office.

W: The commissioner spent two hours trying to explain the program

that the legislature passed to the leaders of the F.E.A. and

I imagine Constans too. Were you present during that explanation?

S: Yes, I was present. Herman NAkss and a commissioner and I went

HFE 4a 14


S: down to the F.E.A. building, /s I recall, on a late Friday

afternoon after the legislature had adjourned a few minutes os!ry.

Constans was there and his board was there. Board, F.E.A. board,

and others who were observers were present. And the commissioner

went down/knowing that there was a possibility that the teachers

might be asked to strike /'o try to bring them up to date on

exactly what came out of the legislative packet during the

special session, Herman Myers, being the finance man for the

commissioner detailed it in dollars and cents as to what it

meant, and where the money would go and what benefits would be

derived for teachers. And so for better than two hours, the

commissioner pleaded, he persuaded, tried to persuade, he revealed

the insights of that from his office that should be told to

teachers, and he f6lt like he was obligated to go down there even

though in my opinion, he was not recieved as courteously as he

should have been recieved, I felt a little coolness there, and I

thought that it was not appropriate for the commissioner to have

to walk into a situation like that. In fact, I think if I recall

that I advised him not to go because I didn't think he was going

to have a good reception, and it was not in my opinion, a good

reception. But he felt like that he had to do it because that

was the role that he wanted to play as commissioner.

W: When the strike was called, I believe it was called that Friday

and they went out the following Monday, /o you remember any of

the preliminaries, any of the feelings? Was there a feeling of

betrayal, that this was unfair, that the F.E.A. had if, some ways

gone against good faith in this arrangement?

HFE 4a 15


S: Absolutely, the people that I knew about the state and the

contacts that we had in the commissioners office, the telephone

calls that we got, the comments from the legislators themselves,

who thought that they had done a good job were, they did feel

that this was an act of betrayal. Many people felt like the

teachers did not understand, and Ifeel to this day that the

teachers did not understand. Many of the teachers walked out

on Monday under the commitment that they had previously given

with written resignations to be released upon the call of the

executive secretary /id so to keep that commitment but did

so under advisement that was not good and accurate and they

did not know the true story. And as you recall, brothers,

some of them stayed in, and some brothers went out, and sisters

stayed in, families were broken up, and it was a tragedy, and

the people all over the state felt like it was a betrayal. And

even now it has not completely been resolved, the people still

have these feeling and it'll be a long time before they'll be


W: I'm not very specific on this, because I'm not really certain,

uut~what types of negotiations began? The commissioner.I think,

was interested in being a negotiator, of bringing about compromise

as soon as possible. /ou recall some of the early negotiations

and how these relationships were set up with the F.E.A2

I believewere the groups that you mainly dealt with, the governor's

staff did some dealings with them, but there was not a kind of

relationship where you were negotiating with the governor's staff

and the F.E.A., is this correct?

HFE 4a o


S: Well, I really think that the commissioner began to take over

the role of leadership in trying to bring about negotiations between

teachers and school boards, /ore than with the F.E.A.. I think

at that particular time, the, we were at the end of the rope

with F.E.A. and N.E.A.'representatives who were here on the

scene. And so the commissioner had me on the phone, and he

himself was on the telephone, and we made trips to the various

counties trying to get boards to not act hastily. Because many

of the boards had recieved these letters of resignation from

their teachers and the natural reaction of a board would be to

accept them, they were mad with the teachers, and teachers were

under, in grievance with boards, but the commissioner could

sense immediately that to lose that many teachers, 25,000 in

Florida, would just ruin this state. So he had me on the phone

talking to superintedents, talking to school board members,

trying to get them to hold the action on these resignations as

long as possible to see if something couldn't be resolved.

W: What were the effects of these negotiations, were you able to

get some boards to be, to hold back on accepting these resignations

with prejudice as with resultant....

S: Yes, one of the outstanding boards at that time, and the

superintendent there was Shelley Boone in Polk County. The Polk

County board just went into recess.after recieving so many

resignations from teachers, they just went into recess, they did

not take action, and they more or less held this posture for

several weeks, three weeks or more, waiting on maybe the teachers

reconsidering and not pursuing this matter of asking them to

HFE 4a 17


S: accept resignations. And they worked out many of the grievances,

and many of their teachers did reconsider. But the Polk County

board is one example of where they did not want to take action

because if they had taken action, it would have been to recieve

the resignations of the teachers. That was the basis on which

they were being advised by their attorneys, and it was a hard-

nose basis. Now some teachers, some boards immediately accepted

these resignations, they were hard nosed about it, and when they

accepted the resignations, that broke continuing contract status

of teachers, and they were in a bad situation. And so the

commissioner was able to influence several of the boards to keep

on talking and to, not to act quickly and he was very successful

in this, but it mostly, this was done by telephone conversation

and persuasion, and he asked the boards of education and the

superintendents to come to the Hayden-Burns building on one

occasion, where he tried to explain his reasoning for the

actions that he was asking them to take, and it was not a very

cordial meeting. It was a cool meeting. Some board members,

they got up and had some fiery words to the commissioner for the

role that he was trying to take, and usurp their powers as board

members. He was not trying to this at all, he was trying to

reason with them. Some of the superintendents got up and made

very cutting remarks to the commissioner about playing the role

that he was playing and trying to take the authority and the

autonomy away from local school boards. And this was never

intended, and he tried to make it clear, but they were not in

any position to want to hear it anyway, except their own at that

HFE 4a 1l


S: time. The relationship with the commissioner and the boards

of education, those where they had large numbers of teachers to

go out were, was not good during that particular time.

W: -Negotiations withthe F.E.A. did occur, or after the first

week of the strike, the F.E.A. became disillusioned with the

governor's office, and began to turn more and more to the

commissioner as the chief negotiator for some sort of compromise,

and as of course, a major agent on the school board, the state

school board, that could work out some kind of a face-saving

compromise. Do recall any of these negotiations, were you in

on them?

S: Yeah. That's true, I think they had played their last card

with the governor, and so they realized particularly the leadership

at F.E.A. now realize that the commissioner was in the best

position of all to bring about some of their resolutions, some

of their particular problems, so they, we had more communication

then with the F.E.A. than, I wouldn't say prior because we were

meeting with them trying to bring about special session, but they

turned in to the commissioner to try to use his office and to

use his influence on trying to salvage these teachers. They were

naturally concerned about teachers not getting back in employment.

And the commissioner, he did things that I wouldn't have done,

but it shows bigness on his part. He brought some of those people

that could not be retained in the counties on his own staff

here in Tallahassee. He found jobs for some of these teachers

by some of the communications that he carried on with other people

that he knew throughout this state, and he was the biggest friend

HFE 4a 19


S: the teacher had after they had gone out on strike, and that,

to this day has never been told to many of the, to all of the


W: The actual compromise, it was a three point compromise, it was

a compromise that the state department would use it's good offices

to try to get teachers back in employment, returned to employment,

that 04~2SG inLhold back funds, were held back to balance

the budget from the '65 and '67 legislature would be released)

and that communications, a communication network of sorts,

between the teachers and the board would be fostered.in the

counties by the state departments, ty~t r abby act as a

consulting agency here, it would not of course, was not

professional negotiations, but they would encourage a communication

set up. It was mainly a face saving device, I realize, but do

you recall how this came about, do you recall anything about

the actual compromise settlement? I believe he workeCdout the

first settlement on February 29, and the, and the legislative,

the cabinet aides, excuse me, the cabinet aides of all the major

people in the cabinet were agreeable to vote for it, and of course,

Kirk sabotaged this by calling out union and that you were

collaborating with the F.E.A. and so on. What I'm speaking about

here is, do remember any of the particulars of the negotiation

of the compromise, and how the compromise was drawn up. Did you

have any role in this, Mr. Seay?

S: Little embarrassing to me now, after having been out of the

office about a year, and this happened in '68, I really don't

recall. I know it would all come to my memory if I got to reading

HFE 4a 20


S: and reviewing, but at this moment, I was very much involved in

the instrument that went to the cabinet. The steps and procedures

that the commissioner recommended to the board of education that

he was taking and suggesting that boards take 94 trying to bring

about the open lines of communication, etcetera. I know the

articles that Howard Friedman produced through Florida schools,

and I know the instrument that we used in Monday report, and

many other things that we attempted at this level to try to

bring about a better communication between teacher-principal

relation, uh, and superintendent and school board. But honestly

at this particular time, the specifics of it I do not recall.

I do recall very vividly the, the, I, in fact, I presented it

for the commissioner to the board of education, the agreement

that was adopted.

W:A Do you recall the meeting?

S: Yeah, I recall the board meeting, I mean the state board of

education meeting.

W: Well, just any particular....

S: ....and as far as I remember about it this morning, it was

handled very much in a routine manner, I don't think the governor

was appreciative of all that it contained, but the commissioner
had -,,/ d-c
W: This is March 8?

S: Yeah, about March 8 of '70, '68, uh huh.

W: You remember the repudiation February 29, of course, when Kirk

shot this thing down. Do you remember if you made any real

changes in it between February 29 and March 84) tryingg to get

HFE 4a 21


W: it approved, do you recall? You don't recall, okay, fine.

Um, negotiations interest me again. Phil Constans was one of

the major people. Did his attitude begin to change towards the

end of the strike, did he become more.amenable? Didyou notice

any change, could you feel a break coming, a compromise coming?

There are two things you might be interested to know. First of

all, by Friday, I believe, of March 5th or 6th, the teachers in

most counties were going to go back anyway. They had actually

bent him to the point where they said, "All right, we're going

back on the eighth anyway." Christian, I spoke to him about it,

and the commissioner said that didn't know this. jjtJ didn't

know that the strike was actually finished by that point, that we

were still, they were still, but he still wanted to work out the

face saving thing, he still would have done the same thing, but

Constans actually was beaten ,and a further detail would be of

interest is that Constans suddenly changed his mind on Sunday
night after accepting the compromise 0f the previous Friday and

saying that he wanted the teachers held back because he had heard,

I believe, that a lot of teachers were not going to be taken

back on the job by their board, regardless of the intercession
U) I km WMO i ev I' tl3 -5
of the state department. M-z i negotiations developed.

Could you see any changes in Constans attitude, and any, any

reasons for those changes?

S: I don't know whether I saw any changes or not, but I, I, this is

a personal opinion. I believe that Constans was, he could see then

for sure that he was not able to bring those teachers to a position

of closing schools in this state, and accepting the compromise

HFE 4a


S: was a way in which safe phasing could be had. But from that

point on, I saw Constans all the way downhill. I thought that

he lost the respect from the teachers I think, I know he lost

respect 4 the legislature, I'm sure that he didn't have it

with the governor, and as I began to see Constans from that point

on, he was going out of the picture instead of being an

influential factor. And people who look to someone to talk to

and to resolve differences and to bring about some stability

was the commissioner of education.

W: Strike was resolved on March 45g *l, thousands of teachers were

out, boards weren't taking them back. There were lock-outs in

some counties, other counties that were sympathetic striking

going on because teachers weren't being taken back and other

teachers continued to, to stay out, I guess that's the actual

strike stretched into six weeks in some counties. Consequently,

I would be interested to know how you, what role you played as

part of the task force, and how that task force was drawn up to

get teachers reemployed.

S: Most of it was done within the office, of the commissioner's

office. He had, I led this task force, and had some assistance

from other staff members, and we did it by telephone, and by

calling of groups up to Tallahassee to talk to the commissioner,

and on some occasions, we jointly met with the governor, with

boards, and with superintendents. Of course, the governor was

meeting also with boards and superintendents that we would find

out about, we had no knowledge that he was doing this, and this

was resented Very much by the commissioner, and rightfully so.

HFE 4a 23


S: But we did our work with telephone, the $C'S line, and trying

to keep the doors open, get the teachers hack and to, as I recall,

at the end, we had them all back. I'm saying "we" not having

any authority in hiring and firing, the boards did that, but the

boards had taken them all back in this state that were, had

resigned, with the exception of approximately 3,000 teachers.

And I don't think that they ever got back in Florida, they left

the state and went to other parts of the nation. And approximately

3,000 teachers were lost to this state out of'25,000 that walked


W: You mentioned a vote of resentment, you mean that the governor

was meeting unilaterally with boards?

S: The governor, you know, having the relationship of his party,

She.republican party, with certain heavily republican boards

throughout the state, he was calling them up to his office and

meeting with him on matters of handling this situation, unbeknowhpi

to the commissioner. And we would find out about it by some

of the people in the meeting coming to the commissioners office

after they would adjourn in the governor's office, and we'd find

out about it for the first time. The commissioner's office

was not invited to participate, we did not have knowledge of

many of the meeting that were called here by the governor. And

of course, this was inappropriate, I believe, and the commissioner

felt very strongly about this as being inappropriate.

W: Last thing I'd like you to say, were you, was this an exhausting

experience for everyone involved here?

S: Very much so, I don't know of a person on the teachers'side,

HFE 4a 24


S: or administrator's side or the commissioner or the F.E.A. side

that ever want to go through this again, it was most exhausting.
It was day and night, I remember, k met with these people until

three o'clock in the morning on trying to resolve some of the

issues that, prior to the special session. I have driven long

hours at night, trying to get from board meetings back home

and get,Aflown many hours by state aircraft trying to get to

communities to talk with boards and talk with teacher representative

groups. Many, many hours, not only on the part of the negotiating

team, the commissioner himself spent hours. The telephone

used tremendously, and the secretary, the secretaries recieving

telegrams, sending telegrams, recieving calls, and sending calls,

just spent many hours beyond those that were of the regular day.

I recall that my secretary spent many hours beyond five o'clock

when most of those who were working in other agencies of government

and other departments of education were not concerned about

she stayed and we worked for, long into the night on these

matters of trying to resolve the crisis.

W: I'm interested in a particular of these meetings.

Were they crowded meetings, noisy meetings, it was a lot of

emotion flowing in these meetings.... if you agree with this,


S: Yes, the meetings were crowded, always standing room only, some

people out into the halls, these committee room meetings where

we were meeting. It was noisy, sometimes tempers flared.

Sometimes the presiding officer had difficulty in bringing control

within the group. On occasions for, for short time, recess periods

HFE 4a 25


S: were called. Yes, I recall all of this was part of it.

W: Who called'you in, was the F.E.A. the ones who called you in,

how'd you actually get to go on all these trips? Was the

school board the ones that called you in, who was the one that

did it?

S: Uh, school boards invited the commissioner to send down some

assistants to help. The commissioner asked for invitations, he

never went without one, but he wanted to know if he could be of

help, and he would send down teams on that basis. I don't

recall that we went anyplace on the invitation of F.E.A.

W: When you went to Escambia County) /hey were surprised there.

Remember this Escambia County?

S: Yes, yes I do. The commissioner himself went to Escambia County,

and I think that was, that was on the invitation, I believe,

of the Escambia County Education Association.

W: Yes, so-there were some C.T.A., but not F.E.A. Or there

couldn't be, really, after you I understand

what I did. Uh, Mr. Seay, the strike in your eyes was a failure.

It didn't achieve anything?

S: Uh, yes it did. I-was a failure from the standpoint of closing

schools, and I think that was a prime motive of it. But it was

successful in many ways. It brought about a realization in this

state of the deplorable conditions in which some of the teachers

were working, some of the schools that were in operation and the

needs that were so obviously needed. It brought about an

awareness that the teachers role was changing, and it has changed

from that point on, up until that point, I think many communities

HFE 4a 26


S: many boards,4many people took teachers for granted, and nothing

that they could talk about as a way of needs or benefits for

children made any difference. But when they had demonstrations

like were held in Orange County at the Tangerine Bowl and with

the number of teachers who actually put their names on the line

that they would walk-out of the classroom if certain conditions

were not met /his brought about an awareness in this state

that never would have been brought about through any other way.

Ofcourse, I'm very much disappointed that the teachers walked

out. I think they had won their position, I think they had

gotten their gains on that Friday when the Legislature had
8ci';+t rou.
adjourned, and ther- walk- o-out on Monday was a disa4-eus effect*

7hat yet has not been overcome.

W: appropriate question, but

are there any conditions that you yourself, if you were a teacher,

would you ever walk out of a classroom?

S: I would not, because I came up in a different day, and of course,

I've been criticized for making statements that I've made on the:

subject. I worked for a very low salary, ninety five dollars a

month when I started teaching. I went into teaching because I

loved the process of teaching. I even loved to teach a Sunday

school class when I am permitted to How. And teaching to me was

an occupation or a profession that I thoroughly enjoyed, I went

into it with my eyes wide open. I would not strike, I would

never walk out of a classroom, I think I would seek other employment

if the conditions got....

lend of interview)

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