July 3, 1984 45 min.
1. What was your educational training and experience?
Joe: "My experience at the time I was named to go to Westwood was uh that I had
been a high school teacher of vocational agriculture for three years, I had,
no excuse me four years, I had been an Assistant Principal in a high school
for two years and then Principal of a K-12 school here in Alachua County for
five years. Then I had been on the District staff as vocational director
and at Santa Fe Community College both as vocational director and Dean for
Community Education. And from there I had gone to Idlywild Elementary School
as Principal and had served four years there. And that is one of the reasons,
I was told, that they wanted me to go to Westwood to start the middle school
is because I had seen the upper end of the spectrum as well as the elementary
end and also the junior high as it existed at Hawthorne when I was Principal
there. And that they wanted to kind of get a blend at the middle school so
students would be getting a strong foundation in the basics but at the same
time that there would be enough of a humanistic, if you will, approach so
that they could undergo the adjustments they needed to undergo in changing
from an elementary school to a uh secondary type school."
2. Why, in your opinion, did the middle school dev elop in ALACHUA County?
Joe: "I believe that in Alachua County, as in many other parts of the country, that
there was a growing concern that the junior highs had become just that, little
high schools, and that they were a little bit too regimented for the uh develop-
mental needs of the children of that age group and that we needed to do something
that would continue to give theri the strong academic background but at the same
time that would pay attention to their other needs such as their sociological
and emotional developments that they were undergoing during the years
immediately before and during puberty in their pre-adolescent and adolescent
Joe Wood Interview
3. How did you get involved in the middle school in Alachua County?
Joe: "The uh Superintendent and his Assistant for Instruction uh decided that my
personality, I guess, was such that I might be able to uh make a contribution
at that level so they simply called me in and said they would like to transfer
me from an elementary Principalship to Westwood that they were going to be in
a transition year and they felt I could greatly serve the district if I would
help to pull it off. There was a lot of concern about that particular middle
school, that particular junior high school, because it had been the strong
traditional academic junior bigh school in our school district and there were
a lot of children there who were highly talented academically and a lot of
parents who expected uh high academic achievement from their children. And
uh there was some feeling that there would be a lot of resistance to the middle
school movement, and in fact there was a lot of resistance in that particular
Jean: Who were the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents at that time?
Joe: "Dr. Jim Longstreth was Superintendent and Dr. Jack Christian was Assistant
Superintendent for Instruction."
4. I think we have just covered my next question which was how did you get your
job as a middle school Principal? I think we have covered that one.
5. How long did you serve, from what date to what date, as a Principal at Westwood?
Joe: "A total of three years from uh July 1 of 1973 to June 30, uh 1976."
Jean: And 73 was the first year that Westwood was a middle school?
Joe: "73-74, school year."
6. What can you tell me about the history of Westwood? You mentioned a little bit
of this a few minutes ago, before it became a middle school. You said that it
was a strong academically oriented uh school as a junior high.
Joe: "Right. The faculty overall was pretty well dedicated to high academic
achievement, uh many excellent teachers there who expected the most from
boys and girls, but who also uh did uh not allow, in some cases, a lot of
freedom on the part of boys and girls while they were in class and uh it was
what I would call pretty regimented."
7. What was your training in the middle school philosophy when you became Principal
Joe: "I was told that I should read Dr. Alexander's book, The Emergent Middle
School and that they wanted me to go to a workshop in Dayton, Ohio on the
IGE model uh where you have teams and you do some inter-disciplinary teaching.
And so I along with a good number of people who were going to be Principals
or who were going to work in the middle school attended the workshop in Dayton,
Ohio prior to assuming the Principalship."
Jean: Was that the three week workshop that I have already heard about?
8. Were you able to choose your faculty when you became Principal?
Joe: "No, for the most part most of the faculty was already there. I was able
to uh, since they were moving the sixth grade into the school, it had
previously only gone to seventh grade, I was ablt to bring in a few teachers
from Idlywild whenever I can. Most of the faculty were already there."
9. Was this a problem? Do you feel like this was a problem for you or for the school?
Joe: It was a problem in that most of the teachers had not really been informed
about middle school philosophy. They were not prepared to team teach or to be
a part of team planning situations and so it uh meant that we had to do a lot
of inservice that summer. And again we were not able to get all of the
teachers to come in for that inservice. Uh but the ones that did come we were
able to use as sort of key people for the upcoming school year as we divided
the school into nine teams which we called learning communities. And then we
had inservice all during the school year. But many of the teachers had
taught in junior high schools for a good many years and they were very resistant
to any kind of change. And so we were not really able to fully implement
the things we were taught in the workshop about uh the IGE model particularly
and the learning communities. For instance out of the nine learning communities
we iad we were able to have only one of those communities multi-age grouped
because most of the faculty was not prepared for this type of thing and they
were not amenable to uh try it without a lot of selling and a lot of preparation.
But we did have one team that volunteered and we had one team that was multi-
Jean: Do you remember uh an approximate number of your population for that first
year or do you know what.......?
Joe: "Yes, the student population averaged about 1,350 students."
Jean: Arid what was your faculty number?
Joe: "Oh, I'd have to do a little calculating on that but it was in the neighbor-
hood of 65 or 70."
Jean: That's o,k. I just needed some general idea in comparison with some of the
10. How much training, you mentioned a little bit about this, how much training
in middle school or middle school knowledge did your faculty have when you
were Principal? You said you had had the summer program and you did inservice
during the year.
Joe: "We continued inservice and we encouraged teachers who needed to get credit
to take courses with Dr. Paul George. And we were gradually able to get, oh
I'd say up to about 10% of the faculty pretty well trained in the middle school
concept. But then what happened was uh about a year later after we started the
middle school at Westwood Mr. John Spindler was opening up a middle school
at Lincoln and was told to recruit, you know people anybody who wanted to
that could fit into that model. So some of the people that we got trained
were ready to transfer over there so they could see..........(unclear---had
to stop for Joe to answer the phone.)
11. What are your ideas or beliefs about the early adolescent child?
12. What do you consider from your background and your experience in the
middle school as the most vital concepts,the most vital parts of the middle
Joe: "Uh to me it is working with the children, understanding their level of growth
and helping them with their academics but also with their uh emotional
development, physical development, social development, uh as they are coming
through those, what I consider to be, very critical years in their
13. Should the middle school curriculum differ from the high school or the older
junior high curriculum and if so why or why not?
Joe: "I think it should differ to the extent that the teachers as they are teaching
their academic subjects also have an understanding and a feel for the boys and
girls and what they are undergoing at that particular stage of their life.
And actually spend some of their time kind of in the role as a counselor as
well as a teacher."
14. How or to what extent do you feel the central office influenced the middle
school while you were Principal or even since if you have knowledge of that?
Joe: One of the major things that the Central Office did of course was that the
decision was made that we are going to have middle schools instead of junior
high schools and then the grades were grouped accordingly, and people were
assigned and names were changed on the buildings and they provided the inservice
to try to help us to uh adjust to the new way of doing things. lie found though
as we went along that uh public schools, of course, belong to the people and
as the parents began to react to what was being done in the middle school, that
uh the direction from the district office began to change a little bit so far
as we were to go in the implementation, say of all the things we learned in the
IGE workshop. One of the main ones being the multi-age grouping. This was
something that a lot of the parents who uh really had high academic
expectations for children just uh really uh fought us on all along and we dropped
it at Westwood, I say we tried the one learning community, we dropped it there
for two major reasons. One was resistance on the part of the other teachers
but also uh more important was the resistance of the parents."
Jean: Did you continue after that first year with that one team that was multi-age
or it was just a one year thing?
Jean: You had a good bit of uh parental uh concerns. Did they center on any other
Joe: "Yes. Another parental concern was the idea of exploratory courses. A
large percentage of the parents uh started calling me as soon as they learned
I would be going to Westwood, about the music program, they were afraid the
band program would be destroyed, that we would only give just a taste of Band,
a taste of all the other things and they wanted to be sure that students could
begin, if they had an interest in music, that they could take Band year long
beginning in the sixth grade say, and remain in Band all three years. And uh
there was a lot of resistance to, the what we call, the exploratory courses
in the vocational area. Uh some parents just didn't want their children to
get any of that experience."
Jean: Did you end up having the Band the full year for those who were interested?
15. How uh, what are some of the strengths that you felt the middle school idea
had while you were Principal?
Joe: "Well one of the major things in the middle school concept is that inter-
scholastic competition in athletics uh is something you don't do. And uh so
I felt that my experiences at Westwood that I had had children there while it
was a junior high and this was a very positive thing and the movement was more
toward intermural type programs so that all children could participate and
enjoy this type of thing whether they were uh highly talented in athletic
ability or not. Uh I felt that in spite of the resistance that we had from
some parents on the exploratory experiences in the vocational area that, and
in music areas too, that we were able to help some children discover some
talents and interests that they had they, that they would not have been able
to do had they been allowed to completely avoid these kinds of experiences."
16. What do you think are some of the weaknesses of the middle school idea?
Joe: "Well in our zeal to make school a more enjoyable place to be, as we were
in the early years of the middle school, we probably became a little too lax
in uh student control or discipline. And uh this created some problems for
us, even within individual teachers' classrooms, I could feel this. Because
we were so interested in uh having children to be happy in school uh I'm
afraid in some cases we made them unhappy because we didn't give them enough
direction in what was expected of them, as far as behavior was concerned. But
I think that has been, we have evolved out of that to an extent now."
17. The middle school in Alachua County developed differently at each school site.
Why do you think the middle school developed the way that they did, differently
from each other in the county?
Joe: "Largely because of the faculty that might have happened to be present at a
given school and the parents who sent children to that school. Like I said
about what school should do for that age child. And uh as I indicated a very
small percentage of the teachers went to the school sold on the middle school
idea. Whereas Ft. Clarke ad- Lindoln, the faculty at those two schools were
selected knowing what they were going to be into and the philosophy of those
two schools. And so therefore those two schools were able to move more into, and
faster into uh many of the middle school ideas than we were able to at Westwood."
Jean: I think Tom Diedeman at Spring Hill would have been in the same situation
as those would he not?
18. You mentioned earlier in another question that your school's program changed
over the years. Can you give me some other examples of how it changed and
some other explanations of why you think it changed? You mentioned the
multi-age grouping. Are there some other things you can think of that you
might have started off with and then uh changed or why or how?
Joe: "Well I'm not sure this can all be attributed to the middle school but at
that time there was not a great deal of direction from the District in so
far as content of courses. There would be objectives but for the some part
teachers in schools could select their own textbooks and uh proceed whatever
way they felt was best for the children. But along with the concern that
we were not being strict enough on students and the desire that we continue
to be strong academically there began to be pressures from the community that
we tighten up on our academics. So our school district then began to move to
give more direction as to content and even went so far until now we have district
adopted textbooks for the various subject areas. And I see this as one of the
major differences in middle school now as compared to the time I was there.
The fact that the curriculum is so much more structured content wise. And
therefore we do not see as much team teaching as far as a number of teachers
sharing a group of children, and say if you have five teachers on the team, all
five of those teachers teaching the five basic subjects. Now we are seeing more
of teachers specializing in one or two subjects. Whereas the real philosophy
that we were trying to implement at first was that a team of teachers would
in the final analysis teach all subjects except uh your exploratory, I guess,
your pre-vocational and music those things that required specialized. But
every teacher on the team would uh participate in the teaching of English,
Mathematics, Language Arts and Social STudies."
Jean: Did you continue to have the teams that way during the entire time that
you were there as Principal?
Joe: "No, we continued to have teams but we got back to the point that they planned
together and they taught together but the math teachers would teach the math,
the English teachers would teach the English and that sort of thing."
19. What advice would you give to schools just beginning the middle school program?
Joe: "That a lot of time be spent to acquaint the teachers, and the Principals,
who are going to implement it with the extremes of the middle school concept,
the in between, and uh how far do we plan to go and then give enough inservice
so people are happy with it and understand and believe in it before they try
to implement it."
Jean: Uh I have become acquainted with the differences as far as the middle school,
from some of the other people I have talked to about school based management
and centralized management. How do you think this has affected the middle school
program in this county?
Joe: "It has affected it to a degree in that so far as we had school based manage-
ment and the number of dollars were allocated to the Principal they could make
uh some same determination as to the kind of staff to employ and also the
amount of time during the day that would be devoted to certain things. With
centralized management uh it is almost to the point now that a Principal knows
they are going to have seven peiods in the day, that they are going to have
Advisor/Advisee time, that they will probably need to do this once a week by
changing their schedule and pull away from something else on that day, whereas
under the old uh system a Principal might decide we're going to have advisor-
advisee time thirty minutes every day and staff accordingly."
21. How do you think or why do you think the middle school movement in Alachua
County has taken the course it has over the years? Not Westwood in particular
but the whole big picture.
Joe: "I believe we have a very heterogeneous type population in Alachua County
and we do, because of our School Advisory Councils, attempt to listen very much to
what parents are saying within the various school districts and as a result
of this and the different kinds of background of the majority of faculty at the
different schools, that we have therefore come up with schools that are similar
but yet different in a lot of ways. In trying to respond to parent, to
parental expectations, and uh to permit teachers to implement uh program--
content wise--uh as best they can with their own background and what they feel
comfortable in doing."
22. :,;y did you uh, you were a middle school Principal from 73 and then you said
for three years so that would be 76, why did you stop being a middle school
Joe: "I was asked to come in to the county staff, uh I was told that they needed
me here to do the curriculum job now more than they need me to continue as a
Principal. So my philosophy has been to go where they ask me to go, and I
I miss very. miss still, miss the children, but the same Superintendent who
asked me to go to Uestwood asked me to go to the District staff so I said I would
be glad to."
Jean: And who came in then as Principal? Can you tell me something about Westwood's
Principalship after you left?
Joe: "Lonnie Bryan, who was the Secondary Curriculum Director, replaced me. We
uh exchanged jobs."
Jean: And he was there for how long?
Joe: "Two years."
Jean: And then Ron Nelson went in after him?
Joe: "Ron Nelson after him and now Mike Fratella."
23. How do you think the middle school in this county could be improved?
Joe: "Probably one of the greatedt things we could do, we should have more con-
centrated efforts in the area of inservice. And uh more district wide agree-
ment on what a middle school should be. We have uh those whose philosophy
to the extreme to say, you know, everything that is in Dr. Alexander's book
uh should be in a middle school. Uh and that all middle schools should be
multi-age grouped. On the other end of the spectrum we have people who feel
that uh the only difference in the middle school and the junior high should
be the name on it. But that for all practical purposes it should be operated
the same way that we did the junior high school. To me personally, I am
not an authority on it, don't consider muself to be, but I think that what we
need is something in between those two extremes.and in effect I think that is
what we have in most of our middle schools in Alachua County."
Jean: I know next year we are going back to,I don't think they are calling it
A/A, but going back to that. Did you have that Advisor/Advisee kind of thing
at Westwood the entire time you were there?
Joe: "Yes, we did."
Jean: I think we are coming back to that now as a need that.........
Joe: "I can't say that it worked real well in all cases. It depended on who the
A-A teacher was. It was a very good experience for the children in some cases
and in some cases it was very little more than what you might think of as a
home room where you call role, make a few announcements and let the children
sit and wait for the bell. But I think it can be a very good thing and I think
what we are moving to next year where we say all schools will do it, at least
one period a week, uh is a good thing in that uh it is going to bring some
inservice so that everybody is really prepared as to what it is supposed to do
and it may not be as much as we need but I think it is a step in the right
24. Before we started with the tape you answered this next question but just so
I have it down here and I remember about it uh one of the things that Paul
and I talked about is that there might be documents or materials that some
of you might have that I might not have access to in any other way and just
so that I don't forget about it would you say again for me to record some
of the things you might have that I might could use form you later on when I
get to that stage?
Joe: "Uh Orus Kinney and I did our Maxi I in the doctoral program at Nova University
on the transition of junior junior high to middle school and that in effect
was uh the thing that we did during the 1973-74 school year to try to convert
it to a middle school and I think that you might find some things in there that
would shed a lot of light on what we went through, and what we settled on.
And then my Maxi II uh which was completed during the 74-75 school year deals
with the exploratory type experiences at the middle school level and the
importance of those and a plan that evolved out of that year's work uh which
I recommended and it was discussed at the District level and parts of it you
would recognize today in the middle schools. Some of the things recommended
there are not in practice uh partly because of funding for then and some
other things but uh to me the exploratory experiences that children receive
in the middle school is a very vital part of it. Something that can very
easily be overlooked."
Jean: Are there uh, oh I wanted to ask another question that was, now Kinney he was
the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent for the.......
Joe: "Orus Kinney was the Assistant Principal at Westwood."
Jean: Assistant Principal at Hestwood dor the duration of the time that you were
Joe: "No, he was there two years. Two of the three. And he was made Principal
of Stephen Foster. The last year I was there he was the Principal at Stephen
Jean: And who was there Assistant Superintendent, I keep saying that, Assistant
Principal your last year?
Joe: "Uh we had uh Crystal Compton, and uh Bo Hanning, and uh I actually had three,
Go's job was primarily with the community education but he did some things
there and Lynn Jones."
Jean: Oh, O.K. Can you think of any other areas that I might not have covered that
might be helpful to me in writing the history of the middle school movement in
Joe: "Well, you say you are interviewing the Principals who were involved in those
early years. If you haven't done so I think probably that Dr. Jack Christian,
who was the Assistant Superintendent at the time and still is........."
Jean: He is on my list. I am also interviewing Jim Longstreth and I have some other
Joe: "Could shed some light on the District standpoint and I couldn't because I
was one of the people out in the schools that was asked to implement and there
may be some reasons for the change to the middle school that I haven't touched
upon but all in all I think it was a positive thing for our school district
and although the middle schools as they exist in this school district uh are
not all identical and are certainly not what we thought they would be like
when we first went into it, I feel that the things we backed off of that we
had sufficient evidence that we were justified in backing off and the things
we have held on it we have pretty good evidence that they have been effective
and that that is a good way to go."
Jean: And would I be interpreting some of the things you have said correctly if I
summarized to say that the faculty and the parental influences were both two of
the strong elements in either lack of support of change or uh in bringing
about other changes?
Joe: "Very definitely."
Jean: Would you say that those would be the two major influences at Westwood?
Joe: "At Westwood it was, yes. As Principal of course, I had the role of leader-
ship to try to sell it to the faculty and sell it to the community and there
were probably some limitations that I had that maybe someone else could have
sold it better to the faculty than I was able to or to the community but I
have been interested to note that since my leaving that they haven't gone in
the other direction. They have continued to move more towards uh what you
would expect to find in a junior high but yet have held on to some of the human-
istic side of........"
Jean: What are some things that you could suggest that from your experiences as
either maybe uh not being as successful in selling as you would like to have been,
are there some, in retrospect, are there some things that you think would
be helpful to someone else trying to start off and sell a new program that might
be something that you realize now that you wished you could have done or
if you had of it might have been different. Are there any things like that
that you know of or have you ever really thought about all that?
Joe: "In retrospect I believe that if a change is going to be made from an existing
junior high to a middle school that it would be well format least one year of
prior to the change for the faculty that is going to remain uh in the school
to undergo pretty extensive inservice so that they can understand the
philosophy and if they don't agree with it they can ask for a transfer and uh
if they do agree with it they can better prepare themselves to cope with it.
Where if you have a team of people you may have one person on the team who is
really sold on the philosophy of the middle school and the procedures that
normally would be used in middle school but uh if four other people on the team
deep down don't believe that and they are just giving it helf-hearted support it
is very difficult to be real successful."
Jean: You did not have a real time to ease into this. You only had a sumner and
then right into it?
Jean: I would imagine that is a big..... I know at Bishop we didn't have that
time either. That covers all the questions I had on my list. If you have
anything you would like to add.
Joe: "No, I compliment you on your undertaking. It is a big task to try to pull
all this together. I wish you luck."
Jean: It is a big task.
Thanks from me