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i. l-;Wat has been your e ducationaal training and experience? Elementary?
Secondary? Administration? Subject Area?
2. Why, in your opinion did the middle school develop in Alachua County?
3. how did you get involved in the middle schools in Alachua County?
4. How did you get your job as a middle school Principal?
5. iiow long have you been a middle school Principal? (dates)
6. Tell me about the history of your school. (before middle schoolalso)
7. What was your training in the middle school philosophy when you became a
3. Were you able to choose your faculty when you became Principal?
9. If yes, do you think this helped? If no, was this a problem?
"10. How much training in middle school, or middle school knowledge, did your faculty
have when you were Principal?
11. What are your ideas or beliefs about the early adolescent child?
12. What do you consider the most vital parts of the middle school concept?
13. Should the middle school curriculum differ from the high school or junior high
curriculums and if so why or if not why not?
14. How or to what extent do you feel the central office has influenced the middle
schools in this county?
15. What are the strengths of the middle school?
16. What are the weaknesses of the middle school?
17. Why do you believe your middle school developed the way it did, differently
from the other middle schools in this county?
18. Has your school's program changed over the years? How has it changed?
If yes, why has it changed? What influences brought about these changes?
19. What advice would you give to schools beginning middle school programs?
20. To what do you attribute the exemplary or non-exemplary nature of the middle
school you have been associated with?
21. How would you explain why the middle school movement in Alachua County took
the course it has taken?
22. Why have you remained a middle school Principal?
23. How do you think the middle schools in this county could be improved?
24. Do you have any documents, materials I might use to help me determine the
history of the middle schools in this county?
Can you think of any other areas I might not have covered that I need to know
in order to write the history of the middle school movement in this county?
Tom Diedeman Interview 6-21-84 50 minutes
1. What has been your educational training and experience?
Diedeman: "I went to uh first year of college at University of North Carolina before
I went into service. And then the rest of it has all been at the University of
Florida. The rest of my B.S. and Masters. I taught in junior and senior
high school here in High Springs and at Santa Fe, until I became elementary
Principal. I was elementary Principal at High Springs Elementary for 14
years and then uh when the middle school opportunity came along I uh
volunteered for that. And I have been at the middle school ever since, which
has been another fourteen years."
2. Why in your opinion did the middle school develop in Alachua County?
Diedeman: "Ur I don't really know why. I know probably one of the things that
got everybody thinking about it was the integration movement. Uh I don't
really know wkhxxxixkn wxpKhaklaxaexfxthkxtkmsxtkhatxgtx exactly
why in the county but I know why I got involved. I had been reading some
books about it and Dr. Alexander's initial book and there were a couple of
others that had talked about some of the kinds of things, I don't know,
it just sounded like what we ought to be doing for kids. Uh taking some
of the pressure off and getting them involved in their own education and
getting them involved in the process of learning. I guess. But in this
particular county Tiny Talbot was the Superintendent then and he and the
Board certainly did support the initial movement. Uh not only did they
send the ten of us to Dayton as I mentioned earlier but they provided enough
staff where our teachers could have adequate planning time for the teaming
kinds of things we tried to do and uh had we not had that much planning
time, see we had one hour before school and one and a half hours during
the studnet day for planning time and we had enough staff so we could
arrange the schedule so the basic team could spend that 1f/2 hours
together--doing planning. We did a lot of interdisciplinary teaming and
interdisciplinary kinds of units and those take a lot of time to plan."
Jean: Sure do.
Diedeman: "Until you get the hang of it. Of course we were brand new at it.
We had an opportunity to go up to Baltimore and look at some middle schools
up there, one of them was supposed to be ideal, both of them in Columbia,
Miaryland. Uh one of em was, what was supposed to be ideal and one middle
school in name but a lot of it had not changed."
Jean: You mentioned about Dayton, why Dayton, was there a special place at Dayton?
Diedeman: "Yes, there was a fellow Billy Reeves who had been, I think in Sarasota
County, who had somehow gotten involved in Kettering Foundation. They had
developed an elementary model for uh utilizing teaming aspect and some other
things that they wanted to do. And really what we did, we sent up for a
workshop, a three week clinical workshop, where we ate, slept and dreamed
it. And uh they had a program that they had, I think they started at, with
78 outcomes that you should try to achieve in developing the kind of
program we were talking about. But while we were up there, the ten of us,
plus the ones from some other states and I think there were seven or eight
states represented in that workshop. Uh really what we did adapted an
elementary model to the middle school age child. We wound up with 30, we
condensed those 78 outcomes into 35. And uh put em, they had a couple
of schools there that we worked in where we could actually do what we
said we needed to do and try it out on kids during that summer. There
were a couple of schools that had uh volunteered to let us uh have kids
dome, I don't know what incentive they gave to have kids come in the
summertime, but I guess it must have been somn."
Jean: Now you were up there for how long?
Diedeman: "Three weeks and that was strictly the participants--no family,
nothing. That is why I say---we taught, thought and planned middle school
from the time we woke up until way late. And uh it was just one of those
really neat, we spent the first six, we spent the first nine days developing
teams and doing the planning then we spent the rest of the time actually
putting the plans into operation with the kids. And there was a whole string
of uh procedures, the Kettering people, one of the best things we got out
of that Kettering involvement was their planning model, the teams."
Jean: Do you feel like that whole experience was a really good useful thing?
Diedeman: "It was very very--the only thing I regret is that I was the only one
from this school that was able to go. 'Cause what they did, they taught us what
we had to come back and try to get our teachers to do. Which was very helpful
I thought later, I wasn't to- sure about it at the time. But as it turned out
it was really very helpful in that there are real peaks and valleys in this
business and it was easier for me to see the valleys coming and make them not
quite so deep."
3. I think we have sort of covered this one, how did you get involved in the
middle school in Alachua County? Do you have anything else you would like
to say about that?
Diedeman: "No, like I say the reading I had done uh just really kind of got me excited
about, I could see a lot of opportunities to do some really neat things with
kids and uh teach them in a way they would enjoy, find it fun and enjoy,
yet really challenge them too."
4. And I think we have covered how did you get your job as a middle school
Principal? You came from elementary. Is there anything else you would like
to add about that?
Diedeman: "No, I like I say I just volunteered to get involved cause I liked what
I had been reading."
5. And I think we have covered how long have you been a middle school Principal?
I think we have that one covered.
6. And the next question was tell me about the history of your school. I think
we have covered a little bit of that but why particularly this location
or why did this come about, a little bit more about that?
Diedeman: "Well there were several uh locations considered but this one turned
out to be the most reasonable, really there were more acres available here
and uh I'm sure the price was better than some of the other locations. And
it was in a highly congested area at that time."
Jean: Now you have the uh open space concept and I know Ft. Clarke was built with
that concept in mind also, was that your choice or was that just a fad at the
time or how did that come about?
Diedeman: "Uh everything that we had read, it seemed like the open concept
would really facilitate the kind of program we were going to try to do, uh
the teaming thing. I think it was a little bit on the experimental basis too
because of course Mebane is the finger type construction with the self-contained.
I think"it might have been sorta on the county's part anyway to see which was
going to facilitate the middle school best. Uh we were ready to give it a try."
Jean: Have you been satisfied with the open concept?
Diedeman: "I love it. (emphatic and real fee ling) I really do. I, you know it
is funny the first year, it takes some getting used to, not only by kids
but by teachers. Kids adapted a lot quicker than the rest of them. But
I really believe if the second year had been like the first we all would have been
looking for something else to do. It was a rough year. The full scale
integration, we were trying something really new and different in a rural
setting. A lot of the folks in town weren't really familiar with it and
they just didn't know too much about it. Uh we didn't know a whole lot
more to tell them. There hadn't been a lot done in middle school at that
time, as far as work and operating."
Jean: No real results to point to....
Diedeman: "In fact the only one we had heard .about, I think there were a couple
of them up in Michigan somewhere, I don't even remember the name of them now.
There really just weren't that many in the country so we were sort of like
pioneers and uh but that second year was sort of like someone waved a
magic wand over everything. Everything just seemed to fall into place and
it has just been getting better and better. And uh we had our, the
Kettering people put on a clinical workshop here toward the end of the -
second year. Like we had done one summer. That was a real good experience
for all our teachers plus the kids. To see the type of things, and watch
people work through the process. It was really good for our faculty and we
have about half of the original bunch here still."
7. What, I think we have covered this one, what was your training in the middle
school philosophy when you became a Principal? I think we have been over that
one pretty well.
8. And the next question is one that I have found important for the other
people, were you able to choose your faculty when you became Principal?
Diedeman: "Yeah. When we were at Douglas we had a sort of a workshop on how to
write interdisciplinary units and I had tried to tell the folks I was working
with then in that setting as much as I knew about what we were going to
try to do, the types of things we were going to try to do, the kind of
facility we would have, I mean we had a model of the plant that had been
built and the plans and we just went over that and tried to let them see
what was coming. And uh those that were interested in giving it a shot had
that opportunity. And those that didn't..... Everybody I interviewed for
a position, I tried to tell them, you know what we were going to try to do
and it was something fairly new and all I was asking was for them to give
it 100 percent and stick the whole year. Really give it a fair shot, not just
two or three weeks and if they didn't like it say the heck with it and want c
transferred somewhere. 'Cause I knew it was going to take longer than that
to really get the feel of it."
9. Do you think that it was very helpful that you were able to help select or select
most of your faculty?
Diedeman: "Yes, I do. It was--it is too bad everybody doesn't have that
opportunity. In fact this is about the first time that I can recall since I
have been in the business that uh a school was designed and built to house
a particular kind of program rather than the other way around. You usually
have the building, they move you into it and then you try to develop a
program that fits with the facility. This worked the way I thought it
should work. All the time."
10. How much training in middle school or middle school preparation did your
faculty have, I know you have talked about yourself going to Dayton, but how
much preparation did your faculty have?
Diedeman: "They had what I could give them in one week of pre-planning. Which
is about all we did, that and dodge people bringing in furniture, furniture
for the different units, and electricians and carpenters. It was an
interesting first year."
Jean: I can imagine it was.
11. What are your beliefs about the adolescent aged child?
Diedeman: "In relation to what?"
Jean: Just what are your ideas about this age as different from elementary
and high school or.........
Diedeman: "I think it is the most interesting, the most exciting, uh age of the
whole bunch. They are going through more changes physically, emotionally,
academically than at any other time in their whole life. And to see these
kids really grab hold and uh we have a awfully good faculty that is willing
to go past what is required, uh to really help. Kids at this age have
a awful lot of problems. And uh problems getting along with each other,
with their folds at home and they just have a tough time. No two days
are ever the same. But I just really, I just enjoy this age kid. They
are young enough that you can still do a little molding."
Jean: Hope to make an impact.
Diedeman: "And hope to make the right kind of impact. And give them the
information and the techniques for making choices that are really going
to affect them for a long time."
12. Uh the middle school concept, the middle school idea encompassea a
great many things, what do you think has been at Spring Hill the most
vital part of the middle school idea?
Diedeman: "I don't know that there is one more important than the other. It is
sorta, the whole approach I think that came in the aspect--advisory/advisee type
programs. Uh--trying to get kids involved in their own planning, planning
their own programs, learning how to study, how to improve their opinion of
themselves, how to help them get along with other people that are different
13. Do you think that the middle school curriculum should differ from the high
school or junior high school curriculum and if so, if you think it should
why or how?
Diedeman: "I think it ought to differ from the high school program. I think a
good junior high school probably does a lot of the same kind of things, a
lot of middle schools-the only think they changed was the name on the door.
Uh then they went from quote "Junior High to Middle School." Uh I think
it is a way of dealing with kids this age that really makes a difference
not so much what you call it. I think the things that are good for kids
this age probably were emphasized under the quote "middle school movement."
But, as far as, yes it ought to be different from the high school. I
think that was one of the things I saw in the beginning was the chance to
change some things that were not really good for young kids. An awful lot
of pressure put on kids in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades to do the same
kinds of things but at a lower level, I mean you know not quite the skill
level of the high school but at a just, a lot like a little high school--
academically, athletically, activity wise. Kids need to be kids for
awhile. They grow up fast enough enyway."
14. How do you think that the central office has influenced the middle schools
in this county or your school in particular?
Diedeman: "Lately or initially?"
Jean: Initially up through lately. All the way through.
Diedeman: "Initially I think we had a lot of support in trying to get the
movement off the ground. The State by some of the things they have
mandated to counties I think, we are sorta going in the opposite direction.
Although this year our county has done an awful lot at the middle school,
I know the PRIME bill, uh will probably have a lot more impact than it has
had up to this point. But our county has certainly gone to the bat for
the middle school even though the legislature didn't fund it to the
extent that they had hoped it would. See that age group still receives
the lowest funding of any other age group in the whole system--K-College.
First, second or third grades have a little, it's 1.2 something, the high
school 9-12 is 1.1 something, kids in the middle are 1.0, unless they are
in, you know, an exceptional child program or compensatory program."
Jean: Your regular student just doesn't.......
Diedeman: "Your regular basic 1.0. It is just not funded enough to do the
kinds of things we need to do to get a handle on the range of problems."
15. What do you think have been the strengths of Spring Hill as a middle
school of the middle school idea?
Diedeman: "I think probably the strength of our school is that we really
have a total team feeling. Everybody is part of the overall team and
then there are smaller teams within the big team. But really the team-
work and the willingness of the part of everybody to give that little
extra makes a difference. Uh when 3:30 comes there are still a lot of
teachers that will be here until 4:30, and some of them 5:00 and some
of them later than that. But it is just really a real interest in kids
and helping kids and planning the kind of program and giving them the
kind of help they need to succeed."
16. What do you think are the weaknesses of the middle school program in
general if not specifically at your school or just in general? Do you
see weaknesses in the middle school idea and if so what are they?
Diedeman: "There are some schools that don't put enough emphasis on the
affective area. I don't think there are many, certainly not in this
county, that uh don't put adequate emphasis on academics. All of us
do, that is why we are here. But a lot of times we get so tied up in
that we don't realize there is an emotional side and a feeling side to
a kid's life. We get a situation where, and I'm probably being conservative,
where they are living with a step-father or step-mother. Uh that in
itself generates a lot of uncertainty and a lot of difficulties for some
17. ihy do you think that Spring Hill developed the way it did differently from
some of the other middle schools in this county?
Diedeman: "Well I hope it was because the purpose was clear to what we were.
trying to do and we could find enough people who wanted to do it but....."
Jean: A strong commitment to the middle school idea.
Diedeman" "A real strong corinmitment."
18. Has your school's program changed over the years? From the beginning
to now and can you describe some of those changes, why it happened, and
how you think it has been brought about, what has influenced those
Diedeman: "We have changed more in the past couple of years, facility wise.
We have gotten some things here this past year, they have finished the
construction. We have gotten some things now that we had needed for a
long time.... We have never had an area, an adequate area, for physical
education. All we ever had was outside. We never even had showers and
lockers until the latter part of this year. Uh and music facility. All
of our exploratory programs were in temporary buildings. And those, you
know you can generate and do some interesting things but it is just not
like having the real facility that you need for those kinds of programs.
Academically uh we have always emphasized the basic areas---Math, Science,
Social Studies, Language Arts and Reading. Uh it tickles me, people talk
about getting back to Basics--as far as I know we never left it. We are
just doing 'em in a little different way but still that was what we were
interested in. Uh our exploratory programs have, you know, varied from
year to year depending on what, a lot of times on who we could get for
which areas. And again I have been real fortunate there in not having a
whole lot of turnover. We have developed mostly, well my Ag and Industrial
Arts man, he has been here the whole fourteen years and has helped develop
the middle school curriculum for those areas. So it was very familiar
with him and he was in on it from the beginning."
Jean: Who is your Ag person?
Diedeman: "Mullen, Jim Mullen. Uh certainly computers have changed an awful
lot of things both in curriculum and in interest. Kids just love em,
and not just to play games on but to really get into using the computer.
Jean: Did you start off in the beginning, did you uh, I know that uh John
Spindler talked about the IGE program. Did you........
Diedeman: "No, that was the Kettering agreement. See it is sorta confused
because there are two different ones. One comes out of Dayton and is
affiliated with the Kettering Foundation and the other comes out of
Wisconsin, both of them call themselves IGE but it is two different
Jean: But that whole IGE thing was what you in fact started right here?
Diedeman: "That is what we cut our teeth on."
Jean: Well now is that what you still have that basically? That same thing?
Diedeman: "The philosophy we have. But again because of the, you know it
seems like every year something has been added to the curriculum and this
coming year is the first time the day has been lengthened to handle any
of it. So when we get things added and added and added and you don't
increase your time any, you have to cut from somewhere. And uh so I uh
think from that standpoint we have probably been hurting a little bit.
But I think we'll be able to get back, as a matter of fact, we are working
on a schedule now that will be very similar as far as the amount of
planning time during student day as to what we started off with."
Jean: Oh, it is going back.
Diedeman: "So I hope that this is a step back in the right direction which
allows our teams to have enough planning time to do some of the inter-
disciplinary kinds of things we have gotten away......If you don't have time
you can't do that kind of activity. It takes an awful lot of time to plan."
Diedeman: "To plan together. And if you don't have it you just can't do it."
20. What would you say are the exemplary or non-exemplary aspects of Spring
Hill? We may have covered some of those. Is there anything else you feel
like you would like to add to that question?
Diedeman" I think everything we have got is exemplary."
Jean: I think that is wonderful.
Diedeman: It is going to be getting more that way, I hope more that way.
As I say our physical education program for the first time this year
and we have a gymnasium and enough equipment to do a real sure enough
honest to goodness gymnastics program. The kids ate it up because they
have never had an opportunity to do anything like this. And again getting
back to the physical part of the thing kids this age are all left feet
and thumbs anyway and they really need that kind of (unclear) to
develop some poise and balance and coordination and all those other things that
go on. Band, the music program, we have a beautiful facility over there
now. This year we have had more kids interested and in music than we have
ever had, probably more that in the last five years put together. But it
has been great. Adn academically our kids do well on the standardized
testing. Uh we didn't have any building stanine lower than a six, now
that is building stanine. Eighth grade, seventh, uh eighth grade reading
and math building stanines were seven's. Must have done something right."
Jean: Somewhere, huh?
Di edeman: "Right."
21. How would you explain why the middle school movement in Alachua County has
taken the course it has over the years?
Diedeman: "Uh I think there is just really, after I don't know, I don't think
everybody that works with kids in this age range has been really committed
to the middle school movement. And I think a lot of the parents, especially in
the larger schools in Gainesville, just really were not ready for it."
Jean: You mentioned that, this is one thing I have talked about with Harry
and John Spindler, you mentioned about the community here, did you have
a great deal of problems with the community in instituting the middle
school idea or......?
Diedeman: The first couple of yeac, but the more we got them involved, and
the more they saw what was going on and the more opportunities they gave
us to explain it to them and we provided, we made our own opportunities
by having open houses, open house type programs, volunteers coming to do
various kinds of things and all you hear is, "I don't see how they learn
anything. All that bunch of kids in there and so much noise." And yet
you go in there during class and there wasn't any noise. During testing week
you won't find a quieter school anywhere than this one. You can hear a
pin drop in this whole school. But that is because kids have learned to
be considerate of each other and I think that is one of the things that
is important for them to learn."
Jean: Surely is. They need that responsibility.
22. Why have you remained a middle school Principal?
Diedeman: "Because I enjoy it."
Jean: You like doing what you are doing?
23. How do you think that the middle schools in Alachua County could be
Diedeman: "If we can stay with the kind of st affing we are looking toward
next year--that is a big step in the right direction. But really adequate
staffing and adequate funding for various programs that kids this age
really need. I think this would be the biggest thing they can do. And I
say they have certainly taken this county, the Superintendent and the
Board have taken a giant step this year towards the program for next
year--84-85. In that direction. I think now it is up to us in the
schools to show them what a good job they did."
24. Do you have any materials that you can think of, Paul wanted me to ask about
this, that somebody else might not have, that I might not have access to in
any other way. I won't need these things now but I'm trying to get this
on tape too. Do you have any of the things, from like the Dayton Project?
Diedeman: "Most of the stuff that I had I have already, I gave Paul a copy of
when he, back hwen he first came to the University."
Jean: O.K. I'll check with him.
Diedeman: "The information we developed from it. Now I know he has a copy
of the basis for our A/A program. We developed the second year we were here.
It was based around the warm fuzzy story, if you are familiar with that.
And uh the general goals, course since then we have done a lot of activities.
In fact Paul wrote a FERDC Bulletin several years back on, and used then,
it had a lot of the activities in it.
Jean: I have some other things too from here, and I was on the Spring Hill Five
Year Review several years ago so I have some of my things too but he wanted
me to be sure and ask for anything.
Diedeman: "Well, we have pretty well shared with everybody who has been here,
anything we had that would help them."
Jean: Can you think of any other areas that I might not have covered or that
might be important for me to have on the record of the history of the
middle school or things that were important here at Spring Hill or any-
thing you can think of that would need to be in my information?
Diedeman: "No, I uh have pretty well touched on most everything, the big thing
is really a commitment to what a good middle school really ought to
try to be. And sometimes you have to, have to have a pretty thick hide--
wear your iron helmet. But it is just like anything else when you go
to change something, uh change is difficult for a lot of people. And I
think that is probably, getting back to one of the other questions, that
is one of the things that make the middle school teacher different. Uh
they are not bound by tradition or what has been done before. You need
the type of person that can accept a challenge and really believe that
they can handle it. Uh, just, that, about the little warm fuzzy, that
is sorta our motto I guess. "If anybody can do it, we can." And I
think you really have to believe that to work with this age kid. There
are so, there are so many little things and if you don't look for them if you
don't, if you aren't sensitive to their problems and their needs you
just overlook them. I don't think that happens in our school. I think that
is probably one thing that makes ours different, our teachers are really
conscious of, talk about student centered, they really are."
Thanks from me