Interview with Dr. Thomas F. (Tommy) Tomlinson, January 24, 1985

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Interview with Dr. Thomas F. (Tommy) Tomlinson, January 24, 1985
Tomlinson, Thomas F. (Tommy) ( Interviewee )
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History of Florida Education Oral History Collection ( local )


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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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Questions, Discussion Topics for Dr. Tommy Tomlinson

1. Dates the Superintendents were here? Tiny Talbot, Jim Longstreth, Walt Sickles,

Doug Magann? Where can I get this information exactly?

2. School board minutes--ean I have access to them? Where? When? How? Process?

3. Dr. Alexander mentioned an Alachuc County publication--What in the World is a

Middle School? Is there a copy? When? Who did this? How to get?

4. Jack Christian mentioned a blue ribbon task committee in the 60's to look at the

schools and make suggestions. Dr. Alexander in charge. Do you have a copy of

this or know where I could get a copy? When was this?

5. Can you give me your educational training and experience?

6. What connection have you had over the years with the middle schools?

7. Why do you think middle schools started in this county?

8. I know the Kettering Foundatbn was involved here in the late 60's and early 70's.

How? Why? Who made contact? Who financed this?

9. Kettering involved teachers from Spring Hill and Mebane? Why not teachers at

Ft. Clarke, Westwood, Bishop and Lincoln? Years of these 1973, 1972, 1972, 1974

10. What about middle school helped desegregation?

11. The six middle schools developed differently. Why?

12. Centralized management? When started? What influence on middle schools? When

school based management? Why centralized and why school based?

13. For a time there was a middle school director? Why established this position?

Why stopped this position?

14. Over the years how has the central office influenced middle schools?

15. Rezoning in middle schools? When and why and what effect on the various

middle schools?

16. I have a copy of court orders that spoke to the desegregation efforts here?

Was this the order that brought on the closing of schools in January and the shift

of teachers and other personnel, as well as students?

Deputy Superintendent 1--hours 4:15-5:45

Jean: Introductory remarks about dissertation with Paul George. I wanted to ask

you some questions because your name has come up in several different conversations

as possibly having some information you can give me on some of this.

One of the things that I'm interested in is finding out some more information

from here, so a couple of the questions I want to ask, just maybe you can help

me get some more information.

#1. Do you know the dates, I'm trying to pinpoint the exact years that Tiny

Talbot was here, Jim Longstreth, Walter Sickles, of course I haven't talked to

him at all, and exactly when Dr. Magann came. Do you know those exact dates off

the top of your head?

Dr.T: "Well, why don't we work it backwards. Let's go back to this past November.

Doug came here this November two years ago. So he has been here since" (pause)

Jean: That would have been November, 1982?

Dr. T: "I'm sorry, three years ago. November, 1981. Dr. Sickles was here for the four

years prior, th four years preceding that.

Jean: That would have been 1977?

Dr. T: "Then Jim Longstreth, well there was a gap between August of 1977 until

March, 1977. We had an interim Superintendent at that time while we were searching

for Dr. Sickles. In other words Jim Longstreth left us in March 19 1977 and was

here for the previous four years which would back it up to 1973. Of course Jim,

as you remember, was our first appointed Superintendent. Tiny Talbot had been

the Superintendent two elected terms so it wald be eight years backed off of


Jean: 1973 and eight from that would have been 1965?

Dr. T: "Right. I think in fact it was 1964 because there was s me rounding off in

there. We had about a six months interim between Longstreth and Sickles and then

we had a six months interim between Sickles and Magann. In other words Sickles

left in June and Magann came in November. We had the interim situation again


between those two gentlemen."

Jean: Another thing, there have been several things that have come up that somebody has

said, that would probably be in the school board minutes. Would I be able to

have access to looking back at school board minutes for information that I m ght

need, to pinpoint specific dates for things? #2

Dr. T: "We'll be happy for you to do this. What you do, Jean, is you call on one of

our two secretaries here and if you can give them the general time they can make

those books available to you. Minutes from that far back would already be put

into a bound form so they would be fairly easy to use. Hopefully we are not that

far behind in our filing.

Jean: Good, O.K. #3 Another thing, Dr. Alexander mentioned an Alachua County

publication, I think he said the title was "What in the World is a Middle School?"

Do you remember anything about that or do you know if there is a copy available?

He did not have one.

Dr.T: "I thought he was the mother of that?"

Jean: Was that what was called the blue ribbon task committee report? Was that the

same thing?

Dr. T: "I always attributed that to Bill and Emmett Williams. That is in their era

wasn't it? I thought they were really the...."

Jean: I don't know. If so Dr. Alexander no longer has a copy. He said it was an

Alachua County publication. Now he may have been doing that for Alachua County.

Dr.T: "I don't have one myself but if we published it probably the most logical

person would be-----Joe Wood never throws anything away.

Jean: I'll check with him. I did not ask him this when I talked to him earlier.

Dr. T: "Not only was Joe a middle school Principal, one of the original in fact, he

has been the supervisor over the middle school ever since he has been on staff.

So he has been involved in middle schools, one way or another for 10 or 12 years.

Possibly we may even could retrieve it from the print shop records. I'm sure it

was printed out there if we did it. But I would imagine, did you ask Jack



Jean: I did not ask him about that one. He does not have, Jack talked about a

Blue Ribbon Task Committee report that was in, I think 1969. Dr. Alexander

was in charge of that. Dr. Alexander no longer had a copy of that and Jack said

in moving from office to office he has lost or thrown out things and he no

longer has a copy of that either. I didn't ask him about "What in the World is

a Middle School?"

Dr. T: "I think Joe Wood would be a good source and the print shop. Sue Griffith,

of course, has had very little to do with middle schools. Did you happen to

mention it to Crys Compton?"

Jean: She shared with me the things that she had. She didn't have that. She has

given me several things.

Dr.T: "I'll tell you one other person, Tom Diedeman."

Jean: Yes, I have talked to Tom. When I got to him he had just cleaned out. He

had thrown out a lot of tings.

Dr.T: "One other guy is John Spindler."

Jean: I have talked to John too. He might have that. I'm not sure that I asked him

about that. I'll check with him.

Dr. T: "Wasn't that title, "What in the World is a Middle School?"

Jean: "What in the World is a Middle School?" is what Dr. Alexander told me.

Dr.T.: "I remember that title, I remember very well."

Jean: ome of these people I talked to, for example, John Spindler way back in the

summer, last summer. So, I saw Dr. Alexander after that. Some of these people I

didn't ask...

Dr. T.: "Another gal who never throws anything away is Ginger Childs. Marcia Brown

has been in since the ground floor too."

Jean: I have a box of things Marcia gave me. I haven't gone through all of her


Dr. T: "The gal that used to be the media specialist at Mebane and Lincoln."

Jean: Carol Stanley?

Dr. T: "Yes, Carol Stanley."


Jean: Yes, Ihave talked to her. I have talked to both of them and I have a whole box

of Marcia's things to go through.

Dr. T: "Marcia has been in on the middle school from the very beginning."

Jean: #5 Would you go back and give me your educational training and experience?

Dr.T: "Well, this is my 30th year in Alachua County. I had three years prior to

coming here so I'm in my 33rd year. Since I have been in Alachua County, I came as

a classroom teacher, which I did for four years in a junior high school. Then

after that I worked, Tiny Talbot was my Principal. I xas Assistant Principal at

the same school for four years under Sam Hendricks. Following that I was Principal

at the same school for three years. So I spent, a total of eleven years in the

same building. Then I moved..."

Jean: Where was that?

Dr. T: "Buchholz Junior High School. Following that I went to Howard Bishop. I was

the second Principal there. Sam Hendricks opened that building, he was there

three years. In fact he left in April of his third year and I moved in and finished

the year and then stayed all of the npt year. So I was there a year and three

months. Following that Mr. Talbot was elected Superintendent.

Jean: What year was that you were at Bishop?

Dr. T: "Well, that would be, must be, what?, 1964. Then the following year Mr..

Talbot brought me to the county staff. I was his administrative assistant for

one year and then ever since I have been Assistant Superintendent, Associate

Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Interim Superintendent, and Acting

Superintendent. If you put all my interim together I almost have tenure as


Jean: What is your exact title right now?

Dr. T: "At the present time it is Deputy Superintendent and that primarily is working

with the six Assistant Superintendents. And also working directly with the Super-

intendent and the school board. I don't have, well right now directly I am in

charge oflt building---Kirby Smith, and data processing. This is a joint

thing between the SPperintendent. We supervise the data processing center and all


of its people, the word processing center and of course the custodians, the

building. Everything else falls under one of the other Assistant Superintendents.

Of course we have it set up that way because of Doug's intenseness in the computer

area. He is a glutton for information and it is quite important and to tell you

the damn truth he is the only one who knows anything about it to start with.

Normally in a situation like this the computer department would normally be

under the Assistant for Finance. Perhaps we'll be here someday when it gets

more on its feet. One other thing we supervise directly is, Dr. Lucas is in

charge of zoning, student objections and things like that. Also more important

is the evaluation of programs. That is pretty standard. Your evaluator usually

answers directly to the Superintendent because you don't want that person dominated

by anybody else because frequently that is who they are evaluating. You want a

check and balance system."

Jean: #6 What connection have you had over the years with middle schools?

Dr.T: "Well, I have had no direct supervision of them, Jean, other than working with

the Principals. Of course the zoning,attendance and transportation, things in

this area. Jack Christian has been the pusher, so far as the instructional

program is concerned, but I, of course, drew many of the zone lines that cut

the middle school into existence. Of course, as you know, we started here in

Gainesville when we were able to reopen the Lincoln building. This was what

provided the leap into middle schools. We brought John Spindler back from

Mebane and appointed John to an empty building, let him pick his own staff and

create a middle school which we opened up with about 1,000 kids. Then of course

we had the task of changing Bishop and Westwood to middle schools. One of the

things we did pruposely, the Principals at those middle schools were encouraged

that all vacancies they had for the following year, that first middle school

year, to fill those vacancies with elementary teachers. We felt like we had

a major job on our hands to turn these experienced junior high teachers into middle

school teachers. Many of those people had been teaching ten or fifteen years in

the junior high and had developed the junior high process, and as you well know,

some of them haven't, their heads still haven't been turned. That was the thing

we instructed them to go heavy on the elementary, upper elementary, fifth and

sixth grades."

Jean: Did you feel like elementary teachers fit more with the middle school?

Dr.T: "What we felt like is we went overboard with elementary we felt like we could

convert the junior high teachers more quickly. We felt like the elementary

teachers were already more middle school oriented than the junior high people.

We were really trying to flood these schools with some middle school influence.

Of course, as you know, back then, I don't think middle school even had a

certification at the time. People were just beginning to crack the University,

taking middle school orientation and classes. We were getting a sprinkling

of those people out, which helped us. We appointed, we moved Joe Wood from

Idlywild Elementary to Westwood Middle School because Joe had had a successful

tenure as an elementary school Principal and we felt like this would also get

that school. Russell Simmons had been the only Principal the school had ever had

and Russell was strictly a junior high person. We had to do as much as we could

to get a middle school foothold."

Jean: Did Russell Simmons retire? Or did he move somewhere else?

Dr.T: "Russell retired."

Jean: Then Joe moved in?

Dr.T: "Yes, Joe moved in. Course Bishop has had, since I left there, they have had

a series of Principals, probably a dozen, but it operated several years as

strictly a 7,8,9 school before it was converted at the same time Lincoln was.

Of course, as you know, Ft. Clarke came in the early 1970's. Ft. Clarke and

Lincoln were the only two that, well if they weren't what we wanted it was our

own fault because we built them from the ground up including staff and Principals."

Jean: Spring Hill was the same, wasn't it?

Dr. T: "Spring Hill was, came into being when we totally integrated the system.

Because of the time we had to push the black school and the white school and

it is a product of the merging of the two schools. Yes, I would say that Spring Hill

and Mebane both were on the original cutting edge. They were involved in the


Kettering Foundation, in all the visitations and workshops and money that was

plowed into those two kids. They have always been schools of 5,6,7,8, which is a

little different from most schools."

Jean: Why do you think Spring Hill and Mebane were set up with the grade levels as

they were and schools in the city were set up 6,7,8?

Dr.T: "Well, a lot of people when you talk middle school with them, I reduce it rather

simple. A lot of middle schools are organized depending on how many the building

will hold. That is not a real good way to organize a school but sadly that is

the way a lot of them are organized. That was strictly the way those two were

organized because at the time you could not get, when we integrated the system

at Alachua and High Springs, you could not get the fifth grade into the elementary

schools. The logical place then would be to go to the middle schools because

back then the larger your grade the smaller the smaller number of kids you had.

You could put four of the higher grades where it took three of the elementary.

That was really where it got started. That is not a good way but personally I

would like to see some day standard in the form system. We have so many

peculiarities I'm not sure we'll ever have that. You know, we have the Hawthorne

situation which is 7-12, K-6. Newberry and Archer are the same way. Those kids

there, the parents feel like, they need a middle school. Then of course, you

know, at Waldo we have a K-6. Those kids leave up there in the sixth grade and

come into to Lincoln and compete for just two years, 7th and 8th grade. Whatever

is sacred and good that sixth graders get at Lincoln the Waldo kids don't get it.

They don't get there until seventh grade. We kind of have a mixture. Personally

I would like to see us go to a uniform--there must be evidence and research,

motherhood and apple pie, there must be some of those reasons that would point

out that a particular grade make-up is best. But it is one of the most difficult

things in the world to get anybody who is connected with the middle schools to say.

You can go to a conference and ask an innocent question, what is the ideal make-up

of a.middle school? You'll get 45 minutes of statistics and numbers, none of

which will make any sense. In fact they quit inviting me to middle school


conferences because I would always ask that question. I have heard middle

school, as a matter of fact I visited one not long ago that was 4-9."

Jean: Oh, where was that?

Dr.T: "In Madison County. That happens to be what the building will hold. There

are all kinds of gyrations. We even had one one time, when we first integrated

the system, we had a 5,6,7. It was over at, most people forgot about it."

Jean: Was that at Douglas? No, Shell.

Dr.T: "It was down at Shell and Oliver Jones was one of the last Principals there

and Olive Scott. In fact most people forgot we had three schools then. Then

we tore the old two story building down and expanded Shell and built the new

junior senior high school. What I'd like to see us do would be in places like

Hawthorne, Newberry, where the numbers are going to be down, particularly

Hawthorne, is carve out a section there and make a small self-contained junior

high type thing where tbse kids don't have to battle all day with the high school

thing. At least restrict as much of their activity in the main building because

we have almost enough buildings outside the main building, with a little construction,

about the only time a kid would have to come in the main building would be for

lunch. You could do the same thing at Newberry but it would cost a little bit

of money to do that. Another thing it would do would reduce your numbers in the

high school building. Of course Hawthorne only has 550 kids total, 7-12. 2/3 of

them are in the first three grades. Their senior class only has 67 kids in it.

Newberry is a different thing. Newberry namages to have about 100 kids

per grade, which is about the minimum. I see the Newberry area, depending on

what we do with this zoning. If we don't affect the Newberry area at all it is

going to be enough natural growth with people moving out of Gainesville, going

out and getting themselves five acres and a mule in the country, that will be in

the Newberry zone that they are going to need a middle school."

Jean: Things seem to be moving more that way than any other.

Dr.T: "Well, see, to the east you have almost a natural log. Lincoln can't grow

because of Newnan's Lakeyso much of the land is owned by Owen-Illinois Pulp Co.
l t"eh > Mwei'cflS P&^ Iwnau L \


Then you are only 12 miles from Hawthorne. To make matters worse, 1- miles

from Hawthorne is the Putnam County line. You can't grow south because you are

into Lochloosa, Orange Lake and Marion County. Plus the paper companies own

practically all the land. Then of course going north you run into the same

type situation. You also run into Waldo. Course those people prefer, Waldo

doesn't particularly identify with Hawthorne."

Jean: I can see that they wouldn't.

Dr. T: "They would rather identify with Gainesville. Of course Waldo is another

story in itself. They are sitting up there with K-6 and 205 kids. It is not

a cost effect thing with that few kids. But on the other hand we just got

through spending about $700,000 renovating that (unclear) I can under-

stand that. If I lived in that small town I'd probably be fighting to keep it

open too. Looking at it strictly economically it is not cost effective but in

spite of that the board is committed to spending additional funds as supplements

to those small schools to being them up to pretty much the same programs as the

others. It costs extra bucks."

Jean: #7 Why do you think that middle schools started in this county? There have

been different definitions. Some people I have talked to thought it was more

educational, some people thought it was really tied to integration.

Dr.T: "I would refute integrationbecause I don't think any of us were smart enough to

think of that. We thought of a lot of things but that is one of them we didn't

think of. I think what it was it was a national sweep that was coming. Back at

that time we were really noted for, if you wanted us to try it just run it by, you

didn't have to stop, we would just grab it on the way through. I always resented,

I told you earlier I spent eleven years in the junior high school and I thought

we were doing one hell of a job. Then I woke up one morning and read the paper and

found out the junior highs had failed and you know we had been so damn busy

working hard and doing a good job we didn't realize we had failed. We kind of had

our nose to the grindstone. We found out from a lot of people that we were

failing miserably every day. All of a sudden we were going to convert to a


middle school and of course no one knew what a middle school was. I kept asking

irritating questions like what grades, how many kids, and no one knew and that

made them mad and I finally decided to shut up and go with the flow. That

included Bill Alexander and Emmett Williams. I used to tease Emmett all the time.

I said, Emmett you have a good gimmick here but no one knows anything about it. You

know Bill was writing and lecturing and of course Paul came along later.

You know the middle school would run me nuts as a Principal if I ran it the

way it should be run as I understand the middle school. Because I was strictly a

junior high person and all of my background was there. Course I came to find

out the problem... (end of side #1 tape) In the schools we had created there

was nothing for the kids to look forward to when they got to high school. Course

that was only for the uninformed people who really didn't know what we were doing.

That really wasn't true at all. We used to have, in my school particularly, we

had a beautiful articulation program with Gainesville High School, that was the

only school we had. We would invite their whole faculty over to our place and

we would take our faculty over to their place. We would talk about it. Oscar

Servant would say well now in Algebra I'm doing this and this is where I stop.

Then Ruth Wallace would say well, hell you ought to go another week. I would

say, Ruth, th best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your arm so

maybe you could stoop down and pick them up one week if Oscar can't get them up..

Maybe Oscar can get them up. We would have these kind of sessions. These people

would be on the phone to each other about it. How much are you going to cover?

You know when I came into education in 1952 they told be two things. First

thing I learned from Kim Wiles. Kim said the curriculum was full and there was

no articulation and communication. All we have done for 33 years is add to the

curriculum, the one that was full, and hell we still are not articulating or

communicating. Nothing changes. I don't think, seriously, that any of us had

enough foresight to connect it with integration. Now I can name a lot of things

that did come out, that were created in the name of progress, that were to retard

integration. But that was not one of them. I think it was a national sweep. It


was, you know, I'm sure there was a lot of validity to the fact, but you know, in

grade make-up it doesn't matter where you draw the line.. There is a mother who

thinks her kid is too young to go into the next level. I don't give a damn.

When the kindergartener leaves home, oh my God what is he going to do with all

those other 4 or 5 year olds.. Then when he leaves the fifth or sixth grade

for the horrible middle school, God, all those sixth graders are going to be up

there with those eighth graders. Then we promote him to the ninth and there he

is 14 or 15 years old and all the Mothers are concerned about their ninth grade

daughters being enamored with the twelfth grade boys. I know damn well that

when a kid leaves twelfth grade and goes as a Freshman, I know the Mothers and

Fathers go into hysteria because I'm in the middle of it myself. So whenever you

draw the line there is going to be apprehension, like when you draw a zone line.

When you draw a zone line you draw it down the middle of the street because

no one lives there. Then people say you have separated the neighborhood. The

kids across the street that play with my kids go to a different school. Well,

where would you like f ut us to move it? Well, why don't you move it three

blocks over there? You move it over there and then you have gored a different

ox. Then these people say why didn't you leave it where you had it. I don't know

and I'm not sure anyone has determined yet through any type of scientific, medical

or developmental process if 6, 7th and 8th is better than 5, 6th or 7th. I think,

of course I sometimes give a smart answer, but I think the best think that has ever

come out of the middle school movement, one of the very best, is it got the ninth

grade into the high school. That doesn't have a think to do with middle schools.

For the first time it put the ninth grade in there where a kid could have a

four year developmental program. I think that, to me, is one thing we ought to

thank the middle school for. If it did nothing else it forced us, in other words we

don't know what the bottom best rate is but we all know that the eighth grade is

the maximum. We don't know what the minimum is because I think we take liberties

with the fourth, fifth and sixth. But we all pretty well agree that the eighth

is the top. That is most important anyway, I think. But we have done weird


things like at Mebane, we had had the fifth up there with those horrible sixth,

seventh and eighth graders. But we grew a group of parents one day who just went

into hysteria about mixing those fifth graders with those eighth graders. So we

went up there, to keep peace in the family, we went up there and self contained

those fifth graders within the Mebane building and let those sixth, seventh and

eighth graders run their flexible schedule. Just self contained the fifth grade.

Well, it happened, what I thought would happen. Pretty soon the fifth graders

put so much pressure on the parents that we were able to mix them back the next

year, and we never have had any more porblems. The main thing is that those

parents developed, the kids didn't develop a whole lot more. It wasn't worth the

battle anyway because if you have to fight the parents you might as well wise up,

go with the flow and get their support. Which worked out for us."

Jean: #8 I know the Kettering Foundation was involved here in the late 1960's or

early 1970's. Do you know how that came about or how they became involved here?

Dr.T: "I don't know all about the details except that I know that Kettering was

interested in the middle school movement. I don't know who was instrumental in

getting us into that. I know Mary Carew had some part in it. It enabled us to..."

Jean: I don't know her, who is Mary Carew?

Dr.T.: "Mary Carew, at the time, was our grants writer. Of course she had been

elementary supervisor, early childhood teacher, but at the time was working with

the federal program. It enabled us to do-a lot of visiting in middle schools, for

us to do a lot of staff development, we were ablt to bring in some pretty high

powered speakers."

Jean: They were underwriting this? They were providing the money?

Dr. T.: "I don't remember all the details but I know the district was getting, most

of the funding was coming from them. Course what they were doing they were

showcasing this to schools all over the nation and that is why still, those two

schools, we get requests every week for somebody to visit from Gos knows where.

Because they are typical middle school and I think another- thing that makes them

attractive is the Mebane school was created out of the ashes of an old black


K-12 school. It is in the same building. Spring Hill came out of the same type

situation but it is in a new building, open design building. They both have

limited population. This is what makes them look attractive to some of the small

districts that want to visit from Carolina, Virginia, Georgia. Hell, they have

had them from Canada and everywhere else. They have been well visited and well

written up and I would say that probably Spring Hill more so than Mebane is

typical Middle School. Course it still has the influence of John Spindler.

He has perpetuated the same thing at Lincoln. John probably, you could cut him

and he would bleed middle school, he really protects not only the curriculum but

logistics and mechanics of middle school. He has maintained the integrity, I

would say he is more middle school than any other. That is because he has been

the only Principal there, hw has had continuity. He has chosen to employ and

select those kind of people who think and do like he does. Like I told him, my

God, if you don't like it you only have yourself to blame. Course we have

assigned him some people but I would say 90% of them have been his own choice."

Jean: I know the Kettering Foundation involved the teachers from Spring Hill and

Mebane from the very beginning and I don't think other teachers, from as far as

I have been able to determine, that Westwood, Ft. Clarke, Lincoln and Bishop, the

teachers from those places were not involved ever like with the Kettering people.

Do you know why other teachers weren't involved in Kettering?

Dr.T: "I think they were looking for a pilot thing. Course we were stumbling along.

We didn't know if we were doing something good or bad. Funds not only our funds, but

their funds, we felt like we had a receptance to try something new.

(Jack Christian came in to talk to Tommy---chit chat for a few minutes.)

Jack said, Let me say this as a sidelight. Even 6 to 8 years after we had gone

into it, Tommy would catch me at a meeting and say, Jack, tell me what a middle

school is?

Dr. T.: "Hey, I have this on tape here. I-did that to Bill Alexander and Emmett

Williams at a state conference and they never did invite me back."

Jean: # 11 We talked a little about the six middle schools that developed differently.


Why do you think these six middle schools we have in this county developed so


Dr.T.: "I think it was the way we constructed the staff. Also the type of administrative

leadership plus from the district level, you know we had some big gaps where we

didn't have all that much leadership. It was either elementary or secondary and

we had things like certification, textbooks, organization, there was so much, that

well I can remember very plainly we sent Joe Wood to Westwood and said hey we

want a middle school. That is about how much instruction we gave him. He went

out there and inherited about 30 teachers. Good junior high teachers. He brought

in about 15 good elementary teachers. They sat there and said hey we have a middle

school. They had a good junior high right on. Fortunately either way they went

would be good. Then you had, well, I think a lot of it was being receptive.

ExmR Tom Diedeman was always receptive. Even Lymus Burgess, who was the principal

at Mebane, Lymus was receptive to the standpoint of....(unclear) Course

Spindler has been the only one they have ever had at Lincoln. Bill Cake going

to Ft. Clarke may not have been, Bill did a good job, but Bill did not have any

elementary or middle school experience. Bill, what little he had, he had been

a junior high Ag riculture teacher and then he had been Vocational Supervisor.

Bill did a good job but he was not a middle school pick. Then of course like

I said about Bishop, Bishop has had a series of administrators. Proba ly the one

you have now is the most middle school. I know he has a lot more middle school

than I ever had, not that I had the chance. But you had people like Roy Tower,

Jim Temple, Dan Boyd, John Perdue, some of these you probably don't even know."

Jean: No, I came under John Perdue.

Dr. T: "You came with John? You came there the year after I left. Then you have

worked for all these others I have named off and you probably have a better,

just in my limited opinion, you probably have the best middle school program now

than you have ever had. Tom Marcy, Tom had no middle school background, except

we had stuck him in at Ft. Clarke, but up unto that time he had been a social

studies teacher at high school. Whatever introduction he had to middle school


he got under Bill Cake who had none. Bill was his Principal. We had Bill Cliett,

Tom March, Bob Dykes and somebody else. We had four of them as Assistant Principals

at Ft. Clarke when they opened up. All of them were 1 time Assistant Principals

and time teachers. There were two units, four half time, None of the fellows,

except Bill Cliett, had really had that kind of experience. You can take even

our elementary schools. They all have their own personalities. In particular,

you know for years here we would put a Principal in a building and he would stay

there until it burned or he died. Recently we have been moving people around and

we are getting more into the female and more into the black. We are looking at,

administratively, in other words we wouldn't think of putting a Principal in an

elementary school today without classroom experience in the elementary school.

But that doesn't hold true on the middle and high school."

Jean: Why do you think that is true?

Dr.T.: "It is personalities. Plus another thing. You can be a Principal at a middle

school and you can get by on curriculum without being an expert, but you go in

that elementray school when you have no Assistant Principal, all you have is a

CRT and you better know curriculum. Years ago when I first came to county if an

elementary Principal could count to 30 and divide his kids that was about all he

needed to do, and hire some good teachers and stay out of their way. But today the

elementary thing is so complicated and so involved, you have so much to do and

you still have the same amount of help you had 20 years ago, you really have less,

we used to have Assistant Principals in elementary. At the middle school the

Principal is usually not so much involved in the day to day curriculum anyway. I

think that is probably why. Course even at the high school Mae Islar has 4

Assistant Principals, 3 or 4 deans, department chairmen, committee chairmen,

steering committees so she is an expeditor, organizer. But that poor elementary

guy, he is down there and a lot of times he has the same forms to fill out as

the Principal with three Assistants. Sometimes, well, take for instance,

Alachua Elementary, K-4. It has 675 kids. You have one guidance counselor, one

CRT, and one media specialist. You go up the hill there 3/4 of a mile and you


have Mebane Middle School with 550 kids, you have 125 less, with an Assistant

Principal, Dean, 11- guidance counselors and department chairmen, twice as many

secretaries, but 125 less kids. Waldo, you have 205 kids in elementary school.

John Rawls at Idlywild has about 702. They have the same number of forms, same

number of things to do, they have about 1/3 the number of kids."

Jean: Several people, particularly the Principals when I have talked to them have talked

about the difference between centralized management and school based management.

I know that has had an influence on middle school and can you tell me what, from

your perspective, has been the influence and can you tell me exactly when this

started? 1

Dr.T: "School based management started about six months after Longstreth came. That

was his baby--his call to fame. That was the year that the state legislature and

the Commissioner of Education, Ralph Turlington, they came out, they tried to

pass legislation that all schools would move immediately to school based management,

all districts. Well they weren't able to get that much teeth in it. But they did

come in, with a directive from the D.O.E., that all districts should make

immediate plans to move with due haste to school based management. Well, there

was nothing that came with it except the edict. So, Jim, had just come from

Charlotte County. He was a shaker, he liked to do things. I used to tease him,

I said, you know it doesn't always have to be better as long as it is different.

Anyway he came up with that. We brought Bill Dickey in as a budget man who was

in tune with that sort of thing too,. We jumped into it, like the Baptists you

know, over our heads, we didn't sprinkle at all like the Methodists. I mean we

went whole hog. With little or no inservice for Principals, little or no guide-

lines, I liked the idea of theschool based management if you do it entirely. But

if you do it entirely some of the schools can't survive, some of the administrators,

some of the kids and teachers. But what we did, we said we had it then we went

back and patched all the problems. It really was, probably it was the most that

was being done in the state at that time. Well, at the summer conference, our

FASA conference, the first summer, Jim and I and all the ones who went down to


Orlando. As we were so far out in the front Jim was on the panel to tell every-

body there how good we were doing in school based management. We had another

guy from Key West. They were doing some things. Then you know how you do a

panel. You have 2 or 3 present and then you have somebody react. The guy who

had to react was the high school Principal from over at Starke. He wouldn't

recognize school based management if it ran over him. We had two reactors, we

had Ralph Turlington and Jim Duncan. After Jim Longstreth and the old boy from

Key West got up and told everybody how much they were doing and how great it was,

Ralph stood up and said, well, I knowwe sent this information that you'll should

move with speed but be careful. Don't drown yourself. That just gave the whole

audience the credence that they had known all the while; we aren't going to do a

damn thing cause here the Commissioner has just said be careful. Consequently very

little was ever done. We plowed ahead but cause school based management means, to

me, that your school gets exactly what it earns and it gets the same amount per

pupil that any other school gets, within the district. If you do that you condemn

the small schools. At the same time you make the large schools wealthy because

in ??? you can do that. A lot of your set costs are the same if you

have 1,000 kids or 200 kids. The kid generates the same FTE money at Waldo as he

does at Idlywild. If you give Waldo the amount of money they generate--State,

Feds and then give them the same amount of local money that you give Idlywild you

would have to close Waldo up. There would be an insurrection. They can't operate

on that. In other words what you do y u come back with such a limited program you

almost eliminate physical educatbn, guidance."

Jean: Just the sheer numbers would not qualify them for having those programs?

Dr. T.: "No, and that throws a heavier load on the administrator because he has to

pull up the slack and fill out the same form, fill out the same stuff. Most of the

rural schools will tell you right now they are not treated fairly. They don't get

as much as you do at Bishop, and they don't. They get more. To sit down and take

a budget, it is complicated to explain it to a bunch of lay people, look they get

more than the people in Gainesville get. You take over at Hawthorne High School...

(end of tape)


Tape #2, Side #3

at least two years in each language. In some of those classes there will be

7,8 or 9 kids. It costs just as much to pay that teacher as it does the teacher

over at your school with 31. Your teacher is bringing in 31 x $1500 and this

teacher is bringing in $1500 x 8. It makes a difference."

Jean: You referred a few minutes ago to this, for a time there was a middle school

director here. You were talking about how the middle school didn't have anybody.

For awhile there was a person, I know Crys Compton served in that role for a

period. Do you remember why that was created and why they did away with it?

Dr.T: "I believe Crys was the only person we ever had that was directly responsible

for middle schools. I think it would be safe to say that it was a way of comsuming

some employees at the time. It was almost a personality thing. I think Crys was

primarily oriented to the middle school and the two people we had at the time

were not and did not really care to be. That seemed to be where Crys' interest

was and course you know Jack has a pretty large staff anyway and that was more or

less the way he divided it up. He has had all kinds of configurations. He has had

K-12, like he has it now he has elementary and secondary. He has had Special

Education under him and he hashad it out from under him. You have all those

overlapping things. I have been surprised really, even on the state level, that

middle schools are still not recognized. I really don't know what they have to

do to prove themselves or to become eligible for knighthood or citizenship."

Jean: Or just plain recognize that we exist.

Dr. T: "In fact I'm not so sure that if you counted the middle school kids now in the

state of Florida you might have more than you have at the high school."

Jean: Do you know why they stopped having this position of middle school director? #13

Did they feel like they didn't need this or was it money?

Dr.T.: "I think anytime Jack makes a change it is usually because of confusion or

overlapping or falling in the crack or something that he feels like he can get

better coverage and better articulation between his people and I think, I'm sure he

would say the same thing, sometime it gets into personalities. Probably the two


people he has right now work together as harmoniously as any body he has ever had.

Jean: That is Joe Wood and Sue Griffith?

Dr. T.: "Joe Wood as secondary and Sue Griffith as elementary. Neither one of them

are after, they don't want to be king, they are low key people, they are detail

people, Jack is the shaker and they pick up the details and get it done. They

are both individuals that they don't want to be Superintendent or Principals. They

have done that. They like the comfort of knowing that Jack is there and in

support of them. In other wrods they aren't inAadministrative role, a hatchet

person, they are in an isntructive and supervisory role. This is what they both

prefer, and consequently that is why they get along so well together. I know

Jack from time to time has changed K-12. He'll cut it and divide it, then put it

back together, then he'll weld in the Special Education. It has a lot to do with

personalities because probably really it doesn't make any difference as long as

the people are working together and cooperate.

I don't think it is inconceivable that the middle school would not someday

have their own place in the sun because, you know two years ago we didn't have any

supervisors and I didn't personally think I would live to see us have supervisors

again. I think when Doug Magann came in here he was appalled that'we had so few.

He felt like to improve the curriculum and move it along you needed somebody in

charge specifically instead of one person being in charge of everything and

consequently being in charge of nothing. I think personally this group of super-

visors we have now are second to none. I'm very impressed with them. I think they

give a lot of help to the schools. I know they take a heck of a lot of the load

off of Jack and Joe Wood, I know the Superintendent feels comfortable with them

because if he wants to know something about math he doesn't call Jack, he calls

Totsye Conner. That is the way they operate. Course I think we'll have more

supervisors, it is conceivable, a director of middle schools someday.

Jean: As it gets bigger you nedd more people.

Dr. T.: "There is one thug I was going to mention a while ago when we were talking

about school based management. Probably the biggest problem with it if you are


not careful you give away all the responsibility with no accountability. That

was the most frustrating thing I found about school based management. I can

remember dozens of times parents would come to a board meeting, unannounced, in

the last of October or first of November just mad as hell wanting to know why

there were 36 kids in their child's third grade class. Well, at that point you

had two choices. You could throw your Principal and his staff to the wolves and

give an explanation or you could sit there and shuffle your weight back and forth

and dance around the point and say, well, we'll look into it. That is like

referring something to a committee--look into it. Then you have board members.

They are on the political hot seat. Some of them know and some don't know why

there are 36 in a class. The reason--now what you would like to say, of course

Jack would bite his tongue, but what you would like to say is this, we have sent the

money out there to provide 28 kids per teacher. They have the money. They as a

staff, voted, instead of having four third grade teachers with 25-28 in a class,

they would have three third grade teachers with 36 in a class and they took the

rest of that money to buy a Xerox machine with it. Or they would hire 4 or 5

teachers' aides to go with those teachers. That is school based management.

That is your decision to make. Well, see that mother that is standing up mad

as hell she doesn't give a damn about how much money you sent out there, all she

knows is there are 36 kids every time she goes to visit. It is overcorwded and

it is too many. So that is an example of the responsibility. You don't have any

control, it is like a boat withAa rudder.

Now where :.e made our mistake in school hsed management we did not sit down

and say O.K. you have some latitude but you don't have total latitude. You have

all the latitude you want as long as there aren't but 28 kids in that class.

If there is any money left over, or flexibility, you a e free to use it. God, we

had aides, we had all kinds of, xerox machines that wouldn't fit in this office, it

would almost come and get your paper and take it bakc to you. It would collate,

staple, or throw it at you. Course that is good if that is what you want to do.

But that is hard to sit in a -ublic meeting and explain that to some woman who doesn'


care. She wants to know can't the teacher write on the board, why do they need a
xerox machine?

Also like on utilities. We know pretty close what it takes to utility Toward

Bishop for a year. We would plug that into the budget, well along about April

15, ya'll had used all your utility money. The heat is going and the windows

are open. You didn't have any trouble with your air-conditioning. With that

many people there is just a lot of waste, let's face it. So what do you do, you

say well, Rarry that is great, you had your money and you frittered it all away.

Sell some candy. No what we do is we come back and plug in about $20,000. That

is not school based management. School based management says ,r. Conner, that is

a real interesting story. Now my advice to you is look at your budget and juggle

your funds around and have as many retailers as you can buy the rest of the year.

That is school hsed management.

Another thing we did in school based management; school based management if you

take it to the nth degree the payroll is exactly based on what each individual

makes. You have a teacher with 20 years experience and one with one year's

experience. You pay whatever the payroll totals. We felt like if you left it

that way a Principal would go out and hire all beginning teachers. He would take

the rest of his money and buy xerox machines with it, or something. So what we

did, we went in and said, don't worry about salaries because what we are going to

put into your budget is the average teacher salary. You'll have some above and

some below. The average will be there. It worked out pretty good but that is not

real school based management. What you ought to tell your Pirncipals is this, I

better not catch you hiring all beginning teachers because I'm still inspecting

your kids and your scores and your tests and this and that and you better do

whatever it takes to get it done.

I think you could develop a good set of standards and guidelines to follow and

have a good school based management if you put enough stop gaps, checks and balances

in there. I think I could do it now that I have lived through it."

Jean: Did you have school based management under Dr. Sickles?

Dr. T.: "It started under Jim. We had three years under Jim. Then when Walt came in


people like Jack, me, Fred and others were so tired of it, we had been de-fanged

almost of responsibility. Walt had the type of personality that it drove him up

the wall anyway, school based management did. It wasn't too hard to convince

him that we ought to pull everything back and that is when we did it. Of course

Doug came in then and he is probably somewhere in between. That is probably about

where we are now, somewhere in between. We are more structured than we were."

Jean: I had a question about rezoning in the middle school. I know rezoning, I

can't remember when it came that affected the middle schools, back in the late

1970's. Can you give me some background on that?

Dr.T: "The last rezoning we did in this district was the middle schools. Jim Akaggs

and I did the middle schools. They had gotten out of kilter racially and capacity.

He and I spent a considerable bit of time, we started in December and we worked

for six months on that."

Jean: Was that 1978?

Dr.T.: "Yes. We finally got it out, got it before the board, got it passed and it is

the same zone lines you have today."

Jean: That went into effect the fall of 1979?

Dr.T: "Yes. What we did when you are dealing with only four buildings and you have

all this land area to work with, we put all the schools within 50 kids of the same

number and we put them all within 1% of the same racial makeup and in the six

years that have followed those schools have stayed the closest. I wish I could

remember how we did it. Right now you won't find from high to low over 100 kids

difference and we haven't touched them in six years."

Jean: That is amazing.

Dr.T.: "Racially I don't think you will find over 10%. We just happened to luck up

on some good lines. It has worked out real well. Course the building that has

continually had the highest population is Lincoln, but that is the biggest

building. The one that has worked out to have the lowest is Ft. Clarke and that

is the smallest building. I wish we could say we did that on purpose but we



Jean: I think I need to let you go and get home, you have another meeting shortly.

Dr. T.: "No, go ahead we can finish up here."

Jean: I have a copy of the court orders that I got from Jim Lang's office. His

secretary got these for me. ( handed papers to Tommy) Jack said when the court

order came in 1969, then the schools were closed in 1970 for awhile and reorganized.

Do you know if this, this was from the U.S. District Court for the northern district

of Florida? Lavon Wright VS the Board of Public Instruction. Is this the court

order Jack was referring to?

Dr. T.: "No, that wasthe orgiinal. Well, I can't tell unless I read it all but the

original .court order, when we were originally taken to court in the early 1960's

it was because we were not integrated at all. That was done by Lavon Wright,

Tom Wright was her father. Reverend Wright is over here at the church now."

Jean: Is that Phil Wright's father?

Dr. T.: "Yes, that is Phil's father. That was the orignial court order. It would

either be in 1962 or 1963. Now it may have stayed in that same name all down

through the years."

Jean: Yes, I think that is what it was. This one was saying that ( Jean read from

the court order). (Handed the order to Tommy) You can look, you have probably

seen it more and can recognize it more quickly. (There was a pause while Tommy

looked and read.)

Dr. T.: "We had so many of these things. Let's see what the date is on here. He

has given you about a dozen. Yes, I think that is what they did, Jean, they

just kept the original plaintiff, course we were the defendants all the way

through. This was Lavon Wright and there were a couple of other kids, there were

about three or four of them. This was all rehearsed and planned by the NAACP.

The integration procedure, it was good that they did this. I was Principal at

Buchholz at the time and I had the first seven black children at my school the

second year I was a Principal. They were put there, not by zoning, but by what

we call pupil assignment.

Back then if you wanted to go to a different school other than where you


would reasonably be expected to go, we didn't have any lines, you could petition

the Superintendent's office. They had a committee who would look at it and tell

you no. Well these families did that and they were told no. So they started the

court procedure. The school board saw the handwriting on the wall. That is when

I came into the district office. They decided well we can't get by with this

student assignment anymore so we developed what we called the freedom of choice

plan. If you were black, well what I did, I prepared lists showing what grades

were taught where in every school in the county, and if you were black we would

give you a sheet and you could pick any school in Alachua County. If you were in

the fifth grade you could go to any school in the county where fifth grade was

taught, any school in the county. Now we would transport you if you needed

transportation, we would transport you to the predominately black school where

you were expected to go, or to the closest predominately white school. You had

two choices. If you didn't like either one of them, hell, you could go anywhere

you wanted. If you were white you could go to the closest you were expected to

to to, predominately white, and that was the only one we would transport you to,

you had a designated transport school, you had one, the black kids had two.

I wrestled that thing for several years and we developed what I thought was

a pretty gamn good plan. We had, at that time, about 7,000 black kids in the

county. It resulted in about 1500 of those kids going to predominately white

schools. The problem was, course we would have to file twice a year with the

federal courts, hell, everybody, all these statistics. We had to show what progress

we were making. What would happen, Lincoln was sitting there 7-12 with 1300 kids

and three of them were white. Mebane sitting up here K-12 with 1200 kids and

none of them white. A.Q. Jones sitting over here with 600 kids, K-6, elementary,

with 2 white kids. The courts said, hey this ain't doing it. You still have

racially identifiable schools. We had no white schools racially identifiable

because we had had enough black selection but we couldn't get you and others to go

to Lincoln and Mebane and places like that. So that was not accepted.

One of the last things we got taken to court about was Williams and Duval.


I drew a zone line around Williams and a zone line around Duval, about eight

blocks square. We ran the buildings over with kids, didn't have the first bus

going in there, didn't need them, hell, they could walk. Duval was 95% black

and Williams was 90%. The courts said these are racially identifiable. That is

when we came up with the stroke of genius of clustering. Remember that? We

turned Duval into a fifth and sixth grade center and clustered it with Metcalfe

and Foster that were K-4. We did the same thing with Williams and hooked it to

Terwilliger and Little wood. That was the last time they took me to court was on

that. They said, finally you have done it.

One of the most interesting things I ever participated in, we had tried the

the bond issue in 1968 and we lost it by 27 votes. We came back and passed it.

We started the bond issue. We had Buchholz, Eastside, we had about six or eight

buildings under construction trying to get ready to integrate. Well, we met and

we divided the teachers and kids, this was all on paper. In other words we knew

in November where you were going to go to school the next September. We had it all

worked out. The buildings were all under construction. We were taken to court

in Houston. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tiny and me and our attorney took

off to Houston. Three country boys going to town. We went into this building

that was about the size of the O'Connell building's floor."

Jean: This was in 1969?

Dr. T.: "This was in December, 1969. There were thirteen districts that had been

summoned from all over the southeast to tell why you had been dragging your feet."

Jean: This was the U.S. District Court?

Dr. T.: "The U.S. District Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. That is when I found out

what enbloc meant. Course you already know that." (Tommy said what I thought

sounded like enbock)

Jean: No, I don't. Enbock?

Dr. T.: "These judges started walking out there and there were 14 of them, there

were two tiers, that is what enbloc meant, I found out later. There were so

many of them they couldn't get them all on one row. There were 14 judges. I


looked up there and the lat sucker to walk out was Harold Carswell, who had been

our judge through all this local stuff. He had been appointed to the court. Out

of the thirteen districts, we stayed there 4 days, thirteen districts and we were

the last one to be heard. I don't know how in the world they ever figured out

who would go first. We didn't dare go out, we listened to every case and there

were some of the most pitiful cases I ever heard presented, I would have been

embarrassed. We showed up, we had ours bound, typed, ready for distribution, we

had our zone maps, we had pictures of the schools under construction, walls half

finished. We showed where we had already moved teachers and kids, totally

desegregated. When we made our presentation, I say we, I mean our attorney did,

course we had to wind him up."

Jean: This was, who was it?

Dr. T.: "This was Harry Duncan. Judge Wisdom was the presiding judge. He was about

this tall. (held hand up in the air) He wore glasses like yours (half glasses)

only not as big. He was just high enough to see over the counter. Griffin Bell,

who was to be the attorney general later, was one of the judges. I was impressed.

In fact, I had the distinction of being asked a question by the 14, I had to

answer, I am in the record. It was a real important question too, Griffin Bell

wanted to know, he said, Alachuway, he said, I go down to Micanopy, I go bird

hunting down there. Well, I thought we are among home folks here. All these damn

lawyers. He says, Gainesville, he says, Gainesville, that is where they

have that good black quarterback, Eddie McShan? I thought, man we done arrived."

Jean: We have us a buddy here, huh?

Dr. T.: "Anyway we presented our case and Griffin Bell said when we got through, it

took us half a day to present our case. Carswell excused himself and didn't hear

us, but we had thirteen judges. They all looked at each other and eulogized

and patted us, Griffin ell said this is what was meant by the Brown decision.

He said when all of you other twelve districts get to where this district is

you will have desegregated your system.

(end of tape Side #3)


We called a press conference and told them, we brought newspapers back from Houston.

We went on and had a good Christmas vacation and lo and behold we were sitting here

minding our own business and working like hell on these schools, planning, and

about the 20th of January, somewhere along in there, much to our surprise we

found out that the NAACP through the defense fund had appealed to the Supreme

Court, our case. The Supreme Court, much to our amazement, had upheld. The

Supreme Court said, look if you are so damn great and you can do all this stuff

in September, why can't you do it in February?"

Jean: You had planned to do all of this the next year?

Dr. T.: "Everything we presented was predicated on September of 1970. A semester

away. They said, it sounds great. Do it right now. We called our administrators

together and the board and on January 29th we closed the schools in Alachua

County, this was in 1970, and Februa y 7 we reopened the schools. We had moved

almost 400 teachers, we had moved several thousand child en, we had closed schools,

we had opened schools that didn't even exist yet. We converted Mebane from a

K-12 to a 5-8. We closed Lincoln, 1300 kids. GHS already had 2200 kids in it,

90 % white. We immediately took them another 1,000 solid black kids. We gave

them 3200 kids overnight, we put them on double sessions, we went from 7-12 with

12th grade, we went from 12-5 with llth grade and 10th grade. The only way you

could juggle shifts was with a unique schedule problem.

We took Westwood school, grades 7,8,9 and went from 7 in the morning to 12.

Then they cleaned out. Then we took the Buchholz student body that had already

been identified and zoned. They were also grades 7,8,9. We were going to start

them and let them add a year each year. We started them fna they went from 12-5.

We had two complete faculties, two complete administrations two complete janitors,

I mean everything. We had two schools in one building. We did the same thing

at Bishop with Eastside. That is when I knew that nothing is impossible."

Jean: When the Supreme Court says do it you do it, huh?

Dr. T.: "We got along February to about the last of March. The kids at Gainesville

High tolerated each other. Nobody, the blacks didn't want to be there, the

whites didn't want them there. Then we had our first riot over there. Personally

I think it was something you just almost had to do. I think the kids felt like

it was kind of expected of them, it was happening all over the nation. Everytime

we would have a riot it was a little less, but it was interesting times.

Then of course the following year Buchholz and Eastside still were not ready

in September but we were able to get into them about the middle or last of

October. Lincoln remained closed until we came up with the middle school.

Jean" That is all I am going to take of your time today. I may need you later. It

is 10 of six and you have to get home before you have someone coming for you

shortly. Thanks, etc.

( Tommy continued on with a story about a mob of blacks descending on the school

board building and coming in andrunning through the building. He faced them

alone because the board and Superintendent were out of town. I am hazy on the

details, but the general gist of aimless undirected anger was there. Black

students felt deprived and pushed but had no idea how, who or what to direct

all this against. As Tommy said, interesting times.)