Interview with Rhody McCoy

OK. In the fall of '67 there was a strike and you knew the strike was coming. Talk a little bit about the discussion to keep the schools open and, um, how that came about, how the community groups decided to keep the schools open.


One of the first things that we did was to organize around the schools. That is to have at least one "governing board member" for each school. And so we designed petitions, election petitions and groups to go around from door to door throughout the entire community to ask, 1) would they support a governing board, and 2) elect a representative from the school and an alternate. And they had to sign a petition and they had to sign a second petition so that, ah, there would be no conflict of interest, there would be no padding the ballot boxes and so forth. So there'd be two independent people with petitions representing each school. So we had the community heavily involved, and it, the question of, of being paid in money was no longer an issue because there wasn't enough money to pay all these people. Now you had both the community involved, you had a proposal on the table with the Ford Foundation, and the, and the teacher's unions supporting a pilot program for the summer. We got into it and we had the elections and a governing board was conceived and that governing board asked me to be the director. Ah, we fumbled around for titles and I still recall Hattie Bishop saying, "Pay him $75,000 a year," and everybody said, "My Lord, we'll sink the program." But with this governing board we now set about what were we going to do in the schools, what would be the program in the schools, what did this professional say would be the program in the schools. And we started organizing for September. The strike was being debated, ah, between, ah, city hall and, and the teacher's union, and in a sense it was peripheral to what we had to do. When it finally came down that it appeared that there was going to be a strike, ah, Mr. Shanker and a couple of his assistants, I think Sandy Feldman and somebody else came to our board to ask them to support the strike and not open the schools. At that point, when they made that request of the school board, I said "I don't want to be in this room if that decision is made, because I'm a hundred percent opposed to it and I think you should be opposed to it." And they were. And their feeling was, "Hey we've gotten an opportunity to run our schools, why would we now postpone it, I mean that's not us running the schools. We are now postponing it because somebody else is asking us to."