Interview with Reverend John Powis
QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

Okay, you answered that question out of turn. Describe that night, in May '68, when the transfer decision was made, how it began and it was an all-night meeting as I understand it. Just describe that meeting to us.

JOHN POWIS:

There was a school board meeting that took place, I guess it was around April of '68, and it was just our regular board meeting except that the, what was on the agenda was what we were going to do with the teachers in the school that continued to, uh, to scuttle the, the, the experiment. And, uh, McCoy had given us a recommendation that these were the teachers that he thought should be transferred, and we struggled with it and we, we met, I guess we met from about 7:30, and I guess by 2:00 in the morning we were still meeting. And then some community people did come in, and also supported the fact that what McCoy wanted to do and what the board wanted to do, and, uh, at that point we decided to make a, a decision. And that decision was simply to ask the superintendent of schools to transfer those teachers. That is a common practice all over the city. When there's, when there's problems with a teacher, the superintendent calls up the Board of Ed, and the teacher's transferred. Now, true, it was thirteen teachers and that was a problem, but, uh, it was never meant to be the tremendous explosive, uh, thing that it became.

INTERVIEWER:

Cut.



INTERVIEWER:

Okay, we're talking about the May '68 strike. What are your memories of that, and how are the schools kept open? You had mentioned parent involvement and Black teachers earlier, could you talk about the May '68?

JOHN POWIS:

After the teachers were, were transferred, or, we tried to transfer the teachers, uh, the teachers' union pulled all the teachers out of the schools in May of 1968. And at first the thought was to just close down the schools. But then what we did was, all the parents who were involved in this program, we called upon parents to actually take over and run classes. And, the parents really rose to the occasion. And, uh, it was absolutely unbelievable to think of ord- just ordinary parents going to these classrooms and they would stay every afternoon and get their lesson plans and work for the next day, and that was being done by McCoy and his staff, and training, training the parents how to deal with the next day, and that's what they did. And as a result, all of our schools stayed open, and we had two nice graduations in the junior high schools, and we got through 'til June pretty well.