Interview with Albert Shanker
QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

Okay, let, that, that, that's in another area. How would you evaluate the job that the commun--the community board was trying to do in the beginning and talk about the process that, how the community board came about. Ho--ho--what's your evaluation of the community board and the job they were trying to do, the job that they were doing, I should say?

ALBERT SHANKER:

Well, I would say that, ah, in the first place it's, it's important to note they weren't elected. In the second place I, I, I, I wasn't, you know, part of, ah, of all the discussions and trials and tribulations but, ah, they had support from the central board and they had support from the union at the beginning. And, ah, over a fairly short period of time, ah, they really managed to lose a good deal of that support. And I believe they also lost a good of deal of support that they might have had within their own community. Ah, the fact that there were, ah, there were discussions about employing, ah, Herman Ferguson who was, ah, part of the Revolutionary Action Movement, was indicted for conspiracy to murder Civil Rights leaders. It obviously in a fairly short period of time, became something that moved away from the notion of education and moved very heavily into, ah, politics, a type of radical, and perhaps violent politics. So that was, ah, ah, that was a, ah, I would say a major shortcoming.

ALBERT SHANKER:

I had no problem. Rhody called me, ah, either just before or just at the time he got the job. And I remember that we were in negotiations and he came in and we had breakfast together at the hotel where the negotiations were taking place. And he was very friendly. He reminded me that we had met several times before. As a matter of fact he ended up teaching in the school where I used to be a kid, went to that elementary school. And we chatted and I offered him, ah, you know, cooperation and support. I didn't know him really and I didn't know Jack Bloomfield either. Ah, there might very well have been a stronger feeling on the part of teachers in the district for Bloomfield because they knew him. Ah, but as far as I was concerned, it really didn't make any difference to us. I, my view was that, ah, ah, we represent the teachers and, ah, we should not play very much of a role in selection of management. We'll work with anybody who, ah, who is management, provided that they are not out to destroy us or break the union or anything like that, but, ah, we never played a role for instance in, ah, in those days in trying to pick who the Superintendent of Schools was, not our job.

ALBERT SHANKER:

I didn't know where it was coming from, there were, there were flyers. When this experiment started, when the demonstration district was created, ah, teachers were divided. The union centrally was very much in favor of it, supported it very strongly. There were some teachers in the, in the district who supported it very warmly, who had had very close relationships with many of the people on the, on the community board and who worked closely with them. There were other teachers who were kind of wait and see. And there were still others who were just sort of shell-shocked. They, they did not want to have a community board. They didn't have a, they didn't want to have a selection of principals, and, and there were a number of things that happened during that first years. There's was literature that was passed around, mostly unsigned. Some of it was, ah, "Hate Whitey" types of stuff or anti-Semitic literature. Some of it was anti-union. So, there's, a could not tell where this was coming from. Nobody knew. Now obviously the teachers who were very much against the experiment, were saying, "Look this is coming from the Governing Board," and the other teachers were saying, "No, this is some, any nut can print this sort of thing. We don't know where it's coming from." But there was a good deal of unease. And I would say for some teachers, there was a good deal of hysteria during that early period. And one of the roles which the union played was that we actually, we, we, we helped the district, ah, to say, "Well, if you don't want these teachers and they don't want to be here, let's find a way of transferring them because we would like to have people who feel comfortable with and who support the experiment." And during that first year we actually assisted a number of teachers, ah, who were opposed and who were, ah, hysterical, we, we assisted them to transfer to other schools, to other districts.