Up Front and Personal

by Norma Blair Gilmore '47

I have had to use a certain technique only once with three staff members, but it was necessary for the situation. The three staff members consisted of a social worker who wanted to be the new director of special education, but had no certificate for the position; a speech language therapist, her buddy; and a young psychologist who worked closely with them. They were employed by a Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), which is an administrative unit that provided support services to small or rural school districts.

I had been director of special education twice before in this BOCES and had returned to live in the area as a retiree. The directorship opened up, and I was hired for the third time—not the social worker. She was extremely unhappy, as were her friends. From the moment I was on the job, they were negative, complained about everything, made snide remarks about me and what I did. I knew that this had to be nipped in the bud, so I gave considerable thought to how I should handle it. I concluded that I must talk to them away from the other staff members; tell them what they were doing; not be nasty or mean, but tell it like it was; let them know that we have to function like a team; no discussion, just facts.

One afternoon, the three women were in a small office, and I walked in. I told them that they were acting like spoiled children who did not have their way; told them what they were doing; cited three incidents; and discussed how we must function like a team. Then I walked out. I discussed it with no one else. Their faces and body language showed shock and surprise, but they functioned as a team after that. I do not know if they talked about it with anyone, but I assume that the social worker discussed it with her husband, and the psychologist discussed it with her father (also a psychologist). The speech language pathologist went with what her friend said and did.

I have never mentioned the situation to anyone until this article, which could give the reader ideas to adapt to her own situation.

The following year, the social worker’s husband took a position in an adjacent BOCES, causing them to move. She took the required coursework and became certified to be a director of special education. A year later, there was an opening in her area and she became the director of special education for the adjacent BOCES. She was happy.

The speech language pathologist stayed another year with us and then married the social worker’s brother-in-law and moved to the adjacent BOCES. She was happy.

The psychologist married during the summer and moved to an urban area. She was happy.

I hired new staff replacements. Four years later, I was again retiring. I was on an area board where the former social worker, now director of special education, was chair. At the last board meeting, she gave me a metal aluminum sculpture of a dove in flight. It sits on my desk; I feel that it represents peace.