All interviews were taped and documented.  They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library.  The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

NARRATOR: Edwin Reynolds
INTERVIEWER: Mary Ellen Zuverink
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    December 5, 1984
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (12/1985)

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(I) As history really hasn't done.

(N) That is correct and that's what the monitors said and they were impressed with that, that we did not make it very different. Women the same way. With the resources, we are now able to do the same thing and work that in. And that happened very clearly in the schools in terms of that commitment so the program now I think is pretty reflective in what we have. I think we will need to make some changes. Reorganization of course in the district. We now have different configurations of grades. One of the things that I will be doing starting in January/February is to set up a social studies council of teachers to work with me, some kids and maybe some community people that are interested to hear some of my ideas and bring in their own and then to see where we want to go with it. What's going to happen, I have no idea. I have some ideas of what I think should happen and for one of the first times, I think I disagree with the national, they just came out with a big scope and sequence, I don't think we will do what national wants us to do.

(I) In what way?

(N) Well I think the national scope and sequence which has not been adopted officially by the organization yet but from what I saw when I was on the board, is a very traditional, it is right out of the early part of the twentieth century. It is not creative enough and I think we are going to go in a much more creative way. I don't know. I really don't know what I would like to see at this point. I don't want to

(END OF SIDE 1 - BEGIN SIDE 2)

(I) In the past, it sounds like you've been very innovative and tried to keep up, always keeping up. I was going to ask you what did you feel was unique about this, I mean you came here as a student doing student teaching and you chose to stay here. What is it that's held you in this ... probably multiple reasons but do you see any uniqueness or pull to stay here?

(N) There is no doubt in my mind. My former wife teaches up in Northern Highlands and she has told me the same thing. It is true. I stay here for the kids. I'd be bored silly with a completely homogeneous community where everything is dull and you do the same thing every day and you come in and it is easy and so on. There is a certain excitement about Teaneck which, though we will yell and scream a lot, is the life. It is really a microcosm of the whole country and maybe even the world right now. The problems we have here are the problems that we need to address and if we run and hide and pretend they don't exist then we are crazy and I think a lot of people are very happy doing that. And there are some mornings that I get up on a Monday where I feel, boy, it would be nice to go out there and move out to Pennsylvania and live out in the woods and just pretend the world doesn't exist. But the world is real and these kids are real and I think they are saying something to us and they are very exciting to work with. They are never dull. And you never know.

(I) Keeps your energy high.

(N) Oh yeah. And I think that is also one of the reasons I enjoy teaching a class. I know there is a certain energy that you need here that I don't think you need in some other places. I really have been all over this country in terms of education. Our national meetings are all over and I haven't missed one since 71 and I don't think I've found a place quite as exciting as this in terms of the kids so that's a big one. The second reason is the staff. And I put that pretty close. I said a long time ago to a very dear friend of mine who is now in the Foreign Service, Dave Rabinan, and I told Dave, I said, you know when the staff begins to shift enough and when they are not there to help you when you need them, it is time to move on. I really believe that. I think the support of the staff has been the key. In other words, they have given me the support and encouragement to do the things that I think we need to do so you are working with both the people who make it work as well as the consumers.

(I) The staff have stayed with you. You don't have a high turnover, I get the feeling.

(N) You know, it is funny. The key staff that went through a lot of these changes with me, several of them are gone now but we've been lucky. We've been able to pull in others to replace them and the amazing thing is that we still keep in touch. Dave who is now in Rotterdam, he just finished in Saudi Arabia, writes regularly and wants to know what is going on and so on. Barry Mascary who was the key with Carol Bott to writing our psych program, they still keep in touch regularly. Carol is a neighbor and she is on maternity leave and I would hope some day she will come back.

(I) When you look at new people coming in, you probably have your own set of criteria of what you expect from the newcomers.

(N) Absolutely. What I am expecting from newcomers is someone who can work with a group of people. The credentials, they are important but the key is someone who can go up into that office and begin to work with a group and really add to it and learn from it. I think that is the key. I think that is so important in terms of teaching. In other words, we can have the most brilliant person in the world but if the person can't really be a contributor to the "society" here, it is not going to really work out.

(I) And you've also served under a number of principals and you've seen superintendent leaderships, principal leaderships of this school. I'd like to know who you consider outstanding. Your memories or descriptions of these kinds of types of leaderships and what difference it has made to you?

(N) Well, if you are talking about high school, I've served under four. Helen Hill was the principal when I started here and then we had Bill Hendry briefly and then Mel Michaels and now Jim Delaney so there were four principals. If you are talking about the middle school, you had Howard Demit and now Neil Glazier at Thomas Jefferson; and you had Frank Allen and before him John Simmons at Benjamin Franklin so, yeah, a lot of principals.

(I) Do some of these stand out? I mean you probably have all kinds of memories in your archives. What comes up for you when you think of Helen Hill for instance?

(N) Helen Hill is probably still today one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. Helen Hill is a rare person. I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like her, national reputation. Phenomenal educator. I remember going to a meeting in Houston for the National Council of Social Studies and meeting some people there and they said, oh, you work with Helen Hill. Helen had long retired but they knew her back in the 60s and her reputation was then and is nationwide. She was a unique ...

(I) What is she known for? I mean what do they remember about her?

(N) Her sensitivity and I think that's what I remember her for. She was the principal of the school when women didn't do things and she ran a school, when I came to Teaneck there were 2,200 kids here and she ran a school with one assistant principal and she did it by hand. They didn't use computers. She did that schedule in the office, blocks of oak tag and I remember once walking into her office and I made the mistake of touching one of the oak tags and she said, if you screw that up ... but it was all there in pencil. She left it in pencil so she could erase it and she did it that way and she ran the school with Charlie Gunner and then of course Don Cougar joined but I think the big thing about Helen was her amazing ability to relate to people. She just had a knack, you can poke my memories. My memories of Helen are phenomenal. I'll tell you two stories about Helen Hill. One was the year she retired. The year after she retired, Bill Hendry was then principal and they invited Helen back to the commencement of the senior class the next year and it was a class that was very close to Helen and I happened to be working graduation. I was down in the T of the building and all the seniors line up inside and they were all very nervous because, my God, they are going up and they fell this is it! And Helen was brought into the building under the T and I happened to open the door for her and she walked in and those kids saw her. It didn't matter if the commencement was late, everybody just broke and came and started crying and hugging her. It was very moving and that's what the kids felt. I mean when she, when the kids got that wacky contest, WABC, to make her principal of the year, signing cards, sending them in, thousands, I mean millions of cards and most of us slipped a little bit. If you want to use the class time, go ahead. Nobody cared. But it was important that she win that and when she did, it was super. I mean she didn't even know what it was all about. It was just important.

The other story I will tell you is one that is a personal one. It was my first year here. I was a snot-nosed kid. And also had agreed to take the World Affairs Club and a group of my kids decided to invite some name speakers and my attitude was, invite anybody you want. If you want to invite the president, write a letter. You might be lucky. So anyway we wrote a lot of letters and I was sitting in the faculty room one day and I got a call from the office asking if I could come down right away because there was a phone call. So I trotted down there and it was Norman Thomas' secretary. And the guy who was on the phone with me said that the president of the club, Larry, had written him and wanted to know if Normal Thomas could come and speak in Teaneck and here I am, the new kid, and we worked it out that Norman Thomas could indeed come. He was going to be at Fairleigh and he could come over here and anyway, I don't want to get into that. We did invite him. He did come and it was one of the most moving days of my life. I had to drive him to New York and he was a name dropper, T.R. and I walked this coast but that wasn't the point. When he came, I got a lot of hate mail including some hate mail from right here in the school. A couple of staff members who thought that I was a Communist and why am I bringing in a Pinko and threats on my life and all kinds of crap. It was pretty, first of all it was earthshaking because here I am brand new in education. I got all these great ideas and here this man had come and had been moving and had told the kids, you could hardly hear them or see them and stop ... you know, you are not hearing it. I am telling you I failed, my generation failed. I have it on tape. I still have the tape. And the hate mail really was getting me down and of course it went to the board of education and the board of education was on my case and when you are in that, you are very much alone and the people who probably should have supported me, didn't want to know me because I was contagious. And I didn't know many people and I remember one day walking past the office.

(I) Now when was this about?

(N) 1967. I was walking past the office and the door opened and Helen came out and I kind of, she was king of like a sainted figure. She had just kind of, you kind of stood in awe of her. And I was walking by and she came out and she fell into stride next to me and she put her arm next to me and she said, "Ed, I just want you to know one thing. I know you are under pressure and I want you to know that whatever happens, I am going with you." Nothing else mattered. But that's how she was and she meant it. She meant it. And I didn't care what anybody said. A week later, Harvey Scribner who I had never met, I came here and never met him and he met me and he said, and he sent me the most beautiful letter of support I have ever seen and he said, "stand in the front." And I still have all those letters but it was that kind of sensitivity that really marks her to me as a unique individual. The other person I would say I would have to cite as, and I am not saying anything negative about the others, I don't think that's my job but I think that the other person I am very impressed with in terms of being a principal is Jim Delaney, the man here right now. I think Jim is technically and professionally, I think he is the best principal I have ever seen. I don't say it because he is in the building right now. I say it because I really believe it. I think Jim is a whip. I think he is a good man, he knows education, he is in the A.S.C.D. Network now for the United States. Extremely competent and organized. When we were asked last week, Skip called and asked us to go the board meeting tonight, I said does Jim know we are coming and he said, he didn't know. He was going to call him. So Jim came down and I said, I don't know whether we are going. If you are going, we are not needed. This morning he was here in that chair and he showed me, he's got all his papers ready for the meeting and we are going to go and listen to him but he is going to do it. Tremendous organizational skills and he gets things done. Supportive. He will come down to us in probably late March or April and say, here are the sections, here is your department schedule and he gives that responsibility and he means it.

(I) He trusts you. 

(N) Absolutely. And he uses his talent well. In other words, he uses the people who are here to support him and he knows it. He is not out there looking over your shoulder all the time. He gives you a job and says, get it done. And most of us respond very well to that. If you don't get it done, wel1 he will say, hey, you know, maybe you could do more here but I've never had that with him. Because he knows who he can trust and he gets the job done and I don't think many of us have any problem with that. He is also one of the only men I've seen that is a very fair evaluator. He really, he is very good. If we can identify weaknesses, we work together as a team and we really try to put it together for the teachers and I think he is, I am a Delaney fan and really feel very strongly about him, his abilities. He is a superlative administrator.

(I) Now when you were getting hate mail in the 60s and this was really a time of unrest

(N) No, this was before the unrest. This was in the early 60s. We keep getting back to that theme. It had to go with a number of "gentlemen" here who were members of the V.F.W. or the American Legion or whatever and they felt that Norman Thomas was anti-American, a Pinko, and that's what it was. It had nothing to do with anything more than that. They were just a couple of, I consider them the "lunatic fringe" and they were trying to say something. They threatened to picket the school. They were going to have members of the Legion out front with American flags, a boycott. But they never did anything. They never came. I guess for me it was a shock. Believe me, I've seen, one of the things that I have been very active in for the state of New Jersey is the development of a Holocaust curriculum with (inaudible names) I had written a very extensive program on Holocaust education which the state has adopted, the governor has supported. In fact the governor was here last year and that's brought out {inaudible}. I think it is becoming routine now. The only thing that is different about this is that we use it in the classroom. When John or I get a letter calling us names or calling kids names or telling us what we are, we simply let the kids see it and say, you know, they keep thinking that this happened a long time ago and it is gone. When they see a postmark three days ago and it is right there and it is handwritten, it hasn't gone far.

(I) You just use it for education.

(N) Sure. Just turn it around. And we did a workshop at Kean College in October. We took some down and we told the teachers this is what we do. We just simply, we don't like getting it but if it is there and there isn't much we can do about it, we simply tell kids that we'd like to say it is going to go away but unless they make it go away by what they do in terms of learning and improving the society, it is not going to go away. And the kids really latch on to that. They really do. We have a core of kids who have been very active with us, have been interviewed and have been on the TV with us and so on and it is just, that's been a really moving experience, for us in terms of the program. We teach the Holocaust in our ninth grade program and also in the high school. It has been good.

(I) Are there any other principals that you might know, the "old timers" of the ones that you mentioned, do any other kind of things stand out for you? Positive or negative.

(N) Well I think something certainly stands out about every principal you work with. No doubt in my mind that each has a style, each brings something to the job and I can certainly say what my major memories of each one of them. John Simmons for example was highly organized and very efficient person in terms of running a building. He certainly got things going very well. As opposed to Howard Demit who was very easy going and very smooth and very personable. Sort of different personality styles. What you learn as a supervisor is that you have to work with all of them so you tend to address whatever they want. I think that we have been very lucky here in that we have had, from my role, men who were willing to, where I say men in the secondary, we have not yet had a female principal in our secondary but we have had them in the elementary schools but the men that have been in the role here in the secondary school have been supportive and have used us. I think the high school uses us more and better because of the nature of the beast. It is simply too big for one person to do it. Most of us would like to see the involvement in the middle schools and the elementary schools increase in terms of involvement in decision making but that's a turf thing. We walk very softly on it. We are very sensitive to it so you know we don't say a lot. We just sit. But when they need us, they know that they can call and I think all of them do that so I think that's been positive. Jim the most effectively. He uses us the most effectively of all of the principals. And certainly Neil Galzier and Frank Allen use us very well too. We work closely with all of them.

(I) Is, you've seen a lot of changes in the student body. Has anything come up for you in sort of the whole overlay of the land and the shifts of the student body through all of these years, you know in a twenty year period?

(N) I think kids are freer today. The kids today tend to be much more outspoken in terms of what they feel they can say. I think there were certain societal restraints on kids, Kids were certainly better dressed back in the 60s. Everybody screams a lot about they are sloppy looking. I don't know. I think there is a basic, I was going to use that cliche "kids are kids". I am not sure that is true. I think kids today are much more influenced by the media. I think kids today are becoming much more in tune with computers which I think is a necessary thing but I think the obsession with them is dangerous because I think it is leading us to a society of people who are beginning to lose feeling. I have a very good personal friend whose son is a computer buff and that kid has absolutely no emotional sense at all. It scares me. I mean this kid since he was six was into computer. My wife was telling me of a case last night of a seven year old who is getting a computer for Christmas just because the kid wants a computer. And that's fine but there is a lot more to living than that so I think that kind of change scares me a little bit.

(I) You see a lot, interpersonal relationships are important to you obviously.

(N) Yeah, I would hope they would be important to everyone. I mean I would hate to think of a world where the only thing we have is computers. I think that kind of scares me. I think they are important but I don't think, if you get beyond that human element, I think it is scary and I think it is most important in social studies. That is one of our goals is to care about each other. And if you are dealing with global relationships and interrelationships, how do you do that? So that's a change. I think the obvious thrust of your question is the minority balance. I think that Teaneck has a growing minority population which, from what I understand now, is fairly stable but I will tell you, I don't know that that is nearly as important as the other things I've said. I think we have built a program and we try to meet their needs. That is all kids needs here. I think we have no more maybe no less problems than a lot of other districts going through the same type of racial struggle. I would rather go through that struggle and work out the problems here as I said earlier than avoid it. I think this is the world. I think a lot of people like to make more of it such as THE BERGEN RECORD which likes to play up every minor incident and blow it out of proportion and I think that is one of the thrusts that I hear coming through a lot and I lose my temper quite often when people try to find that kind of thing. I am really convinced that if they just left us alone and let us do our thing here, we could solve it but the constant people who have to look in and create things that may not exist do more damage than they do good. I think if there are problems here, we need to address them openly and I am not saying we should hide them and I object to that just as much but I don't think we need to embellish them by constantly talking about them and reminding people about this and that. I think we could resolve a lot in this school and in Teaneck if we were just left to do it but one of the problems is that we are living in an age where everything is opened to everybody.

(I) Without something being blown out of proportion.

(N) Well the problem is you get a lot of misinformation. I can't tell you how many times I read stories in the SUBURBANITE or THE RECORD which are simply not true. They are based on a rumor or a story or somebody said and so on and instead of checking it out, they write a story and then by the next day, it is too late because now it is out and now we have to go back and we have to undo the damage and everything starts off with problems. But I think that the numbers are important. I would say people should perhaps spend a lot more time looking at what those kids were achieving, the schools they are going to, the fact that most kids, black and white, are doing about the same as we were doing when we were 90% white or whatever and maybe we should spend more time stressing that. It is almost as if we were saying, gee, because we have blacks, we have to have problems. We had problems when we were all white.

 

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