|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:||Harvey Scribner & Teaneck Gala|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (12/1985)|
We didn't depend upon the federal office. We had a job to do and we did it ourselves at the local level and I had to say thank God for that and we had the people to do it.
(I) (The interviewer at this point is not June Kapell. It is a man but no name is given) Is there one particular person currently in office in Teaneck? Were there any particular people, aside from yourself, who are currently in office in Teaneck who you might want to point your finger at as particularly. .
(N) I am grateful to them all. They, even the people who fought it, played a role far more important than you might realize and that is that they kept us honest, they kept me thinking all the time, they kept me close to the grindstone asking, you know, is this right? And that's not bad as long as there are not too many of them.
(I) May I add this Harvey. There is an individual here tonight. Gene Saypol, that was an antagonist, anti, he is here tonight to pay tribute to Harvey Scribner.
(N) That's interesting.
(I) If you want to introduce Saypol, fine. He is here tonight.
(N) Fine, point him out to me. And if you see any of the board members.
(I) Oh, there are a lot of them here. The board members will be introduced. They are here.
(N) Great board. One of the greatest boards that any school system could have on hand.
(I) Harvey got to see his public you know.
INTRODUCTION BY SPEAKER
A person who came to Teaneck in 1983, having already made noteworthy accomplishments as a classroom teacher in English and the emotionally disturbed in Newton, Abiton and Brookline schools in Massachusetts; assistant professor, English and Education, Salem State College, Salem, Massachusetts; associate professor of education, Central Connecticut State College, New Britain, Connecticut; assistant to the dean of the University of Hartford; principal of Shante Public High School, Hartford, Connecticut; chief consultant of the U.S. Commission on the International Year of the Child, Children's Advisory Panel; senior assistant to the superintendent of schools for policy and management, Hartford Public Schools; and executive administrator of the Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education. He received his A. B. degree in classics in English at Boston College in 1961; masters of art in the teaching of English, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island in 1963; advanced standing in higher education, Boston College, 1967; degree of doctorate of education, University of Massachusetts, 1973; and a certificate in Spanish language in 1979/1980, a language of which he is most fluent. The list of publications and conferences chaired are too numerous to mention. Perhaps significant for us tonight are his numerous writings about alternative schools including authoring and narrating a dramatic television program about alternative education. Since coming to Teaneck, he has continued to demonstrate his scholarly and leadership abilities through the reorganization of Teaneck public schools, the restructuring of the alternative school into an academy in arts and science, the inclusion of Greek in the sixth grade cycle having written LET US LEARN GREEK a textbook developed with Professor Dorothy Bell Pollack and introducing to the community a series of educational programs. While his academic credentials, experiences and accomplishments are most outstanding, the vitality and determination to continue quality integrated education are among his highest priorities as the educational leader in this district. It is not unusual to see him in a classroom teaching a foreign language, telling a story, sharing some experiences from his many travels, or walking the halls where many students greet him by his name. It is no wonder that in the most recent evaluation of the Teaneck schools, members from the state were most impressed that not only did the superintendent leave his office but that many students knew him as well. A mountain climber, having met such challenges as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, marching for freedom at the foothills of the Appalachians in the Civil Rights Marches in Birmingham in the 1960s, a concert singer and a balladeer, I bring to you the superintendent of schools of Teaneck, Dr. Gene Mulcahy, one of the guiding spirits behind the Teaneck Foundation of Children, our master of ceremonies for the evening, Dr. Mulcahy.
DR. MULCAHY (M) First I'd like to make this announcement - that at tonight's meeting there will not be a public portion. For those of you who have got notes, I am terribly sorry that we won't have the opportunity to hear from you. Tonight is a grand and glorious night. It is a night as described in the promotional literature as both a celebration of things past and an inauguration of things to come. As Theo told you, I've been in Teaneck about two years. When I first came, the vice president of the board, Margaret Angeli, gave me a copy of Mildred Taylor's history of Teaneck. Yes, there is another book about Teaneck and in the history, the derivation of the word Teaneck is discussed and it says as follows: "according to a Leni Lenape English dictionary compiled by Moravian missionaries, tekenai was a word for woods and neck meant place, hence, place of the woods. The Dutch who holonized many place names and often did not use uniform spelling would have it teaneneck with about the same results. teana in Dutch meant willow and so it came to mean the neck where there are willows. There is a third version of the history of the name of Teaneck, however, and in this version, it is presumed to be an as yet unidentified ethnology whose meaning is "if we can make a horrendous stink about an issue, we will find a way." when I first came here, many of the superintendents talked about the difficulty they had in their districts with the problem of apathy. Apathy I thought, at first, they meant apoplexy. But Teaneck is indeed a most unusual town and its extraordinary nature is so clearly evident this evening as the people from many generations struggle in the interests of quality, integrated education come forward to join tonight in honoring those people in our community who in 1964 made a decision of courage and integrity. The event this evening is sponsored by the Teaneck Foundation for Children. That organization is seeking to provide all children in our community with resources to supplement and add to the educational opportunity of children. It is my pleasure to present to you a lifetime good-guy, the president of the Teaneck Foundation for Children, John B. Foley.
JOHN B. FOLEY (F) They told me not to talk for more than two or three hours, is that correct? Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I know it seems like old times seeing so many of our long time friends here this evening. There is one thread that ties us all together. Though it is not politics, it is not race, it is not religion, it is not color nor is it the nationality of our parents. That thread is the children of Teaneck. Yes, we all care about the education of Teaneck's children. And that's what tonight's gala is all about. On behalf of the Teaneck Foundation for Children, we thank you for your moral and financial support and we hope you will have a very pleasant evening. Thank you.
(M) The maintenance of a commitment to integrated quality education is possible to sustain only in a community where the people who live therein care desperately and deeply about creative, quality, integrated living. For that is the context in which an integrated school system can thrive. The maintenance of that commitment is a paramount interest to each citizen of our community and we are willing to take stands on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis to affirm our commitment to our style of living. Much of the leadership in more recent years in this effort has come from a man who now serves our community as its mayor. He has long been a resident of the community and his own credentials as a Teaneck resident date back to 1964 and Dr. Scribner's times and he now exerts leadership which is seen not only in this community but recognized throughout our nation as strong, powerful, positive and supportive. Ladies and gentlemen, the mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, the Honorable Bernie Brooks.
BERNIE BROOKS (B) When Theodora Lacey was reading the credits for Dr. Mulcahy, she mentioned that he was a balladeer, a raconteur (?) and now I am going to say he is also a lexicologist but I also want you to know that there are no seats open on the Teaneck township council. And I say that in jest. I would welcome it if you decided to run. I think that this is a very special occasion. If you can't hear me, you are lucky. I think this is a very special occasion not only because they are honoring, or the Teaneck Foundation for the Children put this together, because we have in our midst tonight Dr. Scribner who was part of all of this and many of you in the audience were part of all this happening in Teaneck in the most positive way. It is so good for me to be mayor of Teaneck, a town that has a history of so many positive activities and I'd like to offer this proclamation:
WHEREAS THE TEANECK FOUNDATION FOR CHILDREN WAS FORMED ONE YEAR AGO AND WHEREAS THE PURPOSE OF THIS ORGANIZATION IS TO PROVIDE FUNDS TO BENEFIT ALL CHILDREN IN TEANECK PUBLIC AND NON-PUBLIC SCHOOLS, TO PUT A SPARKLE IN EDUCATION, WHEREAS IN 1965, THIS TOWNSHIP WAS THE FIRST COMMUNITY IN AMERICA TO TRULY INTEGRATE ITS SCHOOLS AND THE COMMITMENT TODAY REMAINS AS STRONG AND AS FIRM AS IT WAS THEN, NOW THEREFORE I, BERNARD E. BROOKS, MAYOR OF THE TOWNSHIP OF TEANECK, HEREBY PROCLAIM THAT SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 1985, BE SET ASIDE AS THE DAY TO HONOR THE TEANECK FOUNDATION FOR CHILDREN INAUGURATION AND THE TWENTIETH YEAR CELEBRATION OF INTEGRATED EDUCATION IN TEANECK, NEW JERSEY and I am going to give this proclamation to Dr. Mulcahy to be archived and please don't take this as a sign that you can go out and park indiscriminately.
(M) When I first came to Teaneck, Mayor Brooks attended a welcome on my behalf and he said that the greatest thing about this town is that everybody can live here in peace and joy and friendship and I have found that this is a truth and it is true because in part of the leadership he provides. I would like to introduce for you the members of the Teaneck Council, the entire council is with us this evening and I would ask each of the members to stand as I call their names. Deputy Mayor Bradford Menkes; Edelman (Andrew); Frank Hall; Eleanor Kieliszek, Lucille Steiner and Peter Zeleny and Mayor Brooks. Also present with us this evening are other executive level, policy level people in our town government. The Chairperson of the Planning Board, Sidney J. Pollack; Board of Adjustment Chairman Thomas Boyd; and Community Relations Chairperson Gertrude Schwimmer. Their presence here tonight is endemic of the kind of support and cooperation that issues of import and significance receive from the township in Teaneck. I would also like to introduce to you the board of directors of the Teaneck Foundation for Children, the secretary/corresponding secretary Dorothy Bell Pollack; recording secretary Lucy Stamilla; treasurer Marie Warnke; Tom Boyd; the chairperson of tonight's event (unclear); Senator Matthew Feldman; Theodora Lacey; Bob McGrath; Dr. Milford Parker; and our president, John B. Foley.
I have some correspondence which I will read. The first letter I received and want to make you aware of was a most gracious letter from the Teaneck chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women and an apology from the Council that today happens to fall during their annual national convention but the Chapter wishes that I extend to our distinguished honorees, the board of 1964 and Dr. Scribner, their very deepest and best wishes. I have a telegram from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Mr. Foley. "Sorry I am unable to be with you at the gala tonight. As you know, it is a cause close to my heart. Bob McGrath." A telegram received for Senator Matthew Feldman, "Please accept my good wishes on your celebration gala this evening on behalf of the Teaneck Foundation for Children ... Governor Thomas Kean." A letter from the Congress of the united States, "I appreciate your contacting my office on behalf of the Teaneck Foundation for Children and the kind invitation to attend the celebration gala this Sunday. Unfortunately a previous commitment prevents my being there. I would like to send my warmest best wishes to all members and participants of the Teaneck Foundation, the board of 1964 and Dr. Scribner. I wish you great success with this event and in the future. Best regards, Robert Toricelli, Member of Congress."
Another letter, "Unfortunately (blur in tape) in Teaneck on the issue of integrated schools voluntarily and it was an issue that grabbed the nation's attention and an issue to which the citizens of Teaneck were willing to address themselves with courage and great integrity. At that time, the mayor of Teaneck was Matthew Feldman and he was having the kind of impact on the community with his integrity (inaudible) which since we know he has extended to the state and indeed to the nation. About a year ago, I was at a meeting in Washington in which several congress people were in attendance and I was introduced to one of them with the fact that I was superintendent of schools in Teaneck and the congressman suddenly called everyone to attention and said that, "Ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, this is Gene Mulcahy. He is the superintendent of schools in Matty Feldman's home town. Ladies and gentlemen, the mayor of Teaneck in 1964 and the elected senator the elected senator from this senatorial district, the Honorable Senator Matthew Feldman.
MATTHEW FELDMAN: Thank you Gene and Father Joel and there is Rabbi Vogel here from Beth Aaron and friends. Gene, you've been a wonderful master of ceremonies and in presenting perhaps a dozen names without making a mistake brings to mind the gala that Muriel and I attended in St. Croix. We were the guests of Senator Fairleigh Dickinson, Jr. and it was a political dinner and the master of ceremonies was introducing the dias, now he comes to the Tom Kean counterpart of the Virgin Islands and with a great deal of pride and gusto, he gives him a great buildup and the climactic moment comes and he says, Ladies and gentlemen, it is with the greatest of pleasure that I present to you the Virgin of Governor's Island. Here I am. I the seventh speaker this evening but Theodora opened it up and passed it on to you and being the seventh speaker makes me feel like Elizabeth Taylor's seventh husband. I know what to do but how do you make it interesting? But this is the first WASP Bar Mitzvah in honor of Harvey Scribner. You will note that there were no fruit cups served this evening because it had been said that when Matty Feldman sees a fruit cup, he wants to make a speech. But tonight it is greetings and a few words from the heart we delivered ourselves because of our great master of ceremonies but when I was invited to speak tonight on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of our community's plight for integrating schools, it was with a sense of astonishment that I realized that a generation has passed since those memorable and exhilarating days of battle in the 1960s.
Children born in 1960 or later who entered the Teaneck public schools in 1965 or later have never known a segregated public schools system in their lives. The kindergartens of 1965 were graduated from Teaneck High School in 1978. A generation ago but still fresh in the minds of those of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to change the destiny of a community and perhaps of a nation. Perhaps Dr. Scribner, Harvey Scribner, he doesn't like to be called doctor, Harvey Scribner will recall the details of a struggle for the benefit of those of you who were not part of it but Gene Mulcahy our (inaudible) and toastmaster has asked us to limit our remarks to five minutes each and I would like to use my allotted time to make a few observations about my own role in those drama-filled days of the 60s. As your mayor at that time, I felt restrained by the communities long and respected position of keeping separate the operations of the municipal government and the public schools and I saw the integration, conflict as a profound moral issue but I was most reluctant to intervene because I was concerned about violating that tradition of separation. As a private citizen, however, I did take a most active role in the development of the pivotal board of education campaign that I perceived to be a battle to preserve Teaneck's equally long and Teaneck's equally proud tradition of fairness and progressivism. Once the central sixth grade plan had been adopted, the opposition was far from (inaudible) when the school year was about to begin. An organized effort was mounted to persuade parents to keep their children from attending school on opening day as a demonstration of their opposition to the plan. I received many phone calls "If you as mayor allow this plan to go through, Teaneck will be up in flames. We are going to throw our bodies across these buses that are going to transport our children to the public schools." And I felt in those years I could be silent no longer. I addressed the community on radio urging parents not to use their children as pawns in a struggle among adults and I cannot say whether my words had any effect but the boycott thankfully was an almost total failure. The central sixth grade plan was implemented with a few hitches of course but none of a serious nature.
And the crises was over. Twenty years later, I have taken this occasion to reflect on my judgments and my actions and I find no cause to regret. I even reread Reg Damerall's book which I haven't read in twenty years. I was elated when the book was published. I was elated when I heard that CBS might make a documentary and I thought Paul Newman was going to play Mayor Feldman. Educational philosophies are dynamic. They are ever-changing. It is not possible for any of us to know what would have happened if Teaneck had not integrated its public school system when it did. It is possible of course for us to speculate on the other (inaudible) and I am satisfied that those of us who fought so hard, each and everyone of us in this room who fought so hard for what we saw as justice and equity made the right decision. And I'll conclude with this observation on the struggle that took place two decades ago throughout my years in public office, I have spoken frequently and passionately at times in support of public involvement in the process of government and I am convinced that our society cannot flourish without this participation. I cannot think of a better example (END OF TAPE - BEGIN SIDE 2)
(CONTINUATION OF MATTY FELDMAN SPEECH)
... not a melting pot. We are a pluralistic society with pride in our heritages, pride in our diversities, knowing that out of this and because of it has come the glory of Teaneck. You've made it possible with a microcosm of America and America has looked to us as one who by (inaudible) integrated this school system under that great leadership, that great spiritual and educational leadership of a Harvey Scribner. I am proud to be here and let's rejoice.
(M) ...I'd like to introduce two special guests who are joining us this evening. Former Teaneck superintendent of schools, Aubrey Sher; Dr. Scribner's executive assistant when he was in New York, presently the superintendent of schools in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, Dr. Jack (inaudible). The president of the Teaneck Board of Education passed a commemorative resolution on behalf of this event and what it stands for. Teaneck is both a place of extraordinary progress and of great tradition. The present president of the Teaneck Board of Education succeeds on that board his father, Robert Morrill, Sr., who served on the board in 1946. Bob has spent most of the last decade as a member of the Board of Education and then this past year as its president. In that role, he has stood strongly for fiscal responsibility, he has been clear about his commitment to quality integrated education, to the needs of handicapped and special education children and his great concern for and interest in the preservation and extension of programs in the arts. He has been a great leader and a great supporter in his role as president of the board, has provided strength and leadership to the board in these times which also have their perilous moments. Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the Teaneck Board of Education, Robert M. Morrill, Jr.
BOB MORRILL: ... if Milt Bell and George Larson and Bernie Confer, if you guys only knew what you did to the board today. If you think you had problems, try running those buses without aids. I mean, you want to have a lot of people turn out at a board meeting, try running them without aids. But anyway, being on the board since 1970, I've served with a lot of different board members and a lot of very, very fine superintendents and I must admit that over all these years, no matter what major policy decision any board of education or any board member I have served with, that decision was made keeping the principles that were established by that board in 1964 as far as their commitment to the Teaneck community. And there isn't an educational decision that was made by any superintendent right up to today's present superintendent, Dr. Mulcahy, that doesn't encompass those decisions so I should think that all of you that were involved in making that decision, the board members and the people that were courageous enough to stand by, Matty Feldman and the rest of you should be very, very proud because when you look out and see what we see on the board of education, when you have a school district where you have 80/85% of our children going on to the higher education and the test scores are amazing, the types of programs that these kids are involved in under the leadership of the educators of our community, the principals and the teachers, it is just amazing and fantastic. People ask me why I keep running and I tell them, I just love the dynamics of the situation and I love the dynamics of the town and anybody who doesn't enjoy it, has to be crazy. It is a wonderful place to live. I'd like to read this document that was prepared on March 13th and officially entered into the board resolution: WHEREAS THE TEANECK BOARD OF EDUCATION CHERISHES DEEPLY THE PRINCIPLES OF QUALITY INTEGRATED EDUCATION AND WHEREAS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IS INEXORABLY COMMITTED TO THE RIGHT OF EACH CHILDREN TO LEARN TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF HIS OR HER CAPACITY REGARDLESS OF COLOR, RELIGIOUS CONVICTION, ETHNIC BACKGROUND OR HANDICAP, WHEREAS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION SEEKS (tape stops and then continues at another point)
Former members of the Teaneck Board of Education - Fred Bernstein, Joe Coffee, (inaudible), Bernadine (?), (inaudible), Dorothy Bell Pollack, Art Simon, Lucille Steiner, Peter Zeleny (tape stops and then continues again)
There are three members of; the board and I'll ask each to stand to receive your applause, Ladies and gentlemen, the 1964 Board of Education member, Dr. Milton Bell; Ladies and gentlemen, 1964 board of education member, LaMar Jones; Ladies and gentlemen, 1964 board of education member, George Larson; It is the board the stars fell upon and strong they were in maintaining their responsibility for what was fair and just. I now wish to call forward to speak with you the president of that board and I was reminded as I thought of the task of introducing him and a joyful one it is because he has been my good friend during my time here in Teaneck, in the words of Milton., "behold the glorious days gone by, truthful with golden deeds. For it is those days and those deeds which have made possible joy and love today. " Ladies and gentlemen, Bernard Confer.