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College Park Oral History Night 2023 with Educational Leader Gary Schadow

Reading is so important. I used to say to dads all the time, “Are you reading with your children?” And by the way, I have seven. I was an educator. But anyways, and I would say, “Read with them nightly. Because if all they ever see you do is sports, outdoor fishing, they’re going to think that’s the most important thing.” Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Educational Leader Gary Schadow, September 25, 2023.

Gary Schadow has served as an Administrator, Educator, and Coach at numerous educational institutions in the Central Florida region. He has taught at Edgewater High School, FTU now known as UCF, Howard Middle School, Union Park Junior High School, Valencia Community College and more. He was the first Advanced Placement Teacher at Edgewater High School. He taught Advanced Placement Biology, and all the students scored a three or higher on the exam except one. He served as Principal at College Park Middle School/Lee Middle School, Dream Lake Elementary School, Lockhart Middle School and has mentored and coached numerous students. Gary is now retired and engages with the community sharing his educational insights at the College Park Historical Society Oral History Night 2023 event on September 25, 2023, at the College Park Neighborhood Center.

We invite you to listen to this oral history interview with Educational Leader Gary Schadow!

My name is Gary Schadow and I was born in Lockport, New York in 1948. So to give you some idea about Lockport, it is north of Buffalo. It is on the Erie Barge Canal, that’s where it got its name, because there are locks there for the old barges that used to go [into the Great Lakes] pulled by horses by the way. That’s where I started off.

That’s an historic community. They just a had a big celebration of the locks honoring the German and Irish immigrants who built the Erie Canal. So is that where you grew up?

I grew up in New York for ten years, until 1958. And in 1958, we came to Florida for the first time down to Tampa because we had a relative there. Stayed about a year. My Dad was in construction and at the end of that year we went up to New Jersey where my Dad started to work for companies that were putting in ballistic missiles for the government. And so, for the next six years, we moved two times a year. Kind of like being in the military? Yes, because every six months we would move. And the last time, to give you an idea, I went from Florida to New Jersey to Cape Cod, Massachusetts [Newport News, Virginia] to Topeka, Kansas to Hobart, Oklahoma out to Seattle, Washington over to Great Falls, Montana and finished off at Stanley, North Dakota before we came back to Tampa. And then went from Tampa to Cocoa Beach. 1966 Cocoa Beach graduate.

You said your father was in construction, and your mother, did she work outside of the home?

The only time she worked outside of the home was [when] she worked in a canning factory that closed down and actually went to Mexico. And it’s back in the fifties, if you have an idea of what was going on at that particular time. But the rest was home.

Did you know your grandparents?

I met my mom’s mother and father about twice… My father’s dad passed away when he was a teenager and I never met his mother, so the answer is basically not really. It was my mom and dad and my brother, who is older, and myself and that was it. That was our family for a long time.

What was a typical Sunday like for you growing up? What would you do?

My Dad tried to teach me music. He tried to teach me guitar. But when I sat in my room at night practicing and I looked out, there were some guys from the neighborhood playing baseball. So unfortunately or fortunately, I was one that just liked athletics. And so, that’s where I went. I was a letdown on music. I can turn the radio on and off and that’s about it.

How would you spend your summer? What would you do for fun in the summertime?

A lot of times there were orchards where we grew up, cherries, apples, stuff like that. And we’d go to the orchards and kind of pick up stuff off the ground as well as raspberries. We used to ride our bikes because I was raised in a time when it was like, I could leave the house at eight o’clock in the morning and the instructions were, “You’re home at noon for lunch, you’re back out and we’ll see you at five o’clock.” I mean, so when I was in Montana we used to get on our bikes and ride. In Oklahoma, we would do the same thing. We would spend a lot of time in Oklahoma in the rivers fishing. So, yeah, we were like outside kids and did all that, that way.

Sounds like a lot of fun.

It was.

Do you have special memories of school growing up?

I have several. Growing up, one of the things that I found out about educators was when you ran into a good one – and I told you how much we moved – there were some that were very welcoming: “I’m glad you’re here.” And we’re going to get you caught up if you were behind or whatever else, because things didn’t always match up. And then every once and a while, you’d run into the oddball like the teacher who said, “You know, nobody wants you here.” I remember that and I’ve never talked to her again. I think she’d be surprised to find out that I became an Educator. So, yes.

Did you have favorite subjects?

Yes, I was kind of one of these Math and Science people. I just was.

Would you tell us about your career path? Was there a certain point that you decided you wanted to become an Educator?

I decided in high school that I wanted to become a teacher... I wanted to go become a teacherwhen I told my Dad that… I went to Brevard Community College and then I went to FTU. You know it as UCF, I knew it as FTU. I was a graduate student in FTU in 1970, first graduating class. His point was, well, if you’re going to go to college and do all that, why don’t you get yourself a good paying job instead of being a teacher. But I love learning and sharing and that kind of stuff. So, that started it all for me. And it’s because I had some awesome teachers in high school that again helped shape my life. Because what was at home and what was at school was a lot different.

Do you want to tell us about some of your awesome teachers?

Oh, gosh. I’m 75 now, so I have to apologize if names don’t stick with me. I can tell you who they were in terms of what they taught and that stuff.

German Teacher at Cocoa

But I had a German Teacher at Cocoa Beach, very important.

Female Math and Chemistry Teachers

I had a Math Teacher and a Chemistry Teacher. Math and Chemistry were both females which was kind of unusual. Because if you go back into the sixties, predominant at high schools was males. The same thing in junior high school. And it started to change later. Now, if you go to middle school or high school, males are rare. Males are rare in elementary school. I had like three on my staff at Dream Lake.

“Each of them played an important part in my life.”

Each one of them played an important part in my life. Most of it was encouraging. It’s like, you got this. You’re going to do fine.

When did you first come to College Park? Do you have a memory of your first visit here?

First visit was, I’m going to say, 1990. Well, let me back up, 1979 is when I went to Edgewater High School [as a teacher]. Because prior to that I was at Union Park Junior High School, the Science Teacher. Science Teacher down at Howard [Junior High]. Dallas Maddron was the county science supervisor. And Dallas goes, “Gary there’s an opening at Edgewater High School.” And the Principal at that time was Charlie Rohrer. And I was working with high school kids during the summer. It was a federal grant during the summertime. We built boardwalks with the high school kids. We built a boardwalk up at Kelly Park, Wekiva Springs, Turkey Lake, over at Mead Gardens. Anyways, I was dressed like Mead Garden with kids. I mean, we’re out in the summertime and Dallas goes, “You need to go see Mr. Rohrer.” I smell like a skunk and I’m sweating and he goes, “No, you need to go.”

Teaching at Howard, Valencia and UCF

So I went to see him and he offered me the job after that. The teacher that I replaced actually went to teach at Valencia. And when I was teaching at Howard as a science teacher one of my students said, “My Dad works at Valencia and he wants to talk to you.” And so, I talked to him and he offered me a job. So I was an adjunct at Valencia for 13 years. I also taught a few semesters at UCF as an adjunct until I became a Principal. And then it was like, there is no time to do those things. If you’re a good Principal, you’re working ten to twelve hours a day. That just goes with it.

So the places that you mentioned at Valencia and UCF and here in College Park, you taught Science?

Yes. I taught Biology, Anatomy and Physiology. I was the first AP teacher at Edgewater. I taught AP Biology. All of my students got a three or higher on the exam except one. They’re great kids. It wasn’t me. It was them. Yeah, but I did Ecology. I did Anatomy. I did Biology at Valencia. But at UCF, I was doing Education classes, except one senior class had to do with the use of drugs and all that.

So in teaching Science, would you tell us about what a typical Science class with you might be like, your teaching methods?

Well, did I lecture? Yes. I think the other thing that made me stand out, I did a lot of experiments or had the kids do a lot of experiments. When you’re talking about Anatomy & Physiology, did we dissect cats? Yes, we did. Did one of my students take one home and put it on their neighbor’s porch because they were having an argument with the neighbor? Yes, they did. The police showed up and they go, “Is this yours?” And I go, “Let me look first.”

Hands-on Experiences and Asking Students Questions

Yes, but I was very much into hands-on. Because if you are going to remember stuff, when you do it physically it sticks. Just being told, yes, I heard it, I understand it, but unless I go back over that, it’s not going to stick with you. And so, I tried to make it as much towards life as I could possibly do. I ran a couple programs during summer program at Howard [Junior High] for Orange County. It just, it came with the territory. That and I love to ask questions. If you were in my class, and I told my students real simple, in my class, I have two types of volunteers: those that raise their hand and those that don’t. So, if you want to catch my attention when I ask a question, don’t raise your hand. We’ll be talking.

So, I am imagining that most of your students loved Science. Did they?

I would say they did. And, there were those that took it because it was an advanced class and that’s the program I’m in. Do I think they enjoyed it? Yes, at least they told me so.

Well, that’s fantastic.

So, you’ve taught at many different schools: Edgewater, College Park Middle School and then you were the Principal at Lockhart Middle School, correct?

Right, I was the Principal at Lockhart for 11 years. I was at Lee Middle School, and I know it’s called College Park now, but it was called Lee back then, for four years. At Edgewater, 10 to 11 years, something like that.

Do you want to tell us about some of your experiences with the students, with the community, day to day?

It was day to day, but how do you do things and make things different? Like I said, I would have Dallas Maderin add [send] teachers to my room to go see what I was doing. Because he wanted them to have the kids more engaged. Did I have interns? Yes, I’ve had interns as a teacher. So to make it interesting for them. So they connect with it.

Advocate for People that are Different

And also, for them to experience some things that they normally wouldn’t. I’m kind of an advocate for people that are different, that have disabilities. I have a brother-in-law that lives with us for 37 [33] years now. He is autistic. I had an uncle growing up who was in a state hospital in upstate New York.

Sunland for Special Needs Individuals

And when I was at Edgewater High School, I got permission to take my Anatomy kids to Sunland which was open at that time and housed lots of special needs individuals. And that was a field trip, that when we left, I had more kids crying than I’ve ever seen. Because they grew up in houses that never had that experience; not knowing that those individuals exist out there.


Or knowing that you can get the most out of them, more than what you’re used to expect. And you run into that a lot. It’s like, oh, they have Down Syndrome, so they cannot do this. Well, I will tell you, my kids in my schools surprised me.

Lockhart EMH Group Scored Higher Than Regular Kids on Florida Writing Test

When I was at Lockhart, we had a group called EMH, Educationally Mentally Handicapped, one standard deviation below the mean. They took the Florida Writing Test, and came back as a group scoring higher than my regular kids. And I go, I was wrong. I was dead wrong. Here, I’m expecting – as matter of fact, because if you had asked me prior to that I’m saying, we are wasting our time testing these children. But then all of a sudden – Boom – here’s the results. And the results are right there. I mean, I can ignore them or I can do something about it. It’s like, why are these kids now in separate classes. Why aren’t they experienced? And the same thing goes for advanced kids. Why aren’t they experiencing things that challenge them, that push them further? That’s what you need to do.

“Reading is so Important…”

And like in elementary school, reading is so important. I used to say to dads all the time, “Are you reading with your children?” And by the way, I have seven. I was an educator. But anyways, I would say, “Read with them nightly. Because if all they ever see you do is sports, outdoor fishing, they’re going to think that’s the most important thing.” Because that’s how kids value things is they see what mom and dad do. If your kids did not grow up with some of your habits, I would be very much surprised. Because we do. Because that’s what we have as an example.

Special Needs Site at Dream Lake Elementary School

So as an educator, yes, you want to do those things, all right. And so, yes, what I did at Dream Lake Elementary School, I was there for ten years. Eight of the ten we made “A”. What I didn’t tell you, we were also a site for special needs kids. And at one time, we received all of them up in the north area of Apopka.

First EMH Class at Edgewater High School

At Edgewater High School we got the first EMH class because another school east of here didn’t want one. I won’t tell you who it was. But the other one was at Colonial. So all of a sudden those two schools, and it’s like, why are they receiving all of them? There’s sometimes economics in it because their numbers are so small you have to put people together. But otherwise, why aren’t they being serviced in their own neighborhood. Because you need to understand there’s so many differences.

Florida in 1958

And you got me started. When we were talking about when I came to Florida in 1958, do you know how many African American students were in our classes? Zero. We had lots of them in our classes in New York. Latinos, no. They didn’t go up there in the cold and the snow, not until later. But then, when I went out West, guess what? If you were a Latino or if you’re American Indian, I’m going, they’re being treated differently. And it’s like why? They’re humans like everybody else. They deserve to be challenged, they deserve to go as far as they can possibly go.

“One of my proudest nights…”

One of my proudest nights was when I was a Principal at Lockhart, about my last year. It was during when George Bush was running and they had the very close race here in Florida for the President. Well, we were using a Scholastic Magazine. And so, one of the representatives from Scholastic came down and wanted to meet some of my kids. Well, what it came down to is, eventually, one of the girls- you’re talking, she was in eighth grade – on the night of that election was in Washington, with her mom. She was on TV and they were talking about the election. And to this day, I can tell you, part of the conversation was, the moderator goes, “Well, don’t you think Bush is kind of finished?” And she goes, “I don’t think I’d make that call quite yet.” And, I’m going, “Yes!” Okay, because, Latino girl, coming from a background with, you know, I bet you her parents did not have much education.

Educational Background

As a matter of fact, do I have an Associate Arts? Yes. Do I have a Bachelor’s? Do I have two Master’s degrees? Yes. Did I finish my doctorate? No. I did all my coursework, didn’t finish my dissertation because I came home from Lee one time and my wife was sitting on the stairs and she goes, “If you don’t start coming home more and help me with the kids, I’ll kill them both and me…” So my PhD ended. But now knowing that, would you like to tell me what grade my Dad went to? Eighth grade. My mom, what grade? My mom went to sixth. So when I came home and had problems with homework, they couldn’t help me. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t, they couldn’t. They didn’t experience that. So you have to kind of remember that even today. Because if you assume that every child that walks into your room, comes from the same background as you, or has these things in their life that make them successful. You are so wrong. Okay. So wrong.

PE Teacher

So, I’ll tell you, here’s a true story. Came from New York to Tampa, 1958, went out to PE. The PE teacher’s asking me some questions, and I’d answer them, yes, no. And he kept on saying, “Yes, sir.” And I’d go, “Yes.” He hits me in the side. Elementary school – whacks me. How many of you are thinking that I went home and told my mother and father? No way. Because my Dad said, “Whatever happens at school son, if we ever get a call, you will resent it. You will hate it.” So that struck a chord with me as well. And that’s also why to this day at 75, if I meet some child, teenager and I’ll go, “Yes, ma’am.” I’ll see some boy, and I’ll go, “Yes, sir.” And they’ll go, what? It stuck. I learned real quick. It was like boom.

I understand you also coached sports?

Yes, I did. I started when I was at Howard and went on to Edgewater. At Howard I was a wrestling coach and a soccer coach. And this is during the 1970’s when soccer was just started. I was one of three guys, we started the Downtown Orlando Soccer Club. I was the Vice President for the State of Florida for cups and games. And when I went to Edgewater High School, I was the soccer coach. So, yes, did that and I actually wound up playing soccer.

Soccer Coach at Howard

Went out to FTU, Jim Rudy was the soccer coach, because I met him at a meeting and I go, “I’m the new soccer coach at Howard.” He said, “Great!” I said, “I only got one problem.” He goes, “What?” I said, “Do you play with a ball?” He looked at me and goes, “Pardon, me?” I said, “Do you play soccer with a ball?” And he goes, “You don’t know a lot about soccer?” I said, “Nope.” When I grew up it was football, basketball, baseball, that was it. Ran track and field. I did wrestling out west though. So I had a great time with it. And I still to this day, I’ve had parents send me their kids to my school because I was their coach at a different location. Yeah, I just took care of them. For me, when I child walks through that door, they’re mine. That’s it.

So tell us about your approach to coaching sports…

Okay. If you haven’t figured this out, I am competitive. And I have to just be honest with you. But I also wanted to make sure my guys had a good time. I spent a lot of time with them to make sure. And, if you are a teacher and you think that the relationship you have with your students is special, I will tell you if you ever become a coach on top of that, your relationship goes even much deeper than that.

Little John

Again, as adults, I’m at Lockhart, here comes a child. I’m like, all right, okay. Or one, I called him Little John, he’s also a minister. His son’s playing soccer. And, he comes over to me to ask some questions. And John is standing there and John was a good soccer player. And he goes, “Why is he asking you? You know and not me?” I go, “I guess you have told him a lot about me.” One of those things. But, yeah, do I think that when I coached we had many more sports in middle school? If you’re looking at it and saying, okay that’s a lot of money, why are we doing that? We’re doing that because these kids are important to our future.

Bill Jennings holding a framed print about making a difference in the life of a child he received 30 years ago from Gary Schadow. Bill Jennings is the crossing guard at Princeton Elementary School and the current President of the College Park Neighborhood Association. Photo courtesy of the College Park Neighborhood Association President Michael Fettig.

Fifth or Sixth Grade

And, here’s another thing you’ll learn if you’re in education. Towards about 5th or 6th grade you’ll start to see some kids not do as well. Very typical of guys. By the time you get up into middle school and junior high school, those guys start to become problems. Do you know why? It’s easier to be the tough guy than to admit that I don’t know or understand. Because that sends a message that I’m a fool. I’m nobody’s fool.

Union Park Science Class

The first year I taught there was a young man in Union Park, science class. I gave our first test and he flunked it flatter than a flitter. Which used to be one of my questions to teachers when I interviewed them. Like what would you do if you gave a test and all the kids failed? The teacher’s responsibility is not only to teach, but to make sure they understand. That’s the big difference. You’ll see a lot teaching. Really, really good teachers go the extra step and make sure the kids understand.

Oral Tests and Reading Class

And so, here the young man was. I was so upset with him. It’s like, “I want to see you tomorrow morning before school. When you get here on the bus, you’re coming in to see me.” He comes in to see me. I ask him a question. He gets it right. On the test he got it wrong. Asked him the next question, he got it right. On the test he got it wrong. I did that about four or five times. And I go, “What’s the problem?” He couldn’t read. Did he know it? Absolutely. So what do you think I did for the rest of the year with him? I gave him oral tests. And the teachers would go, “What are you doing that for?” I said, “Because he knows it.” And I also went to the guidance counselor and said, “Guess what? This kid needs to be in a reading class.”

Reading Class

Now would a reading class always work and correct it for him? No. For some kids it doesn’t. They have the oral memory. Some of them are really sharp. And if you haven’t run into people like this in whatever work you’ve done, and you go like wow – why aren’t you? But at the end of the year that young man gave me a painting.

Are there other experiences with teachers or with students that you’ve had that you particularly remember?

See unfortunately, a lot of times you learn the way you were raised. Now if I told you my Dad was an authoritarian, yeah. Did he hit? That’s why I have a big flat head… It’s like you misbehave, I’m taking you to an orphanage. Do you want to know what the number one fear for a child is? Abandonment. So my father was using the most to try to control. Why? Because that’s all he knew. And by the way, the orphanage in Lockport, New York, when you go, the next time you go to Disney and you go to the Haunted House, cement pillars, metal up above that’s it exactly. Did my Dad ever take us there? Yes. We’d go as far as the gate before I swore to him that I would do whatever I had to go do. And believe me, was I a bad kid? No. I wasn’t. Valedictorian or covaledictorian of high school, President of Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta. That’s what I was. Started working at Boeing when I was a senior in high school.

What did you do at Boeing?

I worked in reproduction. Reproduction then was, we did blueprints. Your engineers sat all day and they worked on blueprints for Saturn V. Did I have to have a secret security clearance? Yes, I did. And they would come in and some of them were on 8 1/2 X 11 and some of them were very long and you worked behind what is called a Ozalid machine which is ammonia that reacts to the paper and turns it blue. But anyways, so they would work all day, put it in. And on second shift, I worked from 4:48 to 1:18. and, you’re going, how do you remember that? How many jobs have you had that started at 4:48 and ended at 1:18? And then, I would get up and go to high school and graduated.

Saturn V

But for me, it was interesting. Did I look at the stuff? Did I understand it? No. But I am working on blueprints that put the Saturn V on the moon which happened after I graduated from high school and I was in college. And I’m going holy mackerel, this is neat stuff! And I’m just running blueprints and it’s like, cool!

$74.00 Dollars a week

And I got the job because prior to that I was a janitor working at a cleaning service, they had an opening and they go, “Gary, we want you to work here.” So I went down to Boeing, I went in and they said, “Okay, we’ll offer you a job, but I’m sorry it’s, only like $74.00 dollars a week. And I’m going, who do I have to kill? What?” I said, “That’s almost a 50% hike compared to what I was making. I was like, oh yeah, I’ll do this.” Everyone else was like why are you so happy? And I’m like dancing because I’m rich now. Also in high school I was the lifeguard at the pool making .25 cents an hour. I also was a lifeguard at Cocoa Beach, my junior and senior. That was my upbringing. That was the way I was raised. What you got to remember is that every kid that walks through that door at your school comes in rewired already. And if you ever start to assume that you know, you got a problem coming.

Teamwork in the Classroom

So, when I was looking for teachers, to get back to your question since I meandered off. I interviewed a math teacher experienced for Edgewater High School and I asked him the question of tell me about a lesson that you taught that didn’t work. And he’s taught for a number of years. And he goes, “Never had one.” For me, the interview is over. Why would you do that? Because he doesn’t have a feel for those kids. If you’ve never coached people you’ve never known. As you start coaching them there comes a point when all of a sudden you form a team. And it sounds funny because their focus is different. All right as a teacher there comes a time in the classroom where we’re all a team and were all working on this together.

Bishop Moore High School Educator Chris Grant and his former Edgewater High School Advanced Placement Biology and Anatomy and Physiology Teacher Gary Schadow at College Park Oral History Night, September 2023.

Edgewater High School Science Class

Edgewater Science Class I went into a class one day because the teacher was busy doing something. And I walked in and there were kids doing something and all of a sudden I had heard a kid say, “Don’t do that now. That’s Mr. Schadow he will not put up with that. Don’t do that.” I’m going, “Thank you.” Kids will sell the teacher to new kids. This is how we do it, on and on and on.

Knowledge and an Interest in Kids

So, yeah, I’m looking for somebody who knows, but somebody who really has an interest in the kids. Are there teachers out there that do it because they like the subject and that’s why they do it? Yes. Honestly they should have nothing to do with elementary school, middle school, high school. Go teach college. Go try to impress somebody there. Then you have other people that teach because they really can’t do other things.

Retired Principals Bunny Parish and Gary Schadow at the 2023 College Park Oral History Night.

“Dad, don’t you think teachers are pretty much babysitters?”

And if you ever want to know about my son who went to Princeton Elementary School and Bunny knows him. He said to me one day, “Dad don’t you think teachers are pretty much babysitters?” And I wanted to kill him. I had to leave. No, they’re not. But if you hire somebody that has that mentality then you’ve made a mistake. And guess what, when you hire people, and I’ve hired hundreds of people, are you going to make a mistake? Yes, you will.

Lee Middle School Board Meeting

And downtown, Orange County, they knew that if I made a mistake, you know who’s going to handle it? I took care of it. That’s all there was to it. A matter of fact, the best advice that I got from downtown, because when you become a Principal they’ll sit you down and say if you ever need anything, call. If you ever need anything just call we’ll be there for you. So Harry Haskins was the Director Downtown. He says, “Gary, you got a couple of minutes?” This is after I filled the School Board Meeting with parents from Lee Middle School at that particular time that weren’t happy with me.

So when you were at Lee Middle School you were a Principal?

I was a Principal. I was Principal for the very first time. I went from teaching at Edgewater High School. Jim Cinnamon was one of the Assistant Principals. Jim got sick and Charlie Rohrer was the Principal at Edgewater and he goes, “Gary, I won’t hire you.” I’ve talked to the other Principals that have openings at the new Dr. Phillips at that time, and at Colonial. And we’ve all decided that we’re just going to interview everybody, but we won’t hire our own. So I go out to Colonial, Larry Payne is the Principal, new leader from Union Park, I taught when Larry taught there. Anyways, he interviews me. I come back to Edgewater High School. Charlie goes, “Well, how did it go?” I said, “Well, I think it went all right.” He goes, “You know, I’ve interviewed the other ones and I just want to hire you.” I said, “You told me you weren’t going to hire me.” I said, “No problem. Okay. So, I’ll do that.”

Best Advice

So one of the issues that when I became – what Harry Haskins told me, best piece of advice I ever got. He said, “Remember when they tell you how they’ll help you and all, just call?” He said, “That’s all political. It’s not the truth. They don’t want people to call. Period. Do you understand that? They expect you to solve the problem there at your school.” So, do you want to know how I teach? I’ll show you.

Lee Middle School

I’m at Lee Middle School, I get a call, I’m the Principal, “Go to the Chorus Classroom.” I go to the Chorus Classroom, in the room is a young girl, seventh, eighth grade on her back out on the floor. All the other kids are out of the room except for two, who were actually brothers and sisters, and they were not getting close to the sister. And I go to the teacher and I go, “Do you have any idea what’s going on?” And she goes, “Well, during the summertime, I typically go with my church down to Haiti and we work with children. I’ve kind of seen this before. I think she’s in a trance.” I go, “A voodoo trance?” She goes, “Yes.”

Principal Directives

How much do you think I knew about voodoo? I’ve already talked to Harry. Harry said, “Don’t call downtown. Solve this yourself.” And I’m sitting here going, voodoo. I’ll go back – and they used to have orange books in Principals’ offices which were directives. I’m going, I’m going to look it up. I looked it up -voodoo and right next to it, it says “You do.” So you’re a Principal at Lee Middle School, you have this child on the floor, what do you do? I did, I got down checked with her. What next? And by the way, when you go and get your degree in Administration and Supervision, do you know how many lessons I had on voodoo? None. And, of course, I’m the Principal.

Assistant Principal

I had a guidance counselor at Edgewater High School I asked a question to. I go down to the School Board, I am named the Assistant Principal. I go back to Edgewater High School, guess who comes to see me? My guidance counselor. And she asked me the same question I asked her before. And I said, “I didn’t know yesterday and I was asking you. And, I get appointed yesterday night and you’re basically thinking that when I went to sleep last night all this knowledge jumped in on my head and I now know all this stuff.” Because sometimes you don’t know, you really don’t.

EMT Check

So on voodoo, I said, “First we’re calling the EMT’s.” Why? I wanted to make sure I’m not dealing with a medical problem. Two guys show up, one older, one younger. They check her… So, the younger one goes, “There’s nothing wrong with her. I got this ammonia capsule, I stick it under her nose and she’s going to be up.” And the other guy goes, “Not so fast.” See sometimes age, and it’s not just the age, its the experience. So he goes, “No, don’t do that. Don’t stick it under there because you do not know what she will do.” I said, “Okay.” They said, “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but have a good day.”

“Tell her she is okay…”

How many have seen the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”… You know what I did, I went to the counselor and I said, “A young lady’s coming to your office in just a few minutes and you’re going to put her on a bed and you’re going to stay with her while we’re trying to call the parents.” And of course we called the parents and guess what? They’re not home. The brothers and sisters would not get around the child because she was under a curse; you don’t do that. But I went and told them, I said, “Look, we’re going to pick her up and put her in a wheelchair. We’re going to wheel her over to guidance and while we’re doing that, you are going to both, one on one side, one on the other side, “Tell her she is okay” the whole way. And off we go. Now in my mind, I going, school is going to end. Guess how she normally got home? By bus. So I’m thinking, oh, good, we’re now suppose to take her still in the trance up onto the bus where she’s going to be there. I’m going, I can’t do that. There’s no way I could put her on the bus. Of course, I did ask my teacher, “How long do these trances last?” She goes, “Three or four days.” So anyways, we got a hold of the church they went to and some people came and picked her up.

Student Seizures and Stroke During FCAT Testing

And from that time on, I go, yep, it will come. So have I experienced all different kinds of things as a Principal? Yes, and you have to solve it. You have to get through it. Some good ones, some bad ones. Have I had major seizures by a child in the middle of FCAT testing? Yep. Sent for the school nurse. She came over, checked the child out. She had a stroke. Both at the same time. And I’m going… what do you do? Because there’s not the training. It is more the experience that you get and that kind of stuff. So the more experiences you have, the better.

So I understand your wife Becky is from College Park?

My wife Becky, you know where Oglethorpe is? Right back here. That’s where she was raised. She would have been here tonight but she has been suffering from a medical condition…. But anyways, I met her at Orlando Community Church. John Christianson was the Pastor at OCC. We met at – you know where the Science Center is? We met there. And John’s son, David, played soccer. He was one of my soccer captains. And then his brother played it as well. So I met her at OCC. We were actually doing a Bible Study over in Winter Park right by Lake Virginia. We have to kid and joke about it, because I said, “She came over and introduced herself.” And I said, “Why?” And she said, “Oh, because you’re a teacher at Edgewater.”

Marriage Proposal Conditions

So when I proposed to her, she said, “Three conditions.” I should have stopped right there. “One, I got to go home and talk to my sister.” (She’s from College Park. Her name is Bitsy and she’s a friend of Becky’s. They went to school together.) “You have to ask your sister?” “I want to get her perspective. Number two is, ‘You have to be a Christian’.” And I said, “Well, you know I am my whole life.” Would you like to guess what the third was? “We have to live in College Park.” Honest to God. And I looked at her and I go, “You do know what I do for a living, don’t you?” Because this was back in 1986. We’ve been married 37 years. But yes, she went to school here. Her sister did, both sisters, Bitsy did, Bunny. Her brother Billy who’s in Tampa. He’s up in his eighties, he played football at Edgewater High School which means you’re one of the good people. To this day, at Edgewater High School if you don’t play football, you’ve got to be really careful. It’s so important. And Bunny. They were the “B” family. Billy, Becky, Bitsy, Bunny, and Uncle Bobby lives with us.

College Park

Yes, that’s how much College Park meant to her. We actually bought a house, this is Elizabeth and if you go to Elizabeth other side of Princeton, 1900 Elizabeth it’s on the right. It’s now two stories. On the market, the price is astronomical. Anyways, when I bought it, we bought it for some $30,000. [$60,000] dollars. You know, remodeled the whole thing and it wasn’t until about seven years ago, we sold the house and moved up to Apopka because that’s where I worked for a living at that time. [You had great Halloween stuff. You always had the house decorated really neat, especially for Halloween.] Yes, and you know who does that? Her name is Becky. [What was her maiden name?] Her name was Owen. Her mom lived with us until she was 96 and we lost her. Great person. Yes, I love College Park. To this day, my wife will tell us – now she’s happy, we have a nice home – but believe me, if we win any Lotto the first step will be, we’re going back to College Park.

Thank you so much for speaking with us tonight and for your legacy of educational leadership in our region! We are grateful for your dedication and many years of extraordinary service.

Interview: Gary Schadow

Interviewer: Jane Tracy

Date: September 25, 2023

Place: College Park Neighborhood Center

Photos courtesy of the College Park Neighborhood Association President Michael Fettig.

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