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Foster Scott, teacher
First name Foster
Last name Scott
Age 55
Date of birth August 14, 1924
Community Paris


Story

This interview has been contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. It was taken in August, 1979, by a volunteer for the Paris Public Library.

Interview

Q. Could we have some information about your family background and how you became interested; in the field of education and being a teacher?

A. I was born August 14, 1924 in Owen Sound, Ontario. We moved to London when I was about seven. I went to high school in London and joined the Air Force in London. I went overseas and flew with the RAF for three years; came back, went to Rehab. school, finished my high school and went to the University of Toronto- school of Architecture, I became interested in teaching Industrial Arts- not teaching per se. I had become an elementary school teacher first, in order to qualify to go into training for Industrial Arts. I went to Normal School in Toronto at the time and after I graduated from Normal School as an elementary teacher I went to O.C.E. without stopping to teach anywhere except for the practice teaching that I was exposed to at Normal School. At the Ontario College of Education in Toronto I took the Industrial Arts Course. It was one summer, full year, followed by three more summers. I came to Paris District High School in 1953 to teach Industrial Arts-grades 9-12. That was the most enjoyable part of my whole career.

Q. How many years did you teach?

A. Well, I taught Industrial arts until the Board decided to make this a composite school. That meant bringing in five technical programs as opposed to the Industrial Arts program. I stopped teaching Industrial Arts about 1966. Another Industrial Arts teacher came in for one year to close it down. I became a guidance and history teacher for

that one year. At that time I was vice-principal, head of guidance and taught 'Man in Society' all in the one year. Then I became full-time vice-principal and did not teach, other than filling in once in a while which I enjoyed doing.

Q. How many students and teachers were here when you came and how big was the school?

A. Four of us came in 1953- Helen Shaw came to teach Home Economics. Home EC. and Industrial Arts were added at the same time. It was a very smell Academic school. There were about 9 teachers and then when we came it just exploded overnight to twelve teachers. Don Davis started teaching Agriculture. Gerry Barnhill was our phys. ed. Teacher.

There is the Home Ec. room. That had been a gymnasium. The boiler room and cafeteria were down below. They made the cafeteria the whole area beneath the old gymnasium and the upper floor became the Home EC. room. The 'new' gymnasium (now the old gym) was built in 1953. The box part of the school was opened in 1923. The Industrial Arts room also opened in 1953. It is now two classrooms and above that are were two regular classrooms. At the rear of that new wing, there was an agriculture lab toward the back campus. That is the wing north of the 1923 building. The south wing (new wing) where the courtyard is-that was the track. They added the agriculture lab and Mr.Calvert's science lab upstairs-that took care of us for awhile. Don Smith was principal.

Q. How many students were here in 1953?

A. Not more than 300. And we brought in three grade 9 classes. An interesting thing happened. Don Smith thought that students coming in from the Princeton-Drumbo area would like to stay together because they would know each-other better than they would know the Paris students. He kept them together and because he got the documents from the local Central School in Paris, first he listed Paris students in 9A and 9B and when the other documents came in from the Oxford County schools, he listed them in 9C. That caused alot of resentment. That was considered to be discrimination against the Oxford County students-calling them a C instead of an A or B. So we switched the next year and listed according to grades. The students with the best marks were in 9A then 9B and so on.

As the school grew they added on two more classrooms. They moved the Industrial Arts room around to where Mr. Addison's room is now (facing St. Patrick's St. at the back of the school). Then they felt they needed a new gymnasium. This was about the end of the 'free money' period of federal and provincial policy. When they approached the Ministry they were told that if they built it would cost the local taxpayers about the same amount of money as it would to convert to a composite school because the federal and provincial govt. would put up 75% of the total cost. So they went for the $3*000,000 expansion : a big double gym, Resource centre, technical shops, courtyard(and business was put on the second floor of the 19?3 building.) At that time I could only foresee about 750 kids in the community from kindergarten up. I mentioned this to the Ministry of Education Inspector and he said, "Oh, you will grow the same as every community in Ontario."

I said, "Not Paris. I've been here a long time. The population growth has increased by about 100 people."

His reply was, "What is wrong with your drinking water?"

They built the expansion (composite school). They planned it with, I felt too few classrooms because the special areas- business and technical occupied about 20% of the student's time. 80% of their time was spent in the academic area . They built 8 shops and about 6 business rooms and 3 classrooms. They built a woodworking shop, welding, auto, electricity, two drafting rooms, machine shop, a boys' occupational shop, girls' occupational shops and a power sewing room. That type of training is extremely expensive - more expensive then academic where all you need is textbooks.

When I came I knew every student by their first name for years. Now, I have to ask the student if he goes to this school because we do have uninvited guests. If he says he is a student I ask him what my name is. If he doesn't know it then out he goes. I've been here 26 years, and If they don't know my name they're not our students.

Q. How many students attend now?

A. Just over 1300 students which includes grades 7 and 8.The only reason we have 1000 is when the new Board took over in 1967, they brought in students from St. George who had normally gone to North Park Collegiate. We picked up all technical students from the Burford school area which includes an area down to Scotland. With the County organization came a change that put Princeton-Drumbo students into a non-resident status which means that we sell them their education. Now their taxes helped build this school, but the government made a trade-off on that. Right now we are selling education to about 160 Oxford County students. We probably sell more education in Brant County than any other highschool, outside of perhaps the Indian population.

Q. What was teaching like when you came and how strict was discipline and how has it changed as compared to the present day?

A. Well, discipline wasn't a problem that some teachers had. Well, I guess discipline has always been a problem. D. A. Smith, in his "Forks of the Grand", and in his 2nd history book; I guess its more of biography then a history of education. mentions frequently the problems they had then- people who didn't want to go to school-real delinquents. I can't remember many of those people. Now we have had the exceptions too. We had one student who was expelled and for pulling a knife on another student in the washroom. We didn't have students using what was then considered unacceptable language, which the former Prime Minister (Trudeau) used in the House of Commons. Today it is more accepted, then it wasn't. You just did not hear it in the schools. Occasionally you might see it written on the washroom walls. There was not too much of that. There were students who smoked in the washrooms. There were students who had flat tires which caused them to be late for school. That was one of the most popular excuses, D. A. Smith always found. I think probably the students' attudes were different. It was right after the war, not too long after the war. Discipline was fairly well instilled in the whole population; with the men coming back from overseas demonstrating a different attitude towards discipline.

Today's popular conception is that any kind of exterior discipline is an infringement on individual human rights. We cannot live as a group unless we are prepared to give up some of our individual rights. The whole attitude was different- students obeyed without question. Now, the student wants to know and I think we are as guilty of causing that as anything. I can remember teaching students when I first started that just because we say it, don't accept that as truth. Just because it is written in a book, don't accept it. Dig into it, find out if it's true. And my reason for doing that was Hitler, who was brought to power by people who were indifferent. We did not want that sort of thing happening again. So maybe we oversold it and we were very successful. Somebody was anyway. I remember when long hair started and the Beatles. I think Paris, being a somewhat rural area was fortunate. We were late getting into that problem. When Mr. Geen was principal I can remember girls dressed in pantsuits, very beautiful pantsuits, came to school. You couldn't fault them. They asked if they could wear them to school. Girls had always worn dresses or skirts to school, no slacks. Mr. Geen said, "We have no clothing regulation or dress code in the school. We don't want any. I can't fault what you are wearing but if you wear those the rest of the day, they will be wearing blue Jeans by tomorrow morning." And the girls said, "Oh no way. Couldn't possibly happen, that's ridiculous." They were. They were wearing them that afternoon. Someone had gone home at noon and changed. We were a bit concerned at the time because the way a person dresses effects the way they behave to a degree.

At the school formals the people behave quite differently at these dances than they do at the other dances. They dress differently and I think it sets the tone. Louise has complained because I wouldn't let her wear blue Jeans to school; When the parents used to phone me and complain that we were allowing them to wear Jeans, "My daughter wants to wear Jeans to that school." I said. "My daughter wants to wear blue jeans too, but as a parent I told her she couldn't." And that solved alot of arguements for me. Poor Louise suffered but she survived and they all do. I know one male teacher we had was really upset by the long hair the boys were allowed to wear and the dress. The skirts kept getting shorter and shorter and some of the teachers are very conservative-minded people who get quite upset. Smoking is something that bothers slot of teachers, particularly the non-smoking group of the staff who are now the majority. Last year we only had seven teachers on the staff who smoked.

Q. What does your position as principal involve? Specifically, what are your responsiblities and what type of problems do you personally have to handle?

A. The way the Ministry of Education is designed- the Education Act end regulations which apply to that Act-- it is built like a pyramid. The Minister is the 'Great White Father' and it fans out from there. In a high school the pyramid is smeller. Legally, the only one responsible for anything that happens in a high school is the principal, whether he is there or not. Technically, he is reponsible. He can delegate that responsibility to someone else end that person is responsible to the principal. The vice-principal does most of the operation of the school. He builds the time-table normally. The principal assigns all the duties to the vice-principal and all the teachers. He is responsible for the quality of the teaching, the conduct of the students end the staff, for the paint or lack of paint in the classrooms, the heat, etc. He has to ask permission from the superintendents to close the school because the Act says that if a school cannot operate due to problems with water and heat, then it must be closed and only the Board can close it. Actually then principals are responsible for everything. Usually they assign time-tabling, discipline, attendance to the vice-principals and they worry about program and quality of teaching- hiring and firing. Firing is a very difficult thing to do with the federation as strong as they ere. Legally, one teacher cannot say one word against another unless he put the complaint in writing end give the other teacher a copy. When you see a principal or v.p. in a classroom taking notes-what happens to those notes eventually. An observation report is given to the teacher of what you saw, recommendations for improvement etc. and the teacher signs it. If he doesn't like that (the report) he can argue end set up a new time end try again with another lesson. With a minimum of three visits we write up a Teacher Performance Review and that is done at least once every three years. The teacher gets a copy of the interim reports plus the T.P.R. copy, signs it and keeps his copy and one goes in the file. To fire a teacher you have to prove incompetence. Teaching is very difficult to evaluate.

Q. Are there any changes that you would like to see or bring about?

A. Nothing major. We don't have much power. The Education Act and the Ministry of Education guidelines restrict us -- all courses taught must fall into line with those guidelines. If we want to teach a course not covered by those guidelines we must submit a course outline that may be approved as an experimental course. If it doesn't meet someone's standards it isn't approved that probably isn't a bad idea. Instant change means instant mistakes and if you go slowly you'll probably be able to create something really lasting.

Q. Has the school population grown? Are we peaking now and going down?

A. We peak next year and slowly drop. They are quite anxious to bring in more sevens' end eights'.

Q. When did the sevens' and eights' come in and do they create any difficulties with the high school students?

A. The grade 8's came in the fall of 1970 and the grade 7's came the following year. Half of our new grade 9's are from our own grade 6 and half are from outside. To people in Ontario it is strange to have 7 and 8 in High School but in England, Australia and much of Europe it is normal.

With us it was primarily a space situation. We had the space and the old Central School was pretty ancient. It did not have the facilities that we have. When the grade 8 students go into grade 9 they already know their way around the school. The age groups don't mix that much. When you are in grade 13 you don't associate with the 7's and 8's.

Q. How severe is the problem of vandalism here?

A. It depends how one defines vandalism, I always defined it as willful damage-destruction of school property. It's minimal. We do have broken glass because there is glass top and bottom in all the doors. So some glass of doors in the corridor doors is broken by unknown parties. We had a minor explosion in one of the boys' washrooms. On the last day of school this year we had minor problems in the prefect room. We've had teachers' car tires slashed etc. But it has been minimal.

Q. What do you feel the teaching situation will be like in the next few years?

A. I think it is going to be tight for a long time- one reason is the economy. Education is a non-productive profession. We don't contribute anything to the gross national product . We also have an increase in senior citizens and decreases in young taxpayers. Right now the Brant County Board of Education is putting money into Special Education which deals, with extreme ends of the norm- the exceptional and slow learners.

Q. I guess that covers the high school aspect. We also wanted to ask you about your involvement on the P.U.C. How long have you been on it?

A. This my first year back on the P.U.C. Ten years ego I was on for 2 or 3 years. I was chairman. I enjoyed it. I work with good people and it doesn't require alot of my time. There is one regular meeting every month and per- haps 2 or 3 others.

Q. What things come under your jurisdiction?

A. Well, the P.U.C. operates the hydro and the water departments for the Town Council. It is sort of an arm of the Town Council. The mayor sits on the P.U.C. Ontario Hydro keeps a very close eye on what we do. We have a reputation for being a frugal group.

Q. How many people are on the P.U.C.?

A. There are 4 commissioners elected and we have a manager. A former mayor: Mel Sharpe, myself, Doug Foulds, Pat Telfer and of course the mayor, Joe Bradbury.

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